Sunday, August 26, 2007

'Tis My Fate to Write...


I try not to brag too much here at the 'spit, because, well, any parent worth her salt thinks her kids are the greatest things on the planet, and I know all of you would much rather hear about me being pooped on, or going berserk over an errant mouse.  But permit me, just this once.

I walked out onto the patio yesterday morning, hoping to have some quality time with my hammock.  But I heard Eric and Addie jabbering over on the side of the house, Eric letting out big, "Oh, Addie, that's amazing!"-type phrases.  So I checked it out. 

And lo and behold, Addie is hanging out with these gigantic pieces of chalk Eric got her, and she's writing.  SHE'S WRITING.  I mean, I should qualify.  She's actually dictating.  She asks Eric, "Daddy, how do you spell 'house'?" and he spells out the letters, and she writes them down.  And the handwriting is like something out of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.  But it's legible, for sure, and she's doing it pretty fast, and fairly accurately. 

I stood there with my jaw dropped, because up until then she hadn't shown much interest.  Most of her "pictures" have been massive scribblings, and though she's done some tracing in a letter book Eric got her, she seemed to tire of that pretty quickly.  So it was strange and delightful to see her sprawled out on the walk, chalk in hand, writing

In that moment, as a parent, you try not to freak out overly much.  You don't want the kid to get a complex or anything.  But I definitely felt proud, and also really excited.  It was like a glimpse of things to come--reading (she's started picking up some sight words this week, too), writing things down, making representative pictures.  It's like this whole world of expression and learning that's just about to become available to her.  And that's really cool.

Of course, I don't want to age her too fast.  She's still a baby in a lot of ways.  She is constantly scratching at her butt because she doesn't wipe well enough after going to the bathroom (be careful shaking hands!) and she has really cute sayings still, like she says "bor" instead of "or," as in "Mommy, is your favorite color red bor yellow?"  She's completely obsessed with Peter Pan the book, and incessantly drags three stuffed animals around the house, calling them "Wendy, John, and Michael," but can't sit still for the movie because it's too long.  She still drools a little.

But I have this feeling we're rounding a corner, that things are changing, and fast.  It's heady.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bikini Bread and Summer Things

It's usually around this time of year that I get absolutely sick of summer.  I get tired of the sweaty armpits and the stinky flip-flops and the things that humidity and heat do to my hair.  I start eyeing my closetful of turtlenecks and corduroys and start wishing the air would cool off some.  I'm ready for new notebooks and new students and a new routine.

But I'm not feeling these pangs so strongly this summer.  I was thinking about this as I was pulling zucchini bread out of the oven tonight.  Addie calls it "Bikini Bread," but ours most certainly is NOT.  We put in plenty of sugar and chocolate chips, and I was surprised at how delicious it was, warm like that, and sweet.  There was a vegetable soup simmering on the stove when Addie and I pulled that bread out, singing and dancing in our silly aprons, blowing on it so we could have a bite.  I love figuring out new recipes to try using all the vegetables we've been getting from our friends' gardens.  Having moved too late in the season to have one ourselves this year, we've benefitted from the generosity and overflow of others' zucchini and tomato plants, the best artifacts of summer.  Yumma yumma, as we like to say.  Yumma yumma.

Nolie took her first steps this summer, though she has refused to do it since, preferring instead to be carried around everywhere, or to crawl ferociously across the floor using her peg-leg push-along.  She says Mama and Dada and Kitty (her favorite) and delights in jamming her sharp, crusty little pointer finger into belly buttons (her own and everyone else's).  She is such a fearless little person in space, somersaulting and rolling everywhere, leaping off your lap and cracking her head every five minutes without shedding a tear.  It still floors me to think she is one now.  What a time-warp of a year it has been.

The girls are in daycare full-time, and I am adjusting to relying on so many others to help me raise my children.  I do this mostly without regrets; we are beyond happy to have such good care for the girls, and I know that the girls love their caregivers deeply.  I'm also grateful to have the opportunity and time to do my work, to not feel so pressured and pulled professionally.  Still, it feels fragile most days, this web of people who come together to make all of this happen, to make sure the center holds.  The edges fray most of the time, typically in the form of a really sticky kitchen floor, or piles of undone laundry, or foul, foul pools of dried milk behind the carseats that have become some sort of seriously offensive primordial soup.  We probably need to call in a hazmat team for that one.

