Sunday, January 30, 2011


I never knew that humans are drawn to beauty from the very beginning, until I had children. It makes sense; adults are. I had just never thought of this impulse as living in tiny people fresh on the earth.

Most little girls probably love the beauty of their mothers. I remember sitting on my parents' bed watching my mom free her hair from the turtleneck she'd just pulled on, remember watching her curl her eyelashes and carefully, face close to the mirror, put on lipstick. And, of course, there is nothing like the comfort of a mother's body. As that weird, awesome old song goes that I know none of the words to but these, : "everyone wants a bosom for a pillow."

I have a daughter who loves watching her mother. She stands with her little mouth open, staring as I put on mascara and brush blush on my cheeks. She wants to know the name of every product I use, wants me to paint nail polish on her nails, too, regardless of the color ("I LOVE black!"). She loves dress-up and constantly is "getting may-weed" (something that involves high heels and has nothing to do with a male). More often than not, she chooses her taffeta Christmas dress to wear and adores tights.

Recently she found her bikini top, put it on, and said, with batting eyes, "I'm a baaa-bie" (barbie), then asked if I didn't wear one of these under my shirt, then refused to take it off for the rest of the day. She even wants to wear a bra. I should add here that ever since I was a girl, I have revolted against barbies and we've never had one in or near our house -- the great irony.

Later that same week, waiting for her dance class at the studio, a beautiful 8 year year old girl with blond blond straight hair to her shoulders, a little girl's body (thankfully), and bright spandex shorts much too short walked by. Eden sat on the bench staring at her and without turning her head toward me whispered, "is she a barbie?"

Last night Ben and I had to dress for dinner before we left for church. It was the classic run-around trying to herd children into clothes and shoes while simultaneously dressing for a date, all in a matter of minutes. I was almost ready but turned around to find Eden clomping down the hall in my heels and a t-shirt, "I'm going to my wedding!" After much back and forth, and her stiff-as-a-board screaming, it became clear that her refusal to put her clothes on was rooted in the fact that she could not wear my high heels for the night, and I could. (Fortunately, my plan was to wear boots to church and changed into heels in the car after. This seemed a great relief to her).

As a mother, putting on make-up and straightening my hair in front of my transfixed daughter, I wonder what messages I am sending, if I agree with all of the values I must be communicating. Driving down the streets past huge bus stop ads, walking through the Target, standing in the check-out aisle at the grocery store, strolling through Disneyland, I am more aware than ever of images, so many surfaces plastered with false beauty, false youth, false tans, false body shapes, and perhaps most importantly, false expectations. I am wondering how to affirm this little buttery girl of her own beauty, within and without, especially as she, at age 2 1/2, is already pining to be older. What can I do but try to communicate, as I look at my own face, or stomach or outfit in the mirror, acceptance, and continue to kiss her tiny nose. Oh Lordy, have mercy as we raise our daughters.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


The sky dims as I sit at the table. Children have dragged cushions off of the couch, crib mattresses into the living room, and are bouncing and singing to their hears' content. This is new: a neighbor over without parents, Eden and Silas's friend-dynamic in the mix of a social setting. New.

I read a chapter in Walking in this World (mediocre overall) that said something to the effect of -- before you try to tackle your big creative projects, knock out the nagging tasks on your list -- repaint the drawer, put the laundry away, finally file the bills, run to the post office, hang that curtain -- because completing the small things will help you respect yourself and get ready for the larger ones. That was the part I liked best, the self-respect. We all walk around with huge to-do lists, some of the items important and some not, but the motivation for completing our tasks being to treat ourselves well, that I like.

Today was a day of doing errands that have sat near the front door for days -- returns, post office mailings, thank you notes, the car wash (that didn't sit by the door) etc. And rather than swelling self-respect, I instead see the larger list of to-do's. But we will get there.

We are settled in the house. It looks and feels like we live here, for the most part. There are bare walls places and the kids are sleeping on mattresses, but much is settled-ish. And the space becomes more familiar. It would be easy to stop here, to stop seeing the pull-down shades from the 1970's that are cracking at the bottom and remember we'd like to finish the job.

For days the air has blown in dry and gusty from the desert. The kids have dressed in mud more than once (we now are putting "mud days" on the calendar so they aren't EVERY day -- rough on the single bathroom -- until we build and outdoor shower, and clearly when I say "we" here, I mean Ben. Thanks, Ben).

