Friday, September 26, 2014

Goodnight Sweetheart

I have always sung special songs to my children. Some I have made up. Some are songs written by my dad or by the Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot. Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight by the Spaniels was always a favorite for my Analisa. I changed the lyrics to these:

Goodnight Sweet Ana
It's time to sleep
Goodnight Sweet Ana
It's time to sleep
I hate to leave you
But I must say
Goodnight Sweet Ana, Goodnight

Goodnight Sweet Ana
I love you, I do
Goodnight Sweet Ana
Pleasant dreams for you...

Nearly every night of her babyhood and toddler years I sang it as I swayed about the room with her in my arms.

Another classic, Hush, Little Baby, is the song I have sung most often to my babies. But, no, it's not the version most know.

On my oldest son Berto's first Christmas, my sister Vinca sent him a new version written and illustrated by Sylvia Long. In the introduction to it, she wrote that the original version about a parent offering to buy her baby all sorts of things always bothered her. So she created one to "encourage children to find comfort in the natural things around them and in the warmth of a mother's love." She did a beautiful job writing about a hummingbird, the evening sky, an old teddy bear, lightning bugs, and a harvest moon. I learned her book by heart, and its words are those I sang to my Berto. I am still singing it every night to his four-year-old brother. Danny holds my hair in his hands as I sit on the floor by his bed, and if he thinks he may not get his song, he is distraught. So sometimes when Papa has tucked him into bed, has sung him The Gambler - yes, The Gambler - and told him it's time to sleep, I have snuck in to see my little guy for a quick Hush Little Baby to cure his tears.

For my Gabriella I broke the norm and created an all new song this past year in honor of her love of Batman:

Neener, neener, neener...Batgirl!
Neener, neener....Goodnight!
Neener, neener, neener...Batgirl!
Goodnight
Sleep Tight
Fight crime!
Bat...girl...aaaand...Oonie

(Oonie is her much-loved and now quite raggedy teddy bear.)

I bring all this up to say that in trying to lovingly sooth my babies to sleep for years, I created memories for all of us. Ana, 10-years-old, recently got misty-eyed as she said, "Mama, I love your songs. I like listening to them. I miss them." My daughter has a big heart that gives lots of love but also needs much to fill it, and she is not afraid to be a child and soak up all she can. I feel Ana does not quite get what she needs sometimes, because her little brother and sister are very assertive in making demands on Mama's time and attention. She craves those small, precious moments with me still. I started singing Goodnight Sweet Ana again.

Last night I settled my hips into the small recliner by Ana to read for her from the Little House book, On the Banks of Plum Creek. I had just finished patiently listening to Gabriella read from Amelia Bedelia and brushing her teeth. Ella decided to come listen, too, as I read. It was time for her to be in bed, but I thought, Oh, what the heck. Just a few more minutes. I'm sorry to say the chair got a little crowded, especially with my pushy hips.

"Here, girls, you can snuggle. It's too crowded. I'm going to this chair," I said.

Gabriella happily settled right in, and Ana put her arm around her. As I looked at Ana to gauge her reaction, she began to laugh and then to quake.

"Is that okay, Ana?" I asked.

But she just laughed strangely, covering her face with her hand. Her laugh was not happy; it was one of resignation to a probable outcome. I saw tears leaking from the side of her eyes, and I knew what I had to do.

"Alright, Gabriella. It's time for bed."

"No."

"Yes."

She tried to protest, but I held out my arms as I began her Batman song with gusto. After carrying her to her room, I kissed her and tucked her in with that old Oonie.

Then I came back and sat in the chair with Ana, and she snuggled up to me, drying her tears.

"Thank you, Mama," she said.

