30.9.07

And the new princess is...



In case you can't read that, it says A Suburban Housewife. Congratulations.

E-mail me your mailing address, and it would help if you'd measure your little princess from the nape of her neck to the back of her knees, or just slightly longer so I know how long to make it.

That was fun, we'll do it again soon so every one else has another chance.

(Yes I totally took this picture right after every one woke up.)

27.9.07

Casting Stones and Becoming Lighter




One of the activities that go on during the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is to make things right with people, along with prayer and good deeds, and taschliche (To cast.)

We take stones to the sea or to moving water that flows to the sea, and we cast them into it. The stones have our sins written on them, sometimes literally, often figuratively, and we throw them away into deep fast moving water from which we cannot retrieve them. We throw away the things we are sorry for, the things we did wrong and want to make right, the habits that we find hard to escape and slip right back into the next day; anger, rebellion, self-pity, and meanness.

It’s a symbolic act, a picture of the cleansing that takes place on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It’s the day by which all should be made right, and messianic Jews go one step further and celebrate it as the day we remember that all things were made right, for all time, by the only High Priest any longer required, he who is after the order of Melchizedec. (Hebrews 7:11-28) What it teaches me is that I can by no means purify myself. For though I trust that I am forgiven and that my wrong doing truly lays in the “depths of the sea, my stone always seems to come back to me, year after year, day after day, I cast the same stone, feel the same remorse, and experience the same flood of grace.

This year, in the spirit of making things right, I’ve been talking to my dad. He doesn’t really know what’s going on, but I’ve been trying, in my heart, to let go and move on. I’ve been trying to breath through the hurt reactions that come so quickly, to hear past the tapes that always repeat and the years of pain and disappointment and rejection, to hear him as he is right now. He too has stones to cast and he has cast them. I’m tired of trying to figure out if he or my mother is more accurate, if any abuse did or did not take place. Stories change, people revise.

I had a chance this year to drive him away. I held the moment in my hands, knowing that my next few words could prevent me from ever needing to deal with him again. Part of me longed to do it. I just wanted to be free of the stress, the difficulty, the salt in old wounds that his arrival seems to bring. But I didn’t, and I won’t. Because the better part of me doesn’t want things to end like that. I want him in my life. I no longer expect from him the kind of fathering I wish I had had, or the emotional maturity that would make things easier. But I want him around. Our journey together is not yet finished.

I am trying to approach him with grace, the same grace that has been extended towards me time and again without ceasing. I know that he loves me, and I know that he did the best he could do, given the tools that he had. I want to forgive the rest. Good intentions don’t keep me warm at night, but with the life that I have now and the family I have been given, I don’t need any more than that any more.

There is still a little girl who cries for her daddy from time to time, but I suspect she is starting to grow up too, to catch up with the rest of me. And so with deep breaths, but more lightness than I had thought possible, I will close this little chapter of my life for now. While I may look at it again some day, I don’t intend to for a long time. On that note there are a few old posts that I will be deleting, because I don’t want their existence to become an obstacle to any future relationship we may have. They were real, and helpful to me to say, but I no longer want them public. It feels right, I believe it is right to take them down.

That is all.

21.9.07

sewing, and a giveaway

I've been enjoying reading some frugal and green living types of blogs the last few months. I've especially enjoyed the stuff on restyling and using what is already in your house to make what you need. So I have been having a bit of fun using what I have laying around the house to restyle into new things.

First there was the pinafore, born out of a desperate need to keep pretty dresses from being stained while still allowing the Girl to indulge in her desire for prettiness every. single. day. I made this out of an old sheet.























Then there was the princess/queen cape, made from the pretty end of an old silk sari I've been hanging on to.













And then there was the King cape, that used to be a bed sheet and will soon be followed by a knights tunic, though I may actually buy some leather to make that one because it's probably going to be the Boy's birthday present.



Anyway, I'm having fun doing this and it occurred to me the other day, maybe after I won that stroller and was wondering what kinds of things that I could give away, that perhaps, given the season and all, there may be some other little people out there who want some dress up capes and so I am hosting a contest.

If you would like a princess cape like this one leave a comment on this post. I will make the cape to fit the winner. I will leave it open until next Friday Sept. 28 at midnight pacific time. I'll have one of my children draw the winner from a hat. The only rule is, you have to have a little girl who will wear it, she doesn't even have to be yours. Feel free to spread this around and link back here. Next week we'll do it all over again for the boys cape.

