Wednesday, January 31, 2007


When I asked him if the song he wrote (previous post) was about missing L.A., he looked at me with such pity, coming very near to giving me the teenager eyeroll and said "No, mom. The song is about a girl who lives in London".


new song

Here is a song my son wrote today. I'm trying to figure out a way to record them so you can actually hear them played (because, truly, he ROCKS), but in the meantime, this is the first song he has taken the time to write down.

"I Wanna Go Back"

I wanna go back
To the town

I wanna go back
To my home

I wanna go back
On a bus

I think I want to just
Figure out what I need
Instead of waiting here
On my knees

I wanna sit and relax and look at the sun

I’m gonna feel relaxed when I’m done

I’m gonna think hard and feel my feelings when I’m done

I wanna go back


I am coming to realize that I will never have a more intimate relationship than the one I have with my son. I have an incredibly, increasingly intimate relationship with my husband, and for that I am thankful, but the intimacy I have with my son is so.... I am trying to come up with the word, and the only thing that comes close is this - sacred. But goofy also springs to mind.

I don't say this to be creepy, because there is nothing untoward going on. It's not only about body parts, which as a mother, you see more than your share of. It has to do with the honor of caring for these small people. For being a witness to the way they tick.

There is some of it that I am ready to pass up, to hand over to my son, things he should take on himself and be responsible for. (Wiping after a big poo comes to mind, and trust me, he does this himself now, but not before asking me to do a check for stray... too much information? Yes, I know. For me too.)

The incident that made me think about this is something that happened yesterday. My son's syndrome is very rare, but we are blessed that it has, so far, been quite mild. But it does show itself to the world, and he has no control over that. He has become an incredibly compassionate person, and if he has issues with it, he is dealing with it in a very positive way. He tells me every night at bathtime that he loves his "bumps", and he will affectionately pat them, and once in a while I'll catch him talking to them. He doesn't want them to go away, even though they are eye catching (meaning people stare openly). He has two large, beautiful fingers on his right hand, two large feet that remind me of a hobbit, and a very large birthmark on his left leg that runs from his hip to down past his knee, picking up again in a heart shape around the three outermost toes on his left foot. He has varicose veins on his left leg, and the birthmark, which is actually a vascular abnormality, will occasionally bleed. And that's what happened yesterday.

He had a panicked look when he got off the bus, and he was limping slightly. "Mom, I have a bleeder!" Normally, they'll bleed for a second, but not much longer, but yesterday, by the time we got up the hill, a bright red flower about the diameter of a tennis ball had blossomed on the leg of his pale blue jeans. We ran inside, took off his pants, his sock, which had also become soaked, and managed to stop the bleeding and put on a bandaid. It wasn't really that much blood, but it was more than usual. I don't worry too much now, but I know we'll have to get him into compression stockings sooner than later, and that the bleeding issue could become embarrassing if it happens at school. But why? That's what I was thinking about this morning, when I wanted to post. Why is our blood so intimate? I don't know. But it is. I also know that if it happens at school, it could scare people. Not just children, but the adults who don't happen to know about his syndrome (although everyone he comes in contact with at school has been given a letter of explanation.)

I guess that's what is hard for me. That my incredibly talented boy, my funny, smart, gentle, kid might be judged for something he has no control over. It happens to everyone, I know, and I know that we can't control what others think of us, and I know that my desire to shelter him from the harsh, or even sympathetic thoughts of others is something every parent feels at one time or another. There are times when we all have no choice but to share some private moment with the world. But still, the desire to do so is so strong. If I could will people's eyes up and away from his leg, to his sweet, silly face, and to his beautiful heart, I would. They'll get there eventually on their own anyway, it can't be helped. The kid is a force of nature. But that first moment will always be there. So, I'll just put this out there...

it's all intimate. Every interaction you have today should be honored. You, too, are a witness. And it's all sacred.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


My son has a door fetish.

