Thursday, September 29, 2011

Growing Pains.

We took a walk around the neighborhood tonight, all 4 of us, stopping at the big grass field to run around and play with a wayward football found in the shadows. The kids ran back and forth and back and forth through overgrown late-summer grass that was damp from the earlier sprinklers, sprinting until their legs itched from being whipped by grass blades.

We practiced our 'Power Super Girl' (and Boy) walk, balancing on the curb that circles the grass, hands out and palms up toward the sky. Luca named herself Power Super Girl Sparkles, and then allowed me to choose the name Power Super Girl Glitter. We let the kids yell at top volume and giggle and tackle each other in the somewhat swampy grass. And instead of turning and going home when that was over, we walked a little further to another grassy area in the neighborhood.

Luca asked to ride on her Daddy's shoulders, which of course meant Rohan wanted to ride on mine. They are 22 months apart in age, but he outweighs her by at least 3 pounds. And 3 pounds? On your shoulders? Is a lot. Still. "Sure buddy," I answered, and he raised his arms up in the air so I could lift him over my head to sit on my shoulders. We started to walk, and I could feel his little (big) hands rubbing one of my cheeks and then meeting below my chin to clasp together and hold him safely in place. He gets heavy quickly and my shoulders start to burn a little, but I hold him there. It's such a literal moment that clearly illustrates the nature of motherhood: we are strong because we need to hold them up.

They ask us to hold them to remind us how much we are needed. And how much we need them. As much as I float him free of gravity's pull to earth, he grounds me and gives me roots. The rest of the walk we hold hands, and I absorb every sweet second of feeling the weight of his tiny hand in mine. I am too painfully aware of just how soon this era of motherhood might be ending. I don't know when it will happen, but someday I won't be able to hold his hand anymore.

He stops once, asking to be held. I say, "On my shoulders?" and he shakes his head and points to my chest. "On there. It fits." he answers. So I lift his warm body, heavy like a bag of wet sand, and hold him in front of me like a koala holds her joey. It does fit there, just perfectly. I struggle a little under the weight of him clinging around my waist, but I carry on. I am painfully aware, as well, how soon this era of motherhood might be ending. There are times I hold them in my arms and am acutely aware of how their feet dangle almost to my knees and how it might not be much longer before I can't carry them on a hip anymore.

And so I sing him all the way home:
Sittin' in a railway station
Got a ticket for my destination
On a tour of one-night stands
My suitcase and guitar in hand
And every stop is neatly planned
For a Rohan and Mama band


When I picked up Luca from school today, she seemed a little withdrawn and quiet. I couldn't figure out why, but I didn't want to miss the window right after school to find out if something was bothering her. I sat on a large rock outside the preschool and pulled her close. "You ok, buddy?" I asked. She dipped her face down so I couldn't see her eyes, just the long curl of lashes dusting her apricot cheeks.

After a few seconds of silence, she turned those giant green jewels on me and told me something I never expected her to hear, "I don't like this school."

This year has been different for her. Last year she had a problem with a girl in her class, who I will call "M". M was one of the older kids and quite bossy and pushy, and Luca came home repeatedly telling us that M was mean to her. We asked, and she assured us it was just her who M was being mean to, so after hearing it several times, I started to really ask her some questions about M. Mostly, I wanted to know why she thought M was being so mean. She didn't know, couldn't understand, and I got that. Luca's got not a single mean bone in her body so being at the receiving end of meanness was so foreign to her. So I explained it to her like this: M is not very good at knowing how to be a nice friend. She really needs someone to show her how, so when she is mean you might want to try ignoring her mean attitude and just being nice to her.

It never worked. She just kept being mean, so I finally worked up the courage to talk to her teachers and they nodded in agreement about M's attitude. But then they assured me that M was like that to everyone. It was not just Luca, but Luca just so happened to be one of the few kids who was bothered by it because she has the intelligence to take someone else's behavior and internalize it.

It still broke my heart into 100 pieces to hear Luca tell us that M wasn't nice in school, but I felt confident that her teachers had it under control and it wasn't personal, so we just looked forward to the day when M would move on to kindergarten and Luca wouldn't have to worry about her anymore.

Because, really? These are 3 - 5 year olds we're talking about. Surely M is an anomoly.

I am so naive sometimes. Almost as soon as school started this year, we uncovered M version 2. After school one day I asked Luca about who her new friends are this year, and she said, "No one plays with me."

My heart stopped under the weight of my soul crushing down on it. A little more digging revealed that it wasn't that no one played with her, it was that there are 2 girls in her class who were there last year who only play with each other. I agonized again over what to do or say, settling on telling her that there are a lot of other kids in class and if those two aren't nice she could play with someone else. She half-heartedly accepted that answer, but when it came up again a week or so later, I knew I had to talk to the teachers again. And once again, I was told it wasn't about Luca, it was about the girls themselves. Apparently M trained them well in the art of being exclusive and harboring all the toys for themselves. The teachers were splitting those two girls up during most of the day, having them do centers apart and sit by others at the lunch tables.