18.9.07

9 months



You are even cuter now than you were last month. I don't even know how that's possible, perhaps the degree to which I am smitten with you has just gone even deeper.

You walk. You have been walking, it was a race between your first teeth and your first steps, and your first steps won, by a long shot. You are cranky and restless and unhappy with the growths that begin to protrude through your gums but they are not yet through and you have the sleeplessness and terrible bum rash to prove it. When I get to heaven I've got some questions for God. Things like, "Why hair down there? It's just, so uncomfortable." and "How can it be fair that after all of this work pushing a baby out it's like I get my period for an entire month?" oh and "Why isn't life fair?".
On that note I also want to know why little babies when they are already dealing with the pain of teething get the most terrible raw rashes on their tiny bums. Talk about adding insult to injury. I know now that nothing will really fix it, until your teeth stop growing, and then it will disappear like magic, never to return again. All of the creams, bare bottom times, and expensive diapers in the world won't do much at all until those @##$#$(*&@$^(%*@&#&^ teeth are cut. (I never was very good at swearing.)

On to other things. This walking skill has been very exciting. For example, you have realized that you can cross the threshold and go outside. For months you have been content to sit in the entry way and watch the big kids play outside, but you didn't venture out onto the mat. That all changed the day you saw the planter and thought in your little baby brain, "MMMMMM black stuff, ooh, feel it, it feels so wet and grainy, what does it taste like? I've got to get me some more of this, this is great, they've been holding out on me, oh look, there is a big wide world out here full of this stuff, must go and eat it all now, and perhaps roll around in it a bit just to feel it squishing, oh look there is my mommy I will smile at her real wide, isn't this great? you should try this stuff I LOOOOOVE It. Here you want some? there's plenty for everyone. Wait what are you doing? Why are you taking me away? Hey why are you washing my hands, oh man, now you're sticking your fingers in my mouth, gross! no it's mine, I was eating that, give me back my black squishy stuff. WAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!"


A day or two later, because I am still in the let the baby hang out at the door it will keep her quiet mode, I suddenly realized it was too quiet and I glanced out the window just in time to see you half crawling half walking your little behind out into the great wide world. While I watched you headed straight for the big scary concrete stairs that go all the way to the second floor and started climbing them. As far as I know it was the first time you had ever encountered stairs, and you just charged straight up them, until I peeled you off of the third stair. I bet you'd have gotten all the way to the top if I weren't so afraid of what your head would look like if you fell all the way down them and put a stop to your exploring yet again.

I think it's really funny and kind of heartbreaking the way you crawl a little closer to me and then stand up again with your hands in the air all the while yelling that I should pick you up right now, and if I can't do it right away and have to keep walking past or away from you to put something down or to turn something off before I walk back over to, you start to sound frantic and move yourself closer yet again and stand again making yourself as tall as possible so you can be picked up. It's like a gentle punch in the heart every time you use all of your strength to get your tiny self closer to mine and so desperately want me. You look so tiny and forlorn standing there with tears leaking out the corners of your eyes and your angry cry. "Can't you see I want you to pick me up now damnit? Pay attention to ME!" (I am so sad that this picture is blurry because I love it so.)

You show your excitement by repeatedly patting/smacking me with your hand. It's very little so it doesn't hurt much, and so it's mostly funny, just like the other things you do, but when my nipples feel like someone has used sandpaper on them and been punching them all night because you are MEAN when you are in pain, that's less funny. But I forgive you.

I love the way that after smacking me you put you head on my shoulder and smile up at me, the picture of happiness. I wish I could make everything right in your world forever. I will soak up all of the time between now, and the day you realize I can't, but I will be there for you to help you deal with it even after that.

I could say more, but I think I'll let these pictures do the rest of the talking. Almost.

Here is where you fell asleep in the pool.


I'm a big girl now mom.

Hey, wait up!

I won something WOOHOO!

I participated in a contest held by the lovely, and increasingly skinny, Mel of Actual Unretouched Photo and The Amazing Shrinking Mom hosted a contest sponsored by Chicco baby products.

To my complete shock, I WON!

Soon one of these lovely strollers will be here for me to take the Baby around in.




