Monday, July 30, 2007

In the Nick of Time

Yesterday, from the Denver Post, disgust and frustration.  Today, from last month's issue of Orion, perspective, and hope:

"With one frame for each year of the Earth's 4.6-biollion-year history--there are twenty-four frames in a second--a film of that history would run for six years, all day, all night, every day of the week....   And in the last three seconds of the last night of the last month of the last year would arrive and pass the great events of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.  That's it.  Three seconds out of six years.

Such perspective nurtures sanity.  So does this:  99.9 percent of all species that have evern evolved on this planet are gone forever.

Civilization is not a given.  Extinction is.


Here's what I know:  I know that when you find yourself free of the poisons that too much angst can cultivate, then something marvelous happens.  You can sense how very old the planet is, how very old life and death are, and you can keep going on, you can keep doing the work you do in this universe, feeling despair when you feel despair, feelilng--amazing--joy when you can feel joy."

--From "The Consolations of Extinction" by Christopher Cokinos


Breathe.  All is Eternal.  And everything in life is only for now.  Breathe


"Extrapolating from the records being accessed, I realized that the initial estimate of a hundred thousand organizations was off by at least a factor of ten.  I now believe there are over one million organizations working toward ecological sustainability and social justice.  Maybe two.


What does meet the eye is compelling:  tens of millions of ordinary and not-so-ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world."

--from "To Remake the World" by Paul Hawken

Breathe.  You are not separate, not alone, but a part of everything.  All is divine. 


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Feeling Hot

Why, God, why?

What in the world would possess me to take a weekend subscription of the Denver Post?  Because, reading it this morning, it just filled me with anger and frustration.

And I'm not even talking about the story where two burglars broke into the home of a family of four, beating the couple and the two daughters inside and then torching the place, so that only the dad escaped alive, somehow.

I'm not just talking about the continuous wreckage in Iraq, the fear and the violence there, and the "Perspectives" section, detailing so-called editorials encouraging us to "stay the course" that even though the "occupation can't be won" the "war can be." 

And it wasn't just the editorial by the woman, expertly coiffed and coyly smiling at the camera, who argued against buying organic produce because, effectively, there is no difference between organic and conventional.  Science-schmience.  Truth-schmuth.  God praise the farm bill and let's down some rgbh.  If that's your thing, that's your thing.  I won't blow my top.

What I'm talking about is the story on trout in the rivers of Yellowstone park, whose numbers are dwindling rapidly because the streams and rivers are getting too warm in the afternoon, thanks to the drought and the record-high, nation-wide temperatures.  "Some" experts, the article tell us, "think" it "might" be related to global warming (what, does everyone work for the White House?).  But mostly people are just pissed off that their fishing vacations might be canceled, or their tackle businesses hit.

Really.  Is that so.

I hate cynicism.  I'm not trying to be cynical.  But it's difficult to contain my anger over this issue.  The obfuscation of the science, the lack of political will, the insane consumerism and stubborn unwillingness to even acknowledge this might be happening:  all make me so, so angry.  And the more changes we make to our lifestyle in an effort to live in accordance with our values, to be less wasteful, to be better citizens, the less patience I have with those who just do not give a shit.  Because, really, there is just too much at stake not to bet on the side that this is all happening, and that it could be really, really bad.

We took the girls to the river today for a picnic.  The sound of a river is maybe one of my favorites in the world.  I remember being a kid and going camping and feeling totally at peace by the side of a river, lying on my back, looking up at pine boughs and smelling the deep sweetness of the outdoors.  Being beside a river still makes me feel this way, except now the innocence is gone out of it.  I can't help but think about the fact that the water in the river is too polluted for my girls to drink out of; that I wouldn't eat a fish caught out of that river, if there happened to be any in it that survived the contaminants; that someday the streams and trees that I love so much might be dried up, dessicated, undermined by landslides.  Then, I wonder, how much longer we will be able to survive in such a world?

