Monday, February 28, 2011

The Very Thought of You

A lackluster winter vacation has come to a close. The kids have retired their video games and carefree living (not willingly), at least until the weekend. I am sure today at school that their little minds are swimming in a fog of daydreams. They are yearning for the hours when their nimble little fingers can once again caress the tender buttons which-with concentrated skill not seen in any other daily activity- unlock the next level of SuperMarioPokemonZeldaFossilFighterrScribblenautEpicYarnBros. Until then, another song (click the video player at the bottom of the post to listen as you read)...

The very thought of you and I forget to do
The little ordinary things that everyone ought to do
I'm living in a kind of daydream
I'm happy as a king
And foolish though it may seem
To me that's everything

The mere idea of you, the longing here for you
You'll never know how slow the moments go till I'm near to you

I see your face in every flower
Your eyes in stars above
It's just the thought of you
The very thought of you, my love*

*Music and Lyrics by Ray Noble

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Both Sides

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all
- from Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell

I've had Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell embedded in my head since I sang it to The Baby last night at bed time (In the evening, if you hear noises akin to a goose getting attacked by an alley cat, it's probably me "singing.") It seems to lull her into sleep, or perhaps sleep is her only escape from my yowling. I used to sing it to the others when they were much younger. And occasionally Henry, when riddled with school anxiety and longing to be wrapped in the comforts of simpler days, will request that I curl up with him and sing. "Sing the song about how you really don't know anything." I remember when he was four years old- begging me to stay just a little longer in his bed with him, to sing "just one more song." I had pulled Both Sides Now out of my hat, having exhausted all lullabies. At the end of the song, he lifted his head off of my shoulder where it had finally become heavy- so close to yielding to sleep-and, he looked me square in the eyes with the greatest concern. "Mommy, do you really not know life, at all?" I laughed because he was worried that I was confessing to being ill equipped to guide him, to parent him. I knew everything about life that I would ever need to know. I was a mother, after all. "It is just a song, honey. I didn't write it. It's not about me."  And, that was true, back then. 

I would not be able to answer Henry's question today with the same assurance. For the first time in a very long time, I have been struggling to figure out my place in the world (yes, the whole gigantic world). I know that I am a mother, a role that I once played with the utmost confidence and ability.  In their much younger years, I beheld my children in terms of the whimsical beings they were and the forms of potential I dreamed them to become in the future. My little clouds- softly shaping into architects, doctors, professors. But, then they started to grow up. They formed their own ideas about the world and the meaning of life.  I realized that I could no longer teach, much less keep up with, the subject matter they were learning in school (ugh, algebra!). And, they would soon surpass me in breadth and depth of knowledge of all things worldly and other worldly. (Of course, this is so important because I may one day need them to take care of me and help my feeble mind make sense of the changing world). Then in the whirlwind of all of their growing, we welcomed The Baby into our family. And, she declared, in no uncertain terms, that the game had changed- that all we  held to be infallible in parenting had to be abandoned in order to navigate through the muddle of her high needs. In the midst of fighting to press through exhaustion and then dealing with chronic ailments (the vertigo, the migraines, the persistent gnawing pain in my gut), I had been left reeling with the realization that there are so many things I was no longer certain of.

There is a reason certain songs resurface and stick at particular moments when we toil in our humanness. This one is telling me to reconcile the dream and the reality and  to make peace with the knowing and not knowing. It is not an easy undertaking. Now, when I cradle The Baby at night and "sing the song about how I don't know anything," it means so much more to me and the words catch in my throat. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Work It, Baby

I used to think that child labor was an abominable act of torture against innocent little humans. That was until I realized how irresistibly adorable they are when they have a broom in hand. Not to mention, they are essentially helpful in maintaining the order of the household. And, developing a strict work ethic in their infancy instills in them a lifelong sense of unwavering responsibility.

For those of you with a broken sarcasm radar who might happen upon this post, please be assured that no children were harmed in the development of this post. And I do not condone child labor- in the true meaning of the term ( but not in the way my children throw it around). The Baby truly loves to clean. And, I truly love finding things for her to clean.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

50: Keep Your Balls Outside

If I had a quarter for every time I had to yell at the boys to stop playing with their balls in the house, I could buy a regulation size soccer field. Or, I could pay for therapy to deal with this problem:

The session might go a little bit like this:

Therapist: I see that you've listed on your patient questionnaire that your reason for seeking counselling is "intimacy issues." Are you having trouble maintaining relationships with the opposite sex?

