The day had been ordinary, we all had our work cut out for us: employment responsibilities for the adults, play for the children.
Nothing was unusual. Everyone seemed happy.
But the sun is waning. The witching hours are setting in. And as night closes in, strange things start to happen.
Sudden fears pop up. Angry accusations. Every step lands in a potential minefield.
She is crying in the backseat of the car as we start the 11-mile commute home. A few minutes earlier she had been happy, bubbly; singing nonsense songs to make her brother laugh.
All of that was gone now; clouded over my the pitfalls of growing up.
"I'm so, so, so, so sad," she cries, and breaks into incoherant sobs.
I can hear the fatigue of a long day in her voice.
I am tired, too. I am at the edge where I would trade all the happiness in the world for a 20-minute commute filled with comfortable silence. I am at the very place where losing my patience meets screaming my head off.
But all of that building rage disappears the instant she finishes her complaint:
"I am not pretty. My hair isn't pretty. My clothes aren't pretty. I try and I try and I try but I am never going to be pretty. I am always just going to be me."
I do what every parent does when words their kids say rip at their hearts.
I search what's left of my mind to come up at a loss: Where. Is. This. Coming. From?
How could she think she's not pretty. Has she not seen this? Or this? I mean really?
In an instant, I jump to cruel world of summer camp.
"Where did you get that from? Who told you that? Did someone hurt your feelings at camp?"
No, she assures me. No one stomped on her tiny little ego. Again it's JUST her.
I am taken offguard by the outburst, but when I think about how to answer I realize I shouldn't be surprised.
Hasn't she been trying to look different lately? Wearing dresses? Wanting her hair to look just so? She is watching and comparing and accounting for every slight, every stern look.
She tells me more about the problem's genesis. The kids, weeks ago, who wouldn't play with her. They all had pretty clothes and pretty hair. That must have been the difference, she reasons. She wasn't pretty enough.
I feel like I'm trapped in a cave.
Of course I want her to grow up unaffected by societal pressure. I absolutely want her to be comfortable in her own skin, whether it's beautiful or otherwise. I know all about beauty being skin deep and in the eye of the beholder and underneath. But I don't want to tell her that beauty is unimportant, especially when it clearly holds importance to her at this moment in time.
I've thought about what I would say. I've pondered the possibilities. I've wondered if by telling our smart girls that wanting beauty is petty and shameful we haven't completed a circle begun when our grandmothers we're told they should be pretty and obedient. A circle that skirts the truth of the matter.
Yet I also thought I had more time to ease my way into the pool from the shallows.
Instead I dive into the deep end: I tell her that what she feels in normal; that we all feel unpopular and unattractive at times but that often these feelings, while real, aren't always true. We compare ourselves to ideals that can't always be met, and we're also not always the best judges of ourselves. ... I don't know how much she understands. She is, after all, only four.
But she accuses me of not understanding:
"You are a grownup. You aren't like me. You don't know."
"You are right I am nothing like you. But I was a child once, only I never had the gumption you have. I would never have gone up to a stranger and asked them to play with me. I never would have had the guts to try. Your father even talks about how amazed he is with your courage. You are not like me. You are better.
"This is all the tricky stuff of growing up, you know. ... We humans are silly. Sometimes we belly up to the things that scare us and give them a good old poke in the nose, other times we take those same fears and give them a pat on the back.
"It's really hard to figure out which to do when. Even when you are a grownup."
I look back into the rearview mirror, and see her blotchy face, calm and serene. I know from her expression that the conversation won't continue. She's not convinced, she's just moved on to another topic.
"Can we have ice cream when we get home?
Thursday, July 31, 2008
The day had been ordinary, we all had our work cut out for us: employment responsibilities for the adults, play for the children.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I am fearful.
The space between my shoulders pinches from tension.
I can be morose.
I think I wear these things on my sleeve when really they are just tucked inside my shirt pocket.
Hiding fear is what I do.
Facing fear is what I hope to teach my children to do, though I'm no longer sure such a thing can be learned.
Fear seems to be what we learn.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
ITTYBIT: Hey, Mom! Look!
MOM: Wow. It's a worm.
ITTYBIT: No! It's not a worm. It's got ANTLERS. It's a slug.
