I was reading an essay from the book Why I’m Like This by Cynthia Kaplan (wonderful book, by the way. Go thou and read likewise), in which she mentions that once you have been a waitress you will forever after suffer waitress dreams. Oh, so very true.
I’ve been both a cocktail waitress and a waitress in an Italian/seafood restaurant. The server gig is probably the best hourly wage you’ll ever make, legally and without an education. But there are the dreams.
I still dream that I’m working at the bar, and I have a ridiculously large tray full of mixed drinks. I’m scrambling to put all the right garnishes in (“Does this take a flag? A cherry? An olive?”), and shooting desperate looks around the bar, trying to locate all the people who ordered these drinks. Finally I hoist the huge tray to my shoulder. It teeters for a breathtaking moment…and I steady it…and step off…and realize I’m naked.
Or I’m working at the restaurant, and I’ve been given a party of one hundred and six people. Just one mammoth table stretching out as far as the eye can see, filled with hungry patrons. I take a deep breath, and start taking orders. I’m working my way down, carefully writing down what they want. People are shouting at me from across the table, adding and subtracting things from their orders. I’m nodding and scribbling furiously, until I get to person #103. And realize my pen has been out of ink the entire time.
When Tre was born I graduated to mom dreams, like the one where I realized that I had forgotten to feed the baby for three days. Or the one where I left him in the cart at Wal-Mart, and didn't realize it until I had already gone to bed.
My point (yes, I have one) is that the other night I woke up, sweating from a writer’s dream. I dreamt I had sent out 47 queries and had inadvertently left a really raunchy phrase as the salutation in each. When I had finally regained my wits and calmed my panicked heart I had to laugh. A WRITER’S dream? Who exactly do I think I am? As though I’m somehow unqualified to sweat over the details “real” writers sweat over. I’ve sent out query letters. Hopefully none with salutations alluding to the editor’s parentage, but it was anxiety producing enough. And yet…a WRITER’S dream?
This is a theme I hear a lot among the writers I know. When do we cross that line, take the title of “Writer”? What level of success legitimizes this thing we do? I have right here, next to me, a contract that I need to sign and send back so this lovely person can put my essay in her book. I’m getting paid and everything. Am I now a “Writer”? I’m not sure that’s enough. I have a little sign, hidden away in my desk drawer, that reads “Do Not Disturb. Writer At Work. I can't bring myself to use it.
But as though a writer’s dream weren’t enough to make me faintly embarrassed, I just read all those comments from my last post. My goodness. I’m blushing here, people. And from writers such as yourselves…I’m floored.
Now, I’ve been told I need to learn to take a compliment properly, so let me say thank you. My goodness. Thanks.
And I guess I’d better get working here. Fortunately, I’ve got a sign...
¶ 8/31/2003 10:12:00 PM
Friday, August 29, 2003
As I passed the door to the basement I noticed Claire, our beautiful stupid cat, meowing to be admitted. “Raphael,” I called out, “do you want to let the cat downstairs?” He came trotting up, all belly and enthusiasm. “Ah do it myself!” he announced, and wrestled the door open. Claire brushed past him with a purr/meow of thanks, and he turned to me with glee. “Ah DID it!”
“Yes,” I replied, homing in on my whole reason for engineering this tableau, rather than just opening the door myself, “and Claire was so happy that you helped her!”
When I was pregnant with my first child I read somewhere that if you focus on how your child’s kind actions make others feel good, rather than praising them directly, it would help them develop a sense of empathy. That too much praise makes kids self-focused. However, helping them appreciate how their actions make the people around them feel helps them learn compassion.
“Oh,” I thought, “I want that. That whole compassion/empathy thing. I’ve gotta remember to do that.” And so I added it to my bag of tricks, my many little techniques that I would employ in my quest to raise the perfect child. I had quite the bag of tricks, having been working in early childhood education for years. All along I had been storing up the little nuggets of information that I was sure would help. For instance, no child of mine would have a coloring book, for that would inhibit his natural creativity. No, instead my child would be handed blank paper and crayons and the freedom to CREATE. I would not hand down edicts like the unenlightened generations of parents that had gone before. No point-blank orders, dulling my child’s sense of self worth. I would explain my reasoning for asking (respectfully) for a change in behavior. I would patiently illuminate my motivation for curtailing certain activities (“I know it’s fun to jump down the stairs holding this knife, but I’m afraid if you trip you could cut yourself and that would hurt and then you would be sad.”). This would help my little one grow in understanding and logic, and help him to make good decisions himself. My child would benefit from the many tools I had amassed. Unlike those poor other children, born to parents who didn’t know all the tricks.
Well, the first thing I learned is that parenting advice that seems absolutely logical in a book or magazine or ECE class isn’t that logical to an actual child. Tools that I knew would serve me well...didn’t. I quickly figured out that although it’s nice to be able to explain your motivations for saying no, sometimes you have to be able to just say no. I’ve even followed up a blunt “no” with a terse “because I said so.” Some mornings there just isn’t time to go over the many reasons he can’t wear his swimsuit to church. In January.
And as for coloring books…let me count…we have 18 of ‘em. I hope it doesn’t ruin their creativity, but sometimes you just need a coloring book. Oh well, they’re my kids; odds were against them having any artistic ability anyhow.
What I’ve realized, I hope, is that parenting isn’t about little techniques. It’s not about the thing I do in this or that situation. It’s the sum of what I do in all the situations. The whole of my interactions with them and with others. It requires repeating myself again and again and again and again and again. And again. If my sons learn empathy it won’t be because I pointed out to Raphael the cat’s joy at his thoughtful act. It will be born of a million moments, a mosaic of what I said, and what I did, and what others said, and did, and off hand comments, and books they read, and other things I can’t even imagine, all coming together to form a picture of caring. I can’t orchestrate that. So I pray, and then do my best and hope.
But old habits die hard. Sometimes I catch myself in a moment like today, at the basement door. And I remember how in control I was before I had children. Makes me chuckle.
¶ 8/29/2003 10:28:00 PM
Thursday, August 28, 2003
Nurture yourself. Make time for YOU. Take care of yourself, or you can’t take care of anyone else. I hear it all the time. Women’s magazines, Oprah, you name it. The world seems concerned that I should slow down, take a bubble bath.
