Thursday, October 30, 2008

A few New Things

-If you live in Southern California go find El Nopalito Roasted Salsa today!!!
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

Parenting Shmarenting

This morning, post 6:30AM walk to Starbucks, post-breakfast with Ben in the kitchen, post-hour and a half bouncing/rocking/nursing Eden and finally wearing her in a sling to make her sleep, post-calling Ben and asking him to stay out in the world with Silas so as not to wake fitful exhausted Eden, post-shower, post -Tim Keller study about peace, post-talk with Sara about night tantrums, I am sitting here, cross-legged on a dining room chair, wondering how on earth we are supposed to know how to parent.

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

Some Daily Stuff

Silas and I are sitting in a dark house eating crackers and pumpkin butter. Eden is ahhhhhh-ing to the fish circling above her head, cracking her voice, and gnawing on her fist. The curtains are all drawn and the lights turned off in an attempt to seal out the scorching desert weather we are having. In the kitchen, an I-used-to-work-for-Sears-and-now-work-for-myself repair man whom we found on Craigslist is tinkering with the fridge that decide to give out completely last night and turn my mint ice cream to shaving cream and, once again, ruin all my pumped milk. We hope he is a real repair man and not a burglar canvassing the house, preparing to steal our 3 possessions. Silas is sitting literally at his feed watching his every move and echoing whatever the man says:

"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...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Family Stories (The Red Tent)

While I was in Florida, I found myself sitting in the retirement community's dining room, holding my 4 month old daughter, listening to my grandmother and great aunt talk about a summer spent on the Gulf in Biloxi Mississippi during World War II. Unlike most stories they tell, this is one I had never heard before, and it was one in which my grandmother, whose memory is failing, piped up with sharp details.

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

Parents and the Past

Last Wednesday I flew to DC (alone with both babies!), spent the night at my in-laws' house, and then Thursday at dawn flew to St. Petersburg, Florida with my mom and Eden.

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.