June 29, 2011

Glaciers and Caterpillars

My children and their father
I should be asleep.  Or I should be studying for my exam tomorrow.  Or maybe I should keep playing with my shiny new Google+ account.  Instead, I'm going to write a little about one single half hour at the end of my day.

You see, I let my children stay up late to play with fireflies.

My children.  My children.  Two little girls, not babies, mostly verbal, with dirt scuffed knees and interests and practically hobbies for God's sake.
SI reading a book

My children.

I stood on the front lawn and watched as their faces shone with delight and fascination in the twilight, as they ran after lightning bugs, and they sang and danced.

...they sang and danced.  And I just stood there.  Drinking it all in.  Lost beyond expression.

How did this happen?  When did these changelings come in the night and whisk away my infants?  My toddlers?  When did their hair get so thick, their limbs so long and lean, and their interests so mature?  SI knows about 3/4 of the alphabet.  She reads people's t-shirts.  She spells her name.  DD talks constantly, and sometimes even in English.  She's pretty much capable of having a conversation.  She "reads" her favorite books to me.

And I'm suddenly so lost.  I don't know if it's that I've been away so much these last three weeks, or just that it is genuinely happening so fast, but it's indisputable.

My babies have turned into children.  As all babies should.
And now I get to watch my children grow up.

It's amazing how hard it is to say that.  That they're going to grow up.  Because babies don't grow up.  It's impossible.  I mean, just LOOK at a baby.  Just fall in love with a baby.  They have no connection to some mysterious, foreign adult.  They're just a baby.  Or, maybe, they're your baby.  And your baby might learn to walk and talk... but grow up?  Never.  Surely not.

And I stand by that.  Babies don't grow up.  But children do.  Children who have traits that you know will carry on through their entire lives.  Children who make you proud not by reaching developmental milestones, but by achieving academic, artistic, or moral successes.

DD the fashionista
Children who draw you pictures and then tell you that this picture isn't good enough, and they need to do another one.
Children who want to help you with every single chore around the house.
Children who have very specific ideas about their clothes, their accessories (accessories!), their fashion identity.
Children who want to learn.  Who want to learn to be like you, because they love you.

I adored my babies, but they're gone.  I have children now.  Children who are getting ready for the full potty plunge.  Children who are learning to read, to count, to to form their own opinions and even make some decisions.

Children who get so full of excitement over fireflies that they can't contain it and keep running back to hug their mommy who let them stay up late and play outside with the amazing miracles of insect phosphorescence glowing around them.

Children who get so thrilled to see their daddy come to play that they jump and laugh and sing and dance.

And I mourn my babies.  I mourn them, because they're gone forever.  But it's a bittersweet sadness, because in their place they have left me children.  Amazing, incredible, inexplicable children.

And every time I watch them simply being children, I fall in love again.  With their dirty knees, with their tangled curls, with their habits, with their games...

I could say that every day they're less like the tiny, tiny babies that came home in oversized clothes to a house full of mysterious baby-oriented devices I scarcely understood, and it would be true.  But you can also say that every day a butterfly is less like a caterpillar.  Perhaps, but from the day it became a butterfly it was simply unlike a caterpillar.  And now, my babies have become something new yet still continuously changing.

Si is a Daddy's Girl
Every day they are more like who they are.  Every day I learn something about them that I didn't know, but that they did.  Like that SI loves bugs or that DD sings and dances.  I don't know how those amazing personalities made their way into my kids, my kids, but there they are.  Writ large and astounding as anything.

Were they the same people when they were babies?  I would have said yes six months ago, but now I've changed my mind.  They were a zygote of who they are.  They were, to quote Heinlein, "...only an egg."  And now they are hatched, they are formed, they are people.

Each night that I come home from class with my children already in bed, I fight the urge to pick them up and hold them, to wake them and ask them about their day.

I want to ask them if they missed me.  Because I missed them so, so much.

And instead, I go to bed.  Or I do homework.  Because you don't wake up your sleeping children to satisfy your personal curiosities about... what? 

And every morning that I leave the house before they see me, that I hear them waking and happy in their cribs but I sneak away so as not to cause a scene, I fight the same urge.  To ask them if while they were sleeping, something changed.

