Sunday, May 31, 2015
When you move in with your husband, there will be things about him and the way he lives that you will hate. These things that you hate will scream at you, drowning out all else, while the many layered things you love about him will only whisper. The constant love of a life is quiet, comfortable, unseen. Listen to the whispers when faced with the screams, and make them the loudest things you hear. Squint at the rest: the problems may not go away, but neither do you always have to see them.
Saturday, May 30, 2015
(To Be Continued...)
Thursday, May 28, 2015
It all began on Sunday afternoon,
The middle of a three-day holiday
Away from home and trying to relax
The rash which never dies returned too soon.
Boy Two is scratching, breaking open skin
That bleeds and offers him no sought relief,
So I get on the phone, the urgent line,
Requesting some prescription medicine.
"Try first some hydrocortisone," she states,
"And see if that relieves the burning itch.
Then call me back if his symptoms persist;
A continued reaction we'll sedate."
(To be continued...)
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
I am stumped, flummoxed, and generally uncomprehensive as to how I managed to spend half of my Sunday and over one hundred thirty of my dollars in your never-ending consumer madhouse and yet still have dirty laundry on the floor of my apartment. The mind reels.
It all began with the pre-Ikea beverage stop, during which Boy 1 managed to frival away the majority of his allowance on a Mega-blok Halo mini-figure and I started the day strong with a cold can of Starbucks expresso. If anyone can explain to me why I will drive miles out of the way to spend only a dollar on my diet coke at McDonald's but gladly throw down almost three bucks for iced coffee in a can, I would be glad to hear it. But I digress.
En route, I mange to also drop off an overdue library book which I had checked out weeks ago under the unrealistic impression that I would have an opportunity to read anything other than student papers and my Facebook feed. Consider my late fee as an act of negligent philanthropy.
Finally, at the stroke of 10:15, we arrive in your parking lot an amazing 45 minutes after our ETA. Fabulous. It appears that every single person in Orange County (and their mom) also decided to visit Europe's most difficult to assemble furnature emporium on their Monday off of work. Things just keep looking better and better.
Inside, my eldest child steadfastly refuses to enter Småland, the children's jail/enclosure built especially for him and the children of the three million other upper-middle class women who have decided to attempt to organize their belonging this weekend. "I want to stay with youuuuu, Mommy," he cries. Fabulous. He loves me so much he won't leave me F alone. Awesome.
So, I progress, with the toddler, the big one, and a cart with a giant yellow bag into the abyss that is Ikea, Costa Mesa. We start at the cafeteria, where they refuse to provide Coke products but have an abundance of free butter and thirty-nine cent dinner rolls. The big one agrees to share the food he wants to order before it is purchased, refuses to share while it is warm enough to eat, then offers his picked-over remains up gladly once nothing on his plate is any longer eatable. We are clearly on a roll of our very own at this point. I forget exactly when I offer the little one a butter-filled dinner roll extravaganza only to remember mid-digestion that he is supposed to be off of dairy. The hits just keep on hitting.
(To be continued....)
Monday, May 25, 2015
Why do I refuse to give myself permission to relax? After a whirlwind tour of Walgreens, the library, Ikea, Tokyo Central, the park and Sonic's, one would think I could leave well enough alone. Instead, I put together one of my new Algot laundry hampers and get mad at myself for not realizing I need to buy the casters separately. #Faceslap.
Why do trips to Ikea seem to aways have to come in pairs?
Two loads of clothes washed and dried, two lunches packed and put away, two laundry hampers constructed and filled, two little boys put to bed and sleeping...
Why is it the sky still bright at eight o'clock?
Summer is coming....
Sunday, May 24, 2015
|Example Chalk Drawing|
|Featured Artist Triptych in Progress - The Virgin of Guadalupe|
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Please, add that to the list of things I had no idea about.
The stories I have concocted are numerous, nuanced, and occasionally nefarious, especially when it comes to the thoughts and actions of imaginary beings:
"I'm going to email Santa and tell him you refused to clean up your toys."
"The tooth fairy only leaves money for teeth that don't have any cavities, so you better go floss."
"The Easter Bunny knows we are going to be at Noni and Grandpa's house, so it will take your basket there. Don't even worry about it."