And maybe there are fraying edges that we don't know about, that we'll come to regret later.  Maybe I'll wish I'd not been so ambitious, had stayed home more.  I can't guess at that.  Mostly, things feel right the way they are.  Classes have started, but there is still time for tomatoes, swings in the hammock, runs in the park.  It's still hot, and I tire of the heat some days.  But I'm not praying for the autumn breezes yet, except maybe for the people in the south, who really know what hot means.  I'm not giving up on mosquitoes and crickets, and the velvets and wools are still in the back of the closet.  I know fall is coming, regardless of how I feel, but I'm not wishing it along any faster than it needs, this time.  For now, I'm sticking with summer.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Affirmation for the Planet

I just know that there is divine creative energy, in every last thing.

Even the trees? asks Addie.  Yes, the trees, I say.  Even the stop signs?  Yes, I say.  Even the cars?  Yes, I sigh.  Even them.

Every tree I see, every stop sign, every car, every little molecule--even the ones that make up George W. Bush--are manifestations of creative energy (though I wouldn't mind if he would stop creating some.  His power to manifest is much too much, if you ask me).

The energy I am manifesting for this world, and for my girls, and for their futures and everyone else's, is good.  I want to create hope and faith, not fear and smallness.  I welcome the present moment into my heart, embrace the changes of this great spinning ball, and know that what has been and what is happening and what will happen are all as they should be.

There is only the right path.

There is only goodness.

We are safe, loved, and at peace, and the people of the world who are working for positive change and for good are too numerous to be imagined!  I hold their hands, and I hold your hands, and do not fear what is to come.

There is divinity in my heart, and in yours, and in the earth.  I release this knowing out into the universe.

And so it is.

The Earth is Good to Me

The Post ran a story yesterday about climate scientists who are shocked and appalled ("agog," one says) that the polar ice caps are melting so fast, melting much faster than they had predicted.  They will, in fact, be gone by 2030.  The article also talked about how oil companies viewed this as an opportunity, as the melting would make oil exploration and transport easier.

I read this as I was sitting the girls down for dinner tonight, and had to fight back my tears, my frustration.  Addie hiked herself up into her big-girl chair and touched my arm.  "Mom?  Before we eat, we have to sing the song!"

"OK, Addie."  And we sang her blessing song, the one they sing at preschool before lunch everyday, my voice deep and sad, hers high and bright:

The earth is good to me.

And so I thank the earth,

for giving me

the things I need,

the sun and the rain and the apple seed.

The earth is good to me.

In 2030, Addie will be 26.  Nolie will be 24.  It's forever away.  And the blink of an eye.  I'm having to marshall every resource I have not to gnash my teeth and pull out my hair at the possible futures this means for these sweet, sweet girls, who may have very, very hard lives as this planet changes shapes and directions.  Or may not.  Maybe they will be strong, leaders even, engaged in the good.  Who's to know?  I will have to choose hope.  The other option is madness.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Clearing Some Space

I've been doing this sort of informal thought-pattern analysis, you know, in order to track my negative thoughts so that I can focus on changing them.  I wrote a while back about how I tend to have imaginary conversations with people (a lot), and I'm becoming more and more conscious of that, and have been eliminating it pretty well.  I'm able to laugh at myself now when I start to do it, because it really is ridiculous.  I think back on how many years I've been doing this, fighting with people in my head, and that adds up to a whole lot of mental energy expended in imaginary conversations, and a whole lot of emotional energy being mad at people for saying things they never said, or being defensive and scared about things that never happened. 

Phew.  What a case I am.

