28.2.07

Swirling

The thoughts, they are swirling in my head but lack coherent expression. They have to do with this, and this, and this. They have to do with the inherent vulnerability in femininity that is at once a strength and a great weakness. To be vulnerable, to live with it, to remain open to life in the face of constant fear requires deep inner strength. I know many women who have this kind of strength and I never cease to marvel at it. I spent a lot of life resenting that I had been born female because I saw mainly the weakness.

We are never at any age safe from sexual violation from men. It seems to me that boys outgrow this vulnerability when they become men, except maybe in prison, but women never do. We are physically weaker and less able to protect ourselves, or our children. We are considered second class and subservient in most of the world, our role is to serve men, to satisfy their needs, to serve our children. We bear the physical consequences of childbirth, we are paid less if paid at all, and we work more and longer. These kinds of things made me wish that I were a man.

It seems to me that these vulnerable aspects of being female are a good thing in a perfect world. The world needs what we have. It needs our compassion, our nurture, our care and indeed our vulnerable openness, which has throughout history drawn out the best and most noble characteristics in men. (No, I’m not talking about Helen of Troy.) These qualities are the kinds of things I believe that men are called upon to protect and treasure because it is to their own benefit to preserve them.

But the world isn’t perfect. Men are selfish, women are cruel, men objectify women, women emasculate men in an attempt to protect ourselves and men fight jealous wars over beautiful woman. (Now I am talking about Helen of Troy.) Everyone loses. This is the world that I have brought daughters into, which I have grown up in, and it often frightens me.

Movies like North Country haunt me. To me it’s a story that portrays all of the ways in which men fail to protect women in the ways that we are vulnerable. As a young girl the main character is raped by a schoolteacher a man in authority, her friend/boyfriend sees it happening and instead of helping he runs away, because he is scared. She gets pregnant, her father sends her away in shame. The man she marries beats her, she runs away from him and back to the home of her childhood. Struggling to take care of two children on her own she finds a job that pays a decent wage working in the all male territory of the mines. Once she begins work there she is subjected to humiliation, public shaming, physical violence and threats, she is not the only one. Eventually she wins by successfully suing the company, but what haunts me is what she had to go through to get there and that it happens finally when the men who ought to have protected her before finally do, and the women who should have stood by her in the beginning finally do also.

I know some feminist is out there saying that I should instead be telling women to learn to protect ourselves, and we should. We should learn skills for gainful employment, we shouldn’t walk by ourselves in bad neighborhoods at night, and we can take self-defense classes. But my point is, a man doesn’t even worry about these things. He walks wherever he likes when he wants to, he is usually hired, he rarely worries about who will take care of his children while he makes a living. The truth is that we are vulnerable, no matter what we do, and in a world where men have largely lost the instinct to protect those who are weaker than them, we find ourselves the victims of mankind’s evils.

I had an acquaintance in Canada whose first post with the Canadian army was a UN “peacekeeping” mission in Bosnia. Basically what they did was clean up after the mass genocide and ethnic cleansing. He cleaned out mass graves full of the bodies of children, he had to take care of 9 year old girls who were terrified of him and his rape kit after they found villages where every single women was raped by invading forces. It messed him up for the rest of his life that he had gone to protect and had been unable to.

History is full of stories like this, in every age.

I see a lot of women try to deal with this by becoming like men. They become exclusively career oriented, they become hard, they sacrifice their natural compassion on the altar of staying ahead and keeping up with the men. Feminine traits are not useful in the cutthroat world of business, a place that is inherently masculine in nature because it was first inhabited by men. I’m not saying that every woman who works does this, only that it seems hard to succeed in a career with out going this way to some degree or another. I don’t think this is a good answer either. I suspect it may make us more vulnerable in some ways. By trying to be strong in ways that we are not we then do not receive that strength from those who have it naturally, and we are left to defend ourselves. But we got there because of their failure to defend us in the first place. In many ways there was no alternative than to usurp masculine power for ourselves to protect ourselves from abusive men. I wonder if there is a better way, a way to use the power that is ours as women instead. It’s hard to say though since I have no idea what that looks like. When the woman of my mother’s generation took to the streets to burn their bras what where they protesting exactly, that they had breasts? That they needed an item of clothing to support those breasts? That theirs was the body that was designed to nurture children? Or the male demand to have perky breasts instead of the weighted pendulous items that are a natural result of life as a woman? Where they, as I have, protesting having to be a woman in the first place? I don’t know I wasn’t there.