Really? Like I have a GPS sensor with a magical link to a life-size, egg-laying rabbit? Sure. Why not? That reality is just about as likely as the possibly that I have the slightest interest in listening to the Ice Queen reclaim her divine feminine power for the umpteenth time. Powerful women, I get; denial of the uncomfortable conditions produced by extremely frigid weather conditions? I think not.
I manage to avoid the lies that most frequently tempt me due to their ease and convenience, the lies that would only pass muster because of the very young age of my children: Target is closed on Saturday; it's still breakfast at McDonald's (at 12:30) so no, you can't have a Happy Meal; it specifically states in the rules for the play structure that you have to take turns with your brother.
Lies intended to manipulate behavior seem clearly morally out-of-bounds, but lies about what I do or do not actually feel like doing are much harder to avoid. Maybe it is because these lies represent the mythical creature that I want to be, the super-human mother who never tires of clever quips about a snowman's lack of comprehension in relation to the physical changes of dihydrogen monoxide, that makes the untruths more palatable. Perhaps I tell them because I so want them to be true, that I am willing to lie to myself. Maybe my "right intention" is getting in the way of my "right speech," and I am falling all over myself into my very own existential permanent winter.
"What is the best part of the movie?" I ask Boy One.
"When Princess Ana punches Prince Hans into the water."
"Why is that the best part?"
"Because it is so funny! Can we watch that part right now? On your phone? On the tv? Please?"
"Sure, baby. I'd love to."
And after all that, this time I really mean it.
Friday, May 22, 2015
I have a friend, a newly married young man in his early twenties, who's a Friday. When asked how much he loves the day, he replied, "I actually love Fridays so much that many times I prefer Thursday to Sunday." Great. He looks forward to the weekend like I look forward to arriving early at a doctor's appointment: when else do I get to sit quietly and enjoy someone else paying for my wi-fi? But I digress.
When I get home on Friday afternoons, I am faced with at least a week's worth of laundry and dishes and two little boys who want to jump on all the furnature. Today, for example, I had the pleasure of washing six loads of laundry and digging under a giant pile of half-empty plastic children's cups in search of a fork that didn't require attention from a biohazard team. That was after I got to clean up the pound of salt Boy 2 dumped on the floor, but before the nightmare which was brushing Boy 1's teeth. I imagine my friend mentioned above went home and played several hours of Xbox. Sometimes I desperately miss my twenties.
Now, Mondays are like a tiny slice of Unitarian heaven. After a full weekend of washing, cooking, cleaning, rinsing, organizing and changing things, I gleefully leave my *adorable* children in the care of qualified professionals who have voluntarily chosen to spend their working lives tending very small people, while I get to morph into a Professional Woman of Experience and Specialized Skill. As a ProWESS, I get to comand armies of medium-sized people as they work as playwrights, researchers, authors, team-managers and historians; I get to consult and advise grown adults as they develop their craft, take responsible risks, and push the boundaries of a traditional education; I get to learn from other ProWESSes in order to grow as a professional in my field. I lead. I inspire. I am in my element.
At home, I am ruled by a duo of tiny humans whose primary purpose in life is to ask for money, eat my food, and eventually choose my nursing home. I pour every fiber of my being into the hope that one day, in the far distant future, these two beings will function successfully in a world that does not yet exisit. I get to worry and struggle and hope until there is nothing left, until I am a shriveled shell of humanity. And for all that, I don't even get paid, unless you count Cheerios smashed in the carpet as payment, which I don't.
So come back quickly, Monday. I shall look forward longingly to your swift return, when I get to put on respectable clothes and eat an entire meal without any tiny, grubby fingers trying to stake their claim on my plate. In the meantime...
"Do you have any plans for the three-day weekend?" another friend asks.
"I am guessing that I will probably have to go to the park," I said.
"That sounds nice," she replied.
I wonder if I can get her to go for me while I drink coffee alone at Starbucks....
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
|Kallax Shelving Unit|
of a questionably stable Ikea Kallax shelving unit.
"Why, baby? What's wrong? How can I help?"
"I want to order Kai. Order this one for me right now!
"How much does it cost?"
"I don't know."
"What does the number on the screen say?"
"How much money do you have?"
