31.7.07

Baby Troll Attacks Castle

Residents of the castle were terrorized the other day by a giant baby troll. Experts are still not certain how the troll baby arrived at the castle on its own since the castle is thought to be far outside of troll territory.


The first to encounter the troll, armed knights keeping watch on the tower were flattened by the trolls initial onslaught. The troll then plucked the crown prince from his horse in the courtyard as he tried to raise the alarm. The prince endured many terrifying minutes of having his head sucked on by the baby troll. After his ordeal the prince commented, "It's just a good thing it was a baby you know. I mean, it was slobbery and stinky in there, but it didn't have any teeth. I'd have been a goner for sure if it had teeth."


The castle ogre bravely attempted to rescue the prince and found himself in the clutches of the troll as well.


The troll soon tossed him to the side and returned to the prince, apparently fixated upon his royal head.


Many brave knights suffered terrible injuries in their attempt to rescue him.


It seemed as though their actions were having an impact upon the troll but then they realized that it simply had a hairball.


Eventually the troll seemed to tire and wandered away from the castle.

While this incident was without fatalities it has analysts concerned for the future safety of the castle. It seems that the newly enforced safety measures are not effective against troll attack. One castle insider, who wishes to remain anonymous, asserted that this was not a surprise attack as the king and queen have long been aware of the presence of trolls in the land but had failed to put any safe guards in place that could protect the people of the castle from rampaging trolls.

26.7.07

motherhood's best kept secret

I was talking to a dear friend the other day. She has just adopted a little baby girl and she and her family are making the sudden transition from one child to two. Her son, who is also quite small, has been acting jealous and tormenting the baby by taking her toys and hitting her. My friend was surprised by how angry she felt, at her son for the way he was behaving, at the baby for not being settled already and needing extra attention, at her husband because he gets to leave every day while she is stuck with two very needy little people and she feels guilty because of this anger. While I was telling her that I get angry all the time, I don't know anyone who doesn't, I realized that this subject is one that seems to be off limits for mommies.

Mothers get angry. There, I said it. It's true. We think that we ought to be graceful, gentle, understanding, sympathetic and filled with endless patience. And so, it seems, does everyone else. But it's just not the reality that we live with every day. I think that it's trying to deal with this fact alone that causes so many crisis in the lives of women and children. We keep trying to carry this burden by ourselves, We add to it guilt because we shouldn't be feeling this way, and we are afraid to tell anyone how we feel because we expect that they will judge us harshly for our imperfections. If we talk to a counselor or call a free service we're afraid that they will flag us for CPS to start watching more closely, which they will. We're afraid that the older women whom we look to as mentors will stare at us blankly and have no idea what we are talking about when we share our frustration. And we're afraid that our friends will talk about us behind our backs and think less of us. After all, they look like they're doing a great job and never struggle. So we keep soldiering on alone until one day, some of us snap, and it gets ugly.

When my first baby was born I got a visit from the public health nurse and a giant wad of pamphlets. Some of them were on breastfeeding and immunizations. A lot of them were on how to find parenting support groups, and a few were on baby care. All of the baby pamphlets, without exception, in the crying baby segment said, "When your baby won't stop crying and you feel yourself getting frustrated and stressed and can't take it anymore, put the baby down in a safe place and walk away."

I'm paraphrasing of course. These pamphlets were designed to help prevent shaken baby syndrome, which happens when an otherwise loving parent feels so frustrated/scared/sad/unable to deal with the demands of baby care that they, involuntarily many times, just shake the baby to try and get it to stop crying; like we kick an appliance or car that doesn't work right.

So what about toddlers?

Where is the pamphlet that says, "When you are frustrated beyond belief and your child has just done something unbelievably naughty, put them down in a safe place and walk away."? The problem of course is that toddlers don't stay in safe places, they start tearing apart whatever room they're in while you try to get on top of the mess they have already made. They should say something like, "When you are tearing your hair out and your child is unbelievably naughty and you just want to beat him/her for being 3, take them to a friend's house, call your spouse and arrange for yourself to have a time out, or ask for help somewhere." But a lot of us don't even have anyone to ask for help, and this makes it even harder to get through the day.

The thing is, most of our anger as mothers is justified, I would venture that sometimes it is even righteous. When your 3 year old takes down the barrier you have erected between their play area and the back alley, helps his little 1 year old sister onto that alley, and then comes running in to tell on her, and her daddy comes home and sees her unattended in a place where cars zip by way too fast, (hypothetically speaking of course) you may very well be angry.

I would say that that anger is justified and that there is no reason to feel guilty about it at all. You will be angry at your son for recklessly disobeying and putting his sister in immediate danger. You will be angry at yourself for leaving them outside where you thought they were safe to go in and make sure that dinner wasn't burning. You will be angry at yourself for not being able to be everywhere at once. You will be angry at yourself for being a lousy mother. And you may even have some anger left over for the landlord who refuses to build a proper fence and gate in the backyard to keep the children safe.

In this situation your anger at your son is justified. What he has done is dangerous and foolish and you will rebuke, chastise, and correct as you see fit in order to make sure he understands, to some extent, the consequences of his foolishness. Your anger at yourself however may not be justified, and then again it may. You may be right to indulge in a little bit of self recrimination that will lead to you bring your children indoors the next time you are unable to stay with them in the backyard. You may decide that the risk is not worth the convenience of having them play while you work and rearrange accordingly. But the part where you blame yourself endlessly, the part where you continue to burn against yourself and your spouse for not understanding what you go through and your guilt over your faults and your anger towards them has got to stop.

But what about when it is less life threatening? When your son is tormenting your daughter, poking her when you're not looking to make her scream, or being otherwise naughty and disobedient, does it make you angry?

Personally I think that it's normal to be angry in such circumstances. One child whom you love is being directly cruel to another child, whom you also love. That child is also being disrespectful by not obeying you when you tell him not to. We all have different ideas of what age a child should be expected to show respect and be taught to mind, but the reaction from us is the same regardless of age. We are likely to find ourselves struggling with anger in response to such actions.

If an adult were to do to us what our children do we would not only be angry, we would be insulted. If you had guests in your house, and they decided while you were in the shower that it would be a good idea to put a fresh gallon of yogurt in the middle of the hallway carpet and proceed to dip their fingers into it and lick them repeatedly while flinging the yogurt against the walls, making tracks to the black couch and wiping their hands on it, when you got out of the shower you would probably be speechless. You may throw them out of your house. You might even consider suing them for damages.

But when they're your children what do you do? Do you hear yourself babbling in a hysterical tone, "What were you thinking? Why would you do this? Are you nuts?"

All mothers feel angry from time to time, and feel disappointed with the children in front of them. Cut yourself a lot of slack about experiencing that anger. After all it's what we do when we're angry that counts the most.

