Friday, October 26, 2012

a view from a window

Occasionally, The Mr. likes to send me pictures of the view from his desk- a view which overlooks an idyllic corporate campus.

I, in turn, share pictures of the view from my desk which is now located in the front room of our home.

Fridays are trash and recycling pick up days. With my desk tucked away in the back of the house for the past four years, I never knew how many interesting people passed through our street on Fridays. There is the well dressed older African American gentleman with his smooth jive walk and tidy cart- confidently strutting down the street with his aluminum can booty. There is the tall, long grey pony-tailed guy who wheels his bedraggled lady partner around in their cart- loading it up with salvaged loot until only the top of her dusty, curled head peeks through. And then there is the guy above- so determined to get that last plastic water bottle on the bottom of our recycling tote that at one point he had his entire body in there- feet pointing straight in the air. I'll take these characters any day over the corporate campus.

What does the view from your window look like? I would love for you to share a picture and, perhaps some words to go with it for next Friday's post. If you would like me to share your snapshots on this blog, please email me: Include your name and the name of your blog/ website, if you have one.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Henry approaches me with animated eyes and a tight, bothered smile- his tell that he is agitated about something.

“ Are migraines an excuse to miss swim class?”

Ah, there it is-the topic my children find to be most steeped in dismay. The impending swim component of the school's Phys Ed rotation.

“Um, unless you are having a migraine attack, you are fit to swim.”

His shoulders slump in disappointment.

“What about mitral valve prolapse?”

I shake my head.

“Irritable bowel syndrome?” he asks hopefully.

“Nope. Short of breaking your arm or leg- I think you are stuck with swim.” His eyes light up- the calculating wheels turning.

From the other room, First Born Son offers encouragement, “Do it, Henry! Jump off the second floor roof! There’s a kid at school who did that and got a concussion and broken arm and missed, like, a year of gym and swim.”

But, my children love to swim. In the summer, when given a pool, they dive, breaststroke, freestyle, cannonball until their lips turn blue and their skin begins to prune. 

“I don’t want to change for swim. I don’t want anyone seeing my flab. I don’t care if it means I fail Phys Ed.” Despite having rapidly gained inches in height and shedding his pre-adolescent softness, the lens with which he views himself is grossly distorted. He balks at my suggestion to wear a swim shirt claiming it will give him boy boobs.

“I don’t want to change for swim either,” Princess Commando chimes in. “I finally perfected my method for changing for gym (wearing shorts under her pants and an athletic cami under her shirt). I don’t want to be naked in front of anyone!”

It troubles me that my girl is so consumed with locker room anxiety-obsessively devising ways in which to escape from one outfit to the next without exposing a slip of skin. I worry that she will begin to wear cut-off denim shorts in the shower á la Tobias Fünke. And, it wrecks my heart that my boy would rather injure himself than participate in swim class. I empathize with my girl’s inclination toward locker room ‘never- nudity’ honoring her preference for decency over lewdness. And, I offer truthful reassurances to Henry that his body is normal- better than normal. I go so far as to step over my own line, pointing out other people in his class who are clearly not in shape. But, neither child is comforted.

Princess Commando's mind races through the options that would best protect her modesty. “I know! I can just wear my swimsuit to school and then put my clothes over it afterward.”

Henry dissuades her, “You’ll be soaking wet for the rest of the day.”

“Then I don’t know what to do!”

As a grown up working through grown up concerns such as ensuring that First Born Son gets into college while also securing a spot for The Baby in a choice preschool; untangling our complicated financial situation;  and soul searching at the bluff of mid-life, issues like changing for swim seem, at first, inconsequential. 

Then I recall the 8 year old version of myself- conveniently falling ill each swim day, sitting on the bleachers fully clothed- melting in the humidity of the pool room, getting mooned by Marcus the Stripper, who clearly had no issues with modesty.  I am reminded, once again, that in the realm of experiences children have had and of the things they understand to be true, every worry is BIG, every worry is real for them. 

And changing- whether out of clothes or into new milestones can be intimidating. But, I think I've got one of them 'covered.'

You can call it a burqini, a modesty suit, a Duggar's day at the pool. I call it spectacular.
 With it's quick dry fabric, she can wear it to school- both in and out of the pool. 
But, can I actually get her to wear one?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

no child left behind (in our bedroom)

The house is warm and fragrant
the scent of rosemary and mint shampoo floats through the rooms
Sleep and solitude are so close
We make the nightly rounds
First The Baby and one more song and never let mama go
and the door left open, just a crack

Then the oldest boy in the room next door
binders and books splayed out on the bed,
wracking his brain to recall lessons learned earlier in the day
Too focused to acknowledge my shape in the doorway
with anything more than the rise of an eyebrow.

The second son, tucked away on the third floor, is so quiet
we sometimes forget to check in
Lost in his thoughts, in the importance of everything, the fairness of nothing,
rushing to get someplace but not knowing where to go
in the narrow corridors of his grey matter

And the girl, who says things in daylight hours like,
‘I want to spend more time with you,’
shuns the time I offer
Don’t interrupt, she is soaking up each second until ‘lights out’
Her notebooks and pencils occupying our bed as she has nowhere else to go

Do you need anything? Are you okay? I ask each one.
They are engrossed in their drawings, drudgery, daydreams
Too busy for small talk, they exercise an economy of words
 No. Yeah.

The older ones are too old to smooth the wet, ruffled, after-shower hair.
Too big to read a story to
But wasn’t it just last year when we all got sucked into that popular series?
Stretching the bedtime hour to read the next chapter
And the next.

Since nobody needs me, I settle my head on the pillow

But the girl, sensing stillness, feels an itch to stir the calm
She has to show me something, ‘It’s so awesome!’
Instructions for a homemade hamster hammock
‘Wouldn’t it be great for Pepper?’
She must make it Now! or it will never happen
So in her last allotted minutes, she rips the sleeves off a t-shirt and sews a pouch.
And of course the hamster must try the pouch Now!
So now there is a girl with a hamster in a homemade pouch on the bed.

As the hamster escapes and scampers across my lead legs,
the second son meanders into our room.
He stands quietly beside my bed
But he doesn’t need anything
He makes sure to tell us so when I look at him quizzically

‘Can I get anything for you guys before I go to bed?’ he asks.
‘We’re fine.’ We answer. But he has not moved. There is something else.
‘Okay then.’ He is still standing there
‘Are you okay?’ I ask
‘Fine,’ he looks away as if embarrassed to ask,
‘But can I just sit here with you for a little while?’
We fold him under the covers, this boy now taller than me.

As his younger sister shuffles the hamster,
who keeps wriggling out of the pouch,
from hand to hand,
we all giggle at the absurdity
which draws the oldest boy in
He just happened to finish his work and found a video
And it’s ‘so friggin funny’ and ‘you have to watch it’
So we do
And we all laugh
And from the other room,
‘Hey whatca all laughing for?’
The Baby in her pj's and floppy hair and wide eyes,
interpreting the No Child Left Behind act to mean something else,
climbs onto the bed

Suddenly they all remember that there were things they needed to say
Of things that happened and grades they received
Of teachers they love or hate
Of lunch and the bus
Of sports and death and lost calculators
These children who do not want to have anything to do with each other
now poke each other’s ribs and shake the bed with laughter
piling up in the center, limbs entwined
They do not realize how much they love each other yet
For now we just  float on our own island.