Wednesday, August 30, 2006

An exquisite form

The following is an essay about the (unmentionable) love we feel for our children, prompted by HBM and The Joy Which Can't Be Words*

There's something no one talks about out of fear, even in an age where us verbose types can't seem to stop talking: the physical attraction we have to our children.

We have reason to be fearful.

WalMart, with its strange blend of corporate conscience, has made a name for itself not only by shortchanging employees, meddling in their lives, limiting their access to healthcare and decimating the communities they inhabit by edging out the little-guy, but also by becoming the eyes and ears for police, scouring the prints at their photo departments for exposed skin and potential pederasts.

Under such hysteria, (which admittedly has been around long before WalMart) the bodies of children have become sexualized. But when truth matters naught and appearance is all consuming, how can we ever differentiate between what means us harm and what doesn't?

That has never been more apparent to me than when I first brought my daughter home from the hospital, took off all her clothes and marveled at her lovely and amazing form. How could I not adore each inch of this marvelous body.

Each fold of skin was a masterpiece. I tickled her tummy as I changed her diaper. I bent down to kiss her newly exposed belly button. Her smell was intoxicating, clean and new.

The attraction between mother and child is most definitely physical. It grows in time, too. Not only did I have an urge to touch her, feel her skin against mine, I needed to hold her and squeeze. There was a surprising amount of latent violence in this expression. I held off the full force of my hugs, afraid to break her. My jaws clenched, teeth biting lip. The phrase "I could eat you up" was nearly literal. Everything about her being -- and not merely the idea of her being -- was yummy.

I took photographs of every part. I couldn't believe how defined and perfect her muscles were. I was transfixed by the roundness of her head and the dimples in her soft, full skin. And yet, I remained keenly aware of the danger waiting to tear me limb from limb in this world jaundiced by a sad mixture of superiority and anxiety.

I knew that such images, no matter how innocent, are taboo. I know that should someone with a lascivious mind find pleasure from them, there are those who would call me a pornographer. I hesitated showing my images to anyone, lest they judge. I just thanked the gods of technology for the digital camera I had long eschewed.

But even the mention of such thoughts has the potential to devastate.

When we say "physical love," most people conjure a mental picture of sexual love. Sensual love gets lumped in there, too. We make no distinction superficially, and yet we are all drawn to sensual things, innocently, in ways that no one would ever accuse us of crimes against humanity. Every time I walk past suede in a department store I have an intense urge to caress it. It pleases my senses. But I have no desire to have my way with a coat, I assure you.

In fact, much of my own thoughts concerning physical love have changed since becoming a mother. Since having a child so much of my own body has been transformed from the sexual to something else -- something life giving and life sustaining -- that I've had difficulty reassigning my parts. It's been nearly a year since this baby of mine stopped nursing. And still my breasts are unaware of sexual gratification. Touched in that way, I recoil.

My baby's body, in my thoughts, is the same. Its beauty is more than emotional; it's esoteric. The attraction is so surely physical it's palpable. It offers proof that we have the potential for perfection in all the ways that matter.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The not-so-vicious circle

Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommmy mommmy mom-meee mommeee mommeeee mommeeee mommeeee mommeeee mommeeee mommeeee ma me ma me ma me ma me ma me ma me ma me ma me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me.

Right now it's all about me.

When I got back from vacation, and back to my desk, awaiting my attention was "Momma Zen," a memoir by Karen Maezen Miller, a mother, writer and Zen Buddhist Priest.

I had almost forgotten the author had contacted me and wondered if I might give it a read and a mention on this here little blog. (Color me happy as well as more than a little bit flattered).

You see, dear friends, I am a yoga practitioner who facilitates a free yoga class for mothers and others who want a little stretching, a little meditation and a little co-misery as they try to get through yet another week. But by no means am I a yogi. I don't talk the talk. I don't walk the walk. And I wouldn't know bliss if it walked up and bit me. I don't even think I've had a real "practice" since Ittybit was three months old.

Let's just say until I ripped open the envelope and tore through the introduction, I was more than just a little intimidated. Who wouldn't be? Zen. Buddhist. Priest. Mother. Writer.


As it turns out, the book was right up my alley.

It wasn't preaching so much as it was lending a branch for support. It wasn't expecting me to 'let it all go.'

