Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Back downstairs, I hear Ben at the piano picking out songs like he used to, and my thoughts are drenched with so many comings and goings, summers in this house and late nights, the friends who still fill and empty it. A daughter on the rug smiling and flapping her arms calls me back to the room and to the task of packing. In the morning we'll leave this house again, not for college but for home, Ben and I and these two children we call our own.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I can't imagine how Silas will ease back into our life and routine. In fact, i think there will be no easing but more of a thunking. For the last month he's been swept into a frenzy of non-stop celebration -- birthday parties (why so many birthdays in December??) with moon bounces, pinatas, train rides, chuck0-e-cheese's! There have been visits to Santa, first cups of hot chocolate with whipped cream, plane rides, train rides, cousins, aunts & uncles, god-sisters, more cousins, grandparents, gifts and gifts and gifts, train sets, more aunts and uncles, LOTS of sugar, ice cream, cake, candy galore, guns to play with (I have a lot to say about this, and have bit my tongue so far...), movies, on and on. (exhausting, isn't it?) For a while there, each time he climbed into bed he'd ask "what will we do after THIS nap?" And even if I could delay it, I couldn't really temper his excitement because there always was a next thing.
Tomorrow we will be home. The days will be l o n g because of the time change. The sugar will be gone. The cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles (some of them) will be gone (SOB!). The DC friends will be gone and the constant adoring audience. The anticipation will be met with no firework-events, and we will settle back into home.
I've never had to manage the post-holiday time for a child before. And I've never felt the jolting gear-shift quite so jarringly. I already feel the withdrawal of leaving the busy visiting/playing/running/buzzing. And also the relief of leaving it behind us for a while. Parting really is such sweet sorrow.
The sun is out today. The breeze is quiet and chilly, and the sky is flat-blue, no clouds. Cleansing weather. A New Year lies ahead. I am ready to fly across the country, to detach from all locations and move through an overview for a few hours. I am grateful for a new year, that there is day we stop and look around and within, evaluate whom we are choosing to be and how we are shaping our lives.
I am ready now to unwind, to leave packing and gathering for later and to go stroll under the wintered trees.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Chris was born.
Truly he taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
O night, divine!
Monday, December 08, 2008
This is the season when my DO tendencies are off the charts. True for a lot of us. The little Christmas-season voice pipes up incessantly: MAKE Christmas cards! FIND ribbon! START packing! RETURN those t-shirts! RUN to See's chocolates! BUY stamps! WRITE a grocery list, a gift list, a card list! MAIL presents! CALL a babysitter! GET ONLINE and order books, or toys, or etsy gifts!
The problem -- and great fun -- is listening to that voice and GOING! It's chilly. We are wearing sweaters. We stop for coffees. We fill up on cheap gas. We jump start the economy with all of our buying. We cross things off our lists. We, the people, are going!
And the problem -- and great fun -- is that I have two wee children who are interfering in all this going. I find -- as so many people have found before me -- that when I turn the focus of my day away from them and to myself, without fail the day becomes wildly bumpy and my patience instantly paper-thin.
So my true task is to boil down the fluffy-marshmallow-Christmas-excitement and sip what's really important: Silas and Eden (and the Christmas cards and present-buying -- see? this is hard to let go of). But I know The cards will get written and sent. I will finish gathering presents. My giant suitcase will be stuffed. Realistically I can hammer each of these out in a focused hour or two. What I can't do is rewind the month to refocus on Silas and Eden.
The quiet pressing fact is that Silas won't always ask me to play with him on the rug. Eden won't always be a smiling, squealing baby banging toys on the floor. They are actually what is fleeting; the season will come back around next year.
And so, once again I'm reminded to put my people over my programs.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Somehow they began like this: (no, a 7 year old neighbor did not come over and make these, I made them while Silas was napping... and no, I wasn't holding Eden, she was napping too)
There was some excitement about the idea of candy houses.
And each kid got a plate of candy like this:
And at the end of it, Silas's house looked like this, and all of his candy was pretty much gone:
Recipe for ROYAL ICING should you need it:
-3 egg whites
-4-5 cups of powdered sugar (I found closer to 5 was better for this project -- the drippy houses before candy were with only 4 cups)
Be sure to let the house set for a few minutes before you start piling on roofs and candy.
Friday, November 28, 2008
So this year, though Macy's did not cough up the free money $10 passes in the paper (which made shopping more like trading torn newspaper scraps for lovely gifts), Silas and I went Black Friday shopping at 5:40AM. And we loved it. Or I loved it, and he was a great sport. Ben and Eden even met up with us around 7:30, and Ben, who shops for small armies when he hits even the grocery store (who doesn't need a 10 lb box of pancake mix?), began piling all sorts of toys and electronics into his cart that "someone would really like" because they were only $10. ... (Fortunately, he and Silas were outside when I checked out, so I did a little weeding out...)
And I must say, I even did a little shopping fine tuning this morning on grey Saturday, when stores were still open at dawn and no one was in them. I have yet to discover Cyber Monday, but I have a feeling I could get hooked. Any tips?