Monday, July 28, 2008
But really? I'm at peace with my weekend come this Monday afternoon. I am.
It is true, my daughter IS on the antibiotics again; this time for suspected lyme disease. Some of you may recall way back about three years ago a ring rash showed up around her right ear. The doc treated her for Lyme disease then, much the same way she's treating her again now: discover bullseye rash (two locations this time) treat with three-week course of antibiotics. Go team.
Also. ... I found myself buying Annabel a $40 toy at the toy store on Saturday morning, because I have the working mommy's affliction, known in Latin as "boneless-mommycanis?" She and her friend proceed to spend the rest of the afternoon making trucks and buses out of reclaimed cardboard and construction paper just to prove the scientific fact: Kids Always Play With The Box.
On Sunday there were several trying moments:
First, when the girl decided she did NOT want to go to yoga, that she NEVER wants to go to yoga again and that I should just leave her with daddy so she could have fun and clean the carpet. So I went with the boy, and we got caught in the rain.
More literally, we found ourselves chasing a storm that blew through the Berkshires on our way home, the same storm that evidently put a New Jersey music afficiando in the hospital after a direct lightning strike.
While Silas slept peacefully strapped into his carseat, my heart raced around inside my chest as each mile brought us newly downed trees covering the roadways. Eventually the road became impassable and we had to turn back and find another way home. All I could think was "a few minutes earlier and this would have been ... oh, nevermind. ... I'd rather not think about what might have been.
Although, perhaps, the best part of the weekend came 'round about 5 p.m. as we were all sitting around the couch, watching something probably inappropriate for preschoolers on TV: Jed doing whatever it is he does with his iPhone, me downloading pictures from the weekend to post on flickr, Silas running around eating things of the floor and Annabel using "the big scissors" to cut little pieces of paper into even littler pieces of paper for some "project."
You know: basically ignoring each other while multi-tasking.
Anyway, I look over at Annabel and discover that she has cut off fistfuls of her own hair and is piling it amid the scraps of paper.
Now, mind you, I don't hardly comb my own hair so getting all in a conundrum over the condition of hers isn't really on my radar. However, I was surprised when I looked up to see clumps of hair fall from her hands. She doesn't want ANYONE to cut her hair. Ever. So I presume that I might have frightened her with my tone when I suddenly burst out with the obvious: "YOU ARE CUTTING YOUR HAIR!!!!"
She immediately commensed crying.
Ididn'tmeantoIjustwanteditshortlike ....Ididn'tmeantoIdidn'tmeanto Ididn'tmeanto Ididn'tmeanto
Ah. Childhood. When I really looked at the damage I kinda hadta admit she did a better job than I ever have. Of course, the best part of this little experience was watching Jed unearth his sewing kit from the basement and help Annabel make a pillow for her dolls for the express purpose of saving the hair inside.
We'll probably try and get it evened out tonight. Jed's a little worried kids will make fun of her mullet.
But truly the best little moment of the last two days I was somehow lucky enough to save for posterity:
We are ALL officially in love with dance class.
And really? Silas? He is so damn cute lately it's frustrating. Late last night (when he should have been SLEEPING) he was playing hide and seek in THE ZOO. He started giggling like a mad man when I asked "WHERE DID SILAS GO? CALL THE GUARD!!!"
Friday, July 25, 2008
A few sheets of 80 lb drawing paper (we used Strathmore).
A few pots of washable liquid paints (we used Crayola).
Sponge or washcloth (for clean up).
Spread papers out on large table
Drip paints onto papers
LOOK MA, NO BRUSH!
*Me thinks Rorschach had kids. No?*
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I've been wanting to note all the things you've been doing now that you are the ripe old age of one-and-some. I've wanted to talk about the curls of hair forming at the nape of your neck and your still-blue eyes. I know these traits are likely to change.
I wanted to remind myself how long your legs look to me now, and how startling that is because your sister, my only real measure of comparison, seemed much smaller at this age.
All these things change from week to week, month to month, year to year. I've wanted to get them all down before I forget. But life keeps getting in the way. There are all manner of things that must get done: Laundry. Doctors' appointments. Mundane tasks and everyday chores. It's easy to forget.