I knew life had changed for me when Ittybit was born. I didn't really even mourn how. I didn't miss my single self. I was ready to give her the boot. I didn't pretend to know any answers, and I was willing to ask questions. I didn't have great expectations. But that didn't make me any more ready to meet my isolated self. My selfpity self. My holy-crap-why-haven't-you-combed-your-hair self.

There was a time in all this new mommyhood when I was on top of the world. There was a moment that gave me enough confidence to give the class a go. To brush aside self doubt, ask for use of a studio space, hang up some signs and welcome people who might expect better than me.
I read books, I played with Annabel in experimentation. I devised some things we could do together. I jotted down notes. Was this fun? Is she enjoying this? How do I feel about it? I eventually began to equate this new life of mine with breathing. In and out. In and out. I remembered when, for the first time, my breathing really did flow with the poses, and with the world around me. It changed everything. This was motherhood. It was breathing.

And then she turned two and a half.

Then, somehow, I forgot to breathe.

Staring at the book cover, it's black Zen circle dotted with Cherios, I felt my anxiety ease. I skipped through the first few chapters. 'They're about babies and I've already been there,' I think as I look for the section that will undoubtedly enlighten me on how to ensure my child's life now that her three-year-old self has shown up four months early.


Chapter 18


"Somewhere between last night's bath and this morning's diaper, she had transformed into a fanged menace, a horned demon. I reacted at peak throttle. I slapped her arm, hard, and we both crumpled in a flood of fear and tears."

This is what I was looking for. The part where you are stunned by your own intolerance.

"We are deceiving ourselves anytime we view our children as separate from the conditions that we ourselves still largely create: separate from the circumstances of their environment; separate from the state of their minds, their bodies, and bellies; and separate from the monumental influence we as parents impose. We look at them with loathing, these new, inscrutable children, these other children. In this shift of perception, we expel our babies from the unity of we and engage them in a battle in which they can only get stomped. These are the moments when wakefulness waves its puny white flag. If we can wake up, we will see that we cannot separate self from other. We cannot separate restraint from self-restraint. We cannot separate respect from self-respect. We cannot separate discipline from self-discipline. ..."

And hope returns. I can breathe again, at least for the moment. It's not all about me and what I'm doing wrong. It's okay to make mistakes, it's OK to make LOTS of them.

Miller's book is a gentle reminder that life is all about the practice, not the perfect. Now I can relax and read from the beginning.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Eight weeks

Our hearts are breaking.

Maggie, our old-lady, un-Labrador mutt, is dying.

She's been slowing down more noticeably in recent weeks. A nagging cough that's come and gone for a year or more turns out not to be the result of Lyme disease, for which she was treated last month and which left us hoping that her old self would return. And for a while it seemed as if she would bounce back. On vacation with us in Maine she had more energy, but the cough got worse. We assumed (with hope) it was just the heat and excitement.

She was romping into the sea just the same way she's done since she was a little one, yet her eating had all but stopped. Once we returned I noticed that she was refusing to eat solid food. Her bowls of kibble went untouched whereas in Maine they'd gone unfinished. When she snubbed biscuits, I knew something was really wrong.

It didn't take long for her to look like skin and bone. She was, at 78 pounds last year, already only a shadow of her 100-pound youthful self.

The veterinarian performed an x-ray Saturday morning and found the tumor: a mass taking up all the space in her left lung. He said it was pressing on her esophogus and that was causing her inability to eat. He prescribed adult uncoated aspirin, canned foods and mashed potatoes. He said currently she wasn't in pain, and we could take her home and try to keep her comfortable. He guessed she may hang on for eight weeks.

Eight. Weeks. The same amount of time Jed waited in anticipation to take home a little black-lab/suspected-Newfoundland-that-got-over-the-fence and name her Maggie.

I didn't meet them until nearly two years later, but I was smitten with his enormous, amber-eyed pooch.

She was a different dog back then. Fiercely loyal to him, she seemed to loathe women (though not me) but love other dogs.
In the year we lived together in a tiny apartment, she went from she-man-woman-hater to pack dog (with my Madeline) and people lover. Walks were still interesting. No dog escaped the lunging, loud sniffs. Her deep chested, throaty barks even frightened me from time to time. But slowly she began to change. Even her eyes mellowed into a warm brown.

By the time Annabel came along, I was more than a little worried how our now geriatric dogs would react to being placed in yet a new pecking order.

