The most mystical and cryptic part of parenting is this passage of time, the way children accumulate years to their very person, like accessories, like geological layers. I’m always so blindsided. What? Another birthday? because, although life with children keeps getting better—it truly does—I have also felt, at least 300 times in the past year: this place is good. I could stop and rest here awhile.
But that is never to be. The children are always inching forward, becoming more of who they are, while urging their parents, like very small zen masters, to get with the warp speed program of impermanence.
This is all on my mind because Col turned nine last week. Nine is one of those ages that just a few years ago felt like the other side of the world, parentally speaking. A place where children become unrecognizable, startling versions of their former selves, where parts of them I couldn’t bear to part with get tossed to the sea of oh-that-was-back-when-I-was-eight.
But of course it’s not like that. Thankfully, the daily pace is slow enough that each chaotic, messy, loud hour leads to the next in the string of regular life, taking us systematically, tick-tick-tick, to places like nine. These childhoods move like a conveyor belt unspooling so slowly you barely notice. Except, these days I do notice. But only because of where I’ve been. Nine years ago there was a blue-eyed baby; nine years from now a man-child will prepare to leave home. A whisper of truth circles my head when Rose climbs in my lap. It says: today these legs are yours for the squeezing, someday not. This is time, happening. The conveyor belt, moving. Everything, everything, feels time sensitive, the definition of which is: only relevant or applicable for a short period of time.
Col, at nine, wears a watch, and checks it periodically, like he’s got somewhere to go. I can no longer tell him I need to be alone for half an hour and then amble out of my room a vague forty minutes later. He creates art everyday, sketching airplanes and ships and archers, and I wish I had a way to tell him to hold fast to this talent, even as childhood slips away. He whistles continuously, loudly, in a way that could grate on you if you forgot the simple, lucky truth that it means he is here.
Col’s shelf is covered with his tools and experiments. Some are sludged with sediment or choked with seeds, some glow with the bright red liquid of dissolving cough drops. He is so much of what I am not, I am compelled to leave him a wide berth to be himself, while I observe like an anthropologist in a foreign village. (I just found him pouring a glass of water down the sink, watching, quietly and rapt, its pattern of draining).
His kindness challenges me to be kinder. When Col spontaneously decided to donate half of his Maria’s Bookstore birthday gift certificate to his sister, my heart gasped, first in protest, you don’t have to, honey! And then in relief, for getting out of my own way to let kindness be. Col is quiet and thoughtful, and has already mastered what the Buddhists say is the path to enlightenment: having few preferences. When selecting a DVD for Family Movie Night, Col and Dan are conspicuously quiet while Rose and I opinionate passionately.
Col seems to have miraculously outrun his preemie past. Only 20% of babies born at 25 weeks have no lasting problems. I don’t even know what constitutes a lasting problem anymore. (Two doctors have joined his pediatric office in the past couple years and we haven’t even met them. Used to be, we’d amble regularly down those carpeted halls balancing an oxygen tank, Rx’s for inhaled steroids, and my own worried heart).
All that remains is that Col seems to have an unusually great need for snuggles. Perhaps he’s making up for those first four months sleeping alone in the NICU, while one mile away my alarm woke me in the night. I’d sleepily attach the breast pump fittings, flipping the switch from low to high until it revved like a racecar. My two pound son would flash in my mind: skin like parchment under a sprawl of tubes and wires, hulking machines crowded around his incubator, saving his life continuously. And I would pray, deep in the night, in the only way I knew how: Please let him be okay. Please let him be okay. Please let him be okay.
I am grateful, so grateful.
Happy birthday beautiful nine year old.
The opposite of the whole silver lining thing must be what’s happening right now, which is returning from the tropics to get slammed with nasty colds. But, as the positive types of the household keep saying, “It’s a good thing we weren’t sick in Kauai.”
On other positive fronts, a new “One Stop Cough Drop Shop” has opened in our living room, complete with cough drop menu. (But don’t assume that being family gets you any free perks).
Also, when we’re all well enough to be upright and verbal at the same time, it’s a little like college dorm life, people dragging their blankets into the common space to chat and be together. And as Rose badgers us to buy cough drops, and Col recounts his dreams in long, hard-to-follow monologues, interrupting himself to add more confusing details, I find myself thinking, I really like these people.