It will also be soon that we won't be calling you "Goofy toof," I'm just a little sad to say as now your top-right front tooth is deciding to decend, soon to even out your smile.
I've wanted to talk about the stream of gab you garble, and the speed at which you get from here to there. I want to remember how you toss a ball and "play fetch."
I know I will forget these things in time.
I may not forget the screams of unhappiness from earlier in the month, but I know I will forget how you shriek with joy as you run into my arms, bringing me the ball I tossed in your direction.
We humans have a tendency to remember the many challenges but few of the rewards.
I probably won't forget how frightened I was that you would stop nursing, now that the wiggly phase has set in.
I probably won't forget how you started to climb this month; taking every opportunity to teeter on the rickety stepstool and peer into the sink. Or how you turned diaper changes into an aversive sport.
I won't forget how it occured to me that when you say 'Daddy' you run to him with a smile but when you say 'Mama' you are merely looking at food.
I won't forget the understanding that your days of sleeping in my arms will be gone and the muscle memory forgotten.
But I also know I won't soon forget how you ran laps with the doll stroller around the kitchen island (though in time, I'm sure you won't mind if I do let that slip from my memory bank.) I won't forget how cute you looked in overalls or how much you love to run around without them (or anything) holding you back.
And I won't ever forget the kisses you started giving me with great exuberance. How could I ever forget that?
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I never realized how many times I could be wrong in a day.
By 9 a.m. I'd already been wrong about sixty-seven times.
I'd been wrong about the breakfast.
Wrong about the clothes.
Wrong about the shoes.
Wrong about the status of cartoons.
I'd been wrong about the rain.
Wrong about the car.
Wrong about who got to sit where.
I'd been wrong about every song we sang and every game we tried to play.
It's just that kinda day I suppose.
By the time I go home ...
... well, I hesitate to tabulate the mistakes I will have racked up.
Let's just say bedtime will probably push it into the BILLIONS.
Maybe tomorrow will be better.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
For instance Annabel, with the help of her father, has made this
... out of carboard, construction paper, PVC pipe, a smattering of glitter and a slathering of paint. I helped make the beds her "princesses" sleep in out of clothespins and cardboard.
Of course our son is happy playing with pretty much everything ... even his own feet.
Jed's got his iPhone ...
and I ...
I have ...
Friday, July 18, 2008
When she was a baby I called her sharp eyes and furrowed brow "storm clouds."
Sometimes I could circumvent the disaster, often times I just had to wait it out.
Even now that she's the grand old age of four the storm fronts roll across her face with rapid advance and ferocious intensity. And usually by the time all hell's broken loose there's little for me to do but hold my breath and hope to contain my own blustery rage.
I. WANT. A. POPSICLE!
YOU. NEVER. EVER. GIVE. ME. ANYTHING!
I. DON'T. WANT. TO ....
Mostly I think she is tired. She doesn't go to bed on time. She's not getting enough sleep. Who could expect a child to have the patience of a saint when their schedule is as hectic as hers?
And that's what I tell people when her ominous skies erupts into hurricane force winds: "She's exausted."
But as every parent must do, I wonder: Is she really tired or is she just a ... the word that must be whispered ... brat?
They say you have to choose your battles, but which are worth fighting?
Is this normal?
Do I give in to her whims to often?
Should I care more about all these little things that matter to her?
When I'm thinking, 'What's one extra popsicle in the grand scheme of things?' am I really leading her down the road to a lifetime of unhappyiness?
Sometimes I feel like my REAL job is to protect her from herself.
Brush your teeth
Take a bath
Wear sun screen
These are all the physical things that will hurt her over the course of her lifetime should she not do them NOW.
But what about all the little things now that she's not a baby ... The bending to her whims because it's easier and really, I don't have an opinion one way or the other?
Do they not add up to some form of decay as well?
Thursday, July 17, 2008
I'm blog sitting at Little Bald Doctors today and decided 'What a perfect way to share the love while Andrea's on vacation than to share the third and final chapter of the ME and the BUSH FAMILY saga over there?'
I mean, I'm friendly that way. I like to share the love and widen the investigation.
