I finally got my own dot com. It's not ready yet, but come on over.
I live about a mile from the house I grew up in (the west coast house, that is) and Lex goes to the same middle school I did. Back then it was a junior high, and I still call it that because I'm old and cranky that way.
Every day when I drive my younger kids to their elementary school, I drive past the house of the boy I had my first kiss with (this song was playing I thought it was about Magic Johnson, but I was a total goober in seventh grade). I am pretty sure that one of his wife's young cousiny relatives is on Lex's soccer team, but honestly I haven't thought much about it other than the unusual name and same religious background.
My teenaged son has to run laps around the same track I did. He even has first period PE like I did, and I remember that mostly because I thought I was So Clever in the mornings when I shouted up at the grey sky for God to please turn on the heater because we are freezing down here.
I remember loving my grey Nikes with the pink stripe/swoosh thing, and my layered pink and grey polo shirts and my string of pink beads, like Lex was recently into his Chuck Taylors and black skinny jeans. Now he's moved up to blue denim, sorta-skinny, but not too tight jeans, and Oh My God if he doesn't start pulling them up I may lose my mind, which HELLO is the first clue that I'm the mother of a teenager, thankyouverymuch.
He's a reader, like me, and very into music (most of which I sort of like). He tends to buy stuff off iTunes before checking with me and is always SHOCKED that I'd actually have all the (good) REM (or whatever band) CDs sitting on a shelf in my room when he just paid to download Superman. SG and I both are constantly saying You PAID for that? I HAVE that! Ask first!
It's funny, watching him with headphones on, intently listening to some of the same stuff I did when I was his age. And this is neither here nor there, but I found a video thing for the first REM song that grabbed me and made me feel cool when I heard it on the radio while driving with my dad in Houston one 1980's summer (cool because I *knew* that alternative song, so I must, therefore, be totally rad) and it has the lyrics and you know I love Michael Stipe but he is not a Great Annunciator and so I had to laugh all these years later at seeing what the real words are.
And another favorite REM song (favorite in the way that you *l o v e* music when you are young, because everything is so much, I don't know, just MORE when you are a teenager), was this totally unintelligible masterpiece. I'm putting the words below so that I can change the wrong ones I've been singing for over 20 years.
Does this mean that I'm about to start my midlife crisis?
I see your money on the floor, I felt the pocket change
Though all the feelings that broke through that door
Just didn't seem to be too real
The yard is nothing but a fence, the sun just hurts my eyes
Somewhere it must be time for penitence. Gardening at night is never where
Gardening at night, gardening at night, gardening at night
The neighbors go to bed at ten
Call the prayer line for a change
The charge is changing every month
They said it couldn't be arranged
We ankled up the garbage sound, but they were busy in the rows
We fell up, not to see the sun, gardening at night just didn't grow
I see your money on the floor, I felt the pocket change
Though all the feelings that broke through that door
Just didn't seem to be too real
Gardening at night, gardening at night, gardening at night
Your sister said that you're too young
They should know they've been there twice
The call was 2 and 51
They said it couldn't be arranged
I see your money on the floor, I felt the pocket change
Though all the feelings that broke through that door
Just didn't seem to be too real
We ankled up the garbage sound, but they were busy in the rows
We fell up not to see the sun, gardening at night just didn't grow
Gardening at night, gardening at night, gardening at night
These are so good that I hid a stack from everyone else and we are making another batch after supper tonight. Sophie stopped her pumpkin carving last night (well, she enlisted SG to do all the work anyway, so really she just moved away from the pumpkin) so she could stand with me and make teensy little pumpkins out of some of the dough.
The littlest one is the size of a barbie earring. So.Cute.
Willow made some, too, and also a skeleton.
Lex's soccer team won 8-0 today, Nate had a bye, Willow's team lost by one but she thinks they won and I'm sure not going to correct her, Sophie's team had their first not-win, a tie, and Soph says that they
technically won, because we were better, and we almost scored in the last two seconds.
Well, I said, that's not "technically" winning.
Yes. It. Is. [glower]
Technically and imaginarily are very different things, I thought but did not say because I am getting wiser by the day.
People ask me kind of often how I do it. The job, the kids, the 4 different soccer teams and doctor visits and lunches and suppers and occasional shift in my church nursery and all that stuff.
Usually I just say, Not very well, have you SEEN my house?
Sometimes it's ok. Like, right now my bedroom is not terrible. The bed's made (ok, I just got up and did that really quickly, but it's done), and there's nothing on the floor except a stack of laundry that I need to deal with. So, passable. Sort of a little cute, even.
But when I got up this morning (late, again) at 6:45 to make the lunches I spaced on making last night, there were still dishes in the sink and on the kitchen table. And, here's what my living room looked like:
I made Willow cry when I brushed her hair because I was doing it too fast. Alex started to leave without his lunch and instead of reminding him nicely, I said, What are you doing right now that is making me want to kill you?
He looked at me. Um? I am? Going? To school?
WITHOUT WHAT? I hissed at him.
Ooooooh, my LUNCH!
OKAY. BYE. I love you, Alex. Have a good day.
I think most child advocates would frown on that exchange, even though Lex and I both know I'm not really going to do anything other than snarl at him.
This morning was also the third time this week that I have driven my children to school in my pajamas, Ugg boots, and trenchcoat; hair uncombed, sunglasses on over puffy eyes, coffee cup in hand. Note that I only have two work from home days a week, so the one office day I did that was awesome.
We are late to soccer practice a lot. We don't sell as many boxes of nuts as the other Girl Scouts (we do okay on the cookies, but that's a gimme). We sell ZERO magazine subscriptions for anything. I stockpile frozen gluten and dairy free Trader Joe's pancakes like the end is neigh and that is the food that will save us. Here, lately, breakfast=pancakes hot from the toaster. The dentist has to call six times to remind us to reschedule that appointment to get Sophie's cavity filled. Sometimes the kids sleep in their clothes. Sometimes they stay up until 10 on a school night. SG does a lot of things for me that I should do. Things like putting air in the tires of my van, picking up the living room, shopping at Costco. The kids' very expensive computer is so grungy I am afraid to touch it. Same goes triple for their bathroom. Quadruple for mine.
My oversight of the kids homework goes something like this:
Me: Did you do your homework?
Kid: Yes. Yes I so totally did.
Me: Okay. You may be useless and wreak havoc now.
Teacher, two months into school, to me: Hi. I'm your kid's teacher. So, there's this thing we do, maybe you've heard of it before? Called HOMEWORK? Sound familiar?
Me to kid: Do your homework. Really. I mean it.
Kid: I always do it. I just don't always turn it in.
Me: See that dent in the wall? Right at my forehead level? YOUR FAULT, DUDE.
Oh, alright. I'm overstating a little bit. Just a little, though. The homework really has been a problem, but I am doing a better job of being sure it's not. Taking away rides to the skate park is working. Letters home from the teacher don't hurt any, either. And, in my defense, here are some things we DO do:
My brain will not let me sleep. It makes me yawn all afternoon and all through supper and all over SG when he stops by to visit afterwards, but now, when it's the middle of the night? Now is not the time to shut off! Now is the time to do some work, to look up this gnarly new drug I told my doctor today that I would try if it would just please make me well, and to spend the moments between thoughts trying to figure out if I could maybe go to this retreat thing in Oregon next spring even though the Magic 8 Ball has nothing but grimness for my politely asked questions.
I've got this weird daytime insomnia thing happening, too. Not that I want to sleep but can't -- but stuff like I want to read, but can't. Want to listen to music, but can't. Want to take a fifteen minute walk with my camera and take some pictures, but there's nothing to take a photo of around here.
Dude. Somebody totally hacked my brain. These thoughts make me not recognize myself.
I'm 100% sure that it's the prednisone I am taking that is doing this. I also blame it for the antsy, cannot focus, pervasive itchyness that has been pulling me behind it for the past 17 days. If I stay on steroids long enough, I'll also end up with balsa wood for bones and that's no good for a woman like me who has to be able to kick-ass at a moment's notice. Sometimes with no notice at all, even!
That is why I told my doctor today that I'd try this other drug I've been a little hesitant to embrace. If it works for me, no more prednisone. So that's a big gimongous check in the pro column. And I wasn't going to (at least tonight) worry too much about the con column, because it's late and I'm tired, but then my brain figured out that I was considering sleeping during normal hours and it was all WAKE UP, JEN. IT'S WIKIPEDIA TIME!
So now my columns look like this:Prednisone
less ill fatter
less ill made of mouse antibodies
no more other meds mouse antibodies gets TWO
CONS and unlimited shudders
sobering side effects
Not only did I make lists, but I ran both medicine names through an anagram maker. One of the 400 matches for prednisone? Need Prison. Remicade gave me Acme Ride, which is so very Roadrunner and Coyote.
I'm not at all sure now what to do. I mean, I did know about the mouse thing already, but I didn't know about some of the other potential things this new drug might do to me. I've already emailed my doctor.
Oh, sweet. I'm sleepy! Later.
I have so much ricocheting around inside my head about this that I'm not even sure how to begin to begin.
I'll start then, by saying that I have some experience here. I've had an emergency C-section seven weeks before my baby's due date; an at-home, quiet, midwife-assisted birth; and two hospital births - one pretty okay and one a little more hurty and scary. And a miscarriage, which I chose to deal with surgically rather than on my body's own time.
Honestly? I will tell you that giving birth to Sophie at home with my mom and my friend and my midwife helping me was far and away the most incredible and amazing experience I will ever have. I get why there is a movement to educate women about birth, to encourage them to birth at home, to bring birth a step back from the medical world. I believe most births can safely take place outside a hospital setting. I'm not a huge fan of IVs, monitors, blood pressure cuffs, and laboring flat on your back in a too-bright place that smells like antiseptic and foamy hand soap. I think that it would be really super cool if every woman who wanted to could have the chance to have her baby at home. Rah, rah, rah, homebirths rock, more women should try it, I'm a huge fan.
I will also tell you that I'd intended to deliver Willow at home, too. Instead, a long chain of events that really did nearly kill me and her both ended with her delivery via C-section seven weeks early. She was bundled up and taken away so fast after she was born, and I didn't see her again for such a long time. 24 hours, maybe? 36? I don't remember anymore. After her birth, especially when I knew that she had problems (a hole in her heart, difficulty eating, general tinyness) and I could not go see her, I felt so lost and helpless.
But when I see a childbirth professional, a woman whose life work it is to support and help other women, write: "your birth is the most important event in shaping your life as a mother," I cannot help but have a physical reaction. In this case, I looked at my monitor like it just sprouted a tongue and licked my nose. I squinted my eyes and dropped my jaw open, pulled my head back and said, The hell it is! What are you TALKING ABOUT? Why would you SAY THAT?
