Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wonderfully Made

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. Psalm 139:14


Lying here with your velvet skin pressed against my belly, your sleep mouth still suckling, I try to reach through the fog of time to that moment of birth. The orgasmic feel of your head thrusting me open. The midwife saying "Go ahead and touch the head. The baby is right there." And I reached down to the miracle of your slick hair. I looked in wonderment at your father. It did not matter that we had performed this bit of magic three other times. The moment you left my womb for the cold air of the outside is always a moment suspended from the reality of everyday life. That moment when you are still half me and half you is an eternal second. 


With the second push, your shoulders slip out, and then another to push out your round belly, and you are pulled out and up onto my naked belly. I pull you to my body as I am holding you now. You are miraculous. Covered in birth, you are fearful. The moment of birth is fearful in the sense of awe fear. It is a tentative moment, tenuous so close to both death and life. And then there is the quiet perfection of a nose, an ear, the tiniest of fingers. Even now I am in awe that somehow you grew inside me....wonderful made in the darkness of my own body. And as I hold you, I believe in God. I praise my own body made in the image of God. Fearful and wonderful.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Slowing Down to a Halt

Even with a more chilled attitude towards the holidays, I still find myself getting a tad stressed. This year has been a bit more nuts as due to some bad planning, I am nowhere done my shopping. And I really wanted to host a little something at my place (very little as I have NO space).  End result is that I spent most of today crazed. I was trying to pick up at least a couple of rooms and catch up on laundry so that we wouldn't spend H's first day of vacation cleaning. R was extra whiny (she's trying to crawl so lots of frustration) and Piper just kept numerous tantrums. I kept trying to put R down for her nap but every time I got her to sleep, Piper would have a tantrum. At one point, I could feel my temper just boiling under the surface. I could barely control my urge to just start screaming back at Piper who was throwing a fit in her room. A friend reminded me to center myself and I kept wanting to do this but it seemed like even finding a second to do this simple act of breathing was just not going to happen.

As I was lying down with R for the tenth time to try and nurse her to sleep, I just gave up. I resolved myself to just lying there while she napped. I pulled her close to me, and began to breath with her sleep inhalations. The sweet feel of body snuggled against mine, the smile of contentment on her face. She was so totally relaxed into me. Safe. And  I just stopped. I stopped worrying. I stopped fretting about the house getting clean. About the shopping getting done. It didn't matter. All that mattered was this moment. A moment of stopping. Just being still.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas

For the last few years, I've managed to keep the Christmas bitch at bay. For the first few years of Umberto's life, I was super anal about Christmas. Everything HAD to be perfect. When anything went wrong, I went a little nuts complete with yelling and tears. I was way manic usually rushing around, buying, wrapping, decorating. I spent hours obsessively trying to figure out what present would make the biggest impact. I remember on Camille's first Christmas, H and I up until three a. m. building a train table for Umberto. I was so frustrated because I had to keep nursing Camille which interrupted my ability to help on the table. As the early morning crept up on us, H and I were snapping at each other more and more. Camille kept waking up and finally I was sobbing. We went to bed with the table half built. Umberto had no clue what we were working on and I felt like the whole moment was ruined. 

Of course looking back, it was silly to get caught up in the moment. The bigger picture shows a train table that was well loved through three children. It finally fall apart (literally) when Piper was about three. That's a lot of moments. 

Each year I got a bit better about letting go of the crazed woman who possessed me at the beginning of December. She was so bent on creating perfect Christmases that she kept missing out on the bigger pictures. On the years of memories being built out of decorating the tree, making cookies, laying around in pjs surrounded by wrapping paper and laughter. She was too busy trying to repair the past by fixing the present. And then one day, after another moment in tears because something didn't go perfect, I realized that I was ruining Christmas by trying so hard to make it right. And I let it go. 

Not that we don't do Christmas. We do. We all love Christmas. We love Santa (and yes I do believe). We love telling the Christmas story as well as other Yule stories about the season. We love the tree looking all crooked and gaudy from the love of the beasties. We love wrapping gifts and making cookies. We love our silly stories that are turning into tradition. And it's okay that it's not always pretty because in the end it is always perfect.














Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Surprise Socks

Today was rough. I went to bed too late in a desperate attempt to just have a few moments alone. I knitted until my eyes were blurry with exhaustion. At eight, Camille started to cry and moan because her stomach hurt. She woke up everyone. After she threw up, we all managed to go back to sleep. That should have been a sign of a wonderful day to come but it was not. R is in some kind of stage where she hates everything. She doesn't want to sleep, nurse, play, be in my lap, or carried in the Mei Tai. She whined all day long until I wanted to sob in utter frustration. Poor Piper is utterly neglected and sat around looking dejected which breaks my heart. The older two kids needed to do school. The house was trashed. And I just didn't have the energy to deal with any of it. I wanted to lay in my bed with the covers over my head and just sleep or cry or be still.

As I was getting ready to go shopping, I came across a lovely sock buried in the mound of clean laundry that dominates my bedroom. It's a blue/gray wool sock. A deliciously warm sock that I love wearing on these rare cold nights in the South. This sock came in unexpectedly in the mail on day with a little note from a friend announcing that it was a surprise pair of socks. I smiled then too because it came at a time when I was feeling a bit like how I felt today. The thought that my friend knit these socks and then thought of me made more than my feet feel warm. Today as I held that sock I remember that I am not alone.

Crisis of...Religion?

As many of my long time readers know, I have what I call "religion issues." I grew up in an Evangelical Christian setting (and yes I will write more about it someday). I joined a Neopagan group when I was 19 and practiced Wicca for a few years. I left. Went through an atheist thing, and then fell into the academic study of religion. I feel sometimes as I just can't escape and that maybe surrender is a better option.

At the end of my undergrad years, I was considering converting to Catholicism. There was a big gap though between my politics and those of the Catholic church. I struggled with reconciling these differences.  A friend accused me of being a hypocrite and that basically killed my desire to convert. When I meet H, the interest was awakened again as H's brand of Catholicism seemed up my alley. But it became clear as we dated that he was in his own crisis of religion and thus me converting because of him wasn't going to fly. Plus I felt that if I converted it should be because of my own desire.

Years have gone by and I still have no religion. Sometimes I feel comfortable in this place. The children have not been raised with any religion in particular. They know about religion because, well, that's what mama does for work. But we do not attend church. We don't pray as a family. No grace, no bed time prayers. We don't meditate. We don't cast spells. We do nothing. And sometimes that is really okay with me. But most of the time I feel like there is something missing. I don't know what it is, and i don't assume that all people feel this lack. But for me it is there.

For a while I played around with being a Neopagan again but that didn't cut it. I've thought about the UU but I just don't feel comfortable in the practice. Both things felt sort of disingenuous to me.  What I loved was the Catholic stuff that filtered through to us from H's mom. I loved that she lit candles for us and prayed to St. Jude to help us through our troubles. I love my images of the Virgin of Guadalupe that I have throughout the house. I love the idea of Mass, and using the Rosary to pray.

On the other side of all this, is a feeling that I there is something deficient about me for even wanting religion. Can't I just live without it? I feel silly when I talk to people about what I feel missing. The response among many of my friends is that religion is bull shit and unnecessary. And if I did do a religion it should be a nice liberal politically correct one like the UUs or Buddhism. I certainly shouldn't be trying to reconcile my radical liberal self with something like Catholicism.