He's had it since he was old enough to walk, when he would head straight to the kitchen, whereever we were, and slam the cupboard doors that were low enough for him to get his little mits on. He moved on to bigger and better doors, where he only caught his fingers once. When he was potty training, you couldn't keep him out of public restrooms, compelled as he was to check out each and every stall. Now he has left behind regular swinging doors (except for the obsession with closing them after he's gone through them), and is completely and utterly fascinated with mechanical doors - doors that close on busses, trains, automatic doors in shopping areas, etc. I would worry, if I thought it would help. But I do wonder where it comes from. Is it because I had to have an emergency C-section and he didn't get "closure"? (I am mostly kidding, there). Is it because he has a highly technical brain? Is he headed for the couch in later years? Is he a walking, talking, singing artistic metaphor for life and passage? Or is it something that will pass when he hits his teen years and discovers girls and drugs and porn?

I can't even think about that last one. I will need to be wrapped tightly, with loud music to block the noise when he hits his teen years.

For now, I choose to think of it as his genius curiosity.

Monday, January 29, 2007

play nice

It is gorgeous here in the Vancouver/Portland area (I guess I'm becoming a real 'couver-ite, because I put Vancouver before Portland), with blue skies, high clouds and cold, cold air. So yesterday, with my hubby off work, we decided we had to get out. Since we're still relatively new here, we have only a few reliable places, and were feeling the need to be a bit more adventurous, we looked in our handydandy book "What To Do If You Haven't A Clue In Portland". That's not the real title of course, but I can't remember the real title, and the book is upstairs and I am downstairs, so if you really have to know what it is, post a comment and I'll get back to you.

Anyway....I am apparently the go-to gal for our social calendar, so it was up to me to find something for us to do yesterday. I actually arranged three out of the ordinary experiences this weekend. I called my brother in desparation on Friday and beggggged him to babysit so my husband and I could see a movie. He did, and we did and it was great to be out of the house seeing something that didn't involve animation. Not that I don't love animation - I do - but I occasionally like to see real people in my movies, too. Then, I found a church to take my son and myself to yesterday morning. I am a lapsed Lutheran, and my son attended a real fire and brimstone Lutheran church preschool, and he somehow missed the hell and damnation part and is completely focused on the love one another part, so I thought it might be nice for us to get a little spirit. Also meet some people. I am searching a bit for those things right now, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. A lot of the churches in our neck of the woods have a lot of sayings on their message boards that lead me to believe I would not want to be there, so I sought out a Unity church. I had attended a few services in California with my m.i.l., and liked it for the most part. There was lots of talk about being open to "abundance" which grates at my Lutheran core, but for the most part I liked going there.

So we get to the church, and it's this sweet little chapel, and the inside is very light and cozy at the same time, and we seat ourselves at the end of the pew, and the service begins. There is a woman leading the service, which I find comforting, until she starts leading us in Kundalini breathing exercises, and talking about chakras, and having metaphysical out of body experiences. You can take the girl out of the Lutheran church, but apparently, you can't take the Lutheran church out of the girl. Don't get me wrong, I followed along, with Joe-Henry, who, I might add, was a much better sport than I. I practiced all the meditation, checking him out of the corner of my eye, and he was full on into it. Only once did we happen to catch each other peeking and we both nearly lost it. We made it through, though, and we both did have a nice time. It's good to step out of one's comfort zone, and since the edges of my comfort zone seem to be erased a bit, I have no idea if I'm stepping out of them or not, until I realize, like when you step on dog poo and don't know until you're in your house walking around and wondering "what's that smell?"

