Monday, February 24, 2014

Remember Me

There are napkins, tattered pieces of white paper, and a few Post-Its all over this house with conversations scribbled on them so I don't forget. So I don't forget the sweetness with which the words were spoken or mispronounced. So I don't forget the untouchable flat pan humor my husband gives like no other.  So I can remember the goods, man.  It occurred to me this morning I could put them here.  Hope you enjoy, too.

Time off
Grayson (at bedtime curling):  Mommy?  Do you get any days off of work when you're a big person?
Me:  Yes.  When you're big like Daddy you will have earned lots of days off.  Like three weeks!
Grayson:  No.  I mean something else.  Like, do you get to take off for a birthday party if you're a register person?
Me:  You mean for the entire day or leave early?
Grayson:  I mean the entire day for my kid's birthday.
Me:  Yes, you will, Baby.  And he will be a very lucky kid to have a daddy like you.

Funny Bones
Abby:  Mommy?  It's so funny that your legs are always cold and mine are always hot.  And my arms are always hot and yours are always cold.  We have VERY different sensitive humors.

Do it Again
Grayson:  Do you think we get to be born again after we die?
Me:  I don't know what happens.  It would be pretty cool if we did get to do it over again though, wouldn't it?
Grayson:  Yeah. *thoughtful pause*  We're gonna have to be sad to leave Virginia again.  We're gonna have to move into a big empty house again.  I'm gonna get a Kindle...I can't wait for that part.

It's Greek to Him
Me:  I'm sorry I've been a little PMSy all week.
Andy:  It's ok.  I know why.
Me:  Yeah.  Sucks that now it hits two weeks early.
Andy:  I have another week of this!?
Me:  *cold, dead, silent stare*
Andy:  Want some olives?

Just Alike but Not Exactly
Grayson:  Mom?  Daddy says I'm more like your side.
Me:  My side?
Grayson:  Yeah.  Tall and our feet are the same.
Me:  Well, we are tall on my side.
Grayson:  Yeah, like Uncle Matt!
Me:  Yes, and Uncle Eric!  But not Uncle Jimmy.  He was a tall personality in a short body.
Grayson:  But he loved sports and I love sports!
Me:  Yes.  My side does love some sports.
Grayson:  And I am quiet and slow.  You and me, we're quiet and slower than Abby and Daddy.
Me:  We are, aren't we?  We are quiet, slow, but very steady.
Grayson:  Well, I am steady.  You yell sometimes.

Bunk Beds:
Abby:  Mommy!  When we visit Nammy and Pop, can I sleep on the TOP bunk this time?
Me:  Yes,  you can.  Wait.  Nammy and Pop don't have bunk beds.  That was the vacation house.
Abby:  What.
Me:  The bunk beds are in  the vacation house in New York, Honey.
Abby:  OhmyGod.  Nammy and Pop didn't even tell us they moved!!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Easy as ABCs

Abby's preschool teacher seems very concerned she does not know all of her letters or numbers yet.  I'm still very concerned Abby won't eat carrots anymore and cannot breathe through her nose.


Abby's 5.  She is in preschool.  Since my chat with the teacher I've thought really hard about things and my conclusions are:

A.) Preschool is where kids learn to stand in line, sit criss-cross applesauce, and try not to walk around with their hand in their pants.  If they're wearing pants.  Basic readiness skills.  Pre = Before.  Before School skills.  Seems simple enough.

B.)  What happened to readiness anyway?  Did Common Core eat it?  This preschool is well sought-after and typically wait listed and now I'm learning why.  They move forward with academics.  Which is awesome.  If your kids is developmentally ready for that.  While mine rolls her eyes, has mastered a straddle split, and mispronounces "evidentally" yet uses the mispronunciation correctly, she is not developmentally ready for letter/sound recognition.  Her brain is soaking things in at such a rapid rate that it will soon be ready.  But not yet.  Right now she is busy making rainbows on every pond stone in our garden and I am going to support the live arts dammit.