Backing up a little. Before I had my emergency C-section, I was talking about home birth with a woman I used to know. And she told me of a friend who'd had an unplanned and, in her opinion, unnecessary, C-section, and how this woman had been in grief counseling for it for over three years.
I didn't say what was on my mind, because it wasn't at all nice. It was something about how I thought that was a huge waste of time, seeing as how she had this perfectly healthy, sweet little child who was here wanting to be held and loved and played with. But, you know, I hadn't had a C-section myself, and I had had that fantastic homebirth. So, maybe, I thought, maybe the bad birth made this woman feel as terrible as my good birth had made me feel powerful. Maybe I was being a little judgy about the grief counseling. Who was I to judge? Who am I now to still sit here and roll my eyes and think that if having a C-section is the worst thing that ever happens to you, you are pretty fucking lucky?
But now I'm wondering if someone else told that woman that she'd really better have a perfectly-lit, serene, midwife-assisted homebirth. OR ELSE. What if she ended up in grief counseling because someone convinced her that birth was the most important event in shaping her life as a mother and she got stuck on what happened that day and couldn't really be with her baby in the way that she should have been able to because she was so upset at how it went and she wanted impossibly to have a do-over?
How sad that would be. Women shouldn't be pressured and scared into choosing a midwife over a medical doctor. That's just as shitty as the OB/GYN who induces you early so she can go on Christmas vacation and you end up with a baby who won't nurse or even wake up much really, and you sit up nights putting cold washcloths on his feet so that he will please, please, just nurse a little bit and gain some weight. (That was with Nate, my second kiddo.) In fact, it's worse, because at least the doctor was honest about her motive: I'm going to be away for Christmas and your kid is due December 26th. Since you had some complications, I'd really like to be the one to do the delivery in case that old but now healed tear in your placenta becomes a problem, so let's induce you around December 15th, okay? Thanks!
Your birth is the most important event in shaping your life as a mother.
I'm amazed that someone who is supposed to be helping women is saying such an asinine thing as that. Birth is just one day (or more if you roll the dice and get that version), and the first day at that, of being a mother. Yes, a lovely birth is rewarding, and if you can get your hands on one, good for you. It really is wonderful and moving and powerful. But also? It's gravy. It's extra. It's lucky. It's not a good idea to get too attached to the idea of it hovering over and influencing your entire mothering career.
And, the clincher in my argument: Giving birth is not a requirement for becoming a mother, so how can it be the most important thing?
What would I like to say to "every young woman in the world" then, about the important things that will shape her life as a mother?
You have to make your own list, and you'll likely be a little bit into your mothering experience before you're even able to recognize what shape it will take. Some things won't become important until they're in the past and fit into the context of everything else. A lot of the important things start off invisible; you wouldn't ever guess they are secretly a big deal until you're looking at them shining and waving to you from the rear-view mirror. Like that day you decided to take the kids out in the rainstorm to the park in their boots and raincoats and let them splash in the giant puddles that dwarfed the ones in your backyard? Your kids might remember that later and do it for their own. Or you might remember it and laugh at the memory when you're needing a stepping stone to get through a rough afternoon.
Maybe it's putting a radio in the kitchen so you can dance and sing while you make supper.
Maybe it's reflecting on the women who raised you, consciously keeping their traditions bright in your own family.
Maybe it's letting the kids decorate the Christmas tree, even if it's lopsided and odd looking. Except not to you, of course. To you it's so beautiful that, bare spots and all, it makes you unreasonably happy.
Maybe it's having the wisdom to know that when your heart keeps telling you something, over and over and over, you should probably get on board with that, even if your brain thinks it's impossible.
Definitely, though, definitely it is all the stuff that comes after that birth that is going to matter the most. That much I know.
Last week, my first baby turned thirteen.
He grew a few inches over the summer, and now likes to walk up to me (especially if he's got shoes on and I'm barefoot) and smile down at me. In a nice way, I should say, not like: I'm finally bigger than you, let's see you make me go to bed when you think I ought to NOW, Lady! Ha ha!
Maybe that part is coming up, but for now he's just straight-up bemused with it all.
He's half as old I was when he was born, and he's been with me now for 1/3 of my life. And it's funny, because Lex has been Lex since he got here, but he's also a different person every few months just because that's how kids often are. One day last month he came home and announced that he'd joined the wrestling team at school, which *literally* made me cock my head and look at him sideways. And while I wouldn't have ever predicted that choice, turns out it's very much him and he really loves it. It's so nice getting to watch you get to know you, kid, I want to tell him.
He's confident, he's honest with me, he does his own thing with no apologies to the friends in his group who aren't interested. Eh, whatever, is his take on it, I don't have to do all the stuff they do. It's cool.
I was taking his photo, that pose above is from his actual birthday, and he was monkeying around and being funny, and I was looking at him through my camera viewfinder thinking to myself, Hold it right there . . . perfect, in the literal sense of getting a good photo, when I realized that I do want him to hold it right there -- mentally, emotionally, spiritually, whateverily -- as he goes through these next few years. It's not that the choices we make as teenagers are bound to define us forever and always, but they certainly have the raw power to always have a felt influence. I want so very badly for him to still be this way in six years; for always.
I just turned thirty nine, and I look at my son and I think about how I'm letting him go, just very exactly like letting go of a bird flying from my hands. There's that little moment where all you can do is lift your hands up high as you let go and hope, probably with your eyes closed, that you've remembered all the stuff you were supposed to tell them about flying. I don't feel like I'm finished raising him, but I bet that secretly I've already done the work that matters the most. All that's left is the reminding him to keep his eye on those stars up there.
And in our same-colored, parallel way I'm here feeling my own potential. You don't have to be young to look forward to your future. Bright is bright is bright.
I am on a ridiculously high dose of prednisone; 60 mg per day. It's not permanent, but when I decrease to 40 mg per day next week, I'm not expecting to suddenly be able to sleep and think coherentlyish and say No to the tablespoon full of peanut butter and chocolate chips. Without going into details you don't want, I'll say that the treatment is both better than and worse than the illness, and that I'll put up with the awfulness of the treatment for a little while in hopes of getting the illness back into a corner where I can kick and stomp it out of my way.
It's Autumn Color week, and instead of taking any new pictures, I lugged my camera around all week and then made do with what I already had. I feel like that person who is mumble singing along to a song they don't really know, maybe a little loudly, and then even more loudly during the chorus. You know; you want to follow along and join in so very badly, but just can't quite make it happen.
It's been nice, though, to look through past photos. I don't generally make time to do that. The present swallows up all my time and then burps, licks its claws, looks at me; hands me a long list of all the things I should have done that day.
Pictures above are:
I think, though, that these are my very most favorite red photos:
Willow in November of 2007
So I saw on Hula Seventy that there is a photo thang started by Poppytalk called Autumn Color Week, and I said to myself, Jen, you should do that. No matter how busy you are. Seriously. (Only I don't really talk/think to myself in the 3rd person like that. Unless me calling myself "dude" is the 3rd person? As in: Dude, I should totally do that!)
But now it's Wednesday and where did the week (and the month and the year) go? I missed Monday=Yellow and Tuesday=Green, and here we are on Wednesday and it's my favorite color, orange.
It's the middle of the night, and I am too sleepy anyway to take any pictures. I did, though, spend ten minutes putting together a group of yellow, green, and orange photos that I've taken. And, maybe I will get it in gear and do it up for Thursday and Friday. Maybe.
That is the very worst pun sin I have ever publicly committed.
So we've moved on (please, please let that be accurate) from head lice to maybe Swine Flu. Maybe equals You must wear a mask when your siblings are in the house. It also equals two bottles of lavender hand sanitizer.
If the bugs that gave Lex that 104 degree fever were, in fact, of the H1N1 type, then they were mostly talk or maybe just lazy. He was sick enough to scare me for 24 hours, then well enough to spend the next day on the couch, chugging Gatorade and watching contraband TV.
I did take him to the doctor. I thought he had an ear infection, but the doc started talking about 'viruses' and then 'influenza' and then, If it's influenza, it's likely H1N1. But, the kids I've seen with it have had mild symptoms. If he gets worse, we can screen him, but otherwise, just watch him at home and don't worry about him unless he seems to be not improving.
Tonight he felt alright enough to get online and email his teachers and let them know he'd be back in class tomorrow, unless his fever returns. He doesn't want to miss any more classes than he already has, because he's in lots of accelerated programs and missing classes makes things even more difficult.
Turns out, at least with this kid in this case, benign neglect from mama toward homework starting in about the fourth grade produces a seventh-grader who takes charge of his work because he knows it's his responsibility. Funny how what I think of as one of my greatest accomplishments as a parent (having an almost 13 year old who takes care of his schoolwork totally independently) sprouted from the hands-off approach. I'm planning to use this method whenever possible, because now that I've gone from an at-home, super-involved, attachment parenting devotee to a Ms. Works-a-lot single-mom who isn't entirely sure what the kids' classroom numbers even are yet this year, the whole 'hands-off' method is shiny and appealing in all sorts of ways.
Not to worry, though. I still tickle and kiss them, feed them healthy meals and milkshakes, tell them funny stories, and make sure they floss. I haven't yet forgotten to pick any of them up from soccer practice, which is pretty good considering they are all four playing this fall on different teams that practice in four different places and play games in four more different places.
Being a mother for me is so different now, so very different, now that the kids are getting older. I always thought I'd be sad when they weren't babies anymore, but I'm surprised by how much fun we have between the squabbles and the eyerolls. It still takes me by surprise to look up into the eyes of my son who looks so much like me. Sometimes I see so clearly his little baby face looking back at me, and it's impossible to imagine that it's been years since I could hold him in the crook of my left arm while I stood in the kitchen getting a glass of water and looking out the window at the sky.
SG and I spent all of last week in Maui. Eight perfect, warm days; seven warm, breezy nights; nine or more dives (for him); something like sixteen snorkely swims (together); lots and lots of sea turtles; almost as many rays; uncountable numbers of fish; one reef shark; two or three eels (the one I saw? definitely a sea serpent); three solo swims as the sun came up over my left shoulder; seven awesome dinners out; two books read; and one batch of (soggy) tequila-lime popcorn eaten on the couch while watching a movie.
Today is the first anniversary of our Not-Date. We met after work on a Wednesday. He bought me a drink, we sat and talked, and then we walked over to the swank kitchen store so I could buy a new saute pan. (Told you it was a Not-Date.) I picked out a nice one, because I wanted to a) be good to myself, and, b) show off. He surprised me by buying it for me.