First Born Son:  No. I am having issues of intimacy with myself.

Therapist: Oh. Where do you think that might originate from?

First Born Son: I think it stems from the fact that my mother commanded that we were never to play with our balls (or sticks, for that matter) in the house.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is my 50th post.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Vertigo-go Go Away

This is kind of how I've been feeling the past three days, except I do not have the gleeful smile of a child on my face.

My migraine associated vertigo is back. Can't read. Can't write. Can't draw. I'm trying to ride it out; but, it's difficult to find respite when the boat keeps pitching. Hopefully it will spin itself out by next week when the kids are home for winter break.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

When Your Teenager "Friends" You

Do Not Press Play! First Born Son lip syncing to the Ding Dong Song

When your teenage son asks you for permission to open a Facebook account and you agree with the stipulation that he "friend" you and his father (so you can keep tabs on his activity), you had better have a sense of humor and the ability to let little transgressions roll like water off a duck's back. Becoming a Facebook friend to your child opens up a window which makes you wonder how your child ever graduated from third grade. First Born Son's posts are rife with grammatical errors which we are often tempted to correct. For example, take this post from February 8th at 7:15 PM
Or, there is this exchange  which occurred after First Born Son posted a photograph of himself that he had altered through his cell phone with a stamp filter.
Above the photo, he wrote: Yepp because I can.
Me:  Just because you can, it doesn't mean that you should.
First Born Son: mmmmmm tuche

Tuche? What the hell is tuche? It took me a moment to realize that he wasn't attempting to call me a douche and that he meant to say touche (with the accent over the e, which I have no idea how to execute in a post). His friend corrected his spelling error before I had a chance to.

We have also been subjected to countless status updates with screen shots from Call of Duty. And, we have sat patiently through an endless stream of You Tube videos (99% are benign- though quite annoying like the one where a girl sits in front of her computer monitor asking "Where's the Chapstick?" And, then begins to pseudo beat box the question over and over again). Others are links to the portal of his 14 year old brain which cannot yet discern what is acceptable footage to share with both his friends and his 60 year old grandmother (not to mention the countless aunts and uncles he has friended). An example of a questionable video is one that he posted of himself lip syncing to the Ding Dong Song by Gunther (do not click on link if there are small children around you). While the music is all tongue-in-cheek, there are elements of the real video that are literally tongue-in- cheek. There is a moment in the clip when First Born Son tugs on the collar of his T-shirt in a slightly seductive manner. While The Mr.'s response to the video was disgust that our son was ruining another T-shirt,  I had to remind him that many eyes from our family are watching him. And, I recalled the story of how his Uncle C, my brother, was un-friended by one of our more self-righteous relatives after he posted a video of himself "exercising" in a suggestive manner in a leopard print thong to Bon Jovi's Runaway (again, all tongue-in-cheek, but waaaaay too much cheek). I am just attempting to avoid becoming the target of a mass email campaign preaching the need to restore innocence to our children.

Being your teenager's Facebook friend allows you to also see images and comments from his peers that he is tagged in. But, the photos- such as the one where he is standing in the aisle of the metro bus wildly  throwing his arms in the air in some primitive dance, only make me more concerned for his safety (as well as the safety of his fellow passengers) while riding on public transportation. Or, there are pictures posted by his classmates from lunch that once again drive home the fact that your kid just does not care for lunch.

Really?! Now he's just farting in the face of our hard earned money.

But, then he endears himself to us-even more than we thought was possible (because truly, we are madly in love with this wacky kid) when he posts videos of his time spent with The Baby. There are clips of the first time Violet crawled; of Violet's first steps; of her dancing; of her singing; of her carrying on a conversation with the faucet in the bathtub; of him just adoring her. And, it is because of this sweetness (below), I can look past the grammatical errors, the annoying videos, the dangerous bus dancing:

And, I should mention, as my mother was concerned that I too often slam First Born Son in my writing and do not provide enough praise, that I am very proud of his accomplishments in school. Freshman year started off rocky; but, he has greatly improved his work ethic. The evidence of his effort and hard work is in the 5 1/2 point increase in his overall average for the 2nd quarter- which lands him a spot on "The Board" at school for honor and merit roll holders.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Odd Couple

I came across this pair during a visit to the Toronto Zoo three years ago. I watched as the giraffe kept in step with the goose- following her, shadowing her. Not stalking- but walking alongside her. They traveled together along the perimeter of the enclosure, pausing every so often to take in the scenery and inhale the warm summer air. There were other giraffes there and there were other geese. But, they stayed in their own groups- never mingling. This lovely pair seemed to belong to one another. An unlikely coupling, but there they were.  And, here is their story.