I get so worked up over it all that I've had to find some way to deal with the panic, the threat of all of this destruction, my fear that I might see this world become unlivable in my life time, or that my girls will.  So I have to remind myself, over and over, that we are all eternal, that the earth is eternal, and filled with the divine.  We are all more than our present circumstances.  If I don't tell myself this, and breathe as deeply as I can, I despair too much and can't fully appreciate things as they are now, in all of their troubled beauty.  That would also be a shame, to not be fully with things as they are now, instead of mired in fear over the future.

Still, I feel angry.  Most of all at the president, at his ignorance and brutality, which comes as close to embodying evil as I can imagine.  I can't even summon the grace to seek out what might be divine in him.  I feel angry at people who, when a cool breeze blows through town, laugh and say, "So much for global warming, huh?"  I'm over all of this.  I'm over the idea that there is any "debate" about whether this is happening.  I'm over staying silent when people laugh it off.  Mostly, I'm hoping Gore re-ups.  Because at least I know it's his issue; I know for sure it's mine. 

For now, I will try to appreciate the winds blowing through the many old-growth trees on our property without wondering if they are growing in intensity because of climate change, or trying to estimate how long those trees will survive once things get hotter.  I will speak to my girls as if their futures hold boundless opportunities.  I will try to cling not too tightly to fear, but blow it from my hands out into those winds, like so many specks of sand, hot and glistening in the sun.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Clinging Heart


The girls start daycare full-time next week.  Eric and I paid bills tonight and planned our monthly budget for August and were amazed at how much this all costs.  We shouldn't be, I guess:  in the past, we've contorted our schedule in every possible way to avoid this.  I've worked nights and weekends, and we've both felt stressed that we're not putting in our time at the office the way we should be (not true).  I tried to simultaneously work and parent, laptopping and playing, and felt like I was failing miserably at both (also not completely true).  But we've decided that we'll both be a lot happier if we can try to work while we're at work and be home while we're at home, and with two kids, that means daycare five days a week.  My paycheck at work is about to get a little better, which will help.  And we're not freaked out or anything--we can reduce our spending elsewhere to cover it.  We're just amazed, and wondering how other people do it, and maybe a little pissed off that there isn't more help out there for families.

I had a dream last night that my grandmother passed on, and I was telling Eric about it in the car today, the girls in the backseat.  Addie was listening, little pitcher with big ears that she is, and after a few minutes, piped up.  "Mommy?" she said.  "Do you know when I am going to die?"

I'm used to these conversations by now.  Remember Addie talking about my Aunt Ruth being dead?  She's just exploring this idea of death, and trying to figure out what it means.  So I wasn't too surprised.  "I don't know, Addie," I said in response.  "But I think it's not going to be for a long, long time."

This interaction was a lot harder for Eric--he gripped the steering wheel tight, and said, "Addie, you don't need to worry about that, sweetheart."  And, to me, "Just even hearing that kills me."

It does.  We hate the idea of our kids being sad or in pain, and can't stand the idea of them dying.  It's a good thing it's worked out this way, right?  Otherwise, if we didn't care so much, and some hunger pangs hit, we might go all Donner party and gnaw on the kid's leg for a mid-day snack, oblivious to her wailing.  But at times the emotions feel heavy, like too much to bear.

Addie had a potty accident at school this week.  When I picked her up in the afternoon, she told me about it and said the other kids were making fun of her.  This is tough, because I'm not sure if they really made fun of her, or if "making fun of people" is a concept she is interested in, having heard about it on t.v. or in a book.  It's probably better to assume it really happened, since believing your kids is generally a good idea.  Anyway, the idea of Addie being made fun of killed me.  Just the day before, her teacher had come up to me and said, "You know, she's finally starting to make friends.  I was worried at first because she only wanted to play with me.  But now she's doing much better."

Catch in the throat.  My Addie, my outgoing Addie who says hi to everyone in the street and who talks my ear off and who talks incessantly about her "best, best, best, best, best, best friends," is a loner?  A kid who poops her pants and gets teased?  I thought for sure I had a few more years before these sorts of heartbreaks set in.

