Monday, January 25, 2016

Day Four of Snowzilla.

Today the storm has lost a little of its luster; every other morning the kids have been bundled and out the door before 7AM.  Today at 8:30 they were still burrowed in the basement wearing pajamas and playing games.  

Our moods have lost some of their pep as well.

After fried eggs and toast and many wild blizzard days, I wanted nothing more this morning than to be alone for hours and write.  Ben had gone to work (despite my argument that the city is shut down and therefore all people should claim a snow day).  Our street is un-plowed, so we still can't drive, which I've loved.  But somehow Ben's leaving this morning (even on foot) broke the sense of solidarity and the mythology of being "snowed in." 

So, with mild chaos ensuing around me, I curled up on the couch in the house's single spot of sun and scribbled for five blissful minutes in my journal, at which point Maeve began to hover at my elbow.  Weepy and whining: I want you all to myself.  I want you all to myself.  I want you. I want you all to myself.  

A snowzilla began brewing in me. 

I want you to play with me right now.  I want you all to myself.  I want you to come.  
Silas and Eden are right here to play with you.
NO, I want you all to myself.  I want you to come with me.  I want you.

The internal winds picked up.

A small mantra: When about to blow, get outside.

Swiftly, I rustled every little reluctant person into snow clothes and boots and ushered us all out the door to snow-hike our way to Starbucks, where, incidentally Ben was working (hi, Ben!).  

Within twenty feet from our front door, in the middle of the snowy street, Maeve threw herself down for the first time: My legs are brooo-ken!

She trudged 5 more steps and collapsed again.  And again.  We stopped.  We started.  We stopped.  We started.  She screamed.  She cried.  A bundled woman gave us a polite smile and hurried by.  I chewed threats about never leaving the house again and about throwing the bag of sketchbooks and markers we were toting into the bushes.  

She rallied - ish.  

Halfway up the hill her protest peaked, and she collapsed again for good on those broken legs.  I hefted her on my back and we all trudged -- the inexplicable whining now right in my ear -- and not soon enough, arrived.

After greeting Ben, meltdowns about how to take the mittens off, about what to eat -- NOW, we finally are sitting, drinking cups of ice water and watching a video of Casey Neistat snowboarding through NYC behind a truck (see? one of the many reasons we need Ben).

Maeve is dipping napkins in a tippy cup of water, and I am saying nothing.  The video is done.  The kids have sketched and everyone is glazed over.  Literally, they are glazed over.  Silas and Eden are sitting across the table from me staring off into the distance with identical expressions and windburned cheeks, just staring.  

Eden: Is the Starbucks symbol really a mermaid with two tails?
Why did they do that?
Who knows.

For now the moods have cooled.  Sometime, though, Starbucks is going to close and remove us from these safe-haven tables, and we are going to have to leave here and walk all the way home.  Maybe I can lock us in the bathroom.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snowzilla + Learning

Two feet of snow fell here for the first time in years.  Drifts slope in our window frames like in story books and the floor of our house is covered with snow pants and mittens.

Right now Ben is upstairs tucking in Silas; I can hear their voices but not their words.  Maeve is sound asleep after pawing through snow, dressing to the chin and peeling off the layers, over and over; and Eden is coughing from her bed.  I am eating brownies and can hear the football game playing alone in the basement.  The Pats just lost and the other half of the Super Bowl is being determined as I type.

Right before Snowzilla hit, lice hit.  Again.  I'm trying to think of it as hitting for the first time -- the first time this school year.  In a school of 700 students, it just takes a few kids to keep them circulating (ugh).  So we are combing and poisoning and throwing sheets -- and coats, and hats, and scarves, and sweaters -- in the dryer as we go.  I read an article this week in The Huffington Post that called Lice the other 4 letter word.  It is.  There was a day this week I wanted to burn the house down, scream curse words, and shave everyone's head to the skin.  Ben was traveling and the lice re-emerged, sabotaging my plans for a perfectly planned snowed-in-sleepover with my brother's family.  Lice-fury!

BUT we pushed through, rallied with the neighbors, baked with a lot of chocolate.  Now I'm ok with keeping the house.

But so help me if the lice are still alive on Wednesday, post-poisoning cycle.

One of my New Year's resolutions for this year is to take a few parenting classes.  There's a place here that offers workshops constantly (but unfortunately not one on lice-coping strategies), so the first week of January I registered for nine of them over the next several months!  I went to the first one and gulped it down.

I hadn't realized how starving I was for good words about parenting.  I needed to hear that the morning craze is normal (and somewhat avoidable), that there are options in the reactions that fly from my mouth.  I was relieved to joke about the guilt that I shove at myself day and night for not doing/being/giving "enough" and hear it echoed around the room.  My fears felt lighter, and I could see some options.