As one would expect, every infant cry sent Maggie lurching out of the room to a quiet corner. When Ittybit began to toddle, Maggie would move out of her way immediately. Relocating herself to a safe room, where no ears were threatened to be pulled or paws mashed under tiny shoes. Until one marvelous day when Ittybit just sat on the poor old gal just as she was trying to nap. Maggie bravely sat there, continuing her fruitless quest for sleep. Since that day, Maggie has seemed to enjoy the gentle attentions of our little girl.

Maggie has migrated from sleeping at Jed's side to the hallway where she can listen for Ittybit sounds, and now, often, I find her in Annabel's room, curled up in a corner where she can watch our little girl sleep.

Such love this girl has given us. And though I still can't believe we are losing her, and likely well before the time predicted, I can only hope the end is a peaceful one and without intervention.

For now, we'll feed her mashed beef and raw bacon, and dote on her with the force of all the love she's given us for nearly 12 years.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Fourth night

day 4

"Look Mommy, I fixed it."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Third night

third night

Are there words for this? If there are I don't know them.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Summer school of hard knocks

As promised here's the rundown of lessons learned during our annual pilgrimage to the southern coast of Maine:

1. Traveling at night doesn't make it easier. The thinking was that she'd sleep on the way and make a seamless transition from car to Pack and Play. Not the case. Instead the four-hour rest gave her sufficient energy to stay up until the wee hours of the morning.

2. Swivel chairs are NOT good for toddlers. At the dinner table, when the two-year-old's hunger pangs have been vanquished in the time it takes her parents to eat three green beans, all it takes is a split second for the little miss to fling herself off the chair and head first into the dog bowl. To be more precise, she smacked down chin first into the pottery. "That's gonna leave a mark," is my first thought.

3. As Ittybit cries hysterically and the redness appears, quite possibly the sweetest thing ever to escape the lips of a 22-month-old cousin toddler is simply this: "Bel. Band-Aid."

4. Then again, the NEXT sweetest thing is when it's Ittybit's turn to be comforting after year-younger cuz (an exceedingly athletic child for his age) unceremoniously, not once but twice, finds his little body hurling off the couch and onto a slate floor. "Don't worry, cousin Elliott. It won't hurt too long."

5. I almost forgot about the splinters. There were three to be exact: two in the hand one in the foot, all presumably acquired in a deck climbing trek in Portland. The surgery that took place in Ama Linda's livingroom required several orderlies, who are now mostly hard of hearing (raises hand), and a surgeon (Jed), who may have to hang out a shingle and start a practice. It's a good thing Auntie Saya is a therapist. Her story about her own experience with a green and pussy splinter really did the trick. We think she deserves some serious combat pay since Annabel made her repeat the story several times, and even required her to drive with us to the beach in order to "Say it again," for the three hundredth time.

6. So you think you can get away by yourselves, and from yourselves, on an island for an overnight stay? HA. Not only will you call home four or five times, but you will also find yourselves twiddling your thumbs in the extravagant hotel room, eating stinky cheese and watching "2 Fast, 2 Furious." Even though we managed to have fun despite ourselves, after we left on the ferry and landed in Portland, got our car out of hock and headed home, I discovered I'd left my wallet in the hotel room. Typical me. I remember holding it in my paws as I was packing my ONE tini tiny bag and thinking, "Whew, this would have sucked if I forgot this."

7. Annabel has the capacity to lie AND feel guilty about it. It's apparently a "pre-school" thing. While we were on an island and I was in the process of losing all my identification, she was playing with a contraband stick Ama took away from her. When I gash appeared on her hip later and Ama Linda asked her if she'd been playing with the stick she immediately and convincingly said "No. I'm okay." Later though she felt guilty enough that she did fess up.

8. Again with the repetition. When we called from the road for the fifth time, Auntie Saya mentioned that the last time we rang the house for an update of her progress, she spent a considerable amount of time recapping the conversation for Annabel. "Let's just say she knows EVERYTHING she did today."

9. Teach kids to sit down in the canoe. It's probably not the wisest of parents who teach them to walk along the midline mid-river.

10. DO NOT put lobsters in a tub and show them to a bath-phobic toddler. To be filed under the heading "What was I thinking?".