But the cycle seems to be continuing, with other girls creating little factions of twos and excluding Luca. And my heart is crushed for her. There are only 6 girls in the class, and I can tell she badly wants to make good friends with one of them, but for whatever reason it doesn't seem to be happening that way.

So when she told me she didn't like the school, I expected it to be a friend problem and I steeled myself to get all mama-bear on the situation and find a better resolution to the situation. Turns out, she's just not feeling challenged. The activities and general syllabus are the same this year as they were last, and she's frustrated by having to re-learn things she already learned. It's frustrating, but I think it's workable with some conversations about why repitition is important in learning and maybe a tete-a-tete with the teachers to see if there is a way to challenge her more.

Challenge in scholarly ways I can do. it's that other kind of challenge I'm still not prepared for, both in terms of mom-skills and in terms of raw emotion. I know this is Girl Crap 101, and from here it's going to get harder. I know there will be tears and jealousy and cliques and anger and meanness. And I am not prepared. I want to wrap her up in a blanket and snuggle with her on the couch for all of eternity instead of letting her out into the big, mean world.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Conflicted and Looking for Feedback.

Pre-Script: To my vegetarian friends/readers, please take no offense.

I have this sinking feeling that I'm mere steps from vegetarianism. And it worries me a bit. Because, if we're being honest, no one likes a vegetarian except maybe another vegetarian.

So what's this about? As it is, I hardly eat any meat, but I've always reserved the right to have turkey on Thanksgiving (or on a sandwich if it's Boar's Head) and to eat chicken. But just recently even thinking about chicken makes my stomach churn.

No, I am not pregnant. So how can I explain this sudden aversion? I could blame it on re-watching Food, Inc. and feeling mildly ill all over again. Maybe it's the fault of the chicken I cooked recently that just seemed a little less-than-stellar. Maybe it's that weird sensation I get sometimes when I think of chicken and my tongue feels little furry. (And, no, there is absolutely no way to get around the gross and completely random factors of that confession.)

Any way you shake it out, I can't shake this sinking feeling that my chicken-eating days are numbered. Did you see that sentence right there? It sort of made me gag. Add that to the list of reasons why I just might be done with chicken for good.

I tease about no one liking vegetarians (HI, vegetarian friends! I really do love you!), but I am not kidding about the internal conflict created by the idea of a meatless lifestyle. And it's not just a matter of eating meat being more convenient in general. It's all of the implications that come with being 'vegetarian'. Like, am I going to be a 'bad' vegetarian if I don't think to ask if that French Onion Soup has beef stock in it? Or what if I can't resist the turkey on Thanksgiving?

And how in the world will I explain this to my kids? In particular, what kind of impact would being a vegetarian have on Luca, who of late has become very tuned into how I already eat differently than she does? As it is, she notices when I don't have sausage or bacon with breakfast and almost wants to test me about it, aggressively offering me bites of meat off her fork and incessantly questioning my reasons for saying no. So far I've managed to slip by with a 'I have plenty to eat on MY plate. YOU need to eat your own food.' but for how long will that work? I know this seems like a weird conflict to have, but getting her to eat a variety of healthy foods has always been an issue, and if she sees me consistently passing on meat I worry she'll decide to do the same. And, even though this might rile the vegetarians I know, I don't necessarily believe in letting a kid her age (4) become a vegetarian when it's not a choice she's really able to carefully weigh from all angles and make an informed decision about.

Future meat-shunning hippie?

I admit I am being sort of tongue-in-cheek about some of my concerns, and I also realize that much like not having to buy into the belief that I have to label my parenting style (have you SEEN the mommy wars and the women who worry over whether a decision they make about parenting is or is not in line with their self-proclaimed 'style' of parenting, rather than just doing what feels right to them?) I also don't have to label how I eat. I CAN just decide not to eat meat today because the thought of it is grossing me out, but decide TO eat it next week. But I do have some genuine parenting concerns about my impressionable, picky-eating, somewhat eager to be like mommy 4 year old and whether my choice to not eat meat might impact her choices.

SO I am turning to my readership to ask you mommies out there (or non-mommies who just want to chime in) what YOU think about this whole issue. If you're a vegetarian or other-special-diet family, and your kids are on the same eating plan, how's that working out for you? Do you have concerns about the impact to their health, social life, etc. in the long-term? If you're a mixed-status household (like my family where I eat almost no meat, but the hubby and kids love them a good steak) how do you feel about the issue? And for everyone, at what age do you think a child should be given full disclosure about their parents' eating habits and full decision-making power on their own (specifically in terms of meat vs no meat type issues, not in terms of 'please just feed me popsicles and blueberries' issues)?