I knew. I knew. And you can bet I sang Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight to my big-hearted girl who just wanted Mama all to herself again....for just a little while.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Little House Virtues, and On the Banks of Watson Lake

 
 
Every so often I am reminded of what I knew daily as a child, and I feel sorry for my kids, poor little city kids. I regret that they don't experience the freedom of growing up in the country. True, they don't know what they're missing, but I do: the alluring sights, smells and sounds of abundant nature just outside your door; the ever-changing adventure of creek, field and forest; and the whole brave world of trouble country kids can get into that seems far more wild and wholesome than what can be found in the city.
 
I miss the country badly at times...
 
Can you tell I'm reading the Little House series again to my daughter Ana? In its chapters she senses she's missing out on something grand, a strange freedom, and we mull this over together; my daughter is a natural-born country girl, like me.
 
Right now we are reading On the Banks of Plum Creek, and more than the crazy, beautiful tales of a truly rural life told in the simple but eerily elegant prose of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I am enjoying all the nuggets of wisdom woven yet again into her tales of prairie life. Here are a few excerpts I have admired this time:
 
"Well," he said at last. "I hardly know what to do, Laura. You see, I trusted you. It is hard to know what to do with a person you can't trust. But do you know what people have to do to anyone they can't trust?
 
"Wh-at?" Laura quavered.
 
"They have to watch him," said Pa.
 
And, as true for adults as it is for children, this from Ma Ingalls:
 
"Once you begin being naughty, it is easier to go on and on, and sooner or later something dreadful happens."
 
And this beautifully sums up the spirit of Christmas:
 
And then Ma told them something else about Santa Claus. He was everywhere, and besides that, he was all the time.
 
Whenever anyone was unselfish that was Santa Claus.
 
Every child should read these tales, I think, to discover a world so different but so vibrant without technological trappings.
 
 
*********************************
 
 

My man has been a city guy all his life, so what do I do to drag him into nature?

Every little bit I make a request to drive into the country on a long weekend or for a holiday...my birthday, say. I give him fair warning of my desire for fresh air, and, usually, he accommodates.

 

This last time we went to Watson Lake near Prescott, Arizona. It has strange granite dells crowded on it shores.

  
 
We stopped at a playground on the way that had a play fire truck with the names of the 19 firefighters who lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill fire on June 30th, 2013. I thought that was a beautiful idea for a memorial - many of those men were dads - though my little ones didn't understand what it meant or who it commemorated.
 
Then we parked above the lake and hiked down to take our lunch on a big rock in the blustery wind. We saw some people propelling down a precipice nearby, and I remarked, "I'm not the adventure sport sort, but that's one thing I would do gladly: rock climbing."
 
Shoot! I was bound to eat those words.
 
My kids were rock climbing, alright. They were descending to the water to stare in wonder at all the tadpoles, tiny fish and crawdads. It's times like these when they show their city greenness. Yet we all gawked at the beautiful and iridescent blue dragonflies of various sizes that whizzed through the air above our heads and danced over the water at our feet. My son Berto tried to catch a fish in his palms and would have done it, too, if he had gotten past the slippery skin against his fingers. My daughter Ana gently scooped up tadpoles, and then set them free. All my children leapt across boulders and crossed narrow log bridges on their exploration.
And I, that lady who claimed she would scale rocks for pleasure - big rocks, and uphill all the way! - paused in trepidation at a two-foot gap between some slanted granite behemoths. The water flowing between was three inches deep at least. My husband and long-legged oldest children, Berto and Ana, jumped across effortlessly, but every time I tensed for the leap, I lost my nerve. I could just see my knees and fingertips scraping down the scaly surface of the rock before I sprained my ankle in the perilous, crawdad-infested shallows at the bottom.
 
Berto said, "Look, Mom. It's easy. You just jump."
 
Just jump. Now!" said Matthew again and again, but he waited in vain, because I was a yellow-bellied chicken.
 
When I finally spread my legs and sprang, prepared to die in my dare-devil ways, you'd assume the fear was conquered, but I couldn't go back.
 
"It's easier back," said Matthew. "The rock slants down this way."
 
No difference. The mental hurdles stalled me. If I could ever control my unbridled imagination, I would be darn near a superhero.
 