Goose and Giraffe loved each other even though they were impossibly different. Goose was prone to bouts of anxiety which led to fits of frantic honking and erratic wing flapping. Giraffe, so gentle and mild, was prone to long periods of complacency which were followed by an urgent need to make a change. But, they valued each other's companionship and accepted one another's stellar attributes as well as shortcomings. They found a good balance in life together.

Giraffe could reach for things that were in high places; and, he could change a light bulb without the need of a ladder. Some days, he, also, needed to reach Goose who might be teetering off the edge of the roof having become overwhelmed with life in general. He always managed to calmly, quietly, patiently talk her down from her hysterics and hush her honking. "I am here for you. We are in this together."

And, Goose, who was keenly aware of her surroundings, and who had the memory of an elephant, could always help Giraffe find the items he had misplaced (which happened a lot). She was, also, his voice of reason when he would declare, on a whim, that he was quitting his job as an Information Technology consultant to join the circus or the PGA. " You can't quit! The world will suffer without your talents!"

Yes, they were an odd couple. But, love often comes in unexpected packages. And, when you find it, you ought to hold onto it dearly and treasure it daily.

Happy Valentine's Day, You Crazy Animals!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

May You Be Snot Free

I don't feel well. Please hold me.

I appreciate that you put me in this comfy bean bag and plopped me in front of the TV to numb my mind of this pain. But, today I don't think watching Jack Black wander through Yo Gabba Gabba land in DJ Lance Rock's jumpsuit is going to make me feel better- even though it is my favorite episode.

I  know that you said that we were  trying  to limit my use of the pacifier since I am growing up. But, do you think  just for today I could have it back?  Look how much my head hurts. 

Ahh, that's  good stuff.  I'm just going to lie here and not move. I'm not going to sleep or anything...

Five minutes later.

Wash your hands. Cough into your elbow. Use a tissue to blow your nose.  Don't pick up things off the floor and put them in your mouth. Take your vitamins. Eat your vegetables. Stay healthy, everyone.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

R.I.P. Tooth Fairy

Yep, just like that, they all passed away. And, that was supposed to be a tooth-not a heart- on the Tooth Fairy's tombstone; but, the offering of teeth is covering it.

Well, it had to happen some day. On Saturday morning, I was working in my office, when Princess Commando approached me with discretion.

“Can I talk to you?” She was unusually timid.

“Are you feeling okay?” The gravity of her voice worried me.

“It’s not that,” she stared me square in the eyes and took a deep breath. I could see that she was trying to keep her voice from quivering. “ It’s just that you must be the one who was writing all of the letters from the Tooth Fairy (she bowed her head and her eyes grew insanely humongous like they had been replaced with Anime eyes of sadness) because it has been three weeks since I put a note in the box and I haven’t gotten anything back.”

Oh, no! Had I forgotten to look in the box? No, I must have checked at least 3 times. No, she had been testing me. I did ask her on various occasions since Christmas if she had written to the Tooth Fairy. And, each time she answered, “No.”  I had but a fraction of a second to make the decision which would either perpetuate her innocent belief in all things magical or pierce her candy colored balloon of childhood fancy with a coming of age truth.

“What do you believe?” I asked.

She was sensing by the omission of my usual vehement denial of her claims, that maybe there was verity to her accusation. She crawled onto my lap and forlornly buried her face deep into my shoulder. “I don’t know what to believe. I want to believe that she is real.”

I stroked her hair. “But what if she is not real? What would that mean?” I asked. She shrugged her shoulders.“Would it mean that it was any less special to lose a tooth- to have been rewarded for a lost tooth?”

“No, I guess not.”

She was not falling to pieces. She was wounded; but, she was ready. This was different than the other times she had asked us for reassurance of the authenticity of the figures she believed to be real. Now, she was asking for The Truth, the grown up truth, even though she anticipated the answer might not be what she wanted to hear.

“I am sorry. I wanted you to keep believing. It is not that the Tooth Fairy is not real. I mean I am not sure if there ever was someone way back in time who wore a tutu and carried a magic wand, exchanging children’s lost teeth for coins and Pokemon cards. But, I do know that the spirit of the Tooth Fairy is real. The reason why you receive a gift for a lost tooth is because losing a tooth is a rite of passage. It is special. It means that you are growing up. This is one small way to celebrate that.”  