Since we were in Hawaii, we celebrated our first anniversary just a little bit early, at Mama's Fish House in Paia. (Be warned, their site plays music.) The food was so good. Really, really incredible. I love how on the menu they list who caught the fish and where and on what boat. We sat at a table near the open windows and ordered a bottle of Charles Heidsieck. We clinked our glasses together, they were all sparkly in the dim restaurant, and SG said, To our first awesome year together. I said nothing, because I was crying a little because -- dude, I am so happy. He loves that I'm a dork. Really.
One afternoon we were snorkeling at Ahihi, and I noticed some beach glass twinkling in the lava rocks. The more pieces I picked up, the more I saw. It was everywhere, and I ended up with a big handful. That lovely piece in the photo was in my hand with a bunch of others and I noticed that it was heart-shaped. I'm tempted to write about how beach glass is one of those things that gets more beautiful the more it's tossed by the sea and crashed into rocks, and how, sometimes, people and their hearts are that way, too. That whole strength by fire thing. Smoothing out the sharp edges by sea water and rocks and sand. But that would be too much, even for me.
A few more pieces of glass from Ahihi.
Please read about Project 2,996 here.
Bronx Builders: Status: This company is missing 3 workers who were attending a meeting at Windows on the World. The missing workers are Manuel DaMota, Joshua Poptean and Obdulio Ruiz-Diaz.
Joshua Poptean was originally from Romania and moved to Portland, Oregon, when he was a teenager. Before working as a project manager for Bronx Builders, Joshua served in the National Guard. An article about him in the New York Times said that he came to New York and drove a cab while learning carpentry, that he was the first to jump up and sing the National Anthem at a family 4th of July celebration earlier in the summer, that he worked hard, that he was deeply religious.
How do you help to preserve the memory of a person you've never met? I think, just from reading what I could find on the internet, that Joshua would have liked to have been remembered for his faith, his devotion to his work, his fairness, his sense of humor, and his love and appreciation of both Romania and the US.
A family friend said this about him: What I remember about him is the information he had about our country. He knew all the information that most Americans take for granted. He was from Romania and spoke all the Romance languages. He could be very funny. And made us laugh many times.
The Time article says, too, that on September 11th, 2001, when most of the supervisors of Bronx Builders in other parts of the city were closing operations for the day, one of the men who worked for Joshua, also an immigrant to the US, said that he and his crew in Brooklyn would continue to work. The article doesn't say that they did so in Joshua's honor, but I think that because he had a reputation for expecting the best from himself and other employees, it was just the natural thing for them to do.
and they were here to tell me to watch my language.
But I have a great excuse: head lice.
I spent $100 on lice shampoo.
Over the last 24 hours I have bagged up stuffed animals, barbies, dry-clean-only comforters, ugg boots, dress-up clothes, backpacks, lunchboxes, pillows, and carseats. I spent six hours combing kids' hair, with my mom coming over straight over after work to help for half that time, which means that we put in NINE hours of nitpicking.
Also bagged were the skate/bike helmets which means that Nathan can't skate for two weeks. He is not pleased. At all.
I've made a few OMG I AM SO SO SORRY TO TELL YOU. . . calls. So far, none of their friends have it (which is driving me crazy a little because where did it come from?)
The washing machine has been running nonstop, we've vacuumed the mattresses and the furniture, washed the slipcovers, and, as the kids overheard me say on the phone to SG, vacuumed the f*@^ out of the carpet.
In the early afternoon yesterday, we got the living room all set and then put out a couple of blankets. We took turns putting on the lice treatment, letting it soak in with all its toxic helpfulness* and then we rinsed it out and sat there and combed while watching Marley and Me which is unbelievability sad and left Lex, Sophie, and me sniveling messes. Willow, on the other hand, loved it and has watched it three or four more times on my laptop while sitting in the hallway because none of the rest of us can stand to see it again.
The kids have been helpful, mostly. They're sweet and say they like all the together time. Willow lost one of her top middle teeth, and Soph didn't want to be left out so she pulled a loose tooth, too. The Tooth Fairy showed up sometime around 5 a.m. I hope that she had her hair pulled back; I'd hate for her to be distributing head lice all over the world.
Time to stop complaining and get back to cleaning. I shouldn't gripe anyway, because in about 24 hours I will be sitting on the beach in Hawaii with SG**. That first drink with the little umbrella in it is going to taste really, really damn good.
*Once upon a time, I may have been tempted to go with natural treatments, but no more. When I found out we were afflicted, I went straight for the shit with the warnings all over it. If this doesn't work, I am not opposed to dunking their sweet little heads in kerosene.
**SG came by last night so I could check his head. Thankfully, nothing was on it. He brought me the underwater camera he bought me for the trip, and he helped out and talked with my mom and me for awhile. My mom skipped her yoga class to come help, which I appreciate SO much. After she left, SG looked at Sophie and said, You know what? Today sucked. Wanna go get an ice cream cone?
I'm just going to start adding Minor Injury to the kids' back-to-school lists:
Lex has broken his arm at school three times; 1) in kindergarten by jumping off the top of a chain-link fence and landing on his elbow, 2) in second grade by just standing there on the blacktop at recess and falling over and landing badly (that was surprisingly gruesome), and 3) rebreaking that same arm just days after the cast came off when he fell off the little curb thing around the planter box garden deelio.
Sophie tried to one up him by having a tetherball accident on the second day of school, but she loses because it was only a sprain. What happened? There are a couple of versions that she tells, but the main theme is that the ball was coming at her, she went to smack it, she missed, and the rope wrapped around her arm forty six times and she heard a 'pop.'
The nurse called me a little while after it happened and said that Soph was sure it was broken, but that she (the nurse) thought that it was probably ok and so she'd iced it and sent Soph back to class. I got a call a little while later because Sophie was back in the office right before school let out, but I am heartless and also very stingy with my PTO and so I just had her go to after school care, picked her up after work, took her grocery shopping with me and Willow while SG took the boys to get school supplies, made her eat the dinner that I cooked that took an HOUR longer than Martha said it would which I *totally* should have seen coming because since WHEN do chicken thighs cook in the oven in 20 minutes? SINCE NEVER, MARTHA, and then -- after all that -- then I took her to the emergency room because she had managed to keep looking pathetic and wan all evening even though she could totally move all her arm and hand parts and there was zero swelling and zero bruising and MUCH interest in a cast and having all her friends sign it.
I'm not saying that her arm didn't hurt. I am saying that she was milking it. She may even have been imagining herself in a hospital bed, her arm in a cast and in traction; her adoring family and friends at her bedside with candy and flowers and sharpie pens, patiently awaiting their turn to sign her cast. Or maybe that's the daydream *I* used to have when I was seven or eight and tried to break my own ankle by jumping off my bed with my foot twisted. I've still never broken a bone, but I have spent enough time in the hospital to not ever want that sort of attention again.
Our trip to the ER was quick (one hour, fifteen minutes, door to door) and did you know that if you pay your ER copay right then and there rather than have them send a bill, it is $20 less? That's especially good if you have to go see the pediatrician the next morning and hand over a $20 copay for them to tell you that the hospital's radiologist hasn't been bothered to look at the 11 hour old x-rays yet. The doctor was very kind, but what a totally unnecessary visit that was.
In the ER waiting room, there was this youngish dad with three little girls. The littlest of them sat by me and looked at me and moved every single part of her body except her eyes while she grilled me on my favorite characters from The Lion King. I'd had a long day, and it was past my bedtime and I was getting a little nutty with all the wiggling about in my personal space, and then the dad got chatty. I'm not usually a mean person, but right then I was trying to send him a vibe to get him to stop with the small talk. It didn't work, so we (we=the waiting room full of people) all got to hear about his wife's ovaries, and how they hurt, and she couldn't stand it and that was why they were there. I made a face, because, you know, painful ovaries, ouch; so then HE started telling new people about his wife's painful ovaries and how he didn't know much about that because it's a Woman's Thing, but that SHE (and here he pointed to me) says that is really, really BAD. At this point I just decided to give up on not talking to the other waiters, and so I looked at the man he was talking to and slowly nodded in agreement, It's really very BAD, I whispered.
Then the dad told us all about his own tetherball story: This one time? He was at the school and nobody else was there and there was the tetherball pole, with just the hook hanging down and no ball on the end. So he gets this idea that he needs to roundhouse kick the tetherball hook (here I was thinking, Dude, you are no Chuck Norris) and before he even knew it, the rope had whipped around his leg, leaving him hanging helplessly upside down with NOBODY there to help him.
I looked at him.
Instead of calling bullshit, I asked him how he got down. I am not making this next part up. I promise. He said, I don't know -- I guess I had the will to live.
I was actually more interested in details of the escape, but whatever. Will To Live, it is. You know how before I said that I am not mean? It's most likely true, because right now I feel really bad for talking behind this guy's back. Maybe it DID happen, and maybe it was solely his Will To Live that saved him from hanging upside down until he passed out and birds ate him or something.
Anyway. My point is that tetherball is evil. If it's not almost breaking your arm or stringing you up like a bear trap, it's smacking you in the face. Sophie is fine. She was even able to be the Lunch Lady at school today.
Want a corn dog?
SG: Dude! Look! It's a Chuck Norris Pez dispenser
Me: Naw, I think it's Star Wars (not because I could really tell, but because I read the "Star Wars Pez" sign).
Both of us: Looking at Pez with red hair and beard.
SG: I think it's Ian McGregor.
Me: Yeah. If it was Chuck Norris, you wouldn't eat from it, it would eat YOU.
The more I read (in my grandmother's book) about my great-grandmother, Bea, the more I want to learn about her. For a person so interested in and close to my family, I'm shocked by how little I do know about her. Reading about her has really sparked something in me, goofy as that sounds. I especially love this quote from my grandmother's book:
When I read that for the first time, I said out loud, Oh RIGHT ON!
I mean, how can you not want to know more about a woman who happily agreed to pack up her six month old baby and go on a road trip from Missouri to Colorado with her husband? In 1914. She was just, I don't know; super cool, ahead of her time, unique.
but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults. ~ Molly Ivins.
Last week I packed up a couple of suitcases and took the kids to Texas, where I'm from. They were so excited to see family, to fly, to have a vacation.
Baby Max was there.
And they got to see both their great-grandmothers, my grandmothers, for the first time in six years.
My father's mother turned 90, and her latest book was recently released. Just about the whole family came to celebrate with her. All summer SG brought back shells when he went diving, and the kids collected them on the shore. We put the best ones in a vase for her birthday gift.
Ever since I can remember, my grandmother has collected shells. She liked the gift very much.
I've been really (really) missing my dad in the two years since I saw him last. It was much too short of a visit, but instead of complaining I will start planning for the next trip.