We just watched WALL-E in two installments. Silas was in heaven!
Monday, November 24, 2008
My grandmother broke her hip about a month ago. My mom's been in Florida visiting her and told me today that Nana will have to stay at the nursing home where she's been recovering indefinitely. The trauma of breaking her hip seems to have rocked her memory even more, and she gets disoriented even in the task of getting dressed. Caring for a parent looks h a r d -- what is enough? is caring for parents or caring for children a priority? what is right vs American way of life? where do loyalties lie? where do you lie sandwiched between caring for the generations on either side of you? I never knew about the "sandwich generation" until now. There are such demands on your care-- you may as well be a fountain...
Both of our mothers are in stages that emphasize solitude. For Cindy, no matter how many people rally around her, no matter how closely someone listens or can relate, no matter how much compassion one shares for her, no one can feel what she feels. No one can understand the incessant pain, the hell of chemo, the burning in her abdomen. For my mom, as much as we (her kids) try to understand and listen, we don't know the feeling of watching one's own mother's record of her life and yours slip away, the responsibility of making decisions of how to care for her, the strains of living far and trying to be present, the weight of caring, the sadness, the anger (?) -- all of the history that's brought both of them to this place.
How to love, how to have compassion, how to journey with people --- these are the lifelong questions we fumble with.
I feel like I am fumbling especially now, balancing the phone with my shoulder, arms up to the elbows in the batter of two little kids.
It finally feels like fall here after weeks of 90 degree wildfire weather. Last night while I was falling asleep it rained. Rain here is usually quiet mist (that causes people to baton down the hatches), but last night it rained -- water beating against the windows, puddles in the morning, and a wide morning sky of clouds. Tonight our mothers are across the country. Maybe when they wake up tomorrow, the sky will be striking and the air sharp and clean.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
An hour or so later, I was standing with a friend who casually asked how I was doing, at which point tears sprang out of my eyes and wouldn't stop. And so she hugged me and while I was gratefully being hugged, I somehow poured my cup of coffee into my bag. Nice one. (Thanks, Hailey)
It is hard to juggle two kids -- who wants to fling tiny people you love through the air in hopes that you'll catch one just as you hurl the other one back up? In 4th grade gym class Mr. Sears taught us juggling with beanbags and tennis balls. After about two throw-pass-catch-throw's I dropped both balls and looked for something else to do.
What I am finding is that I tell Silas to be quiet a lot so Eden won't wake up, to go out while I try to get her to sleep, to wait here while I put her to bed, to please please be quiet and walk on your tiptoes for heaven sakes. What I'm finding is that I feel my patience pulled taught along with the corners of my mouth that are smiling less. What I'm finding is that the feeling of not providing what my children need (a nap, some soothing, to play, eye contact, a calm mother) makes me tense through all my muscles and into my bones, like a jolt of electricity that keeps reverberating. Right now my hair is slightly on end and you'd probably get shocked if you touched my arm. Eden is screaming downstairs, and Silas is refusing to nap.
But Eden did giggle an hour ago. And Silas -- despite our car ride earlier -- did race over, thrilled to show me the hand-print turkey he made in class. And somehow, we will, once again, make it to dinnertime, to bedtime, through mid-night walks to the bathroom and a night feeding, will make it to another morning, a fresh day --but I don't need to think about that yet. All I need to do is to hold Eden on my lap right now (I had to get her) and listen to Silas talking to himself in his room. That's all. That's right now. I think I can do right now. Who knows about a while from now -- we'll have to see about that -- but yes, right now is ok.
Especially when I look down at this:
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Instead I was greeted by a small mountain of sweatshirts and jackets piled on the couch from our walk.
I spent literally hours of the day crouched next to a crib trying to help a 5 month old fall asleep. She never did. Until now, after I snuck in with a laptop playing lullabies, held down her little flailing hands (for a long time!) while trying not to make eye contact, and popped a pacfier in her slippery little mouth too many times to count, she FINALLY fell asleep.
In the middle of the day, --after a wakeful night, after both my kids were rejected from the church nursery at separate times (one for a runny nose, the other because she refused to nap and was hungrily chewing on everyone's hands), after Eden again refused to sleep at home, after Silas woke up an hour early from his nap in a bad mood -- I sat on the couch nursing Eden the Resister while Silas sabotaged the train track we (I) had just built saying "Oh no! Oh NO!" with great passion as he threw each piece, and I felt pretty sure I couldn't possibly make it to dinner. Every ounce of patience and creativity in my body was spent, and I closed my eyes and sank into the couch (2 year olds are lucky that they disappear when they close their eyes-- that would have been ideal).