Did you ever see the story about the Winnipeg mom on trial for manslaughter? She found one of her triplets dead two hours after she slammed him down into his bed when she was angry with him. All I could think about when I read that story is about all of the times since I've become a mother that I have been to the edge and back. There are moments, I'm sure we all have them, when we catch ourselves at a precipice and realize that if we take one more step in the direction we were going, we will be at the point were no one should ever be. I have come up to the line so many times, it is grace alone that has kept me from crossing over. Grace that shocks me with the realization that I am about to become the kind of mother no child should have to deal with. We all have a choice in how we behave when we are at the end of our rope, and some take it that extra step. I am ashamed that I've ever stood at the edge and gazed forward.

So what am I trying to say really?

We shouldn't beat ourselves up for the anger and frustration we sometimes feel toward our offspring. It's normal to feel this way. But in the same light, we don't need to indulge ourselves when we are in that state either. Two things about anger have stuck with me ever since Sunday School, "In your anger do not sin(do wrong things)," and second, "Don't let the sun set on your wrath." As I understand it, don't go to bed angry. Don't let resentment hide in your heart and fester until it pours out of you someday in ugly vomit all over someone else who doesn't deserve it.

On that note I'd like to share a few tricks that have worked for me that when used consistently can keep that edge far away. The first is something I learned from an experienced mom and doctor when my first baby was almost a year. She told me to "move the action forward." Act before you are irritated and angry. I see so many moms say to their child, "Stop that." The child persists and the mother doesn't do anything to stop the behavior. Again they will almost whine, "Stop it. I don't like that. Leave me alone." Again he child will continue the behavior, again the mother does nothing to teach the child that there is any reason to stop the action. Finally the mother will get irritated and snap at the child, "Stop it right now. Don't do that." The child will be startled, may cry, and be totally surprised by the sharp and ungentle action of his/her mother.

These moms are teaching their babies to ignore them until they use the angry voice. (I do it too, so don't look at me like I'm on a high horse. I try to correct it when I notice it happening.) What this lady taught me, is that the very first time you tell a child not to do something and they do it anyway, you must take action. Don't wait until your annoyance overrules your inertia. Get up and deal with your child. Be consistent with your consequences. Make it happen the first time and don't resort to reacting instead of acting. In this way you rarely get to the point that you are angry and bite their heads off.

The second is of course to distract and redirect. I've discovered that telling a story is a life saver, it's something my kids love and they will stop mid fight to listen to my story, or my singing. A home school book I once read called them joyful interruptions. Do something so crazy, spontaneous, or silly that it breaks the mood entirely. Heck, stand on your head if you can do it without hurting yourself. Have some tricks up your sleeve before it happens so that you can use them in an emergency.

One thing that I find is a life saver is to have toys, games, or activities that can be unsupervised and save them for when you really need them. I once had a home business that involved being on the phone a lot, so if my kids started acting up when I was on the phone I would take the box of phone toys down and let them play with them. As soon as I got off of the phone the toys had to be put away again, or this strategy would stop working. In order to make putting them away fun also, do something with them that involves mommy time immediately after like reading them a story. This can also be a lifesaver for putting the Baby to sleep, or any other things that you need to do that can't be done while kids are screaming.

Finally give to them of your time and affection when you can. Don't spend all of the time when you aren't doing something vitally important brushing them aside. Let them help you make bread, even if it does feel like Chinese water torture watching them move so slowly and make a mess. Listen to their hearts and try to realize how incredible it is that this tiny person thinks the sun rises and sets on you alone. Your attitude will affect theirs, for better or for worse.

The pamphlet for toddler care that I would write would read, "When your children are squirmy and unbelievably naughty, and you are frustrated and they are driving you nuts, put everything else that you are trying to do in a safe place. Turn off the stove, and the computer, and the phone, and sit with them on the living room floor. Build pillow forts. Give hugs and kisses. Tickle, and take deep slow breaths. Find the joy of being a mother again on the rug as you are fully present with your children. You'll feel better, even if the rest of your work is not yet done."

Love is sometimes silly.

I was going through my photos the other day and noticed a few that don't remember taking. I realized that my kids had been playing with my camera, which would explain why the battery ran out last week. I found these taken of the Girl by her brother. I love the second one because it captures the sheer brilliance of the Girl whan she is being silly, and the fun they were having together. Sibling love is one of the greatest gifts. They will be with each other long after "best friends" have come and gone hundreds of times. I am glad that they like each other these kids of mine.

let me take your picture
little sisHappy Love Thursday

25.7.07

A thoughtful post on Mothering

If there were a blogging post for which blogger you would most like to have been your parent I think Jewels at Eyes of Wonder would get my vote. She is the mother of many children, I'm going to say 10 but I may be wrong. I've only been reading over there for a week or two but all of her posts make me feel a sort of achy longing that one could almost call homesickness. She writes of aprons and laundry and meals and babies. Her posts are full of joy, gratitude, peace, faith, and simplicity. All of the things that I have in far shorter supply. She has this talent I think for plucking the true treasures out of the events of her day and sharing them with the rest of us. I was especially struck this week by her post called The Most Meaningful Matter of Motherhood.

Go and check it out. I'll be back with more later. (She has sound so turn your volume down if you are at work.)

23.7.07

Where do I send this rant.

The other day a cute little 8 year old girl came by my house wearing a cute little white tank top with A SPARKLY PINK PLAY B*Y BUNNY LOGO EMBLAZONED ACROSS HER CHEST!!!!!

Oh wait, was I yelling? For crying out loud, why on earth would a beautiful innocent little girl be wearing something that screams, "Look at me, I'm a sex object in the making?"

I asked her if she knew what the bunny on her shirt was.

"No, what is it."

"Oh, well it's a logo from a magazine called Playb*y. Do you know what that is?"

"No."

"Well," I paused, trying to figure out how to put this delicately. "It's a magazine that has pictures of naked ladies that some grown up men like to look at."

"Oh, gross!"

At first I wondered, "What are her parents thinking buying her a shirt like that?"

And then I realized that they speak very little English, they are first generation Americans and it's likely they don't know what the shirt is either.

It occurs to me that maybe they bought it at a secondhand store and that it wasn't meant to be a little girl's shirt.

But why would grown up women wear it either?

I can't decide exactly who I am angry at. It is the manufacturer's fault for making such a shirt, or the retailer for carrying it, or a society in which the p*rn industry thrives in the first place? Whose fault is it that a little girl like her can so easily find herself sporting such a symbol?

I've never considered myself an over the top advocate of modesty. (I breastfeed in public for crying out loud.) I have let the Girl wear two piece suit when she swims, though not the ones that look like grown up bikinis, and I have been known to wear outfits that show some skin at my waist, back when it was skinny. I'm not advocating burkas for women and little girls, but when did it become okay for little girls to wear trashy provocative clothing? When did looking sexy become something that anyone under 16 was thinking about? I don't even know how to go on with this topic. It seems self evident to me that this is wrong but I haven't yet figured out how to take it from the point where I am livid to something constructive.