Thanks again Mel.

17.9.07

In the interest of public service and protecting kids everywhere

I've been trying to decide what if anything I should write about this. I'm very tempted to just sweep it under, let it lie, and not mention it at all. But I can't, because this story may help someone else.

On Saturday night we were at a party at the parent's of one of the little boys that the Boy plays with. He is cute and sweet and as normal as boy as seems possible. They have played together all summer and are fast friends. He is 4 years old.

There were a lot of grown-ups present that I hadn't met yet, and lots of babies, and it seemed like a great idea to let the three older kids watch cars by themselves in a bedroom with the door ajar so we could tell if they were getting into trouble.

Several minutes later screams ensued, from the Girl and this little boy's father went to investigate. What he found was the Girl laying on the bed with her skirt up, no underwear, which was entirely her and my fault, she forgot to put it on and I forgot to double check when we left the house, it was a very long dress. The boy was laying on top of her with his face on her bum. He was kissing her. She didn't like it.

The boy's dad sent him to another room, and came and told me what had happened. (Let me just stop to say how grateful I am that this man is honorable and didn't try and hide it.)

I talked to the girl and asked her what happened and how she was feeling and she told me she didn't want him to do it. I told her she did the exact right thing in yelling super loud so we would know what is going on and could protect her.

After things settled down and we sorted out, I mentioned to the boy's parents that they might need to be guarding him more closely since when a child does this sort of thing it's because it was done to him before. They told me that they had just discovered that he had at least witnessed and perhaps been victim to something done by an uncle, which is rending my heart to think about.

Anyway, three things happened that were wrong in this scenario.

1.) The Girl should have had panties on, her bottom should be covered in public, that's simple.

2.) A child who has been sexually abused should not be left alone with other children smaller than him or that he is stronger than. It is a sad but true fact that children who are abused often become abusers. I doubt that this boy's parents knew that and I'm sure they were completely surprised. I only know this because I've been talking to people about foster care and adoption and it's pretty much a rule that a child from an abusive background should not be adopted or fostered into a family with children younger than him/her for that reason.

I understand wanting to keep this kind of thing private for the child's sake, but then you need to be aware and not let him alone with other children.

3.) I should not have left her alone that long with bigger boys.

Three things that went right.

1.) She yelled and screamed, really really loud. She got our attention and protected herself.

2.) All of the parents were proactive and did what they could to minimize and correct the situation. The Boy's dad just sent him away, he didn't deal with it in front of everyone. And he told me right away too.

3.) Apparently that talk we had about this kind of thing last month took root, and she remembered. I wonder why the Boy didn't do anything though.

All said, I think things are okay. I honestly think that because she yelled and we intervened this was more of a positive than negative experience for the Girl for she learned that she has power to stop someone, she learned that it's good to stick up for yourself. I'm still terrified when I think of what could have happened and so I share.

So often when we think of protecting our children from sexual abuse, we think of grown-ups. I had forgotten what I know about children often being perpetrators.

That day, things were simple. The boy was in trouble because she said to stop and he didn't. You stop when someone tells you to. The language is that simple. He is after all 4.

I have wandered my way around the talk several times and have now reduced it to it's most powerful straightforward essence. You need to talk with your small children as well as your older school aged children.

Here is my script if you need it.

Your private parts are the parts covered by your underwear. NO ONE is to touch your private parts, or to touch you anywhere else in a way that you don't want. If someone tries to touch you or make you do something you don't like, you should yell scream bite and kick. Try to run away. Always tell mommy or daddy right away so that we can protect you.
end talk

I started out way more complicated than that, but it turns out that it's simple and easy to remember. It's because I had that talk with the Girl that she is okay now.

I add to that this week. If you see someone doing something to someone else that they shouldn't, you run and tell mommy or daddy or grownup that you trust RIGHT AWAY!
That's for the Boy who was more into watching Cars than helping his sister.

12.9.07

L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi

Or happy Jewish New Year to all of my Jewish friends out there, and others who keep the feast. We are almost ready, here is a short preview of our Rosh Hashana celebration.
1

The Boy and Girl decided to make name cards for everyone after setting the table. They love to set the table on holidays, just so they can handle the pretty things and it adds to the excitement. I didn't register for a china pattern or anything when we married. At the time I thought I was going to move to Thailand, and I wanted my mother's set which you see here. She told me when she gave ti to me that she wasn't sure why I wanted it, it's old and chipped and missing several pieces, but I wanted special dishes that my children could use, not that sat in a cupboard gathering dust, and I remember thinking they were beautiful when I was a child. Guess what, my kids think the same way. The Boy went around and photographed everyone's place setting, I smiled when I saw his photos, but I won' show you them, I am still trying to preserve some anonymity here.