Dan got a “Cat’s Cradle and other String Games” book from the library (inspired by Riley Kenrick in New Jersey, age 7) and has been engaging in loud self-congratulatory competitions with himself. “Didn’t think he could do it, but look…it’s…wait…it’s…THE CATERPILLAR!”
Between periodically inspecting my tonsils with a flashlight (which have taken on an eerie geologic-ness), I’ve been reading. The kind of reading you can get away with when you’re sick and your kids are over 5 and fevers keep you up half the night. So there’s that. And I wanted to recommend some books to you all before I go back to bed.
Maybe I’m the last person to hear of the novelist Elizabeth Strout, and you’re all completely in love with her already, as you should be. I’ve read The Burgess Boys and Olive Kitteridge, both which take place in Maine (and some NYC), both of which are so well written, family sagas, real and raw with just enough slivers of light to not ever be depressing. I would start with whichever your library has first.
Also, Norman Ollestad’s harrowing-amazing memoir, Crazy for the Storm, which I’m mostly recommending for the guys who read this blog. Not to be sexist, but even all the reviewers say it’s a must read for all fathers and sons. In 1979, a private plane carrying Ollestad and his father to a ski championship award ceremony crashes in the San Bernadino Mountains in winter. The crash kills his dad and the pilot, and Norman, at 11 years old, is faced with making his way down from the crash site to safety. The book is also about Ollestad’s relationship with his father, who was unendingly charismatic, offering his son adventure not available to most kids, but also continually pushing his son beyond his comfort levels.
And Fayegail Mandell Bisaccia’s memoir Dancing in My Mother’s Slippers, a journal-style book about her parents aging and dying, in which she did a beautiful job recounting the way grief is not linear, nor time-sensitive, it changes and stretches and flows and still stings many years later. (My parents keep requesting an End-Of-Life discussion with Dan and me, which is funny since they’re going to live forever).
Also, I read The Orchardist, which started out lovely and interesting, and just got more depressing and upsetting, which would have been okay if the characters weren’t so flat as to be hard to care about. And I’m aware that I may be the only person alive who didn’t love this book, so feel free to disagree.
Now I need a new book. What books have you guys been enjoying? (Also, I’ve been so out of the internet loop, what else have you been enjoying: blogs, recipes, magazines, music, videos gone viral featuring chickens in sweaters?)
ps: thanks for all your island good wishes and encouragement.
pps: Hawaiian coconut smuggled home no problem, despite Rose at the agriculture check in station, shouting, after we denied having any fruit, “BUT WHAT ABOUT ALL THE COCONUT?!!!?”
Making friends with the guys who have machetes is key.
The processing of coconuts is somewhat like butchering – the peeling off of the skin, cutting of the raw coconut meat into smaller pieces, the celebration at the bounty.
Okay. I think we’ve figured it out. The meaning of life resides in a coconut. It contains nourishment, electrolytes, water, good fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, flour, antioxidants, medicine. So you’re pretty much set for life with a palm tree. (Meanwhile, in the “alternate realities” file, we just got a call from our housesitters who reported that due to extreme high winds the pilot light on our hot water heater went out, and because the hot water heater heats our house via loops in the floor, things were very chilly).
Dan and Col have been using all their powers to suss out ripe coconuts, which skitter under some leafy plant metropolis while your average tourist is Facebooking their vacation. Today Dan and Col went on a little “coconut scout” and came back with seven, which is pushing it even for us. But if we have to leave the kids’ clothes here on the island to make room for some coconut smuggling, well, that’s a sacrifice I’m prepared to make.
Why yes, we did buy some of these roadside akule fish. Turned out to be pretty bony, so we made—wait for it—fish bone broth! Boy, was it good.
Watching the sunset is a nightly event. Us plus my parents plus longtime family friends Greg and Jo = a very pleasing adult to child ratio.