That's where you all come in. What do you think about little girl clothes that are slutty? And what do you think should be done about it?

22.7.07

The kind of thing that can happen when daddy is around.

boy with mokawh
The boy spent the morning with his dad and his uncle. This is how he looked by lunchtime.

19.7.07

My Childhood Home




There were two houses in my childhood, though they both occupied the same plot of land. There is the house that had a trap door in the floor of one upstairs closet and when we opened it we could look down into the laundry room, and throw our dirty clothes down there too. After we had been in the house a while my dad installed shelves under the laundry door and we would crawl through and down the shelves into the basement. We thought it was the coolest sneaky trick ever. That is the house where my dad finished the basement and built me my own room next to the stairs. My little brother and sister shared the upstairs bed room. I remember painting it and selecting wall paper, navy blue with pink roses. Before that I remember finding a bolt of pink checked fabric with raggedy Anne and Andy on it at the fabric store and pulling at my mom until we followed me and then throwing my arms around the fabric and hugging it when I showed it to her. The fabric became the first curtains and bedspread in my brand new room, one of the few things I remember my mother sewing herself. I wish I still had them, but when I was a teenager and wanted a new look I was decidedly unsentimental.

The piano that my mom bought for my dad one year was in the basement also. My dad would sit down and play while I was falling asleep. The arpeggios reminded me of falling water. I learned to play at that keyboard, he taught me my first songs.

There was a little door in my room that led to the crawl space under the stairs. For years my parents used it as a cold cellar and it always smelled of earth and onions and soft potatoes. Sometimes when friends slept over we would drag a lot of blankets in there and pretend it was a fort, a cave, or our place to camp out. Eventually I shared that room with my little sister, and we put bunk beds in the middle and created curtains that divided the room out of sheets that we dyed pink and blue. We never did sew the ruffle on properly, it hung there with pins holding it together for years.

I remember the heat vent under the sink that was in the wall instead of the floor. Every single morning in the winter I would get up and go kneel in front of that vent to get my toes warm. I would arrange my nightie so that the warm air would fill it up like a balloon. My brother and I fought over who got to sit there every day. We were supposed to share, which meant we would squeeze together but one foot would always be colder than the other. I remember one day coming up the stairs into the kitchen and surprising my parents who were making out.

There was a closet at the top of the stairs, and a landing at the entry way with a drywall railing. We raced cars down it all the time, every so often we hit someone walking in our front door. I liked to hide in the closet and play with the wire hangers, which were always on the floor it seemed. The closet was packed full of shoes and coats and our vacuum cleaner but I would squeeze inside it anyway.

I remember a back yard full of the neighborhood kids, and the rusty old swing sets that my brother and sister choreographed talent show winning gymnastics routines on. There were costume parties and baking at my house. There were the patio doors that led to nowhere. The deck that my parents had planned didn't happen while I was still a child. I jumped from that door to the ground all the time, and my wrist still bears the scar from the jump where I landed on some rusty metal wire and it tore a path through my arm. There were raspberry bushes in the backyard, and giant maple trees, Nanjing cherry bushes in the front, and red currants. There were candle light dinners just because and heart shaped everything meals on Valentine's day and the special dishes we kept in the buffet cabinet that rattled every time a train went by.

Then there is the other place. I am cowering in the closet at the top of the stairs, peeking through the door at my parents who are yelling at each other. My dad jerks open the door and grabs his tan leather coat yelling, "I'm not taking this anymore, I'm leaving." He doesn't even see me hiding there as he puts on his coat and stalks out the door. My mother does, and yells after him, "That's a really great way to behave in front of your children."

But he is already gone.

Later that night I sneak into her room and she is laying huddled on her bed crying. She tries to comfort me but the sight of my mother undone like that is more frightening than anything words can fix.

I am standing in front of my mirror naked looking at my developing body before I get ready for bed. I see the shadow of a person moving behind the curtain. I run over and look up through the ground floor window to see the schizophrenic man, that my father insisted we let stay with us in spite of my mother's concerns, leering down at me. I realize that he's been there watching every night since he moved in with us. He always heads out for a smoke when mom tells us to get ready for bed.

My dad is standing in my bedroom doorway. He is angry. He wants me to clean my room before I leave for school but I am already late. I am 13. We argue because he wants it done now and I am promising to do it after school so that I am not late for home room again. He lunges for me his face twisted with rage, I see it coming and dodge his arm. His forward momentum carries him all the way across the room and he stumbles and falls into the corner of his drafting table. Blood spurts from his forehead. It is my turn to be angry. I never trust my dad again.

I am sitting in the living room after summer camp, one week before I start high school. I am 14. My mother comes over from the neighbor's house and tells me that she is leaving my dad and that I need to pack up my things and come with her to the neighbor's house because dad refuses to leave the house and let us live there. I can't decide if I am more angry about the break-up or leaving my home. (I don't even consider staying with him.) Before I leave I ransack the house. I shroud it. Every object that I am fond of I lock in what used to be my bedroom. I turn every book on every shelf upside down. I tear down every verse about marriage that is hanging on our walls. I scream at my dad as he follows me around trying to set it back the way it should be. But it will never be the way it should be again. Though my dad eventually moves out so that the rest of us can move back in, though I continue to live there until I move away to college, it will never again feel like home.

This is not the post I set out to write. The good and bad are so intertwined that I can't remember one without the other rearing its ugly head as well. I wonder what I think I'm doing trying to parent and make a marriage work when part of me is still cowering in that little overstuffed closet at the top of the stairs, hands cupped over my ears, helpless to prevent my world from falling apart.

***********

For more and probably far less depressing childhood home stories go to My Childhood Home

18.7.07

7 Months

sitting up

This has been such an exciting month for you. You've spent most of it hanging out on the floor, sitting up just like a big girl. Until you lose your balance and fall over that is. Then you lay on floor and kick and you've discovered that rolling can get you where you want to go. Some of the time. You're already working on this crawling thing. You get yourself forward and on to your knees and then you pause for a moment as the wheels turn and you try to figure out where to go from here. Usually you end up pitching forward onto your face and then you drag yourself forward with your forearms. Maybe you want to be in one of those BE ALL THAT YOU CAN BE commercials. Today you saw something you wanted, a twitching cat tail. In no time at all you had dragged yourself forward and had it in your hand. It was a very tolerant cat, he did not scratch you.

We've been working hard to keep the coins off of the floor, and the Lego have been put away indefinitely so that you can't find them and choke. We also have to keep any paper off of the floor. You love, love, love, paper, which is sweet when all you want to do is wave it around and coo, but then you want to taste it, and eat it and chew it into little pulpy balls and then choke on them and poop them out the other end. No more paper for you. It's amazing what I've forgotten in 3 years about baby safety.
precious cheeks
The sitting up means that you get to come in the shower with mommy now and sit in the tub with some toys, and I don't have to wait until you're asleep any more to take one. Not that I get to shower any more frequently as a result. I now have to plan it for a time when your siblings are safely occupied indoors and won't be inviting their friends into my bedroom while I'm naked. But it saves time on baths for you. We're both done at once.