Pthhhppbbb, I say. I nurture myself with the knowledge that I’m not a weenie who needs a stupid bubble bath. I’m a grown up, for heaven’s sake. A mom, with a horde of little bitty kids. I don’t have time for candles and massages and all the other lame pampering suggestions.
Except lately I keep thinking certain thoughts. They make their way in, uninvited, between lists of school supplies that must be bought and plans for dinner. They have a distinctly whiny tone to them. They go something like this:
“My feeeet hurt.”
“I want to go get ice cream.”
Inner child? My sensitive wee soul, aching for nurturing?
Maybe I’m just tired. Maybe my feet hurt. Maybe I need some ice cream.
So I went out for ice cream tonight. Good ice cream, from the Marble Slab. The sort of ice cream that the Center for Science to annoy the Public warns you about. Coffee ice cream with chewy nuggets of peppermint patties. Good stuff. Dad followed Raphi as he raced around and around the building. Max and Tre hunkered down over their ice cream, and I settled down with mine. I even put my feet up.
Beats the hell out of a bubble bath.
¶ 8/28/2003 09:45:00 PM
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
My house smells of salsa. There is a logical reason for this, namely the gallon of salsa I made this afternoon. Among other things I used tomatoes from my own garden, jalapenos from my own garden, and garlic (you guessed it) from my own garden. I hadn’t realized until I went out to pick the tomatoes just how many there were. Many. Many many. Like, 35 tomatoes. My fingers sting from tomato juice.
But now there’s all this salsa, which I will freeze and stockpile against the tomato-less winter. That’s a good feeling. It’s been quite the week for filling the freezer. Sunday Mom and I harvested basil. There were only five basil plants out there, but by the time we chopped them down and stripped and rinsed the leaves, it was a forest. I laid out towels on the dining room table, and the entire surface was covered with ruffles of leaves. The smell…oh my, perfume should be so rich. Then we put them in the food processor with a little olive oil, and buzzed them – not too much. We scooped the resulting chopped basil onto cookie sheets to freeze in little emerald mounds. Transfer those mounds (or as we inexplicably like to call them, “doots”) into a zip-loc bag, and there you have it! Basil all winter long.
So let the snow fly! We’re ready. And not a moment too soon, because I hear tomorrow is supposed to be cool. Like, highs in the 70’s. Ok, maybe that’s not exactly snow, but it’s clear that summer is sputtering. I hate to see it die down, but at least we’re ready. Basil and salsa. That’ll get us through.
¶ 8/27/2003 09:55:00 PM
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Today Tre and I went rock climbing. No, seriously. My parents gave him a half-day rock-climbing lesson for his birthday, and we went today. It was amazing. I’m so freakin’ tired I can hardly think.
Anyhow. Tre did most of the climbing, being his birthday gift and all, but I got to go up a few times myself. During Tre’s turn I would stand there, at the bottom of the great huge rock, and watch him scramble up. I did my level best to keep my mother’s mouth shut, but I kept thinking “To your left, baby. No, the other left. That’s it, there you go, now to your right.” I kept as silent as I could and he went right ahead, figuring it out without my advice. The hardest part was when he was he was rappelling back down. He wouldn’t lean back far enough, and his feet would start slipping. In my head I’d be hollering, “lean BACK!” In my head I was drawing diagrams, showing him how staying perpendicular to the rock presses his feet into the rock instead of at an angle, causing him to slip. In my head it was fairly simple.
Then it was my turn. Heh, heh. Not so simple. I kept all the instructions in my mind, but once it was my body going up that rock, those words meant less than they had. I KNEW I should put my weight into the steps, so my shoes could grip the rock. I KNEW I should look up and plan my moves. I KNEW I should lean right back into the harness when it was time to rappel down. I just didn’t want to. I WANTED to do what FELT safe, instructions be damned.
Now, I call that a good start to a new school year. As the year goes by I’m going to do my best to remember being on that rock, sweating. Struggling to remember the instructions. Struggling even harder to obey them. I hope it will help me have more empathy with my boys as they strive to overcome math or phonics or writing. After all, it all seems fairly simple from the ground.
¶ 8/26/2003 10:29:00 PM
Monday, August 25, 2003
Back to school day. I sent my innocent wee babes off into the vast jaws of EDUCATION. Wait, you’re saying. Hold it there. Are you not a homeschooler? What is this talk of vast jaws, of sending off?
Ah, you are an astute reader.
Yes, I am indeed homeschooling my boys again this year. But they are also going to a one-day a week homeschool enrichment program, called Hope School. On Mondays Tre and Max are off to join hordes of other kidlets in activities of enrichment. This means art, science, music, PE, and something called Brain Gym. All good stuff. Very…enriching.
Oh, but it requires the sending off. Them, going away, into the arms of strangers (I know I had them going off into vast jaws before, bear with me. It’s been a rough day). I was making their lunches this morning, and as I was folding the aluminum foil around their PB&J’s (strawberry jam for Tre, pomegranate jelly for Max), it struck me that I wouldn’t be there to unwrap these sandwiches, to encourage them to eat their crusts. What if they couldn’t get them open? What if they went hungry? (As an aside here, I realize now that if they were so helpless they couldn’t figure out how to unwrap the foil around their sandwiches that lunch would be the least of their worries. I SAID to bear with me. At the time I was suffering from the effects of morning.)
My mom was sitting at the table, eating her breakfast. She saw me blinking back tears and said something very wise. “If it’s any help – and it was to me – sort of – this isn’t going to be nearly as hard for them. Their faces are turned away, and this is what they’re supposed to do. It’s a good thing.”
Well, she was right. It is a good thing, this day away. They bounded off into the jaws of education/arms of strangers, with hardly a backwards glance. I had arranged to have a friend watch Raphi for the morning. Her oldest son also attends Hope. We watched our babies file away with the other kids, and I turned to her, blinking back tears yet again. Her response was less tender, but no less true. “Oh for heaven’s…” she rolled her eyes, “it’s ONE DAY.”
So she took my Raphi and I was off. A whole morning on my own. I went home for a while, and as I stood at my front door, I turned to look at the neighborhood. All the front doors were closed. No one called across the street to a friend. No bicycles whizzed by. I literally heard crickets. It was eerie, like the Pied Piper had just been through.
I spent the morning doing things I never get to do. I spent a good hour reading in Starbucks. I strolled the aisles of Wal-Mart, free to wander past toys and candy without a fight. The whole time I felt like I had gone out without a shirt on, not having my kids with me.