I don’t know where I’m going with all of this either, or if I even have a point. I long for a solution though I don’t think I will ever see one. I long to do something to right the world’s wrongs, to keep little girls from being sold into sex trade by their relatives to pay off debts, to keep babies from being thrown away into latrines and garbage dumps in South Africa, to stop little kids and woman from becoming infected with HIV because the men in their lives believe they are entitled to immediate sexual gratification, to keep my daughters safe and able to live without fear. I have a few ideas, but I know I am up against a world where greed and selfishness are corporate policy, where profit is the bottom line, where the cost of convenience and pleasure in human lives is only counted by those on the losing end of the bargain in the places laid waste by industrial greed in the illnesses that are curable but people die from them for lack of a few dollars a month, and where sex is a commodity. I think my voice as a woman is needed, my voice as a person who cares more about people than money, but I don’t know where to begin for all of my beginnings seem so small. What I want to know is, am I alone in my swirling ramblings, or is everyone else just not sure how to begin talking about it as well? Leave me a note and tell me what you think.

23.2.07

Small Joys Friday

Ever have those days when you are tempted to believe the worst of a person? When I’m depressed I give into them far to readily and assume immediately that whatever the other person did was on purpose to hurt me, it’s just the first place that my brain goes. I almost went there again this week with the GH. But I didn’t. I was able to keep from drawing bitter conclusions right away, I held my tongue and I was able to hope that something would change, and lo and behold, it did. I would have been completely wrong to jump to bitter conclusions and made he and myself miserable in the process. I’m so glad that I’m learning these things, however slowly, and a turn in a hopeful direction brings me much joy.

My dad called this week, to talk about his last visit here and to try and understand why our relationship is so strained. For the first time I began to be honest with him about how I really feel. There is much more to say, but for the first time in years I didn’t feel frustrated, angry, or alone when I finished the conversation. I was able to say that I don’t trust him, that part of me remembers and is afraid of him because of who he used to be, I was able to tell him that having him around is very stressful for me because of how hard it is to keep fighting back the tears and any hurtful things I want to say to preempt an attack of words from him in order to protect myself. And he didn’t crap all over me for saying it; he even apologized for some of it. Wow, I feel lighter in that area than I have in a long time.

I found my desk underneath a pile of paper work, and I found it by properly filing everything and writing the letters and mailing things. It feels so good to have something that lurks like that finally dealt with.

The Baby and I have long talks where she giggles and smiles at me.

I bought a new cookbook full of pretty pictures (food p*rn) and meal ideas that focus on using vegetables in exciting new ways.

Listening to my kids play together when they are helping each other and going out of their way to please each other and make each other laugh. They spent an hour at the dinner table this week just laughing together and being silly, enjoying each other’s company. Those things make my heart feel very blessed indeed.

What kinds of things brought you joy this week?

22.2.07

I actually swooned

When I met the husband I was pretty much a full on hippy. At least he thought so. I wore long flowing skirts and dresses with flowers on them. I lived in community with 5 other girls sharing a mattress with two of them, sleeping on floors otherwise, and driving a big white van that had crocheted blankets lining the seats.

Before living with those girls I was what we in Canada called a Granola. Most of the Canadians I know are. Granolas are people who like to be outside, we camp, we hike, we bike we canoe we eat granola bars and trail mix on our three day walks into the middle of nowhere so we can camp in a tiny tent next to a mountain lake where there are no other people, or on an isolated beach surrounded by rain forest. It’s easy to be a Granola in Canada, at least where I grew up. World-class hiking and camping areas are within two hours of the city I was born in.

My first “date” with the Genius Husband involved sleeping outside in the dessert and hiking, we backpacked for our honeymoon.

Over the years and as we have added children I have been gradually morphing from that hippy granola chick I used to be into a suburban housewife. I wear capris and expensive bras instead of sport bras, I haven’t got many flowy skirts and dresses left, I like LL Bean shoes and I shop at target more often than at thrift stores these days, maybe because it’s closer to me. It’s been more than a year since I’ve slept in a tent, and I no longer find the floor an even remotely comfortable place to sleep.

In other ways I suppose I remain a hippy at heart. I prefer homebirth, I’m afraid to vaccinate my children, at least until they’re three, but the Boy is now five and it still hasn’t been done. I used to cloth diaper, but then I tried to do the elimination awareness thing, which didn’t really work that well for me, but the Girl potty trained really early as a result, so now I use disposables because I don’t have laundry facilities, or the money needed to buy a brand new selection of cloth diapers and this city doesn’t have a diaper service. (That was a long excuse for something I feel guilty about.) Let’s see what else, if possible I participate in organic food buying co-ops, my children eat quinoa and lentils, I walk and use public transit for almost everything I need to do outside of my home and I recycle. We use homeopathic remedies and essential oils on a regular basis to deal with illness instead of pharmaceuticals. These are simply things that I consider normal however, maybe because I’m Canadian. I feel far away from the one suitcase owning, living on nothing, free spirited person I was 7 years ago.