But that's me, not her.  She seems unfazed by it all, continues to love school, has made friends.  I mustn't project.  And still, you shield your heart from these coming traumas, try to shield your little ones, your babies.  At work today there was an orientation for parents of future college students at the school.  A panel of us faculty sat on stage, answering questions.  One parent asked us each for our best advice, for what would help their kids succeed.  "Have them talk to their professors," one said.  "Encourage them to seek help," said another. 

"Let them go," I said.

I am so full of shit.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hit the Reset

Been seeing some good things happen this summer, working on some things I'd hoped to work on, figuring some things out.  I wanted to get back into shape, and that's working out pretty well (except I found out today I have a heart murmur, though the doctor kind of giggled and said, "Oh, you have a heart murmur!  You didn't know that?  Tee hee!"  So I'm thinking it's not a big deal, even though when she said it all sorts of after-school-special scenarios began to play out in my head.  Whatever.  She says I can keep running and playing volleyball.  I also got a tetanus shot and a pap smear.  Love days that start that way).

I wanted to get some things about work figured out, and that seems to be headed in the right direction, too.  And I wanted to work on being present with the girls when I'm with them, and I've been effectively leaving my computer in the office and being with them when I'm with them, working when I'm at work.  So that's been successful, too.

Which leaves the big thing that I haven't written about too much, except maybe by way of allusion, because it involves Eric, and I don't want to smear his poo all over this blog the way I do my own and Addie and Nolie's.  It's his poo, or our poo, and I have to respect the relationship's poo boundaries.  But this post is mostly about me, and how I was creating some lousy things all around, so I think I can safely share here.

Before leaving for Idaho, Eric and I were in a kind of rut, I think.  I was mostly thinking to myself things along these lines:  I need to be loved more, I'm not been validated enough, nobody appreciates how much I do around here, Eric is checked out, etc.  Lord.  So, I was looking for Eric to love me more, validate me more, appreciate me more.  And I was doing some begging and manipulating and pouting in an effort to change him, to get him to do more of those things.  He, of course, responded to the begging, manipulating, and pouting by shutting down (who wouldn't?  I was acting nuts).

It got to the point where we realized something bad was happening, and had some awful, serious talks.  Which made both of us really, really sad, and seemed to only make the whole thing worse.

But then came Eric's trip to Seattle and my trip to Boise and, luckily, the book Mindful Loving, which really clarified some things for me.  The first and most important being that I have control over my thoughts, and that my thoughts were creating these crazy emotions, and therefore I was not a victim of emotions created by Eric or anyone else.  In fact, I could change my emotions by changing my thoughts.  Whoa.  This is so revolutionary, so different from everything I've been taught to think, for the most part.  But really empowering and cool, too.  It's taking practice, but already I'm noticing a huge shift in my ability to center and engage.

Second big lesson:  I have a shit-ton of make-believe conversations with people in my mind.  Like, all day long.  For example, a few days before Eric's trip, I was washing the kitchen floor, having an imaginary conversation with Eric about how I didn't need to be washing it on my hands and knees, and why did the floor need to be clean anyway, it wasn't that dirty and why didn't I just relax (he was saying this in my mind, which was really me saying it).  By the time I was done cleaning the floor, I was furious with Eric.


Yep, furious with Eric.  Cause I was having these wacky conversations in my head with him that weren't even real.  And I do it with everyone and in almost every situation.  Mindful Loving gives some very effective exercises for getting rid of this toxic self-talk, and that's had amazing effects on me, I think, and I hope it helps in the relationship.  In all my relationships. 

Then there's the piece about me figuring out that I am love, and don't "need" love, and cannot manipulate others into loving me.  I have this peace in my center, and when that peace feels disturbed, there is some wacky thought to blame.  Shift the thought, restore the peace.  This sounds like so much new-age mumbo jumbo, but it's true.  And it eliminates the necessity of trying to change anyone else, which is a futile, crazy-making enterprise anyway.