11. Ocean, waves, hermit crabs that have invaded this year ... Not her cup of tea.

12. Lobster cookies, on the other hand, are yummy. They go nicely with "hot milk" and cheesy buns (Annie's Cheddar Bunnies). And if nibbled precisely, will last all day and have enough left over to give a claw to the cuz.

13. There is 0 fiber in our cereal. ZERO. ZILCH.

14. Mike Wazowski (from Monster's Inc.) has horns.

15. Jed does dishes. (Related to a wager over #14.)

16. There is such a thing as penis puppetry It's a stage show AND a book. (I will not divulge how I learned this.)

17. Freeport, this year, was not a foreign word meaning more expensive that the real shit. I backed into a $5 pant sale in pretty much every store I shopped. As Jed would (and did) say, it was nickel piss your pant night at the outlets.

18. Pineapples start frothing when they go bad. Just what we need: RABID produce.

19. The cheap diapers are so NOT worth it. The tape on the right side of Target brand diapers SUCKS. SUCKS. (Thank goodness for duct tape.)

20. There is NOTHING better than Ama Linda's wild blueberry bush. Oh wait, I take that back. Her raspberry bushes are THE BEST and just the right height for little hunter gatherers. And for after-dinner entertainment? Have you tried listening to the birds? Annabel, Cousin Elliott and Ama Linda recommend it highly.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A test of the emergency parental sanity system ...

We interrupt this vacation recap with the following public service message:

new big girl room



Today I bought a toddler bed ($49, K-Mart) without even considering the consequences.

I knew it was time; she had climbed out of her crib on several occasions in the last few months, she even broke the top railing in an anger soaked rage trying to get out of her container. Yet, all the while I was assembling the beast, reading the directions as a last resort of course, and thanking the stars above that she was napping in her crib so I could swear unfettered for the hour it took me to turn 17 thousand pieces into one small bed, I never once considered that this milestone for her means a whole new world of terror for me.

I found out at bedtime, which took two hours longer, she didn't want to go to bed; she wanted her crib back (which is now disassembled and in a storage room downstairs); there were monsters; she was afraid of something; she wanted me to sleep in her bed with her.

She even visited my room, all by herself, four times. And each time I checked on her, she was sleeping on the floor three feet away from the bed.

We. Are. Doomed.

So now I can't sleep. Jed's on the road and I'm afraid she'll go sleepwalking down the stairs. (Jed took down the gate so we could have the floors refinished), and if she locks her bedroom door as an experiment I'm nearly 100 percent sure I'll have to get the fire department here to get her out.

So there it is, a turning point inside a turning point. School's coming up next month. *sigh.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming; Tomorrow, if I get some sleep, I hope to tell you more about the Maine excursion, which will heretofore be known as the school of hard knocks. ...

V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N: It's a family affair

we are family
Originally uploaded by toyfoto.
"Annabel, why don't we let cousin Elliott swing with us on the hammock."

"No. I don't want cousin Elliott on the swing."

"But he's your cousin. He's family. Do you know what that means?"

"Yes. ... I'm stuck swinging wit him."

Oddly enough, the soundtrack for the rest of the day was "I'm so happy to be stuck with you."

Friday, August 11, 2006

Hold on to your boogie boards ...

yellow sea
Originally uploaded by toyfoto.
My husband's birthday is right around the corner, and as is our custom we will be spending our week's vacation 'round about that time with Jed's mother in Maine (provided that my dad is A-OK and he is). Which means if all goes well (and it did), we are leaving tonight after work.

As my gift to him I am not taking my computer.

My love for Jed is SO great, that I plan on leaving you for a week.

Therefore, I'd like you to have my best photograph from last summer's trip to admire while I'm away. Hopefully I'll have captured another magic moment to upload upon my return. Although I love my husband (and his family) enough to unplug, I don't love any of them enough to abandon the camera.

* Just one last little thing before I go: Annabel put on her shorts yesterday ALL BY HERSELF. And not on her head, either. By the time we return I fear she will be ready for university.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

F*ing Hospitals

My father went to the ER tonight with chest pain.

According to my mom, he had been experiencing chest and back pain, which he neglected to mention to anyone, throughout the day, starting at 5 a.m. The pain eventually settled in his left (?) arm, and sometime this evening, when he got around to telling her, she took him to the emergency room.