I realized the other day that I haven’t gone that far away from her however. The Genius Husband bought some patchouli oil and rubbed some in his hair and beard. As I hugged him a whole lot longer than usual and buried my face in his neck to breathe in his scent mixed with the lovely smell of patchouli I thought to myself, “Wow, I’m still a total hippy after all.”

20.2.07

the elementary version of the birds and the bees

The Girl was in the bathroom today with me as I put a panty liner in my underwear. She wanted to know what it was for so I explained that it was to keep blood from getting all over my clothes and quickly reviewed what I have already told her about blood being a part of how babies are made. (I’m getting really tired of the post baby trickle by the way, and the smell.)

She looked at my with big serious eyes, her blond hair sticking out all around her head in a frizzy sleep halo, too big blue pj’s that match her eyes hanging off of her tiny frame, and said, ”Mommy, when, when, when, I am bigger I would yike to have a baby and push it out between my legs someday. And then Beema could hold it, and you could hold it and daddy could hold it. I want to name my her Kristyana.”

My 3-year-old daughter is talking about going through labor someday and looking adorable while doing it. It makes me want to hold her very tight because I know the day will probably come, but I’m so glad that it’s far away still. And where did she get that name?

In related news, my older children started to joyfully declare immediately following the baby’s birth that now I could get pregnant again and have another baby. Not exactly the way I was thinking my first week postpartum.

The Boy also wanted to know why daddy didn’t use his penis to get the baby out. We have a very cute little book that explains how babies get inside of mommies for kids that we read a few times. Apparently he got some of the facts about how babies are made a little confused in his head. He looked very concerned as he asked me that we might have somehow gotten it wrong.

19.2.07

2 months

You are now 2 months old baby girl. The big news is that you have eyelashes now, they just popped out of nowhere one day and now you have pretty long dark lashes just like your brother and sister did. Even bigger news is that you are smiling, a lot, and we think that you can see us now because you will sit for a long time just looking at things. Your biggest smile to date was for daddy when he was making his voice rumble around in his chest for your benefit. You looked straight at him and broke into a big wide grin and he was so excited he yelled for me to come and see. Keep it up and you’ll soon have him completely wrapped around your little finger, he will be like putty for you to mold you are so heart meltingly lovely. His voice changes when he talks to you, becomes gentle again and a bit silly.

You like it when your brother and sister pay attention to you. When they are near you are wildly excited and start to move your whole body and kick and kick those little legs of yours trying to get yourself in on the action. You so far you have only succeeded in maneuvering yourself onto your stomach and pushing your face into the chair, which results in frantic cries of anger and frustration, and we quickly adjust you so that you can breath more easily. You look so cute when you’re excited. Your eyes open even wider and you just don’t stop moving and making precious little grunting noises.

You have little satisfied sound that you make that is almost like a laugh but not quite, and I love your expectant little snuffles when you are about to nurse. Your cheeks are very chubby now, almost jowly since you don’t really have a chin to speak of yet. Your tiny body is slowly getting less tiny which is what it’s supposed to do it just seems so fast this changing that you go through.

You’ve started to try and hold on to me with your hands. You grab onto my hair and my clothes with your little fists. When I hold you to try to grasp my wrists between your forearms, and you are strong when you pull on things.

You can now support your own weight on your feet for all of 10 seconds. You have started pushing yourself onto your feet whenever anyone holds you in their lap and stand as long as you can manage it before taking a rest. Last night you pushed yourself up while I was holding you and then you strained and stiffened and even curled your arms as though you were a body builder flexing and we all laughed at how funny you looked, a tiny little person in a tough guy pose.

You are so pretty. You look a lot like daddy we think; you have his hair and his skin tone and his forehead and eyelashes. You are fortunate however to have my nose, it’s cuter than his is we all agree.

You love your baths, and your siblings like to help with them. You are very clean once you get out with all of the loving attention you get from them. They like to clean you off very thoroughly, and they are particular about wachclothes. They think you like the one with pink butterflies on it the best.

You are in disposition peaceful, except when your belly hurts which happens often at night when gas gets trapped in there. You I have to walk to sleep because if you nurse right before I lay you down and you don’t deal with that gas you will be awake all night and it sounds like it really hurts you. We’re slowly getting the hang of it though you and I, and the late evening is becoming more peaceful. We may get to bed before 1am on a consistent basis pretty soon here.

I like you little girl. I like the way bits of your personality are already beginning to emerge, and I love the feel of your little body in my arms. And you like us. At least, that's what the Girl says every time she hovers over you and you look back at her, she announces, "Mommy, she likes us." I hope it's true. Thank-you for coming to live with us you brighten every day. I already cannot imagine life without you.

16.2.07

what Shabbat means to me

It’s Friday, and life this week has been full of joy, and sorrow, and everything in between. My life is full right now. The Genius Husband’s grandmother passed away yesterday. As much as she will be missed it doesn’t seem tragic when one who has lived as long as her is finally laid to rest.