It's interesting to me that addressing what was going in the relationship was my last priority, after getting in shape, getting a promotion, and hanging out with my kids.  It's also interesting that, in my self-talk, I was thinking that Eric was the one not really committing to the relationship.  I think I was scared--scared that it would mean a hard look at myself, or scared that I wouldn't find the answers we needed.  I'm not totally sure.  But I feel like we've got a chance again, that we've been able to hit the reset button.  And I'm really grateful for the do-over.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Off to Boisiego

There are lots of posts brewing, things I need to write about:  my knock-down, drag-out combat with losing three pounds, and my fears about spending the next five days in potato-land; the discovery that contrary to everything I've been telling myself, the difficulties Eric and I have been having have mostly to do with me, my struggle to give and receive love; the way I've been noticing how present fear is in my life; the goodness of my friendships, my family, my marriage, my work. 

But none of this is fully formed yet, and I need some more time to think.  For now, I'm bustling around packing things into ziploc bags and folding laundry in preparation for the trip tomorrow.  I've tried to streamline the kidfrastructure, but the success of our travels will totally depend on the kindness of strangers:  will someone help us and our two suitcases, stoller, pak n play, and two backpacks to a luggage cart?  Will there be a Skycab there?  Will someone watch Addie while I get through security with Nolie?  Will I have to go six hours without peeing because I can't fit all of us in a stall? 

It's the little things.  People always step into help.  There's no need to worry.  But still I do, traveling with these precious girls.

With that, we're off to Boisiego, as Addie calls it (she's still not sure who's where, whether we're going to Boise or San Diego, and who will be on the other end of the long plane ride.  Grandpa Bill?  Grandpa Phil?  Nanas or Abuelitas?  Uncle JB or Joe or Jade or Steve?  Cousin Gwenn or Raiff or Kamille or Kiara or Ben?  Where?  But she's getting it). 

See you next week.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Flying Solo

Eric's out of town, and because the girls' and my trip to Idaho is back on, we won't see him again until Monday evening.  For the few days before he left, I was feeling pretty anxious about having the girls on my own for so long with no break.  I hate that I felt this way--I love my girls, and am certainly capable enough to handle them by myself for a week.  And I have friends who do this all the time, what with their partners traveling a lot.  Single moms are rolling their eyes at my big fat whininess at this very moment.  But, what can I say?  I know I'm not stay-at-home material, and the girls can be pretty bad-ass when they want to be, reducing me to a quivering mass at will.  I was scared.

But it's been good (she says, on day two).  We've hung out and played a lot, and read a lot of books, and made a ton of goofy art.  We've been going to the Y so I can get my exercise in and have a little break, and the neighbor kid is watching the girls tomorrow night so that I can go play volleyball.  And the last two nights, after bedtime, I've powered through four episodes of Six Feet Under, which, not ironically, makes me want to kill myself and yet is totally addicting at the same time.  Three guesses who Nate reminds me of.

Anyway, we're doing fine.  But I've been surprised at how vulnerable I feel at night.  I've been double-checking the door locks and windows, and have felt a little uneasy.  Not that Eric is a gun-totin' muscle-bound junkyard dog or anything, but his presence is always reassuring (and he does have a side to him--I call it, and I know this is stereotypical, "ghetto Eric"--where he can come across as really threatening.  He's pulled this persona out with prank callers before, and it makes me giggle and shiver at the same time.  Yikes).  I just feel better when he's here, even if it does mean, like, twice the housework.

There's nothing to be afraid of--we're all perfectly safe, and I know that.  If I'm quite honest, I'm probably getting a little thrill out of scaring myself.  But mostly I think it's just that a member of the unit is missing, and that is disconcerting.  Much as we've been driving each other nuts lately, he's my rock, that man.  Absence and the fond heart, and all.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Camonicas and Kazoos

In revenge for I don't know what, Eric decided it would be a good idea to leave a harmonica and a kazoo in the car for Addie to play with while we're riding around.  So, for the past few days, there have been long stretches of conversation/performance much like this one:


"Yes, Addie?"

"I'm going to sing you a song on my camonica."