C.) Part of me is tragically embarrassed that I, a former special education teacher of 5 years, cannot get her child to learn her ABCs by the end of preschool.  What kind of credentials do I hold if my own daughter hands me a Q when I ask for a K?  Bless her heart, she is pushing for accolades.   "Watch me read, Mommy!"  And I do.  I watch her recite three BOB books in their entirety and marvel at her ability to memorize.  What kind of determined spirit memorizes - verbatim- three books of words she does not yet understand are words yet.  A very bright and hopeful spirit.

And then there is this.  "Mommy, did you know "a" is a word all by itself?"  She's getting there, it's a process.
Despite the fact that I have worked on ABCs with her, Abby's teacher has given her nightly homework and I agreed to it, like a chump.  The first one was completed this morning.  She cranked out those As like a star student.  Then she colored each one in the center with pink.  Then she connected them so they wouldn't be lonely like a lacy Valentine.  Because she's five.  A bright and hopeful five.

I do understand that the teacher's heart is in the right place.  She wants Abby to keep up with the class.  She doesn't want to leave Abby behind.

But that is where the trouble starts for me.  Behind.  Behind what?  Behind whom?  Is Common Core such a threat to the educational system that it is now infiltrating our nation's preschool curriculum?  Will my daughter join the other 5-6 year olds in the fall and not be able to sing The Wheels on the Bus?  Will she be a poor line leader because she thinks S is a C because it makes the "sss" sound?  Will Abby kick other children in the shins at the water fountain because they can find R without singing the entire alphabet song?  Maybe yes for the last one if the kid is mean about it.  

I am in the process of letting Abby be her five:  painting by number on the porch (she does all the 1s, is exhausted, and asks for a snack after that), dragging her stuffed animals along for a walk causing neighbors to rubberneck, feeding her babydoll spinach instead of more Goldfish.  I am letting Abby be her five.

But I didn't at first.  After conferencing with her teacher, my knee-jerk reaction was to buy ABC puzzles, games, books, that make learning "fun!"  Only a mother like me cannot make teaching a daughter like her fun to save her soul.  When Abby kept calling E a V, I lost all worldly compassion and drilled her with direct instruction until we were both in tears.  My investment was too high, her risk was too deep and our frustrations imploded all over the living room rug.

Suddenly I am the one kicking kindergartners in the shins at the water fountain.  I felt like I was bullying her into learning to slalom before she learned to ski.  My girl tries and tries but covers up her understanding with silly faces and clever insight, "Mommy!  Why did the walrus have a baby?  Because it wanted to kiss her all the time."

Green witch.  Flying monkeys.

But no more.  I'm releasing my teacher guilt to the universe where it can feed stars.  I was a teacher in another life.  It was awful.  It was glorious.  I have nothing to prove to anyone.  It is over.  Right now, I'm Abby's mom with her best interest at heart and I can't forget that.  I'm the one who knows when she's ready for something or not.  She's showing interest in letters and she's getting there to learn them, gradually.  At her pace.  I'm the one who protects her from pressures and stress.  I will not be the one causing it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Refueling Station

I consider this tour in Louisiana our Refueling Tour.  And I am standing at the pump with the car off and windows down.

At this billet, Andy has predictable and stable hours.  He is not required to work weekends.  There is even some flexibility in his schedule that allows him to make important kid functions for the first time ever. Here, he can be an active husband, parent, and a Marine.  Whereas before, in all of our other tours, his work was so intensive that all of his time had been spoken for by the Marine Corps.  Not that different from many civilian jobs as I understand it.  I swear America does it the hard way.  We are a strong nation with wide shoulders because of it but it is definitely the hard way.

The kids are flourishing here.  Both love their schools, enjoy extra-curricular activities and have made good friends in the neighborhood to play with which is novel for them.  Before we were motoring to parks to get in a play date with friends before fighting an hour's drive through traffic back home.

While I haven't taken advantage of the Cajun music or food scene much, I am thriving here too.

With more support from Andy on the home front, my time is becoming less frenetic.  I no longer feel so anxious and alone.  Yes there are still uni-lateral decisions, solo trips the pediatrician's, and single parenting schleps to a parent-teacher conference (with an over-tired sibling in tow) but they have lost their weight.  My body is not heavy with the knowledge I must get up and do it all over again alone for months on end.  A new scaffolding exists.  A happy family hammock.

For the first time in several years, we are in place where we can all refuel.