I wanted to write about Shabbat this Friday and what it means to me and it’s not a bad segue to go from the death of an old woman who lived a full life to this celebration of life and God’s goodness. I’m not even Jewish, I was raised Christian which is why it actually makes total sense to me to keep Jewish traditions since they are commanded in the same Bible that I grew up reading. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy was right there before don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t covet, honor your parents, etc. (I will now refrain from going off on a theological tangent involving complicated metaphors about grafting olive trees and stuff.) But we never kept Shabbat when I was growing up. First of all we had no idea how, and second most Christians think not working on Sunday is keeping the commandment. Then I started attending the Shabbat at my in-law’s house and realized that it can be so much deeper than I was aware. Here are some of the things that it has come to mean to me since we’ve been keeping it.

Shabbat is about anticipation, about having something to look forward to the rest of the week. My children ask me every morning if it’s Friday yet, because they love Shabbat. They love going to Beema’s house and seeing all of their aunts and uncles and usually spending the night there, they like that they get dessert and a special dinner, the lit candles, the blessings from their father, and retelling in pictures the Parsha or weekly reading from the Torah. Right now we are reading about Moses and the boy took a long reed he found on one of our walks with him so he could recount for everyone the mighty deeds that Hashem(G-d) did through Moses staff. It was a lot of fun to watch him retell it with such dramatic detail.

For me this anticipation also involves getting my house in order. Before sundown on Friday I try to get it as orderly as possible around here so that the atmosphere is peaceful and relaxing for a day. Also because Shabbat is my break too, from housework and cooking, so I get everything ready before. This kind of anticipation causes me to be more organized and more motivated to get to tasks in a timely fashion through out the week because I have a deadline of sorts and I know I will get a break. It also involves thinking about special food to make, which is something I love to do, planning dessert with the kids, and a break from our everyday routine. On Friday morning we make the special Challah bread, which is only something we do once a week. It’s kind of like the excitement before a major holiday, the preparation, anticipation, and change from the mundane. If this were all that Shabbat did for us it would be enough for me to continue it but there’s more.

Shabbat is gratitude. At the beginning of the meal the men say the blessings over the bread, and the wine. The words of blessing remind us that all that feeds us comes from Hashem who causes the grain to ripen and the grapes to grow, who made and sustains the earth.

Shabbat is family. It is a time set aside to enjoy each other without the usual distractions. No one is running out the door to go anywhere after dinner, every one rests. The meal is leisurely and unhurried, and the conversation is edifying, most of the time. And then there are the blessings, father’s calling out of their children the strengths and gifts that they see, and asking for them that they receive what they lack as well. The love of family is evident in every face and moment.

Shabbat is rest, is peace. Somehow, the moment I light the candles all that was rushing comes to a pause, there is stillness that enters in, even in the kids and we can feel the change as we enter the holy set apart time of the week.

Shabbat is a celebration of life, a way to suck a little more joy out of it and hold onto the good. It’s a Jewish attitude and assumption perfectly embodied in the toast “le chaim” to life.

Shabbat is abundance. On Shabbat we set out the good dishes, and the pretty tablecloths, we wear our good clothes, we make the best of what we can afford and we celebrate the many ways in which we are blessed.

Shabbat is remembrance. We read the Torah, we remember the goodness of Hashem, the ways he took care of his people in the past and kept his promises and instructed them.

Shabbat is light, music, laughter, joy, love.

It is a moment, a pause in my life that enriches it and helps me to remember how good the life I have is. It truly is a blessing from Hashem. I am so glad that we keep it, and that G-d gave it to us to enjoy.

15.2.07

But I got flowers

So my plan to use Valentine’s Day as an excuse/incentive/reminder to be nice to my husband had some interesting moments. Like my 18 year-old brother in law walking into my house while I was in the middle of cleaning and setting a pretty table, wordlessly taking over one of the bathrooms to shower and then settling himself on my living room floor to work on his Chinese homework. (He does this at least once a week, he and the Genius Husband work together often and he will stop at our house to shower and change after work if he has an evening class.) I forgot that he might be stopping by.

During dinner, which the BIL stayed for, the Girl peed herself twice, once all over the floor under the table. It was very romantic to clean all of that up and keep jumping up from dinner during the various stages of clean up and redressing.

That pretty much scrapped my vision of a nice quiet dinner together, though it was a good dinner. However, the GH walked in the front door with ROSES in hand and two bottles of nice wine but he always does that. But he brought FLOWERS people, that makes 4 times total since we met, not that I keep track or anything.

And the Baby went to sleep before midnight also. Overall it was a good night.

Happy Love Thursday every one.

