From Merriam Webster:

Main Entry:
Greek empatheia, literally, passion, from empathēs emotional, from em- + pathos feelings, emotion — more at pathos

1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it

2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner ; also : the capacity for this (emphasis mine)

I got in an argument not too long ago wherein I was accused of confusing mind reading with empathy. It shook me up at the time — and it still stings — but after some days of reflection, it may be true.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, the most empathic person you are going to meet. Part of that is temperament; I am introverted and selfish with my time. Part of that is circumstances; given my daily to-do list, I feel that if I weren’t selfish with my time, I would lose my mind. And that’s not going to do anyone any good.

It goes beyond that though, and, frankly, being more empathic is something I could work on. Empathy would help in my relationship with my dramatic, easily upset 4-year-old. My primary response to her histrionics these days is frustration. (Also, rolling my eyes.) It would help me find a way to help my 2-year-old who is plagued with nightmares. Being more empathetic would certainly help in my relationship with my overworked husband. I get that, I do.

I admit that I am having trouble stirring up empathy — for anyone, not just those poor unfortunates in my immediate circle. I am so freaking tired. If I don’t get a solid night’s sleep soon — like, tonight — I don’t know what I’m going to do. The cumulative effects of broken sleep are starting to seriously show; my edges are beyond frayed these days. On top of everything else, I am still struggling to keep my home in some kind of acceptable shape, and wondering when I am going to have the time or energy to actually get ahead of the mess (especially in the kitchen and the office).

I yearn to be a better partner to my husband, but as we hardly see each other, this is proving extremely difficult. He works all the time, and he always has paperwork to do, regardless of the day or the hour; I am left with the bulk of what constitutes “not paid work”. Which is a lot of work!

I am not bitter or angry (today at least). I am feeling tired, despairing, hopeless. Things are slipping. I’m feeling alone.

I guess I need a little empathy too. Or at least eight hours of sleep. Two nights in a row, even.

Two Steps Forward, and the Status Quo

Last night as I was getting Bun ready to take her bath, she looked me in the face and said, “I have to go pee.”

So we walked into the bathroom, and — after I stopped her from putting her hands in the toilet — got her properly situated, and she peed on the potty.

I was so proud of her. Not least of all because, frankly, I haven’t made a damn move on the potty training front with Bun. I do not have a clue how I am supposed to potty train a child while I am at work full time. I suspect it may involve a very intense weekend in the house, with Bun’s bum on the pot every half an hour.

Which I understand can be effective, but it sounds like terribly high-pressure situation for a 2-and-a-half-year-old. Especially as using the potty is something I would like her to learn.

As a reward, I gave her a chocolate cookie (note to self: stock up on M&M’s). She seemed to grasp the importance of what she did. I am encouraged. But I still have no plans to go hard-core on this thing. It’s too nice outside!

Unfortunately, on the sleep front, Bun is still not doing well. The nightmares continue, and continue to disrupt sleep for the household. And by household, I mean me.

I thought a routine of ‘monster spray’ and prayers (“Now I lay me down to sleep…” and a litany of “God bless…”) would put the kibosh on the nightmares. This did seem to work — for about two days. But now we’re back to waking up, usually anywhere between 3 and 5 o’clock in the morning.

Last night was especially terrible. She was up screaming by 12:30 a.m. When I went to get her and tuck her into bed with me (DearDR fell asleep on the couch, that lucky bastard), I asked if anything hurt. She said no. I asked if she had a nightmare. She said yes. I asked what about? She said monsters. Trying to drill down a little further, I said, “What kind of monsters?” “Animal monsters,” she answered. I had nothing further to ask, and spent the rest of the night waking up with her toes digging into my back.

I’m of two minds. One mind says, “Let her watch Monsters, Inc.” The other one says, “Make bed time even quieter, don’t talk about monsters (i.e. use angel spray instead of monster spray), and tell Bun about all the good dreams she is going to have.” (This latter is at the suggestion of DearDR.)

What say you? Also, if you have any guidance on the potty training front for a WOTHM, I am all ears.

That’s a Switch

Monkey has gone from being terrified of bugs to terrorizing them.

She picks up ants. Have you even seen an ant that’s been picked up by a 4-and-a-half year old? Poor thing is usually half squished and twitching. If she manages to not squish it, she declares that she is naming it Andy and bringing it home to be her pet.

I’ve told her we will get her an ant farm (for Christmas or her birthday, of course), but I’m not sure I can take the guilt of a greater number of damaged ants until then. She wants to pick up every ant she sees.

This past weekend, she also picked on a little white caterpillar, and in attempting to transport it from our front porch to a tree, dropped it in a bucket of water by accident. The caterpillar dragged itself out of the water, so it didn’t drown at least.

But a water-logged caterpillar is even more pathetic than a squished ant.