They performed a CT scan, which showed some plaque but no obvious blockages. She said they also ran some other tests, the results of which didn't indicate anything serious, save some seriously high blood pressure mom insists has to have been the result of a faulty cuff. They gave him nitroglycerin and his pain subsided but they decided kept him for observations. Mom thinks he'll likely be released tomorrow, although he'll have a stress test and (she hopes) an echo cardiogram.

I can't get him on the phone because the hospital turns them off at night.

"I really think he's alright, Siobhan. Try not to worry."

So, I'm trying not to worry.

7 a.m., Friday. Phones turned back on:
Ring, ring. ...
DAD: Hi, how's it going?
ME: How are you
DAD: I'm fine. I think I'm fine. They haven't really found anything. No more pain since they gave me the nitroglycerin yesterday afternoon. ... so what's Annabel doing?

10 a.m., Friday. Hospital:
Tests not as good this morning. A second doctor, the first recommended catheterization to test for blockages, was saying catherization was his recommendation as well. So at 1 p.m., dad's getting his heart muscle scoped.

*Side note: Annabel won't make papa a card while he is in the hosispill. "He's be ok, mama. He's be ok."

** Along side the side note: Left the house like an nutbag this morning. Couldn't find my wallet (thought I'd left it at a restaurant last night) and was on the verge of freaking out. I dropped Annabel off at Yaya's (she's back from the Cape) and went to the hospital. When I called Lori at noon, she told me Ittybit was playing dollhouse and when it came time to get into the car, she yelled at the mommy doll: "DON'T FORDET YOUR WALLET. DON'T FORDET THAT, OK?"

That was almost as good as last night when Annabel got home and saw the living room all stripped bare and covered in painting supplies. (We were planning on painting the floors and walls before we go to Maine).

ITTYBIT: Did you say you're sorry, Daddy? Say you're sorry.
JED: Wha ... for what?
ITTYBIT: You made a mess.

3:30 p.m., sitting at my desk. Drumming my fingers. Biting my nails.
The procedure was scheduled for 1 p.m. and the phone has been chirping the "I-have-been-turned-off" ring since then. No news. ... Some folks might think no news is good news, but in my world no news is no news.

3:45 p.m. Evidently he's "having the procedure," and they've relocated him. A very nice man in the former room on the former phone told me so, and the nice lady at the information desk gave me the new number. Ring, ring. ... ring ...

5:30 p.m. Car on the way to the hospital:
Ring, ring. ... ring ...
Hi. I'm fine. They put two stents in one vein. I'm very lucky.
Go to Maine.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Finding safety in a place without walls

talking shop

My world just got smaller.

Gail Edwin Fielding (flickr folk will know her as Gail on the Web) author of Gail at Large, visited us on the last leg of her impromptu late-summer pilgrimage to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome to be with the memory of her husband, David.

Gail is the person I credit with taking me away from the mindless escapism of the anonymous Internet and showing me that my 'imaginary friends' were real.

Her public accounting of David's devastating diagnosis of and subsequent treatment for an aggressive type of lung cancer, and her hauntingly beautiful writing of the horrific experience of watching a wildfire disease devastate her strapping, young love, pulled me out of myself and my self-imposed isolation and brought me to a new understanding of this place without walls: the Internet.

Don't think I wasn't nervous to meet her in person. I was petrified. Would I be myself? Would we have anything to say? I read her writing daily and yet, she is by conventional terms a stranger to me. Would I be my usual deer in the headlights self; better in letters than in person?

It didn't take long before she was talking openly and freely. Her ease allowed me to relax and follow her lead. Before I knew it, it was three a.m. and we're sitting around our rag-tag kitchen island talking about anything and everything; laughing and crying, and sharing a tiny lifetime of memories.

This morning, in my wine-belly haze of energized exhaustion, I could only think of how ugly and clunky I find the term 'BLOG.' But I can't deny the power of it. And I no longer feel a need to defend it. Suffice it to say there is wisdom out there for those who care to see it, and proving it to those who cast aspersions is just a waste of time. This medium has such an amazing ability to allow thoughts and fears and hopes and struggles to work themselves into understanding. It is nothing short of miraculous to me how winning battles and losing wars, and taking control of it all in the first-person voice can slowly heal and inspire.