Thus as Christmas approaches I find myself at an impasse in terms of religion. Do I move forward towards Catholicism which I feel drawn to and reconciled that my practice will be different from my politics? Do I just live with the lack and hope it goes away?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Perfection

We didn't do Christmas cards last year. I was tired (pregnant) and we were still reeling from Beastie Boy's first seizure. It was hard to just get normal Christmas stuff going. Plus I struggle with the environmental impact of cards. But at heart I just love Christmas cards. I love receiving them and getting them. There is something so....seasonal....about going to the mailbox and having those red and green envelopes tucked into the mailbox. And then having them shown all over the house so that you can feel the love!

This year I really want the kids to be a part of the whole season. As they get older this is such a pleasure, and I felt that it was time to introduce them to the joy of sending out holiday cards. What better way than having them MAKE the cards? Initially I had visions in my head of these beautifully crafted cards made with stamps and fancy scissors. We would be sitting around the table with our supplies neatly laid out. The children would be quiet but excited! Christmas carols would be on the radio as we worked together to create lovely visions of the season on paper. Never mind that we NEVER make cards or scrapbook or do anything remotely close to making Christmas cards. Never mind that my children never do a craft without creating a hurricane of bits of paper, pens, paint, glitter, etc. Never mind that the girls usually end up smacking each other midway through ANY project attempted together. No I had a firm image of how this was going to be done.

And then we hit the craft store. The first fight immediately broke out over stamps. There was no way I could afford a ton of stamps but there was no agreement on the horizon. Each Beastie wanted their own stamp. Then I almost has a spasm over the price of red card stock. Yes, reality was slowly sinking in...there was no way we could afford the vision. Plus the Girl Beasties had pretty different visions from each other and from me. Boy Beastie was just incredulous over the whole idea, and trailed behind us in slight mortification at even being in a craft store.

When we left, I was still trying to figure out a way to get this ball going. I had promised beastie made cards and damn it we were going to have beastie made cards. Right? I decided to check out if Target had anything. Nope. At this point, I have been to four stores, and the beastie girls are ripping into each other. I am feeling really frazzled, and my vision is starting to look a little different. The girls are at the table, and I am trying to get supplies out for cards. Baby Beastie is screaming because I am not nursing her. Boy Beastie is in his Lego haven safe from crafting and Girl Beasties. Girl Beasties are beating the crap out of each other because one said that cats suck and the other said that dogs suck. I can't find anything because the girl beasties have been slowly smuggling craft supplies into their bedroom while I am trapped on bed with Baby Beastie. When I finally find enough stuff to lay out, the beastie girls fight over materials. They create messy cards. Not perfectly crafted ones (see above). I start to think that the boxed cards with some pictures might be the answer.

We get home, and I get out the new paints for the girls.  I am tired by I promised. I lay out the newspaper, and the paper along with egg cartons filled with different colors. I am all the while trying to figure out how we're going to do the cards or if I should give in and buy photo cards from the internet. And then Camille starts painting. She's covered in paint when she's done with her flurry of creativity. She beckons me over to show her splatter painting with her hand print in the corner. She has also made a "Christmas Pegasus" in red with green wings.

No my beastie girls may not make the perfectly crafted things I see in those Waldorf craft books (damn you Waldorf and your expectations!). No they don't dive into their crafting with the quiet discipline of angelic children. No my girls craft with the same fierceness and energy that drives them through life. With abandonment, and determination, they create these things that are beautiful and unique. Really what more could I ask from a Christmas card created by the Beasties?

I've deprived the girls of crafting because of my drive for perfection. If it's not going to perfect then why bother doing it seems to be my attitude. It hampers me from so many things, and it's starting to hamper how I school my children. I've decided that we will be dong more messy artsy things. We will create with wild abandon and see what happens! We'll have smacking and frustration! We'll have paint on noses and on paper!

This year my friends will get a Beastie created card which may not be perfect but will for sure be unique.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Mothering Camille

When I throw open the back of the van to let you out, you are already sobbing. You are curved over yourself in the back seat, partially hidden by a red picnic blanket. The arch of your back curves the material into a tent which shakes as chocked, wet sounds emerge from behind the shield of your hair.

I am impatient. Angry. This is not the first time you have sobbed and howled. First there was the fit over room cleaning. With some patience, your father and I figured out you needed to be directed. You needed to be given a list of what had to be done rather than just having it. Next came the ordeal of combing through your gorgeous hair which tangles so easily. I tried to hold you close, to gently work through the felted mass that lay at the base of your next, but you screamed and bucked against me, until I was in tears with the effort of being soft with your kicking body. Before we left, we had one more meltdown over your short sleeved shirt, and jacket. Now we are again at this moment when something is too much.

But now I am tired. My patient is short. I want to scream myself. Cry. Beat my fists against the car. I want to just shut the van door and walk away. Walk away from your hot temper. Your low frustration level.

But I don't because you are not the child I do not understand. You are the familiar to my own internal landscape. You are the child I was inside. The child I did not dare to let out. And you amaze me with your freedom and your fierceness. I hope that there things explode upon us because you feel safe with being this wild creature within the circle of our love. Perhaps your ability to not hide the person you are comes from our ability to let you be. And even though I am not always the patient parent, the good parent, the parent who does not yell, I am the parent who is here. Knowing you. Understanding you. And still letting you be that wolf girl who howls moon or no moon.

Pierce Me With Your Words

According to my cup of coffee, stories are gifts.  Ti's the Season after all.
The Christmas song radio station features heartwarming tales as a gift to its listeners.

But what about the evil stepsister to those stories. The stories that are weapons.
The stories that trap with their tar baby consistency? Where are those stories?
Where are the stories that slice you open and riddle you with bullets like cartoon characters under fire?

Some stories are intentional weapons. The stories that tell you how you are and how you will be. The stories that people use to trap you into roles and lives that you do not want. Those stories wielded by clever hands weave whole worlds with no escape hatches. They are often pretty but always deadly.

And then there are the accidental weapons. The kitchen knifes of stories. They are not mean to wound but they are role switchers. Going from harmless choppers of vegetables to stabbing tools extraordinaire. Yes funny stories from the past that make the whole family laugh and nod with familiarity even as they tear you up inside. They bring dormant feelings of insecurity and pain bubbling up with each carefully crafted sentenced.

Yes, stories are gifts but they are also weapons. They pierce us. They slay us. They slice us. If we think of them as only gifts we forget the deadly power that lies behind them.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Houses

Last night, I dreamt that I was in this big house. It was a lovely house. A farm house. The kind of house that a part of me longs for. In my dream, there were people in the house who were menacing. I don't know if they human. But at some point, one of them lifted up a gun and shot me in the face. I woke up, my heart beating, scared to go back to sleep. I worried that the door was unlocked and that someone was going to break in. It took me a long time to calm down.

As I lay there waiting for sleep to come again, I realized that all of my dreams about houses end badly. I don't even pleasant dreams set in houses. I feel sad that I am unable to have a happy dream set in a place many of associate with home and family. I wonder what is about me that can only produce nightmares in this setting.