14.2.07

Love without flowers

My husband is not the kind of guy who will come home with flowers, pretty much ever. I’ve gotten flowers from him 3 times in the entire time I’ve known him. Once he had a big bouquet of daisies wired to me for my birthday when we were in separate countries, before we were married. Once before we were engaged he screwed up bad and knew it and appeared with a hand picked bouquet, each flower symbolizing a different aspect of his apology and thoughts on the subject. Then there was the time we both forgot about our 4th anniversary. I remembered at about 9:30 pm while putting the kids to bed and thoroughly enjoyed greeting him at the door half an hour later and demanding to know where my flowers were. I let him sweat for about a minute as he said, “August…. Anniversary?” Then I let him know that I had only just remembered myself. He went out anyway and bought one of those miniature rose bushes that you can get at the grocery store and a big bar of dark chocolate. That’s it for flowers.

I’m not at all delusional when it comes to my husband, I know that if I want something, especially help, I need to ask him for it or he doesn’t notice. I don’t get upset over that or punish him or myself with unrealistic expectations of spontaneous gestures from him. He’s a guy. I’ve told him often enough, say leading up to my birthday, that I would like flowers, but I’ve never received them. A couple of years ago I started buying myself just because bouquets from the street vendors, because fresh flowers make me happy and I wanted some.

As much as some manly idea in him seems to rebel against the thought of buying me flowers, I have come to realize that there are many other gestures and actions that demonstrate love in very tangible ways.

He makes birthday cakes for me. This year’s was even more elaborate than the last one. He made several layers of different flavored dark chocolate ganache above a really moist, rich flourless chocolate cake drizzled with a very old port. He topped the whole thing with brownies and more dark chocolate. If you know me, you know that that is my dream cake, and he does it better every year.

On weekends that he is home he makes these elaborate breakfasts involving his perfect French toast, eggs, gourmet sausages, specialty teas, and he puts it out on pretty plates and then wakes me to come and eat it.

One year for my birthday he shopped everywhere for a set of keychain scissors like the set I borrowed from him the day we met. I still have them in my purse.

He rents movies he thinks I would like to watch, even if he doesn’t like them.

Once when I was away for a few weeks he redecorated our bedroom, complete with details like tea light candle holders and framed photographs and original art on the walls. He filled an album entirely with pictures of me that he liked and kept it next to the bed while I was gone.

He puts up with my parents coming to visit even though they drive him nuts; he even makes conversation with them.

He once took massage therapy and every so often he will set up candles and music and give me a long massage, and he’s very good at it.

He gets up early and goes to work every single day and works hard in order to take care of his family.

He’s still here, even though I have subjected him to extreme craziness during several pregnancies.

He always listens when I want to talk to him, or at least he makes eye contact and gives me his attention.

He may not write poetry any more or sappy letters, or give flowers, though the man knows his chocolate, but I know he still loves me even without these things. This Valentine’s Day I don’t expect he’ll even remember which honestly doesn’t bother me. I’m looking at it as a day to remember to be thoughtful to my fabulous husband. I will be making a meal that I know he will like, the kids will help me make chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert, I will light candles, I may even buy some flowers to dress up the table, and we will hopefully have 5 minutes or so to connect, and then the Baby will probably scream and cry until far into the night as she has been doing recently, and I will give him a tired kiss as he goes to bed and I try to help her sleep. Or maybe she will go to sleep for a change and I can go to bed too. I can always hope, right?

13.2.07

You know you live in southern California when...

...There is a little sign on the door as you walk into the grocery store explaining to you that the floor may be wet due to rain. I don't know if this is because otherwise people would be wondering why there are dirty wet trails through the entrance area or if it's so that they are covered in case someone tries to sue them after they slip. Either way it's a southern CA thing.

...Your kids go running to the front door yelling, "Look mommy it's RAINING!! Can we go outside in it?"

...You've lived in an apartment for 5 months (Sept. through January) before noticing that there is absolutely no weather stripping under your front door and you finally figured it out because your bare feet were feeling cold one very windy night.

...When all the cars on the freeway start to crawl as soon as the rain hits the windshield because no one knows how to drive in rain. (Also because all of the oil deposits in the grooved concrete start to float up and make it slick but still, it's rain people, I learned to drive on ice.)

...You want to start knitting yourself a sweater but then wonder if you should bother because it will be too warm to wear one by the time you've finished, say in March.

...If you take your out of town guests to the beach in January so they can look at it, but think they're crazy for not wearing a coat and for dipping their toes in the water, afterall, it's winter here and that water is cold, so cold that the surfers and divers out there have WETSUITS ON, and your kids are begging for a sweater.

Part 2

8.2.07

I love my kids

Wow it’s late and I should be sleeping. But instead I’m writing because I feel this mad need to capture all of the things about my children that I have enjoyed this week before they slip away and I forget. Like the way the Girl is enthused over her anatomically correct horses. She’s seen a few real horses and asked, “What is that?” when she sees the boy horses. Needless to say, now all of the plastic horse toys that we put on her birthday cake are assigned gender. She checks to see if they have a package or not between the legs, some do, and then gives me this constant running monologue.