I just finished making the bread, isn't it pretty.



And of course the honey cake which has been stared at with longing since early this morning when I poured the icing over it. I so enjoy watching them get excited over things like this, except when that turns into whining, which it hasn't today.

If you want to know more about why a Christian would be keeping a Jewish holiday, besides the obvious uh duh, Jesus was a Jew not a Christian, you may find this site interesting. I don't necessarily agree with everything they say, mainly because I think it's a somewhat egregious theological error to use the new testament to inform our understanding of Torah and not the other way around...but it may be helpful to some.

The Weekend Outside

We went camping this past weekend. I love camping, and we hadn't gone on a trip together like this since we moved to the US almost two years ago now. What I like most I think is that once we get there, while it is hard work to plan everything to get there and have things go smoothly, we are together. Without distractions, without computers or telephones, our little family actually spends all of our awake time with each other, doing practically nothing. I wonder if that's why my kids remember little trips like these so vividly. It takes so little to give them these grand memories of their childhood and going on adventures with family. The only thing that really has to be done is to do it, and to not get crabby at people as my parents did when I was a child. I'm glad to report that the GH and I do not usually fight with each other once we have some down time together, which makes me really glad.

We went to a place called San Onofre, which is a beach near a power plant. With it's two identical dome shaped silos sitting next to each other, with big blinking red lights on top it bears a strong resemblance to a pair of gigantic...well...It's weird for me to realize that there are so many nuclear power facilities around here. I grew up in "A Nuclear Free Zone". No really that was the town motto. When you drive into town it says "Welcome to Small Town Alberta, A Nuclear Free Zone" which is about as imaginative "come for the weird weather, stay for the mosquitoes", or "we have cheap alcohol".

I was very disappointed when we arrived at our site. I'm used to camping in places that look like this.



I grew up about two hours away from this park and most of my camping experiences have been in beautiful remote places. So you can imagine how I felt when we arrived at a concrete parking lot with some tiny dirty patches to tent and nothing but a wire fence separating us from the train tracks and the freeway. All there was to see was concrete, dirt and desert scrub. Far off against the horizon I could make out the blue of the ocean. With a heavy heart I began setting up tents and arranging sleeping area. Then the kids wanted to go to the beach and I tagged along. I'm so glad I did. Because when we had walked a very short way the ground opened up to show us this.



And a little later on, this.



And finally, this.



I immediately felt better and we enjoyed a lovely weekend with family and friends, a little bit of sunburn and a ton of good food.

I'd have most likely gained weight from all those cookies if it hadn't been for the fact that the bathrooms were at the top of this. And my children needed to use them often, and we kept needing things from the campsite. I almost ran a mile up hill once or twice on Saturday, and was really happy when one petite blond woman told me I must be in really great condition because she found it daunting.



Oh and did I mention yet that the Baby now walks? For the past week or two she has been fearlessly taking steps and now she can walk a few feet without falling. It's been fun.

3.9.07

Perfect Post Award-September

Perfect Post Award for August 2007

For several months now I've been following a really wonderful story. The Owlhaven's have once again expanded their hearts and family to include two more children, now they have 10. This time they've adopted two sisters from Ethiopia aged 9 and 11. These girls have been living in an orphanage since the death of their birth mother until Mary and her husband flew across the big ocean to take them home. In this post she describes a simple moment in the first few weeks after these beautiful girls left behind all that they knew to travel with people they had just met in order to find a family again. This whole story has tugged at my heart but this one moment is one of those almost too good to be true occasions that fill me with hopeand made me cry. And that is why this month I have nominated Mary and her post Making Injera, Blending Families for a perfect post award.

For more perfect posts be sure to check out Suburban Turmoil and Petroville.