The danger of island life is you start feeling this hippie urgency to live your dreams, or, as the phrase goes: to do whatever it is you would do if you knew you couldn’t fail. As the ocean laps the shore, trivial things like, say, mortgages and retirement funds shrink in significance while we imagine living off coconuts (or deer sausage and dandelion greens) and the earnings from our creative endeavors…at least until it’s time to scrap together dinner while the kids exclaim over the volumes of sand accumulated in their cracks. Ping! Reality.
Rose is fierce enough to get in line with all the adolescent male boogie boarders waiting for the next wave. Dan gives her the high sign and that girl jumps on her board, riding it like a rocket to shore. (Also, inexplicably, the sea turtles like to hang out in these lines, all nonchalant about flippering their ancient scaly bodies around all these humans). Col likes the boogie board but also can be found engineering sand and digging covert traps topped with sticks and leaves. Both kids snorkel around without assistance – stalking the whimsical technicolor fish that could only have been created by the Kauai tourism board.
The baby-est baby gecko (these guys click and clack pleasantly outside our window all night). Also, has rainbow loom swept through your town? We had never heard of it when we left Durango and, no fooling, at every house we went to this trip with kids, they were the Big Thing.
Hard to see, but Col is holding Greg’s hand, who’s been a dear friend of my father’s since before I was born. Despite the age difference these two have a lot to talk about: engines, aircraft, and what happens when you shoot a flaming arrow at a block of wood your brother’s holding and other true stories that make a mother pale. It’s very special.
Thanks for indulging me all these photos and stories. Is it unbearable? Back soon with re-lighting blown pilots, ice-scraping and other winter adventures.
When Col was a toddler we spent one year in Humboldt County, where we kept a space heater in Col’s bedroom. Col was briefed on not touching the heater, though at some point in the day would surreptitiously plug in his heater and then run to find us, hands in the air like a troubled soap opera star, crying out: “What ‘appened?!?! What ‘appened?!?!” (Which was his way of creating mischief and then alerting us to the mischief, just in case. Also, like the British, he dropped his “H’s”).
Which is a little how I feel right now, like: The Holidays…Multiple Airports…Multiple Time Zones (kids are now sleeping in until 5am)…Visiting Family on my mom’s, dad’s and Dan’s sides…The Atlantic, then Pacific…What ‘appened?!?!
Lighting Christmas Eve luminarias at Nana Judy and Grandpa Starks’ place in NJ. Also, as I overheard some teenage neighbor saying “one big ass flag,” which is probably not approved language for old glory, but if the shoe fits…
Christmas was quiet yet festive, and I had a glass of wine (after 4 months of alcohol abstinence) which felt completely holy.
Nana Judy accommodated all my healing diet specificities, which was heroic, including pots of bone broth awaiting my arrival like a friend you just can’t shake.
We drove from NJ through NY to CT feeling like we were inside some Billy Joel song, to visit my relatives. My dear dear cousin Amy’s dear boys, treated Col and Rose like siblings in the very best way. When I heard Jack say to Rose, “that’s enough pinching, Rosie,” I knew all was well.
And now we’re on the island of Kauai, with and thanks to, my parents.
The kids do not wait shyly outside the door of the big, wild ocean assessing it (for jellyfish, temperature, blood-letting rocks).They fling themselves in with their whole hearts as if leading the retreat on living fully.
The Island Ways are seeping in. I heard Col tell Rosie ten minutes after arriving at our condo, “you don’t need no shoes.” Daily, Rose gathers fallen plumeria and hibiscus flowers off the ground and places them around our condo like the madam of a tropical bordello. The saltwater is curing problems we didn’t even know we had, and the kids burn one thousand calories while I scoop the flesh from another avocado.
The sun makes you want to jump in the water. Flapping around in the ocean makes you hungry. Eating makes you a little sleepy, so you take a nap, wake up and start all over again. I’m usually, cumbersomely, trying to extract meaning from every event, efforting clumsily towards some Jewish notion of a Zen mind; but here it feels like simply relaxing and enjoying is a true sacred state.
We stop at every roadside produce stand and farmers market, because there is something so elemental and pleasing about buying food directly from the people who grow it (One Hawaiian man, when I asked if he had any lettuce, answered oh yes, and then disappeared to either yank a few heads from his garden or grab the ones he bought earlier at Big Save to mark up for tourists).