But Mom was right. It was good.
¶ 8/25/2003 09:49:00 PM
Saturday, August 23, 2003
Oh, and just to add to the pandemonium that "blog it forward" has become, here are my questions, should you bloggers choose to play.
1. What's the best thing to happen to you this week?
2. What's the worst?
3. What do you worry about?
I’m doing it again, I’m gonna lean on the inestimable Lani and use her “blog it forward” questions. But first, let me apologize to the aforementioned inestimable Lani. I used her BIF questions from last week and neglected to link to her. Bad, bad blogger. I hang my head in shame. You should read her blog. She’s great. Go back in the archives and check out “Note to Self: A Morning Pictorial.” Good stuff.
So anyhow, off to the current batch of BIF questions.
1. Talk about flaws.
Ok, I read that and in my head I heard, “they’ve talked about paws and they’ve talked about flaws. They’ve talked quite a lot about old Santa Claus.” Anyone else do this? Burst out into Dr. Seuss unexpectedly? Years of reading and rereading have burned his rhymes into my brain and I will never be the same. For I will recite him in a box, I will recite him with a fox…
Sorry. Extra points if you know what book the above Seuss quote comes from.
I don’t know if that answers this particular question, except that channeling Dr. Seuss could, I suppose, be considered a flaw.
2. Best time you ever had behaving inappropriately.
Um…not sure I want to share any of these with all of you. My brother is sitting here, suggesting at least one highly inappropriate example. Ahem. Not telling the world about that, Josh. Not happy even YOU know about that. Shut up.
I will tell you about the other day, when Mom and Dad’s phone rang. I answered it, because they were both out. Some telemarketer-type person asked for Mr. (insert Dad’s full name), please. I said he was out, could I take a message.
“Is this the missus?” he asked in that chirpy phone voice. I didn’t want to say it was his daughter, because then people always think I’m roughly twelve and start calling me “honey.” Hate that. So I said, “Close enough.” There was a silence. “Ooookaaay. This is Joel from Promise Keepers. Maybe I’ll call back.”
I’m thinking Joel from Promise Keepers might not call back.
So that wasn’t the best time I’ve had, but it was pretty inappropriate, and I did get a giggle out of it.
3. Are you pursuing your passion? Why/why not?
Yes. I’m writing. I always wanted to, but life kept getting in the way. Then my life got…shuffled, shall we say. A lot of dearly held plans for my future – gone. And I guess I’ve finally realized that no-one’s going to make time nor space for my dreams. Gotta go get them. You just never know what’s happening next, so forge ahead.
In closing, let me share with you a bit of wisdom from my brother, the One True Josh. I came up the stairs from doing laundry in the basement this afternoon to find him sitting at the table. He was staring off in the distance, clearly absorbed in some important thought. “What ‘cha thinking?” I asked, not content to have annoyed him my entire childhood. He gestured at a box of nasal spray on the counter.
“I’m thinking that Metamucil had been named by the people who named Flonase, it would have been called ‘SquirPoo.’”
Well. There you go. Direct from the mind of Josh.
All right, I’m back, with many apologies for missing a day. Thursday, no less. I’m a loser. It was not my fault, though. We had some friends over last night for dinner (hi, Amy! Love to Liz), and there simply wasn’t an evening hour to be had for blogging.
Today was pretty full too. I took all three boys in for their yearly exams at the pediatrician’s. Three boys in a little bitty exam room – that’s grueling work. I’m always a touch anxious at the pediatrician’s. The boys’ doctor is great, I like him a lot, but he has so many opinions about how I should be parenting. It’s not even him; it’s the whole practice. Every time I go, someone’s giving me handouts on what to feed the kids, how to discipline them, how to deal with sleep problems, and stuff like that. I guess the theory is that they're experts on children, so their opinion matters. The thing is, they’re not experts on my children. But I always worry when I’m there that the great doctor’s office is going to decide that I’m not doing it “right.” Not sure what the consequences there would be, but it makes me anxious nonetheless.
I asked Mom if she felt like that when Josh and I were kids, and she shook her head with scorn. “Doctors didn’t offer opinions on things like that. They wouldn’t have dared. It wasn’t any of their business.”
Ok, so I seem to have gotten slightly off track there for a bit. Anyhow.
The boys are all perfect, if slightly short and big headed. They’re all in the 5 – 15th percentile for height, and the 80-90th percentile for head circumference. It’s a wonder they can stand up like that. Gives you a mental image of a gnome like creature, doesn’t it? Take my word for it, they look fairly normal. It’s only when the doctor wields his evil tape measure and charts that they seem so disproportionate. If I ever get around to switching blog hosts, I’ll post a picture and prove it.
Now, that brings up a good question for everyone. Should I post pictures of the boys on my blog? I get a disturbing amount of traffic from google searches for little boy p*rn. Wouldn’t want those people seeing my little sweethearts. What do you think?
Whoo, back to the subject. (Thanks for playing)
Max got two shots, and he was such a trouper. Didn’t cry at all. He was so stoic about it that the nurse even felt guilty giving him his shots. Tre and Raphi gathered around to watch the procedure, and they were very sympathetic. Lots of tender pats and hugs and encouraging words. It was very sweet.
So they were all pronounced perfect one more time (really, their doctor always ends a well child exam by saying sincerely, “ok, he’s just perfect. See you next year.”). And now I must get myself to bed. After all, I see here on Max’s informational sheet that I should be talking to him during mealtimes. Huh. Guess I’ll have to get some sleep so I can pull that one off over corn flakes.
My Max is five today. I spent all day remembering this day five years ago. I know, I obviously have issues. Bear with me.
That morning I was awakened by Tre, bounding into bed with all his three year old joy, requesting my presence in the day. I told him I would get up soon, and he waited for me on the floor at the foot of my bed (he also pulled apart a set of 35 candles, separating wicks from wax and shuffling the different scents between the labeling boxes. Didn’t discover that until later.). I lingered in bed for a few minutes, just listening to the morning and thinking, “I’m gonna have this baby today. My life is changing – today.” Don’t know how I knew, but I knew. After a while I woke up my husband (at the time) and told him I was having the baby that day. He blinked, asked if I was in labor, and when I said I wasn’t he declared that he must go buy a flash for his camera. So as to be ready for the birth, you understand. Then I called my mom and told her I was going to be having the baby that day. She laughed at me, perhaps because I had been announcing for weeks, “I could have this baby at any moment.” Hey, it was August. I was hot.