Of course, tinkering around in her bloggesphere really made me a little envious. I mean did you know WORDPRESS has password protection features and really nice interface that seems much more intuitive than Blogger? It also has automatic spacing and it does html code all by its lonesome (with the toggle of a button). All the code and spacing I'd prepped? Useless.
... But I digress
Go. Read. Make a new friend.
But please, come back.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Now mind you (and Jed would disagree with me about this) his dog got a little strange when we all started dating.
We had each brought a dog to the relationship (Maggie was his and Maddy was mine). And aside from the certain economy of their names --they both answered to either Maggie OR Maddy whenever their selective hearing acknowledged being called – after a brief time residing in the same house the canine pair formed a pack.
His dog, Maggie, even became a little dog aggressive. That’s not to say that she ever BIT another animal, but she did scare many-a-people at the other end of the leash who were thinking that she might. My dog, Madeline, who had previously been a coward in the presence of stranger dogs, now took a cue from her older and wiser compatriot and barked heartily at their presence out in the world.
Of course this new gang we formed – one that no longer acquiesced to the whims of its founders - barked at everything that moved. Sometimes with an insistence on stampeding towards other dogs with the force of a herd of wild boar, sending terror into the hearts of all involved.
You may see where this is going ...
Jed and I were in his hometown on a the new girlfriend tour: I was being introduced to his boyhood friends. During one portion of the weekend he was busy slowing down his friends’ golf game by agreeing to play while I had decided to take both our dogs to the beach. How bad could it be? They weren’t bad dogs.
And the day was beautiful. It was 7 a.m. and the beach was mostly empty. I had stopped at a bakery on Chase Hill and gotten myself a cup of coffee to hold in the hand that wasn’t holding dog fecal matter … (WHY DO WE DO THIS? Insist on drinking coffee on the beach when inevitably ONE if not BOTH dogs will squat and leave a present that will need to be scooped up and carried for the remainder of the walk?)
... I digress ...
The dogs were happily playing in the surf and fetching tennis balls and sticks I threw for them.
There, in the distance.
Very, very far into the distance.
Almost on the other side of the beach.
Was a familiar something.
A Q-tip person: White-haired and regal, walking a boneless spaniel and flanked by two men wearing dark green windbreakers.
I knew the green men were protecting the little white-tipped dot, and the dot was walking a "Millie" clone.
And then ... Maggie RAN.
I grabbed Maddy’s collar - lest she get any ideas about collusion - and watched as Maggie got farther from me and closer to the white dot. She seemed to be a black bullet; getting faster and faster and lower and lower to the ground as she zoomed toward the former first lady’s morning constitutional entourage.
My body was frozen but my mind reeled with panic.
And then, at the very second, just feet away from her target, Maggie stopped short, sniffed a little sniff and turned around. She loped back to me as if nothing had happened.
I felt faint.
When we finally passed each other a few moments later, Barbara (as I thought of her but would likely bumble for "your majesty" if I tried to actually speak) turned in my direction, smiled and gave me a little wink. Her wordless reassurance didn’t really help me calm down, though.
In fact, I still kind of feel like throwing up.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Remember a while back I wrote about having a spasm in which I thought cloth diapering would be a good thing?
I went crazy buying mom-made dipes off etsy. Beautiful things, really. Some with pirates. Some with horses. Others were colorful repurposed or organic or soft hemp beauties. ...
Well. ... I'm not going back on my enthusiasm for using cloth, but I am wondering if maybe Silas has decided these new nappies are just too charming to actually *ahem* use.
So far each time he's been in one it's usually dirtied on the outside. Dust. Dog hair. Popsicle. ...
It's only when I "change" him that he let's loose ... on the floor, of course.
Monday, July 14, 2008
After much hemming and hawing and gnashing of teeth (not to mention trying to decipher the somewhat condescending responses to my internets plea for help from the experts as to how I could get my computer to play nice with my new camera) I was finally able to process the photographs from Silas’ second official first birthday party.
The fact that I am still able to function after the tiny ordeal, having stayed up well into the night, is a testament to the power of coffee.
So without further ado, here they are ... pictures from when Silas turned one year and one and a half weeks:
Not sure it was really worth the wait.