Thanks for any feedback!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2 and 4.

The sun was behind the mountains to the west when we showed up to the football game. My husband's team plays on a field that's backed by a horizon of mountains, and at that time of night their silhouettes stand crisp in front of a backdrop of cherry red sky.

Following the lead of my kids (is there any other way?), we climbed the bleachers and settled in a seat behind a man and his wife. Turning to smile at us, the man commented, "What beautiful children you have!" and I smiled and thanked him.

"He's so blonde, isn't he?" he continued.

"Yeah, he gets it from his Daddy. They both do." I answered. Experience tells me he's probably silently questioning whether I, with the dark brown hair, am the nanny.

The man lifted his hat to show a bald head that gleamed under the stadium lights. Rubbing his hand over it, he smiled at my son and said, "I used to have blonde hair JUST like yours, son."

Grinning and seeing his moment, Rohan pointed to the man with one hand and grabbed some strands of his own hair with the other. "Oh, I have more than YOUUuuuu DOooooo!" he answered, laughing.

And his audience cracked up at the joke.


I am officially in love with the sweet spot found at the intersection of 2 and 4.

(I feel as though the black plastic on the floor and the absence of baseboards are deserving of an explanation, so here it is. We are broke as hell, so though the new floors are all in, we haven't yet purchased the new baseboards to be installed, and thus we have not trimmed the plastic to sealed the cracks between flooring and wall/foundation. I'm hopeful that it'll happen over Christmas break.)

They fight like crazy people, her bossing him and deciding that the exact toy she needs is the one he just reached for/mentioned and him shrieking at the top of his lungs and curling into a ball on the floor while saying, "Leave me alone!"

The "Leave me alone!" kills it, either making us crack up at the melodramatics of it all or hurting someone's feelings. And, ok, I can admit that when it's aimed in my direction it stings a bit. I know Luca will probably hate me by the time she is 11, being that she's a girl and all, but I expect Rohan not to hate me until he dates the first girl who tries to convince him I am the devil. (For the record, I already hate that imaginary-possible-in-the-future little trollop.) So hearing that he wants me to leave him alone hurts sometimes.

But, as soon as it's out of his mouth he runs over to me, almost without exception, saying, "I want you!" and begging to be held and cuddled.

Meanwhile, she sometimes tests the patience of everyone in our house. Luca and her daddy can be like oil and water sometimes, though they adore each other to no end. I think they have more in common than either recognizes, which leads to them butting heads like crazy. I'm not a complete believer in things like horoscopes, but I think it's no surprise that you'll often find Rohan (Pisces) and me (Aquarius) sitting on the couch cuddling and giggling while Luca (Taurus) and Darrick (Leo) battle out the wills over some inane point of contention.

She is tender and sensitive and fiercely protective and intelligent. He is tender and wild, a typhoon of hilarity and touch. I adore them when they are nothing but soft skin and heads bowed together, her honey hair and his wheat strands blending into one flare of sunshine. I love evening bathtime, with two naked bodies sharing a tub of bubbles, warm water, and soap as they create their own narratives of play. I cave willingly when they beg me to let them sleep in the same room or even the same bed, their sleeping faces all cheeks and curled lashes and puffy lips.

I hope they stay best friends. I hope his raucous sense of humor always cracks her more serious shell, and I hope she continues to protect him like a lioness would her cub.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lego Fun

My kids are both in a phase where their favorite toys are building toys. Be they blocks, puzzles, or Legos, they want something that they put together, where the parts are awesome and the sum is even more so.

I absolutely love this phase. Other than crafts, no play-at-home activity is as fun to me as building things. And none is as fun to Rohan as tearing them down.

So the other night, it's entirely possible I went a little nuts with Legos. I really can't help it. It's a compulsion.

By the way, this is totally baby propaganda. Seeing them together, at these super-fun ages, makes me want more.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Today is a sick day. Luca woke from naptime yesterday complaining of ear pain and feeling hot. We used peroxide to clean her ears and then put Hyland's drops in them and sent her to bed with some Tylenol to ease the pain. Her fever was back this morning, at about 99.8 when she woke. It got up to 101.8 late this morning, then appeared to break and go back down. I could tell it was getting better because she went from laying on the couch moaning and asking me to 'just come sit' by her to playing in the fort Rohan and I were making and bossing him around.

Grandma came over just in case to check her ears (grandma, being a retired nurse, has her own otoscope) and brought lunch. Her ears checked out with just minor redness and her fever is definitely retreating. I'm glad she's feeling better, but I also confess I don't hate sick days. I actually love spending the day watching 'kid shows' on the couch and having a built-in excuse to feed my kids popsicles after breakfast.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I Am Thinking About...