Matthew gave up on me, and it took pressure off. A few minutes later, I jumped back.
 
But to save face, I've decided that every time I tell that story I'm going to increase the length between those boulders and the depth of the water by several feet. Pretty soon I will have jumped 20 feet between the cliffs of insanity over a churning abyss.
 
On our way back up to the parking lot, following white dots painted on rock to mark the way for wayward hikers, we saw a toad. I can't remember when I last saw an amphibian; I kid you not. He was a tiny little guy and the color of the dells, a perfect fit in his environment.

Later, we drove to a dock and took a walk up a path. Though we saw masses of wildflowers and crowds of butterflies, we lost the sense of being in the country as the parking lot filled with canoe-laden pickup trucks, and the meandering path wound below a highway. But we did get to see some geese. I thought the gaggle was going to gang up on us and steal our remaining food. They followed us so closely.


But they just tried to intimidate us with their glassy stares and noisy honks.

It was a simple, short afternoon in the country, not nearly as solitary or unpredictable as the Minnesota prairie, but it was memorable and fed our appetite for more wild adventures. Who knows? I might even...someday, if the kids are lucky...convince my man to take us camping.

Now, wouldn't that be a hoot.

Just don't ask me to jump any big rocks on the way to the campsite.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Etiquette Nazis

If you don't say "Bless you!" when someone sneezes in this house, you're likely to get cursed. Unless you're a guest, of course; then we'll generously make allowances for your pitiful rudeness while making faces behind your back.

The whole "Bless you!" thing isn't my pet peeve. It's Matthew's, my chivalrous husband's. For years of our marriage, I suffered under his cruel tutelage as he lambasted me each time I didn't say bless you when he manfully sneezed. Now I'm so scared not to bless people that I nervously cry, "Bless you!" when anyone passes gas, coughs or burps in this house.

For quite some time I thought it was Matthew's upbringing that dictated this strange adherence to a, pardon me, somewhat out-of-date practice. I mean, really! When people used to say bless you in the Middle Ages it was because they thought you were likely going to die, and they wanted you to know they wouldn't harbor any grudges when you're poor sneeze-racked body was lowered into the ground. But as for my man's family, I soon discovered it wasn't actually their thing, because you can sneeze until you're blue in the face or go into a seizure around those fine people, and they wouldn't bless your disease-ridden cat. It's not because they don't care, I believe, but because they are simply far too pragmatic to think you might die from that common cold, dust inhalation or allergic attack.

Regardless from where Matthew's obsession with sneezing sympathy stemmed, I have now been well-trained and am stuck for life compulsively blessing strangers at the movie theater, whispering bless you at church during the priest's homily, and on frequent occasions when my bum kids won't take notice of my own sniffles, pitifully consoling myself with a, "Bless me..."

But don't pity me too much, I beg of you, for I have my own etiquette insanity that I have forcibly hoisted on my man in return. It's a little thing, really, and it goes like this: when I speak - no matter what nonsense I say - I demand a response of some sort. It can be a rhetorical question, an observation, or a simple statement, but you'd better acknowledge me. I blame my need for validation on the fact that I was the youngest and most ignorant of four kids. (I still am.) Even when I dramatically uttered cuss words in order to be heard, I was merely laughed at.

So, you see, I can say, "Meatloaf - it's what's for dinner!" and I expect my man to politely respond with an, "Umm, umm, good!" even though the guy can't stand meatloaf - not even with quality ketchup on it.

If I pointlessly comment on the duration of the hot weather here in town, I will burn holes in his head until he answers it with, "107? Yep, toasty."

Because I spend all day with a preschooler and most of the afternoon with arguing, school-weary children, I crave back-and-forth conversation and the assurance that I still have interesting things to say to adults without imitating the whining or shrieking tactics of my little ones. Therefore, I often end long discourses on the state of world affairs or thorny personal conundrums with a You know what I mean? or  You hear what I'm saying? in order to elicit the response I crave. Even with the most inane utterances on the most mundane things, I must have a response. It may seem like I am talking to myself when I muse, "I wonder why these plates overheat in the microwave?", but if you don't answer me, Bucko, one of them is likely to crash on your head.