“And, now I don’t know if the others are real. Santa and the Easter Bunny.”

“What are your friends saying?”

“Some say that it is stupid to believe and others say that they are real.”

“It’s not stupid to believe. Here’s the thing- what we are really believing in is the spirit of all of those figures. The spirit of giving to others. For parents, playing the Tooth Fairy is another excuse to spoil our kids. The spirit makes us want to do something special for them. At Christmastime, the spirit of Santa is alive when we do things for others, help those in need." (I emphasized the word "spirit" so many times that later on that day when someone else used the word in a totally different context, she broke down and cried at the remembrance of what she felt she was losing).

We recalled the years that our neighbors joined together at Christmastime and adopted families in need. We remembered how good it felt to buy presents for the children and how much joy we shared when we attended the gift wrapping party with our neighbors. I reminded her that we never even got to meet the families or find out what they thought about the gifts. But, we felt good anyway. She nodded through my speech in understanding; but, I knew that the question that was weighing most heavily on her mind was whether or not she would still receive presents on Christmas day. I assured her that she would be just fine. I also told her that she had a very grown up task to carry out now that she is a fellow keeper of The Truth. She must keep the spirit alive- she must still listen for the sound of the bells and look for the subtle shimmer of fairy dust because The Baby will still believe and we are the keepers of that magic, too. She seemed to enjoy the importance that had been bestowed on her. 

I thought that when the day came for the truth to be revealed to Princess Commando, I would be relieved. No more staying on my toes, balancing the charade I had become entangled in to keep up with her elaborate, beautiful imagination. No more worrying that I will slip up and destroy the enchantments of childhood. But, honestly, it has only made me sad. This is one more sign that the older kids are not babies anymore. It is true  what they say, children grow up so fast. The upside is that this is, also, one more reminder, one more opportunity, to stop and inhale deeply, slowly, appreciatively- the fact that there is still one more baby left in the house. One baby who will undoubtedly put her bright, pure faith in the spirit-no, the magic- of fairies and Santa Claus and will employ me as the keeper of that magic for at least 8 more years.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


I do not know what Nana was showing Princess Commando, a rock? a flower? a speck of fairy dust? But, the little one was captivated.

Today marks the first anniversary of my Nana's passing. I have tried all week to sit down- to put meaning to her absence- to memorialize her life- to put into words the love and admiration I have for her. Every word, and there is a collection of gorgeous expressions which wanted so badly to fit- seemed so small. Suffice it to say- there was so much about her to be adored.

And, how do you observe the anniversary of the passing of a loved one? It is not the same as celebrating a birth day. There is a part of me that does not feel the need to commemorate the day she died. I would rather remember how she lived, anyway. I had quietly, privately said by good-bye long before the day her heart actually stopped beating.

She had Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's is such a cruel bitch in that it steals the essence of your loved one and leaves you with the body- tricking you into believing that somehow, she is still in there somewhere. And there are glimpses- fleeting moments- a flickering of recognition in her eye. She had difficulty remembering names and  associations. But, sometimes when she was greeted by someone who was familiar to her- she would graciously say, "Here is my friend. So nice to see you again."  The last two years of her life were so very painful as we watched the vivacious and self assured  matriarch of our family become a fragile, frightened impostor living in the shell that once housed my Nana's spirit. And even the shell began to to look unfamiliar as medicines and mini strokes made her petite frame swell and her eyes droop.

 I had a moment the summer before she passed- months before she was hospitalized and physically failing- when I realized things would never be the same. It was warm and I was in the early months of my pregnancy with The Baby. I was resting on the couch in the front room trying to escape the heat when the unexpected scent of basil softly, warmly floated in through the front windows. Perhaps a neighbor had planted some; but, I had never caught the scent before and I haven't smelled it since. Basil always reminds me of my Nana. She had a garden when we were children where she grew concord grapes, raspberries (black and red), mint and basil. She always added fresh basil to our Sunday salad, which no one in our family has been able to replicate- probably because she mixed it with her hands. With the warmth of the fragrant basil wafting in, came a flood of emotions wringing my heart- forcing tears of mourning. A vision of Nana in the kitchen (talking with us as she prepared the Sunday meal with such ease and with such magnificent results) and then a vision of the kitchen empty, quiet, still. The image of the empty kitchen felt like death. As the sadness welled, I felt The Baby move, the beginning of her fluttering and flitting and I knew that somehow I must incorporate Emily (my great grandmother's name, my Nana's name, my mother's name) into the baby's name. She became Violet Emily- in honor of all of the great Emilys that came before her. It gave me a sense of peace in saying good bye.