I am filling up my tank that I depleted so much there were cracks in its foundation.  Large, scissoring, wicked cracks.  Nobody but me is responsible for dehydrating my tank so badly.  It was a case of good intentions, fractured exhaustion, and striving for an unrealistic standard I created myself.  Not one of my friends would've cared if they sat in a dusting of dog hair on my couch.  Every single one of them would've come over to make my kids dinner while I went upstairs to fall into a coma short sleep.

That tank might've lasted longer if I forced more naps and attended fewer volunteer opportunities; cared less about seeming strong than being rested.  That tank would've teetered above E if I would've been kinder to myself and let the clean laundry live in the baskets or serve the kids a curb-side IHOP dinner on Fridays. Nobody but me kept that bar up so damn high.    

Ah, but we all have the magic hindsight, don't we?

Luckily, that phase of our life has come and gone and the kids are growing up.  Now that Grayson is at school full time, he requires less direction from me during daytime hours.  He is largely self-sufficient with his morning own care and has become uber responsible about due dates and his homework at night.  We hope this trajectory continues and vaporizes into Abby's mind when it's her turn.

Abby is going to school every day too but only for 4 hours.  She is largely the reason I don't need a gym membership.  We never stop moving.  Abby is a one-person Cirque du Soleil, The Musical.  Because of her age, she leans heavily on me for her personal care and entertainment before and after school.  Most of the time I can hang and come up with fun things but there are minutes when I am 40 and must tap out.  That's when she is parked her in front of Curious George so I can detox from socializing (yes, socializing even with her wears me out.  "It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah.")

Those detox minutes are precious.  They are standing at a quiet pump, refueling an empty tank leftover from gritty years in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.   Good years but lacking wisdom or grace.

My default detox is grabbing the camera and heading to the duck pond.  I turn, squat, lean, and bend to align myself with the sun to make a pretty glow.  Trying to capture what is only there for a momentary stretch. Nikon Yoga.  

Another creative tank is guitar.  While I still really suck at it and probably never will be able to play more than Jewel's Morning Song, practicing reminds me growth often comes from pain.  The strings physically hurt, my fingers stretch beyond their wildest dreams, and my voice struggles to climb around a harmony.   G chord Therapy.

Finally and maybe the most addictive tank has been advocating for death row animals.  Every free moment brings a chance to sign online and crosspost a sentient life that doesn't stand a chance without it.  Just by sharing, this pet will have up to thousands more people looking at it and becoming aware of its plight.  There can be no empathy without awareness.  The beauty of social networking is that it can be utilized for posting a pic of your Girls' Night Out martini and posting a pet in NYC to be seen across the globe in a matter of seconds...very crucial, life altering seconds.  To me, it's the best use of networking there is.  Dogmatic Truth.

Did my empty tank require a move to Louisiana?  No.  I could've done all of this back in our old place but something about starting over helped me do the same.

It's good to be filling back up the old me.  I've missed patience, a surplus of affection, and time to give myself.  Yes, myself.   When we are strung out and barely hanging by a thread, we don't stop.  The only reason we are still able to give to others is because we are leaching it from ourselves.  We deplete our own tank.  Our kids don't take it without our permission, our partners don't rob us blind in the dark, our parents and/or friends don't strip of energy until we let them.  We push ourselves, cover up fatigue, drag along a weary body that just wants to go to a spa for 60 million hours.

I don't know what it was for me:  this far away move, a death of a beloved one, a click of the psyche.  But I feel we all  get there eventually.  We land ourselves in a place - both figuratively and literally - that allows us to slow down, refocus and refuel.  A cracked foundation leads to erosion of the entire property.  And my property was beginning to recede into the ocean.

My tank isn't full yet and might not ever be but that's ok.  We live in the south now.  There is nobody hurrying me along.  I can sit here with the car off and the windows down for as long as it takes.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pants Hero

Abby and I have gone to war over clothing.

She and all of her lively skin neurons cannot deal with pants.  She will wear skirts, shorts, knee-high socks, leg warmers but not actual pants.  This isn't normally a problem since we live in the south now.  However, this winter has been colder than normal, dipping into the 40s with cold rain at times, and she still refuses to cover those legs.  For the most part I back off and let her walk out into the frosty air in her Pippi Longstocking getups and go home to drown my mom guilt in tea.