All this reflection makes me wonder, though: is it good manners to force anyone save your own children to observe their manners? Is it right, for instance, to do what my four-year-old does a millisecond after he sneezes and yell indignantly, "No one said bless you!" before anyone had a chance to say it, or sarcastically mutter as my man has been known to do, "Thank you for all the bless yous..." or glare at my husband as I demand, "Well?" to get that assurance that he really is following every word I utter? In short, are etiquette Nazis all that polite?

Nope, we sure ain't. But if you do indeed die from that common cold, you can rest assured that you will have a thousand of our "bless you!"s to send you on your merry, blessed way.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Writing, Failing

My husband feels I am too negative when I talk about my writing. The same familiar look comes across his face, a tight, disapproving look.

Maybe it's because the only time I talk in length about my writing is when I'm feeling despondent, and I do indeed say those words, I fail, or some variant such as:

I stink at...

I don't understand...

Pitiful...

Complete failure...

But as I point out to him, I am usually talking about how I market my own writing. I know I am a capable writer, and I used to naively think that if I wrote it, they would come...from somewhere. Maybe that makes me a lunatic, because the numbers aren't kind.

When I first started this blog, I had the Goggle follow button on my home page. It very slowly grew until I had 33 followers at which point it stuck and never moved again. It became a badge of dishonor. I had to remove it.

And right now I'm agonizing over deleting my Facebook page, because it, too, atrophied at 29 followers - 29 followers - and my past several posts, sharing only select pieces from here, have gotten zero likes. Even my own relatives have not thrown me a like bone now and then while busily liking others' pages. Nor should they if they do not like my stories.

I fail. I fail. Numbers don't lie.

I love to write. I believe I am a writer, and there again I must plead insanity in the face of miserable stats four years in the running.

So why do I fail? Oh, I wish I knew why I sink where others float and glide! I wish I knew. I, wanting to be a writer since elementary school, have done a miserable job despite my constancy. Others, who never desired it until adulthood as a hobby, have excelled.

Do people dislike my style? Is it because I have recently turned readers off with my Catholic perspective? Both unalterable, I'm afraid. Is it because I don't have that "clear brand" of which marketing folks speak? Is it because I neither love, have an affinity for, nor understand how to use social media? Heaven help me, I don't know what I'm doing wrong (except when I don't post). My growth has been completely organic, and organic is not always healthy. And there, too: is it because I refuse to invest monetarily in my dreams? Other writers have advised me to advertise on Facebook or pay for blog design, but I can't quite get over the hurdle of spending money on this blog that seems so unlikely to make returns on the investment, except perhaps for my silly ego and creative happiness.

Maybe I just don't have that community of fellow writers to uplift me. All the writers I admire, the few that I regularly read, already have their own groups, and I have this forlorn feeling that I am too late to win myself a position in their circle.

Drat, but if this depression wasn't coming, sitting by the way and sharpening its teeth. I was doing so well for some time. For weeks I only got on my blog to write or edit. I stayed off my personal email except 2-3 times per week. I would sometimes leave Facebook to its own devices for a good long time. And I was happier. I knew I wasn't writing for much, but I persevered. And I loved that I avoided the Internet on many days; I felt mentally more robust that way.

But it builds, you know, with the evidence. My blog was growing through last December, and then I took a kind of holiday in January, and it plummeted. Painfully, it has begun to rise again, but for four years of effort, I have truly embarrassing results. I would share them with no one, except my Dad.

As a miserable person might, I am asking you - if you have been one of my loyal readers - to tell me why you think I have failed here or on my blog's Facebook page. I am looking for brutal honesty. Don't fear that you'll make me cry. I have already cried bitterly - just today on the phone with my husband, I'm afraid - simply wondering what secret ingredient I lack so profoundly that many others have in abundance. I would rather know if my readers see something critical that I do not.