The white evening sky yellows and pink-ens at its hem; time to make pasta with pesto. I wish it were tomato season. Soon enough, if not too soon.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


There's no better way to start the day than to have someone say, "Wow! your belly looks so BIG today. Why is that, mom?"
Pregnancy would have been a nice answer but isn't mine, so really there was nothing to say except thanks for such keen observations, son, you really know how to make a girl feel pretty...
(we'll have to work on that)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Newness of a Yard

Yesterday, sometime after my parents and Ben left, Silas and Eden tumbled out the front door and began, for the first time really, to play in the yard. The weather has been warm -- our first sunny warm days in months -- and I heard the hose turn on, heard their play bobble between laughing hysterically and yelling at each other. I settled into the couch with my computer and caught up with emails and bills for the first time in weeks. And still they played. From where I sat on the couch, I couldn't see them but could see the street. A woman and her young daughter walked by and smiled a beaming smile at the spot where Silas and Eden were -- yes, I thought, a brother and sister so small playing so well in a yard, delightful! And I saw two boys, probably about 9 years old, bike by and yell hello's to them. Then at one point I glanced up and saw two women across the street pointing to the yard and craning their necks for a better view. What? Was it really an alarming crime to allow one's children to play outside alone? As it registered that they were looking not smiling or waving, I walked outside. First Silas and the side of the house -- not bad:
Then Eden's back:
Then the nearly unrecognizable daughter, mud caked around her eyes and matted along with sticks, in her hair:

Ah, a yard.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

A little rest

Yesterday I left my mom a message about feeling *worn,* and a few hours later found this:

get some rest- there is a way to do that...not easy but there
is a way. Sunday is the day of rest- even God rested...
Deciding to rest had not even occurred to me! (good thing we have moms). And so today that's what we did. Several times I caught myself starting to ask Ben about furniture or organizing and cut myself off. Instead we napped; Silas and I read wrapped in blankets on the grass; we all went for a bike ride. BREATH. Yes.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

After the fact: Relentless Pursuit

Writing about things after the fact always make them prettier than they were: right now I am sitting in my most unpacked corner of the living room, drinking a beer, am freshly showered skin still tingling from the scalding water, watching the sky darken out the window while Ben's making a bath for the kids with music playing in the bathroom (they can't get over it). But that is now.

Last night as I sat practically under the table texting Ben a message (I am unfit to be a mother right now! -- Eden is screaming in time-out in the bathtub. Silas and I have been at each other all afternoon -- Please come home!!) I realized I was more than tired; I was plain worn out. Six days after our move, the house looks calmer, a little bit settled in some corners, but days have been constant chains of errands, and time in the house is a constant shuffling things around. And so, I landed at zero tolerance, especially for Eden, the rascal child I've heard about but haven't parented until now, who, every time I turn around is into a new kind of mischief: lotion in the hair, Sharpee on the toys, stickers on the floor etc. The most frustrating part is that I don't know to speak so she'll hear.

Tonight, after a dawn-garage sale and another day of doing, I hit the same wall while Ben was on a bike ride. Eden had just knocked my computer on the floor, then sneaked off to the bathroom to cover her face in smuggled blue marker and then broken one of my favorite glasses, all without a dash of remorse, just a smug sing-song-y "Saaaaaaa-wy." This series was the last straw of feeling helpless -- Ben walked in and I burst into tears. He and Eden left to have a talk (which sounded from the kitchen only like a temper tantrum) and Silas, who caught me crying, climbed onto my lap and began telling me knock-knock jokes.

With Eden in her room screaming her way through a time-out (a form of discipline we haven't really used before and one I'm not sure I think is useful) and my sitting on the kitchen floor with my back to the cupboards, it crossed my mind that Eden and I rarely have one-on-one time. She seems so independent that it's easy to be busy with her. Nonsense, I know. So when Ben came back, we both realized what she needed most was attention.

I walked into her dim room and took her on my lap. I looked right into her brown eyes that actually met mine, and told her a thing or two, but gently. Then we read, and read, and read. And the book we ended up reading a few times is The Runaway Bunny. As we read it, I realized that's the whole lesson here -- as parents, that's what we must do: pursue and pursue and pursue. When our kids are awful and perched stubbornly on sharp, snowy ground, we climb. And when they are flying recklessly through the air on a trapeze, we push hesitation aside and walk the tightrope. Our job here is to pursue relentlessly.

I haven't wanted to do that these days. At all. I've wanted to put people in the bathtub (the only toy-less, small space in the house). I've wanted to get in the shower where I can't hear anyone. I've wanted to run away, myself. But if we all runaway, we're all lost. SO, I'm going to try to remember that mother bunny who became the wind, the tree, and won her child back.