I think most of us 'cynical folk,' who lament the 21st century as if it were a disease tearing us further apart and solidifying our differences, don't always see how it is possible to meet and forge bonds in total isolation. And in a real way that isolation disappears.

I have never been more convinced that we are rewriting our own histories. And this adopted electronic format helps us organize our thoughts, and categorize, index and recall them as if they were star maps in a fresh, unlit sky. But it is still merely a vehicle by which we can reach out from our solitude and reverse the disconnect.

I just have to say, today, and for the first time in a long time, it just feels good to be in the world. And I now understand hope just a little better.

doing their thing

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The PAPA report: A telephone ballet in three parts

flipping fudgy with papa

While Lori is away on vacation, the Yaya report will be replaced, momentarily, with the PAPA report: a grandfatherly look into the care and feeding of a recently persnickety ittybit.

PHONE: Ring, ring ... ring ...

Ama: Hello, have you heard from your father? He just called, he's probably going to stay at your house all day. She doesn't want to leave, sleep or eat. Just thought I'd warn you.

Sometimes She's Schwan: Thanks, mom. I'll give him a call.

PHONE: Ring, ring ... ring ...

Papa: Hi! Hey what's in that potato salad? It's delicious. Is there ginger in there? Annabel won't eat it.

Sometimes she's Schwan: It has some mango chutney and a little lime juice. How's everything going?

Papa: Well it's really good. Annabel's not going to starve but she's only eaten about six spoonfuls of cereal and five cherry tomatoes. She wants more, but I don't know if that's such a good idea.

I made her a pancake from the leftover batter you made yesterday morning, but she wanted cottage cheese in it. I suppose Jed just puts the batter in the pan and adds cottage cheese to it, because when I took some out and mixed in a bowl, she seemed to think that was the wrong way to do it.

She didn't want any of it once it was done, but I coaxed her into taking a bite by asking her if my pancakes were as good as her dad's.

She said: 'Yours are better, papa.'

I think she just wanted to get me off her back because she wouldn't eat any more of it. Oh, she is a panic.

Sometimes she's Schwan: Oh my god, you're not kidding. That is NOT good news. That means that she's probably plotting how to manipulate her way into later bed-times and finagle an allowance. She'll probably make Oreo cookies her mid-day meal. There will never be another nap, ever! We. Are. All. Doomed.

Papa Oops. Gotta go, now she wants to read her books and watch 'The Nutcracker.'

Sometimes she's Schwan: PLEASE DAD, call me if she tries to choreograph anything or starts a grass-roots campaign of any kind. Don't, for the love of god, let her collect signatures from the neighbors. OK?


PHONE: Ring, ring ... ring ...

Sometimes she's Schwan: Hello?

Papa: Listen, did you just call here?

Sometimes she's Schwan: No? Why. How's everything going?

Papa: Oh, not so good. Has she ever climbed out of her crib?

Sometimes she's Schwan: Yes. That's why we're getting her a toddler bed when we get back from vacation.

Papa: Well I put her in bed but she wasn't really happy about it. She told me she wanted milk, and that she wasn't going to drink it just hold it, so I went and got some. I heard this bang and then a thump and then she's standing at the door. She wasn't crying although she said she got hurt and pointed to her knee. I didn't see anything and she got back into bed. Now she's sound asleep. Really sound asleep.

Sometimes she's Schwan: Don't worry too much about it dad, her floor is carpeted and she won't likely do it again. She seems to only climb out when she's mad and doesn't want to take a nap. When she wakes up she'll just call for you.

Papa: Oh ... she just rolled over.

Sometimes she's Schwan: Dad? Are you peeking in at her?

Papa: No. I'm sitting on the couch in her room. I didn't want her to climb out again.

On a clear day I can see forever

Dear Annabel,

This isn't about your milestone, really, it's about mine.

I yelled at you the other day in a way I've never yelled before.

It wasn't the happy, over-loud play yell we practice as we bounce on beds or run through the grocery store. Nor was it the exasperated hiss pushed through closed teeth that has started to creep into my voice now that you are well into your testing TWO-year.

Sadly, it was a scream; an all-out, no-words vocal blast that ricocheted through the house and sent the dogs in two different directions. It was a lost-control-and-couldn't-get-it-back, wanted-to-cry-but-didn't howl that sought to break windows with the sheer force of its pitch.

In the instant that followed, all things stopped. And there was silence.