Ah well, moving on to the second thing: I will try and fulfill another promise I made to my flickr friends recently about telling the stories I have concerning a certain presidential family, which, during the past two decades, has become VERY familiar to the people of southern Maine.
I must first warn you that however much I would like them to, my stories DO NOT cast a dim light on the First and second First family. Yeah, I know. Shucks. Worst still: The jokes are usually on me.
Here we go ... part one:
VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR
Way back when George H. Walker Bush (that would be the former CIA man who was VP to Reagan and then a one-term president himself) was newly a former president was also about the time I got my very first almost-new car (NOT to be confused with my first nowhere-near-new car that I saved from the junk heap and spent all my part-time-job earnings trying to keep tooling down the highway).
So with this almost-new, mechanically perfect automobile in my possession I went where no one in their 20ish right mind would ever consider to go for a little weekend away: the southern coast of Maine.
Now Friends, I had never been there before on my own; didn't even know Jed from granola. All I knew was that there was a ocean and it was only four hours away.
I don't really remember much about that trip other than my almost-new car (a Honda Civic the size of a honeydew melon) gave me some trouble parking in a little tourist town called York. As it turns out I couldn’t seem to maneuver the little thing into a parking space big enough for a Mack truck without power steering. (Yes, I am a weak link.)
After a small gathering of tourists applauded when I finally managed to sidle up to the curb (pulling forward and back, this way or that, no fewer than 48 times) I got right back in my car and headed farther up the coast to Kennebunkport where, I hoped no one had seen the clown show I made of parrallel parking.
But I digress ...
Ah, was it pretty there.
Being a young and idealist photographer, not to mention a slight bit of a *cough-cough* romantic, the first night I was there I found myself lured to the Harvest moon hovering seemingly just inches over the water. I walked and it walked with me. Like a pet. ... only a pet that was obedient.
I digress again. ...
Anyway, I followed that moon - that crazy moon - up Ocean Avenue and out of town. Further and further away from the lights and the hubbub. Suddenly. A beach. A tiny public beach made of rock and boulder. I pulled my almost-new car over to the side, took my camera and tripod and hoofed it out to seaside.
Dang, that moon was pretty.
A few seconds after I’d set up my camera two white paneled vans skid to a stop near my car on the road; their lights glaring down onto me a few yards away.
They wait. And watch. No sound just blinding light.
I can’t get pictures of the moon with those lights.
I get back in my car and head back to town ... where I buy a map.
And learn I was here.
And Friends, somewhere in Washington enshrined in some little folder, is a piece of paper with my name on it (probably) ... and I never got that picture of the moon.
Click in next time (which may be days from now, who knows) when I reveal the second in this three-part harmony opus: ME and The BUSH FAMILY.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Welcome to the new economy, where less is less it just costs more. Of course it's entirely possible that in the old economy marketers laughed their way to the bank selling us less by watering it down so it would look like more ... but that's just semantics.
On the left you can see the detergent I bought about three or four months ago. On the right is its replacement, which I purchased last week for the same price. The small bottle claims to contain the same 96 loads-worth of soap.
Let's see if the claims are true, shall we? Two loads down ... 94 to go.
My guess is someone's taking someone to the cleaner's alright. Or maybe they already have.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
When we returned from our Maine vacation Sunday evening and your amah and papa brought back your healthy (and suspiciously larger) goldfish I was a little taken aback by their exclaimations in my direction.
I had expected them to tisk over the sun exposure so painfully obvious on your lower arms and cheeks. I expected them to hiss inward upon seeing the angry, red striped wound on your upper arm, which from here-to-fore will be known as the "boogie board accident of 2008."
Not a word of recrimination.
Instead they looked at me and exclaimed how "beautiful" I looked. How much younger and rested I appeared even though I must be tired from the travel.
Immediately I was suspicious of their compliments. "They always say I'm too thin. ... Do they think I've gained weight? Do I look old to them?" I don't feel any different. Maybe it's just new shirt I bought for the trip - the seablue, overdyed jersey - that gives me a little restful glow."
Sad, really, I can't take a compliment. I try to shut down the thoughts as they come. They won't do any one any good.