What do you do when you can't go on and the two other people in the room can't survive in a living room without you? I remembered reading that smiling when you feel awful does something to your brain to make you feel better. So sitting there with my eyes closed, nursing squirmy Eden, listening to Silas insist I rebuild his track that "broke," I smiled. It was such a tiny smile that I'm pretty sure anyone looking at me would have missed it. But it was there. And I remembered that thankfulness creates contentment and counters anxiety. So I started being listing any reason I was thankful for this spot on the couch. Thank you for this fat baby who isn't asleep but is well. Thank you for Silas who for this teeny moment adores me and wants nothing more than for me to tackle him and play trains and pretend I can't find him when he sits behind me. Thank you that I'm home with them, that we have this brief time of together before school years kick in. Thank you...
And you know, the skies didn't part and a shaft of sunlight didn't cut into my living room. But, 20 minutes later I caught myself laughing as I danced for Silas and chased him up the stairs tickling him over and over. Something had shifted, and I made it to dinner.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
It was a lot like going to a bar. A lot like that. Except it was a toddler bar, which means rather than measuring up bodies, careers, or drink choices, it was eying three foot tall yommpers racing around gymnastics mats, talking about where you live, and what pre-schools your kid attends. Ewww.
Bravely, I ventured into the mix. I think I am better at flirting than at female friend shmoozing, which isn't very helpful since I have largely retired flirting.
There were several conversations that just dropped off into nothingness. We both pretended we weren't talking because we were so intently watching our children race around, when really we ran out of anything to say, and with our eyes still locked on our kids, we each casually backed away.
Then there were the people who simply weren't nice. Giving one syllable answers is almost the same as ignoring someone.
And there were the kind, chatty people, who appeared to be potential friends, but after 10 solid minutes of talking, I realized we'd never exchanged names even or an ounce of personal information but had only talked about toddlers, so I don't even know who they were.
Off to the side, there was a small grouping of "dads" with tats and such, but I didn't even venture over there.
Finally, just before the end, I met and got the phone number of a sweet person who actually introduced herself by name rather than child's name and who may meet us at the park one afternoon.
So I guess the trip to Toddler Bar, take 1, was not a total wash. It was a rite of passage, the first of soooooo many weird birthday party/school event/children's friends' parents/kind-of-friend exchanges.
Or if we may throw it in a positive light, yet another beginning.
God is unshakably real, and I know this because I have tried many times to shake Him. Each time I have been -- despite resistance -- drawn back to God's presence, creativity, gentleness, grace. Grace is a word rubbed around the world so much that the meaning is hardly decipherable, but I mean grace: un-reasonable love, a love that knows nothing about measuring what is fair or deserved but that pours and pours out.
Along with this certainty that God is very much alive and real, I also have so many questions. This beautiful world, full of rich relationships, generous people, exhilarating thought, art, beauty, is split wide open in pain -- it is filling with garbage, swarming with starving toddlers, rampant with AIDS, pocketed with wealthy comfort, murdered with hate and superiority, rape genocide, child-trafficking, the deaths of people we adore. Help.
The world -- within us and without us -- is broken.
And yet, God is.
God is God, even and, especially with, all the hurt everywhere. And God is with us. That is what He promises and gives us. That and the reassurance that there is life beyond this life (which sometimes makes us ache with all its sweetness), that all the brokenness of this place, of ourselves, of our relationships will be fully repaired -- the world taken back to Shalom. It's a pretty breath-taking promise.
In yoga class, when we're in mountain pose, the instructor always tells us to move in two directions at once -- to feel our feet root and press into the ground, and to feel our arms, head, and hands move up and out. This is kind of how faith is -- my feet grounding on a solid Presence and my hands reaching up and out into the questions and mystery.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
560 Santa Fe Dr., Encinitas, CA 92024** 760.436.5775
(and if you live in DC, go to Cantina, it's pretty close :)
-Kath and Kim had potential but is s t u p i d
-I walk into at least 4 sharp or hard objects a day
-Silas can now have straight face contests with me, and when he does, he looks like this baby when he stares (and he always wins) funny
-I seem to be moving through at least moments of each day on automatic pilot without real awareness of my body. For example, yesterday, I walked from Target to my car, unlocked the car, put both babies in, changed Eden's diaper, returned my cart and tried to leave but couldnt' find my keys. They were lost somewhere between clicking unlock and getting in the car. I searched. I looked in every nook of the car, in the shopping bags, in the carseats, in the carts, on the ground -- over and over. I schlupped both babies in and out of the store 3 times to see if anyone had turned them in. 45 minutes later, Ben had come, we had moved all the bags, the giant stroller, and the carseats into his car. We were about to drive away and abandon my car indefinitely in the Target parking lot (we only have one key), when Ben checked one more time and found my keys on the car roof... No recollection of putting them there.
-The Office is so good. But I'm not sure why it started with everyone in costume and then abandoned the Halloween episode -?
-Ben built Silas a loft in his room -- it is awesome. Pictures to come.
-Are honeybees still becoming extinct?
-I've become immune to all deoderants -- help, anyone?
-Election day is only DAYS away... !!