I don't intend to delete this blog. You may have thought that I was planning to put myself out of this cyclical misery in that way. No. Writing for a few is far better in my estimation than writing for nobody but oneself out of fear of rejection.

So I persevere. But I do ask you to kindly share your insights and your opinions on what it is that I need to do or change, what I seem incapable of discovering for myself. I'm a selfish girl for thrusting this on you, I guess, but I would really appreciate it.

Thanks,

Hillary



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Two Weddings

My brother-in-law Steve and my sister Annie got married a week apart on Saturdays in July. Both are the second oldest among their siblings. Both had destination weddings. For the happiness of both these family members our little family had been praying.

Steve married his longtime girlfriend Joy on a beach in Hawaii:


 
And my lovely sister Annie married her man under an enormous tree of wedding lore in San Saba, Texas:

 
 
There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen at Steve and Joy's wedding, but they asked all of his nieces to be flower girls. The girls wore Aloha dresses and shell jewelry, gifts from their uncle and new aunt. Jon's oldest daughter, Lily, flung the flower petals down on the ground by fistfuls, scowling as if she had great disdain for the flimsy things, making everyone laugh. The best part of the wedding was the look on Steve's face when he saw his bride walking down that verdant aisle toward the ocean. He cried. My husband said it was the first time he had seen his brother cry, and, I must say, Joy truly did look stunning in her gorgeous gown and white, fragrant lei with flowers pinned in her dark hair.
 
The older nieces jostled each other for the chance to take the bouquet from Aunt Joy. The look on their faces when the bride and groom kissed was comic; they all looked as if they were watching a fairytale ending. 
 
Our Danny Sam was the ring bearer. He kept scratching his sandaled feet during most of the ceremony. He even tried to lean on Uncle Steve to get better reach to his tickly toes during the presider's poignant discourse on the meaning of marriage, slipping off his sandals and attempting to balance. 

That wonderful event was the whole reason our family went to Hawaii this past July. The reception was a blast. The DJ invited all the married couples to take the dance floor, and then he started adding up years for anniversaries; anyone who had been married less than the pronounced time had to exist the floor. Matthew and I were there for a good while, we thought, but his parents stayed much longer, married now for more then 40 years. I felt a lump in my throat watching the few remaining couples; it was a beautiful testimony in a fickle age. When only one couple remained, neighbors of Steve and Joy, the DJ asked them to reveal their secrets to the newly married, and the gentleman replied, "Say, 'Yes, dear.' " It was cliché, but we all laughed. Then the wife added, "Have fun."
 
Matthew was having a good time
Fire dancers performed, making me clutch my chest and suck in my breath the whole time in fear of mishaps and in awe of their maneuvers with spinning rods of flame. It gave whole new meaning to burning your candle at both ends. The youngest one was a mere five years of age but full of bravado.
 
What was more astounding was that my oldest son Berto danced with his little sister Ella. I really wish I had gotten pictures. I would frame them on the wall in a collage as a reminder that those two do indeed love each other. Watching all my daughters and sons dance with their cousins, uncles and grandparents was precious and memorable. For me it was the best part.
 
*******************************
 
I was home but a day from Hawaii before flying out again for my sister's wedding. It was a small gathering of close family and dear friends. We all stayed in a quaint, tidy B&B in San Saba.
 
On the morning of the wedding, my sister Annie, Dad, Mom, and I sat downstairs and put together the bouquets, corsages, and buccaneers for the wedding. What am I saying??? My sister Annie did it all with precision, beautifully with a little help from Mom. I myself was confused by how to properly manipulate the floral tape.
 
As we dressed and primped before the wedding, the ladies had delicious mimosas. (I know, because I had at least two.) We chatted, shared feelings, laughed and cried, and the bride fixed our hair. Yes, she fixed our hair, because none of us had her crazy skills in braiding, curling and pinning.
 