The other thing I'm starting to notice is how I constantly compare myself to other people.  I was driving the girls to work this morning, and a pretty, thin blonde woman was jogging along the road, jamming to her iPod, decked out in dolpin shorts and a sports bra.  I don't think I even articulated it in this way, but in my mind an instant flood of comparisons appeared:  she had better hair (long, sleek, blonde, evenly ponytailed); she was a lot thinner; she was running faster than I can; she can go running in a sports bra; she's probably had more kids than I've had, how come she looks so good; she obviously doesn't work and is probably rich and so can afford a personal trainer...and on and on. 

Can you believe this?  What is my problem?  I don't know this woman in the least, and yet this whole chain of associations developed in my head in the space of, say, three seconds. And they were all about defending myself against some unknown voice that was saying things like, "Why can't you look like her?  Why aren't you out running right now?  Why is your stomach so poochy?  If you ran in a sports bra you'd be a dubba-bubba-ing all over the place.  Blahdiblahdiblah." 

You get the picture.  And I do a lot of this unhealthy comparison stuff.  It's why I've turned off the t.v. lately, after allowing myself to binge and vomit "reality" programming this summer.  It's why I'm not renewing my subscription to O Magazine (I'm finally off the Oprah!  Hallelujah!).  It's why I'm not going to buy one material thing in the next thirty days that we don't need for survival (like groceries).  I want to step off this damn treadmill.  Because that's what it is:  an endless cycling of mental and emotional energy, a sick revolving of comparisons based not on what I value in people but in appearances, which are always changing anyway.  And I'm tired of trying to play that game, of wasting my time and energy on it.

Think I can do it?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How You Do It


I was talking to my friend on the phone the other night, a dear friend with whom I go way back, but whom I see seldom because of geography, mostly.  It's one of those friendships, though, where it doesn't matter, where you can pick up right where you left off as if no time passed at all.  She remembers the names of my gajillion brothers and sisters and of every last boyfriend I ever had, and I remember hers, too, and we laugh as we catch up over which ones survived the cut and which ones were bad, bad mistakes.

I called her because she lives in Minneapolis, and I wanted to make sure she didn't go down with that bridge, and didn't know anybody who did (she didn't).  But then we got to talking about other things, and she asked about the kids, and asked how I was managing it all, balancing it all.

People without kids ask me this a lot, this question about how do I do it all, and I'm not sure I understand the question.  What is it they want to know?  What time I get up in the morning?  How I schedule everything?  Or are they really asking how I'm handling it all, how close to the edge I get?  Or are they just expressing admiration?  I'm never sure, and so I never know how to answer.

How do I do it all?  How does anyone?  All of us have our own things going on--kids are just my thing.  I have friends who have boatloads of physical challenges, and they just go right on living their lives.  Is that any more or less than what I do?  I have friends who grant themselves free time, time to breathe and be and think.  Is that any more or less than what I do?  We all just make our choices, and live in them the best we can, don't we?  Kids are a special add-on, a unique responsibility.  I get that.  But you make that choice and then you live that life, best you can.  It's harder, but you don't know it's harder until you're doing it. 

This idea of balance is all hogwash, anyway.  Some days you do some things well, and other days you don't.  Some days you keep most of the balls up in the air, other days you drop a few.  You either view it as an exciting tightrope walk, full of adventure and excitement, or you view it as walking the ledge, with danger lurking at every turn.  I try to take the tightrope view, and know that I won't fall too far if I miss a step--I have too many amazing friends and family and loved ones who have offered their safety nets.  For those who think they're on the ledge, with no one to catch them--and I used to be one of these--it feels much more frightening, the stakes much higher.

Mostly, I'm just trying not to take things too seriously.  I found myself getting all worked up last week because the girls were coming home frazzled and whiny, and I was really worried that they shouldn't be in daycare full-time or that Addie's school wasn't right for her.  I felt myself shift into overdrive, thinking about how I would find her a new school, how I would swing things at work if the girls were only in daycare part-time. 

Then I stepped back, and decided to give it all a little more time, and to trust that things would work out.  I just made the choice to take it down a notch, and lo and behold, this week is much better.  The girls seem to have adjusted.  Are they reacting to my calm?  Or are they just chilling some?  Hard to know.  We may eventually go back down to four days a week rather than five, but we'll be making that choice from a place of peace and not panic.  Because panic just makes you dumb and crazy, and I'm done with that for the moment.  No more dumb and crazy Jenny.  At least for now.