You like to grab the wipe when I am changing your diaper and "help". This is a bit distressing when you're poopy and we have to wash your hands but you seem to get the idea of what a wipe is for and actually use it properly. Maybe you'll learn to wipe your own bum before you're five. That would be so exciting, for me at least.

I put you in a tiny little swimsuit this month, and took you swimming. You started kicking immediately and tried to get on your belly to stick your face in the water. You don't seem to mind water in your face. You blink a little and go back to excited kicking. It's been fun to spend afternoons in the pool with you.

You know when people are complimenting you. You acknowledge the compliment by smiling wider, closing your eyes and pressing your face into my chest, like you're trying to appear modest. It's the most flirtatious things I have ever seen a baby do.
7 months

You have been really cranky the past few days. I wonder if you are teething, or if you are still scared or sore after that fall you had on Sunday. You and I were sharing a twin bed at Beema's house. I was sure to remember the side rail and I tucked a blanket in next to the wall so you wouldn't get stuck in the crack, and I put a big pillow at your feet where the bed rail ended. Somehow when you woke up, way after I did, you still sleep in in the morning, you passed all of that and landed on the hard wood floor with a sickening slap and then you cried and didn't stop for what felt like days. And your skin was more green than pink. It was terrible and we all felt awful and since then every time you cry I guiltily wonder if it's because of that fall.

Of course the most likely reason for your crankiness is that you are ready for solid food and your lazy mother wants you to just keep exclusively breastfeeding forever so I don't have to go to all the bother of making baby food and cleaning you off and battling with you over which of us gets to hold the spoon. The breastfeeding relationship we have is so much more convenient. But I know it's coming to an end soon, you are nursing longer and more often, and soon you will not be satisfied any longer with the liquid diet that has made you so fat and you will need more. Stop growing up so fast. I don't really mean that, yes I do, no I don't...but, well, slow down would you. I'm not ready for you to stop being a baby just yet.

17.7.07

The Kind of Test You Can't Study For

For those of you who have been following the saga that is my Green Card application, (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) I have an update for you. I have a temporary work permit, and an interview date to see if everything I said on paper is true, and then I may get one. That means I've been able to take on a few writing jobs, which is exciting for me.

I realized this week that I never told the story of my immigration physical. I started to write it but never finished. So here for your reading pleasure is an excerpt from my account of what is involved when you are an alien who wants to live and work in the US.

*********

Once again I responded to a summons. This time it was to have my body examined by the branch of government whose job it is to decide whom among those “tired, poor, and huddled masses” is healthy enough and wealthy enough to be allowed to stay. A civil surgeon appointed by said branch of government performs the actual exam. I arrived early in the morning at the office of the qualified examiner closest to my home. I found myself at a neighborhood walk-in clinic packed to the ceiling with people, all of them Hispanic. We live in a very old California town and the population is at least half Mexican and we're all poor. Every chair was taken, moms, snotty nosed kids and heartbreakingly tiny babies all drinking formula out of the bottle. It’s one of those clinics that charges on a sliding scale.

I sat with my own tiny baby in my lap, nervously eying the children coughing and snotting in her general direction. At one point she was hungry so I nursed her, discreetly, and suddenly became aware of an intense buzz of interest in my child and me, even though I don’t speak Spanish I’m pretty sure they were unfamiliar with any kind of breastfeeding. Then I changed her diaper while laying her awkwardly on my lap since the germ infested bathroom didn't have a change table. (As an aside, when did it become the well educated middle class women who breast feed their babies while the poorer less educated part of the population is buying formula? How did that change?)

I watched while a lab tech came out to the waiting room and checked the bathrooms; turning on the lights and then turning them off again. On her hands she wore white gloves. I found myself hoping she would take them off and put on new ones once she was finished touching the light switches and handles and sinks of a restroom only used by sick people. Then I wondered if that’s why she was wearing the gloves in the first place. Come to think of it, I would be wearing them too. A few seconds later a little girl threw-up all over the floor right next to where I was sitting.

Finally my turn came to be examined I removed my clothing from the waste down and then lay down on an exam table with a paper sheet on. This was complicated by the fact that I had a baby to hold because there wasn’t anywhere that I was going to put her down in there, and I hadn’t thought to bring her car seat in with me. So I lay clutching my infant to my chest as the doctor, a youngish Asian woman with a giant zit on her nose, casually examined my genitalia. I guess it must have passed inspection, my labia must be up to American standards.

After that I got to pay for the privilege of allowing that same white gloved lab tech to stab me repeatedly with needles. My blood was tested for AIDS, and previous immunizations. I was given a tetanus booster, and a TB screen. Finally, arm aching from the repeated stabbings, I exited from the clinic.

I couldn’t help wondering how the average American would feel if they were traveling to a foreign country and upon disembarking from a plane were asked to please turn aside and take off their pants so that they could be properly screened before being set loose on the general population. (Maybe fewer little girls in Bangkok brothels would be infected with AIDS. But those men aren't average Americans.) Would they feel as though their basic rights had been violated? Sometimes I do.

15.7.07

The things I get myself into.

I want to chop off my hair. It keeps sticking to my neck when I sleep, I get a head ache during the day from having it tied up so it's not hot on the back of my neck, and I just keep thinking that it would be so much more comfortable if I cut it short at the nape of my neck. So why, you are asking, don't I just cut it instead of whining to the internet?

Well, I'm a little afraid, and therein lies a story that I have yet to tell.

When I was 19 I shaved my head. I cut off a long pony tale and proceeded to go GI Jane with the clippers. I was bald! This led to many things, like my great-grandmother at a Christmas gathering asking in her too loud hearing impaired voice, "Who is that man? Or is that, [gasp] that's Carrien!"

She later confided to me, "When I first saw you without your hair, I thought you were a man. But then I saw your chest and I knew you had to be a woman." And then she told me all about the time when she was young when she had shaved her head as well. That was fun.

Because of my temporary baldness I have had my hair at every possible length, besides long enough to sit on. And strange things start to happen to me when my hair gets too short, or did back when I was younger.

There was the time when my hair was still extremely short that I went with two guy friends from college to a little dance bar in a tiny rural Alberta town. (It was Canada people, the legal drinking age is 18.) It was such a tiny town that there were only 4 bars, and only one of them wasn't country. That's the one we were in. I don't even remember why we went, we'd never been there before. I had just gotten back from a trip to San Fransisco and we thought it would be fun to just go dancing for a while after a day of hanging out and catching up. There were about 10 people in the bar, everyone else in this tiny little hick town liked country apparently, or didn't go dancing on a Tuesday night.