I let her sort through her bureau and find what works.  Sometimes it's this:

Other times I hear her in her room, tearful and standing in her undies looking around for the "purple skirt with the stripes," that she rejected just yesterday.  It's like she's looking for something that doesn't exist....all the time.

It's like she's me.

I hate it when I see her be me.  I hate it that this drives me so crazy that I walk out of her room spitting mad because WTF, they are just pants.  I hate it when I am reminded of what hurts by watching what is hurting her.

We are both overly sensitive souls.  The main difference is Abby needs LOTS of outside stimuli to function whereas I need LOTS of inside quiet to be ok.  Other than that, I can relate.  I feel for this child because I hate pants too.

When I was younger I would stand in my room, changing outfits hundreds of times because nothing felt right. At the time I thought it was just a wardrobe war.  Now, with some distance between me and my teenage closet, I realize I was uncomfortable in general.  Something was always too tight, too baggy, too squeezy, too bunchy, and eventually I'd throw on some leggings and "borrow" my uncle's baggy sweater.  In my quest to find the perfect pants, I found a proverbial bag to throw over my body so nobody would see me there. Thankfully it was the 80s so this passed high school muster.  

My Abby is struggling through her field of discomfort now.  It is beginning with pants but it won't end there.  And I don't know how to let her figure it out herself.   Isn't it my job to help her?  Isn't it my role to help her be comfortable?  Be ok with everything?

I want to help her.  I want to purchase the exact thing she can wear because it's 100% cotton, seamless, weightless, and sparkly.  I want to be her Pants Hero. Watching my girl wind up frustrated and distraught because she just can't get comfortable for the public is hard.  But it's necessary.  She has to push through itchy, scary, rude, bunchy, "blooshy and paf *as she calls it*" to get back to ease.  Ease with herself in her own skin.

Life is going to give her pants.

I just hope she discovers a love for leggings.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


The older my chidlren get the harder it is to believe in the construct of time.

They are doing things I did yesterday.  Like losing their teeth and writing notes to the Tooth Fairy:

Wrestling each other until someone gets rug burn or steps on someone else's throat.

It was a week ago, Eric and I were racing just for racing's sake across a blacktop to an undefined yellow pole over the horizon.

And practicing good sportsmanship because, like Abby's brother, mine runs like a cheetah also smokes me every time.

Wasn't it yesterday, I was following my cheetah anywhere on the globe.  Believing he would protect us both because there is nobody braver than a cheetah with a trusting cub behind it.

Kathleen, Lindsay, Lisa, April and  I just spent a summer digging out the bubbles from the bottom of a rusting toy chest in my garage.  Right next to the folding spaghetti string lawn chairs.   And a slippery bottle of tanning oil.

Because when Operation was finished, Feely Meely was over, and Kroft Superstars got boring, bubbles are always the best show in town.

Especially when the audience is captive and ever smiling.

I can still hear my own mom reminding me with her serious voice to get my Face.Away.From.The.Dog.

(I never did either.)

No way was it decades ago that we left all the caps off our paints because we weren't sure we were finished painting yet.  No way was it 35 years ago.  Impossible.

There is a wormhole in my house, letting time pour in from years ago.

My kids are mine and I'm pretending to be their mom but really?

I'm this little girl  playing with curlers in her hair and a camera in her hand.


If growing up is just something they say. 

Not something we do.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


You know that extra sixth sense we all have that isn't quite sight, smell, touch, hear, or taste? It's more like a feel or sensing do I put overall hum?  Well, mine is always in high gear.  I can't turn it off.   I try to turn it off with wine, practicing guitar, trying out a new recipe but it's forever there, like a bass line in my bones.  Is yours like that too?

Last night, I cooked dinner early and got the kids ready for bed before I got the call my husband would be late because the hum told me to do all of that already.

I wanted to take Abby out for lunch yesterday but before we stepped foot in our favorite place, the hum let me know it was bursting with people's energy and too crowded for a girl and her mom.  It was, she screamed at me to leave as soon as we entered the din.