That's it for today.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
It's instinctual enough to put crackers in the mouth of a hungry toddler, to nurse, to put little cartoon-eye-rubbing sleepy babies to bed, to gaze at rolls of chub and love the little tiny people who look like us or combinations of some people we love, but how, I ask you, are we supposed to know how to parent? --
to perceive children's root emotional needs, to provide sufficient security, to build a sense of worth and self-esteem into them, to protect their feelings, to instruct and correct their behavior, to make firm boundaries and limits, to teach them, to speak truth to them, to teach them to be learners and observers of the world, to encourage them to follow their own drumbeat while also teaching them the ways of the world, to do what we can to girder them for impending social cruelty, to teach them they are unshakably loved and how to love.
This parenting thing is a tall order...
Today our question is how on earth to handle our 2 1/2 year old throwing mad night tantrums. And I mean MAD night tantrums... They are all about wanting Mommy. Does a 2 1/2 year old always get Mommy when he "needs" her at night and is hysterical because really he is still a baby and this is a phase? Or is it time for us to plow through with tough love and nip a power struggle in the bud? What about his sense of security? What about his being displaced by a baby sister recently? on and on.
And once again there is no manual, just a white flickering screen with a question mark on it, and two pocketfuls of common sense.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
"May I use your restroom?"
"The repair man is IN THE BATHROOM!"
"I am going to get something from my truck."
"The repair man needs another tool from his truck!!"
Tom the repair man comes back into the kitchen, 2 feet away from Silas next to the fridge.
"Where is the repair man?? What he doing??"
"It's not the condenser; I just need to clean out the filter and coils."
"What he do? What he say, Mama?" (standing right next to him still).
It's a little embarrassing.
We are back from 2 1/2 weeks on the east coast, and after mornings awake at 3:30, 4:30 and finally today 6:30, I think we have adjusted back to west coast time. The trip was several trips within a trip. Highlights were almost daily outings with Annemarie, North Carolina mountains turning yellow, Eden's feet in the Gulf of Mexico, 91 year old Nana and Eden at the piano while Nana played, Silas Ella and Finn jumping around the hay loft that I used to jump around as a kid, and the Fall Festival with all the Newcotts -- pumpkin bread and scarecrows and so many girl cousins. I am still thrilled by the concept of cousins, aunts and uncles in my life.
There is a big pile of batting on my kitchen table, a white long sleeved shirt with a hood, some cotton balls, and two pieces of black felt; Silas will be a sheep for Halloween. Anyone have ideas about how to make Eden a strawberry? I can't shake the idea of her being a big berry.
And so life continues back within our own walls...
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
This summer I read The Red Tent for the first time (-!) The book takes place in Old Testament Joseph's day when women and men lived as almost separate tribes. The women wove their families together with story; they were the story keepers. They named the world into meaning by passing down the stories of their lives, their mothers' lives, their ancestors' lives, of God and legends, their bodies and dreams. Women hoped to have a daughter of her own to feed stories to by the spoonful because stories were the oats and olive oil of life.
I tend to get impatient when my mom accidentally tells me the same story twice, to roll my eyes and rush her on to the next thing. In The Red Tent storytelling is repetition -- listening is hearing a story enough to internalize it.
Sitting in Florida I tried to hear the stories, to absorb these sisters in their 90's, to understand where they came from, to crack the great code of how they fit together, how they have loved and wounded and shaped each other. I wondered how I will bring them to life for Eden years from now.
The thing (the frustrating but essential thing) is that we never can really crack the code. We can't know people's pasts, how they ended up right here before us, not fully. We can only know the pieces people give or show us, the scraps we collect and glue stick down -- their stories. So I am trying, now, to receive those bits before they breeze away and I miss them, trying to -- like Rachel said in the book -- hear them until they become my own memories.
Monday, October 06, 2008
St. Petersburg: flat land, stirring with grey and white haired people, hemmed in by sea walls, scented by bay and bayou, and thick with history and family lore.
Both of my parents grew up in St. Pete. My dad was friends with my mom's older brother, John, growing up (and John accompanied them -- years later when they were in their 20's -- on their first date = drinking beer on the beach).
Driving through St. Pete is driving through a map of stories. Every time we visit, we pile in the car to connect the dots of my parents' past lives, the landmarks -- 20th Ave, Coffee Pot Bayou, Boca Ciega bay that used to be as broad as a sea, Admiral Farragut Academy, Sunset Ave -- and as we retrace those steps, I try to map the route in my head, wondering if I could ever drive it alone, wondering if I have internalized the stories enough to tell my own children. And each time, it seems that I can't quite grasp the past.
It is strange that parents were 7, 13, 26 years old, that they existed so fully before we were born. That they had parents dictating and shaping them, that those parents were sprier, more authoritative versions of the "grandparents" we now know. It is strange that they listened to music that never played in our house, loved people we will never know, had roommates whose names they've forgotten and lived in spaces we'll never visit. It is strange that as fully as we know and love our parents, so much of how they arrived at who they are today is untold, unknowable, lived.