Only one couple was on the raised dance floor when we walked in. The female half had decidedly goth leanings when it came to her personal style. She had dark hair, was wearing all black, with tattoos on her shoulders, and dark, dark lipstick. She stood out in this country hick sort of town especially because she was dancing in that really slutty pelvis grinding on her partner sort of way while throwing her body and hair around, but she looked like she was bored. I mention in my side bar that I people watch, which sometimes gets me into trouble. This would be one of those times. Obviously I was watching her as she danced, her being the only person dancing and all and being so obviously "look at me" about it, but I guess she must of have noticed me watching because she came over and asked if I wanted to dance with her.

Okay don't laugh, I was/am somewhat naive. All I could think was that she maybe wanted to dance with a girl to get more guys to look at her like I'd seen a lot of girls do. Or maybe her boyfriend was tired of dancing and she wanted to keep dancing but she was too shy (hah!) to dance by herself and she didn't want to dance with a different guy because her boy friend would be jealous. Any way, I was surprised by her request but stammered, "Okay." without really thinking about it.

"Not to this song though," she answered back, "let's wait for a good song."

She walked away and I sipped at my drink and talked to my friends and really didn't think anymore about it after reflecting that she was a little bit strange. Well, a "good" song started playing and she returned to claim her promised dance so I followed her onto the dance floor and we started dancing. Imagine my total discomfort when she started slutty dancing with me, including the pelvis grinding thing. I couldn't even figure out what was going on then and sort of stood there for a moment without knowing what to do. Enter my friend who was a great guy, noticed my distress and became my hero for the evening. He ran over to me and inserted himself between me and this strange girl and declared tersely, "I'm cutting in."

Finally it dawned on me. The girl was gay, or at least bi, and she thought I was too. This lead to me having to explain to her, I don't know why I felt compelled to explain anything to her but I did, that I was decidedly not gay and no offense, but I didn't want to dance with her any more. I kept thinking that if I was in her shoes I would feel embarrassed and I was trying to help her save face. Then she started asking me if my friend was my boyfriend and I pretended like he was even though I didn't have a boyfriend at the time because I just wanted her to leave me alone. And then she asked if he treated me right so I told her he did. I thought she would just leave after that but instead she turned to me one last time and pleaded, "Are you sure you're not, even a little bit?"

I was sure and so she left, and my friends and I sort of had a laugh about it but then we left pretty soon after and I don't think we ever went back there again. But she was only the first of about a dozen women who hit on me in the 2 or three years it took me to grow my hair back though I was never taken by surprise quite so completely as I had been that first time. And so, while it's not likely to happen again now that I'm married and always in the company of several small children, and I have had many pleasant and friendly conversations since that time with lesbian friends and acquaintances none of whom have made me uncomfortable, I can't help feeling just a little bit of extra nervousness at the thought of cutting my hair really short again because that girl made me feel really really creepy.

14.7.07

Childhood Home




Mary at Owlhaven has yet another neat idea. This one is a meme about your childhood home, what things you remember from the home you lived in as a child. Everyone is supposed to post on July 20 which is a Friday and then she'll link it all together so we can read each other's. Sounds like fun right?

So to participate post on Friday July 20 and then go over to Mary and post a link and if you want a button let me know.

My Little Sister

Hey guess what everyone. I have siblings. I know you're shocked. I never write about them, this blog is all about me

That's probably because they live so very far away from me and I never see them, and we rarely talk. They are busy people with careers and um...stuff, and are never next to their phone. But I have them, a younger brother, and a younger sister.

When I was a teenager my little sister and I would go and busk at fairs and street festivals and even craft sales. We picked up a little bit of cash, enough to keep us coming back. I was the more well trained musician, duh, I was older, and had a lot of lessons under my belt and some post secondary as well after a while. My sister was, well, she was just a natural talent. She could watch you do something and then repeat it back almost instantly. She did not thrive in a strict lesson type of environment, but she was good at this music thing. One summer I came home from university with my friend Jason's guitar and these grand plans to learn to play it before I went back to school. Well, I learned some chords, could play a few songs, but I wasn't very excited by the whole thing, and I had my double major in piano and voice to think about. (My prof. had assigned Rachmaninoff Etudes to learn that summer. If you don't know the pain that is trying to play Rachmaninoff count yourself lucky or go and watch Shine.) My sister on the other hand spent hours strumming away at it and the rest is history.

She is largely a self taught guitarist, she writes all of her own songs, and she gets paid now to play for people and act in commercials. This summer she is touring with Bill Bourne (For all you non Canadians he's a pretty famous Canadian folk singer who has won several Juno awards. What's a Juno award? It's like the Canadian Grammy Award. Yes we have our own little culture appreciation clubs in Canada and laws about percentages of Canadian content played on the radio so Canadian artists aren't completely drowned out by the sheer volume emerging from the good ole' US of A.) Anyway, she's also a featured vocalist on his latest release and she'll be opening for him in several places. So I'm just sharing because I'm proud of her and while she's had several difficult things to deal with the past several years she hasn't given up on her dream and it's starting to work out.

Anyway, I just wanted to brag about my little sister(more songs here) and tell you to go here and listen to one of her latest songs.

Oh and she's recorded a new album that's somewhere in production right now.

12.7.07

Transient

Today I was walking home from the store with my kids and youngest brother in law in tow along with my shopping cart. I saw a guy walking out onto the median in the middle of the street holding a cardboard sign that read "Hungry, homeless, every little bit helps." His skin is a testimony to a life lived outside, deep brown and leathery with a myriad of deep lines marking it. He is tall and gaunt, a forlorn scarecrow precariously balanced in the midst of the rushing traffic. I know him, though I don't remember his name. He gave me money once.

Back in February when the Baby was a mere two months old I was standing with my shopping cart outside of Albertson's as the Girl pretended to ride on the mechanical horse parked next to the door. I never put money in those things for my kids, I let their imaginations furnish the excitement for a few minutes after grocery shopping before we begin the walk home.

I watched him dig through the ashtrays looking for cigarette stubs to smoke and then I turned back to the Girl. A minute later I heard his voice "Could I just, would it be okay if I paid for the little girl to ride the horse?"

Surprised I turned around as he eagerly approached us a few coins in his outstretched hand. He was obviously aware of his social status and I could see him restrain himself and approach with caution, more sideways than head on. I got the feeling he was trying not to scare me. I didn't know how to respond but he had already completed his approach and held the money out to me. "Please, I'd like to give her a ride."

"She doesn't really need it..." I faltered and then realizing I was not going to say no I looked him in the eyes and shrugged, "Sure, thank-you."

He counted out the exact change and then laid it on the box where the coins are inserted. "Here, could you put them in."