It seemed like the kids had my camera the entire time, which meant I didn't get all the portraits I'd hoped to and I never did photograph that old brick drive-thru doughnut shop sign. But the upside was that we ended up with pictures I love but wouldn't have shot.
And, my mom's mother gave me a bunch of old photographs. Some of them I'd never even seen before.
1. My dad and me on Christmas morning. 2. My little brother and me on the merry-go-round (my kids all used that blanket, too -- I'd better get that over to Max). 3. My mom, my brother and me. 4. My grandmother and her father.
SG is on his way over to help me clean out my garage. That man must be in some serious love, I tell you what.
Music videos for your Saturday by the Be Good Tanyas. xoxo
It's summer vacation for my kids, but they still have to get up early every day, throw on shorts and sunscreen, eat breakfast, comb their hair, brush their teeth, and grab their backpacks and lunches before I scoot them out the door for day camp.
Camp is a gorgeous place in the redwoods, and they hike, tie dye stuff, swim in the pool, and sing camp songs. Sophie was a little mad at me earlier this week because I wouldn't allow her to take one of her new bras to tie dye. She settled on a camisole and the last of the white tshirts and pillowcases in the house. But as fun as camp is, they are burnt and want to just watch TV in their underpants all day while drinking milk and eating cheetos. I was thinking of taking a weekday off work, just so we could all hang out half-dressed and eat processed food and watch The Simpsons, but since I'm using all my PTO for illness and travel, it may have to happen on a Saturday. I don't know, I think if I'm going to hang out with the kids in my bathrobe and eat bologna with fritos and mayo rolled up in a corn tortilla (because I can't eat white bread, but maybe I'd just suffer the consequences to have a bologna and frito sandwich) then it should really happen when we are playing hooky. I don't care what they say, lots of wrongs make one big RIGHT in my world.
The mornings are hard. They want to sleep in, and if the world were a fair and decent place, they'd be able to. The girls sleep with me every night. Most mornings, I get up, do some work, get dressed, and then start with them. I dress them while they are still waking up, and walk them to the table so they can eat. Sometimes they are not awake enough to deal, and will dip their hair into their cereal, or jam a spoonful of Frosted Flakes into their cheek while their mouth is still wide open.
I wake the boys up by walking into their room and telling them what time it is. This happens every ten minutes for about an hour, and then when they get up they are pissed that they have to rush because I didn't wake them up on time. They can get ready fast, and always are just finishing up when it's time to go.
But yesterday, yesterday I walked into the boys' room, stood on the bottom bunk where Nate was sleeping, and reached up and over to touch Lex on the shoulder. Hey, I said, Good morning. I want to talk to you about something. I told him what was on my mind, he listened and I was reassured that I didn't need to worry. Then I stood back on the floor and saw that Nate was up. I gave him a hug and asked him what he wanted for breakfast and said I'd get it after I dried my hair. Then I walked around the corner into my room, and overheard the boys talking. I don't know if they thought I could hear them, or if the conversation was genuine, but Lex said, Wow, that is so much of a nicer way to wake up. Mom came in and actually talked to us instead of yelling to us that it's time to get up. That was nice. I liked that.
Definitely something for me to think about. Because, hey, if the kids like me better, maybe they will pick up more of their crap off the floor. Just sayin.
So then I went to work, and I brought all my stuff to go to yoga after work before I went to SG's house for dinner, since the kids all were having dinner with their dads. But, we've both been a little off lately with too much on our plates and so when he sent me a text asking if I wanted to meet him after work in the very same bar where we had our first not-date, and then go out to dinner, I texted back "Y E S !"
It took way longer than usual to make my way home. Both the freeways I drive on were backed up and I was cranky. The ipod was on shuffle and by the time I got off the freeway (a couple of exits early, so I could take the back roads and get there faster) I was singing along to Elton John (Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me) and really looking forward to seeing SG. Like, really REALLY looking forward to seeing him.
And then this happened:
Was I distracted and rammed into the back of the car in front of me? Amazingly, no. I was in the right hand lane and this guy, well, let me just make a diagram!
So, as you can somewhat maybe make out, Mike couldn't see me and he turned left DIRECTLY in front of me. I was sure that I was going to kill the guy in the passenger seat, and that was freaky and bad and all that. Turns out I slammed into their car - here's the diagram of that whole thing:
By some miracle, I didn't hit the door, but rather the right front fender and tire. The three of us, me and the guys in the other car, did that You OK? YEP, You OK? thing thru our windshields and then I backed up and we navigated into the country club parking lot.
I called SG (but I didn't cry! It was a miracle because I've been crying for a week straight because I went to BlogHer and I am super emo and funky, but not for any bad reasons, just because I love the internet, but it is exhaustingly awesome to meet it in person. I think.) and he came down to get me and made sure that we called the police. I was afraid to look at the front of my car, especially since the guy I nearly killed handed me my lisence plate after he picked it up off the road. Look at that screw, dude:
As SG would say, It's all gnarled up! I finally did look, though, and it's not nearly as bad as I figured. The bumper is trashed, and I'm not 100% sure about all the internal organs on my poor baby van, but it certainly wasn't the crumpled mess I thought I'd see.
I drove to SG's house, he drove me to the bar (the one where we had our first not-date, and we sat at the same table) and he bought me a B I G martini. Then we went out to dinner, and sat at the same table in the window we always get when we go to that restaurant. It was a really nice night, all things considered. Today my neck hurts and my foot is all jacked up because I guess I slammed on the breaks hard enough to rearrange things in there (it's not broken) but I'm of course just happy to be here and to be ok and to not have "killed a guy with my van" on the list of Crappy Things Which Have Happened To Jen That Were Totally Not Her Fault.
I got extra squeezes from SG last night, and tomorrow when I wake up the boys, I will come into their room and talk to them until they wake up. Maybe I will just say, Good Morning, this is your wake up call
We eat a lot of quinoa around here (thanks to SG for telling me how SuperHealthy it is), and Nate likes it especially lately so he had some for breakfast yesterday. He sat there eating while I did dishes and laundry and tried to get all the kids to get ready so we could go. I don't think I was yelling, but maybe? maybe I was. I know I was stressed and rushing and trying to do too much at once.
Hey, Mom, Nate said, C'mere.
I walked over to find he'd made that heart in his bowl.
He smiled up at me, didn't say anything much.
From then on out, we had a much better day. Sometimes, it just takes a little reminder. You know?
This afternoon we packed everyone up and went over the hill to the beach.
And, judging by the amount of people there, four people in Northern California did something else like watch a movie or mow the lawn. But, whatever. We braved the traffic and the full parking lots and the packed beach and we got all ready to get in the water so the boys could boogie board while SG and I took the girls in to test out the wetsuits he picked up for them after their proven ability to rip it up on a boogie board on our last beach trip.
There were a bunch of birds just offshore, and Hey! there's a seal! And another one!
Wait. What's all that silver stuff, up where the sand goes from dry to wet along the shoreline? Huh. It looks like, what? Fish? Ew. Are those fish?
Oh. Yeah. Those ARE fish. Wow. That's, uh, that's a LOT of fish. Are they alive? I mean, the ones that are more than just heads? And look at all those birds! And seals!
Eh. We can still swim. No problem!
Oh. Oh yuck. A fishhead just washed up against my ankle. Did I just? Oh, gross. Yick. I just stepped on a fish head.
SG said he hasn't seen a sardine run in years, but was betting that was what this was. Sure enough, there were thousands of birds flying low over the water. Gulls and pelicans, thousands and thousands of them. And the seals. I saw five or seven of them at once at one point as we stood in the surf, dodging dead fish that were washing up at a ridiculous rate.
We stayed in the water watching for a long while, but the boys didn't swim out. Not only was there a silly amount of dead fish, but there were gimongous seals very close to shore chowing down.
We sat at a picnic table and ate.
Nate skated down to the pier while we cleaned up and SG loaded the van.
We drove to the pier and met Nate, then walked out to see the fisherpeople and the cement boat.
Everyone on the pier was catching a ton of little sardines, and there were lots of kids fishing, so of course my kids walked right up and made friends. There was a group of three or four siblings who had a bucket of little fish that they decided to throw back. I think all my kids (except maybe Lex) took a try at tossing a fish back over into the sea, giggling and screaming FLYING FISH! These are the same children who won't get in the bath if there is a spider up in the corner of the bathroom, you know, minding its own bisness up by the ceiling. But, a floppy little possibly dead, certainly smelly fish? HAND IT OVER, DUDE.
I don't get that.
Our trip was totally fun, for some reason. No one was pissed about not getting to surf or swim or boogie board. How could we be, really, when we got to see a baby seal jump up into the air, and a big seal gulp down a fish above the surface of the water? And all the birds -- so impossibly many of them.
As it got dark, we came home and had popcorn and watched Uncle Buck, even though it was too late to start a movie. Even though there's a little cussing in the one we did start. It's summertime.
Summer is about halfway through, at least by the school calendar that the kids and I use to mark it. Lex has gone from matching my height when he finished sixth grade to being half a head taller than me in just a few weeks. I'm constantly washing towels, hanging bathing suits up to dry, cutting up fruit, making ice, shaking sand out of bags and shoes and blankets. I used to spend all summer wishing for autumn, but I love it now. Most mornings I get up at 5:30 so I can make coffee and get some work done before the kids get up. I see them nearly every day, but I'm still struck by how big they've gotten when I go to wake them and take a second to watch them still and sleeping. The girls sleep in my bed with me, and when I slip out from between them a few seconds before the alarm would have gone off, they reach for each other in their sleep, cuddling up like puppies.
This has been a good year. I mean, if you saw it outlined in bullet points on paper, you'd think otherwise -- but the truth of our life is that the last year has been great. I don't write much about getting divorced, but that should all be final before the real end of summer toward the end of September. I put it off for so long, for years, literally, because I worried about the kids and about Willow in particular. And they are thriving, even though it's not been an amicable parting. They're full of laughter and energy and stories, they try to sneak extra ice cream and test out using cuss words in front of me. They're happy when they're with me on the weekends and we go to the beach with SG or to the drive-in burger place for fries and milkshakes. We sit at the kitchen table together with our supper that they helped make, and they tell me jokes and ask me about my day and ask if SG can come visit, if he isn't here already. Lex watches too much tv on the internet, and has discovered The Beatles and Oasis at the same time; Nathan skates as much as possible; Willow spends hours making stories with her Playmobile toys and stuffed animals; and Sophie IMs her friends and angles for playdates at houses with swimming pools. And they all sing. All the time.
I'm so truly happy. I sing in the shower, and sing AND dance in the kitchen while I'm cleaning up. I've got some health problems that will never go away, an epic tax mess that I have to pay half of even though I had no part in creating it, am having to do damage control when Willow's dad says juvenile things about SG to the kids, but it's okay. I can handle all of that.