"This one's called 'I Love You.'"


Much grand tooting on harmonica.

"This next one's called 'I Love You Very Much.'"


More atonal tooting.

"This next one's called 'I Love You Indeed.'"

"Hit it."

"It's a really long one."


More tooting.



"I have twenty-seven songs I'm going to sing for you."


These "songs" are punctuated by Nolie screeching the loudest screeches you have ever heard, either because she's afraid of the "camonica" or is protesting the horribleness of the songs or just wants to participate.  She's still in a rear-facing carseat, so I'm not sure which of these it is.

Then the whole thing is repeated with the kazoo.

Love cartrips. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Letting the Unresolved

I've written before about struggling to be the grown-up in my relationship with my kids.  I fail at it a lot.  Often, I want to have a tantrum, or be defensive and mean, but I know those are not the behaviors I want to model for my kids, either.  Anger and sadness?  Appropriate.  Throwing the brownie pan across the room and cussing my brains out?  Not so appropriate.

One thing I struggle with in particular is the unresolved.  If something--particularly involving conflict--is left undone, I will stew and fret until I've worked myself into a frenzy, and will usually force some sort of premature action.  For example, at the end of the semester, a student challenged a grade I gave him.  He was supposed to be a graduating senior, but showed up for class only 50% of the time.  Furthermore, for the final project, which most of his classmates spent hours on, he stapled a piece of fabric to a folder and wrote some b.s. paragraph about how the threads of the fabric represented the many strands of meaning in a film.  Whatever.  I gave him a failing grade, and he didn't receive his diploma.  This is completely defensible, right?  But he was angry because I didn't explicitly state "If you only show up for half of your classes, you will not pass this class.  If you turn in a bullshit final project, you will not pass this class."  I'm so tempted to throw my hands up in the air and say "Kids today!"

Still, knowing he didn't have a leg to stand on, I felt the need to resolve this immediately.  He left the message right after graduation, and I could just picture his parents standing there, feet tapping and angry, wondering why their kid didn't have a diploma in his folder, and whether they'd have to shell out for summer school because he couldn't pass a film class.  And this made me all anxious and afraid, so I called him back immediately, and responded to five or six more angry messages from him before he finally mellowed out and that was the end of it. 

But why was this my emergency?  Why did I take that stress on myself, knowing it really had nothing to do with me?

I don't get to be so impulsive with my own kids.  For a number of reasons, we are not going to Idaho next week to see my folks.  I was dreading telling Addie this news, knowing she would be really disappointed (she loves playing "restaurant" with her Nana Debbie and has been talking about it.  A lot).  So I picked her up from school today, and had the urge to tell her immediately that we weren't going.

But that wouldn't have been cool, right?  It would have led to a meltdown at school, or in the car, and that's not a cool thing to do to a kid.  So I bit my tongue--even though I really craved the resolution, needed to have every last person informed and tucked away, off the to-do list--and waited until we got home to talk to her.  She was upset, but not too, and we were able to move on and have a nice evening.

It's funny when you grow up some, right along with your three-year-old.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Taoing the Line

A picture of Addie, with the blood of many cherries on her murderous little hands:


I get to reading parenting books when I'm having particular struggles with the kids or with the momminess, which is why I've been inundating these posts with references lately.  I was just getting so frustrated with Addie, and couldn't locate the source of that frustration.  So I looked for help.  I'm working through How to Behave So Your Preschooler Will, Too, Parenting with Love and Logic (haven't started it yet), and my current favorite (I'm gaga amazed loving it), The Parents' Tao Te Ching by William Martin.  I picked it up at the bookstore yesterday, figuring what the heck.  And it's really, really good.

It's really, really good for me, especially, because it's all about releasing the need to control.  Which, if you know me, whoa.  My major struggle in life, right?  But it all ties in to the discussion I've been having with you and with myself about changing my expectations for my kids, the way I see them. 