He was careful not to touch me and I was reminded of the scene in Ben-hur when they take food to the lepers and step back after they put it down so that there can be no chance of accidental contact. I picked up the coins and placed them in the machine. While the Girl enjoyed her rinky dink horsey ride I found myself wishing that she would get really excited as a way to thank him for his kindness but she was shy and a little nervous and quietly watched him as he stood nearby. He was talking, telling me how he liked to give to other people how important generosity is. I thought maybe he was trying to get me to give him some money. He went on talking about his mother that lives nearby, about how he's almost finished classes at a local school and the Girl went on riding and I only understood half of what he said and wondered if any of it was true.

He introduced himself and I shook his hand and told him my name as well.

"Do you have enough formula for your baby?" he asked.

Again I was surprised and blurted something like, "I don't need formula, I breastfeed my babies."

He nodded dismissively and persisted, "But do you need anything for your little one?"

I started to wonder if he thought that I was homeless too and began trying to explain that my husband had a job, he makes a decent wage, we have a nice place to live, everything we need and some of what we want as well. This shopping cart cost $50, I'm just walking with the groceries, I don't need any help. He was a lousy listener, but the subject changed again and his friend appeared and he introduced us. I shook hands with his friend as I had with him. I wondered if I was safe.

We wrapped up the conversation and I encouraged the Girl to dismount so that we could get going. He stood in front of me holding out a few crumpled dollar bills. "Here I want to give this to you."

"I can't take that from you, I would feel bad, you need it more than I."

"Oh, I've got money don't worry." he responded. He reached into one of his many pockets and displayed a large roll of bills. Apparently it had been a good days begging.

He pressed the bills into my hand as I protested and said, "If you don't need it then get something for the little girl."

Like a lifting fog I realized that he simply wanted to be generous, maybe he wanted to feel normal as well. Perhaps he was even feeling a little bit celebratory and wanted someone to join in his celebration. He understood something that few people with far more do. Giving is its own reward.

I could see in his eyes that to deny his gift was to deny him his dignity as well and rob him of some joy, and so once again I thanked him and promised to buy her something great. And then he waved goodbye and we walked away.

A few weeks later as we walked past the drugstore next to Albertson's, once again on our way home from grocery shipping, we saw a baby doll sitting outside on the clearance rack. It was a little black baby girl in purple and pink and the Girl dragged me over to look at it and then picked it up and hugged it, box and all. It was $3. So I went into the store and pulled those crumpled bills out of my pocket to pay for the dolly. I told her that it was a present from the man who paid for her horsey ride. She named her doll Victoria, and carried it every where we went for a while, until it went missing, hoping to show it to the man who gave it to her.

Today when we saw him he didn't notice us, he was too busy working the cars. I wonder if he remembers us. I'll probably always remember him.

11.7.07

Kid-magnet

I was standing in the bathroom using a Q-tip and some bleach to get chocolate ice cream stains out of a white pinafore and I wondered why it is that I do the things I do. Why do I make pinafores, clean stains, wash clothes, make beds, and try to make the space that we are in pleasant and inviting? These aren't essential. Life continues along fine without them, as I know from the many times when I'm too tired and let them slide. The answer of course is that I am a mommy and that's what mommies do, or some variation thereof.

I've been feeling a bit like the Pied Piper the last several days. The GH is away and it's just me and the kids, and the kid who lives across from us, and the two little kids who live on the end just around the corner, and the three kids that live across the street from the playground, and the bigger boys that live further away, the boys that don't even live here but their daycare provider is a friend of mine, and the little 2 year old girl who comes running straight through my door whenever she hears the Baby crying and would be content to sit on my rug all day and hand the Baby toys and pet her if her embarrassed mother didn't drag her away to the playground. Some days I have all of those kids in my house at some point or another.

On Sunday night Jesse (6) and his little brother Andreas (3) who toddles after him wherever he goes, wondered into my front door to watch the show my kids were watching on my computer screen. It's a tiny little screen, but there were 6 kids huddled around it near the end. Their 8 year old sister came by looking for them. I have never seen them under the supervision of anyone but her and they play outside all day. She started asking me about my piano, so I played for her, and then she wanted me to teach her. So I showed her the basics, and she spent an hour learning all of the songs that she could in the Boy's beginner book while her brothers watched Spirited Away and asked me questions every 5 minutes. The boy across from us appeared at the door and hung back for a minute in his customary way before coming in and getting on the floor to play with the baby. The big 10 year old boys on scooters popped in and out to look at the show, tell me about the lizard they found, and drag me out to watch their cool scooter tricks. I get them all water when they're thirsty, I sometimes feed them but not usually, and I listen to them talk and answer their questions while I try to do some of the work that needs to be done. Eventually I just give up altogether and go sit on a chair outside to keep an eye on the Girl while she wanders in and out of all the activity.

I started wondering why all of these kids come to my house all of the time. My kids don't have very cool toys compared to some of theirs. I don't feed them treats. I tell them to clean up after themselves if they trash up the place, I stop them when I see them stabbing trees with screwdrivers or trampling on the plants, and I tell them to watch their language, to be kind to their younger siblings, to be careful of the Baby and to please not yell in the house. I'm starting to suspect it may be because of me, and the Genius Husband. Why else would a bunch of kids walk right past the playground to come to my door? And then it occurs to me that I've met very few of these children's parents. I never see them with their mothers, or fathers, I only see them wandering feral across this community of ours. (Though the big boys have mothers that I know and some carry walkies to keep in touch with home.) I wonder if perhaps they come because I'm here; because I learn their names and try to talk to them like they're people instead of just kids. Maybe it's because I watch their tricks and make them behave and teach them how to play the piano. Maybe it's because kids need a mom and these kids don't see that much of their mothers. Maybe it's because they need a dad and the GH is usually willing to sit outside with them and show them his knives and teach them how to wrestle. Maybe it's just because we leave our door open all the time.

I know that a lot of the moms here work outside the home, usually cleaning someone else's. They work hard, they work long hours, and I try not to judge them, I really do. I could never let my kids go into a house when I've never even met the parents, let alone decided if I can trust them. And I don't let them go unsupervised so long that they could wander in without my knowing.

My neighbor runs a daycare out of her home. She told me one day that she can always tell the kids who don't have mothers. She said it has to do with little details like the state of their clothes, and hair, in the way they react when she talks to them. She just recently started taking care of a new boy and asked him if he ever visits his mom since she knew his parents were divorced. "Sometimes," he replied, "my mom is in jail." The other three boys in her care piped up, "Our mom was in jail too."

You can see in those boys how not having a mother has changed them. The oldest boy has taken it upon himself to take care of the younger two. They carry themselves as though it's them against the world. The younger boy is so very serious and he's not very resilient. Where other kids would get up and play again after a bump, or hurt feelings, he curls himself into a ball under the playground and cries. Trying to help him makes him cry worse and he only responds to his older brother. They are half orphans, the world has been thrust upon them too soon and they seem slightly overwhelmed by it all.