Could you resist going into the “Western-most Independent Bookstore of the United States?”
Yesterday the sky poured rain—heavy, wild and warm—for hours. Col and Rose devastated their clothes in the muddy slip and slide they created outside. Dan and I sat on the couch, reading, eating a few longans, taking it all in: the power of the storm, the children’s laughter, the feeling that there was nothing much else to be done.
Dan told the kids as we headed out the door for a hike on December 21st, “winter solstice is one of the older holidays.” So true! What a relief. It’s nondenominational, requires no marketing, no frenzied baking, and rarely generates any awkward moments. It’s the peacemaker of holidays.
Yucca with background snowy mesas. (When you live in the Southwest, you get to call flattish hills mesas. It’s a perk).
There’s a special spot we like to visit on winter solstice. The angle of the sun + blocky red sandstone + small pinyon fire = enough warmth to cast off your jacket even on the shortest day of the year. I kept trying to encourage everyone to get devotional and expressive about winter, or the sun or something, until I realized we can mark extraordinary days by simply being our ordinary selves, together.
Dan found and followed six bull elk down in the valley through his binoculars. Col tended the fire. Rose made the biggest stink about going on a hike, and then had the most fun once we arrived.
The kids built miniature clay ovens for roasting plantain chips, as congenial and kind as two people who didn’t the night before squabble for twenty minutes over who would be the red player in Catan Junior. Somehow being outside evaporates sibling snark, as if the air is too clean, too dry, too expansive for it to stick.
How is it possible that he’s almost NINE? This is the eternal mystery of parenting.
When entering sketchy caves, send your sister in first.
And now, the daylight returns (at the infinitesimal uptick of one minute each day). But that’s OK, right? We’re not yet ready to turn over our introspective, windshield-scraping, indoor-huddling days to the easy streets of spring. Right?
We’re heading out on an exciting vacation which includes 4 beloved grandparents and a beloved beach. I’ll check in when I can. You guys and your comments are endlessly uplifting and funny and I’m grateful for that.
Things that calm my heart: The almost-9 years old is not too old to sit on a parent’s lap and sing Joy to the World.
We’ve been pouring all our usual holiday ambivalence and confusion into singing. Col is determined to learn the words to Hark the Herald Angels Sing, as a sweet though somewhat misguided tribute to Dan’s father whose name was Harold. And just when Rose thought Madonna couldn’t get any better, she discovered Madonna’s version of Santa, Baby (I prefer Eartha Kitt’s). Sibling spats have completely evaporated by the communal brainpower required to remember each of the 12 Christmas gifts my true love gave to me (about which, Col, junior economist, remarks, “That would have cost A LOT of money.”) And Come all ye Faithful never fails to put a lump in my ambivalent Jewish throat.
Rose, pumping up my bike tire and proving once again that multiple prints can make a kickass outfit.
The kids and I biked downtown to do errands, each kid with their own backpack. I nearly died from the independence of it all.
Rose’s homeschool co-op sang Christmas carols at our local assisted living home, (although, while the little angels were belting out Jingle Bells, the song I kept hearing, gazing out on a sea of white hair was, this will someday be all of us). And then last night we went caroling. Real old-fashioned caroling with mugs of hot chocolate, warbly, off-tune voices and entire songs collapsing good-naturedly because no one quite knew all the words in the right order. The big moon kept us company and pajama-ed families came out to their front porches, surprised, delighted and embracing each other as we sang.
And also tape. The kids have been going through so much masking tape this season, they’re now on the watch list for Earth First! Not to mention, causing finger paralysis for anyone who has to pry all that tape from one of their presents.
Tape, dental floss, glue, aluminum foil. I give up.
And when I say “holiday confusion and ambivalence,” it’s that I still don’t really get Christmas. Apparently there is still a teenage rebel within who wants to know what Jesus’s birth has to do with obligatory gift buying. It makes me twitchy to think of kids expecting a pile of gifts on Dec 25th. I don’t quite get the magic of that. Butterflies wriggling out of cocoons, yes. A starry night, yes. Kindness and compassion, yes. A decorated tree throwing light and beauty into a winter house, yes. Time off work while sipping egg nog, for sure. Does that sound grumpy and scroogey? I don’t know. Maybe I’m missing something, culturally-speaking, the way certain phrases can’t be translated into other languages.