After church, we headed home, where Charley had just arrived as well, having just started a writing group. He had a good morning, and we did too, having all done something to tackle our midwinter ennui. But the day was too gorgeous, and kept calling us to come out and play. So I go to my handydandy book, and find a park for us to go to. It's near the Rose Garden in Portland, and it's so beautiful, but the sun has dipped behind the hills by the time we get there and it's freezing. But it doesn't matter, there are gorgeous, healthy families, and apple cheeked children running and shrieking and laughing, and it's the most spiritual place I've been all day. There is something about the full throated laughter of children that makes my eyes water with happiness. Joe-Henry is having a wonderful time, going as quickly as he can up the stairs so he can come down the bright blue tube slide. He's hysterical with pleasure by the time he gets to the bottom, having fooled us into believing that he was coming down headfirst and sliding down on his butt the normal way instead, being the crazy practical joker that he is. He does it again and again, and in time another little boy, there with his mom, joins in. He seems to be an only child too. You can always tell, because they are a little bit slow to warm to the other kids, but these two seem to recognize that in one another and begin having a "polite-off" at the top of the slide: "You go first!" "No, you!" They are a regular Chip and Dale team. Eventually we leave that slide for another, curlier slide, and I become increasingly aware that Joe-Henry is always so polite. The other kids race past him, like they always do, because he moves a tiny bit slower because of his feet and legs, and because he's cautious, and these kids just move past him without notice. And he doesn't care. But I do - I want to go up there and be his bodyguard and tell them to wait their turn. But Joe-Henry, he just knows, because he's a better person than I am, more patient and kind, that these kids are just kids too and I actually heard him say, without a trace of hurt or bitterness, "Go ahead of me, I take a little longer". When they all came down, I couldn't help looking at them in that purse-lipped way of mine, but then when Joe-Henry finally made it to the bottom, he was just one huge pink-cheeked, ear-to-ear smile. I tucked away that observation for later, something to ponder while looking for answers.

There is nothing, not one atom of one thing, that I would change about my son. I will always pray, in my clumsy, lapsed-Lutheran-mostly-heathen way that he will always be as self-assured and confident as he is, and that he stays as healthy as possible. But I wouldn't take away his syndrome, because it's shaped him into the most caring, artistic six year old imaginable. What I would change, and what I keep trying to change, is myself. My impatience, my judgemental attitude, my fear. I don't really expect to find any answers, but maybe that's the trick. If I keep looking, keep seeking, if I keep listening to that silly, sweet kid of mine, I might find them anyway.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

shout out

This is a "mommy" shout out to my niece Amber, who is about to deliver her first baby. I remember when she was born, and now here she is, all grown up, ready to be a mother herself. She will be the first among my nieces and nephew to have a baby, and my brother will be the first among his siblings to be a grandparent. Grandpa Dale will be amazing, I know. He's a natural, and I'm excited to see him with his little grandson, Isaac.

I remember how I felt in the two weeks before my son was born. I was so restless and excited. I wasn't scared really, but I was mighty nervous about giving birth. As it turns out, that was nothing, just a tiny blip on the radar. The big stuff happened after he was born. Most of it I don't remember, the first six months being mostly triage due to the chaos this little person caused in our lives. But what I do remember is this: no matter how hard any of it got, or how frightened I was at the prospect of making a mistake, there is nothing, nothing, nothing I would trade. My son has been like a tiny blacksmith, hammering away at the soft metal of my core, shaping me to become the mother, the person I want to be. I am still working on it, still waking up every day with the commitment to do better than I did the day before, and some days I actually succeed. There are other days, too, but I won't talk about them here. I'll just say that it gets better. It gets easier.

I want to give my niece advice, to help her handle the big stuff, but there is no way to do that. There is no one thing to say, but there are little things that make it easier, to help you get from one day to the next without losing your mind from love and lack of sleep and worry and more love. So here are my top ten ways to stay sane in the first three months of parenthood.

