I embarked upon a work out class that has me out the door at ten minutes to six (a.m.!) and this means the kids and Big Man are on their own to ready themselves for the day. With the number of school days rapidly dwindling I knew that if it was rough, it wouldn't be for long. It's felt weird not being around for the bulk of the morning rush hour, but there is one thing I like. I get home and they are dressed and visibly relieved that I get to see them before their bus arrives. I get smiles and yelps of "Mommy!" and big hugs. I was gone one hour. But it's funny how little tweaks to your day can throw you off...or on. Long ago (nine and half years), my mother-in-law described how I phsically 'lit up' in the presence of my new infant daughter. It's fun and humbling and over-whelming to know it works both ways. I am soaking it in. Thing 2 has some time, but the ten year old is brewing a much different pot that will spill over at any time.
Thing 2 is a favorite of the Dog. She curls up next to him, often under the covers near his feet. This is generally a good thing, but Thing 2 likes bedtime snacks. Dog is a major hog. She will eat tubes of chapstick and gnaw away at recycled yogurt cups if a trace of yogurt can be detected. And while we discourage eating snacks in bed...I think it's been well-established that Thing 2 is, among many things, independent.
A recent foray to the kitchen found him producing a sandwich which he covertly (he thought) took back to his room. Minutes later, I heard some scuffling from above since I had retreated to the basement. I came up later where I found Big Man making a sandwhich while smiling.
"Did you hear the scuffle?"
"Well, I was curious, yes. But I figured you'd take care of it."
"Dog got the sandwhich he'd made for himself, and suddenly she slinks out his room while he's yelling 'Go away you stupid bitch dog'!"
Dog frequently gets into trouble, but I promise I don't call her a bitch. Out loud anyway. There are claims to be made about the definition of a female dog, but, you know, I am not in grade school anymore. I am an adult.
These are the kinds of things we aren't supposed to giggle about in front of the kid to perpetuate the problem. Instead, we giggled away in the kitchen while we left Thing 2 to fume and munch in solitude. We could defend ourselves with technicalities...but why bother?
I am going here!
It's funny how the universe works. I have been looking for months for the right thing at the right time. Just yesterday, a writer I know told me about this other writer's website and it led to me finding this, which seems perfect for me. In reality, nothing is perfect so I will just bask for a few more moments today and move on to the realities of life.
Madeline Island is magical. I have many good memories of this place. We took Thing 1 there as an infant on our first real trip as a three-some. Much later, our foursome had a great camping experience which included swimming and biking and mosquitoes and Harry Potter Number 7 and more swimming.
I cannot imagine the place on my own terms. I feel like a kid who is headed away to camp for the first time- anxious, excited, and wondering what I have gotten myself into. I hope my mom will send me a note.
To order anemic-looking "organic" crickets, it will set you back $8.50 and at least that much in shipping. They show up in a well-taped box with decorative blue crickets hopping about on the outside of the box as if to suggest that this really is a fun package to receive. I had nothing to do with the opening of that box and declared hands-off were any of them to escape. Which they did-- at least half of them-- in Thing 2's play zone, boy cave, center-of-his-universe fun room. You know. Because it has a lizard in it. And 250 crickets. Some of them now "free range".
I heard the exclamations and the angst.
Big Man really doesn't like bugs, but he was the one to order these things.
I slowly and quietly crept down the hallway and out onto the deck...and slid the door shut. And yes. I locked it, too.
We knew we couldn't not stop. How could we not? But it was hard and weird and humbling and worth it.
Our son took to testing the strength of the head stones, and we tried to take comfort in noticing he wasn't the only kid with this idea. Andrew, a compadre in curiosity, would likely chuckle at something like this. Our daughter wanted to leave him a note with a drawing even though it would become soggy and reduced to litter overnight. I've learned to go with these things because it's part of the lesson. Theirs or mine? That's the part that is never quite clear.
There were lots of questions and we tried to answer them. Even though we'd been through as many details of Andrew's death as we knew, the facts remain important to them because things need to make sense. This is hard when facts don't always add up to sense.
Row upon row. Good people who were selfless in a way that few of us are.
Do we get it? I know some of us do and too many of us don't.
I hope you take some time to think about it. It's hard and weird and humbling and worth it.
The dog can be a stitch when she chases her tail. Round and round she goes and strangely enough, she seems pretty happy about it. I think I need to adopt this dog-like attitude. Chasing my tail is fun! I am not getting anywhere, but so what? I am moving, at least. Isn't that something? Suddenly she stops, looks up as if to say, "Wasn't that cool?" and then she rests a bit only to go at it again.
May is a rat race for many. It's the end of this and time to get geared up for that.
So in the spirit of my dog, I will not look frazzled. I will look energized, full of spunk, and stop for little rests here and there. It's worth a shot, anyway.