Tears streaming from his face, he shoves a pile of crumpled bills in my direction. "You count them," he replies.
Slowly, I flatten the bills with the edge of my hand, one-by-one, until I have four green rectangles lined up flat on the carpet. "Five plus one is six, six plus one is seven; seven plus one is eight. Eight. You have eight dollars."
"Whaaaaaaaaa!" he screams with the power of a hurricane. "Order it for me NOW!"
|Ninjago Lego Set 70500: Kai's Fire Match|
"I don't want to wait. I want it right now, so order it. Order it for me NOW!"
"You have to wait two weeks, Baby. Right now, you don't have enough dollars."
"I hate you," he screams. "I hate you."
Parenting is a long series of compromises and decisions that, hopefully, will eventually lead to happy, functional adult people. The problem, however, is that I need to count as one of those adults, and the plans of small people do not frequently align with those of the older generations. Boy 1 had some money, and he wanted to buy a toy. He had less money than the toy cost. He gets five dollars every Monday (one dollar per year per week), and it would take him two full weeks to save enough money to buy Lego set number 70500: Kai's Fire Mech. Two weeks to a five-year-old is a lifetime.
"I hate you!" he yells, again, "I wish you were not even alive!"
This is the part where it is hard to remember that I am an adult and that logical discussions about how I needed to exist in order to reproduce and bring him alive, kicking and screaming, onto the planet are likely to fall far short of their intended mission.
"I hate you; I hate you; I hate you!" he repeats over and over again until he runs into his bedroom and buries himself in his comforter, sobbing. I follow slowly after him.
"I am sorry you are so upset. Is there anything I can do to help?
"I HATE you!" he replied. "I hate you!"
"Would you like me to stay with you and help you calm down, or would you rather rest alone?"
"I wish you weren't even alive!"
I guess I'll take that as an invitation to leave.
Here is where I get to wax poetic about the meaning of life and the beauty of childish innocence, to write reflectively on my growth as a parent and the strong foundation I am giving my children by holding them responsible for their choices and making them accountable for their actions when what I really want to do is turn on Nextflix and let the monkeys run the zoo. I chose instead to hold my ground, to speak calmly, to give him options, to name his feelings. I get to convince myself and those around me that I am doing the right thing at the right time with the right goals and the right plan. I get to pretend that I can look in from outside of myself and see the positive long-term outcomes of my difficult short-term behaviors.
When my husband came home, I read him what lies above.
"So you had a great evening, right?"
"Sure, Matthew. Sure. Just living the dream."
Brother, No! You are
Not allowed to play with that!
Give me back my head!
No, I will never
Give back your tiny Lego:
Consider it mine.
I dare you to eat
The very piece you just stole.
Mom will love that plan.
You cannot trick me
That easily, my brother.
Small but smart am I.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Boy 2 is different than we are. My husband and I are both oldest siblings, so we rolled with Boy 1 like it was the only way to go about in the world. Three anxious, structured, cautious, reliable, firstborn peas in a pod. Then came Boy #2: an enigma wrapped in a mystery. He smiles just for fun. He tries to jump, falls over, laughs, and does it all over again. He will talk and talk his baby talk, and we all stare at him and try to figure out what he thinks he is saying. We are like three scientists working to discover the characteristics of an alien species. We want to identify, label, and categorize; he wants to put marti-gras beads on the cat.
Unquestionably, Boy 2 was born into a different family than was Boy 1. In 2010, I was still in my twenties, and neither my husband nor I had never really lived without adult financial support. I actually think the first piece of furniture I ever bought that did not come from IKEA was a couch that came into my life while I was pregnant the first time. We were young; we were amateurs. We had no idea.
Boy 1 threw me off the cliff of childhood I had clung to before he came into the world. I quit smoking, began to exercise, and quit my job. I stayed home and poured attention over him like a torrent. He thrived, but then my husband lost his job.
It is more than difficult to find work teaching in October. School districts hire in the spring and summer, so there were slim pickings when we found out his contract would not be renewed. We were devastated.
For the next six months, we lived off of the mercy of my father not charging us very much for rent and my doing any job I could find. I drove kids to school with Boy 1 in the car-seat; I tutored strange hours when my husband was home; I squeezed myself so tightly it seemed I would snap. We were drifting. We were lonely. We were scared. We were broke.