“See mommy, this one is a boy horse because he has a penis but this one isn’t a boy because it doesn’t have a penis, but this one is because it has a PENIS!”(Emphasis hers)

I discovered the other day that the boy is a pretty good pinch hitter when it comes to baby holding. I sat him in the chair last week and let him hold her all by himself for the first time and he was radiant, and he held her even after she started fussing and kept caressing her face and cooing, “It’s okay Baby, I’m here.”

If she starts to cry both the Boy and the Girl go running toward her and give her their hands to hold and talk to her and put their faces close to hers. In the car they give me a constant update from the back seat. “The Baby’s holding my hand mommy.” “And she’s holding mine too.” “Mommy the Baby’s asleep now.”

I turned around the other day and the Baby, whom I had previously left propped up in a chair to watch everything as I cooked dinner, I can see her the whole time except I wasn’t looking just then, was suddenly in her brother’s arms and he sat there holding her looking as pleased as punch with himself that he’s picked up the Baby all by himself and was holding her.

“I’m a good big brother mom. I’m being very careful not to hurt the baby. I’m good at holding the baby, I’m a good helper for you aren’t I?” He says this all in that tone of voice he reserves for when he’s making statements, very matter of fact and grownupish, except that it’s coming out of a 5 year old. Then the girl started to jump up on the chair too and wedge herself in next to them to be part of the action. And there they were all three of my children looking sweet and adorable and full of love for each other. The girl with her bright red lips and flushed cheeks and blue eyes that smile with impossible brilliance and the boy with an expression of sheer delight as he held his sister. I ran to get my camera, and couldn’t get it to work, its flashing camera code at me and I don’t understand it.

This morning when I woke up the Boy was making his sister breakfast. I put whole grains in the crock-pot before going to bed and in the morning he can get his own porridge out. I over heard him telling her, word for word, what I’d told him when I taught him how to get it in the bowl and add the frozen fruit and the cinnamon. When I came into the kitchen they were both standing on little chairs next to the counter with their heads together as they made breakfast.

The Boy only calls the Baby by her middle name. He likes it better. When she was first born we asked him what he thought her name should be. He responded, very seriously, “I think her name should mean rejoicing.” I found a middle name that means rejoice and that’s what he has called her ever since, it’s his name for her and he’s on a one boy campaign to have the rest of us call her by that name too by saying it so often. We’ve all slipped and called her by her middle name thanks to his efforts. Now the Girls has taken it upon herself to defend the Baby’s first name. Every time the boy calls her by her middle name the Girl pipes in “And her name is {first name} too.”

Everything the girl plays with these days has a conversation. Her carrots start talking to each other at the dinner table. Her spinach will engage in existential debate before it is consumed.

“Who are you?”

“I am gomflung, who are you?”

“Why are you Gomflung?”

“Because.”

“Mommy I eat it.”

Yesterday the Girl stomped on the Boy’s face with her shoes on. He cried. She didn’t mean to hurt him, she just forgot that she was wearing shoes and yes, he doesn’t mind if she stomps on his face when they’re playing together most days, just as she doesn’t mind if he grabs her and throws her down on the floor mid stride, most days. They can play ”the hitting game”* for hours and giggle and giggle and giggle. But yesterday the Boy got hurt. It was so sweet to see the girl go up to him as he cried and say, “I’m sorry.” And to watch him reply, through his tears, “I forgive you.” Then they gave each other a hug and bounced apart laughing again, completely reconciled.

I want to suck up and treasure everything about these days; I know they won’t last long. The Boy has already begun to grow a bit of a world-weary edge sometimes. The refrain of “I don’t like that, I don’t want to do that, I just want to stay at home” comes easily to the lips of a boy who used to virtually explode with excitement when ever I proposed something. Now I hold onto those moments when he jumps up and down and enthusiastically yells, “Mommy’s making us SANDWICHES FOR LUNCH. Thank-you mommy, I like sandwiches, that’s really good of you to make us sandwiches. I asked you for them and then you made me them thank-you mom. WOOHOO! Girl mommy’s making us SANDWICHES! Do you want sandwiches?” “Uh huh” “Yeah because sandwiches TASTE GOOD and their really yummy and their good for my body.”

They are at the age of wonder right now, and it’s going by too fast.

Happy Love Thursday

6.2.07

What I miss about my workforce days.

I could get up and get ready before I started work. I could arrive showered and dressed and exercised, and have time to eat breakfast.

My bosses didn’t barge in on me in the shower demanding I fix something now.

No one followed me to the bathroom pulling on my skirt and screaming.

I could eat my lunch in silence if I wanted and completely alone. No one demanded I get up and work again 10 seconds after I started to eat.