Monday, August 13, 2007

You know how, a while back, I was complaining a little bit about our vacation to Telluride, how it wasn't really a vacation because, you know, we still had to chase after the kids and all, and while it was a great trip, I didn't feel so rested afterwards?  Well, this makes up for it:

This is me and the girls, blissing out in what I affectionately term "the womb," i.e., the hammock that Eric bought me for our anniversary, and which I have not left for the last 72 hours.  Where has this thing been my whole life?  I think that if someone had placed me in a hammock for a half hour a day for the last thirty-two years, I would have been a much more pleasant, centered person this entire time, instead of a stressed out, squinched up little stinker.

I'm not exaggerating, either.  I get in that giant, swinging womb, and I am--alakazooshazam--instantly transported.  My whole body relaxes, my breathing slows, I stare for long minutes at the leaves blowing in the trees.  The kids climb all over me, nearly upsetting the womb's delicate balance, and I don't blink an eye.  Life is good in there.  I don't want to come out.

The womb is partly to blame for my not writing much lately, as is the fact that I acquired a used sewing machine on Craig's List and have been busy stitching every available piece of fabric in the house together (I briefly contemplated sewing Eric's socks together as a joke, but refrained).  You should see the curtains I made for Addie's room!  They're a big wild pattern, and the seams are messed up, and I didn't line up the graphics, and the borders are different widths, but hey!  I, domestic degenerate that I am, sewed them.  And also, I've been reading my ass off for work.  You didn't think you could read your ass off, did you?  But I have been.  All these things feel so big to me, like such good changes.  But I look at them here and giggle a little because it's really not all so much at all, given this big wide world and all its problems.  It just feels like my own tiny right path, that's all.  And I'm happy to be on it.

Now leave me alone.  I'm a goin swingin.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Happy Burnday to You


My sweetest little Nolie turns one today.

Round about this time last year, I was chugging a castor oil milkshake, trying to eject her from my body.  I still have a corporeal memory of her head ramming against the floor of my pelvis, and of what felt like her scritchy-scratchy fingernails clawing large chunks out of my uterine wall (I know this isn't possible, but it's what it felt like).  This combined with three days of serious pre-labor, so serious that our bags were packed and we were about to head to the car each time, which is exactly when the labor stopped.  The doctor wanted to schedule an induction, which terrified me, so I got desperate, drank the castor oil, risky as it might have been, and twelve or so hours later, she was out.  Out in a giant whoosh of primal screaming and pushing, an honest-to-god out-of-body experience for both of us.

I was sick for a long time after, mostly because of the hemorrhaging caused by her birth, and then from being anemic and exhausted for weeks afterward.  I still have this sad, dark feeling about that period, and remember having mixed feelings about the birth, about how hard it had been to labor naturally, how tired I was, how skinny and frail she seemed.  In my narrative of her newborn-ness, it wasn't until I gave up breastfeeding and put her on soy formula at four months--at which point she began to sleep through the night--that things improved, that I was able to somehow truly see her, to feel wildly in love with her.  Before then I think I felt mostly resentment, fatigue, and worry.

But I'm not sure of the truth of that narrative, now.  It's cloudy and far away, and all I can see at the moment is the sweetness of my Nolie, her easy smile and deep old-man laugh, the way she lunges at you for hugs and big, open-mouthed fish kisses, or how she nestles her head into my shoulder when she's sleepy.  When she was born, everyone said they thought she was an "old soul."  I think sometimes people say this about newborns that are shriveled and hairy because they look like old men, their eyes scrinchy and dark.  But maybe it's true about this Nolie, who is easy and detached, sure of her own self at one year old.  I just know that I feel she is amazing and special when I'm with her, and I'm excited for her to begin talking, so we can find out more about who she is.

We're having a combination birthday/anniversary party next week, so we didn't do much to celebrate her actual birthday.  But I did buy a big piece of cake and stick a candle in it, thinking that we could at least enjoy watching her tuck into it and make a total mess.  Eric got out the video camera and we all sang "Happy Birthday."  I blew the candle out, not wanting her to burn herself, and put the cake in front of her.