Monday, September 22, 2008
But I have so many questions. There is so much I cannot prove and don't need to. There is so much unsettled about living in this world that is filling with garbage that is swarming with starving toddlers, rampant with AIDS, pocketed with wealthy comfort, murdered with hate and superiority.
God says when we seek we will find. It's an invitation. A promise. But He doesn't say we will find instantaneously, or all in one piece. Maybe what that means is that we'll find tiny tidbits -- enough to keep us following the trail.
How we live is impacted by how we view God, view death, view the continuance of life or not. How we view God and whether we are loved with a big immovable love.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
My motivator in this whole ordeal -- chemicals, chlorine and plastics aside -- is to avoid plastic diapers that will sit and sag on the earth for decades to come. I read that each year, one baby's dirty diapers weigh HALF A TON. Come on. So cloth, though not perfect (and not helpful in the water arena) seems a friendly option. I do have some reservations though:
1. These diapers have to be laundered every 2-3 days once in cold water and then in hot. I tend to abandon at least 2 out of 5 loads of our laundry in the washing machine and then find them wet and mildewy a few days later in need of being washed again.
2. The smell of a trashcan full of cloth diapers -- would it be any worse than a trashcan full of regular diaper?
3. Leaving the house usually looks like this for me: I am holding Eden, some stray blanket that is still half wrapped around her, a bag over my shoulder, 4 toy trains Silas has pleaded to bring along, a cup of something caffeinated (actually, I usually forget that on the kitchen table), some letters to mail, and am reaching for Silas's squirmy hand so we can walk through the garage together. Adding 4 pounds of bulky cloth diapering supplies including a bag to zip up heavy wet diapers doesn't sound too appealing... especially for someone who is most happy when carrying nothing.
4. I am all for being organized and planning ahead, but I like the freedom of leaving with no diapers, wipes or change of baby clothes, banking on wipes in the car and a crumpled diaper in the glove box. Cloth diapers would be a whole other ballgame.
All of that said, I know I could rally and embrace this new lifestyle -- I could carry many things and join the world of follow-through laundering, I would just need a few weeks to learn and slip
Ben isn't on board right now (which is fair considering the above reservations) -- but I figure I have a couple of years of diapering ahead of me and have time to work on him. Until he's convinced, I have found two decent options: SeventhGeneration and Nature Babycare. They are both "biodegradable" (which I have learned means nothing when diapers are going into a landfill -- only helpful if we were composting), but at least they are made with fewer chemicals and oil-based plastics, and no chlorine. The Nature Babycare (diapers.com or Target) are corn based and so far so good.
Silas votes for disposable so we can continue wearing diaper hats (if you have never worn one you should try it):
Thursday, September 18, 2008
What you should know is that my whole life, I have defended Halloween. More than that I have adored it -- pumpkin patches, jack-o-lanterns, the smells of winter and dry leaves laced into the evening, glow sticks, the bizarre tradition of giving sweets to complete strangers who arrive on the doorstep dressed as chickens, princesses, mini-witches, gorillas, huge sacs of candy, the surveying of the goods and sorting into types, the examining for hidden razor blades (did everyone do this growing up, or just us?), the abundance of snickers and reeces cups for days to come...
Tonight Halloween and I broke up. And it's a bitter break up. I've spun on my heels, stormed out the door, and don't think I'll be back.
What happened is this: cheery two year old Silas, who had just finished a vanilla milkshake, and I walked into Kmart looking for marbles. As soon as we walked in and turned left toward the gardening center, I saw in front of us -- middle of the aisle -- a life-sized green-faced, yellow-eyed, disgusting rubber man gurgling creepy sounds. Just as I was about to turn to Silas, the man lifted his own severed head off. I looked down hoping to make light of it and saw FEAR plastered on Silas's face as he started crying. A cry I don't know -- feet rooted to the floor, eyes full of something causing terror.
I was so thrown I felt like I was moving through mud. I scooped him up, held his eyes closed, and pushed past as fast as I could. My chest ached and I was seething, only to find we were trapped in the gardening section (it is hard to write this entry without dropping f-bombs in every sentence) because there was NO WAY OUT of the store without passing the sick monster again.
So I ran, and Silas -- Silas who refuses to keep his head down or close his eyes EVER -- buried his head in my neck saying, "I want to go home. I want to go home."
You can imagine the conversation I had with the manager on my way out of the store, as he clung to me with his eyes still closed, head on my chest.
And so Halloween and I are through.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Time is racing with astounding speed. The other day Ben and I were standing at the table; Silas was kneeling on a chair eating next to us; Eden lay across Ben's arm. We looked up and saw ourselves in the mirror and for a second it was stunning: this is us, this family -- we in our 30's standing in our own dining room, with two children who are our children and will be for the rest of our lives. Somehow we moved from high school to this, and the world aged along with us.
As quickly as life is whirling by, the years are passing slowly. All of the life-turning events seem to stretch a year out like taffy, sticking us in each moment for an extra pause. Claire Ewing was born only a year and some days ago, but when I imagine standing in the hospital room watching Annemarie transform into strength, or driving through Georgetown to pick up sandwiches just after, or standing in the park behind my parents' house looking for the perfect tiny acorn to mark her life, those events feel like they were years ago.