But it turned out I was right. Around 11 I started having these wimpy little contractions, so wimpy I didn’t even recognize them as contractions. By 12 I was pretty sure it was labor, even though the contractions were still pretty light and really irregular. I announced suddenly that it was time to go to the hospital. I must have sounded convincing, because everyone swung into action. On the way there the contractions went from 8 to 12 minutes apart to one minute apart and REALLY INTENSE. I got in the hospital room at 12:30, and I was in hard labor. You should know that a fast labor isn’t necessarily easier, just faster. I remember being in transition and panicking. I started hyperventilating and spots were dancing before my eyes. “My fingers are tingling,” I told a nurse. She sternly told me to calm down and breathe slower. This only panicked me further. Then I remember my husband getting right in my face and saying in the calmest voice, “Look at me. Look at me. You can do this. You are the strongest woman I know. Breathe with me.” And he breathed in and out and I breathed with him. He was my hero. At 1p.m., after a full two hours of labor, Max was born. I couldn’t believe he was really there, it had all happened so fast. Took me hours to catch my breath.
Max was cold at birth, so cold that the nurses wrapped him in blankets and then what looked like a black trash bag, and kept him under the heat lamps. They wouldn’t let me have him for the longest time. I kept looking at him, itching to hold him and warm him. Finally they handed him over, and I unwrapped him and put him on my chest, skin to skin, and put the blankets over both of us. Soon the nurse came in to take his temperature, and she was amazed at how much he’d warmed up.
He wouldn’t breastfeed for longer than five minutes, and this displeased the nurses. They kept coming in and quizzing me on how long he’d nursed. They started leaving little bottles of formula threateningly by my bed. I took to lying to them. “Oh yes. He nursed 15 minutes on the left, and ten on the right.” Which satisfied them, and was true, except he never did that all at once. Max was from birth, and is to this day, a languorous eater.
Remembering that day, there are truths in it I learned about Max. He will surprise me. His schedule is not, never has been, never will be, my schedule. Don’t push him; he’ll eat what he wants, when he needs it. And hold him tight; don’t let him get too cold.
Still catching my breath.
Ok, I just wanted to tell you quickly about the trip out to the airport to pick up Josh. On the drive out there Raphi discovered the concept of volume. As in loud. We were driving peacefully along, listening to The Five Little Peppers And How They Grew on tape, and Raphael noticed that Max was turned away, looking out his window.
“MATS? IS YOOO SWEEEEEEPING?” he shrieked (translation: Max, is you sleeping?). Max, who had been startled out of at least a few years of his life, was glaring wordlessly at him.
“MAAAATS? ISSSS YOOOO-” I cut him off.
“No, honey, Max isn’t sleeping. Can you use a quiet voice in the car please?” He nodded in assent, and we went back to peaceful listening mode. Eventually (after about a week – do you know how far away DIA is from actual Denver?) the airport came into view.
“AH SEEEE DA AIRPORT! WEEEE GET JOSH?”
“Yes, Raphael,” I replied, wiping the blood from my ears, “we’re going to get Josh.”
I’ll spare you the rest of the drive out there, but suffice to say it was painful.
Then we got there, just a touch early. Like, say, 15 minutes. Which is good, because the airport is such a fine place to wait with three squirrelly boys. What with all the strangers running around and all. Sigh.
We were standing in a waiting area, waiting, and Max took to alternating between asking contemplative questions and hitting his older brother. That scene went something like this:
Max: (gazing at the cavernous ceiling) Mama? How do you know we’re not on TV?
Me: (lugging Raphael back from yet another escape attempt) Well, I’ve never seen us in the TV guide, so we must not be.
Tre: OW! (rubbing his arm where Max just hit him)
There was a helpful airport employee who came over to us and asked what time the flight we were waiting for came in. I told her 12:50. It was by then 1:05, or something like that.
“Oh,” she nodded at us knowingly, “you DO know that you have to add a good 20 minutes onto the landing time, to let them de-plane and make their way out here? Right? It takes about 20 minutes.” I smiled, hoping it wasn’t coming across as a grimace,
“Yes, so they should be here in five minutes or so, right?” She consulted her watch,
“Right. Five to…15 minutes. Somewhere in there.” Then, her work done, she sailed on to annoy…er…help some other person. Tre had been closely following our conversation, and at her parting shot he descended into despair.
“FIFTEEN MINUTES? But we’ve been here an HOUR already!” You should know that this hour was in Tre time, which can vary greatly from reality. We’d been there maybe ten minutes.
“He will be here when he gets here. It really shouldn’t be long now. Max, sit down. You’re still in time out. Oh, hi Josh. Raphi, you – JOSH!”
Hugs all around, and now all is well.
Blogging may be spotty over the next week. (Spotty blogging? Ewwww) Anyhow, my big brother Josh is coming to visit. We’re all agog. Mom and Dad, of course, are thrilled. Having both their children under the same roof…bliss. My guys are very excited. Tre remembers Josh pretty well, but I think a good deal of his excitement stems from the fact that we often remark that he’s so much like Josh was as a child. Max thinks Josh is very cool, and is his favorite person to talk to on the phone. Raphael suspects he may bring presents. Raphael is very into presents, having just been to a birthday party Saturday.
And I am pretty happy about it myself. Josh is very cool. Often we suffer from a big brother/little sister dynamic, where I do my level best to annoy him, while he acts long suffering and…annoyed. But we're also great friends. I adore him. We’ll have some fabulous arguments, I’m sure. I’ll keep you somewhat updated.
But for now, I have a headache that’s causing me to type things like theype instead of type. I’m going to bed.
Oh, I remember what I wanted to blog about yesterday. We finished swim lessons! Since Monday I’ve been warning the boys, “This is the last week of swim lessons. After today there will only be three more days…two more days…one more day.”
Well, the last day finally came. Can I tell you how ready I was to have it over? No more damp towels in my van. No more mad sunscreen slopping sessions. No more frantic searches for a clean swimsuit. Oh, I was so ready to be done.
So there we were. The last lap had been swum, the last hauling out of an unwilling Raphi from the baby pool. We’d waved goodbye to our poolside friends for another year, and headed out to the parking lot. Free at last.