Monday, November 29, 2010

In A Flash Of Color

November is wrapping up. I am overcome this month with sheer joy and love. Looking back over my life, despite having lived fully at all times, I feel that there is not quite as much color as there is now. Love has a way of intensifying.















Fat Girl Returns With a Rant

Maybe I just need to develop a finer sense of humor but this really pissed me off. I admit to being way over sensitive about weight issues. After all a lifetime of being mocked for my weight has rubbed me a little raw. But when H showed me a picture of someone he knew using this app, I was horrified. "Seriously?" I said "That's an Apple app? What would people say if there was an app that made you look black or brown?" We know what would happen and it is righteous response. But why is there not more outcry over the Fatbooth application? Why is okay to make a joke out of being fat? Because let's face it this is an app not made to be sympathetic or whatever but to mock.  And I"m sure that there are many who think I need to chill out. It's just a joke. Cause hey fat people are funny right?

But I have to wonder if there are other fat people out there who just found this hurtful. I'm not a funny fat girl. I never was and likely never will be. I am not jolly like Santa although my belly does jiggle like jelly when I laugh. Maybe my sense of humor over fat jokes was lost in Jr. High because those jokes weren't supposed to make me laugh. They were supposed to make others laugh...at me. When I see some idiot making himself fat, I think of stupid jock boys who used to laugh at me in the hall way. Who would moo and oink as I walked past their lockers, head down, shoulders hunched forward. The boys who told the joke about what you did when you had sex with a fat girl...you know the "roll her in flour" joke. That joke and those sounds pierced through my bookish armor. Pushing me into ever more dysfunctional relationships with food and dieting. And when I see that app, I know it's those boys who likely this is such a funny thing. Let's see what I'd like as a fat person. Harhar.

Hopefully my rant is for nothing as the app appears unpopular. I just wish it was unpopular due to its offensive nature as opposed to it's lack of fun.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Body Parts

In the woods, behind our complex, there is the remains of a house. The kids call it the "Burned House" and it is infused with mysterious presence. The beasties have many stories about the Burned House, and how it came to be burnt. But none of their stories are very gory. Some of them are cautiously scary. Perhaps there are ghosts....

When I was little, I imagined gory, horrific things that haunted the creepy buildings surrounding my childhood. At one time my aunt lived in a red farm house a bit out of town. It was a wonderful old house, huge and sprawling with an upstairs apartment (in which we lived at one point). The house attached to an abandoned barn that was falling apart, complete with a basement area with a jutted out pig sty. We were not allowed in the barn so it was a favorite play area for us all. We spent hours crawling up to the loft with was a "dangerous adventure" as the floor had huge gaping holes that plunged at least 20 feet to the first floor. We roamed through the empty dusty stalls, turning the least nasty ones into clubhouses (NO BOYS ALLOWED!). We found treasures that adults no longer saw the beauty in--old tractor parts, pieces of plows, tarnished buckles to animal halters.

But up in the hay loft was a scary find. A simple brown bag, lumpy with its unknown secrets. I decided it was filled with body parts. I explained to my younger cousins that it was filled with the parts of the farmer's wife. The farmer had gotten mad at her and chopped her into bits. He stuffed her in the bag and left it up here on the window sill. My cousins were terrified and frankly so was I. I laid awake at night, hearing the farmer's wife calling to me from that paper bag. I stopped going into the barn for awhile but eventually the delicious terror of seeing that brown bag won out, and I would sneak into to shiver at the sight of it, tucked up against the dirty pane.

Finally one day I was no longer able to contain my curiosity. From below, the watchful eyes of my cousins and my brother followed my careful process across the hole ridden second floor. Shaking and breathing hard, I came closer to the brown bag. I felt ill with the terror of being so near. I grabbed the bag after a few deep breaths.

"Come on, open it!" my brother called up.
One of my cousins started to cry.

The bag was heavy. I shook it, and it made a jangly sound. Like bones.

"You're chicken." Another cousin taunted.
"Yeah well I don't see you up here." I shouted. But I was chicken. I was so scared of what might be in that bag. I could almost hear the farmer's wife's shrieks. With a stifled sob, I open the bag so fast I ripped the top. Broken glass tumbled out. I dumbed the bag and a pile of dirty broken glass fell out. The disappointment hammered at me.

"Nothing but glass."

Siblings

One of the many joys of a big family involves their interactions together. I am not implying that it's always joy and light between them. Often they fight, pull each other's hair, yell mean insulting things at each other, etc. But there are times where they are best friends, comrades to the end, in it all together. And those times move me. There joy in each other touches me deeply. and gives me hope for a future of closeness.

Today, it is Camille and Rowena. Rowena adore Camille. Just seeing Camille sends her into spasms of laughter along with huge smiles. Camille mostly loves Rowena but she gets annoyed easily. R's crying or screaming drives her crazy. She just can't get deal with the noise. But there is nothing annoying about Camille to Rowena. Camille is perfection in a seven year old body in R's eyes.

Camille was listening to music on one of our old Ipods. This is a new fascination with her. She strutted out with her headphones on, and gave a twirl. Rowena immediately burst into a big smile but when she saw the dance. She squealed loudly and laughed. Camille pleases at this reaction really started to dance. She twirled and swiveled. She shook her hips. She spun around and jumped.

R laughed and laughed. She squealed and shook her arms and legs. Camille was thrilled at this reaction to her dancing. R was thrilled to have Camille paying attention to her.

And I sat there imaging future best friends.



Thursday, November 25, 2010

Organization

Having H home for the last two days has rocked in ever so many ways. It's wonderful to be with him of course. But it also means help in cleaning. H got it all started with a good cleaning of the living room. This inspired me to tackle the kitchen, and then today I got the dining room area done. Tomorrow and over the weekend, we'll get the bedrooms, the bathrooms, and the playroom organized and cleaned. It's exciting to have a clean space, and it makes you realize how your sense of physical space really does impact your attitude.

When I finished the dining room and did the kitchen, I looked at H and said "Wow that was easy and fast." I'm always so surprised at how quick it is to get things in order. Now that the kids are older, they do a lot more too. And I felt so inspired to do all kind of things. I enjoyed being in my home. I felt like I could organize other things in my life not just my home. A simple thing like cleaning my house helped me to clean up the clutter in my own actions and mind.

So I started playing with the idea of using these charts that float around on the internets. The ones that organize housecleaning into daily, weekly, monthly blocks. There is a part of me that revolts a bit at the idea of any kind of regimentation. However if it makes me, and us work better, function better, just able to live better, I feel as if I need to push past that laziness towards routine and really make an effort.

Thus I am hoping to start a New Year's resolution a bit early...a new way of living our lives. I don't aim to make us effective, just functional.

Health

I suspect one who blogs is rather obligated to write a "Thankful" post on Thanksgiving. And this year, I want to so the obligation fits with desire. How OFTEN does that happen? Seriously?

Last year, I was writing about Umberto's first seizure.  We knew he was safe for the moment but we were so scared that the seizures signaled something dire. As this time approached last year, we were terrified that we would once again being running to find our son on the floor. Last night, I found that I slept rather fretfully, every noise from the kids' room waking me up. H admitted that he slept poorly as well. But there was no seizure. U's been seizure free since January. I am thankful for this simple fact.