As I relaxed into the idea of life returning to normal, regaining my unhealthy demeanor, your grandparents marveled again at how much you and your brother had grown and changed in a week. They spoke of how they missed you. They laughed about how "awful the fishy food smelled. They got a big charge out of watching Silas tottering toward them with a new steadiness and listening to you talk about finding the doll bed of your dreams at the craft fair your daddy's school held in the center of town.
My mind wanders back to the compliment. Tomorrow is Monday and the everyday starts again, this time with new twists:
You are worried. Summer camp and swim lessons start on Monday. You will have to meet new people, form new friendships. You tell your father you are frightened but don't mention it to me.
In the morning, on our way to the sitter's house, you tell me that you are scared; that maybe people won't like you. That it will be lonely. You beg me to go with you.
But I can't. I have work. Always work.
Instead I stay a little later at the sitter's house and talk about the choices you can make if things don't work out. "It's OK if you don't want to stay. A counselor will call Terri and she will pick you up."
Terri and I trade several phone calls so I can be there in spirit. I know what she knows: you are having a good time. No mention of leaving, you are smiling all the time, even as she sneaks away once you are engrossed in play.
She is there. I am here. I envy her.
I look forward to Saturday when you start dance class. Finally, something I won't miss.
Love and embarrasingly loud kisses,
Monday, July 07, 2008
Silas, it turns out, has found his voice. And I don't mean the cute babbling sounds, the almost-words that for months now he's been trying to work into conversations.
He's found the SCREAM. The shriek. Without words it says: "I am not happy you just ... put me down ... picked me up ... took away that toy ... took away the glass beer bottle I'd fished out of the recycling ... started sweeping ... stopped sweeping ... put me in the tub ... took me out of the tub ... closed the refrigerator door when I was trying to grab myself a brewski ..."
I could go on and on, but even the fleeting memories hurt my eardrums.
Meanwhile, his sister had the time of her life playing with the kids of some friends we invited to help us battle Maine's state bird (the mosquito) and soak up (too much as it turned out) the sun on the gray sands of Kennebunkport's finest beaches.
Of course by the time the week had drawn to a close we were a little concerned that our friends would have gotten more sleep and had a better time if they'd camped out in the car, so raucus were our mornings and bedtime (lack of) routine.
Really it's just a code word for "spending the same amount of energy (if not more) doing different (and hopefully fun) things while pretending to be independently wealthy." The truth is everyone needs another one just to get over one.
Stunning how changing the pace a little, even if the vacation itself is somewhat routine, can really wear you out.
We always go to Maine. We always stay with Jed's mother (or at least at her house). We always go to get Thai food at Mekong Thai. We always walk the dog on Gooch's Beach. We always get coffee and muffins at The Landing or at Port Bakery. We usually go to Biddeford to check out the offerings at Goodwill. We sometimes go to Freeport, which according to at least one Maine comedian is some native word meaning "more expensive than the real sh*t."
We meet up with Jed's buddies from back in the day, who now have wives and children of their own.
We seldom deviate from the norm.
Even if we bring folks with us (which we've done from time to time) we pretty much do the same things we always do. We sleep as late as we can. We make breakfast. We go to the beach. We get lunch. We hang around the house. Build a fire in the pit. Make dinner. Drink adult beverages and watch movies by the the light of the computer's DVD.
We think so hard about grand plans that they never seem to materialize.
We've never gone to Acadia. We seldom get to Goat Island or even Goose Rocks Beach. We don't travel up the coast like we used to. We don't really explore.
Instead we put salve on our bug bites and soothers on our sun burns. There is always some boo-boo or war wound to take care of. We throw a stick for the dog. We make calls and plans with Jed's childhood friends. We play cards and board games and chat into the night. Sometimes we go on hikes or kayak rides along the river. We eat ice cream and smores and too many snacks late into the night. Sometimes we just sit and listen to the waves ... from the sound machine that helps Jed sleep but keeps me up.
We always think we should be doing more than just pretending we're Mainers at heart.
*** I told you I would have photos from Silas' birthday party, and I fully intended to follow through, however I somehow managed to take ALL of those photos in RAW and the new camera's RAW evidently requires an update in my browser/translator widgety gibbit to open ... so I need to do that. You know once I get the laundry done and the worklife back up to speed.