The other thing she did recently? Trapped a potato bug in a bucket with a lid. Declared it was her pet. I forgot to go back and let the thing out. That’ll haunt me.

I guess the alternative is worse. Unless she ends up bringing ants into my house. That will make for a very unhappy mama.

Weekend Update:
I cannot say enough nice things about my Spa Day with J and A at this place.

Just. Wow. Just go. Get your favorite girlfriends, your significant other, your mom — anyone, really — and head to Bedford. It’s less than two hours away, and spa services come with a luxurious Eternal Spring bath ritual that will almost make that massage redundant. It’s like a facial for your whole body.

In short, it was lovely. Much needed. A nice time with great friends. Next time, I want it to last longer!


I am leaving for the spa shortly. Spa Day is standing in for Girlie Weekend this year. J moved to BillieHollidaysburg in March, and L had a baby sister for her daughter at the end of June (wasn’t that nice of her?). So A & I are heading to a spa near J for 24+ hours of pampering, plus champagne and strawberries.

Note to self: Pick up strawberries.

No beach, but no plane ride either. A trade off I can live with.

I will be offline and child-free. See you on the other side.

He Sang at Our Wedding

He was a big guy. I mean, when he hugged you, you were rather thoroughly hugged.

He loved music. He traveled with a set of percussion instruments, some of which he showed my daughters on a recent trip to Pittsburgh. Monkey was, of course, fascinated.

He loved my husband. They knew each other for 20-odd years. They used to camp together up at Kinzu. Those are some of my husband’s best memories.

He sang at our wedding, a song by Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe called “The Meeting.” (For those of you keeping track, those are the members of Yes, minus Chris Squire.) I think I cried hardest during that part of our wedding ceremony. It’s a gorgeous song, and he had a beautiful voice.

He had family here, but when he came, he almost always stayed with us. He was fussy: He brought his own pillow, and a little alarm clock. Often his own milk or cereal, too — he was diabetic, so he was careful about what he ate.

He usually came to see us once a year. He loved Penn Brewery, and tried to get here for Ocktoberfest. He came for Christmas every year, to spend a little time with DearDR’s family.

He was such a large soul, such a generous heart. He was beset by troubles and struggles — financial, emotional, health. Yet, he always was smiling, he always was laughing about something.

We don’t know of his last days. The last time I spoke to him it was in early June. He was trying to come see a band playing the Arts Festival. If he wasn’t in too much pain, he said. If it was okay, he said. I was worried because the girls had strep, and I knew he was compromised because of his treatments (he had cancer). He ended up not coming in; on the phone message, he sounded exhausted.

I hope he found peace. I know he found love.

We’ll miss you, Tim. May perpetual light shine upon you.

Cool No More

I know that my age, marital status, and number of children preclude me from the cool kids’ club. And I’m okay with that.

There are probably cool parents’ clubs, or even cool mommy blogging clubs, but I doubt I qualify for those either. I strongly suspect that there’s a minimum salary requirement that we don’t reach. An income level that enables laptops, plus childcare and housekeeping help. Or an attention level concerning online ads and stats that I haven’t a clue about.

And I’m okay with all of that too. (Although I would kill someone under the conditions that 1. I wouldn’t get caught and 2. Someone would come thoroughly clean my house for me twice a week — even just for a couple of months. And/or organize my office.)

With all of this in mind, I went to go see Green Day last night.

And it was awesome.

Honestly, I don’t even know if Green Day is cool anymore. And I don’t care. The audience last night certainly thought they were — I have never been to a show where the audience could sing the ENTIRE first verse of a song (“Boulevard of Broken Dreams”) on their own. Or where a teenage girl was called upon to come up on the stage and play guitar for a song (“Jesus of Suburbia”).

I just know that going to a loud (and it was freaking loud) rock concert was something I really needed to do. Not because it made me feel cool (again). It made me feel care-free. All that mattered was the music, for about three hours.

The Green Day show was a big barrel of rollicking fun, as well as bombastic loud rock and roll music. The threesome from California has transformed into a six-piece arena band, complete with confetti cannons, pyrotechnics, and crowd singalongs. (For a review that pretty much says the stuff I would say if I were actually reviewing the show, see Scott Mervis’ review in the PG.)

The energy was non stop, the music was loud as hell, and I felt cleansed. Cleansed of my worries. Free, just for a tiny space of time. Ageless (although neither child-free or single, curiously enough — well, DearDR did come with me, so that probably explains the not-feeling-single thing).

I’m back in the real world today, feeling like I’m facing more than ever.

Going to Green Day taught me something, though (aside from the fact that Billie Joe Armstrong has a fantastic laugh). It taught me that I have access to something that can make me utterly forget about my cares for awhile. Something I had forgotten.

Countdown to Spa Day: Two days.

Random Thoughts: Monkey Business

Guess what Monkey’s favorite book is these day? Go ahead, guess. I’ll wait.