Since that last post, I held my son's frail body as he seized (last Grand Mal in January), and even though I remained calm, there was no doubt that the moment emphasized the fragility of our bodies. And it was my son's body. My beautiful son whom I adore, and whose body is not mine but was once carried inside my womb. I made myself hold him even as I wanted so much to run away. I needed to do this as I had hid the first time, allowing H to face that darkness of imaginary loss.

This year I am thankful that my son's body is still here. I am thankful that my children are alive and well.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Slow Dancing with Pequena

Tonight, in the kitchen, while making rye toast
with the awkwardness of one hand,
you began to fuss
Slowly, stiff movements from tired limbs,
without thinking, we began to sway
side to side, my hips rotating
in the unconscious birth dance we began
7 months ago

And the world righted itself
for a moment
With you in my arms,
your delicious baby smell in my nostrils,
the softness of your body against mine,
time stopped
and my purpose seemed clear.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Perspective

I had to delete my whiny post from yesterday so now I'm behind again. Today won't be the day I catch up. Right now I am in dire need of sleep. I need the sleep to heal and to gather the strength to gain some perspective.

Where I am now is that my GRE grades are really pretty dismal. They are not high enough to get me into most of the place I have either applied too or am applying too. What is even more difficult is that I still have two applications to send out, and as of last night I was thinking about just not sending them. I keep thinking it's a waste of money. But then there is still this tiny part of me that is hoping that somehow my GRE scores will be overlooked in favor of other more positive material. I guess it comes down to : betting on the dream or using the money for things we need. Decisions, decisions.

And I'm also wondering when I should start to really think about a back up plan. All this makes me feel very sad, like I'm in mourning. I am a little wrecked when I think I am not likely to get accepted.

Running through this all is this amazingly crippling self-doubt. Shouldn't a smart person be able to do well on this test? And if I'm not smart enough to do a Ph.D. then what makes me think I'm smart enough to do midwifery? I sometimes am not sure what I'm good for in the end.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Freaky Family

It's been an awesome weekend. H and I got into a tiny argument once and only once at B&N. It was a bit sad, and funnily enough we said somethings that the each needed to hear. You know those little things like "I love you" and "You're the only person I want to be with." I think that we forgot that the other person needs to hear the things we think are obvious. And maybe because we said those things, we had this very simple but beautiful weekend.

Saturday, H worked extra hard on his Statement of Purpose so he could join us a birthday party. We went to the park where we meet up with some friends, told jokes, ate cake, and just hung out. Afterwards we went shopping at Trader Joe's which was INSANELY busy but I was feeling so good that I didn't grumpy. Not even once. This is seriously a record for me. Those who know me know what a big deal this is. We came home, ate, cuddled and watched a movie with the whole family.

Today was just as simple and wonderful. Call me a recluse but there is simply nothing better than being around the family. We all did our own thing for most of the day but it was like we were acutely aware of each other being around. After dinner, we watched "The Christmas Carol" which is a favorite Christmas story of mine and I've been wanting to see the new version with Jim Carey's voice since last year. It was nice but not nearly as good at the old version.

For me the weekend was capsuled by a couple of things that happened in relation to the movie. The first was that the kids were deliciously spooked by the Ghost of Christmas Future" and when the skeleton hand pointed out, Camille and I, at the same time, said is spooky voices "The Grim Reaper." We both started laughing and I commented to H "Oh my God, we are ALL so weird." It pleases me that we're such quirky people and that our kids are as well.

After the movie, the kids talked with us about how Christmas is about more then getting gifts. They kept saying "It's about being with your family. Like when Scrooge went to his nephew's house." This was the main thing they wanted to emphasize. They also seemed to get in a way that they haven't before that the season is about giving as well as getting. I don't want to pretend that it's not fun to get presents (it is!) but I do want them to be aware that there is also pleasure in giving. I also like how on the characters says Christmas is the season when humans realize that that the rest of the world is human too. I like to think that I do this all year and that I teach my kids this all year but you know it's nice to get that yearly reminder.

We're a freaky family for sure but we've got each other to be freak with. It doesn't get much better than this.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Ghost of Christmases Past

My memories of Christmas are like most of my memories, fragmented bits built on stories, pictures and glimpses of images from the past. I am not longer certain of the order of these memories and I suspect there are things that do not go together but yet are clumped in my mind.

I remember a Fisher Price train. It had a string I could pull, and a yellow horn that tooted when you pushed it down. It had an elephant that I held onto until was falling apart and dirty. I can not remember what animals came with this lovely circus train. In a picture I am wearing a blue night gown and smiling shyly as I pull the train behind me.

When I was five, we used to live above my Uncle Jim in an attic apartment. I spent a lot of time between the two apartments. My uncle taught me to roll his cigarettes on a red plastic machine. I loved doing this. The year I was six, there was a lot of activity between the two homes on Christmas Eve. Aunts ran up and down stairs bearing food and gossip. Someone came and breathlessly said that my father was downstairs. I ran downstairs, overjoyed at the prospect of seeing my father. I ran through the door into the arms of the young man with dark hair only to look up and see my dad's brother. Everyone was laughing at this mistaken identity. I laughed but inside I withered up.

The year that Christmas was ruined for us all happened my ninth year. My dad came home for Christmas Eve. It seemed like there were a lot of presents but there was a tension that I couldn't understand. My brother received a little toy brown dog that everyone kept calling a "miracle" because he had been asking for a dog and this one came from a distant aunt who had no idea he wanted a dog. I don't know what I got. I don't remember. I do remember waking up Christmas morning to find my dad gone and my mom crying in a rocking chair, wrapped up in a blanket.

Jumbled together were all the Christmases where we didn't know if we'd get gifts or not. My dad didn't always come through and my mom didn't have money. I remember feeling disappointed but more for my brothers than me (they were younger) although there was always a bit of disappointment when I told my mom to just get for them. Someone always came through and we got something. Usually my mom's brother. Christmas was sad not because of gifts though but because it reminded my mom of my dad leaving. There was joy but it was twinged with a bit of disappointment, disillusionment. 

With the birth of my own children, I did not want Christmases to be filled with toys. What I wanted the most was for them to have what I missed the most about too many Christmases. Tradition. Joy. Warmth. Love. Our first Christmas with Umberto didn't involve a lot of money. We were broke. But it was a wonderful Christmas. My mom and brother were there, and for the first time it felt like Christmas was joyful. The past was pushed a bit further back and the future laid out a bit more.

Happiness

I had a kind of crappy night last night and it ended up just being this pain in the ass in terms of money. I spent a portion of today sulking about it. It wasn't a big loss but it was a loss and it was my mistake. And of course this happens all around Christmas so I sulk even more. But now, H and I are sitting around and talking about his kids' at school. And I start to remember my own students from where I taught, and I tell him about this one girl.

She was a good student and would have been better if she hadn't slept through class. But she worked third shift. She didn't work for a car or nice clothes. She worked to survive. Her mother was dead and she had no idea where her father was. Her aunts sometimes helped her out but she was pretty much on her own. I let her sleep. When she was present, she was amazing. Funny and warm. She was able to grasp literature in an intuitive way that most high school students just can't figure out. 