You had been pulling me around with a measuring tape you'd wrapped around my leg. You were pretending I was a horse and you were taking me for a ride. Up and down the hallway we went. It was the same measuring tape that had brought us such joy a few hours earlier.

But I had been tired all day. I was tired of the game. I was tired of playing with you. Tired of begging you to nap, be still or eat something. I was tired and I was sad and lonely and miserable. I was also coming to grips with something I hadn't let myself think before that very moment: 'You may be an only child, not by choice.' And when I put away your crib at the end of the summer, replacing it with a "big-girl" bed, I may as well put away my childbearing days along with it.

As you looked up at me, your eyes were huge but tears didn't fill them. You let the measuring tape drop and you backed away. You didn't want me to come near you. Who could blame you?

But here I am, your mother, a screaming banshee who inwardly wonders whether you need me at all. Knowing that you do, but feeling that you don't. You are such an independent little girl in so many ways. Every "I love you" that escapes your lips is unsolicited, a precious gift that refuses to be forced.

My apology was as quick to come over me as the outburst itself. Patience is something I have rarely lost with you, even in the most trying times. I sat down, put my head in my hands, and cried. Really cried. What goes through me, along with the waves of guilt, is the memories of all the absent times. And not just those hours we spend away from each other. You at Lori's and me at work. The times when all I want is for you to sleep, or play by yourself and leave me be.

You side-stepped the measuring tape, now abandoned on the floor, and came to me. "That's OK, mama. That's OK. You wanna have a possissil with me?"

I went to the kitchen to get the pops and you climbed into your chair.

As I opened the freezer door a photograph slipped from its tenuous letter-magnet mooring and floated to the floor. It was of you almost a year ago. Your little-girl looks were not as chiseled, your elbows and knees still beautifuly dimpled and sweetly ringed in baby flesh. Your hair was just wisps barely visible in the print.

I missed that baby girl; a girl that, squinting through the viewfinder a year ago, I thought was big. I looked up from the photograph and saw you waiting at the table for your treat. I knew that next year at this time you will be bigger still, and if I'm not careful I will be the same person I am right now, lamenting the baby you used to be and missing out.

Perhaps, in some strange way, it's good that I yelled. Perhaps it woke me up. I don't want to sleepwalk through any more years.

Love and endless apologies,

Monday, August 07, 2006

measuring tape

measuring tape
Originally uploaded by toyfoto.
We are expecting a special guest on Tuesday and Annabel is all atwitter. Asking each morning upon awaking, "Who's tumming, mama?" just so she can hear me say the name. "I dotta do fis the bed," she says, pointing her finger in the direction of the guest room.

Instead of wanting me to follow her she demands I get the measuring tape, the tool she needs to fix the bed. I can't find the one she wants -- the heavy, square metal carpentry one her father lets her play with -- so I get the minature cloth tape from my cosmetics kit. The one I incessantly use to measure my waist, though I like to think one day I'll use it to measure housewares and furniture (before I buy on impulse).

It occurs to me as she runs off to the place I refer to as The guest prison -- a 7' x 10' room with a trundle bed, a dresser and a child's chair standing in as a bedside table -- that she may have innkeeping in her blood, at least from her father's side.

Jed spent his early years at The Captain's Walk in Kennebunk, an old seafarer's house his parents had bought and his mother ran as a bed and breakfast.

To this day 'Ama Linda' makes common meals taste decidely uncommon. Tasty fish encrusted in slivered almonds and breads pressed with pumpkin seeds. The corners of her sheets are always perfectly creased and her whites are always bright white.

In the room, she wants me to hold the measuring tape while she "fixes" the bed by drawing the line up to the pillow. She smooths it out and says: "There! That's perfect now."

A wrinkle appears in the sheet and she crinkles her brow. She pulls at the edge and it disappears. Now it's perfect.

I turn my head and look at the tufts of dog hair carried along the hallway floor by the breeze of the fan. I am reminded: This is yet another trait she doesn't get from me.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Meet Fudgy

She promised to take care of him and love him for always. Then she named him Fudgy.

How could I not buy the little critter; the first toy she's assigned a name?