A year ago, I was so depressed, and wondered if it was stupid of me to continue to hope for better. I could never talk myself out of wanting what I wanted, though, even when I thought I'd never get there. And because I still wanted to get my real life closer to the story in my head (for me and also for my kids), I promised myself that I'd do whatever it took to give us a shot at it. No matter how hard. There are so many cliches about hope, but here's my take on it anyway: Life is so much more rewarding when you are working toward something that you are hoping for -- really hoping, the closing your eyes and wishing hoping that you discovered when you were a little kid -- even if you don't quite end up where you thought you would.
I feel lucky every single day, even the days when I want nothing more than to get my ass home and a sit down with a gluten-free beer in my hand. But it isn't all luck, exactly, that I'm happy. I'm willing take full credit for getting my ducks in a row and opening up the door for good things to come in. When the good luck showed up, I was ready. Part of me was tempted to say, Dude, what took you so long? but the smart part just decided to enjoy every single second of this reward for still hoping, even when it seemed pointless. Like I said before, some bad things have happened this year, too. A couple of them broke my heart. But now that we are pointed in the right direction, I can feel sad while still being happy. And when people find out that I'm a single mom with four kids and they act like they feel bad for me because I must have it so rough, I tell them that I'm lucky, and we're doing just fine.
I'm standing waist-deep in the water in Monterey Bay, hopping around on one foot and trying to get a fin on the other. I've got a mask on, am remembering to breathe so I won't panic, and remembering that remembering to breathe means remembering to breathe through my mouth, not my nose. Sometimes I try to inhale through my nose, but there's no air, and the impulse to pull off the mask and gulp in air as fast as I can is almost too much to resist. Just like I put up with airplane rides (terrifying) to get to where I want to be, I will squash this physical reflex I get when I put a mask over my face and breathe through a snorkel (that I'm not entirely sure I trust to not send a dose of saltwater into my lungs).
SG knows that I'm nervous; he helps me with my fins without making me feel dumb. My heart is beating too fast from ignoring the urge to get everything off my face. He is so patient with me that my heart starts beating faster from being happy. It's enough to tip the panic back down so I can keep going. I can't just put my snorkel in my mouth and my face in the water and go. I have to put my face in, quickly pull it back out, steady myself, and then try again. The water is murky, so I don't have much to distract me. But I can see SG, and there's a single blade of seagrass reflecting that shimmering hypnotic glowing quicksilver underwater light.
After I get more comfortable he tells me to float with my face in the water, and to not kick my legs or move my arms. The sun is warm on my back and I am amazed to find that I'm completely relaxed, listening to the underwater sounds and my own breath going in and out of the snorkel. He tells me that I can just relax and float, that I don't need to work so hard. Then we both put our faces in the water and start to swim around. He takes my hand, and we swim together for a little while. I'm not scared, not even a little bit.
Later we get lunch, then drive down the coast a little further, to a beach on the side of Highway 1 called Garrapata. The waves mean business here. It's too beautiful to be real, but there are ants crawling on the blanket and kids with buckets braving the surf to get water for their sandcastle. SG and I are on a blanket in the hot sunshine, and when I touch his shoulder it's hot. too. I come home with photos, but they don't even come close. Not even a little bit.
Next we drive back north to Carmel to get in the water. My feet won't let me in, though, because the water here is colder and walking in it makes me cry. SG is tougher; he goes in and I watch him from the shore. When we leave, we go to Moss Landing, to meet my mom and stepdad at Phil's for dinner. I'm tired and sunburned. I'm happy. SG goes to get us a couple of glasses of wine, and comes back with glasses that are filled to the top and impossible to carry without splashing. And I look at him with his full hands and all I want to do is wrap my arms around his neck and tell him how damn grateful I am every day that we found each other and how I can't exactly get my head around how much I love him. Instead I take one of the glasses from him and sip it down and wipe it off. And he sits down next to me. I hope he knows.
I picked the girls up from camp tonight late and told them about MJ while we drove home. They were crushed, Sophie in tears, because their favorite songs to listen to while we drive around or clean up their room are ABC, Don't Stop Till You Get Enough, I Want You Back, and Never Can Say Goodbye. Plus, they know the little-kid Michael Jackson from their Free to Be You and Me DVD. He sings about what he'll be when he grows up, which was already making me a little sad every time I saw it.
Tonight I went to yoga class and we did abs to Billie Jean, but my favorite was always Ben. Kinda sappy, but I'm a total softie pushover. Dont' tell anyone.
And Farrah Fawcett. When I was a kid, she was the beautiful woman in the poster on the wall of every straight teenage boy. I guess she's the person (along with Tina Turner and Bo Derek) who introduced me to What Sexy Is, now that I think about it.
So between work (hectic, to say the least, but good) and other stuff (tax audit! shitload of tough financial paperwork for divorce! such fun!), and the whole Mom to Four Kids thing, I've been a little busy. I'm really and truly looking forward to this weekend. The kids are with their respective fathers, so SG and I are going to go for a ride
and also to Monterey to swim, dive, snorkel, bike ride (bicycles this time), and maybe take out the boat. Then on Sunday I get to go to San Francisco to meet up with some of my visiting-from-out-of-state extended family members who are, awesomely, some of my very most favorite people on the planet. It proves how much I love them that I'm willing to brave driving up to the city on Pride Day. Honestly, I hate to drive and I hate to drive in San Francisco especially, and this is the biggest parade in the history of California forever and ever, Amen. Maybe I will just train it in. With my camera. Because, seriously; Dykes on Bikes, The Leather Contingent, AND Drag Queens? That's a lot of fabulousness marching on the road right there.
So, I'm a total monster who made Willow cry today because I yelled (not really at her, but definitely in her general vicinity) about the mess in the living room. Why are you crying? I asked her. I'm not MAD at you, I just want you to pick up your shistuff. (That's what happens when you start to say shit and then remember this is the six year old, not the twelve year old you are talking loudly to.) She looked up at me, all snotty and red eyed, Because you are mean, she said. Because you are yelling and mean and I was TRYING to play with my toys in the living room.
I left the girls with Lex then, so I could drive over to the skate park and drop off Nate. When I got back, they'd thrown away the wrappers and trash that was on the floor, picked up the dirty dishes, put away the shoes and papers. The rug was three quarters of the way vacuumed, and two little girls jumped out from behind the couch yelling Surprise!
I really did yell at them before I left. I know it's a bad idea, even when the words are flying out of my mouth, but I get tired of my kind and reasonable requests being ignored. Still, though, I love these people, why the hell do I have to yell at them?
I apologized. Especially to Willow. She was over it by then, and brushed off my apology, gave me a hug and a smile. When she was so tiny and so sick, I couldn't have imagined ever yelling at her. All I wanted to do was protect her. Keep her safe and happy and make her feel loved. Same goes for all my kids, of course. I don't want to fight with them, but I also don't want to live in a sea of crap where everything is gross and I can't find anything. I don't want them to grow up to be slobs, to expect someone to clean up their messes, to not care about how their actions ripple across the household where they live.
Later SG came by on his motorcycle and stayed for supper (quinoa with chicken apple sausage, bell peppers - orange, yellow, red, and spinach) and then let the kids sit on his bike before taking us all out for ice cream. The kids were messy and tangled after a long day, but I looked at them, laughing and talking all at once, and I looked at SG, so patient and funny and kind with all of us, and decided that this is the picture of my family that I need to call up when I find myself angry at the kids. Yelling really doesn't have a place in my house. Or anyone's.
Yesterday morning I had to go to the pharmacy before work, and of course it took for-ev-er. I sat in the waiting room, catching up on work email from my phone while I waited. And waited. When it was finally time for me to go, I headed toward the exit and fell in step behind a woman who was pushing an older woman in a wheelchair, and that woman, the older one, was pushing an older man in his wheelchair. Your wheels are bumping together! the younger woman said to the woman in the chair. She was cheerful and didn't appear to be struggling, but I approached her anyway and asked if she could use an extra pair of hands. Thanks, she laughed, but this is the best entertainment they get all day. And the trio continued their wobbly path out of the building and across the parking lot.
Lots has been going on here these past few days. Willow graduated from kindergarten:
SG and I went to Carmel Valley to see one of my very most favorite singer/songwriters perform in someone's living room to a group of about 30 people, and the woman who was touring with her was really incredible, too, so that turned out extra happy: (I grabbed this post title from a song of hers)
My brother and his wife and baby Max came for a visit:
I went to a pretty outdoor wedding with SG, where I met and instantly loved a bunch of his extended family members, and talked him into dancing with me. I watched Napoleon Dynamite for the first time, with SG and the kids. The boys had already seen it, and I'd heard them saying Napoleon, gimme somma yer tots, for so long it was great to finally get the reference. Though now they will say, Gaaaawd, idiot! under their breath and when I get on them for it they say, Oh, I was just quoting Napoleon Dynamite, Mom. I swear.
I'm not sure why -- it's not the end of the calendar year or the beginning of school or anything -- but I've been all reflective about the General State of my little family lately. Things are going so much better than I'd even hoped they would be at this time last year. My kids are truly happy, and after seeing them on Sunday, my mom, brother, and sister-in-law all commented on how content they are. How relaxed and comfortable they are with each other and the world. After so many years of wondering how in the hell everyone else does it, I'm finally starting to think that I'm getting close to doing a good job at being the mom to these kids. I'm still terminally behind on housework, terrible at keeping any sort of schedule around the house, and way too much of a pushover, but I'm really happy, which I think is coming through loud and clear to my children. I don't think it's the case that if I am happy, they will be too; but I do think that they look to me to be sure things are okay, that the sky is clear, that it's safe to relax and have fun.
If you are a kid living under my roof, it's a given that you get to eat cake for breakfast on the day after your birthday. On the night before your birthday, you'll find yourself curled up in a queen sized bed with your mom (that's me) and your three siblings, listening to the story of your birth. Beginning Sunday, June 14th, at 8pm e/p, and airing nightly through Friday, June 19th, Discovery Health will be bringing birth stories to the small screen as they celebrate Baby Week. You can catch Twins By Surprise on Sunday, Little Parents, Big Pregnancy on Monday, Births Beyond Belief on Tuesday, and Obese & Pregnant on Wednesday. They've also asked some BlogHer moms to share their own birth stories, so here's a version of the one I tell Sophie every year.
Each of my four children had a very different birth than the others, so the stories I tell at bedtime in February, June, October, and December don't resemble each other at all.