We drove to the Wedding Oak down a dirt road bordered by barbed wire fences and hay fields. It was hot, but a welcome breeze followed us. My sister hid from Keith, her groom, behind her friend's SUV. Our mother was already crying. As I looked at Annie, I cried, too, because she looked so lovely. Her cascading golden hair - which she had fixed herself in intricate curls pinned back by silvery pins - embodied the rays of the bright sun.
 
The flower girl was the daughter of Annie's good friend, Jen, and her wheelchair was ornamented with pretty ribbons. Keith's dad was his best man. I was the Matron of Honor. The father of the bride was also the preacher and celebrant. He walked her down the dirt road as Keith's mother, Jan, played the violin beneath the sweeping branches of the colossal oak, and Keith's brother took pictures. Then Dad gave Annie's arm to her groom and turned to face her.
 
He asked, "Who gives this woman in marriage?"
 
My mother replied, "Her father and I do."
 
It wasn't long after those words that Dad got emotional, and as he struggled to speak, the breeze sighed through the broad leaves above.
 
And someone in a pickup truck idled just up the lane in order not to disrupt the ceremony.
 
What an unusually beautiful place for a wedding, beneath that magnificent oak! Just as Dad prepared to pronounce Keith and Annie husband and wife, the wind picked up dramatically and rushed about us for several moments, rustling the leaves. It was an impressive moment - at least I thought so. It was as if the Holy Spirit said, I make it so.
 
After much picture-taking, during which passing Texans in their trucks cried, "Congratulations!", we all went to the charming Wedding Oak Winery to celebrate. My sister designed the decorations for the reception area herself. Her gorgeous bouquets and hand-stenciled mason jars with tea lights rested atop burlap squares on the tables. She had made pretty little name tags tied on the keepsake wineglasses, and a cake topper of her own creation presided over the cake. The décor was rustic yet artsy, accented as it was by enormous wine barrels. It was completely unique, and I was amazed by what my sis had done - but not too surprised, considering all that she did for my own wedding.  
 
We ate a wonderfully filling meal with delicious wine - I particularly enjoyed the Viognier - and then Dad brought out his guitar and sang the most beautiful wedding song ever meant for a daughter: Where's The Little Girl, a song he wrote many years ago. It's the right of each of his daughters (and granddaughters someday) to hear it on our wedding day, and Annie had it sung to her for the first time. Then she and Dad danced to Landslide (Fleetwood Mac). the perfect choice, before Keith took her into his arms for At Last (Eta James). As I watched I, though missing my own man pretty badly on such a romantic occasion, was so very grateful to witness and experience it all.
 
 
 
 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Real Stormy Weather

 I woke up about 2am this morning to the roar of the pounding rain.

How dare it?

Doesn't it know that I calculate my hours of probable sleep each night when I go to bed and then estimate my hours of actual sleep when I wake up each early morning? If only it had come sooner and more gently, lolling me to sleep - I love that - instead of rousing me dramatically from Dreamland.

I couldn't fall back asleep. My husband couldn't either. The rain thought it was special in this desert climate, so it announced its vigor with awesome displays of lightning and crashing cascades of thunder and the incessant drum beat of its descent. The wind occasionally whipped and moaned through the rain but could not make head or tail against a continuous leaden downpour.

And I resigned myself to losing sleep for this special visitor. Until I finally pittered out.

I didn't imagine in the wee hours that the rain's power would continue into morning. My husband was up nice and early to try to make his own headway against it. I got up and thought, well, I'll write then, and my son Danny, daughter Ana and I migrated from window to window to stare in unabashed wonder at the new, unusual swimming pool in our backyard, the small creek in the street, and the pond between the eucalyptus trees. Where were the ducks?