However, the gift exchanging amongst Col and Rose’s friends has been delightful. They shyly hand each other homemade gifts sprawling with tape and shaky handwriting. And it’s true that the moment just before tearing into the wrapping paper might be the best moment of all: the anticipation, the feeling of being thought of by friends, the surprise waiting behind the paper. Maybe this is the magic.
Col and Rose made some lovely presents to give out and we had a great time assembling, wrapping (and taping) them while our Pandora station played an endless rotation of carols. And Dan busted me like he does every year, walking in on our little scene and saying, “you love Christmas.” Which isn’t exactly true, but isn’t exactly not true either.
Rose with her special friend, Tubbz, at the humane society where she volunteers. The fact that Tubbz is slightly obese, has halitosis and dandruff has not tampered Rose’s affection, nor her desire to bring him home. Last week she said, “What if Tubbz follows me out of here and refuses to get back in his cage?”
p.s. I haven’t got anything figured out except what feels good and right for our family, which is still a day-to-day puzzle. I wish you the merriest of holidays, and all the magic you seek in whatever form it arrives.
p.p.s. Have you started reading Nick Hornby yet? After reading (and loving) Juliet, Naked, I just finished his book About a Boy, which was so unassumingly good. Unassuming because you feel like the author’s simply telling you a story over a beer, and then surprises you with his insights into people, relationships, growing up. Also, upon Anne Lamott’s recommendation (her posts are one of the best things going on Facebook), I checked out What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen from the library, started it at 8pm on a Thursday and finished it at 7am on a Friday, and still got a good nights sleep. Which is to say, it’s a fast, engrossing read.
Confusedly, though singingly, yours,
Love it when the chickens and the magpies play together.
I went back to see Hottie Healer last week. The good news is small amounts of dairy and fruit are now OK. The bad news is that eggs and sauerkraut are now not. But, I already knew this due to my recent PhD in internetresearchology. And really, it’s all good. It’s all starting to make sense. It’s all about healing my gut, rebalancing my flora, and it’s working (plus I’ve been eating small bowls of yogurt and applesauce feeling like the fucking queen of Tupperware Heights), and no one has taken away my coffee yet, so there’s that.
After HH does her cryptic magic, testing me for foods and supplements, uncannily nailing the secret particulars of my insides, she looks into emotional blockages to healing.
“I’m picking up a little stress.” She continues to test me. “Hmm, you’re taking care of others, worrying about their well-being. Does that sound right?”
Later, I told my friend Sue this and we laughed, because, hello…motherhood!. Any parent knows, soon as your newborn squints up at you all cross-eyed and utterly helpless, your heart pounds with fierce devotion followed by maybe the smallest bit of concern about those weird googly eyes. Which is to say, motherhood is like submerging yourself in an ocean: vast waters of boundless love inextricably and forever salted by your own fears. While baby Jesus was visited shortly after birth by three wise men acknowledging his greatness, the rest of us were visited by nurses whispering of hepatitis vaccines, car seat regulations, and newborn screening tests.
The early morning ice-scraping team.
Meeting my children was like discovering a new heart muscle, one that swelled not with blood, but with pure unconditional love, except for the one eensy condition that I protect them from all harm, chokables, phthalates, bullies, vaccine injury and the diseases vaccines protect against. I remember walking on the swinging bridge over the Animas river with baby Col sleeping in his little sling-pouch, feeling dizzily certain that only if I walked very fast and summoned all my mental powers would we cross to safety without Col flinging his little body into the water below.
When Col began walking I was at first relieved that he was no longer mopping every public floor with his crawling knees, until, like a very small swami, he began summoning every thundering car, rabid dog and toxic puddle to his 24-pound, very fast, person.
Fears change. Our electrical outlet condoms have long been removed; the kids eat plump, whole grapes without me even watching. Now, I worry about the complicated swirl of emotions that sweep in and out of their tiny bodies, like storms, like typhoons, like tsunamis. And I worry about my response to these emotions. I worry that Col’s tooth has been loose for six months, that when Rose is old enough, she’ll wear cheap cosmetics lousy with parabens.