I strapped the kids into their seats and started up the van. And as I began to pull out of the parking lot, a wave of sadness washed over me. Shake it off, I thought. This was a grueling schedule I was happy to have behind me. Time to settle into the soberness of the school year. Who needs all those UV rays, anyhow? No, I told myself firmly, you will not get nostalgic about another year of swim lessons behind you.
Ah, but I’m hopeless. Even though I know I’ll be all excited about the new school year next week, tonight I’m just a little sad about the end of another swim season. In the time it took me to get from the pool to the van I did an emotional 180, forgetting how tired of the swim routine I was. It’s pitiful, I know.
I have this problem about milestones of all sorts. Remember Raphi and the horses? Well, he used to say “horsies.” I don’t know why, but he likes the diminutive form of a lot of words. I, on the other hand, appreciate precision in language. So every time he said “horsies,” I would primly reply, “Oh, do you see the HORSES?” Then one day we were driving past and he said, clear as a bell, “Horses!” And I, who had been pushing the correct terminology on him for weeks, got all teary at my baby growing up.
So here’s the question; in another 16 years or so, when all the boys are out of the house, do you think I’ll forget how much I wanted a few minutes to myself? Am I going to be weeping by the window, failing to take the opportunity to read a book, write a book, eat an entire bowl of ice cream without assistance, or take a nap? Yeesh. If that happens, remind me, ok? Someone promise to give me a swift kick if I need it.
Onward and upward, and no looking back!
I’m going to use the topics Lani so generously provided, because it’s late. I’ve been on the phone with my brother for the last…um…hour and a half. Josh is brilliant, but his mind just runs on a different set of rails from the rest of us. Whenever I talk to him it’s like this surreal little vacation, where I go away from the life I know and enter his world. Whew. He also makes me laugh a lot. I’m tired.
So I’m leaning on Lani here.
Talk about how your favorite TV show jumped the shark. Well, I used to love ER. Then there was that show where the guy killed Lucy and almost killed Carter. Gripping drama, that. I remember the scene where Carter’s sinking to the floor, having just been stabbed, and he sees Lucy lying on the other side of the bed in a pool of blood. It was intense. It got to me. But after that it was like they just had to keep HITTING YOU OVER THE HEAD with more and more emotion, trying to live up to that episode. Or eclipse it, I guess. It’s like the writers were all sitting around, brainstorming ways to brutalize their viewers.
“Hey, let’s kill Greene off with a brain tumor! Right after his baby’s born!”
“Oooh, I know, let’s have someone’s arm cut off…BY A HELECOPTER!”
I can’t take that show anymore. I’ve got enough trauma in my life.
Gap Kids: Get my charge card or Are you kidding me? Well, I love Gap Kids. They have the best boy’s clothes. It’s easy to find cute girl stuff, but not boys. If you want t-shirts without Bob the Builder (and I do, oooooh, I do), you have to shell out for a place like Gap Kids.
But I just can’t. It’s silly, but I just can’t stand it. I can’t pay $36 for a pair of 2T shorts. Even if I have the $36, I just can’t do it. Luckily for Raphi, my friend Amy can. And her son is 3 and she gives me his cast-offs. BIG kiss out to Amy.
Also, Old Navy has stuff that’s just adorable, but less expensive.
Your biggest guilty pleasure. Oh, gosh. Bad TV. In particular (blush) Blind Date. It’s a really awful show, where they send two people with low standards out on a blind date. The date is filmed and little comments and graphics are added in to mock the participants and exploit any hint of sexual content. Then the host, Roger Lodge (motto: “That is so not my name”), makes fun of the couple some more, and they move on to the next date. Awful. Just so bad.
I also love the TLC show A Makeover Story. That one is a much better show, but a more guilty pleasure, because my sons are awake while I watch it. So I’m not only rotting my brain with the hair/clothes/makeup talk, I’m also rotting theirs. Sorry, guys.
Kids program/movie you will go to any lengths to keep out of your home. Beauty and the Beast. I mean, really. He’s a BEAST, mean and violent, and manipulative to boot, but her love turns him into a man. A good man. A handsome man. A prince. Hey, ladies, if he’s a beast, keep looking. A beast that is well loved is just an irritated beast. Your love will not fix him. Ick.
A writer who makes me want to write. Barbara Kingsolver.
The authors of my many favorite blogs (you know who you are, except Lileks, who knows who he is but not who I am…you know what I mean…jeez, it’s late.)
Um…there are more, but did I mention it’s late?
Yeesh, it’s late. I should be in bed, but instead I’m here, blogging for you, my loyal readers. Also, apparently for a disturbing number of people who are doing searches on Google for things like peeing+kids+outside+photos. Hey! Perverts! Move on, there’s nothing but wholesomeness here. Humph.
Anyhow, I would have finished this hours ago, but we took the boys out to see the meteor shower. This required driving out, away from the city lights, and lying in the back of Dad’s truck. There were a few stealth puddles back there. We had quite the assortment of blankets, but Max kept getting bored and burrowing under them, effectively snatching them off us. Raphi’s method of stargazing was to check for the moon every few minutes. Then, satisfied that it was there, he would flop down on someone, or try to climb over the side of the truck. Tre was admirably patient, lying still, watching the sky and quietly complaining that he STILL hadn’t seen a shooting star.
But thankfully, he finally did. He was snuggled up next to me and at the same moment we both gasped, “look!” and pointed at the spot in the sky where it had been. Max objected bitterly that HE hadn’t seen a shooting star and it wasn’t FAIR and why did TRE get to when HE didn’t….
I’m not sure how Max thinks he would have seen that one, since his head was entirely under a blanket at the time. This does not reduce the injustice of it for him.
But Tre did get to see one, and Raphi got to see the moon, and before the night was over Max got to see me pour water on his Amma’s head, so all was not lost.
¶ 8/13/2003 11:20:00 PM
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Ok, continuing the theme from yesterday of things we say but don’t mean, does anyone really believe that childhood is the best time of life? Because if you do, you’re not doing life right. Or possibly your childhood was bizarrely good. But for the rest of us, childhood was not all that golden.