1. Accept all offers of help. Be direct in what you need. If you need someone to get you a glass of water because you just sat down to breastfeed for the 500th time that day and forgot, for the 500th time to get one yourself before you sat down to breastfeed, then ask, with no apologies.
2. Abandon decorum. There is nothing that can prepare you for the huge wave of emotions due to physical discomfort, tidal waves of love and postpartum hormones. Polite behavior can be modeled for your baby another day. If there are too many visitors, tell them "not now". If there are not enough visitors, call them up and tell them to get their butts over there, pronto, and bring dinner while they're at it. You'll return to your polite self eventually, and they'll get over it.
3. Seek out other mothers with infants. There is no one else who will understand you like they will. It's so comforting to let down your guard with others who are working the same crazy schedule as you.
4. Get some gripewater. It's made from an extract of fennel, and eases everything from gas to teething. It was a godsend when JH was a baby.
5. Get outside a little bit every day. Even now, I am still in awe of how much stepping outside can change my mood from deranged to calm.
6. Sleep when you can. If that little guy goes down, take advantage of that time to catch a few zzzzs. The laundry/dishes/mess will wait. It will wait about 3 or 4 months until you regain your equilibrium. In the meantime, make friends with the mess.
7. Talk to your baby. I know that sounds so obvious, but honestly, they are such little slugs at first, it feels kind of strange. But they know your voice best, and it's reassuring to them. And believe this: they understand you waaaaaay before they can tell you that they understand you. So even when he's crying his little head off, he's just telling you how he feels, and the sound of your voice lets him know that he's heard. It might not stop him from crying, but it doesn't matter, it's communication and they need that.
8. Go easy on yourself. You are a new person after that baby is born. It's going to take you a while to get used to the new skin you're in. There are lots of "firsts" coming at you, and unlike a new job where you go, and feel kind of tense during the day for the first couple weeks while you learn the lay of the land, but get to unwind when you come home, this is a job that you never get to leave. The learning curve is intense and unrelenting, but the fringe benefits are amazing. That first gummy smile will be all yours, and there are no words to describe the elation you'll feel.
9. Go easy on your partner. It's all new to them too. Granted, they didn't pass an object the size of a bowling ball out of their rectum. Still. They need to be supported too.
10. Enjoy all of it. It goes by so quickly. I know everyone says that, and believe me, all too soon, you'll be saying it too. Relish this time with your baby, take lots of pictures, write down what they smell like and how they look when they're sleeping.
I am so excited for you. You are going to be an excellent mother, and Isaac is going to be such a lucky little boy.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

privacy please

I am about to tell a funny story about someone I know, who lives in our house, and who only comes up to the top of my ribcage. I’m withholding his name, because someday he’ll be old enough to read these entries, although I’m sure he’ll have no interest in doing so. But just in case, here’s something hilarious he said tonight while we were snuggling under the covers before bed time…

Him: “Mom, I have to tell you something private. I feel kind of shy about it.”
Me: “Okay. But you don’t have to be shy. You can just tell me.”
Him: “Someone at school whose name starts with ** (letters withheld to protect the innocent) guess what kind of car she has?”
Me: “Um…. I don’t know.”
Him: “A Range Rover” Eyes wide, followed by a fit of giggles
Me: “Okaaaaay. But why is that private?”
Him: “Because I’m touching my tookas”

Monday, January 22, 2007

details, details

I’m thinking that the reason I can’t come up with, um, uh…..oh yeah - words, and the reason I… what was I going to say? Oh, right, the reason I forget things is this:

I know the names of all of these tiny plastic animals that live in our tub.

They are:
front row: Tallhead
second row: Lizardy, Blackeyedfrog, Longlegs
last row: Greenyfish, Amanda, Joseph, Isabella, Bella, Gola, and HeHe (“because he’s a he”)

Why I have this capacity for the names of brightly colored plastic fish, reptiles and amphibians, I don’t know. I guess because it’s important to him, and it’s a way to connect. I guess that’s why.

Still, I wish I could remember a few grown up things too.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Joe-Henry has been off school all week due to Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and then snow. I thought for sure he'd go back today - the roads are clear and the snow nearly melted. But I went on the district website to check and there is.....

"No a.m. kindergarten". Why!? Dear Sweet Jesus, WHY?

Help!!! I am just not mentally prepared for one more day building legos! I was looking forward to two quiet hours getting things done that I need to get done. Don't get me wrong - I love love love spending time with my son, but I think we are both at the breaking point.

I'm about to take you for a scary ride. You are about to go inside the head of a mother who is on "Unexpected Day 5 of No School" (different from "Planned Day 5 of No School" because there's, well, a PLAN). Put on your helmet - it might get bumpy..