For this stress of “worrying about others,” I was prescribed: discernment over what truly needs worrying about.
Isn’t that beautiful?
I get to choose.
I’ve been practicing.
Rose, lifted and carried by four young gentlemen.
So, when Rose conducts evangelically fervent modern-day trading posts with her friends, “I’ll trade you two lip balms for three rings, one necklace and five stickers. Okay? Okay?” maybe I needn’t worry that she’ll be at the helm of some dubious MLM scheme someday. Also, Col’s current anxiety-caused narcolepsy over doing math that he’s perfectly capable of doesn’t mean that he’ll be the next Will Hunting, cleaning toilets for a living when he’s actually an unrecognized genius. Also, I’m pretty sure that when Col and Rose get together for Thanksgiving as adults, he won’t shoot rubber bands into her gleaming turkey, and she’ll have no need to communicate with the pincers of her thumb and pointer finger. Which is to say, everyone is ultimately going to be okay. Really. Really.
The power of heating an 800 sf house with passive solar in the southwest = sundresses in December with no heat on.
Yesterday I came home from an ecstatic cross-country ski to Dan mediating the latest version of a sibling battle so repetitive and predictable, it’s like Col and Rose are actors in the worst reality TV show ever, directed by someone who doesn’t believe in character development. The huge bummer is it involves biting (occasionally, pinching), then horrified, surprised tears. And, there is no clear victim. We’ve discussed it in family meetings. We’ve identified pathways to change the pattern. Each kid has vowed to do their part to de-escalate and avoid violence. In the hot, panicky moment though, nothing has worked.
Coming home refreshed, I stepped in as relief pitcher, spelling Dan on the mound of obligatory post-fight mediation. Afterwards, everyone went their separate and solitary ways. An hour later, Col and Rose found each other like happy, playful puppies on the couch. And while my nervous system was still decelerating, the kids’ short term memory had been completely wiped clean.
After I got the kids to bed, I resisted the usual post-bedtime debrief in which Dan and I dissect and analyze and generally devote more energy to the most energy-sucking parts of our day. I climbed into bed and said, “Parenting is really hard. We do a really good job.” We hugged and didn’t say another word about it.
I think that’s the discernment she’s talking about.
Rose’s homeschool co-op’s Random Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar: give a hug, give thanks, pick up litter, do something without being asked.
PS: Incidentally, after writing this, I got some advice from the parenting dream team about Col and Rose’s repetitive fight pattern. I am blooming with new understanding and skills. Which is to say, discernment doesn’t mean neglect, it doesn’t mean suffering alone, or giving up on challenging patterns. I believe in seeking help. I also believe in not over-thinking, in cutting ourselves some slack. And I also know that parenting is really hard, and we’re all doing a really good job.
The mesmerizing force of the album The Best of Blondie. Col spins methodically, rhythmically, with a bow on his shoulder. Rose insists tape deck is placed right outside bathroom door.
In the afternoons, when it’s too cold to go outside, I tame the kids with my 1980′s cassette recording of The Best of Blondie. The kids get totally quiet and focused. It’s almost like music appreciation class, where you put all your powers towards listening, interpreting the deep meaning behind the lyrics. Luckily no one has wanted to dissect the meaning behind track 4: In the Flesh. Rose is pretty certain the hit “Call me” is actually “Hot Lee.”
They’re learning to operate the tape deck, making another deposit in the bank of skills that will not be so helpful in the future job market. I am breathing, just continuing to breathe for 45 minutes of New Wave bliss. Thank you, Debbie Harry.
You can tell I’m feeling better because I’ve been whistling while I work, which is to say, singing along tunelessly to The Wailin’ Jennys while I slip meat off a smooth turkey scapula with my thumb. (Also, turkey bones are the Lamborghini of bone broth, so there’s that to celebrate, too).
Another clue that I’m feeling better is that Rose spent her dog-sitting money on these blingy nail-stickers, and despite the fact that they made me cringe for five thousand different reasons, I helped her apply and trim them and felt a funny sort of pride in her courage to be so sparkly-spangled while the rest of us are more good-naturedly boring and practical.