We're used to microbursts this time of year that wreak havoc on trees and cars with their short but fierce migration across the valley, but this has not ended yet. The rain is gentler now; the ground is beginning to absorb its officious offering, a new record in Phoenix. It has snatched whole swaths of highway and turned them into canals dotted with submerged vehicles. Five mighty inches it has dumped in our part of town, and it's not done yet. My kids have been given a day off of school and my husband thwarted twice in his honest desire to get to work. The first time I saw him drive down the street I said a prayer when he turned into the flood at the corner, tires churning water. Two minutes later he was back at our door.

For once we weren't irritated by the "Monsoon" brouhaha of the news shows. Today they were exciting. It wasn't just a day when they showed a big fallen tree in a nice yard or had a reporter downtown stopping passersby to ask how they felt about this "incredible" half hour storm. No, today was truly incredible, and they had a weather man warning everyone to just stay home; it wasn't worth it, and a poor reporter out by Interstate 10, interviewing people who had swam out of their vehicles. The camera man showed a DPS truck that almost hit several stranded cars as it skidded toward the flood of a major highway, trying to find an island of sure foundation in the storm.

The kids pulled on raincoats after we tired of the coverage. In Phoenix, yes. I can't remember the last time they wore such strange garments. These particular raincoats were purchased by their papa several months ago; he couldn't resist them, discounted as they were at two bucks apiece. He brought them home, and I picked them out of the bag in irritation thinking, What on earth will we ever do with these? Really?

But this morning they were at last appropriate as my kids ran through our lake of a yard, jumped in the deeper parts, threw balls like skipping stones and splashed through on their bikes, pretending they were cars on the freeway. Today is a real treat for them.

And at last, as I've been writing this, the rain has stopped. But it need not fear. We won't forget this visit too soon, the pleasant and far-from-pleasant memories it made for us desert-dwellers. Our poor heat-burdened plants and trees will relish its gifts for weeks to come.

 
 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Not Again! or I Dream of Sleep

At night a little burglar comes to our door, he wrenches the gate I've wedged there away from the door jamb, lifts it over his head, breaks it across his knees and hurls it down the hall. Then he crawls into our bed and robs us of sleep by hitting his papa in the face and back and pulling my hair repeatedly to make sure none of us falls into a deep sleep for the rest of the night - heaven forbid!

So I gave up on the gate as a security measure for preserving my now most-prized possession and pastime: sleep.

We then simply told the little bugger - whose name happens to be Danny Sam, "You're not allowed to come into our room no matter what! You're too old. You're four-and-a-half-years-old!"

So last night he got up to use the potty and then staged a sit-out right outside our door where every twenty minutes for an hour beginning around 1 am he whined, "Mommy, I can't go back to sleep. I can't."

Firmly and sleepily I informed him that he must go back to sleep and on his own in his own bed, his brother being in the next bed and his stuffed tiger there to snuggle. Whereupon he whimpered, stomped to his room, flung himself against the wall and wept....until, revived - and just as I began to doze in hope - he came back to his NO! NO! I won't go! placard right outside our door and, holding it high in the dark, whined, "Mama, I tried. I can't go back to sleep! Can you snuggle me in the recliner?"

I gently told him that I could not; he is not a baby. (And to be fair, I calculate that I have spent years of my life in that recliner with sick, sleepy, unsleeping, or sleeping children.) Thus the whole whimper, stomp, and weeping phase began anew until my brain shut my body down about 2 am or so for self-preservation.

Can you guess my mood today?

Danny Sam was the first one up this morning. I'm not even sure he slept. In high dungeon I told him that he no longer has the right to disrupt my sleep at his age and that I will not tolerate it, so after using the potty he'd best just return to his bed and lie there in complete quiet until he falls back asleep. I have no sympathy, because he, his papa, and I sleep far better when we're apart.

Will this new policy work? Oh, I don't know, but I hold fast to the dream of a complete, unbroken night of sleep. My dream is there, a reality, somewhere in the future. I just know it.

But maybe it requires a steel door and ear plugs.