One day I had them write an essay about their happiest moment. She wrote about the time she and her mother got evicted from their apartment. She was ten and they came home after her mother picked her up from school. There was a notice on the door and a big padlock.  This had happened before so it wasn't a big surprise. Her mom and her went out and walked around until it got dark. They picked up some hot dogs and marshmallows. Once it was dark, they went back to the apartment and broke in to the place that had been home. There they snuggled in blankets around a propane stove and had hot dogs and marshmallows. "It was like camping." she wrote. "Or what I had imagined camping would be like as we had never been camping." Later they snuggled together for warmth and in the morning, they gathered up what they could carry and left before anyone else was up. This was a moment of intimacy for this girl. A moment where she was close with her mother.

I cried when I read this essay. At the time I cried because it seemed so pathetic that this was happiness. But now I stifle a tear because sometimes you need those reminders of what is important.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Here's What My Kids Told Me to Write

Today was NOT a good day. It involved a financial mistake on my part that won't sink us but isn't making things very pleasant either. I just don't have it in for me a good or thoughtful post. I'm tired. I spent an hour trying to get ONE transcript to upload for an application. When I sent H home with R, I realized I had left my wallet in the diaper bag so no money for the parking lot guy. Just one of those days followed by a big crappy thing. So today my kids are telling me to write these things:

Camille: All werewovles and werecats must be girls.
Me: Why?
Camille: Because it is more exciting if they are girls.
Me: How so?
Camille: What does that mean?
Me: Like an example of how they're exciting.
Camille: Mama, I don't know what you're talking about. Add this, they should be cool girls not pretty girls.

Umberto: Legos are cool. And video games.
Me: Do you ever think about anything else?
Umberto: Let me see...Um..oh and comic books.

Piper: Cats rule.

Rowens is cooing while she nurses. That's her commentary on the evening.

I leave with a picture of Piper and her drag queen cat Fluffy.

Boobs

I've been thinking a great deal about the politics of the body lately. In particular I've been thinking about the politics of the maternal body. From recent attacks by Erica Jong on attachment parenting to the outcry over Facebook removing pictures of women nursing, there has been plenty to occupy my mind. During a class, I'm been lucky enough to be sitting in on, we've been talking about agency through a reading of a book called The Excessive Subject by Molly Ann Rothenberg. I haven't read enough to offer much of a critique but the book is provocative enough already to set exciting new ideas about research into play. While Rothenberg does not deal with bodies as much as say Judith Butler (whom she critiques in the book), I am starting to flesh out this idea about excessive bodies. I have a long way to go in thinking and writing about the full possibilities of such a term but I can say a bit about where I want to head with this idea (I'd worry about someone stealing but since my reader is so dismally small and I'm not likely to be linked anywhere big, I'll not fall prey to paranoia). And what I am thinking is that the maternal body as shown above is shaping my beginnings sketching of this theoretical idea.


The excessive body would be a body that has a surplus of meanings. These meanings would inhibit this one body often, and maybe necessarily, not noticed by that body. The meanings I am thinking that get attached to our bodies are not within our grasp. And when they are I"m not sure we are always able to juggle or even comprehend ways of reconciling the various meanings with each other.


Breastfeeding fits into this model. Breasts are a complicated organ in our society. They are sexy, not sexy, modified to be sexier or less sexy. They are the fuel of many young men's fantasies (and no doubt some women's as well). They are Pamela Anderson running across the beach in her tight red bathing suit. They are the shiny covers of magazines. They are the alluring lobes protruding from the tops of movie star's evening gowns.


Breasts are also the markers of age, ugliness, and disease. Some breasts are clearly defined as marginal. The ones that sag. The ones that had to be removed. The ones that are lopsided. Too small. Too big. Not perky enough.


They mark us as women. In my world, I feel like I am frequently not taking seriously because my breast are too big. I YEARN for small breasts that might not warrant so much notice. My breast feel loud, boisterous, distinctly working class. I am convinced that there is a perception in the academy that the bigger a woman's breasts, the smaller her brain. I carry these meanings inside my body. They inflect the way I dress, the way I hold myself even though I do not think about these things the majority of time. This excess is already imprinted on my boobs. 


But breasts are also the feeders of human young. The "normative" biological function of breasts is to nurse our offspring. Like cows. Or any other mammal. These breasts are made to nourish my babies. They have done that job well. I am currently nursing baby number four (even as I type this as a matter of fact). I have nursed for a total of seven years and will likely nurse for another three years. My breasts define me as mother. For someone like Jong this means they have defined me as being in bondage. Because my baby refuses to take a bottle, I am almost her entire source of nutrition. My tits bound me to her in ways that I can not escape. I do not get to go out often, and when I do I am acutely aware of time. How long before this is too much milk, and I soak my shirts? How long will be she okay without nursing?


How does one reconcile these roles? Are there even ways to do so? Is there simply too much meaning to shape into these appendages of my body? Is it possible to be both sex symbol and nourisher? Am I sex kitten or mother? What does it mean to be both? Can these meanings be contained in my body?


I do not know the answers to these questions. I know that my relationship with my breasts is a complicated one as I suspect it is for most women. When I am nursing my children, I do not really like my husband to touch my breasts. I joke that they are no longer his. They belong to whatever beastie is nursing at the time. If pushed as to why, I used to say that it was because I was touched out. I am tired of having someone always touching them, sucking at them, etc. But now I wonder if is really deeper. Am I uncomfortable the plurality of meanings, symbolization, representation that goes along with my breasts? 


One of the Facebook protest pages states: " Breasts are for babies, not for men to gawk at! Breastfeeding is natural, normal, and NOT offensive!" And I have to question this. Breasts are for both are they not? Perhaps the ideal world does not wish to have men "gawking" but in our society breasts are sexual. If we reworded this to say "Breast are for babies, not for sex" would this be different? Breasts are both feeders of baby and sex symbols. If this is good or bad is another blog post but the point is that this sentence is not acknowledge the excess of meaning in breasts. I would argue that the uncomfortableness people feel surrounding breastfeeding as to do with this duality of use and meaning. And if breastfeeding is natural and normal why is there a problem? The excess here involves the line drawn between biological and normal. If it's true that most women in the United States don't breastfeed then how normal is breastfeeding? Yes, perhaps it is the biological norm but it certainly is not the cultural norm. Again we run into this excess of meaning.


This issue fascinates me on both a personal and an academic level. I am strong supporter of breastfeeding and I do believe is the best nutrition for human children even as I acknowledge that no all women are able to breastfeed. But I am also interested in who we give our maternal bodies meaning, and the things we acknowledge and don't acknowledge as we do these things. One day, I was nursing Piper who was one at the time. She was a big one but as of that moment no one had really seemed to pay much attention to my nursing a bigger baby. However that, in the children's section at Barnes and Noble, an boy who appeared to be about ten was pretty interested. His mother who was sitting at a nearby table with her friend was visibly upset. Not at her son but at me. She said to her friend, quite loudly "That is so disgusting." It was clear she referring to me. I said to her, "Are you referring to my nursing as disgusting?" She turned beet red, and stammered, having not expected me to answer back. "Well," she said, "My son is right here." I politely pointed out her son was the one who was making a choice to stare. I was not shoving my boob into his face. Then I asked her why it was okay for her son to see a book cover with Pamela Anderson lying down with most of her breast showing. This book was prominently displayed at the front of the store. The woman didn't answer. She just left. She was unable to deal with the excess of my nursing breasts.