"Oh, no!  The tape wasn't on!" said Eric.

"Let's do it again," I said, wanting Nolie to be able to watch this someday, to know we acknowledged her first birthday.

Back go the cake and the candle.  Relight.  Except this time?  I somehow didn't blow the candle out in time, and Nolie grabbed it and singed the crap out of her thumb and forefinger.  On tape, I'm sure I look confused, like, "What the hell just happened?" and Nolie is screaming her head off, pushing the evil, biting cake away. 

Nolie's fingers are fine today--there's not even a mark (unlike the horrible glue gun accident with Addie when she was 18 months).  And cake?  She never did have any, which is probably fine.  She's very picky with the textures she likes, and there's no reason to start loading her up with sugar at this age anyway.  But it wasn't the sweet birthday moment I had expected.  Happy Birthday, baby!  I'm going to burn the crap out of your fingers now!  Hip, hip, hooray!

All that aside, I'm so grateful to have her in my life, this little person, and am grateful to celebrate this milestone with her.  We love you, Nola Jade.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Dinner at the Zoo

We have friends over for dinner last night, which was so lovely.  We've been so busy since moving, and have maybe felt a little isolated out here as we transition into this new neighborhood, so it was a great opportunity to connect and spend time together.  The real fun, however, began after our guests left.

Nolie only took a one-hour nap at daycare yesterday, apparently, because she crapped out by about 6pm, and was asleep before everyone even arrived.  This was a blessing, because Addie was her own special brand of handful last night. 

She was super-helpful in setting the table, and was cute and nutty the way only three-year-olds can be, flitting around guests, interrupting, distracting us from any sort of adult conversation, but also sitting like a big girl at the fancy table, ripping enormous toots while everyone downed Eric's enchiladas and margaritas.  I found the massive, un-self-conscious farting hilariously funny--really, I am still such a juvenile--but everyone else was polite and didn't say anything.  I whispered to Addie "Say excuse me," to which she loudly responded, "No, Mom!  I just tooted!" 

And, after dinner, she joined me in some rousing duets of "I've Been Working on the Railroad" and "You Are My Sunshine," which is nice.

But she was getting tired and squirrelly by that point, and was overly tired from being in daycare all week, so I was getting nervous about getting her to bed.  I'm pretty sure that I scooted all the guests out the door at--get this--8pm.  I feel like a shit for doing this.  I swear that I thought it was, like 10pm.  My body felt like it was midnight.  It was so nice having them all there, but somehow in my tired, confused mommy mind, I basically gave them all the boot, just a short while after they got there.

Anyway, did I mention that Eric somehow gave Addie two desserts at dinner?  First, she got a bowl of strawberry sorbet, then a slice of the most amazing apple-torte-type thing that one of our guests made, with whipped cream (Addie's absolute favorite).  Our guests were probably wondering what was next--cotton candy?  How much crap do we feed our kids?  In his defense, I think Eric somehow didn't notice the pie, and so served up the sorbet.  And then we couldn't deny Addie the cake.  We're afraid of her, I think.  Whoa.  We should probably address that.

So, we've got Addie amped up from guests being over, and overtired from her first full week of daycare, and then two super-sugary desserts right before bedtime.


I tried to put Addie to bed.  I really did.  But somehow she never went to sleep last night, and all of us ended up playing musical beds all night long.  I finally got into bed with Addie, hoping she'd fall asleep.  She eventually sort of dozed off, so I went back to bed, where Eric began snoring, hugely.  So I moved to the guest bedroom.  Some time in the middle of the night, Eric and Addie ended up in the bathroom (I think she was pooping?  At like 2 in the morning?).  I had to pee, then stumbled back into our bed.  Eric came back to bed, then got up again with Addie, and they both ended up in the guest bed, where I found Addie this morning.  She wouldn't wake up until 8, which meant I was late for work, and am now using work time to write about all of this.

But it was a fun, if short, evening anyway.  Ah, the zoo that is our life.