So I read this book between sips of coffee, picking up cheerios off the floor, making the kids breakfast, and just general hanging out this morning.  I kept nodding and saying "yep" to myself as I was reading, and resolved to try some of what the book suggests, then and there.  For example,


Did your children really begin

with the union of your bodies?

Or is their origin more mysterious?


means no time,

no beginning,

no end.

Do your children,

who visit you in time,

really reside in eternity?

If you try to grasp them,

they slip away.

They are more than what you see and hear and feel.

They belong somewhere else

and only visit here.

So why do you worry?

If the Tao is good, it is completely good

and your children are safe regardless of appearances.

I believed that when my son was struggling with problems.

I believe it now when he is a handsome, content adult.

I will believe it if future trouble visits his life.

I believe it.

I mean, I just get the most enormous comfort from this.  Always, I love it when I hear that I don't have to worry.  I think it's why one of my favorite songs of all time is Marley's "Everything Is Going to Be Alright."  I love to be reminded of this, of its simplicity.  Because, my god, do I worry!  I fret about global warming and water shortages and class warfare and general chaos and destruction for my girls' futures.  And that's only the big stuff.  I worry the little things, too, though I'm doing this less.  I'm rewiring, but it takes time.

But this idea, that they are eternal, these girls, is a little reprieve, right?  If the Tao is good, it is completely good.

There are many things you need not know, writes Martin.  You need not know everything your children think or do.  You need not know their secred dreams and hopes.  You need not know how life will unfold for them, or for yourself.

And, this:  If you are always worried about your children's safety, you will bind yourself, and them, in cords of tension.  If you try to hold them always close to you, you will bring yourself, and them, only pain.  If you release them to live their life fully, and face their death serenly, your nights will be filled with restful sleep.

If someone had told me three years ago, right after having Addie, to "release her" and "face her death serenely" I would have called the cops on them.  Then again, I wasn't exactly having nights "filled with restful sleep."  But now I see how important this is; though every part of me wants to cling to these girls, to protect them and make them safe, I must know that they will go out into the world.  They will be both safe and at risk, as Martin says.  They will live and they will die.  And still, Everything Is Going to Be Alright.  Completely good.  Eternal.

Anyway, I don't know if it was coincidental or what, but we had one of the loveliest days together today--a picnic by the river, swimming at the Y, peace and contentment for all.  And both girls went to bed early, and tired (unlike last night, when they were ungodly screaming banshees well into the witching hours).  Good thing they're in daycare tomorrow; I'd hate to ruin the winning streak.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Giant Inflatable Babies


I think maybe I don't write enough here about the depth of tenderness I feel for my kids, the way the little bit of baby fat left at Addie's wrists makes me want to grab her and hold her to me, refusing to give up the last vestiges of her baby-ness to the passage of time.  Or the sweet little smile Nolie makes at Eric when he pushes her in her swing, the air blowing through the fine bits of hair that grow longer over her scalp.  The way they both lunge at me when we play, slobbering and suffocating, pulling and scratching their love into my skin, my bones. 

I was out yesterday buying a dress for a wedding we're going to tomorrow night (can I just give a shout-out to Marshall's for carrying a $15 full-length dress from the Gap that kicks ass?), and I swung by the kids section to buy Addie a few t-shirts.  The things this kid can do to a t-shirt!  We go through them like toilet paper.  Anyway, I was amazed at how tiny the t-shirts were, the ones in her size.  Somehow, in my head, she is much bigger, physically, than those shirts suggested.

This happened to me when she was a baby, too.  I remember having this quasi-psychedelic moment when she was four or five months old:  she was getting up once a night to breastfeed, and she and I were sprawled out on the guest bed at 2 or 3 in the morning, the heat of summer just barely dissipating from that old house.  She stared at me as she nursed, her eyes wide--piercing, almost--as if she knew things about me that I hadn't revealed yet, that she shouldn't know or understand.  And in those moments of almost-lucidity, it was as if her baby-body grew giant, overcame me with its needs and demands.  I didn't feel afraid or oppressed, but surprised at how large this child that came from me had suddenly become.  It took me many days to shake that feeling of disproportion.