Alright. Think fast. Coffee, first and foremost. Yes. That's good. Now, let him sleep in, that buys an extra half hour. Use that time to read the paper to wake up brain, and think woman! Get out of the house. Costco? The post office? The park is too cold and wet and muddy yet. But getting him dressed to go out and run ERRANDS on a day when he doesn't have school will take at least two hours because he drags his feet. That's the reality. Don't fight it. We're in the house this morning, think "in the house". Okay, first, breakfast. He can stretch that to half hour. Then what? Crafts? Yeah, right. Games? Not "Chutes and Ladders" please, I'd rather stick a fork in my eye, but maybe Uno. That's a half hour tops taken care of. Cars and trains? More my husband's milieu than mine, but I've been known to get on the floor and crash a few cars. Okay, that's fifteen minutes taken care of. There's also the lego helicopter that didn't get built yesterday. Of course, the legos are iffy - I always wind up building it, getting engrossed in the visual instructions, while he turns on the tv and then pipes up in a half hour to ask me for a snack. I'll ask him why he's not helping and he'll hold up the one tiny part in his hand and say, "But Mom, I AM helping!" Also, if the t.v. goes on, there is a huge fight to turn it off. Every time. You'd think I'd learn. They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Watching t.v. in our house fits that description. We turn a bit crazy if it's on for over an hour. Okay, so no legos until afternoon. Dance party? That would be good for both of us. Could I get him to dance while helping me sort the mountain of laundry that needs to be done? Wait - first, call the plumber because the laundry is still dripping. That's why there's a mountain of it. Plumber first, then laundry. Okay..... what else. Bus trip! Max Train! YES. A trip to downtown Portland! An adventure. That's what we'll do. Get a few chores done, then hop a train downtown. Alright, I think we've got something. Then, once we're out of the house, errands can be run. Crisis averted.

You may take off your helmets now. We hope you enjoyed your trip.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

the mother of all armadas

Read this over at Suttonhoo's excellent blog 'Detritus' today, and thought I noticed some similarities between the "father of molecular gastronomy" and my six year old boy. Thought I'd see how the two compare....

Spanish chef Ferran Adria's support crew vs. Joe-Henry's support crew....
Adria has:
One "gastronomic interpreter" provided
by the Spanish government*
Joe-Henry has:
Two "parents"
who tell him to eat his dinner. Try it - one bite at least. If you don't like, well, that's too bad, I'm not making anything else.

Adria has:
Two people whose sole job is to sweep
the stones in the driveway*
Joe-Henry has:
One mom on the lookout for missing train track, and tiny street signs that can poke right through your foot if you step on it in the middle of the night.

Adria has:
49 kitchen staff*
Joe-Henry has:
One mom. (Impressive, no?)

Adria has:
additional staff of photographers and
graphic designers "who often do nothing but
document his every move in the kitchen"*
Joe-Henry has:
One mom and one dad who photograph and film him nearly every day.

*With credit to Andrew Zimmern and his article about Spanish chef Ferran Adria's support crew, in Northwest
Airlines January in-flight magazine. And the wonderful Ms. Hoo, intrepid traveller, who probably has been reading too many in-flight magazines these days!

Thank you Hoo. You always inspire me. We'll have to travel together someday!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

snow day

Yesterday we had a whopper of a snow day. All the forecasts had predicted a light flurry in the morning, ending by noon. But it didn't happen. Instead, we got about 3 inches, and now they're saying there will be thawing, then freezing, for the rest of the week. Niiiiiice.

But on the "fun & adventure" front, we live on a hill, and Joe-Henry got to do some sledding for the first time ever. We hung out with neighbors we had not met and did a little socializing, and laughed and laughed in the cold, white wonderland. We watched the "boys" across the street - college kids who invited all their friends - start drinking beer at about 8:30 a.m. and do a little atv-ing up and down the street, as well as snowboarding. The mom in me stood there with arms crossed, tsking that they weren't even wearing helmets. Joe-Henry piped in with - "They're smoking cigarettes TOO?!" It was all a bit much for my law and order son, and he was ready to call the authorities. But they managed to stay in one piece, and were even kind enough to help JH onto a borrowed sled so he could slide down the hill while I waited at the bottom to block his crash.

The big event happened in the early evening though, when a sanding truck was trying to make it up the hill. I watched as the driver lost traction, and began his slide down the hill, taking out our recycling first, then our mailbox, then ramming into a parked truck, coming to rest against a power pole. All the wires above our house started to shake, but we didn't lose power. I was amazed at how quickly they came to take care of it, but I guess the would have to. The pole was missing the bottom part that stuck in the ground, the whole thing suspended by power lines. Yikes.