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Anger

Anger has long been my stand in emotion. When I am sad, depressed, worried, insecure, I get angry. I don't want to use the word cover as I am not sure that anger is serving that purpose. I know that I am sad when I am yelling, etc. The anger isn't covering that emotion. It's more that the anger sneaks in through the door that emotion opened and spills out, certainly pushing that emotion to the further reaches of my soul but not really hiding the emotion.

Anger is what manifests when I am feeling like I am now. There are so many things that are making me feel sad, worried, insecure, stressed out but what is appearing to all and sundry is this explosive anger. As  I am throwing library books, yelling, kicking things around, I know deep down that the anger is really unreasonable. It is totally illogical and what I am feeling has a lot more to do with the other emotions that I mention. Even when I try to talk about these emotions, the anger just rushes in and takes over. Everything sets me off. There are things that I think justify a strong response but the anger makes me look like I'm crazy thus negating any understanding I might garner otherwise.

Perhaps the anger is feed on this underlying chaos that I feel bubbling beneath the surface of life. Or perhaps the anger is just a manifestation of the tension that I feel surrounding everything else.

For many years, I feel like anger was kept at bay. I thought I had dealt with it. Now it just seems like it's always there. Every night, I find myself angry about something. And I feel like it's all stupid. I am unable to determine if what I am angry  about is okay or justified. Instead, I sit here in the dark, looking like the fool. The out of control bitch who is unable to move beyond emotions to have a reasonable conversation.

When I look closely I still see there is so much healing, so much crap that I have not shoveled through. There are these years of insecurity that have developed this thick scab but have never really healed. When I am doing something that requires some kind of confidence, I find myself picking at that scab until just a little bit of blood appears. When that happens, the anger also creeps out. And I realize that maybe I'm yelling because I am afraid that no one will hear me otherwise.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lists

I am on the floor with three Internet tabs open. On one is my application for Chapel Hill, the other is Facebook where I am chatting with some lovely moms who help keep me sane, and on the other this. All around me are lists. One is for my graduate school applications. Where things need to be sent. What things need to be sent. One is for H's graduate school applications. Same stuff as my list. The last is everything I need to do for work. I should have one for the kids should be doing.

Tonight before I go to bed, I need to:
scan into my computer: sample writing paper, CV, transcripts.
type CV
modify SOP for Duke and Chapel Hill

Tomorrow:
Work with Umberto on this Thanksgiving lapbook
Work with Camille on her final wolf project
Grade Writing Assignments for my class.
Read for the class I am sitting in on.

It makes me want to cry, or go hide, or maybe drink a beer. I am immobilized by the sheer amount of what needs to be done.

When I read that my GRE score is quite a bit lower than what Duke normally accepts, it makes me wonder if this stress is really worth it. Crippling self-doubt is the worst motivator.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Joy

Sometimes, when I so tired that my eyes feel like they encrusted with sand, I forget why I kept having beasties. I read those articles where people talk about parenting as drudgery and I kind of get it. I look back with a bit of longing on the days when I could just sit and write a paper in one setting. When if I wanted to catch a movie the only thing holding me back was lack of funds.

But then I am disarmed by a smile. She does more than make me think this is worth it. She captures me and propels me into a world that is simply joy. She is not a burden. She is a light giver.


And when we go outside and my beastie girls run, tumble, twirl, and jump through the world, I am captivated not just by their beautiful fierce strength and their astonishing grace but also by their joy rising up on wings of laughter.

These are the times I need to hold close because parenting is not a prison or a trap. There are good days and bad days like there is to everything I do. But mostly there is this joy that I wish to pull into myself.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bad Momma Days

The days get shorter along with my temper. I find that by Wednesday my patient is short ordered. Today we have plans as we do most Wednesdays to go out. And these are always the days that Camille seems to be off. Then again anytime we go out, Camille is off. She cries. She's angry. Everyone pisses her off. A sideways look can send her into a fit. 

On days when I am well -rested, I feel Camille. I can soothe her into the transition of leaving our nest. But today, I am out of sorts. I am exhausted, stressed out, and feel a bit fragile myself. Today her tears and tantrums make me angry. I try to fake it through the first few but she catches on and amps it up. After the seventeenth screaming fit because "Umberto won't give me his book!" I lose it and yell. She storms into the room, flings herself onto the bed, and sobs loudly. Her shrieks hammer on me as I try to get things ready to go with baby on my back. 

Umberto continues to torture Camille. The other beasties take great pleasure in taunting Camille. 

I manage to hold it together until I can't find the cases for the library DVDs. The kids' room is trashed and this sends me into a fit of rage. I yell and kick things around trying to find the cases in the room. At this point Camille is sobbing hysterically and I am feeling like the wicked mom of the West. But I am still so pissed that I can't just say "I'm sorry. Let's move on." 

We get outside and as I lock the door Camille wraps her arms around me. I am frozen in my act, key in the door, bags strapped all my over my body. I feel her tiny hands holding me. And I am humbled by this love and this trust. This forgiveness. I hold her against me, running my hands over her hair. We stand together. Mother and daughter. Sisters. We know each other in ways that others will never know us.

I love you mama.
I love you too Camille. And I'm sorry.
I know.

For the Why? Days

Lately I've really struggled with feeling rather like a failure in terms of pretty much everything I do. My house is a sty (no really it is). I'm behind on grading for my college class. The kids are so not where I want them in Math. I just feel really over-whelmed, and find myself thing "Why in the HELL am I doing this to myself?" "Why I don't just throw these beasties into school and let someone else do this?" After all, it really is just added stress on a life that is already pretty stressful. I have a part time job. I'm applying to five Ph.D. programs. I have a 7 month old baby. Who is one.of.four. I'm nuts as my friends often tell me.

And then I have this week where we do so much and it's just so cool. These weeks seem to come along when I need the universe to remind me that it's going to be okay. Beastie Boy and I have finally finished the first volume of A History of US. I had a rather lofty goal of reading them all by the end of our "school year." We're not even close. But we have had the most amazing conversations about war, colonization, etc.  We've talked about explorers and imagined what it would be like to explore uncharted land. What happened this week was that Beastie Boy reminded me to slow down and enjoy the process. We don't have to meet a goal. On his own, he asked if we could study Thanksgiving. He didn't make an explicit connection to the book but since it came up while reading the book, I think the connection can be made. We sat down together and came up with a bunch of questions we both wanted to answer and then we brainstormed some ways to go about finding our information. We're both pretty excited.

Later on that day, I helped C plan out a design for a lapbook on Wolves. And her excitement over all the research she's done as well as the books she's already made were contagious. See C was "supposed" to be learning about the Ocean but she wasn't into it. Getting her to do projects on it was not happening. I got super buys and we dropped the ocean stuff for about a week. In that week, C became obsessed with wolves. She read every book she could find on them. Our house was/is decorated with pictures of wolves nursing their babies, howling, bringing down prey. If you want to know something about wolves, C is the person to ask. What's so great is that she choose this subject on her own and then she pursued it. She didn't need me pushing her or me designing projects. She learned the stuff because she wanted to know.