It's a strange reality -- life so fast and slow. And this is a stage where there is much to remember -- so much that I sometimes feel achy knowing there is no way to hold on to it all. What sounds Silas made at 5 months, his perfect baby chub, the sweet inflections when he asked me to hold his hand, his caution before he could climb a ladder at the park, how he ran at 1 1/2 -- much of these details are gone, replaced by the immediacy of who he is this second, a bright-haired 2 1/2 year old boy. And Eden, whoever she will become, is already nothing of a newborn, that stage gone.
I wish I were not quite so conscious of how fleeting this all is because in all the full, laughing joy of raising two tiny people, I feel a whisper of sadness that each stage is nearly gone already and that there is no way to preserve it in perfect accuracy, despite the photographs, video, or jotting down thoughts.
But maybe we would break if we held it all.
How deeply aware of time are the poets--
the quickness of its passing,
the fragility of the now,
the terror of its going.
Monday, September 01, 2008
This September marks our deciding for a second time (the first when Ben went to gradschool) to stay in California, a decision speckled with beginnings: a new job for Ben, a pre-school for Silas (on his first day yesterday he walked straight into the classroom over to the cars and ramps on the bright blue rug, sat down and never looked up again -- I had to crawl into his line of vision for a kiss goodbye), the end of Eden's "fourth trimester," the shift from bitty infancy to chubby babyhood. Having two babies is familiar now -- to Silas too -- and navigating our days is no longer bewlidering. A new rhythm is taking shape in our lives and will begin to emerge as the weeks pass.
In this rhythm is a certainty. We stood at the crossroads of DC and California for so many months, waiting on jobs and on God to clear a space. During that time I let life's details float into limbo: I waited til the last minute to RSVP for an east coast wedding, I let the loft grow piles and dust, I didn't buy holiday plane tickets, I gave little thought to where Eden will sleep after the cradle. Yesterday I found I am slowly plucking these things from the air and pulling them back into my daily gravity. It feels good to settle. I cleaned off my desk yesterday and next week will find my spot in the loft once more among paints, journals, and books of poems. A fresh September start.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
to turn, turn, will be our delight
'til turning, turning, we'll come round right.
I have thought about this notion many times over the years and, in light of my stubborn streak, have been challenged to turn toward Ben, to walk back into the room, reach out and touch him mid-fight etc. It's a helpful idea, really.
Now that I am the parent of a 2 1/2 year old, I am thinking about turning again. What really shouldn't be that surprising but of course is, is that during Silas's tantrums, freak outs, peeing-in-pants indecisiveness, utter irrationality, my kneeling down and turning toward him is what reels him in and calms him down.
What makes this fact so hard, is that the moments he needs me to turn toward him are the moments I most want to stomp on him and burst into threats (my least effective to date being when he defiantly kicked the back of the seat in the car AGAIN, and being infuriated and beside myself I yelled "S T OP KICKING THE SEAT or I will have to BLAST YOUR FACE OFF WITH WIND!" at which moment I rolled down all the windows in the car. I mean the thing that come out in moments of desperation... )
This morning was spattered with breakdowns, the final one culminating in Silas's refusing Ben, screaming only for Mommy, being too worked up to make it to the bathroom, then finally locking himself in there sobbing with wet pants. It was one of the moments swallowed my natural impatience and turned. I looked him full in the face and remembered he is a tiny person who has only been on the planet for 2 years; he doesn't know how to calm himself down. He doesn't know a lot of things. And he is counting on Ben and me -- to come to him, to help him, to turn to him. And so in that tiny moment of grace, I held out my hands. And he immediately leaned in.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Scars are bits of our stories.
Wrinkles are too:
These lines are from all the times I've laughed in my life, from all the times I've been outside and squinted, from moments of frowning as I've thought things over, wondered, hurt.
We do a lot in our culture to cover our scars and wrinkles. We rub on vitamin E and all sorts of serums. We cake on makeup. We inject collagen and botox. We reconstruct parts of our bodies -- our faces, our breasts, our stomachs.
Sometimes reconstruction is in response to real loss -- losing a breast from cancer for example. And sometimes it is in response to disappointment -- in how we've looked all our lives or how we've changed over the years. It seems always to be in response to our values of what shoudl be and our perceived sense of wholeness. Our reconstruction mirrors our values.
The other day I tried to imagine what it would look like if there were no reconstruction of any sort. We would know women (or more women) with one breast or no breasts. We would look at people's faces and have a sure sense of how full their living has been. We would allow bodies to soften or widen as hormone levels change. We would wear our stories a lot more. Our ages. Our close calls. Less would be hidden.