I also, over the last four years, forgot about three year olds.  They are the worst!!
And the very best.
Surely the rhyme "there was a little girl with a little curl..." is about a three year old.
I am constantly mesmerized with M's imagination, constant singing, how she draws "creatures" with many legs and big eyes, rainbows, grass, and "minivans" with my big face at a steering wheel.
And I am exhausted by the shrill "NO!"'s, the refusal to walk because she's "a baby," and her diet of only cereal. It turns out --shocking, I know -- other people have these three year olds, too.

For the first time in ages, I'm reading parenting books, one about the mysteries of the seven year old's harbored inner world, the need to draw them out intentionally and tread softly.  I'm letting my nine year old take morning jogs and lean into his competence and independence more.  I'm trying to expect the three year old to throw herself down when I won't give her a steak knife to cut an apple herself.

Though they are loud sometimes, and complain a lot, these kids are good teachers, the best, really.

This morning, after saying Can you put your phone down, Mama?  Can you put it down now?  Can you come dwaw with me wight now? Maeve looked at my face and said, it's love day, Mama!  Then she slung her arm around my neck, bent my head close to the paper where she was drawing heart balloons, and made it true.

The snow's done the same thing, in a way.  It's stopped us in our tracks, made us stand at the window and watch the old-man trees creak and sway in the wind as the snow's whipped and whirled.  It's been too incessant and consuming to ignore.  And beautiful.  This morning I woke and my room was too bright even with the curtains drawn.  Groggily I got up and pulled them back to find a golden sun, just risen, beaming through the tree trunks, streaking shadows and sunlight across the snow, magnifying the brightness.

Sometimes we need to be stopped so we can see.

Monday, January 04, 2016

New Year -- Loving What Is as well.

There are some great words floating out there at the start of this new year.  There are gobs of words about what you can do.  How will you get better in 2016 -- how will you do more, be more efficient, become more beautiful, get stronger, be more organized, maximize your time?  What are your resolves?

Some of the questions inspire.

Many of the questions don't.

Yesterday, for the first time in twelve days (oh! the twelve days of Christmas!) my house emptied and quieted.

We'd already put away the Christmas decorations.  School and routine were waiting for us in the morning.  And the expectant questions of the new year settled around me in the sudden quiet.
How would I tackle this new year?  What changes would I make?  Should I made?  Here was a pause to evaluate, to consider how to do better.

Instead of feeling energized and excited, I felt increasingly paralyzed.  There are so many possibilities and so many areas for improvement.

This morning, at a table piled with journal, calendar, laptop, where I sat clearing my head and heart, I read Glennon's latest blog post on Momastery.  And you know what she said?  She said she doesn't want to be a better mom or a better self this year and chase some imaginary "more fabulous version" of herself.  Instead, she just wants to keep on being herself and have new eyes to SEE.

She has an amazing way of stripping things down to true.

"Self-improvement," she said, "is just another hiding place."  

Of course this is only partly true, because improving self is possible and matters, though I'd prefer to call it growing.  Growth improves us.  And it's different than effort.  It's different than performance.  It's different than trying ceaselessly or doing the dance to please all the people around us.

And of course, it's not just about letting growth happen to us, the way a tree does.  There's work.  Great victories take great work.  And great work takes some discipline.

For years I bucked against that word, discipline.  It sounded like a legalistic dirty word, laden with rules and requirements.

But then, only in the last few years, I began to do things that required discipline: I ran, and found the only way I could hit my mileage was by mapping out runs for the week.  I sat with God and found the only way I could do that was to clear a space to sit down and be quiet.

Disciplines, I was shocked to discover, created freedom, just like I'd heard about. They are a way we "improve."

But, self-improvement, all the wild goal setting and resolves to do and be, can be a way to hide. When we throw up all sorts of posters and pictures of whom we want to be and are going to be, they can cover who we actually are.

Sometimes those ideals sound a lot better.  The menus I plan for the week, can sound (and are) much more glamorous than the fried eggs on toast dinner comes down to some nights.

But I love fried eggs on toast, and they are our dinner.

It would be great to hit the gym at 6AM every morning.  But for me, I am going to be in my bed or sitting on the floor of Maeve's room at 6AM holding her and playing peek-a-boo with her feet like I did this morning, because she just needed a little time.

So as my head spins with possibilities and newly named hopes, I'm going to think about Glennon's words and ask for eyes to see all that already is.  


Friday, January 01, 2016

A Poem for the New Year

Burning the Old Year

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn’t do   
crackle after the blazing dies.