If my beasties were in school, I would miss out on all this learning. I wouldn't get to be a part of these big jumps. They wouldn't be allowed to follow their own paths and interests. Leanring wouldn't necessailry be a relationship. While we are not unschoolers, we do have a give and a take between what I feel they should learn and what they want to learn. Even with Math which is the hardest thing to motivate them in, Beastie Boy and I had a big breakthrough when during some word problems, he figured out why knowing Math might be a big deal. It was pretty cool because after this it was a lot easier to get him to do his math work. When I ask them to learn things I'm always careful to tell them why and they in turn will argue with me about what they want to learn as well. We negoiate this process and what needs to be done.

Because of this, I'll keep on doing it. My house will be clean someday. Baby Beastie will be older and we'll be able to do more. The kids will grow ever more confident and independent. And someday we'll all wonder where that time went....

Friday, November 12, 2010

Moving

 Hmmm...this is interesting.

Hey mama. I LOVE you...

Hmm..if I push up, I can move....

I feel like Superwoman...but backwards...yeah I want to go towards mama...

Damn it you people! Pick me up! 
Baby Beastie may never crawl or walk. She has four servants and one beast of burden. Why move when others will do it for you? I suspect Baby Beastie may be a diabolical genius.

Ahhh...Shit

I was doing so good at keeping up and then I blew it by chatting with a group of AWESOME women. Dis tractors. But as one of them just pointed out, "It's on 9 in Washington State." We'll just pretend that it's nine here too.

So these women are part of the reason why I have this new fantasy. I want to travel all over meeting my online friends. I want this for purely selfish reasons because I love my online friends but I also think it would just be such a cool writing experience.  Now I need some funding. I daydream that I could convince a publisher to take on this project. My mom says reality t.v. which would kind of rock too...

What a great idea though: Homeschooling family of six, on the road, meeting people they only know online. The implications are endless. Theory, adventure, chaos. I want to do it. Some one out there wanna fund us? We'd come visit you...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Some of the Nicest People I Know

Today was a full day and not always the best of days. The girls woke up in some kind of foulness that resulted in too many tears and too much frustrated mama. I felt tired and defeated before we even really did anything. Hanging with another home school family was good but Beastie C was rude.

But the day ended extra good because I finally got meet one of my blogger friends, John BR and his wonderful wife Kathy. They were lovely and smart. It was an evening spent catching up on each other's lives, and talking about the world. This is about my fifth meeting of someone I have meet over line, and it so far I have a good track record.

Whenever people tell me about how the Internet is destroying our ability to connect to other people, I think that it is not that simple. I have meet some good friends through the Internet. From a couple of wonderful "due date" clubs to the people I have meet through blogging, I have made some life long connections. These people have become my community. I often long for a world in which they would be close enough for us to actually hang out. I think sometimes that maybe it wouldn't be that great to know them in real life but then I meet them...and it's still pretty great.

Tonight hanging out with John BR, getting a hug from Kathy and him made him even more real to me. His poetry reads a little differently now.

Postscript: Do you think someone would fund me in an attempt to meet all my online friends:P? Seriously how cool would it be to travel around and meet all of you and write about these encounters! Awesome I say!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Mother, Oh The Trap

This morning, with coffee and steel cut oatmeal (to keep my milk supply up for baby R) I stumble across this gem. My initial impulse is to not just read it as I am hardly an Erica Jong fan. I find her writing simplistic and a bit too melodramatic. Her essays and speeches just seem whiny and filled with unacknowledged privilege but since it was causing such a stir where I had found it, I decided to read it. What resulted was lots of sputtered coffee, and rants aimed at the computer screen (I am fully convinced that somehow my computer conveys these rants to the intended recipients). There is so much that just annoys the hell out of me in this article, and since she's all over the place with a poorly executed argument, there is much to cover. I cant' and wont' do it all. I suspect there will be many well reasoned arguments out there that take her to task for her silly stereotypes of AP parents to her confusing logical twists.

What I want to focus on are two major problems I have with her attack on attachment parenting. The first is that her attack ends up being leveled against other women whether she wants that to be the case or not. It's impossible to not read this article and not feel that if you attachment parent that you have somehow given up on being a feminist or having any care for women's rights. Now of course you're just a tool of some kind of nebulous thing called Attachment Parenting but it's still you. What her rant tells us is that only certain kinds of choices that are okay to make. Her choices are good, well thought out ones and the attachment parenting mom's choices are bad. It's that simple to her.

Herein lies the problem with choice. If you make choice the end all of any kind of discussion on rights then you end up in a world where all choices are valid. You can argue, as she does, that some choices are more limiting and cause more pain to others. And yes I do agree with this but I am not sure if attachment parenting is one such choice. I could  as just easily argue that her choice to work, hire a nanny, buy formula, etc makes me repressed and that her choice results in a country that does NOTHING to support me in my role as a mother. Who's oppressing who? one may ask. Choice is a problematic little idea. I see choice as a smokescreen that keeps up from focusing on other ways to view the world. There is the argument, for example, that "This is my body and I can choose what to do with it." But on the other hand this is also the idea of the body behind "It's your body so YOU take care of it."  I'm not necessarily saying get rid of choice but let's at least look at the assumptions behind such notions.

Because really so few people in the world have ANY choose about their lives. And I'm not just talking about people in "developing" countries. Choice is not a reality for most of the people I know. It's not always a reality for me. We are ALL forced to live in certain ways because of the system in which we live. Which brings me to my next big issue.

I can't figure out what Jong wants. She insists that we parents are too tired to be out in the streets protesting. Apparently what we need to do is to what she did which was hire a nanny so we could tour the world promoting our books which are filled with lovely feminist ideals. Okay then. Let's see. Find a job that will allow me time to write. Why a job? Because writing is NOT going to pay my rent, food, electricity, daycare. Next find a publisher who is going to give me huge advances and promote my book by sending me all the world. Well that's EASY. Okay so maybe she doesn't want to me to aim so big. Instead I need to find a job where I can work against the man. But those jobs don't usually pay well, and I need a fairly well paying job so I can afford daycare. Boy am I screwed. I'll never get to grow up to a good protester.

See that's the big problem here. Jong refuses to acknowledge her own privilege and in doing so does nothing to question the status quo. She bemoans that we don't have villages to help us raise our children but does not suggest that we tear down the corporations that turn us into money making machines. She does not proposal a radical shift in society where we value women and the work they do. She does not offer a visionary world (as our founding feminist MOTHERS did) where men are equal partners in child rearing and housework. She does not outline a plan where we help women and children with health care, food, childcare, etc.



Jong does not take the time to question why it's okay for formula companies to pimp their wares to poor women. She does not question why she hates fast food but is okay with formula (which is processed). I am not slamming mothers who need formula but I am slamming companies who actively try to sell their wares to vulnerable new mothers who are scared that their babies are not gaining weight. The bottom line is that the lifestyle she promotes sells as much as attachment parenting doest. They are both lifestyle niches that capitalism gets its hands on and promotes through exploitation and fear. But there are other paths, and she missed the opportunity to explore these trails.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Tired

Well I've made it to day 8 with some somewhat decent posts. But today I just don't have the energy to think. I asked H to give me something to write about and he said "Write about writing." And just thinking about that for ten seconds made my head hurt. I'm thinking tonight is not the night to work on my SOP for Toronto which really needs to be done so that I can send it out.