That’s a good guess. No.

Monkey’s favorite new book is a toy catalog she discovered at Nonna and Pap-pap’s house this past weekend. She pores over that thing the way I hope she’ll concentrate on her math homework in high school. She can tell what is for 4-year-olds. She points out to Bun toys that are for 2-year-olds, and tells her (Bun) that she can have them.

I am dealing with the sudden onset of crass materialism by assuring Monkey that she can have one or two of these toys — for her birthday or Christmas.

Yesterday morning we couldn’t find the catalog for the ride to day school. It was quite a crisis.

It still hasn’t turned up, but Monkey has been sufficiently distracted by the upcoming sleepover at her cousins’ house tonight (while DearDR and I attend the Green Day concert).


Yesterday morning, Monkey complained that her big toe hurt. Taking a look at her foot, I noticed very red, raw spots on her big, middle, and pinky toes.

“Monkey!” I exclaimed, “Your shoes are too small!” I felt like the mother of the year, let me tell you.

I put her in a pair of flip-flops for the day. (Bella had to run down later with another pair of shoes because the flip-flops did not have an ankle strap. I guess sandals at the day school have to have an ankle strap. I clearly am not paying enough attention.)

And at lunch, I ran out to buy her size 12 shoes.

TJ Maxx was an utter fail on the little people shoe front. I saw about four pairs, most of them flip-flops (no ankle straps).

KMart was better, with an extensive selection — of shoes with Hannah Montana, High School Musical, and Camp Rock characters on them.

I have no issues with any of those vehicles per se. Only, my kid is 4 (and a half) and she hasn’t seen any of those shows or movies yet. We’re still on PBSKids and Noggin in my house. Although Monkey did recently declare her love for Hannah Montana. I think she’s picking it up from day school.

In any case, I did track down a pair of pretty sandals ($4) and sneakers with no characters on them (more than $4, but not too bad). It seems that size 12 and up are for girls who see the aforementioned shows, and size 10 and under are still for princesses, Dora, and Pooh. Size 11 shoes are scarce regardless of what may be on them. Character-free shoes are easier to find in smaller sizes. (Although I did see some wee shoes with Hannah Montana on them.)

Monkey promptly gushed over the sneakers — “They are beautiful! I love them!” — and declared the sandals to be her favorit-est shoes ever.

The upside of having a drama queen: unbridled enthusiasm for new shoes and sleepovers.

I’ll take it.

Forgot to do this yesterday. Countdown to Spa Day: Three days.


I distinctly remember, growing up in Erie, thinking, “There is nothing to do.”

So why now, when I visit my parents with my children, is the weekend a whirlwind of activity, a blur, a veritable smorgasbord of things to do?

Saturday, we went to the Erie Zoo, which is much improved since I worked there as a teen.

That line you see behind the rhinos? The zoo was having some kind of frozen safari promotion day. It was packed. Before lunch, we had Rita’s ice, ice cream, and a slushie. (Okay, I skipped the slushie — too sweet.) That last one explains the blue-ish tinge around the girls’ mouths in the next couple of pictures.

The zoo definitely has animals and features it didn’t when I lived in Erie.

The we went downtown to The Cove, a new restaurant in a new waterfront hotel. Bun listens better to Nonna and Pap-pap than she does to me.

Of course, Pap-pap buys blue gorilla dolls, so there you have it.

It was Roar on the Shore 2009, so we had to share State Street with about 5,000 bikers. And we went up that tower at the end of State Street — what is that called? — with the children, where I had a severe vertigo attack. Looking out at the horizon, I was fine. Looking down was not an option.

Quiet time was an absolute no-go back at the house.

Then we headed to the Cherry Festival in Northeast. I didn’t even know Northeast had a Cherry Festival.

I don’t remember being this busy as a kid.

I Am Pathetic

Over the past two months, I have had increasing problems with tension headaches, sleeplessness, and neck mobility. (I hesitate to call any sleeplessness “insomnia” largely because when I go to bed, I do fall asleep; and if I wake up due to one of my children *cough*Bun*cough*, it’s more a matter of being kicked in the kidneys keeping me up, although I do have the occasional racing thoughts at 4 a.m.)

I took the opportunity over the weekend to see if my sister, whom I will now be referring to as Dr. Sis, could help me out with the neck thing. Using a combination of massage therapy and chiropractic, she worked on my neck for upwards of an hour Saturday and Sunday. I’m a tough patient, it turns out.

She adjusted my hips and back as well, which she thinks will help with my neck, too. But she was pretty honest: I have muscular and skeletal issues that are going to need care. She thinks there is some degeneration going on, as well. She prescribed daily heat and stretching. I should probably find a chiropractor, too, huh? My free adjustments will cease — or become far in between times — when she moves to Wilmington, NC.

She also warned me: “You’re going to be pretty sore.”