I didn't ever have an underwater birth, and there's no way that doing it unassisted (Freebirthing) is for me, but I still can't wait to see this episode and hear how these totally non-medical births compare to my own minimally medical home delivery:
And, I can only imagine the heat that these women must get for the choice they're making. Most people in my life were not shy about telling me what a big mistake it was for me to have a baby at home on purpose. I didn't come away from my first two labors the poster mom for childbirthing, much less doing it at home without so much as a tylenol. Both my boys were induced; I took any drugs the nurses were pushing, thanked them, and then asked for more; and I begged and demanded an epidural starting when I was about not-even-1 centimeter dilated. Things were different this time, though, with my daughter. I found out that I was pregnant just a couple of months after I had a miscarriage, when my boys were not quite 2 and 4 years old. I thought about having a homebirth, because I was so insprired by a couple of my close friends who'd done it recently. My first two birth experiences left me wanting to be able to talk about the next one the way these women did about theirs. They never had to say the words, "It changed my life," but I heard them whenever they talked about it.
When I was six months pregnant with Sophie, my June baby, her dad and I split up. Far from being the tragedy that lots of my family and friends thought this was for me, it was actually a huge, freeing relief. Her dad was really skeptical of non-hospital deliveries, and we never even discussed the subject. Within a week of becoming a single mom, I had found a midwife, Veronica, and made a Grand Master Plan for my homebirth. Veronica worked with an MD in the wings in case of emergencies, but she had more experience than any of the OBs I ever had. She'd spent time as a traveling midwife in impoverished villages, delivering babies with no doctors on hand. She said that she missed being able to do breech deliveries now that she was back in the US. Also? This woman had a root canal, completely unmedicated. (Typing that gives me the shivers.)
I remembered how great it was to be in a hot shower during labor with my first two, so I started asking around about renting a birthing tub. I didn't want to spend much, and I found a great match with a couple not too far away who rented out Rubbermaid horse troughs just for that purpose. I lost count of how many times I had to say, "No, not straight from the farmyard." (eyeroll) "They're bought and only used for birthing."
Once the tub was set up in my living room, I went to the hardware store for a new garden hose to fill it up with. Everyone recommended using the washing machine hook up to fill the tub: just connect the hose, open up the spout, and soon after you'd be immersed in warm water, laboring to soft music and low lights with no beeping monitors or IVs jammed in your wrist. But. I lived in a two bedroom apartment, and the washing machine was communal and down the hall. No problem! I thought, I'll just use my kitchen sink!
So my due date, June 2nd, arrived and I was still pregnant. I'd just gotten over a horribly wretched case of strep throat that hit me after I'd spent two weeks taking care of my boys who had it one after the other. 105 degree fevers and puking all around! That's motherhood. Well, at least part of it.
On my due date I had a class at my midwife's office. I was sitting there, watching birth videos, when I felt a twinge in my belly. I'd never gone into labor on my own, so even though this was my third child, I wasn't sure if this was "it." After the class, I stopped at the drugstore to stock up on a few last minute items, and I think I was a little bit manic because I was telling anyone who wasn't afraid to come near me that I was, "Going! Home! To Have! A BABY!" I did go home, and was still having some mild contractions, but nothing that really slowed me down. We had plans to meet family at the park that night, so I packed up my boys and we went. Later that night I got the boys to bed, then tried to sleep myself.
At 3:00 am, on the nose, I sat straight up in bed, no longer wondering if I was kinda maybe sorta in labor. It was now abundantly clear to me.
I called my mother. She arrived to find me on my hands and knees, rocking back and forth. She sized up the situation and asked if I'd called Veronica yet. I hadn't, so she got that ball rolling, and also called my friend, K, who was my doula. My mom has had four children herself, so she knew that this was no false alarm.
While we were waiting for Veronica and K, my mom turned to me and said, "So, you wanna fill up this tub?"
"Sure, pantpantpant, that sounds pantpantpant like a great idea!" I said.
There's this thing you've maybe heard of before, called a Dry Run? That would have been a wise thing to add to my birth plan, just under the line that read "Get birthing pool." We somehow got the hose connected to the kitchen sink, and it just barely stretched across the apartment to the trough. My apartment was sort of cute; it looked vaguely like something out of Melrose Place, and was built just after World War II. The original wood floors were under the carpet, and, as it turns out, the original plumbing was behind the walls. There was just not any water pressure. A trickle, no -- not even a trickle, a very weak spit of warm water dribbled out of the end of the hose. I had a big contraction and threw up in the little plastic bowl I was holding. My mom looked at me. I looked at her. We both started to laugh, because there was no way that pathetic stream of water could ever begin to do the job, especially now that the contractions had gotten a lot more serious about making themselves known to me.
I dragged myself over to the couch, which was covered in a sheet and some big plastic-backed cotton pads, and my mom got the hose put up.
I must say that even though I was feeling nervous about the whole "no drugs" thing, I did alright. Unfortunately, I did vomit almost every time I had a contraction and the contractions were right on top of each other. Still, I noticed the absence of bright lights and beeping machines and there weren't announcements and people in the hallway. All that was a huge difference for me. Veronica made a little pallet on the floor so she could lay down, and talked me through when she heard me struggling. I went straight for the blowing breathing they teach in Lamaze class. Couldn't help it.
When things got more and more intense, my lower back spasmed on me (or as a guy I used to work with would say, "It seized up, ahhhhhh!"). I couldn't move, and the grip was furious. I remember laying on my side, feeling like I'd never be able to leave that position, and how every time I threw up, my whole body felt like my lower back: one big knot of extraordinarily painful muscle. My friend K stood on the other side of the arm of the couch at one point, and when I was having severe pain she took her hand and pressed it, open palmed, into mine. I pushed back, and immediately had less pain. Counter-pressure = magic.
When I reached the point of thinking that I'd made a stupid, horrible mistake doing this at home and felt like I needed to be taken into surgery to get. this. thing. out. of. me. RIGHT NOW; I said something to that effect. I think that I was so tired that I just said, "I can't do this," which was Veronica's cue to get up and see how I was progressing. She checked me and said I was at 8. And I thought "ARE YOU KIDDING ME? EIGHT?!" Just then I had a massive, physics-defying contraction, and she said, "OH wait, you're at nine. . . no, ten, okay, you're there, BUT DON'T PUSH!"
I pushed. Hard as I could. Don't tell me not to push.
On the first push, Veronica told me that my water hadn't broken yet, and that she was going to have to take the membrane off Sophie right after she came out. Then I pushed again and her head came out right when the water broke, on its own. One more push and she was out. Three pushes. Three. And really, it could have been one if I'd applied myself.
So there was Sophie, totally clean from being in the amniotic fluid, and tiny and perfect.
The time? 6 a.m. Exactly. Three hours from the "this is labor" to babe in arms. I suppose you might call hers an 'easy' birth, though I don't think those two words belong in the same paragraph. Since I was on the living room couch in my tiny apartment, I was near the front door. I remember that someone opened the door, and there was a cool breeze and the sun was coming up. Birds were singing, the fridge was humming, but it was really quiet, too. I remember the damp cool breeze coming into the house, and how blue and grey and cool everything was. It was nice after working so hard, like a drink of water.
Veronica weighed Sophie in a blanket attached to a spring scale; like a fisherman would weigh a fish. She was nearly seven pounds by that scale, but I think she was really closer to six. She had no eyedrops and no shots and no bath and no blood tests and no plastic bracelets and she didn't leave my arms for a good long while.
It's hard to explain without sounding a little like a cornball, but never in my entire life have I ever felt so capable; so loving toward myself and my body; so able to do anything, literally, in the whole wide world.
It's Sophie's birthday today. (Edited to add: It WAS her birthday when I started this, but now it's a couple of days past.)
I snuck out of the house this morning early, while the kids were still sleeping, to walk to the store for cupcakes and milk. Last night, I told Lex I might do that, just so there wouldn't be a panic if they woke up without me here. (Or a party!) It was already light at just a little after 6am, just like it was at 6am as when she was born, eight years ago. I got in line behind a woman with donuts and milk; she told the cashier that it was her daughter's 11th birthday, and I felt so much better about not staying up late last night to make cupcakes or cinnamon rolls or something from scratch like I used to on birthdays. Because that is how I do it now, single fulltime working mom of four kids, I cut corners and do what I can when I can. And it's fine, really. I think Caroline Ingalls herself might have walked over to the grocery store to get premade cupcakes if she could buy them for less than it cost to get the ingredients and she was feeling a little too busy with other things to find the time to bake. Behind me was an old biker dude, and when he put a dozen roses on the belt, the cashier said, Awwwww, thanks! Those are beautiful. They laughed and then he complained that the edges of all the roses were wilting and discolored. I didn't find out who the roses were for, but it was sweet to see this leather and Harley tshirt dressed guy even notice that detail.
I walked back home and found the candles, put eight of them in a cupcake for Soph and set all the cupcakes on a plate. Poor girl was so tired when she got up that she could barely keep her face from falling into them.
Last year around her birthday, I wrote about her birth. Before she was born, my friend Karen (she was also my doula) hosted a Blessingway for us. At the ceremony, we took a ball of string and the first woman to hold it wrapped it around her wrist a few times, then she passed it along, and the next woman did the same. When it was your turn with the string you got to say a few words, share a few hopes for the new baby. The woman leading the exercise, A, then pointed out how we were all connected here, all brought together by this little baby who we were waiting for. Then we cut the strings and tied them off, making little string bracelets that we kept on until she was born. I still have mine. It's in a bunch of short pieces from where I cut it off when she was tiny. During the string thing, or maybe during a different part, A said, Okay, when I was getting ready to come over, something told me to bring glitter to sprinkle on Jenifer's head. I think that Sophie is going to be a playful little puck of a girl. (Not exactly that -- but you get the gist.) And A was right. Sophie is playful, sometimes innocently, sometimes in full-on mischievous ways. Here's an excerpt from a post I wrote when she was 21 months old:
Yesterday morning I woke to the feel of something cool and almost slimy rubbing the bottom of my foot. Sophie said "Hi Mama!" She was happily rubbing deodorant on me. It wasn't even 6 am yet. . . Later, Sophie dragged a chair to the kitchen counter while I was changing Willow. She picked the counter area with the toaster. Lexy's Lord of the Rings cards were also on the counter. Yes. She toasted Legolas and almost started a fire.
I think that, pretty much, we are who we are. Some of us so much so that people paying attention can tell what we're going to be like before we're even here to show them.
Happy Birthday, Soph. You are never boring, you impress the hell out of me every day, and I have no idea how I will survive you being a teenager. You're your own boss, as you like to remind me (and uh, your church & school teachers and the school principal, and the uninitiated adult who tries to tell you what to do) and I love that about you. In many ways, I want to be more like you, and I hope you never lose your sass, even when I'm cussing under my breath because it's directed at me.
Happy birthday, baby.