Am I right here? I look at my boys, and they seem to suffer a whole lot of trauma. Raphael, for instance, requested some peanut butter this morning. Have I mentioned that peanut butter off a spoon is Raphael’s major food group? Anyhow, I was busy cleaning the toilet, and naturally didn’t want to a) stop to wash my hands thoroughly enough to feel comfortable handling food or b) scoop out peanut butter and give it to my innocent babe with my hands the way they were. So I asked Max to do it. Max, capable wee soul that he is, was happy to, and scooped out a generous dollop of peanut butter. Unfortunately, before he handed said dollop to the anxiously waiting Raphi, Max took a small lick. Well, have I mentioned to you that Raphi is two? He FELL APART. Flung himself to the floor and wailed with such intensity that I came running from the bathroom to find out who was cutting off his toes. But of course all of his bodily parts were intact, it was his heart that was broken. Over a half a gram of peanut butter that his brother had sampled. Now, you can laugh at that (I did, a little), but he was truly upset. Real tears and everything. What a bummer to be that emotionally fragile. I know living with it from this side of the peanut butter makes me tired. Imaging actually living it.
Also, think of how much of their lives are decided for them. I choose their food, their clothes, and their activities, for the most part. Now, at this weary point in my life I might enjoy a few days of all the important decisions in my life being made by others. But by the third day I would be in total revolt. Tell ME what to do/wear/eat/say? I think NOT. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I spent most of my childhood in revolt. Um…sorry, Mom and Dad. Good times, huh?
Then there’s all the complex social/linguistic rules to learn. Sometimes Max will say something goofy at the dinner table, and we laugh. Can’t help it. He’s so cute and earnest, but it just comes out wrong sometimes. Like…oh, I can’t think of an example right now…well, today I realized that instead of saying, “Have you ever noticed,” he says, “Have you ever know this.” Makes sense, but it isn’t what the rest of us are saying. So sometimes he’ll say something like that and everyone chuckles at how cute he is, and he’ll shriek, “DON’T LAUGH AT ME!” His face gets all red and he scowls at us while tears are threatening. Bless his heart; I remember feeling just like that. I HATED when people laughed at me. Hated getting it wrong. And you do that a lot when you’re a kid.
Sometimes I overhear someone tell a child, usually a teen, “Enjoy these years. They’re the best of your life.” The kid will be looking back at them in obvious dismay. Really? This is it? And I always try to take them aside and whisper the truth to them. This is not the best. Life only gets better. Harder, but better. And anyone who claims high school or, God help us, middle school, is the best time of life is just plain wrong, and possibly crazy.
But then again, maybe I’m wrong. Whaddya think? Was childhood that great? Better than now? Tell me your take on it (the comments section is ideal for this). I stand willing to change my viewpoint entirely, but you’d better be convincing.
¶ 8/12/2003 09:39:00 PM
Monday, August 11, 2003
There is a commercial on PBS (side note: Commercials on PBS? What is up with that?), that shows a mom chasing after a blonde little toddler. The mother is musing about how she wants to teach her daughter everything, but then it occurs to her that the baby is the one who is learning so many new things every day, and will probably end up teaching her.
Now, this is a concept that has run rampant through our society, and it is time we put a stop to it. Get over it people. Children are not mystically wise beings, sent to enlighten us. Children are wee little people who are figuring it out. We may learn things in the process of parenting them, but that’s not their doing. Traumatic events should always serve to enlighten one.
No, our kids are not founts of wisdom. They may be founts of something, but it’s usually gross. And they may directly teach us things, but their value is questionable. For example, just today Tre told me that Sawmis is a girl. I did not know that, but I do now. It’s there, taking up valuable brain space that could be better used to…well, better used for anything else. I mean, who the heck is Sawmis, if that’s even how you spell her name?
This morning as I was making breakfast, Max climbed up on the counter to watch. As he sat there he said contemplatively, “You know, jillion is not a real number. You’d think it is, but it’s not.”
Well. There you go.
Raphael taught me just today that if you carefully slip a pad of Post-Its into the disc drive of a computer while your mother is busy, it is impossible to take the entire pad out without leaving at least one piece of paper behind. Come to think of it, that actually is a fairly useful bit of information. I now know not to leave Post-Its by the computer until Raphael leaves for college.
My point here is that kids are just kids. They’re dorking their way through childhood just like we did. While they may come through with the occasional nugget of wisdom (“I kind of like the way people be different”), let’s not expect too much. It’s ok to admit that they’re odd little people with lots to learn. Doesn’t mean we don’t love them and think they’re amazing. Admit it. Most of the things they say make you roll your eyes. You can still be a good parent who respects her kids as human beings. Go ahead. Keep listening, keep enjoying them, but roll your eyes when necessary.
I think that old refrain about how much our kids actually teach us is one of those things people repeat without thinking about it. What they mean is some vague statement about how wonderful their kids are, without sounding arrogant. So if your child is smarter than you, it’s not bragging.
I say, go ahead and sound arrogant. My boys are amazing, and fabulous, and brilliant. But they’re eight, nearly five, and two. I listen to the many things they have to say every day, and respond encouragingly. But if they’re teaching me anything, it’s patience. Sheesh. I also learned, thanks to them, how to get coffee out of the carpet. But then, that’s another story.
I had successfully maneuvered two children into their beds. The house was mostly quiet, and I was going to take advantage of the time and write! Except one problem. He is two, and a night owl. And he assigned himself my assistant. I tried to remove him from my lap, to entice him away with his millions of toys. But whenever I attempted to lift him down he squirmed and clung to me with arms and legs that suddenly turned to velcro.
"NOOOOO," he cried, "Ah sit wap!" He had no brothers to compete with, and he would enjoy this time with me.So we sat at the computer, in the dark. His head fit right under my chin. Tucked away there he pointed excitedly at the screen.
"You do dat? 'N dat? Wow! How do dat?"
I was pleased that he responded so positively to my work, and I told him so.
Oh, but he knew of even more interesting things than that, and he reached out and punched a button on the monitor. A menu box was suddenly super-imposed over my words. He pointed at it and nodded happily, very impressed.
"Ah do dat!"
“Well, I’m not discouraging your exploration here, son, but…” and I hit the menu exit key. Oh, he was pleased! What a delightful game I had thought of, and we began a rapid-fire volley of button pushing.
It was very hard to type this way, but harder still when he moved to turning the monitor off altogether. Eventually I covered that button with my hand. Typing with one hand is difficult, but possible.