There's no school again today, and even though I feel crazy and housebound, I know how lucky we are. Hundreds of thousands of folks across the country are without power due to severe winter weather, and we're still warm and have enough supplies to keep us going for as long as this holds out. For us, it's just a blip, a chilly adventure that we'll enjoy while it lasts.

the facts of life

"You take the good you take the bad
you take them both and then you have
The facts of life, the facts of life..."

"Facts" is one of those words that you say it often enough and it starts to sound wrong, which is kind of ironic, isn't it? I mean, they're facts after all. Spelling it is even stranger. You see it on the page - facts - and it just looks odd. I mention this because I woke up with this song going through my head this morning. (And I'm truly sorry if I planted it in your heads. Quick, turn on your iPods!) I also mention it because these kind of thoughts seem to be popping into my head a lot lately, distracting me from tasks, from thinking 'actual' thoughts.

My head feels so muddy these days. I've heard it's really common for women "of a certain age" to go through this phenomenon. I just didn't think it would happen to me. I have always thought of myself as someone who is bright and quick-witted, but these days I feel like my brain is betraying me. I'm not alarmed about it, worrying about early onset alzheimers or a brain tumor, but it is humbling, to say the least.

My in-laws were kind enough to get us airline tickets on their frequent flyer miles to come for a visit. I was sure I had cleared my husband's schedule, and had dotted all the i's and crossed the t's with him, but last night, while he was talking to his mom, who had gone ahead and booked the tickets on my okay, I heard him say "but I work on Thursday". It's a mess, and considering the other things I've been forgetting lately, I know it has my husband perplexed, frustrated and maybe even worried. But the thing is, as much as I hate making mistakes, as small and furry as it makes me feel, I know it's just part of this time of my life. I'm going to do my best to combat it, take up crossword puzzles, up my B vitamin intake, get more exercise, and get out in the world more.

I have a great helper too. My son, last night, sensing my feelings, took me by the hand and sat me on the stairs. "I know you feel bad mommy. Just go tell Daddy you feel small and furry, and that you're sorry you made a mistake. Mistakes happen to everyone." I am so lucky to have such a caring, loving boy.

And that's a fact.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


My love, my sweet little boy, lost his front tooth today. It wasn't his first tooth to come out, but it was the one that I knew would change him. His face changed so much when he went from toothless baby to baby with teeth, and now it's changing again. I noticed tonight too, that he's getting a little more flesh on him, something that happens before a growth spurt. I'm anticipating those growing pains for him, but this time, too, I'm anticipating the growing pains for myself, as well.

The ground seems to be shifting under my feet, and I need to accomodate that. I'm not sure how that's going to happen, but I know I will need to brace myself for whatever the change will be. I feel really uncertain about everything right now. I don't know if that's hormones, or if it's something happening in my marriage. Maybe it's both. Wouldn't that just suck? Sometimes, I feel just plain crazy, but I also remember that saying "I may be paranoid, but it doesn't mean they're not out to get me."

I'm just going through an incredibly hard time right now. I don't lay it at the feet of my husband - I can claim much of the blame myself. I can also say with conviction, that this time of life with all it's blessings, leaves me feeling crazed and completely not myself. The only thing I can hang on to is that I know it won't last forever. And the one certainty in all of it is that I love the little light that's sleeping directly upstairs as I type this. I'll do my best not to put it all on him - my dad did that to me, and it was a lot of responsibility for a kid. But that said, I have a beautiful reason to figure this all out and do my best.

And he's missing his front tooth.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


When I was just 12, I distinctly recall going from weeping to laughing in a nanosecond, and thought "that's weird". Turns out, I was going through puberty, and would be at the mercy of something called "hormones" for the next 45 or so years. I managed to be okay, to figure out my particular rhythms: Week one, normal. Week two emotional. Week three bitchy/in pain. Lather, rinse, repeat for a really, really looooong time.

Well, guess what. Those were the good old days. Now I'm in perimenopausal hell, where my periods come every two weeks, and some days I feel like I have to hold on to my head to keep it from flying off. My sleep is off, my moods are swinging like a monkey in a tree, and I can't remember my own name half the time. I've mentioned before that having a six year old during this time of life seems like a cruel trick, but in other ways, it's kind of a wild party. You never know who is going to show up next. Turns out, six is when boys get a huge influx of testosterone, add to that six year molars and you have yourself a recipe for monster stew. We've been mixin' it up pretty good lately, but we had a great week together. My husband was out of town for a trade show, and we survived being Dad-less and had our first snow day. But today my husband returned from San Francisco and told me he thought I could do a better job of parenting, I almost turned in my resignation.