Friday, July 25, 2008
This morning all of the sudden I heard panicked screaming from upstairs: DUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! blah blah bah (couldn't understand) POTTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So up I went and sure enough, Ducky had "fallen" into the toilet. Silas stood at the top of the stairs saying "wet, wet" trying to wipe off Ducky with his hands. All it took was for me to look sternly at him and say "oh no" and Silas was keeled over, on his knees holding Ducky in his lap sobbing (at least I've taught him that things shouldn't go in the toilet, but really). SO, I washed the cheap, poorly made Ducky in the sink hoping his orange beak wouldn't bleed into the rest of him.
As I was washing Ducky, Silas left the room. A minute later I heard, "Yook Mama!" and Silas paraded in wearing his blue bulldozer well-peed-on potty seat on his head. Clearly, the teaching about the toilet wasn't that clear.
Next we went to a park where we were meeting some people I don't know very well. At one point, I moved to the other side of a double-sided bench to change Eden's diaper. I had forgotten wipes, but not a crisis with baby's watery, non-smelly poop. Her dirty diaper, however, was huge, but I was managing fine -- I had her almost completely clean and into another diaper when all of the sudden, poop rocketed out of her small behind all over my skirt, the bench, the clean and dirty diaper, and her leg. I kept smiling and talking with the stranger-woman who couldn't see my side of the bench, as I used every clean diaper I had to mop it up. 5 diapers later there was a huge blotch on the front of my (thankfully dark) skirt, and lingering orange poop on Eden, her clean diaper, and the bench. It was clearly time to go. So we did.
Monday, July 21, 2008
10 years later I moved to Costa Mesa, and that first July the glorious world of the county fair opened a mile from my doorstep! As Ben and I watched the carnies (is that word wrong to use?) building the precariously tall and rickety rides, we decided we'd opt for life -- we'd visit the fair but not ride hand-assembled rides that had arrived in parts on a truck .
That first night we walked into the fair, into the smell of corn dogs, grilling corn on the cob, BBQ, and funnel cakes, with primary colored lights flashing all the way to the sky, everything changed. We couldn't refuse the sirens cry and rode everything (and never have I prayed so hard that bolts wouldn't come loose and send us sailing off across the fairgrounds to our death). And we ate everything: Australian fried potatoes, giant turkey legs, corn on the cob, corn dogs, funnel cake -- we even bought a friend snickers bar and friend Twinkies (do not recommend that...).
And here we are again in July, month of the OC FAIR! I made my 2008 fair debut on Saturday night with Annemarie, Silas and Eden. And after muscling our way through the initial crowd (we literally could not push the stroller, the crowd was so thick), it was all I had hoped for. The highlight, besides the paper tray of hot mini-donuts, was watching two-year-old Silas absorb -- he gazed and gazed, shell-shocked and dazzled and nearly speechless.
With Eden strapped to my chest in a fitful sleep, her newborn hair soaking up the smoke from the giant grills, Annemarie was Silas's champion fair-ride-rider. Here are a couple of pictures of her with Silas (doesn't her face say FAIR LOVER!). And of course, a picture of the mini-donuts.
It has been a long while since I've had a perfect summer tomato. Though California bursts at the seams with produce and sells it much cheaper than Washington-- especially avocados and mangoes -- it lacks the summer-sweet tomatoes I've known. But on Saturday, after walking through the farmers' market in Corona del Mar with Eden, Annemarie and Silas running ahead, I came home with a little bag of sweeeeet tomatoes. After 6 years of living here, I finally have the missing taste of summer, and tonight we will eat them with bits of basil, olive oil and balsamic, sprinkled with salt. And maybe tomorrow I'll make a little sandwich and think of home.
Friday, July 18, 2008
(my definition:) techtonik = rave dancing+pop lock + Napoleon Dynamite
Eli, my brother, this IS your dance
Thursday, July 10, 2008
After a couple hours of noodling toward nap time at home (which involved soapy sponges inside the stroller and laundry), Silas and I gave Eden a bath, which of course evolved into Silas's taking a bath -- a more and more common midday activity in our house because it keeps Silas contained, occupied and happy. At one point during the bath, I was feeding Silas a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to make-up for the lost calories of the lunch he'd rejected downstairs. At that moment, Eden starting screaming from her bed in the other room, Silas started yelling because he dropped his sandwich in the water and it was deteriorating, I jumped up, grabbed Eden, and smelled that the second batch of wild rice I was cooking (had burned the first) was, indeed, also burning. As I ran downstairs with screaming Eden, maintaining a call-and-response conversation with soggy sandwich Silas to make sure he was above water, and stood scraping burnt rice out of a pot just in time to hear "Potty!!" I thought -- yes, these are days of being fully alive.
In 10th grade I loved that 10,000 Maniacs song "These are the Days" and knew without a shadow of a doubt, as Annemarie and I belted it out, that the words were perfectly about us right then at 16. The other day, the song popped into my head, and as I sang it, I was sure, without a shadow of a doubt, that the words are perfectly about us right now at 30, despite (and really because of) the fountains of spit up and fullness of our days and hands.
These are days you'll remember.
Never before and never since, I promise,
will the whole world be warm as this.
And as you feel it, you'll know its true
that you are blessed and lucky.