So while I stood and watched the bleach eat away at the brown stains until they faded into nothing, I concluded that this thing that I do, this worrying about details, and cleaning ears, and being pulled at and needed, and always having more that I could do after days of doing, and hugging, and talking, and listening, and setting boundaries, and making sure that they're clean and safe, matters, even if it doesn't look like it at first glance.

And all of those kids who flock to our house seem to think so too. I hope that the brief moments that I give to them will help them along, that the friendly interest of one grown-up will be a buffer against some of the not so friendly things they will run into. I am glad that they come here, for I know that here is safe for them. I'm glad to be part of the village that raises them and pray for them that the other people in their village will be kind to them as well.

Farmer's Market Refugees

We spent the day entertaining a new bestest friend ever for the Girl. We'll call her KK because that's what her daddy's girlfriend nicknamed her. I can't imagine hooking up with a guy who was divorced with two children and then spending all of my time taking care of his kids for him. She was about to explain it to me but just then I realized we were on the wrong bus and I had to interrupt her.

Wait, back up. We were entertaining KK who only comes to visit her dad on Tuesdays and Wednesdays because those are his days off and she apparently talks of nothing else but playing with the Girl the rest of the week. So we were sitting around at the playground playing when my SIL comes running over with a giant box of stuff. Not just any stuff, a wooden castle with working drawbridge and knights and archers and princesses and a sparkly dragon. (I guess some family member randomly passed it to my FIL and they were delivering it to us.) Then she came running over again with more boxes with games in them like hungry hippos and Candyland. I am so burning that one before my kids realize we have it, at least that's what I want to do.

What happens next of course is that we carry it all back to our house, and now the floor is completely covered in stuff and they all play with the castle and fight over the princess and the white horse and it is so much fun listening to all the new ways that they can fight thanks to this cool new toy. KK follows us home, and 5 or 6 other neighborhood kids, because we're cool or something.

Then I feed KK and her daddy's girlfriend, because they are there when I realize I need to feed my children and I guess the Indian idea of hospitality is rubbing off on me. "Sit. Eat. More? Here take this home with you."

Then I mention our planned adventure to the farmer's market which is on a cute little street downtown that they block off every Tuesday. We walk just under a mile to get there. KK wants to come. Of course she wants to come. I warn her that she will have to walk there, and she promises that she can do it without complaining. So I invite them along.

We walk there, it takes us over an hour because walking is a slow business when you have to run up and roll down every hill on the way, and climb every obstacle, and pick up the bike racks to show how strong you are, and pick the flowers, and the pepper on the pepper tree, and stick the nose of your stuffed horse through every hole in the chain link fence under the overpass, and stare at the sky when the light changes instead of crossing. We stopped at The Yogurt Place for frozen yogurt, because mommy had a coupon and could get it for less than $2. Then we finally found the farmers market and began browsing and eating everyone's samples without buying much. My kids are so adorable it seems that vendors start handing them giant handfuls of organic grapes to try. The artisan bread is two for the price of one. Look at all these great deals I'm getting, why are they bartering? Happy with our $5 flat of organic strawberries, huge heads of lettuce, and grapes and nectarines, we go to choose some flowers to take home. Only, they are loading the flowers into the vans so I have to ask them to pull them out for me so I can buy some. I think to myself that they are in an awfully big hurry.

I plan to take the bus home because it will be dark soon and I want to get the kids into bed early because I promised to read to them. And because I don't know if KK can handle the walk back. So we walk the 5 blocks to the transit center stopping to climb every lamp post and sculpture on the way. The Boy and Girl have completely black faces. The dust seems to be sticking to the fruit residue on their hands and faces and they look like they are streaked with soot. My little refugees. We stand at the regular stop, the bus comes at the regular time of quarter too. We get on the bus and settle ourselves with the shopping cart and kids all tucked away. KK's daddy's girlfriend and I start talking about how they met. Then I suddenly see in front of us the street that we just left where the Farmer's Market once was. I jump up and run to the driver and ask him what bus we're on. He tells me that the bus we want isn't running anymore, so we ask him to stop and we jump off. It turns out that all buses heading toward where we live stop running at 7:30. We got to the bus stop at 7:35. I feel very stupid for not knowing this, or noticing how late it was getting. I turn to KK's daddy's girlfriend and tell her that this is the moment when the trip goes bad. We once more walk the 6 blocks to the transit center. The kids are still having a great time, which makes it easier.

We watch the sun disappear as we're walking and discuss our options. In the end KK's daddy comes to pick up her and his girlfriend and take them home and I feel bad that they are stuck because of me. Because he has no car seats for my kids, and because it would be cramped, and illegal and dangerous, we opt to not take the ride he offers us and walk the rest of the way home instead. I start to get looks from people that make me think that I look like a homeless mom with my children all filthy and walking after dark pulling a cart that's stuffed full of bags, and flowers. For some reason I think that if we stop to eat on the way home it will get them to bed faster, so I spend my last $5 on chowmein and orange chicken and sit and watch them pick at it. By this time it is 9:00. We finally get home, showered, brushed and in bed by 10:30 and then because I had promised yesterday, I read them the next chapter of The Magician's Nephew and they fall asleep.

Not once one the way home did they complain. They told me once or twice how tired they felt, but didn't whine. And I am proud of them.

9.7.07

Why'd she do it anyway?

The Girl comes running inside, scream crying at the top of her lungs.

“Mommy I bited my finger.”

“You bit your finger?”

“No I bited my finger.”

“That’s what I said you bit your finger.”

“NO! I bited my finger.”

“That’s not the right way to say it. You say I bit my finger.”

(Blank stare)

I hold my finger out in front of my mouth and say, “I’m going to bite my finger.” I put it in my mouth and say, “I am biting my finger.” I pull it out of my mouth and say, “I bit my finger.”

“See you already bit it so you say I bit my finger.”

“NO I BITED MY FINGER MOMMY. I’M TELLING YOU I BITED MY FINGER!”

I’m such a good teacher.

7.7.07

they're watching

I have an audience. Well, I've had an audience for the past 5 or so years but I usually don't notice them, until they play back my performances for me; the highlights and the lowlights. I see myself in the way they get impatient over silly things, or boss each other around. I see myself also in the way they have a large vocabulary and make silly faces and sing what they want to say. (Yes, I often sing instead of talk, they think it's hilarious, and it helps me to not yell everything I say.)

The Genius Husband is out of town for several days for work. So this Shabbat was a potentially lonely affair as Beema's house was not an option either. I am committed to making this time special for my children, and so I baked the Challah bread, and cookies, and chicken cordon bleu. I promised them that we could go swimming once the bread was baked and the chicken was in the oven. When we came in from the pool and dressed for dinner I let the Girl put on her dry clean only princess dress. (I made a pinafore to cover it two weeks ago so she can wear it more often, from an old sheet, without a pattern, and it's pretty. I'm kind of impressed with myself since I don't sew that often.) The Boy asked my advice on what to wear that would be appropriate and so I felt an event coming on and seized the moment. I pulled out a black lace cocktail dress from my closet, lined, pleased that it only showed a bit of a tummy pooch and that that disappeared when I stood up straight and sucked in. I put my hair up, I wore my pearls. (It's too bad the GH wasn't here because when I passed by a mirror while getting people into bed I noticed that with my tan and this dress I could almost pass for one of those really well preserved Italian women that I admire all the time. Except for fabulous legs of course.)