Violet was born one week before Nana died. I do regret that Violet was not able to meet her. My mother said that she brought a picture of The Baby to the hospital and my Nana acknowledged her by saying, "Beautiful baby." Nana's sparkle is definitely evident in Violet- both of them love to dance. So, that is what we did tonight to observe this somber occasion. I scooped up The Baby in my arms and we danced.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mountains Out of Snow Hills

This is an old picture from an old storm. We were supposed to get 2 feet of snow on Tuesday night. We felt like a kids on Christmas Eve, waiting for the storm of the century to arrive- bringing with it an epic blast of snow. Staying awake listening for the tinkling of snowflakes on the rooftop. But all we got was a 2 am wake up to the tune of the most annoying hail pelting our window. And, this has officially ended what little love I have for winter.

When we arrive at this point in winter- when the snow no longer holds its White Christmas charms, I tend to fall into a state of complacency. I hibernate. And because I am not expending energy outside of my home- involved in activities in my community, I tend to become impossibly absorbed in my everyday routine and make mountains out of little snow hills when my groove is disrupted.

It is Murphy’s Law that on Monday nights while The Mr. and First Born Son are at soccer training anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Here is a snapshot from a this past Monday:
My cupboards actually look much worse than that.

It is near bedtime for The Baby. On one hip, I am holding a her- cranky from having been freshly injected with her one year old vaccines. I am trying with my one free hand to prepare an awkwardly shaped sippy cup with a split formula, whole milk blend (because we are transitioning to cow’s milk). I open the cupboard to return the formula canister to the shelf only to find that magically it no longer has a spot. The lid is loose because, in my haste, my free hand has not pressed the seal securely. I feel the overwhelming need, despite The Baby’s protests and impatience from being kept from her cup of milk, to organize (again, with one hand) the cans, boxes of rice and pasta, drinking glasses, water bottles and measuring utensils which co-inhabit the three shelves. I curse aloud at Monday nights and the temporary, but immediate, feeling of abandonment. The children who are “exercising” on the Wii Fit in the other room ignore my call for back up as I can sense the contents of the shelf start to shift and take on life. As I move the colorful plastic wine glasses (remnants of my Nana’s kitchen), they fall apart at the base and I fling them about on the counter. They knock over the can of formula making it spill across the stove top. An avalanche of canned goods begins to roll toward us. A can of pears falls from the second shelf and lands somewhere on the first shelf knocking a drinking glass onto the ceramic tiled counter. The glass shatters into a million tiny bits. I demand that H come and retrieve the baby so I can vacuum up the invisible pieces of glass. As I am maneuvering the hose around the little containers on the countertop which hold miscellaneous items, I suck up two vials of homeopathic remedies. I dig them out from the dusty, hairy, glass ridden trap with my fingers. Cursing all the way. 

In my storm of frustration, I pull out my cell phone and call The Mr. and whimper and complain like a brat about how much I hate Mondays (and bedtime). And, in the middle of my melt down, the home phone rings. I can’t get out of the tangle of the vacuum cord, so the answering machine picks up. Although I can not make out the words- I recognize the voice, my friend, A, who lives in Connecticut. I stand still and hold my breath, reading her tone. It is cheery, upbeat. A good sign. Princess Commando brings me the phone and I play back the message. It is news that puts me in my place and slaps the grumbling out of me. She had her lumpectomy today. Everything went well. All clear. No. More. Cancer. My friend, a mother of three boys, has had every reason to curse and whine and feel troubled over every day from Monday through Sunday. But, she has, instead, chosen to remain positive and appreciative since the moment she was diagnosed.

It is so easy to get lost in the immediacy of a disordered moment-to lose perspective- to place too much importance on unimportant things. It is necessary for me to be shaken into awareness every so often in winter- to be reminded of the world outside this insulated cave. A news story, or a post from a fellow blogger alerting to some unfortunate accident or illness, a phone call with good news -affirming health and life- will light a fire under my fiercest emotions of love and compassion, enlivening the spirit of holding the ones I hold dear even nearer to my heart. And, as the first buds of green that I have been so longing for appear in Spring, I will emerge from the cave with a refreshed sense of consciousness and gratitude.