I started dreaming about Baby Doll long before she arrived. I would have a girl! She would be full of joy and mischief, which is how I arrived at the name Lucy. It was full of spunk and kind of old-fashioned. Like no other name I could think of, Lucy seemed to encapsulate what I wanted for my little girl.
The road to Lucy was long and difficult and today, none of that matters.
Ten years ago, she came into this world with her eyes wide-open--curious about the world around her from the second she arrived.
In day-to-day parenting, it can be easy to forget the people you are raising are gifts.
"Dirty socks don't really belong on the dining room table. Could you please remove the 4 water glasses, 3 shoes, 8 books, 11 socks and 2 sketch pads from underneath your bed? Those "collections" of newspaper comics, nut crackers, pencils old and new, hair bands, and jewelry never worn make entrance to your room hard to navigate."
Daily gripes can get in the way of better things.
Spontaneous giggling, daily singing, perpetually doodling on any writing surface, the constant re-reading of the entire Harry Potter series, wand making, Sunday mornings crepes made by a girl who dreams of Paris and seems stymied by this concern: should she attend college in France or Winona? The city lights jazz her, yet she gets lost in the moment on a trail in the woods and I know she has left me to become a wizard. A budding writer herself, she established her first chapter of a mystery on the long car ride home to Iowa. It's taking shape, she says, but it's not done.
I hate that I forget that my reality is so much better than my dream.
Birthdays aren't for the kids. They are for the parents- marking the moment their dream came true and celebrating the shape it's taking. At least that is what it is for me. Let me not worry about the murky stuff in between for just a moment, I think.
Thank you, Baby Doll, for being a dream come true.
Imagine being a 7 year old boy going to visit his Grandpa on the farm. The tractors and the horse are fine, but their appeal is nothing when compared to this.
"Hey, Ben, guess what I saw in the horse barn this morning? A salamander. Should we try to catch it?"
This is music to the ears of a kid who has remained steadfast in his love of all things reptilian. When he realized the nonfiction area of the children's library had an entire section devoted to the reptiles of the world, it was better than anything Santa could ever bring. Fur is fine for many, but for Ben, slimy or dry scratchy skin wins any day.
"A salamander! Let's go!"
Dejected and defeated, they trudge back. It was spotted but never within reach. Each day they would check but in the end there was no luck.
It would be a long drive home. Five hours and no salamander.
"Mom, do you think there might be a pet store on the way home? Can I get a lizard?"
This might seem like a time to say no. After all, I am sure he is expecting me to say no. A lizard for nothing? No earning? No strings attached? That is crazy talk. What I am best at, according to Ben, is saying no. No, you may not have a popsicle for breakfast. No, you may not use the chain saw to build a critter catcher. No, you may not use the new shampoo for your science experiments, no you may not try the new scissors out on the dog's hair. No. No. No. So with silent communication between dad and me it is settled.
"Dad and I have to talk. You take a nap and we'll let you know."
The kid played hard on the farm. Twenty minutes into the drive he is asleep dreaming of lizards, and I am discovering how to access the internet on my phone so that I can locate an open pet store.
Four and half hours later, Ben hardly notices as we gently guide him away from the $79 bearded dragon toward the $5 green anole, a most unfortuate name for a kid's lizard.
All the way home, throughout dinner, and in his bath, he is positively glowing with excitement and joy. He simply cannot believe his luck.
"This day is so much better than I expected it would be! You wake up and there is no salamander and then suddenly there is a lizard!"
Later he tolerates a phone call to the other grandparents. Dad is talking to them about baby Ada who was born this weekend, and there is much to discuss. Finally, Ben gets the phone.
"Enough of this chitter chatter. I have a LIZARD!"
Clearly, he has a grip on the order of importance in his world.
And so do we. Despite the fact that I now have to purchase some ickly looking live crickets on a weekly basis, it seems a small price to pay for knowing that the power of yes can be just as important as the power of no.
I wonder if our Minnesota legislators are listening to us today. Really listening. I have been e-mailing fast and furiously. My message was short and sweet. Please VOTE NO to the marriage amendment. Be thoughtful about the future of Minnesota and do not drag us into an unnecessary civil rights debate when the facts are already clear. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly. People need jobs and the budget needs attention and these matters of the heart need to stay out of the government.
Too many accidents happen when you are on the wrong side of the road. This one seems clearly marked to me.
In the end, we all have the same hours in the day. Some of us give a large part to work so we can eat, have daily shelter, and not run around naked. Some of us stay home and raise some kids and attack all the house work. In the midst of all of either scenario, there are choices to be made-- little snippets of time that you get to say....how will I spend this?
Often I mess this up. I plop down and read a book while the clothes sit in the basket miraculously NOT folding themselves. I take a walk with a friend durning soccer practice, or I write an entry on my blog for myself. I dream up projects that might appear like activism rather than plan the next meal. Then little people arrive and there are play times and art projects and icky spelling homework and baths and ....where does the time go? Suddenly, you are mid-life and wondering- wait! I have a mark to leave on this world! How will I do it?