Max is a sweet, sweet baby. He's content and likes to be outdoors. At six weeks (but born a couple weeks on the early side) he was already struggling to hold his head up while the adults around him said things like, Well that's a huuuge noggin. That's a virtual planetoid.
Max is a lucky guy. His parents don't seem like they've never done this before. The whole time I was there, there wasn't any stress at all. I know that they are putting a huge amount of effort into caring for him, but they do it so gracefully and cheerfully that it seems like he's their fifth kid. Even after a night of being up every two hours.
It's been a forever six years ago since I had a baby. Now she has a couple of grown up teeth and mutters damnit under her breath when we run out of mini marshmallows. Max is so teensy; he still spends his awake time stretching his limbs like he's underwater, studying faces, sticking out his tongue.
Part of my intention on this trip was to let my brother and his wife get out for a dinner alone, or a movie or something. The first 24 hours I was there, so was my mom, finishing up the last of her weeklong trip. Even though we live less than a mile apart, I hardly ever get to see my mom without my kids around, so it was nice to have a quiet visit. Mostly we just took turns holding the baby and talking about how cute he is and about how much I barfed when I was tiny. She took us all out to dinner at this swank neighborhood cafe close enough to walk to. We timed our outing around Max's nursing schedule, and as we started down the sidewalk I remembered how much I liked being on that stripped-down newborn schedule: a two hour loop of nursing and rocking, burping, changing, napping, that goes on for weeks.
Max came along the next night to a ten table sushi restaurant, and the next afternoon to a barbecue. Portland was gorgeous, all flowers and sun, and it stays light a little later up there.
My brother asked me what I'd like to be called. When we were little (and still) we didn't ever use the word Auntie. It was always Aunt. We leave out the U sound, though, and say it Ant. So now, when Max is six and his parents are wondering how the time went by so fast when so many of the days felt so long, he'll be calling that lady in California who likes to spoil him Antie Jen.
I've been up since 4:45 this morning, probably because SG and the kids were all telling me to sleep in for Mother's Day, really, really late, so they'd have time to make me breakfast. You can't get out of bed before ELEVEN, I was told. SG is amazing in the kitchen, but the kids seem to grow extra limbs that flap around and get in their way the moment their feet hit the (crappy) linoleum. Stuff in the kitchen? It goes flying a lot when they're in there. Plus, the kids are supposed to get the kitchen and living room cleaned up this morning, and that could take a good long while.
I did try and get back to sleep, but by 5 I was up, folding the towels in the dryer from yesterday's beach trip and putting a bunch of sandy pants in the washer along with the last scoop of laundry soap. I put the dishes in the sink into the dishwasher, cleaned out the French press, put on the kettle. Then I went out to the trash to toss the laundry soap box, and there just above the hills was this beautiful shiny silver coin of a full moon. It was so quiet out (if you don't count the chirping birds) and the sky was getting lighter. It sounds dumb to admit that I was surprised to see the moon in the sky, but last night on our drive home from the beach we saw it, too, all golden just through the trees. I came back in to the house, Alex sleeping on the couch because I couldn't catch the big bug that was flying around his room. He sleeps on the top bunk and the bug was liking the ceiling, so I don't blame him.
Yesterday I went in the water, just for a little while, while SG got the grill going for our supper. I was warmer in the water than I had been on shore (my wetsuit is super kickass), and looking down the beach it seemed like I was the only one in the water. I can't surf yet, but I love taking SG's boogie board out so I can do my Wave 101 training. Yesterday the best waves to ride always came close on the back of another one. They didn't come in very often, but I knew that when I could see two swells right together that the back one would be fun. On the beach in front of me there was a guy with a stunt kite and a cigarette in his mouth. It took two hands to work the kite. There was a woman, too, in long pants and long sleeves, sitting with her legs crossed and her eyes closed. I assume she was meditating, soaking up all the ways that the ocean is beautiful that have nothing to do with how pretty it looks.
I could have stayed in the water for hours, but there were four sandy kids and one incredibly patient man waiting for me up on shore. Just as I decided to go in, I saw something move near me in the water. I thought it was a swimmer for a second, and it was, but it was a harbor seal, not a person. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, it may have been an otter. Either way, suddenly there was this smiling whiskery wet brown slick face looking back at me and pausing for a moment before swimming away.
Earlier in the afternoon, SG and the boys went boogie boarding, Alex for the first time.
I forgot my camera (and the ketchup and mustard, warm clothes for Nathan, and the girls' beach toys) but I had my phone with me so I got a couple of pictures of them. They seem to love it as much as I do, even though Nate got tossed around and hit his head on a stone in the sand.
Just now I went to get more coffee, and there was Alex, cleaning up already, telling me that I couldn't come in, that I needed to go back to bed. I offered to help him get things cleaned up, but he shooed me away and kept working. I think, maybe, that I'll climb back into bed and see if I can sleep a little bit. After all, I wouldn't want to disappoint the kids if they are actually willing to clean up for me.
Happy Mother's Day.
Last weekend Lex was in all four performances of the school play at the jr. high. I forgot to take his photo, of course, because I am Mother.Of.The.Year. I worked in the cast room for two of the performances. My job? To keep the kids "quiet." Seriously.
Anyway, I didn't have anything for Nathan to do during the Sunday afternoon performance, so SG offered to pick him up and take him to the beach, even though grad school and work are both demanding most of his time right now. Even though he'd taken Sophie and Nate for dinner the night before while I spent hours hissing at a bunch of teenagers that they were getting too loud.
They headed over the hill with their wetsuits and fins, a couple of boogie boards, flip flops. Nate caught his first real wave, and SG said he swam out around the jetty like a pro. They got hot chocolate after, and then went to SG's parents' house where they had steak for supper. Nate came home so happy and proud. I caught him several times that night with a smile on his face when no one else was looking. He's been having a rough time of it lately, and some days my heart breaks over and over for him.
Lots of days, lately.
Monday he was helping me make supper. We stood in the kitchen together, not saying too much, his sisters running through all silly every few minutes. Mom, he said to me, what's the best day you ever had?
Oh. That's a tough one, I said, a sudden kaleidescope of days rising up from my memory.
Okay, then. The best year ever.
I looked at him, thinking that before too long he wouldn't be looking up at me when we talked like this, standing by the stove, but I'd be looking up at him. This year's been pretty great so far, I said.
Yeah, he said. And, yesterday was the best day I ever had.
Good, I said. Let's make a lot more of those days, okay? I think there's always room for more.
And, I've been thinking about that all week. About recognizing the best moments when they happen. About paying attention to them, figuring out what, if anything, makes them fall into place. Searching out clues on how to make more of them. Sometimes it's as easy as stopping what you're doing, putting on some music and getting your kids to dance with you in the kitchen. Reading a chapter from a book, even when it's already past everyones' bedtime. Stopping to listen, or talk, snap a photo, write a note. I think it's not the doing that's so hard, but the remembering to do. First you have to forget how busy you are; forget that idea of not having time for something, for a few moments or hours. Days sometimes. That's when the good stuff shows up; the stuff that makes all the work worth it.
photo by Nathan
Weekend before last the girls and I spent a few days in the woods with no electricity, no cell phone reception, and no showers. Also, about 300 Brownies and their moms. I bitched and moaned about going (not in front of my own campers), even though I figured once I was there I'd have fun. It was the getting there that made me crabby; it was far enough away to be Far Away, and I had to put a stack of backlogged badges and patches on their vests before we could go. And, there was a big all-caps, totally bolded-font warning in the handout that said: ANYONE WITH ALCOHOL AT CAMP WILL BE ASKED TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. So, you know, I pouted and thought about bringing cough syrup with codeine, because, come on, all that time with all those kids and no breaks? Mama needs a little cocktail at the end of the day so she doesn't get all cranky lioness-y and start taking swipes at the kids' heads. Just sayin. In the end I decided it would be kinda bad to be the mom who got sent home for having a flask of tequila at Brownie camp, even if it was the good stuff and even if I didn't share with the kids.
We stopped by SG's house on the way out of town Friday night for some supper and chocolate bars and snacks for our trip. We drove and drove -- Highway 17, Highway 1 -- and then took a five mile unpaved road that was so bumpy things were flying all over the inside of the van and the girls yelled from the back seat, We can't hear our moooovie!
We arrived after dark, but in time to make our situpons and find our troop and get the car to the right campsite. We slept in what I call platform tents: little wooden decks with canvas tents on them. I got the cots made up and pushed together so I could sleep next to both the girls, which meant not only scrunched into a sleeping bag with my timid Willow, but also on the two metal bars of the cots. It was awesome, especially the part where I had to pee all night, but was too cold and too tangled up to get up and trek to the bathrooms down the hill.
In the morning, we woke up to this view:
It was a really, really pretty place to spend the weekend. There was a dining area where everyone met for meals, and they even asked ahead about food issues and had gluten free stuff for me and about six little girls with celiac/wheat allergies. They had gluten and dairy free chocolate cupcakes for us, and fruit sorbet. I will totally sign up for extra slots to work at cookie sales next year -- I was truly grateful.
We hiked over a hill from our campsite, and down into a fern covered forest so we could walk through the wishing tree and look for fairies. You make your wish as you walk through the tree trunk, and if you walk back through it the other way, your wish comes undone.
I think both the girls wished for a puppy. I did, too. Until we move out of this house, though, we are SOL.
There was a bitty little creek, so we hiked down and looked for four leaf clovers and fairies.
We went to a session on how to build a fire, but instead of using real firestuff to do it, we used shredded coconut, pretzel sticks (and, dude, they had gluten free ones), candy corn, and Tootsie Rolls.
At night, we sat around the campfire, stamping our feet to keep warm, and toasting marshmallows. The girls sang, and while some kids went for more traditional songs, my girls were with the bunch singing Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. With hand motions.
I was ready to head back home on Sunday, mostly because we hadn't really been warm since we got there.
But also because it's just not right to go so long without a shower. Even when you're camping.
I'm not going to lie; I was pretty pissed about the fish. I was literally just back from camping with the girls all weekend at a place with no showers when I talked to Nathan on the phone and he told me that he was bringing a fish home. A whole fish. A dead fish. A trout that some guy, some other fisherman, caught and gave to him because the kids hadn't caught any fish on the fishing trip they went on with their grandpa. And could I come get him now? Even though I hadn't had a chance to shower yet?
I texted SG:
Holy shit. The boys are coming home with a whole fish. Their gparents took them fishing, they caught 0, and some guy gave them a fish that *I* am supposed to f'ing gut. FML. Can you talk me thru it? I have no idea how. Am PISSED. Wah ;-*
Nate and I had some back and forth about What To Do with the fish. He was perfectly willing to clean it, but pointed out to me that he's ten and not super experienced with a knife. He suggested throwing it out, but my former vegetarian mind couldn't wrap itself around that. No, I told him, you can't just throw it out. I know! he said, I'll look it up on YouTube!