My old bosses didn’t demand I get out of my bed in the middle of the night to wait on them hand and foot.

There was a janitor who had to deal with spills and vomit and pee should it occur.

If I had to work overtime I wasn’t scheduled to work again 3 hours after my shift had ended.

I got scheduled shifts.

I got time off.

I slept in on Saturdays.

I didn’t have 3 people screaming at me all at the same time while I was trying to deal with an important phone call and someone at the door and make lunch.

Sleep.

Grown up conversations.

Pretty clothes: that were clean and free of slobber, snot trails, baby puke, milk leaks, food stains, dirty hand prints, and were size 4.

Oh well, those jobs all sucked anyway, and I have this strange intense love for the new tyrants in my life that makes most of my days good ones, in spite of the screaming.

2.2.07

Shit Happens

One minute she was driving home from the airport, making her way carefully through the ice and snow. In the next an out of control semi truck was slamming into her car sending it skittering across lanes of traffic. She had just chosen to exit the highway, thinking the slower speeds of the surface roads, and the lighted, sanded street would be a safer route to take home. Her careening car narrowly avoided slamming into another car occupied by two small boys and their father, and then the truck hit her again. Her first thought was something like, “I’m going to die now,” followed by, “Oh God help.” Then the truck with still more momentum than her little car slammed into her again, this time from the other side. Again she thought she was going to die, and then she thought, I can’t die today, that would ruin Carrien’s birthday forever. Six times in total the truck hit her car, knocking it further and further off of the road until they both came to rest in the ditch.

Just that morning I had hugged her goodbye and watched as her train disappeared to the north. I looked at the clock from time to time with the kids as we followed her itinerary. “Oma should be getting on her plane about now.” “She’s still flying.” “She should be arriving at the airport, by dinner she should be almost home.”

I still feel sick to my stomach, this tension deep inside of me that coils every time I think about how close I came to losing my mother two days ago. It’s surprising she’s alive; her car is completely crushed. After a night in the hospital they determined she had no internal injuries and no broken bones and sent her home with Demerol, where she now lays in great pain from the deep bruises on her bones and the rest of her body. My mother, the woman who never ever seemed to be able to catch a break gets slammed yet again by one of life’s inequities. My freezer is full of food that she made for me, my children have several books and toys and fond memories from her two weeks here, I feel rested and strong because she was here, and she lies in bed in pain thanks to a freak accident. But she is not dead.

I confess that I felt a small stab of relief that the accident wasn’t something that happened during her trip, on the plane or the train or the shuttle, it happens after she was back in her city, in a way it released me from some of the guilt I felt of placing her in harms way through her travel to get to me. We spent a while when she was here talking about how I feel guilty for being most of the time, how I feel as though it’s my job to take care of her, to protect her, to make sure she is happy. I have carried with me most of my life this feeling that I ruined my mother’s by being born. She’s never said that or thought that even I don’t think; it’s just something I picked up and decided was true when I was very small. Maybe the way all of the grown-ups when I was a child used shame as a way to control kids had something to do with it. It was never just, “It’s time to pick up your toys now, clean up your mess.” it was “Pick up your toys, you should feel ashamed of yourself making more work for your mother. She works hard enough taking care of you, you shouldn’t make her work any harder.” I remember my grandmother saying that to me when I was 4. They were of the children should be seen and not heard generation, when your job as a child was to remain as invisible as possible and avoid getting in a grownup’s way.

So I told her I felt that way, she had to drag it out of me, that I felt responsible for her and all of the hurt her decisions as an adult had brought her, how I was angry over the worry and the way I had parented my parents most of my young life, that I had had no childhood because of the madness that surrounded me, some of which was because of her. She cried because she never intended for me to feel that way, or think that way, and she reminded me that they were her choices and I was the child and I was able for the first time to let go of some of the burden I carry around, to let myself be the daughter, to let her choose without worrying for her if it was the right choice. When I heard about the accident all of the guilt came flooding back for a minute. It’s because she came to visit me that she was on the road just then and was hit. Then I realized, it’s because she chose to drive through town, it’s because there was snow it’s because the driver of the truck made a mistake, it’s because maybe he stopped to get coffee, or didn’t stop to get coffee, it’s any number of things but it’s not because of me that she got hurt. Which is a good feeling even though I’m incredibly saddened by how badly she is hurt. I couldn’t bear the thought that it’s my fault as well.