He moved to exploring the other buttons within his reach. Soon he found the CD-Rom. Now that was fun, in and out, in and out. Such bliss. Until he got his fingers caught in the closing tray. He squealed, and I tugged them free. He examined them soberly, and then held them up for my inspection. I kissed their pink roundness and he declared sincerely,
“Owwww.” I agreed with him and turned back to the computer. I was simultaneously protecting the monitor power button and the CD-Rom. This was where I make my tactical error. He did not reach for the monitor. Nor the evil CD-Rom. One quick little finger flashed to the left and my screen went blue. Windows is shutting down… “NOOOOOOO,” I wailed. He looked at me in surprise. Probably wondered if I caught my fingers in the CD-Rom.
I sighed the sigh of the defeated, and carried him off to his crib.
Some kinds of help...
¶ 8/10/2003 10:29:00 PM
Thursday, August 07, 2003
We had the most wonderful dinner tonight. Although we didn’t eat out, and I’m the one who cooks, I still feel confident in telling you, dinner was just right tonight. It wasn’t an involved affair, no soufflés’ or anything, but it was just what I meant it to be.
All we had was hard-boiled eggs, corn on the cob, watermelon, and raspberries. Now, as a list that sound perhaps a bit odd. But picture it: It’s a beautiful summer day, with late afternoon thunderclouds just moving in. Mom and Dad are arriving home from work, tired and hot and hungry. The boys are rolling in from their efforts in the back yard or at friend’s houses. We all congregate at the table where there are tawny brown-shelled eggs in an antique cream-colored dish. Next to everyone’s plate there is a tiny dish of deep red raspberries. There is a bowl in the center of the table, full of steaming gold and white corn. Another bowl holds dripping triangles of watermelon, the reddest and sweetest we’ve had this summer. It’s a messy meal. Watermelon drips down chins. Eggshells litter the floor. Next to Tre’s plate there is a puddle of butter, from when he rolled his corn on the plate of butter a little too long. It wasn’t fancy, but it was a taste of summer.
I just love meals like tonight’s; meals that aren’t just food, but that fit the mood. Steaming soup on a snowy day. Iced tea on a porch swing. Fresh hot cookies…well, anytime really.
Summer’s a prime time for foods that fit the mood. It’s important in summer to take advantage of these foods, because most of them are so seasonal. I mean, you can eat ice cream any time of the year (and you should), but it tastes best when it’s hot outside. But more importantly, go get the many fruits that are only available RIGHT NOW. And again, I must warn you, do NOT try to tell me you can get peaches in January. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Even if that limpid winter produce could compare to what you can get right now, do you want to be biting into juicy red cherries in November? I mean, maybe you do, but can it possibly be as right as sitting with the sun on your back, watching the kids play in the sandbox, and spitting cherry pits into the grass that you really should get around to mowing, if you weren’t so comfortable and happy with your bowl of cherries? NO!
So get thyself to a farmer’s market, or a neighbor’s garden, or for heaven’s sake, Albertson’s produce section. Buy the fruit (or vegetable, if you’re that kind of person) that most appeals to you. Enjoy it. Summer’s waning, people. Don’t let it get away without getting some sort of juice on your chin.
Oh, two quick updates and a note! First of all, it turns out that the whole cat-mutilation thing is most probably the work of foxes, not satanic human beings. So yes, Josh, you were right. It was not helpful to label that as evil. It was just a great big circle of life thing. I'm here to say, I was wrong, Josh was right. Make a note, people. This doesn't happen often.
Secondly, Shelley, I missed you very much. Having you gone and the Bleat down in the same week nearly drove me to distraction. Or possibly nearly drove me to doing actual productive things. Don't worry, I managed to avoid that. There's always the daily newspaper.
Finally, I may be switching blog hosts. My cousin Mike sent me an email recommending another weblogging service. Given all the blood, sweat, and tears it took me to get the last post up (I was trying from 10pm last night and didn't get it actually posted until 2 this afternoon. Grrrr.), I may actually switch. Stay tuned. By the way, Mike, what do you mean by "less HTML savvy individuals" like myself? Hmm? I'll have you know I'm very...HTML savvy, whatever that means.
Shoot. That wasn't too convincing, was it?
¶ 8/07/2003 02:33:00 PM
Wednesday, August 06, 2003
Dear Readers, I must confess. I love my blog. I love that you all come and read my ramblings on a semi-regular basis. And I luuuuv it when you comment. Sigh.
It's terribly self-focused, this blog fixation of mine. Fortunately for me I have a tool to help me maintain a realistic view of the importance of this blog of mine. It's my site meter.
I installed it sometime last month, so I could count how many of you read my blog. It's very interesting data. For instance I know that not nearly as many of you check in on the weekends as on, say, Thursday. Thursday is a very big day for my blog. I guess what else does Thursday have going for it, now that must-see-TV has gone downhill?
But one of my favorite features of the site meter is the referral list. It tells what links people clicked through to get to my blog. And mostly its "unknown." Whatever. But sometimes it lists someone else's blog, a friend who has kindly linked to me. And sometimes it lists the Google search that led some hapless soul to me. Usually it shows that someone Googled "kiwords". But sometimes it's...well, odd.
Someone found my blog by plugging in the words "swallows" and "intersections." Ok, I can see where that would lead you to this entry. But why would someone do a search on that, exactly? Well, that's not as odd as the search that found me with the words "Costco" + "sample"+ "girls." Oooookaaaay. What were we going for here, people?
But still, that doesn't give one pause nearly as much as the person who was looking for sites pertaining to "extreme" + "face" + "farting" + "forum." Um. Wh...why? And would the run-of-the-mill face farting forums been disappointing? Surely not as disappointing as what they found in my wee blog.
But the feature of my site meter that keeps my blogging efforts in perspective best is this one: "Average Visit Length." Which for today is (wait, let me check) 2 minutes 21 seconds.
Well, there you have it. How important could I be in less than two and a half minutes? Or, to put it another, more comforting way, how boneheaded could I be in that short of a period of time?
Yup, in that span of time I'm safely in the realm of just a little harmless diversion. And now, I must let you all get back to your lives, whatever they may include, because I see my time is about up.
Today the boys and I stayed home. All day. They watched too much TV, played too much Gameboy, and wore their jammies all day. They’re sick. Well, Max and Tre are. Raphael is just…two, bless his heart. He’s possibly potty training, so he’s been bare-bottomed and near a potty all day. Many little dribbly trips to the potty. But he’s getting there. We’ve had a couple…damp episodes, but I’d say he’s averaging about 80%. Not bad.