Of course, when we got to the car she tossed him on the floor. ... "Uh-oh. I'm sorry, Fudgy. I din't mean it."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Always on the lookout

Farmers' market Saturday. We get all gussied up in the T-shirts we slept in (turned inside-out of course), 2 inches of sunscreen and our most comfy comfortable shoes, before we make our way to the village square. It's like Christmas (or as Annabel would say, Trissmass). We have some idea what will be under the vendors' tents, but there's always some surprises.

Along with the usual mixed greens, carrots, berries, corn and potatoes (I didn't mention tomatoes because we're growing them this year, miracle of miracles, I know) there's always something outside the usual checklist that catches my eye.

Beets: Can't say that I'm much of a beet fan, but I recently attended a backyard cookout in which the host had ground up beets and added them to the hamburger meat. Let me tell you, there's something amazing about a purple burger. *Annabel didn't think so, however. She demanded "torn on the tob" instead.

Edamame: A furry, fresh soybean you cook in the shell. Salted they taste A-mazing. *Annabel hates them. Evidently she's still not over the time I pureed the little buggers, froze them in ice cube trays and switched the peas she was used to eating with the more phosphorescent soy. She probably thought I had mulched Kermit.

Turnips: Tried 'em raw. Not my favorite. Cooked, they seem edible. "Annabel hates them. Tried 'em, screwed up her face, spit them out.

Baby bok choy: "What am I supposed to do with that?"
"I don't know, Jed. Perhaps you should consult your bible, The Joy of Cooking. Why do you let me get vegetables, anyway? You KNOW I'm a carnivore. I don't know anything about the veg." *Rotted in the fridge.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Not in The Book, But at Your Service ...

Originally uploaded by toyfoto.
There are times when I think I'd make a stunning children's book editor. Oh sure, my copyediting skills may not be top notch, I have no idea where commas go, I don't always catch spelling errors and tense and verb agreement aren't my forte, yet I feel pretty confident I would not let a book about potty training go to press without a little ink paid to handwashing.

Perhaps it's just my neuroses flairing up, but ever since we got the Plop book, It has kind of freaked me out that this sweetly drawn little manual doesn't include a sink for washing after the deed.

I've been editing the missing piece into our readings, but it wasn't until yesterday when she asked me 'where's the sink' that I drew one into the storyline. Of course I tried to emulate other sinks the illustrator had drawn in the Brush book for consistency.

So here's a few delurking questions for all 7 or so of you, my fine readers: How do you edit your children's books? Do you skip the part about the Evil Queen demanding the heart of Snow White; do you fly past the dark and scary forest? Do you ignore the trip to the ice cream store or draw in vegetables alongside the baked goods?
Do you ever feel a little guilty about censoring?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

It's really too hot for this ...

pancake circus

But where's the fun in a cold cereal, fruit and juice morning?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A day with dad ...

pretty dress
Originally uploaded by toyfoto.
With Yaya on vacation this week and next, I imagine Annabel will be popping in at some unexpected places. She'll be visiting Amah and Papa for the most part, but today she's at home with Daddy.

By noon he'd already called twice.

"When does she take a nap usually?
For how long?
What should we do for an adventure?
Nevermind, I'll think of something."

I can tell already. This will be fun.

It was too hot to do much of anything but eat posipples, draw on the walls (on paper of course) and watch MOOOvies.
It was a blissfully unproductive day.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Thankfully, there are no pishers of this ...

This morning I woke up to a bear. And not the cute, cuddly Hunny-eating Pooh kind, neither.

This ursine apparition was the nothing's-going-to-make-me-happy, no-matter-how-many-books-you-read or how-many-episodes-of-Clifford-you-let-me-watch because I-just-had-a-nightmare kind.

Of course, she can't tell me about her distress because A) She's not sure of this "nightmare" thing and B) she doesn't remember why she's upset.

This was a just your average, run-of-the-mill, stand-in-the-middle-of-the-room-and-wail MASTERPIECE.

Eat breakfast? NO!
Get dressed? NO!
Read a book? NO!
Go back to bed and get up when you feel better? NO!
Maybe the potty would help? NO!NO!NO!

So I did what any at-wit's-end, 20-minutes-until-I-have-to-leave-for-work mommy might do; we went to the car wash.

What is this?
It's like an amusement park ride.
What's an asmuseman part ride?
Nevermind, it will be fun. It's like a shower for the car.
Oh ... it's dark in here. .. ooooh there's soap and water. ... and we not getting wet, mama! This IS fun!
Let's do it again, okay?