It slips by so fast. I feel I am racing as always and if I plop down to read my book I won't have left my mark, but the ending...how will this book end? I am curious, for god's sake.
The tidy homes are at least tidy... and me? A stack of half-finished books and projects that fizzle and kids who are showing some promise...but who are far from independent.
Amazing, the progress we make in this country. It seems I have had little to do with it, but I am happy there are others who finish what they start.
"I am really lucky to have you as my wife," said Big Man.
"But," he continued, "it could have just been my skill in reeling you in."
I waited to see who would go there first.
"Nope,"I laughed. "It was luck."
He sighed, "Yeah."
Artillery is scattered throughout my house- little nerf "bullets" can be found under coffee tables, in the cracks of the couch, floating with the African water frog, lying in kitchen drawers, peeking out of a stack of towels, behind book cases, and under covers. Where ever you might look, there is evidence of a nerf war.
Shoes, however, are a different story. They aren't by the door, in Thing 2's room, left in either car, or in a closet--that would be too ordinary. I do see a pair lying out in the yard. They have been rained upon twice, and dried by the sun twice, and covered with grass. No one (Thing 2) seems too concerned so nor am I. They don't fit is what I hear. Thing 2 has feet that appear to grow overnight. The pair of the week always seems to go rogue (or at least out to the yard) so he gets challenged to work with subpar replacements (i.e. any pair, regardless of fit) or keep track of the shoes. It's a toss-up every day, and I do my best to stay out of it.
We do, by choice, have at least 10 brushes. These get hoarded by Thing 1 because it's well-known that 4th grade girls can have a brush emergency at any given moment. A brush must be within reach at all times. Or so I have observed. This is why there are 3 brushes in her back pack, two in her locker, 2 in her swimming bag, and one in each car. Whenever one gets purchased in the manly color of black so that there is no question as to the owner of this brush (Big Man), it is not-so-mysterioulsy swiped. Big Man is then left combing his hair with an American Girl doll brush,which is half the length of a pencil.
I don't want Pokemon cards yet it feels like we have hundreds. I don't want nerf guns and yet we have 5. Brushes and shoes come in handy on a daily basis, but their whereabouts are always in question. How does this happen?
What rarely gets lost is my sense of humor.
But don't quote me on that. Or ask Big Man. Or the kids. I try, though. Really, I do.
Do you ever head out in one direction and find yourself in a place you never intended?
I wrote that article about Andrew and now people are stopping me on the street asking me about war and the fall of EVIL MAN. What should we do now, Lisa?
This makes me ponder my words more carefully than ever. I am not an expert. I could never be a true leader because what I have learned above all else is that I am a feeler. This gets me into so much trouble. I can't hold it in. I can't process it without writing or talking, I just can't move on unless I have expressed myself in those intensely quiet moments of clarity when the words just appear. Afterwards, I feel a bit of a let down. I imagine it's like an addict crashing but with less drama.
Because now, I feel responsible. Not to Andrew, his parents, his siblings, or my readers...but to myself, which is always the hardest row to hoe.
People will say, have said, "At least you spoke your mind." But it's not enough, it's never enough, and now it follows me to sleep, to the grocery store, to work, and to my fingers when I dare dabble with other things that have wandered into my head. It hasn't left, and I don't know what to do with it. It's Restlessness with a capital R.
In the end, I am a mom who has to move forward all the while fanning the flames towards a protest that seems to be more of the heart than the mind.
So how does it work? how does it take shape? As always, there are more questions than answers. In the mundane of my life the intention becomes clearer, but the direction--not so much. An uncle would say my heart points true north and that should be my guide. Truly, though, I would like a little more to work with.
Part of the reason this blog was started was because I needed to hold myself accountable to writing. So to that end, spring has sprung and several opportunities are presenting themselves- which would take me away from writing. Or at least limit the amount of time I can give to it. For so long, I have always said, "Oh, I'll get to that" and I never did. And so here are these other things luring me because they offer money, a little more heft to a resume, and a way to call myself a meaningful adult. But then.....
my daughter writes that I am a hero to her because I am a writer who really "notices" things and takes the time to write them down. And my son says, "Mom, you could be famous for writing." Now the first may be true and the second isn't likely to happen, but what I like more than what they said is that they noticed in the first place. Me. Doing something I love for no other reason except that I enjoy it, find meaning in it, and hope to make a difference to someone sometime through my words.
Big Man thinks I can DO IT ALL yet he has always had way more faith in me than me.
I think for women in particular, that it's hard to remember that saying no to one thing can mean saying yes to another. No, too, is full of possibility and this is what I hope to keep in mind.