And, he did just that, then announced he was ready. I got out a cutting board (which I'll probably avoid forever and should just get rid of now) and a big chef's knife, a small paring knife, kitchen shears (which he didn't use, thankfully), and my toothbrush. I gave him a plastic bag for the guts and head and any other ickyness there may be to discard, and left him to it. Luckily, our kitchen sink is a double wide, or whatever you'd call it. It's big. Big enough to fit the cooler with the fish inside, the little cutting board, and the plastic bag.Then, I wished him luck and went to my room.
I was rewarded with some excellent running commentary. The girls were playing with stuffed animals in the living room (they were playing Girl Scout Camp, it was pretty damn cute) and Nate kept yelling to them: DO NOT COME IN TO THE KITCHEN. YOU WILL BARF. ALSO, YOU WILL BE SCARED. DON'T COME IN HERE. SERIOUSLY. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO *NOT* COME IN! TO! THE! KITCHEN!
Of course, the next thing I hear is the girls' squeals. I may have hid in my bed with a pillow over my head. Maybe.
By the time I came to the kitchen, the girls were back to their game and Nate was making good progress. The fish was split down the belly side, and the guts were out. The head was already gone, and I talked him through chopping off the tail. Then he split it down the back, pulled out most of the bones, flipped the fillets over and did some scale removal. True that that part should have come first (I think) but all was fine since he was frequently soaking the fish in a bowl of water and rinsing it under running water. I only hovered with the bleach spray a little, and didn't shriek when I told him to Keep that shit IN the sink, dude. He used my toothbrush to clean out some kind of vein. I totally earned my mom cred by not puking.
We got out a frying pan, some butter and the cornmeal. He washed and dried the fish once more, then gave it a nice coating of cornmeal and put it in the pan of sizzly, already browning butter. I took over the clean up, because I wanted to be able to touch my kitchen sink again someday. Less than ten minutes later, he sat at the table, eating his fish and feeling really great. He talked me into trying a bite, and it was good.I'm proud of that kid. I remember, clearly, when I was ten, getting out of the shower and calling for my mom to come and blow dry my hair. I was a good kid, but there is no way in hell I'd have been able to do what he did, even though I started fishing at a much younger age. I just never caught anything big enough to eat.
We talked about how it went afterward; a sort of pescapostmortem, I guess. He told me that it was much easier once he finally got the head chopped off, because up till then it sort of looked like the mouth was screaming as he sawed at the neck. That was when I nearly wished I'd done it for him myself, but let's face it; I'd have been freaking out and flapping around the kitchen like a great big goofy bird at one feel of squishy dead fish under my fingertip. And, as for chopping it up? Not happening. Sometimes we take care of our kids, other times they take care of us.
I didn't get any gory fish photos. I just couldn't. I did get tons of camping pictures of the girls, though.
My kids are on spring break, and so yesterday they were home with me on my work from home day. I actually managed to get a lot done, thanks to a magic combo of unlimited, early-morning Easter candy, movies, and Photobooth on the kids' Mac.
When I was little, maybe ten, my mom bought this old player piano from someone in Santa Cruz who lived at the bottom of a steep hill. Or maybe the top. All I remember is the story of how the driveway was so steep that they weren't sure the truck would make it up (or down) the hill with the piano in the bed.
It's old. It's a little broken. Someone (hello late 60s and early 70s) painted it the color of split pea soup, even though the wood beneath is dark and lovely. The keys are yellowed, but I'm sure they are ivory. There is a cigarette burn between the two last keys on the right, and one (or more maybe) of the keys hasn't worked since it began its time in our dining room. By the time it was in the bed of my stepdad's truck, the player parts to it were lost. But I seem to remember a big roller that fit in the sliding wood front, so maybe not.
A few years ago, after piano fixers patted it and just shook their heads and sighed, it ended up in my garage. Mom took the beautiful front piece off so that it could be refinished and hung on the wall, and the rest is here, with me. It would cost so much money to restore it that the piano people said it wouldn't be ethical to do the job and that the wood is in no shape to ever hold a tune even with a major overhaul. Still, though, I'd love to someday strip all the old paint off and see what could be done with it. It's so beautiful, even in its rundown condition. Then again, I'm partial to things that are weathered and worn: old and broken windows in abandonded factories; wooden doors with peeling paint; faded and paint-peeling rowboats; beat up old 1940's pickup trucks; falling-down barns and leaning barbed-wire fences. I nearly lost my mind when I first saw those coffee tables made out of old doors.
My dad's cousin hates to cook, so she pulled the burners out of her stove and put in some potted plants. Maybe I'll throw a big party, force my friends to help me refinish the piano, and then use it as a spice rack. Or, I could put a stereo inside it. Make it into a computer desk?
Just getting the last of the blue out of my system here. I'm not sure what grabbed me and made me all weepy, but I spent a few days with tears in my eyes and everything was too loud and too bright and so damn hard to take.
I'm feeling better. At least consciously working on getting a grip seems to be helping. I went to a big craft store on my way home yesterday and got a BOX of safety pins for the socks. The big kids weren't here last night, but when Willow took off her socks at bedtime and I showed her the plan, she laughed and laughed. She thinks it's a great idea, and very funny. Today I did a little meal planning, and after work I'll pick up the stuff I need at the store. On Friday, when I can find socks and I don't have to worry about what is for dinner, maybe I'll feel good enough to start singing in the shower again.
I am happy. Very happy, in fact. Even more happy than usual, because my little brother and his wife just had a baby last Saturday. I cannot *wait* to go see them next month. At the same time, I've got a lot of fucking balls in the air and I'm feeling a lot of guilt over all the ones I'm dropping. I need to find that balanced zone of knowing when to cut myself some slack and when to push myself harder. I need to make the asshole critic in my head into a more helpful and constructive persona. That said, when the critic really gets me down, I feel entitled to have gummi bears and Patron for dinner. So, thanks, Critic, for the excuse to be indulgent last night. You can have the day off today even though Willow is going to Brownies for the second week in a row without her "homework" that I was supposed to do with her. Also, Critic, if I'm such a loser, how do you explain SG sticking around?
Yes, I was just talking to myself in a blog post. Whatever.
When I was a kid, people used to have "nervous breakdowns." I think that the mental health care community has discouraged that term for awhile now, instead using more exact language to describe folks' states of being. Fair enough.
I think it's a useful term, though, even if it's not the most accurate. I also think that if I don't make some time to get myself organized and back on top of things, I'm going to have one and it's going to be very, very bad.
Today I'm going to have my little family start doing something my uncle does. He keeps a box of safety pins on his dresser and when he takes off his socks, he pins them together, toe to toe. That way, they can go through the washer and dryer and back to the drawer as a little sock team. I am embarrassed to admit the role that socks are playing in my downhill spiral. The very idea of not having to worry much about them anymore is making me a little teary.
Baby steps. Right?
I've been to therapists before: marriage counselors, kid counselors (with my kids, but not actually as one), individual counseling. There was one therapist I saw off and on for awhile, Susan, who taught me the useful skill of reframing things.
I think if you aren't careful, you can bend reframing into an excuse-making or bad-behavior-explaining tool that it isn't intended to be, but overall the reframing thing has often been what saves my ass when things are looking especially bleak. It encourages you to look around when life is hard and go from thinking, Ack. This really really sucks, oh poor me, to Okay, this is difficult and uncomfortable, but if it didn't happen to me, then X never would have happened.
Reframing is all about perspective. It's when I am frustrated beyond belief with my daughter's stubborness and I can step back and see how well that trait will someday serve her. It's when I go from berating myself about having a messy house, to recognizing that I am only one person, I can only do so much, and even though I'd *love* to have a clean house, I love more sometimes sitting and cuddling with my kids while we read books instead of working 24/7. And, believe me, that is what it would take for me to keep my house in order. It's realizing that probably no one but me cares when my hair looks like crap or I have zits all over my chin, because I sure as hell don't hold that stuff against other people. It's remembering that when my almost teenager lashes out it is because he is hurting.
Lately I've been envisioning myself as this sort of sexy, kickass, circus woman who juggles flaming torches. It's much more fun than seeing myself as a full time working, single mom of four, who is sleep deprived and knee deep in appointments, permission slips, bills, challenging mealtimes, Brownie meetings, overdue projects, unedited photos, unwritten thank you notes, and Lord knows what else.
Granted, there are some things that are awful, that are terrible no matter how you frame them. But, if you wanted to reframe that sort of thing in a general way, you could look at how much the hard stuff in life makes you grow. How it makes you wiser. How it makes you appreciate the good stuff, the small things, and the beauty in the everyday, while at the same time making it impossible to worry about trivial crap. It often inspires you to love the people you love a little bit more, and to be more careful with the people in your life that you don't know so well. Maybe you wonder if there is something, something you don't know about, that is causing them to be sad, too, and that helps you feel closer to everyone who crosses your path. Even if just a little bit.
We had a little earthquake here in the San Francisco Bay Area the other day, and they reported that there was no damage. Think I should call someone about my desk chair? The one that I peed in when the three storey office building I work in (on the 3rd floor, natch) started to rumble and shake.
Kidding. I didn't pee (much). Really I said, "Duuuuuuuuuudddddde," and then I stood up and grabbed onto the scrawny wall of my cubicle (because particle board covered in grey polyester will save me from all the heavy shit about to crash down on me!) and looked into my boss' office and went "Aahhhummmmmahhhhwaaaaaaaahhhh."
It's hard to work so far away from home for this very reason. What if I get stuck 35 miles from my kids and have to walk down Highways 280 and 85 and several surface streets in high heels, assuming I am not crushed by the total implosion ** of the building I work in? I worried that the kids were scared, especially the girls, who are younger. That they'd want me and I'd fail them by not being there.
A half hour later I was so busy with work stuff I'd forgotten about it completely. I didn't ask the kids about it that night, because, hello! bad dreams, DUH. Instead I asked the next day, all prepared to soothe them and tell them we're okay, which is a lie because we very well may not be okay as far as seismic luck goes. None of them felt it, though.
Why do I live in California if I'm afeared of earthquakes? (And I am scared of them. Very.) Because every place has some sort of something that can kill you: fires, tornados, hurricanes, lightening, floods, venemous snakes, bad guys, improperly prepared fugu; the list is practically endless. I know this is true, because when we were little, my brother and I used to spend hours trying to think of a safe, natural-disaster-free place to live. We checked and there aren't any, and if there are, you could still get hit by a bus. Might as well live here, where I can drive an hour and spend the day in a place like this
**which is different, by the way, from a partial implosion