Boy 1 got to live through all of this. He absorbed our stress into his tiny pores. He came to see things as we did; he learned to be careful and cautious. He is us, and we are him. Peas in a pod.
Five years later, my husband has a better job then he had before, and so do I. We are comfortable and confident and just plain older. Boy 2 may not get to spend as much time with me as Boy 1 did, but the time he spends with me is better, because I am better. He was born into a different family that Boy 1 was, a different family that just happens to have the same people in it.
So now, as I ponder the future, I wonder if my baby will grow into a charming, agreeable, popular young man; an artistic, empathetic, and occasionally impatient adult. But what I hope for him, above all else, is that he will feel seen and loved in this world, and that he doesn't (too often) ask his older brother for money.
|My bowls never looked this nice.|
I started by getting rid of things. My apartment was full of things. My grandmother's coffee cups. More than a dozen metal mixing bowls. Clothing and shoes I had owned since high school. Boxes and boxes of baby gear. Enough stuff to fill a three-bedroom house with a den and a living room all smooched into my 1100 square foot apartment. I needed to get rid of some things to make space for myself.
(AKA Noisy Room Space Eater)
Everyday in January I picked another thing to de-own. Three extra wooden spoons here, a set of beat-up tennis shoes there, a skirt that was too short in 2002, and four of my six over-sized black sweatshirts. (I used to have a thing about black sweatshirts.)
Now, the choices are harder, but not impossible. Somewhere along the way, I realized I don't have to wear clothes that I don't like just because I own them. I can pass these items along, pass them to someone who may find joy in them rather then housing them in my closet, abandoned and taking up space. I can trust in the future. I can belive that there will be enough of everything to be safe, clothed, and loved. I am not less valuable as a person if I get rid of a metal bowl that looks like any other bowl just because my grandfather used that particular bowl to make brownies when I was seven. My memories are mine, and I don't need to live in a maze of boxes to remember the people who love and loved me.
Monday, May 18, 2015
The text from Boy One's teacher read, "Hi...hope you are feeling better...just wanted to let you know that [boy one] smacked [another little boy in his class] in the stomach as [he] was leaving the table at pick up for no reason that I could tell and neither [Boy One] nor [the other kid] could tell me why...."
Clearly, I have completely failed as a parent. My son will never learn how to read, and he'll be arrested for assault before he hits third grade. Life has officially ended.
In response, I set forth to remind Boy One that never, under any circumstances, do we use our bodies to express our anger. Everyone gets mad sometimes, but no one gets to punch people in the stomach, even if they really, REALLY, want to.
Ray: Why did you hit him?
B1: Because he said, "Ha, ha. You're the worst person on the planet."
Ray: Why do you think he said that?
B1: I don't know.
Ray: Did you do something mean to him first?
Ray: Are you sure?
B1: Yes, I am sure.
Clearly, this line of questioning was not going very well. Next step? The dreaded "I am sorry letter."
This is the second such letter Boy One has had to write to this particular small person, so this time I had to up the ante. No, I will not take dictation. No, you can't just talk into my phone and have it type for you. You have to write the note ALL BY YOURSELF.
Writing letters is a difficult task for new writers. There are all kinds of funny rules about punctuation, spacing, and formal or informal salutations. For this particular epistle, half measures simply would not do. My reputation as a parent and English teacher are on the line here. Obviously, his letter needs to be perfect. Otherwise, there will clearly be Armageddon. Obviously.
Perfection did not arrive, but a hand-written and illustrated card was produced. Did he learn his lesson? Probably not. Will he hit someone else someday? Probably. Over time, will he realize that all people deserve respect? I really hope so. May it be so.
Thank you so much for the wonderful job you have been doing leading your team for our play. I am pleased with your leadership and proud of your developing skills.
As a leader, sometimes other people are difficult to deal with. Sometimes they can't do the jobs we want them to, and sometimes they can but choose not to.
Thank you, again, for all of your work.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
It seems like with parenting, there is absolutely no winning, or at least, there is no winning absolutely.
In My Distant Youth
Thank you for that, Andrew. I missed you. God, I missed you.