When I need beef broth and noodles for a recipe but I quickly change lanes last minute for a store I don't usually go in because, well, the humming guides me there.  Turns out the organic beef is on sale and it's perched conveniently on a kiosk next to the three other ingredients I would've forgotten at the other store. My body knew it was there so we went.

This sort of thing happens so often that I barely ever run into crowds, get into traffic jams, or am stuck somewhere I don't want to be.  It's not to say bad things don't happen, I just dropped a very large jar of strawberry jam on both of my feet (both of my feet?!), but the hum steers me away from negative energy if I listen.  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME I override the hum, I live to regret it.  I wind up spending time with someone I don't care to spend time with.  Or stuck at an event that doesn't resonate well.  Or worse, spending money at Michael's on a wreathing craft I will never put together.

And the hum can premeditate, too.  For example, if a friend makes an invitation for an event two weeks away, my body hums and I already feel whether that day someone will be sick, late from work, or otherwise just not a good time to go.  Can you imagine that response?  I'm sorry, Michelle, one of my kids is going to have a raging fever and my dog will puke that night.  Or something like that.  There would never be another invitation to anywhere ever again so I temper my response to fit the situation.  If my body is quiet and I don't hum at all, usually the coast is clear and I can make the event.  Some might call this a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.  I read the book too and yet,  I still call it life.  It's been this way ever since I was a little girl.  This freaky thing has seen me through lots of could've-been-treacherous episodes and one definite near-death experience.  Forty years later?  I trust that sh*t, no question.  I listen to my body's hum automatically and it never does me wrong.

The humming happens when I meet new people, too.  It is such a good judge of character that I trust it implicitly.  I've tested it, which is to say not trusted it, and have always been disappointed, yet impressed when I get lemons.  The sixth sense allows nobody with ill intentions through.  It's like a gargoyle that way and I love it.  I'm sure it's not full-proof, and there are times I still give far too much time to someone I feel I shouldn't, but I'm working on that.  I think it's human nature to feel we can be everything to everyone.  My hum lets me know I can't so I won't.

The humming comes in handy when I'm with animals, too.  Obviously I prefer dogs but it happens no matter what species.  It just so happens, dogs vibe a lot and when I'm with them, it's easy to get caught up in their sensory lane.  It's not long before you see every movement, lip lick, side-eye, and back-leg prance that leads to a scuffle.  There is so much vibing going on at the Dog Adoption Center that I'm on sensory overload the entire time, but in a comfortable way.  It's a language I understand.  It's a language I trust.

Throngs of people are so much more confusing.  Exhausting, really.  Our natural masks, social deflections, and pride defenses make it impossible to vibe without a mask, too.  This is definitely why friends can be aplenty but soul sisters are few.  For me, a friendship bond is the same as humming well together.  When I meet someone I like, it takes me a while to discern whether the chemistry will work or it won't, because we're both wearing masks.  In the end, it's chemistry, either gelling or not.  Dogs?  No mask, all personality traits are out there.  Sometimes there is posturing or submission but those aren't false advertisements, those are rules.  Refreshing.

The only possible glitch I can see about this sixth sense being "on" all the time is that I am usually safe.  Safe is good but it is not always challenging.  I never find myself in an uncomfortable collection of people.  I've spent too many years doing that and while yes very challenging OMG was I extremely challenged,  it brought me to neuroses, not happiness.

So while I'm slightly wanting to be outside my comfort zone at times, I won't push past the brink of insanity for myself anymore.  Humming has become so second-nature that it would take some serious mental wrestling to drive through an ice storm, attend a Mardi Gras parade downtown, or book a flight to Vegas just because.  I think by this time, my body doesn't want to waste one ounce of energy in a place it doesn't belong.  I chose to put it through hat A LOT for several eras so we're solid there.   It has spent a long time thinking about these things.  Which leaves me all the time in the world to reap what it has sewn.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

January Chill

January breathes her troubled chill through the clouds

and brings them down to me in feathers,

 in stars between bamboo,

while eggs hide to hold in their last hope of warmth.

I pine with them.
Blanketed in prayer
But today it's winter.

January sun sends warm prisms through my lens,

belated green and orange guardians

His voice is straight and it is calm,

letting me know the choice is gone,

We are walking away

from winter.