2.9.07

A Story About Love

We escape the tight embrace of damp heat by plunging our bodies into the lukewarm swimming pool in the hour before supper. It's warmer now than it was last week but the pool is deserted. No children ring our bell or run boisterously through our house. Such is the desolation wrought by the return to school. We swim alone most days. The only people to keep us company are the elderly, and the very small. There is the old Indian gentleman who walks with a cane, he can say no more than 20 words in English and greets us with a stately nod. He always says “Good evening”, nothing else. He likes to sit near the playground when we are there, or near the pool when we swim. He is always alone. I try to smile and take the time to greet him.

A Filipino grandma pushes her 1 year old granddaughter around in a stroller. Her spare frame and bright smile a flashback to the girl she once was. They come to play at our door, or find us in the pool if we are not at home while they wait for the middle generation to return.

A woman is learning to swim. She is 56. She strokes mostly underwater, forgetting to kick most of the time. Her brown arms pull her very slowly across the pool. Her husband teaches her another stroke to try, mocking her fondly. His accent and sarcasm tell me he is not from here but from a cold and foggy island off the coast of Normandy. I ask him how he ended up here in San Diego and he gestures toward his wife saying, “I married an American.”

I am surprised. I thought she was from Japan; her English is thickly accented. Her dignified face is beautiful. I let her hold the Baby. She tells me her three boys are all in their twenties now. She misses having a baby to hold. I feel the pull of a common bond, a mother’s heart pulls us toward each other across years and language and culture. We are opposing bookends of the life bearing journey.

Another woman comes to swim, dragging her laundry with her. I eye her warily. She has a mullet that falls below her elbows, with tiny short grey curls on top. I never know what she’s going to say. Last summer she told me she never goes to the other pool in our community. She called it the Mexican bathtub. She is often rude, though never towards me. She takes care of her nephew almost exclusively, tells me his mother was a drug addict, and through her talk I get glimpses of a broken family, of people trying to make the best of it, and deep ignorance.

A father to the fatherless,

I sometimes feel like she says things out of habit, trying to make conversation, grossly unaware of how inappropriate she is. I’d like to just label her a crusty old racist, but I can’t. I want people to be black and white but they aren’t, and I can’t dismiss her so casually.

A defender of widows,

Last time I saw her she brought me a bag of adorable little girl clothes. They still have tags on them. She bought them for a girl who is no longer in her life, and so she brings them to me instead. I am grateful.

So many people looking for human contact.

God sets the lonely into families.


We leave the water and get dressed once more. The familiar routines of eating and bathing and reading lull short people asleep and all is quiet. The heat presses against us and the Baby wakes, wet with perspiration, and cranky.

I stand with her outside the front door, singing to lull her to sleep. She smiles and laughs as a woman passes by. I sense her discomfort. I too have paced in the cool night air, belly bursting with life, unable to sleep because of the heat and weight, seeking some relief. I too have paced as I try to order my heart and wrestle with fear and rollercoaster emotions. She says hello, and I laughingly explain that the Baby won’t sleep. Her baby is keeping her awake too. I turn briefly and she keeps walking but I feel that this moment isn’t over yet, that there is a reason I am standing outside just as she passes by. She stops within sight, 10 feet away, and I try to start again. “When are you due?”

She does not hear me, and I am feeling too awkward to repeat myself but a moment later she walks back toward me, “How old is she?”

“Eight months,” I reply.

We are using an age old formula. How many bonds between women have been forged through these simple questions? Again I ask, “When are you due?”

“In five days, and I’m so scared because I’ve started having contractions and they didn’t feel very good. My whole family is telling me it will be the worst pain I’ve ever felt and the stories about it lasting for 12 hours or more…”

She trails off and swallows back tears and I think to myself, “12 hours, that’s not bad.” But I don’t say so to her.

Instead I tell her honestly that it does hurt, but I’ve had worse pain. I try in 30 seconds or less to give her the strength she needs to bring this baby into the world. I tell her that she can do it, she will find the strength, and I wish her well. I want to hug her and force through her skin into her heart all that she needs, but I know each of us must find it for ourselves and so I say goodnight, and watch her walk away but I am still holding her in my heart and mind, praying that she will have peace.

I stare at my own Baby girl, grinning up at me and at the stars. Do you suppose God whispered in her sleeping ear, waking her when she did? Did he want me to be standing outside my door in the dead of night, baby in hand, ready to speak words of comfort?

the God of Israel gives power and strength


I like to think so.

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