But it shouldn't surprise, right?  I mean, these kids occupy so much of our mental and emotional space; we care for them and love them to our limits.  Of course they become symbolically inflated as well, seeming to grow bigger and larger than they really are  Until those baby wrists and wisps of hair resituate our vision, help us to see them anew, as best we can, as best as we can hope to, through our crazy, distorted view.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Eventual Grace

I've been reading Anne LaMott's Grace (Eventually):  Thoughts on Faith.  It's almost as good as Traveling Mercies, a book that healed a lot of my twisted views on faith and God, I think.  LaMott's faith is in Jesus, and mine is not, but her frank description of her own weakness and her search for divinity appeal to me.  Also, she is incredibly angry at George W. Bush, and writes about it throughout her book, and places that anger within her faith in interesting ways.  Sounds familiar. 

In Grace (Eventually), LaMott seems to define grace as those moments in which you are, quite literally, saved--whether from yourself and your intentions, or from harm, or from despair if you are harmed.  Grace is what revives you from yet another alcohol-induced stupor so that you can choose to drink again or not; it means the menacing-looking guy on the trailhead in front of you is just angry, not homicidal; it is what gives you hope in raising your children in this world, even when everything seems to be going to shit; it's the little bit of love or succor that keeps you, if only for instants at a time, from death or suffering more than you can bear when alcohol or the maniac or the shitty world do get you after all.

Anyway, if this is grace, I seem to be surrounded by it--we all are.  But since reading LaMott's book, I think I'm becoming increasingly grateful for the many moments of grace I'm afforded.  I wrote in my last post about wanting to spank Addie.  My frustrations with her only continued, grew, over the last two days, until I read a blog from one of the writers over at HipMama, who coincidentally has struggled with the same urges (Peculiar Old Bird, I'll link to your blog if you give me the okay).  A few things she wrote, and that were written in her Comments, really struck me.

One was that these moments are about figuring out how to deal with my anger, not Addie's.  Exercising regularly definitely has been helping with my frustration level, and that's one of the things this writer mentioned.  But she also mentioned another key thing, and that's changing the types of expectations you have for your child.  Could it be I'm expecting too much from my three-year-old?  And her inability to meet these unrealistic expectations is leading to my frustration?  And if I can't control my frustration is my expecting her to a little ridiculous?

Yes, yes, and yes.  What a relief.  What a moment of love and succor, from another mama honest and real.  Just change your expectations, and all of a sudden your child is meeting them, is doing great, isn't making you crazy.

Another few pearls, coming at me from different readings, messages floating in from the universe, little precious stones of grace:  from How to Behave So Your Preschooler Will, Too, the idea that preschoolers are not developmentally able to hear and do what you tell them every time.  From a physiological standpoint, they are just unable sometimes to filter and order information the way we think they can.  Peculiar Old Bird says this, too:  sometimes you have to say something many times before it finally sinks in and translates into action.  But that doesn't mean it isn't sinking in.  Grace--eventually.  We don't always get to determine the timing.

And from the book Passionate Marriage (why I'm reading that is not bloggable at the moment), the idea that we don't always give our loved ones credit to individuate, especially our children.  They're incredibly resilient.  Though I'm a huge fan of attachment parenting, I think it's important to acknowledge this piece of it, too:  our children are their own beings, not just attachments to, outgrowths of us.

Here's the rub:  I've been working really hard at being a present mama this summer.  I've been leaving the computer in the office, not manically checking email, not mentally checking out when I'm with the kids.  This has had some lovely rewards--I notice more about my children, I'm not as stressed out, I'm not divided in two, between work and parenting.  My love for my kids just grows and grows. 

