Friday, September 28, 2007

Baba Dion

Ever since my fantastic victory over the car cd player, we've been enjoying a wide selection of music. Claire's favorite is Baba Dion. The rest of us might pronounce that Bob Dylan, but don't worry. Claire will be more than happy to correct your error with emphatic hand gestures. She's generous like that.

I'll be driving along, listening to the news that has my heart hurting, when Claire requests Baba Dion. By "requests," I mean that she shrieks at a volume that could burst ear drums. Since I can't hear the news anyway, I generally put in the cd for her. If any song other than "Lay Lady Lay" emits from the speakers, she tells me off in very unladylike tones.

I'm trying to decide which is worse: a two year old who knows all the lyrics to "Lay Lady Lay" or the permanent loss of hearing that will result if I fail to comply.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The I Nevers

All mothers joke about the I nevers. "Before I had children, I said that I'd never let them sleep with me!" Every parent I've ever met has an I never, and most have a laundry list of them. I nevers are usually funny - statements from naive young people who quickly abandon such silly mandates when faced with living breathing children. But there are other I nevers too, the ones that we can't quite joke about.

Before parenthood, parenting seems like it is all about the parent. We have our ideals, political and personal. We extrapolate parenting rules from those ideals and create a vision of what parenthood will be. This is an important process, I think, this preliminary definition of ourselves as parents. In many ways, it's the first parenting that we do! We sift and sort, prioritize and dismiss, and decide exactly who we want to be. Then we meet these small people and discover that parenting isn't just about who we want to be. It's also about who our partners want to be. It's also about who these little people are. And the I nevers start dropping like flies.

My list of I nevers is long and mostly forgotten. What's the saying? I was a better parent before I had children, or something similar. Most of my assumptions were just plain wrong and really quite humorous. (Did I really think that my children would be potty trained by age two?) There have been a few compromises, however, that were difficult. Over the past week, I have been wrestling with one of the difficult ones.

I want my children to learn my values. I want them to be ethical people. I want them to understand that we are all of us God's creations, no matter how different we may seem, and we are all of us worthy of respect and inclusion. I want them to reject hatred and discrimination. I also want them to have an innocent childhood. I want them to make their own choices, make their own mistakes, and live their own lives. I don't want to make my children into my own political statement, my puppets in the larger world. I don't want them to be limited by big topics that they don't, and should not understand at a tender age.

And so I am the mother of a Tiger Scout.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Souvenir

Jake was exploring the pile o' junk on the upstairs couch yesterday while I was working. He was looking for Star Wars action figures that my husband has been winning on eBay then hiding around the house so that I don't start adding up purchase totals and Jake doesn't ruin them all by playing with them. I do not understand the logic. I just try to avoid looking too hard at any pile of junk. I heard lots of "Hey cool!" and "Wow!" as I resolutely refused to turn and look at Jake's finds. Then I heard him say, "Oh, I guess that's the last of Tweety, huh." I turned to see Jacob pointing to a petrified turd underneath the end table.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Day for Peace

Today is the UN World Day for Peace. Jacob's school gave plastic cups to all the kids. They wrote the name of a war-torn country on the cup, then arranged them in the chain link fence to say "Be the Peace." Later this morning, they'll have a peace march around the school. I don't know that peace marches really do much to change the world. I do however, believe that individual choices can eventually change the world. I do believe that we can be the peace. Jacob's country of choice is Afghanistan. My project for today is to find something tangible that we can do together to improve conditions there. I have some ideas, but I'm always open to suggestions!

I highly recommend Todd Parr's The Peace Book. The book explains what a peaceful world looks like in simple language with clear, colorful illustrations. It's been a great conversation starter in our house for many different topics from ecological responsibility to homelessness.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I hope we're doing the right thing.

Our cat has cancer. She's going to the vet today. Barring a miracle, she will not be coming home. She has a large tumor on her belly which she is bound and determined to remove herself. She's losing weight and hair. She reeks of death. She's mostly happy now, but that won't last for long. It's a hard choice but I know it's the right choice.

I am not sure we are doing the right thing for my son. After my husband and I decided on a course of action, I told Jake that Tweety is very sick. I explained that she will probably die soon. He was upset. He didn't understand why we couldn't just give her some medicine. He didn't believe that she was sick. I pointed out her loss of hair and her scrawny flank. After that conversation, he understands that she is dying. We are not telling him that we are putting her down, just that she is dying.

Last night as I was waiting for sleep, Tweety came by for a cuddle. I had a nice chance to say goodbye. Now, I'm wondering if we ought to have given Jake a chance to say goodbye as well. Which is worse? That he knows we're killing the cat or that he doesn't have a chance to say goodbye to her? He is only six. I do not believe he has the experience necessary to understand euthanasia. I'm almost thirty-six and I am struggling with it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thanks, Stranger.

I am feeling grateful this morning since a complete stranger helped me out. I realized in short order that strangers help me out all of the time. Maybe it's where I live. Maybe it's my oh-so-radiant personality. Maybe I'm just plain blessed. Whatever the reason, I would like to thank these people with more than a smile and wave. From this weekend:

  • Thanks Mr. man walking his dogs! I appreciate your frantic waving before I pulled away from the curb. I completely forgot that I set my coffee on the roof of my car. You changed my whole morning.
  • Thanks My Girl's owner! I know you're not a stranger anymore, although I still don't know your name. But you were a stranger the first time you stopped over three years ago to let my son pet your dog. My Girl is a lovely dog and you are a lovely person. I'm glad to see you every day.
  • Thanks Ms. fast walker with the short hair for reminding my son to look before crossing the alley. And thank you even more for smiling at me afterwards and telling me that your son was six once too.
  • Thanks to the many, many drivers who have waved us across the street while you sat at the stop sign longer than necessary.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Don't tell me the score!