...Being a mom who has a full time job out of the home and a husband with a full time job out of the home plus a coaching gig 5 days a week is hectic. Most days I rush out of the house in the morning (routine: wake, get kids and their clothes, make coffee and lunches for Luca and myself, pack backpacks and my work bag, put on make up, get dressed, make sure kids are ready and do Luca's hair, run out door with them and help Darrick load/buckle the kids), work a full and busy day, and rush out at exactly 4 p.m. so I can get them both picked up by 5. When we get home, they play while I make dinner, then we eat, play more, get on jammies, play more, give baths, brush teeth, read books, put them to bed and sing songs. Even with Darrick coming home usually before dinner's done cooking, it's a lot of work and energy, and I love every second of it but I miss the days when everything wasn't so rush-rush-rush.

...I had a full blown fantasy the other day that involved short selling our house and renting. I'm fairly certain I could find us a bigger place in a better location (I love our house and its location, but that's not the point) for much cheaper. And with our A/C nearing 20 years old and a lot of upgrades needed on this house, the idea of scrapping the debt and starting fresh with something that hits the wallet less is super appealing. Of course, we all know Darrick and I would never do that unless we had absolutely no other choice, but once in a while the idea is so appealing.

...Every summer I wish I was a teacher. I long for summers off. I hit my 5 year anniversary at my job, which means I now get 6 weeks of paid time off a year, so in theory I almost could take a whole summer. Just wish my job was the kind where I don't dread how much catching up I'll have to do when I take a vacation.

...These two little birds had their first sleep over without mom and dad a few weekends back. It was less emotionally traumatic for me than expected, probably because I have had to travel away from them overnight before. And probably also due to the sheer quantity of alcohol I consumed in their absence.

...Speaking of absence, I've been a little bit absent around here as of late. Some weeks I need to write, and write a lot. Other weeks, I need to rest my hands and my mind and let my thoughts appear, manifest, and then disappear into the ether. I miss writing when I don't do it much, though, so maybe soon I'll be back to a more regular writing schedule. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you probably know that a year ago this summer, we made the really difficult decision to put our dog, Miss Piggy, to sleep. We put it off as long as was humane, then took her one evening to say good-bye. We also brought her remains home and buried her in a hole in our backyard.

Life's lessons about life and death are never just taught and let go when you have kids. You don't have the conversation about how the dog is dead and gone just once, but many many times in multifarious ways. You explain it on the day you make one of the toughest choices of your (dog loving) life. You explain it the next day as you read a book about saying good bye to a family pet. You talk about the body returning to the earth and enriching the soil with its power, just as the animal once enriched your life with her love.

And, if you have a very literal toddler in the house, you talk about it in practical, measured, real terms.

The dog was ill. No, it's not the kind of illness you can catch from her. She died. When someone or an animal dies, they are gone from the world we can see forever. No, she's not really gone forever. She's in your heart as long as you remember her. Her body will help the flowers and trees grow, so she lives on through them. Where is she? (Shit? Do I believe in heaven for dogs???) Um. In a hole in the ground. Out back.

Ever since she made the connection that "Piggy's in a hole in the backyard." we hear her talk about it ocassionally. There was the time when my mom took both my kids to storytime, and the story was about a dog. When the reader asked the kids who had a dog at home, Luca called out, "I have two. Ruby who is lazy and Piggy who's in the hole." Surprisingly, no visit from CPS, nor animal control, was paid us that week.

My kid is nothing if not linear and literal. She's one of the most sensitive kids I've ever known (take that for what it's worth, since she's also the first kid I've ever know this well) but one thing she is not is sentimental. So talking about her dog in a hole doesn't make her sad or wistful. It's just another fact of life.

Meanwhile, our other dog Ruby is no spring chicken. At 13, she's been having issues off and on with one of her front legs, and other than giving her supplements and managing the pain for her, there's not much we can do about it. Surgery IS an option, strictly speaking, but not a viable one in her case. Her condition took a nosedive about a week ago, and as a result she's now struggling more with things like climbing the stairs to sleep in our room or jumping on the couch. Real first-world dog problems, I realize, but those creature comforts are very much a part of the lifestyle with which she has become accustomed.

Yesterday, she made a leap for the couch and didn't make it, falling back on the new wood floors and doing a roll/flip move that left her righted lying on her belly in the middle of the floor. Once we assessed that she hadn't hurt herself more in the fall (she hadn't) we started talking about how sad it was that she couldn't get on the couch anymore.

Luca was deep in trying to force her brother to play some game she was making up as it went (that no doubt involved her being in charge and him obeying) when she looked up at us and said, with the most deadpan delivery yet, "We should probably just go ahead and put her in a hole now, guys."

And then, she went back to playing.


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