Today R woke me up early as usual. She's totally a morning baby and I can't wait until she's more into H. He's a morning person too so they could hang together and I could sleep. If she ever decides that she can be more than five inches from MAMA. Sometimes I fear that I have created a monster with the attachment parenting stuff. It's still hard to hear people using Cry it Out with great success (as in way more sleep than me). Or that they can leave the baby with just about anybody and the baby is fine and they've been doing it since the baby was six days old, etc, etc. And there is this part of me that wishes that I was getting sleep and that I was able to leave R for a bit once in a while. I look back though and realize that so much is just each kids' personality. Camille was in daycare from like four months on and she was still super attached to me. Piper who never saw daycare in her life is, and was, super independent. Thus I know that I'm doing okay by R and that right now she just needs to be attached for whatever reason.

So after getting up way too early, I got the dining room cleaned, dishes down, another load of laundry going, and breakfast for the beasties. I also did school work with all three of them. This was all in between R just fussing all freaking day. I have no idea what was wrong with her but I felt slightly crazed by noon. She wouldn't nap, she wouldn't be worn. She just wanted me to hold her while she fussed at me. Very annoying. She did chill out for about a half hour with some food so I was able to cook supper.

Then it was off to work with beasties in tow. H had to take the GRE today so I had to bring them. I settled them in with Chick Fil A while my students took a test. Then we went to Trader Joe's to get food for the week. I ended up spending way too much because I was starved and they had all their Christmas crap out...like dark chocolate shortbread star cookies. OMG goodness. The beasties were less beast like than normal so it was a more pleasant shopping experience than normal (can we say "Tenderloin wrapped in bacon for the samples. They munched themselves in a meat daze). However the way back was living hell as R SCREAMED and panted all the way back. Sigh. Now she's finally asleep in my lap, delicious and cute.

But me? I'm tired. I'm too old for this baby business. Tomorrow is a calmer day so I'm hoping to get said SOP ready to go and application out tomorrow. Then I have have to get all my stuff together for transcript sending and all that fun busy work. Wednesday is another overbooked day. I need a day book as I keep doing this to myself. But it will be fun. Best part is that we are meeting John BR!!!!!! Can't wait.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Problem With Beastie Boy

This morning U stumbled out of his bedroom, and sort of fell into the recliner. H and I were both all over him: "Are you okay? What's wrong? Was your handshaking? Do you have a headache? Do you feel weird?" He was ignored us half the other time and only managed to grunt the rest. By the time I had worked myself up into a panic, he had stormed into his room in tears. "There's nothing wrong!!!" He yelled before hiding under his blankets. H went in a little later and figured out that U was mad because he had "Nothing to do" and we wouldn't rent him Halo Reach (again for like the fifth time in the last two weeks). In addition, he hadn't see his complex buddy all weekend, and despite the fact that was nine am he wanted to invite him over. He didn't ask for any of these things because he knew the answers would not be to his liking.

He was also upset because our concern comes because of his epilepsy. U went from being pretty interested in learning about his condition to just pretending it doesn't exist. His medication is a sore point as it is and any mention of epilepsy is taboo. I've stopped trying to talk about it with him because I'm just not sure where to go with it. I don't want to push it on him but, on the other hand, I am a big believer that one should be aware of their own bodies and their own health. And I know that my fussy mom concern drives him crazy in that it's just a reminder that the epilepsy does exist. As we're approaching, the one year anniversary of his first seizure, I can't help but be paranoid.

And of course there is the factor of oncoming puberty (shudder) and the side effects of the meds. The meds make him moody and irritable. Puberty makes him moody and irritable. It's a volatile combination. I write this totally calm and with understanding. I taught teenagers (as has H) and we know this attitude is par for the course. But it's a bit different when it's coming from your own child.

I told H today that I think it's hard on us for a couple of reasons. We feel like we're really close to our children. We home school. We have very family centered life. We rarely go out without them. We include them in our own lives as much as we can. And then of course we practiced attachment parenting with all of them. I nursed. We co-slept. We wore them. So this pushing us off is a bit hard. We're letting him do it as it is obvious that is what he needs to right now but boy does it hurt more than I thought it would. Plus I am a big believer in compassion for all, and it's hard to deal with someone who can just be really mean.

For awhile parenting him seemed easy. There was this kind of awful period when he was a baby where I just felt like everything I was doing was wrong. He was my first baby and I was such a moron about it all. He was the baby with colic too so that didn't help matters. When he finally hit about 3.5, it seemed to just be great. He turned into this funny, sweet little guy that was so easy. I pretty much felt like it was smooth sailing up until now. And here we are entering a new phrase for us all, and suddenly it's that panicky feeling like "Shit I'm going to screw this up for sure."

Everyday is like walking among landmines. Sometimes he needs me to be right there and other times he pushes me away. If I step wrong, he explodes. His words are rude and angry. Filled with shrapnel and flame. He hasn't learned how to direct those weapons (thankfully) but it's still a wounding moment for me. I sometimes lay awake at night and wonder if I somehow screwed up with him and that is why he's turned into this rude, sometimes mean little person. I hear/read other people's descriptions of their wonderful sweet boys and wonder "Where did I go wrong? What did I not do well enough?"

It's a new path for us, and funnily I feel myself having to go back to that same kind of listening I used when he was a baby. Waiting carefully for his cues before acting. Shaping my responses in ways that work for him and me. Balancing his needs with those of the collective. And all the while hoping to hell that I am modeling to him so that when his body calms down he has something valuable to carry into the world.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

And...

I am totally posting on the fly AGAIN. My problem is that the day doesn't really end for me until one or two a.m. I keep forgetting that I have to post before midnight to get this post in for the day. Craziness!

Today I discovered that, according to the GRE, I am not any smarter now then I was when I began my graduate program. I say this in jest as I got the exact same score I got five years ago. But it did make me ponder on the way home if I had learned anything. It seems that I have. I know I've read much more and that my understandings of what I read as an undergrad has deepened and changed. Perhaps my test taking ability has undergone no change. I did take this test on three hours of sleep and feeling not very well. Perhaps I can chalk the no change towards betterment to this?

I'll post more on what I have learned tomorrow. Tonight I am thinking about where  I was five years ago. Piper had just turned six months, and we had just moved to this same complex. We lived across the green for where we are now. My apartment was filled with boxes and I was seriously freaked out over three papers due right on top of each other. I suspected at that time that I was not capable of doing the whole Master degree thingie. I felt stupid and inept. I wrestled with this insecurity as I tried to write papers with a nursing Piper, and in between attempted to slowly unpack.

There were other concerns. Umberto was not doing so hot in school. He was staring to tell us he hated books. We had no idea what was going on and even less of an idea of what we were going to do. Camille was not talking to anyone,  and I was scared she had autism but everyone told me I was crazy for thinking this. Piper was my most  chilled baby and thankfully left me lots of time to freak out about what a horrible graduate student I was. It was also the semester I meet wonderful advisor who encouraged me to keep working. A long with H I had two people who had faith in my ability. It helped.

And now here I am five years later with the degree in hand. Sending off more applications for more degrees. It's a frightening process but as I drove home today, I realized that sometimes you are more than you think. I had a passion for the academic stuff and I persuaded H that we had to take this leap into the unknown. Look we are now...about to leap again.

Some images from that not so long past...echoing back in the tiny body of Rowena and the frantic writing and form filling...





New Tradition Born out of Necessity

Wordless Fridays: From now on a series of pictures of that captures our week.