But I've also been bored, and maybe a little unfulfilled at times.  I think I can address this without having another huge pendulum swing--all work!  no parenting!  I think just giving myself some little pockets of time throughout the days that I'm home with them would help a lot.  The girls are able to play together for short periods now, and as long as I'm nearby, I think I can be pretty well assured they won't kill each other (though I have a good story about Addie strangling Nolie with a necklace as I was trying to check out library books yesterday).  There is also free daycare at the YMCA we just joined, so I can use that, too.  I could use these times to read a magazine, work out, or read a friend's blog, or putter in the garden.  In other words, I can't just be the kids' own personal clown for sixteen hours a day, just like I can't be turbo-professor at work sixteen hours a day.  As the kids and their needs change, so do mine, and I just have to (get to?) keep making these adjustments as we go. 

I find myself breathing a little easier as I write this, inhaling all that grace.  It doesn't matter what you call it, I guess--these little realizations that make life better--but they're gifts, no matter what.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Stars and Spanks

We don't spank.  Mostly because we think it causes more problems than it solves, but also because we don't want to have that kind of relationship with our kids.  But the alternatives, for now, seem like a lot more work.  And today, I wanted to smack Addie.  Really, really wanted to.  For the four hundredth time this week.

Addie's fully potty trained now, thank God, but that doesn't mean our potty woes are over.  She uses trips to the potty to exert her will:  whether she'll use the upstairs potty or the downstairs one; whether the fan will be on or not; whether we'll help her, whether she'll wash her hands, how she'll wipe. 

And that's the big one:  wiping.  See, I'm not sure how else to say this except, well, Addie poops A LOT.   Sometimes four or five times a day (this may have something to do with the metric ton of fruit she consumes every day).  And, she's only three, so she's kind of short, and not very dexterous, and can't always reach her behind very well.  So we have arguments about whether or not she's adequately wiped.  A lot.  I'm a little insistent on her wiping well because not wiping well is gross but also because she has sensitive skin and can get a mean case of swamp ass if she's not clean.  Our main argument at the moment is me wanting her to wipe her front first, then her bum, so that she doesn't get poop all over you-know-where.  Her goal is to disagree with me at all times.

So this afternoon, she was pretty tired because it was before her nap (which she is miraculously taking again), and she was cranky and strong-willed.  She had just pooped and was about to wipe her bum first.  "Addie!" I cried.  "Please, sweetie, wipe your vagina first!  You don't want to get poop on it."

Evil look in toddler's eyes.  Hand moves slowly but steadily to rear. 

"Addie!  I'm serious.  Wipe your front first.  I mean it."

Hand continues to move to rear.

"Addie!  You're making me so upset.  You have no idea."

So I grab her little hand with the wadded up toilet paper, now poop-smeared (sorry, but it was), and she and are having this arm wrestle over the t.p., me trying to get her to drop it into the bowl, her trying to wipe her front with it, and her winning slightly because she doesn't care if she gets poop on her and I do care, and so help me God I wanted to hit her hand.  Hard.

I don't even remember how it ended.  She started laughing, I think, which usually make me laugh, too, except today I had one shred of patience left and it ended up in the bowl with her poopy toilet paper.  I somehow got her cleaned up and washed and off to bed, where she napped and then woke up much kinder.   And I had a few small moments of grace to collect myself before I had to go in and get Nolie, who had been awakened by the fracas.  But the memory of my wanting to hit her stuck with me.

You're probably thinking this is not a big deal--what would it matter if I swatted her a little?  Well, maybe not very much.  Except that the other big thing we're battling with Addie is hitting.  She swings at us and bats at Nolie with toys and is all around being fairly pugilistic.  She's not watched a movie in a few days because she keeps losing her privileges by bonking one of us on the head when she's angry.  So hitting her when I'm angry would send the wrong message.  And I don't want to lose my movie privileges, either.  "We don't hit in our family," we keep saying.  And we don't.  But we want to.

This parenting stuff is hard.  Three is a miserable age.  Hilarious and exciting but miserable.  God.  I wish I could just freeze dry Nolie at the age she's at now, which is totally adorable.  Her finger is permanently stuck up her nose, but other than that, she's a completely enjoyable child, and a good reminder of why I become a parent.  In three months, the roles will no doubt be reversed, and I'll want to have Addie preserved.  For now, though, she is pushing every last button, and hard.  My girl.