Boy, she wasn’t kidding. Between the ride back to Pittsburgh with two over-tired children who would not just pass out already and those adjustments, I was in considerable pain when I finally pulled into my driveway. DearDR was supposed to take over as POD (and I was supposed to go to a blogging event on the South Side), but his high-school friend who is living in Arizona was visiting, so that didn’t happen. Fortunately, my MIL once more rode to the rescue by serving dinner to everyone (Earthmom and her family were on the compound as well), and my SIL and BIL-IL took all the kids for a nature walk, so I took to my bed for about an hour with a heating pad and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (yeah, I know, I’m behind).

The major issue (it seems to me) is that when I have stress/anxiety issues, I tend to “store” them in the muscles of my neck and shoulders. In thinking about this more in depth, I keep coming up against: WTF do I have to be stressed out about, really?

Yes, we had repeated bouts of strep throat this summer — as a matter of fact, summing up my summer at my Aunt M’s 70th birthday party a couple of weeks ago went like this: a month of two rounds with strep, and a week in Cape Cod. Then lots and lots of other travel and activities coming up — a spa weekend for me, trips to Seven Springs a couple of different weekends, sundry summer stuff — into August. Plus the usual stressors: full-time work, paying bills, raising children — my wonderful, adorable, challenging children — maintaining a relationship with my equally overworked husband.

This is normal life, I tell myself. Why am I such a basket case? None of us (and I’m counting my parents and my ILs here) are dealing with life-threatening health issues (knock on wood); my children are not special needs children, or even particularly high needs; my husband and I are employed and have health insurance; we have a roof over our heads. Heck, we get to do things like take road trips to Erie, Seven Springs, and Cape Cod. I have good friends with whom I enjoy spending time; I have good family, ditto. Yeah, we still have debt issues, but they are resolving and not getting worse.

What is wrong with me that I find the relentlessness of my children so very exhausting sometimes? And their screaming — oh my gosh, the screaming has to stop. Even when it is in fun, it makes me crazy. They are so bloody shrill, my girls. The drama, too, simply escalates. I tell Monkey I can’t talk to her right now, and she wails about how no one ever is going to talk to her ever again. When things aren’t going Bun’s way, she stomps off in a pout and says, “I’m not playing with you guys.” Which, adorable, but so not to be encouraged.

At one point in Erie, I was on the back porch of my parents’ house with my mom and Dr. Sis. The girls were in the back yard. I was yelling down to them: “Bun, where are your shoes? Monkey, don’t climb that tree. It’s too little! Stop feeding the dog berries from that bush!” (Monkey’s response to that last one, “I’m just giving him the berries to play with.”)

My mom chuckled. “That’s your life, pretty much, isn’t it?” she asked me.

Yeah, it is my life. A constant barrage of guiding and asking and telling and saying no and re-direction (when I remember). And in response, pouts and yelling and reasoning that isn’t reasonable and (occasionally) “okay, mama”. (On the nail-biting thing with Monkey: “Monkey, stop biting your nails.” “I like them really short.” “Well, I’ll cut them, then. Just tell me when you want me to.” “Well, this is how I cut them.” “Monkey, that’s a bad habit. It doesn’t look nice.” “I like my nails to be really short.” *headpalm*)

Each Monday finds me more tired and feeling the need for more catch up — on laundry, on husband time, on sleep, on cleaning, on me time. At this point, I’m thinking of just throwing it all in until they are in college. Maybe I can start playing catch up then.

Count down to Spa Day (standing in for Girlie Weekend this year): Five days.

Also, this “news” article from makes me want to go kick some ass. Full-time parenting is a grind? Really? [Insert swear words of choice here.] My heart bleeds. With apologies to the full-time dads I know out there. Who get it, and don’t need a news article to point out what moms have been saying for centuries.


I learned a few things yesterday:

1. Monkey knows all the words to “Kids” by MGMT.
2. Monkey really hates Louis Armstrong’s version of “It’s a Wonderful World”. “It’s not a wonderful world,” she cried in response when I wouldn’t skip it. “It’s just not.”
3. ABBA, the original group, isn’t together anymore. Although, contrary to rumor, they are not dead.
4. I was clearly spoiled by Mamma Mia! I expected some fabulous dance numbers. But the costumes were disco-licious.
5. Clearly, I will go to just about any lengths to spend time with my best friends.

Okay, I already knew that.

When the Steelers won the Super Bowl one year in the ’70s, the montage afterward was set to ABBA’s “Winner Takes it All”. Does anyone else remember this? N says it was 1979, after the Steelers beat the L.A. Rams. I’m inclined to believe her because N has a memory like a photo album. I remember feeling bad for the losing team because of that song. That’s the video I was looking to put here. Instead, you get “Dancing Queen”. Feel free to picture me dancing ecstatically to it — wearing black.