1.2.07

It’s my birthday today. (well, yesterday now I didn't finish in time to post)

I am now 30 years old. Funny, I always thought that I would have my life figured out by now. It seemed that an entire decade after high school, and most of my postsecondary education as well would have been enough time to do so. Alas 30 has arrived and I don’t feel like I have anything figured out yet. I’ve made some significant decisions that have dramatically changed its course and are pretty irreversible. I chose marriage, to join my course with that of another, to even further narrow it down I chose motherhood, there are now 3 other people whose welfare I have in mind with every choice I make. Not to mention their father and his dislike of cold climates. If I wanted to move us all to a place where it snowed I would have to provide a very convincing argument. Say I decided to go to the snow, minus the Genius Husband because I stubbornly had to go for some reason and he stubbornly had to stay where it is warm. Theoretically I could leave with the children, but then I would have to watch them pine for their father, I would have to consider whether it was good for them to live so far from the father who loves them, so really it’s not likely at all. For better or worse my life is bound to him and the children who have entered the world through me. This part of my life is set for a while; this course will remain fixed.

I have managed this decade to sort of paint myself into a corner; I have voluntarily given up a lot of what many consider freedom. I no longer go to the bathroom in private, I rarely sleep when I want to, I go nowhere by myself, ever, my body serves more than just me, and I am financially dependant. So in a way, though I’ve not figured a great deal out, there are many things that are settled for me, and those things are also keeping me too busy to have time to do or think about anything else.

The Genius Husband once talked about an experience that is common to both of us. We both had felt as though we were in a sort of rehearsal waiting for the time when our “real lives” begin. We felt we were preparing for that moment when the curtain pulled back there were people watching and it mattered if we forgot our lines because this time it was for real. Perhaps this is a condition that is common to most young adults, I don’t know. But I do know that when I met the GH and agreed to marry him that that curtain finally went up for both of us, for the first time it mattered. Adding children to the mix means that it will never go down, there is always someone watching, and there is no going back and fixing a scene that didn’t play so well. Now I sometimes feel like its opening night and I’m throwing up backstage because I’m grossly under prepared and I’m hoping no one will say, “Why did she get that role, she’s obviously not talented enough to play that.” Will my audience of critics rear their adult heads one day and condemn my performance as I have my own parent’s? Will they still think it was a good show in spite of the opening night blunders and occasional set malfunctions?

I wasn’t always this way. Once I was blissfully ignorant and over confidant. I would look at something and say to myself, “I could do that, easy.” Things are always easy if you know how to do them already, except relationships, but I would try without grasping the basic concept of the thing. (Like the time I tried to learn to play hand percussion and I thought that the point was to learn a pattern and then match it to the song you were playing with, and I thought my problem was that I didn’t know the right pattern. Maybe a year later I finally realized that you had to listen to the song first, and play along with it, that the pattern took care of itself as long as I listened first. Listening first, I’ve gotten a teeny bit better at that this decade, but I’ve got much farther to go.) Enough experiences like that have taught me some humility, but also that things are often simpler than they seem if you know how to ask the right questions.

I have a bad habit of asking stupid, thoughtless questions. The fact that they are thoughtless is what makes them stupid. Marriage to a logic machine has helped me to see this, though not yet cured it. I am now aware that it is helpful to consider first what information it is that I desire, and then phrase a question to most rapidly get that information. I’ve no idea what it is in me that prefers to come at something from the side. For instance, tonight I wanted to know if the GH would like it if I put some leftovers in a travel container for lunch tomorrow. So I started by asking where he was working. Then I realized that that wasn’t what I really needed so I revised the question and asked if there was a chance that he would be home for lunch. Then I finally got around to asking if he wanted to take the leftovers for lunch. Why not start with “Do you want to take this tomorrow for lunch?” Why am I always trying to guess the answer instead of just asking for it? What part of me thinks that it will not be freely given?

In the birthday blessings that our family does as part of our tradition the word dignity was used at one point. One person was observing that in the last month or so since the Baby was born that I seem to have grown stronger, more full of grace and dignity than I have been to this point. I hope so. I hope it’s not just the extreme contrast as the maternal depression has lifted and my more regular personality has returned, I would like it to be actual growth. Dignity is not a quality I would have imagined it even possible for me to possess. I feel more often like the less kind comments that some of my profs would scrawl on my jury sheets in University: lacks preparation, poor execution, neglects proper interpretation, too much tension in body, and my personal favorite, should wear a skirt. (Because women apparently can’t perform classical music well in pants according to one professor, or maybe he just disliked that my chosen attire for the moment when I performed and was graded for it was casual.) I do remember that the more often I stood on that stage, in front of that panel of judges, the more comfortable I got there, the more I understood how it was that I needed to prepare, and the less afraid I felt going in, though I remained underdressed still thinking that if my music was good enough it wouldn’t matter what I wore. It seems I’m getting there in terms of my life too, I’m getting more comfortable with this real life process, more like opening night has passed and I’m comfortable on this stage, I’m learning how to prepare so things run more smoothly from moment to moment, and I’m still defying those who would judge me on appearances by refusing to make it easy for them to place me in one of their neat categories and assume they understand me. Maybe I’ve even gained some grace and dignity in the process.

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