But my big boys…well, they needed today. We had a run in with their dad yesterday. It was horrible. It was traumatic. And maybe I’m imagining this, but I think they needed to be sick today. I think they needed to be this helpless. To curl up on my lap and be held and feel safe.
I know I needed it. If this were a normal sick day I would be climbing the walls by now. Since 11 pm yesterday, when both feverish boys climbed in bed with me, I have been flanked by two clingy little bundles of need, while Raphi prances about, sprinkling. I have been fetching water, smoothing back sweaty hair, coaxing down medicine, cleaning up the odd puddle, and holding them, holding them, holding them while they radiate heat. Usually after a day like that I’m desperate to be left alone.
Oh, but today I’m just so grateful. Now they’re outside, playing in the back yard in their jammies. I’m going to go sit on the porch swing and listen to their imaginings, and thank God that I’m the one who gets to be here. And tonight if they appear at my bedside, sweaty and confused, I’ll be grateful. Some days I feel like their need could just drown me. Today it’s a gift.
As much as I’d like to, I can’t keep them safe from pain. I can’t remove the element their dad brings into their lives. But I can love them, and so I do.
Yesterday I looked at their dad, and realized again how terribly lost good people can get. So today I wrap my home around me like a mantle, and cherish my place here.
¶ 8/05/2003 10:40:00 PM
Sunday, August 03, 2003
I just finished In Her Shoes, and I know I promised a review. Well, at least my opinion. Hmm. I didn’t like it as much as her first. But it got better toward the end. Even squeezed a wee tear out of me on the last page. But then, I’m a sucker.
Moving on…Tre and Max decided with a handful of neighborhood kids to set up a lemon aid stand this afternoon. Many children came charging into my house. Everyone was talking at once, enthusiasm for the idea spilling just everywhere. Lucky for this crew, I LOVE the idea of a lemon aid stand on a hot summer afternoon. When I was a kid my brother and I had the lemon aid stand to beat all. He was in middle school, so he came home a little before my elementary school let out. So he’d come home and set things up, right across the street from the school. When the bell rang and the front doors started hemorrhaging kids, he’d be there with gallons of icy lemon aid. I’d come and help him, and then it was my job to clean up after the frenzy had passed. We raked in the dough. It was a fine example of free enterprise.
One hot summer day my best friend, Barbie, and I decided to set up a lemon aid stand. Except school was out, and we knew from experience that without the market of freshly freed kids, we wouldn’t be able to move much lemon aid. Plus, all the hassle of making it…and getting all the stuff outside…
We were in my back yard, kicking around ideas, when it hit me. What we wanted was money, right? So how do we get money without actually bothering with all that selling stuff? No, we weren’t going to steal, for goodness’ sakes. Sheesh.
What we did do is position Barbie by the street in an old wheelchair, with a blanket over her legs. I waved a sign that read “Give to MS” while Barbie tried to look in need. I wanted to be the one in the wheelchair, but kept leaping up out of it, so it was decided that Barbie was a better choice as victim. She always was calmer. We weren’t sure what MS was, exactly, but we were pretty sure it was some problem that required wheelchairs and money.
Well, our scheme didn’t last long. My mom overheard me yelling our slogan at passing cars (“Give to MS!”) and came out to investigate. Barbie was sent home and I was sent to my room. Seemed like a lot of trouble to be in for something that didn’t even net us any cash.
Of course, I see the error of my ways now! Ahem. That’s why I was so tickled with the kids enthusiastic, and might I add, entirely NON-fraudulent money making scheme this afternoon. I made them some lemon aid, provided them with paper cups and sign materials, and sent them on their merry way.
After about twenty minutes, Max came in to inform me that I should come buy some lemon aid. He was hopping around on grubby bare feet, informing me of their many plans for their profits. Well now, how am I supposed to resist that kind of sales job? I gathered up some money and scooted off to get two cups of very reasonably priced beverage.
Now, as they were filling the cups (one for me, one for Mom), it occurred to me that I was purchasing back my own cups. And lemon aid. That I had made. Of course, I was happy to do it, but it made me chuckle to myself a bit. But then, as I was heading back to the house the same thought occurred to Zachary. He’s the oldest of the bunch, and sharp. As I was crossing the street he called out,
“Hey, you just bought your own stuff!” I smiled at him over my shoulder, and agreed that yes, that seemed to be the case. “It was yours, and now you had to pay to get it back!” Mmm-hmmm, I allowed. “You paid for it twice, once at the store, and again just now!” By this time he was really yelling, because I was at the front door. I waved a cup of my own lemon aid (twice over) gaily at him and went inside.
Little thieves, every one of them.
¶ 8/03/2003 09:57:00 PM
Friday, August 01, 2003
Ok, so first of all. Um…yesterday’s snarly rant? Well, that may have been more about PMS and less righteous indignation than I thought. Heh, heh. Sorry. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Kira.
So this morning I was out in the back yard. Raphael was wandering around out there, naked. See, that’s phase one of potty training for me. Naked kid pees in the grass, notices he’s peeing, starts to consider having some sort of control over the issue. Well, that’s the theory anyhow. To be honest, although I’ve potty-trained two boys already, I couldn’t tell you how it’s done. A total mystery to me.
Anyhow, Raphael was toddling about, all drool-spangled belly and white butt, and announces that he’s going to go pee. Actually, he positioned himself in front of a potted plant and announced his plans. “Ah go pee,” is what he said. “No, honey, go pee in the grass,” I suggested helpfully. A better mom would have run for the potty. But I was in the middle of something, the grass was right there, and sadly, I’m not a better mom. But he DID. He walked right over to the lawn, and watered it. He looked at me proudly, and we both stood and admired his sparkly skill for a moment. “Ah pee,” he said, and I concurred happily, “Yes, look at that, you are peeing.”
As the last dribble passed away he leaned over, so as to glimpse his equipment there below the curve of his stomach. Then, to my surprise, he smacked it with his open hand. Not hard, but I didn’t think guys liked to be hit…there. “Pop!” he shouted. And then he wandered off to the sandbox.
I watched him walk away in the morning light, and again the thought came to me as it has so often in my sons’ lives, What planet are you from?
¶ 8/01/2003 11:33:00 PM