But I can't. I'm signed on for life. I love my son, and my husband, (though right now I'd like to throw something at him), and so I'll try to listen to his criticism constructively. I'll work harder, try to be better, socialize my child more, win some, lose some and get up tomorrow to do it again. That's life in the big parenting city, and though today was a day I'd like to forget, tomorrow will get better. Or not. Chances are, we'll all live, but it might get ugly once in a while. But as Joe-Henry says in his most loving voice, repeating what he's heard from me, "that's just part of life."

I'm a great mom, and he's a great kid. And my husband is a great dad. But his timing is seriously off.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

the incredible hulkmama

Do you remember the first time you were teased? I don't remember the words that were flung, but I do remember that I was in kindergarten and this first grade boy in kicked me in the shins, hard, and it gave me a huge bruise. The thing I remember most, though, was my mom's anger at this boy. My mom had a quick Irish temper, and I remember feeling that this boy was in Big Trouble with my mama. She said, and I quote (this part I remember very clearly) - "I wonder how he would like it if I put on my army boots and gave him a kick in HIS shins?!" I truly thought she would do it, too. She never did put on those boots, but I'm pretty sure she did talk to someone at school. I know she wouldn't, and couldn't have let it go. A couple years later, though, my same mother held my much older brothers back physically when they heard me yelling for help in the alley because I was being kissed against my will by Darren Teichmer. She knew I needed to learn to fight that fight myself. I think, too, that she had learned that righteous mama anger was all well and good, but children needed to learn to defend themselves, as hard as that sounds.

I bring this all up because yesterday after school, as we were walking up the hill from the bus stop, Joe-Henry stopped in his tracks and said "Mom! Chance teased me on the bus! He asked me if I slept with my mom, and I said I did, and he said 'You sleep with your mama, you sleep with your mama!' like that, teasing but not nice teasing. And he wouldn't stop, even when I told him to!" Nothing really prepares you for the feeling you get when your kid is picked on. I imagine it's something akin to Dr. Bruce Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk. I've had to deal with these feelings before, to a different degree, when people, mostly adult people who should know better, would look or make comments about Joe-Henry's feet or his birthmark. He was born with a rare syndrome and his feet are larger than other kids his age, and he has a large vascular birthmark on his leg, as well as two big fingers. But in those cases, even though you just can't BELIEVE how stupid and rude people are, the comments are without malice, so while I might strain against my necktie a bit, I always manage to stay in my mild mannered Dr. Banner guise. In this instance though, a little boy was actually being outright mean to my son. I put on my game face, but I felt myself flush a mighty shade of Hulk green, and I had to force myself to not say "What a little shi&t!" Instead, I managed to stay my own pleasant, but somewhat darker shade of MamaPink. I asked "What did you do?" He said, "I just ignored him. But if Mike (the bus driver) says I have to sit by him tomorrow, I'm going to ask if I can move." The first thing out of my mouth was that maybe his mommy didn't snuggle him, so he felt the need to be mean. Not the best thing I could have said, I know, but it just came out. But I also told him that I was proud of him for using his words so well, and that I had confidence that he could work out a good solution. I AM proud of him - he is exceptionally verbal and confident, and I know he can say what he needs to say to work it out.

But if he can't, and this kid can't stop teasing, I WILL turn green, and my boots are going ON.

Friday, January 5, 2007

big feelings

When Joe-Henry was about three, we started talking about having "big feelings". It meant those hairy moments when you feel out of control emotionally (I've read about it - it never happens to me personally ;) ), and he's been bravely trying to get a handle on them ever since. He's had lots of big feelings because of our move, in addition to the normal social and emotional milestones of just being a six year old, but I always forget and after the fact, I wish I could have zapped myself into the future, instead of scratching my head in the middle of this emotional mud puddle wondering "WHY is he acting this way?"