Jake and I are watching Women's World Cup Soccer. I am Tivoing it and we're watching it in 30 minute increments since we can't seem to find a big enough block of time during the week for a whole game. We're watching game 1 right now. Abby Wombach just left the field with a bloody gash on her head and the North Koreans scored twice (twice!!!) in short succession. And then it was five minutes past time to read books so we had to save the rest for tonight.

Because Jake specifically asked to watch this, because a boy is watching women play a sport and finding nothing odd about that, because I remember hopping up on the boundary wall and watching semi-pro soccer when I was a kid and I'm excited to share a sport with Jake that Nick won't horn in on and take over with opinions and freakish knowledge of history and statistics, because I saw Jake pay close attention to his soccer coach last night, because of all these things I will not look up the score. I will not! But I have to say that it's really, really hard to resist. I'm turning on that game 30 seconds after I walk through the door tonight. And oh, do I hope that Wombach is ok.

I really hope that I'm spelling her name correctly, but I don't dare google it because I'll see the score!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Please do the needful.

I have been working with an Indian project manager recently. He emails me a few times a week with an issue that requires action of some sort. After a brief explanation, he closes his email with "Pl. do the needful." I am absolutely enchanted by the phrase. I find myself muttering it regularly as a kind of mantra.

When confronted with a long to do list, I skim it and say, "Please do the needful." I say it when faced with a ringing phone, an urgent email, and a coworker standing next to my desk. And most of all, I say it over and over again in the evening when I'm trying to take care of two children, a husband, a cat, a household, and myself. My trouble, it seems, is figuring out what the needful is without a handy dandy project manager. I think I might need a project manager for my life.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hermetically Sealed

I found this project of Claire's earlier today. She's on some sort of mission to protect toys and evidently, zip top baggies are the solution to all of life's little contaminants.

Unfortunately, zip top baggies aren't always enough. On Saturday, my little family was parading into the school bearing cakes in big white boxes. I had a cake balanced on my right hand and Claire's little fist firmly planted in my left hand. Then I tripped over a low cart. I held onto Claire's hand tighter than Britney Spears held onto a falling cocktail. Claire flew up into the air, and described an arc around my body which abruptly ended when her head met a metal door.

Six hours and six stitches later, we were all more or less fine. A couple of days later, we really are all fine. Claire's head and my legs are starting to show the green patches that betray coming bruises and tornadoes.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

A good idea this time

Jake's suffered from recurring nightmares for most of his little life. We have tried everything we can think of and the only solution is making sure that he gets enough rest. The nightmares go in streaks. He gets a little tired, he has a nightmare, and then we're off on the nightmare roller coaster for a few weeks.

I was tucking him in last night when he asked, "Mom, what can I do so I don't have a nightmare tonight?"

"I don't know, Jacob. We've been dealing with this a long time. It's better when you try to relax and be happy before you go to sleep." I put on some music to help him. And wha-bam! Inspiration hit me right between the eyes.

Jacob knows the story of Jacob's ladder quite well. It's in a lullaby that I sing to him every night. So finally, I realized that the original Jacob would be a terrific help to us. "You know, the first Jacob was a dreamer too. Remember, he dreamed about Jesus. You could ask Jacob to pray for you. You could ask him to pray that you have happy dreams."

"Jacob's dead, Mom. He can't pray."

"Oh sure he's dead. But he's with God right? He can just look over and say 'Yo God! Help Jacob!' " And with that, Jacob dissolved in giggles. He asked me to ask Jacob to pray for him. Then he slept peacefully through the night.

Thanks a million, Jacob in heaven. I'm sorry I didn't ask for your help a long time ago. I'm sure that you've been waiting for me to figure it out.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Well that was a bad idea.

I was dressing a very tired Claire for the night after she'd had a long bath with Jake. She caught sight of her wrinkled fingers, then held them up for close examination. She was very, very concerned. I tried to explain that it was just the bath, that her fingers would be normal soon. Her little forehead furrowed. She said in a voice with an edge of hysteria, "I don't like that." After a long pause and further examination, she said it again in an even edgier voice. "I don't like that!"

Thinking quickly, I called, "Hey Jacob! Come in here for a sec! Show Claire that your fingers are wrinkly too." Just as I was mentally patting myself on the back, I noticed that Jake was closely examining his hands. His forehead was furrowed in the exact same manner as Claire's. Then in the same quasi-panicked voice, he declared, "I don't like that."

Monday, September 3, 2007

Open Letter to Biting Insects

Dear Mosquitoes, Spiders, Biting Flies, and all other manner of biting insects:

Please stop biting Claire on her eyelid. I realize that it's probably a big joke to the entire guild of biting insects, but this particular joke has gone too far. For the fourth time this summer, the sixth time in her life, Claire's eyelid has swollen to twice it's normal size. Thank goodness for Benadryl which is reducing the swelling enough for the child to see.

Beyond her discomfort, there is the question of her appearance. Yes, I do realize that is the funny part. But seriously? It is difficult enough for me to deal with her proclivity for nudity and aversion to shoes. The staggering caused by vision impairment added to the drooping eye on top of the nudity and general shoelessness makes my sweet, smart daughter look like she's stumbling into the street after an ill-advised bar fight. Yesterday, I had to chase the most white-trash-looking toddler on the face of the planet onto a mid-game soccer field while strangers looked on and clucked in concern for the well-being of said child.

Once again, I beg of you to cease and desist. You've had your joke. Now leave my child alone. And remember - winter is coming. You'll get yours.