Its true that you are touched by something
that will grow and bloom in you.
These are days you'll remember.
When may is rushing over you with desire
to be part of the miracles you see in every hour.
You'll know its true that you are blessed and lucky.
Its true that you are touched by something
that will grow and bloom in you.
These are days.
These are the days you might fill with laughter
until you break.
These days you might feel a shaft of light
make its way across your face.
And when you do you'll know
how it was meant to be. See the signs and know their meaning.
Its true, you'll know how it was meant to be.
Hear the signs and know they're speaking to you, to you.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Silas looks longingly from our small rumpled bed sheet flung on the sand at the bright tents scattered around and asks to go in. The other day I casually told him for consolation that we could set up our camping tent at home sometime. A promise that we could look for the tent in the big deep closet became an incentive for days that would make him leave any place in a heartbeat.
Finally yesterday I told him we would find it. So after lunch, I crawled into the depths of our huge closet of death, precariously leaning over a bag of golf clubs (ben last golfed 3 years ago), an unused bedside table, folding chairs, a camping stove -- still no tent. Finally I gave up and told him we'd wait until daddy came home. But really, what message is that sending? So I ralied and plunged further into the dark closet using a camping lantern to see into the very back as little Silas peeked over my bent back, and waited with mounting anticipation until -- the tent!!
I pulled out the little green bag of folded tent and poles and up to his room we tromped. As soon as I pulled it out of the bag, I realized that the friendly arm-sized bag was deceivingly small and that a tent outside under age-old trees looks much smaller than it does in a little boy's bedroom. To lay it on the floor, I had to shove over chairs and a small table and it took up more than the entire floor.
Then came the unweildy tentpoles... Their length multiplies beneath an 8 foot tall celing. I alwardly shimmied the poles through the narrow sleeves and cursed quietly as they refused to arc and sprang up in straight lines that nipped the ceiling and again snapped out of their snug little anchors.
But since there is something delicious about being a 2 year old's hero, so I couldn't stop. And finally, I got it up. Here is a picture with Silas inside and an unsure Eden in the chair:
Sunday, July 06, 2008
The spectacular scene was captured as the magnificent creatures made one of their biannual mass migrations to more agreeable waters.
Gliding silently beneath the waves they turned vast areas of blue water to gold off the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Sandra Critelli, an amateur photographer, stumbled across the phenomenon while looking for whale sharks.
"It's hard to say exactly how many there were but in the range of a few thousand.
Measuring up to 7ft (2.1 metres) from wing-tip to wing-tip, Golden rays are also more prosaically known as cow nose rays.
Despite having poisonous stingers they are known to be shy and non-threatening when in large schools.
The population in the Gulf of Mexico migrates, in schools of as many as 10,000, clockwise from western Florida to the Yucatan.
I forgot to post this article from our local newspaper, The Daily Pilot, last week. These are the urgent matters at hand...
Police seek intruder who danced, groped womanNewport Beach police are looking for a man who entered an unlocked Corona del Mar apartment, performed a dance and groped the owner before he left.
At about 10 a.m. Sunday, a man appearing to be in his mid-30s entered an apartment in the 1700 block of Marguerite Avenue. The man told the resident he was on a scavenger hunt and had to dance for her.
When he finished, he placed his hands on her buttocks before running away. Police said he fled after hearing someone else approaching in the house.
Police described the intruder as a heavyset white man, 5-foot-10, unshaven and wearing a blue or white T-shirt, shorts and white tennis shoes.
Anyone with more information about the suspect is asked to call the Newport Beach Police Department at (800) 550-NBPD.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Yesterday the first 45 minutes of my day went like this:
Silas greeted me with a series of “NO! NO! NO! – GO OUT!” and proceeded to throw sippy cups, balls, books and whatever else he could grab across the room, run over to my bag sitting on the chair, gnash his teeth and bite it repeatedly (better the bag than my leg, which was 2 days ago and did NOT happen repeatedly…). Once downstairs he pushed over the metal trashcan with a clatter and ran out of the kitchen despite my demands to “come back here right now!” Once I reigned him in and got him to the table, he scooped up handfuls of scrambled eggs and grits and rubbed them on the table, refusing to eat. Then, so as not to declare peace too quickly, he yelled “I NOT GO POTTY!” and peed in his pants and on the rug. Twice.
That was all before 8:15 AM. The entire day wasn’t like this, but I should add that it escalated to an afternoon tantrum during which he stood on the stairs screaming and banging his head against the wall over and over.
This morning, standing in my milk-soaked bra, trying to corral Silas into his room to get dressed, Eden peed all over me. The low point, though, came later in the morning as I drove south to Mandy’s house, when all my pride flew out the window as I drank iced tea out of a bright pink sippy cup. (A non-spill sippy cup was the only way I could get a beverage down to the garage while holding bags, Eden and Silas’s hand). As I tried to sneak a sip, I heard Silas peering at me from the back seat say, “What you DOING, mama?” A fair question.