We approached the Shabbat table, carefully dressed, combed and much less haphazard than is usual. I began to get a true sense of home as temple which sometimes eludes me. While we were singing the blessing I closed my eyes briefly, when I opened them I saw the Boy with his eyes closed in that way that children do when they want to still see what's going on. Then the Girl echoed my every word as I prayed, learning by imitation how to be me; how to mother and teach and lead her family through a spiritual practice. It suddenly hit me full force that I am their image of what a woman is, they will carry who I am with them for the rest of their life and it will color everything. I hope it's not too late to reverse some things, to change that image for a better one. I hope I become a good role model in time for it to help them.

It may be because I have been reflecting this week on how I feel as though I am playing catch up in some areas of my domestic life and thinking that those are also the places where my mother was behind, like discretion, gratitude, keeping a house clean, and joyful diligent service, thing my grandmother tried to teach me but unfortunately at that time I had no desire to learn. (I love my mom a lot and I don't mean to be critical, I'm just obsessively analytical about things.) I tend to procrastinate, and I've caught myself teaching the Boy to be a procrastinator telling him to leave something that he's doing until later because it's more convenient for me. Suddenly I'm remembering my mom doing the same thing, and helping me through the crunch times just before a deadline, instead of helping me to do things as soon as they needed to be done. Both my parents were horrible procrastinators.

I know that I didn't learn to be kind to my husband from her, all I remember is fighting and resentment and divorce. I wish I had learned to be a good wife from her, but it isn't something she could teach me when I was younger though I know she wished she could. And I don't remember her looking nice. I remember her braless in man shirts with bare legs, I remember her putting her makeup on in the car on the way to church, I remember her being self conscious and fidgety and uncomfortable and rushed but I don't remember what she looked like when she dressed up. I want my children to remember me as pretty, lovely, gentle, soft-spoken, kind. I want them to remember that I love their father, not that I was angry at him last weekend for packing work tools and lumber into the car with little kids in order to save trips. I want to give them the gift of home, I want my son to think I'm the standard by which he should find a wife.

I am so far away from that right now.

All of this flooded into my brain in between lighting the candles and serving dinner. With a new awareness I saw my children watching me as I ate, imitating the way I held my wine glass, and echoing my words. I found myself sitting up straighter, smiling at them more, and doing my best to be a good example. More that table manners though I hope I can show them what kindness, joy, and gratitude look like.

******************
Things I did learn from my mother include; how to cook, how to read, how to figure out how to do something by myself, how to stick up for myself, how to stick up for other people, how take care of people, how to teach, how to be a creative problem solver, and how to pray.

4.7.07

Be Still

I had no idea until I had small children how much time is spent just waiting for them. Have you ever tried to hurry a two year old along on a walk, through an area he's never seen before? They stop to examine every single bug and leaf and blade of grass. They pick up every piece of trash on the sidewalk and show it to you. They speak in paragraphs instead of sentences, very repetitive paragraphs that they start all over again from the very beginning if they are interrupted halfway through. It's enough to drive a grown-up in a hurry mad.

Or have you ever sat with a 3 year old while she finishes dinner. She talks, she fidgets, she keeps sliding out of her chair, she nibbles tiny crumbs off of the side of her bun, she smears things on the table top, sometimes she smears food on you. It takes an eternity before she finishes dinner. Of course you can't just walk away and leave her to do it by her self or she will take even longer, or forget altogether and when you go to check on her she'll be sitting in the middle of the carpet smearing peanut butter on everything she touches while singing nonsense songs to her baby sister.

And then there is getting ready to actually go somewhere. The excruciating process of talking short people through finding their shoes, their hats, their underwear, their socks, and getting every one ready before one wanders off and plays in a mud puddle and we have to start all over again. It has actually taken me more than a full hour to get out the door with all 3 children, several times.

But it's the very things that are sometimes infuriating that are the essence of childlikeness; wonder, curiosity, and the ability to be completely present in every moment, something I have spent my entire life not doing. Escaping to somewhere besides where I am was a survival instinct, or a pathological bent, I still can't decide.

Tonight we had a little picnic, and grilled cheeseburgers. The GH and his brother of course finished soonest and took off to the house leaving me to keep reminding the Boy and Girl to sit down, sit still, eat your salad, no sit down, no eat your salad, no you can't have more popcorn you still have half a cheeseburger on your plate. The Boy eventually finished and went running off to join the boys and I was left with wiggly, silly, little girl who eats at the rate of one tiny bite every two minutes, and a wiggly baby, and a hard stone bench and a very long wait. At home I can at least clear the table and clean up a little while I wait for her, but here in the grilling area next to the playground I was stuck with nothing to do but watch her eat and remind her to keep her squirmy bottom on the bench until she did so.

I chafed, I fidgeted, I thought longingly of when this would be over and I could get on with it. She kept yelling at the big crows over in the grass. "Come here birds, come here!"

"Yelling won't make them come, take another bite."

"Why did that bird fly away?"

"I don't know, is your mouth empty? Okay, take another bite."

Eventually I slowed down, I heard her through the chatter, I noticed when she looked at me and smiled, "I was singing to the birds." I noticed how she tucked herself in next to me, for once aware of how much she needs my affection, how tiny she still is, how precious. She is so strong, and exuberant; a whirlwind of laughter and energy. Sometimes I don't notice that she is just a little girl and that this will pass so quickly. Today I did. Today I was present with her, today I was at last still and I heard her sing to the birds, I noticed who she is and paid attention to her beyond keeping her fed and clothed and clean. And I wondered why it is that I forget to do it so often. They are growing up and I am missing their childhood, busy in my own whirlwind of tasks and thoughts and worries. I don't know them as well as I did when they were babies. They are changing. I need to remember to pay attention, to be still.

2.7.07

Conversation at my house last night.

The Genius Husband and I were lying in bed last night, for once both awake at the same time. I had just checked my e-mail before going to bed. After keeping it to myself for a while I finally shared the good news.

me:I got a perfect post award.

GH: What's that.

me: It's something bloggers do. I was nominated for an award.

GH:How many people have to vote for you to get this award?

me:No one. It doesn't work like that. If you're nominated you get the award.

GH:(Long Pause)

me:It's really cool, it means someone likes my writing.

GH:(cautiously) Congratulations. One person somewhere out in the internet that you don't know likes your writing.

Thanks Organized Chaos for being that person. Here's the post she liked.

For more good reading go to Suburban Turmoil and Petroville.

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