Also, it’s possible that my mind is either getting more expansive or the tiniest bit addled. I’ve been taking my beer money to various healers and every single one is independently encouraging me to find my greater, supernatural-like support system (except my acupuncturist, who is encouraging me to buy a new bra). I’ve been calling on the Arnica Fairy, on Old Mother Juniper, on freaking angels. I’ve been getting to know an old, braced place in my chest I’ve named “The Shield,” one of those places developed to keep you safe in the scary wilds of childhood, which now is like leaving the house with a team of armed bodyguards when you’ve actually got grown up skills and life is really pretty safe and lovely.
Also, I’m learning how to recharge my mental/emotional/physical batteries. Mostly this means doing less, and as my friend Ananda confirmed, the world does go on just fine even if I go to bed at 9pm and shut my computer down for the weekend. But also, self care is sometimes doing more, like signing the kids and I up to volunteer at the local animal shelter (where Rose is already agitating for a very elderly female cat who’s been marked down to $10). Self care is not just an island owned by Oprah. Although, holy moly, growing up American, somehow you get the impression that mastering your times tables by ten years old is the brass ring to strive for. And to tell you the truth, I’m still a little fuzzy on some of my times tables, but getting clearer that I’m never alone.
On the homestead::
:: Hanukkah has been more special than I could have imagined. Not sure if it’s that Col and Rose can be bickering right up to the moment the flame leaps from the lighter, and then we all unify like a wholesome Norman Rockwell painting to sing the Hanukkah blessing; or maybe it’s how Rose approaches the blessing like a gospel song with jazzy riffs and long-held notes; or maybe it’s that Dan has taught the kids to sing the part that goes asher kidishanu as I share kitties with you, which is a pretty powerful blessing when you think about it, as the adopting of our first cat Jasper was certainly the start of our own deep committment.
Notable: Rose is wearing a long-sleeved leotard in DECEMBER, hence bare legs; Col can’t keep his hands out of the fire (Dan is onto him); the ubiquitous bowl of soaking pinto beans; my lonely yet cheery bowl of bone broth soup in the midst of enchiladas. And ten points to anyone who spots Dan without his knit hat from now through April.
:: My parents just left after two months here in Durango (and are now obnoxiously e-mailing me pictures of the fresh tomatoes they’re buying at the Berkeley farmers markets. It’s ten degrees here today). We loved having them here, passing the kids back and forth between us like precious and very loud gifts. Yesterday Rose roped me and Col into a little “window-shopping,” which is something her and Nana do together (this is where you peruse stores without buying anything. For fun). I told her my limit was two stores unless someone hooks me up to a medical marijuana IV, when she scoffingly informed me that her and Nana usually do at least NINE stores.
:: Col got a remote control airplane for Hanukkah and now it’s clear what his hands have been missing all these years. I can’t quite understand the magic of watching something launch…circle…crash over and over and over. But, I’m happy for Col’s happiness.
:: This picture, taken on Thanksgiving, sums up everything I’m thankful for.
:: Kale poachers.
:: Forcefully grooming reluctant chickens with a stiff-bristled brush: Don’t let PETA know.
:: Col’s new homemade bow and quiver.
:: The complete, homely view of those lovely coldframe greens from my last post. Blankets overnight and a row of insulating bags of leaves on the northside. (Just so you don’t think I’m running some Martha Stewart-like operation here).
This could also serve as a great Holiday Book-Buying Guide for the 6-10 year old set.
Col, recharging his batteries.
ps: Earlier this week at you’vegottabekiddingme thirty in the morning, Rose wakes me up because her knees are hurting. I ask if she’s nervous about going to school tomorrow. Yes, that’s it. Would you like to call in some angels to help you? She would. She calls in 3 boys and 3 girls (each trio has an angel with black, red and blonde hair, suspiciously similar to Charlie’s Angels). I ask if she wants to ask the angels for help. She asks the boys to help her with the knee pain and the girls to help her get back to bed. One minute later she’s in her top bunk, calling out a bit like a drunken sorority sister, as she does when sleep-happy, “I love you soooooo much, Mama.” Just saying.