Last week we watched "E.T. the Extraterrestrial". I had Tivo'd it because I thought he'd enjoy it. I was remembering how funny it was, rather than how achingly sad it was. He did enjoy watching it up until ET got sick and then, gulp, he died. Luckily, it was a movie, and of course, he came back to life and got to go home, but that moment where they are both on gurneys, and ET reaches out to touch Elliot and tell him "you stay here" just did my sweet, sensitive boy in. Now, mind you, we've watched all the requisite Disney movies where one of the parents die, and he hasn't really blinked. It might have brought up a question or two, but didn't make him cry or even sad, really. But this, this was awful. He was sitting in front of me on the floor, and he turned around and looked at me, his eyes screwed up and his face got red and he vaulted himself into my lap, weeping. I got him calmed down by telling him that it was just a movie and that ET was going to be okay, just you watch and see, but I felt like a complete sadist. How, when he is going through this huge fear of mommy dying thing, could I make him watch this? Well, I just forgot about the sad part, that's how. I had shoved it out of my aging brain to make room for more pertinent and relevent information like Library day and Trash day are both on Tuesday, the diabetic cat gets 2 ccs of insulin twice a day and this new brand of brown rice takes 25 minutes instead of 40 to cook. I am the one who needs to remember these things, and sometimes, honest to God, I feel like I could have strings on all ten of my fingers and I'd still be looking at three of them wondering what they are for.

But the big stuff - why did I not remember that? Why did I not, at the very least, breeze through the movie once myself first? I know, I know, lessons learned and all that. But I'm still the one responsible for this person, for his well being and growth. I realize it was probably not something that will harm him for life, but I still have that awful feeling that I caused him pain. I didn't purposely poke him in the eye or anything, but I wasn't watching out.

I guess that's the thing about parenting, the hard lesson that we, as parents, learn from day one. We will never be able to stop the bad stuff. We can just do our best to "safety proof" their worlds, we can be as vigilant as possible, but at the end of every day, there will always be one or two strings on our fingers reminding us of our failings. But hopefully we'll keep them alive and healthy and they'll learn to navigate a lot of these waters on their own, and if we can't prevent the catastrophes, they'll still trust us to provide some comfort after the fall.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

the odds

As I walked into my son's classroom today to volunteer, there were about eight other women there, all wearing official badges. They all left as I was taking off my coat, and I heard someone say "head check".

Did you know that one in ten children get head lice?

I wonder what the odds are for children to get head lice on the very day that their grandparents arrive from out of town?

Of course, there is no word yet, but I'm dusting off my panic button, just in case.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

house cleaning elves

When are they coming? The house cleaning elves? Because my in-laws are getting here tomorrow, and I don't know that I'll have time to get it all done myself, and I'd really just love it if they showed up and tackled all the little things. I've already done the bathrooms. Do you think they'd mind just doing the laundry, or say, cleaning out the fridge?

I really don't think my in-laws will mind the state of our house too much. They're wonderful people, and I think that maybe they know that we live in a little town called chaos most of the time, but that we do our best not to freak out about it. My husband, bless him, sent me an article from The New York Times titled "Say Yes to Mess". I'd publish the link, but I'd have to remember my password and it's just not anywhere in my brain. But it was about how we all want to be more organized, but that it's creating a backlash. It also mentioned that a mess may be the sign of a creative brain. Yeah, I guess that's it. I'm just too busy "creating" to clean.

Actually, I do clean our house regularly, believe it or not (some of you who have visited our home may actually choose not to believe this, as is your right, but it's true). But we have too much stuff, and not enough house to fit it all in. But I love our house, and I refuse to give in, so it's in the process of being organized. And it's not like we're "savers". My dad was raised during the depression, and when he died he had a collection of jumbo coffee cans in his basement, just in case. I'm not like that. I can be kind of brutal in my throwing things away. But I could always be better. Thus, the overflowing state of things.

But you know what? I don't care all that much. As long as there isn't food rotting on the counters....wait, what's that smell? Oh, the old oranges. Well, at least there isn't crap on the floors...oh, wait, did Lulu hit the hallway carpet again? Yeah, I guess it can get sort of gross. But perhaps if I smile at my mess, and whistle while I work instead of curse it and frown at it and make myself miserable about it, maybe, just maybe, the elves might show up.

It's worth a shot.