I want to chronicle every clue about the mysterious transformation taking place before my very eyes.  About the subtleties of my children growing into something new.  About the loss of the babies that I adored, and the emergence of these new people that I love just as much.  That I can't imagine my life without.  That I somehow hardly know.

I want to cry, to beg them to just please slow do because it's happening so terrifyingly fast.  But it's nonsense.  They'll grow up whether I like it or not, and I do like it.  I do want them to grow up, to become older children, to become adolescents, to become adults.

DD and Mommy's Shoes: A Love story
But I also want to kiss every banged elbow, to wipe every tear, to hear every new word, admire every new skill.  And there just isn't time.

I am like a glacier slicing valleys through the years of their youth, and they are children in every ephemeral sense.  I will miss things... I have missed things.  And my heart breaks for the things I've missed, and the things I know I must miss.  And I am bursting at the seams with pride in them, with awe and wonder and love.

...I love them so much.

And I am so glad that I got to watch them discover fireflies.

Becoming SuperMommy for a Day

The wonderful people who keep me so busy
Hello, lovely readers!

As you probably remember, I'm really busy right now.  I'm engaging in an eight week long semester that is proving to be my most difficult semester in nine years.

Last time, I was taking (thanks to a very poor system of academic oversight and a lot of chutzpah) 27 credit hours, performing in two plays, preparing a solo art show, applying to transfer to different colleges, building sets/costumes for my RHPS cast, and attempting to date.  This is a feat I only recommend when one has the stamina an naivete of a seventeen year old.

This semester, I'm in class every day of the week, I'm desperately behind on housework, I'm building my girls an AWESOME birthday present (yes, there will be a big post about that), I'm growing vegetables (something is eating my eggplant!), and... there's something else... what was it?

Oh yeah.  Twins.  Walking, talking, learning, sometimes not napping, exuberant and completely unignorable twins.  Who are inexplicable and simultaneously cutting four teeth apiece.

That said, I haven't been able to post all the things I'd like.
I haven't even been able to bookmark links to the things I'd like to write about, so I can get to them later.

If I sit down to write, SI sits on a folding chair a few feet away, and just watches me with a resigned look on her face.  DD climbs onto my lap and becomes a gigantic snuggle barnacle.  So I'm simultaneously being guilt tripped and impeded.  It's quite the double whammy.

So I'm doing the thing that I always advise other moms to do.  I am asking for a little help.

Would you like to become a SuperMommy?  I am accepting guest posts!  About anything parenting.  About feeling old and nostalgic as you watch your kids grow up, about the birth of your kids, about ways parenting has changed you (or not), about what makes your family work, about what trials you've overcome...

Share your stories with me, and the rest of my lovely readers!

Please send your story as the content of an email to becomingsupermommy@gmail.com.  I'll try to run one as often as possible.

Many thanks!

Father's Day at the Museum of Science and Industry

June 27, 2011

Ask A Toddler - Math Is Hard

It's time once again for another installation of "Ask a Toddler!"  Remember that the girls are (usually) happy to answer any questions from you, my lovely readers, and I am always happy to accomodate.

You can leave questions as comments here, or you can email them to me at becomingsupermommy@gmail.com.  I am happy to pass them along and, of course, to film their responses for your viewing pleasure.

So without further ado, Ask a Toddler!

June 21, 2011

The Joy of Having a Sister

Getting ready for a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry
I have, as I have previously mentioned, been blessed with  extremely easy children.

Take Father's Day for example.  We skipped breakfast, forgot our stroller, and spent an extremely pleasant and peaceful day at the Museum of Science and Industry.  We even entered AND exited the children's area (filled with balls and water and blocks and CRAYONS for God's sake) without incident.  In fact, the only two outbursts of unhappy noises from our children were both from SI, once when I forced her to abandon her train watching (this lasted about five seconds until she realized that there were airplanes over her head) and once when she took a massive spill on the Main Street of Yesterday and both knocked and scraped her head on the cobblestones.

She then sat in a big girl chair and ate her bagel like a champ.

So, you see, I have very little patience when my children start acting like anything less than easy children.

I'm a very busy lady.  I have to leave the house in ninety minutes to get to a class that I didn't manage to finish my homework for (thankfully it's optional) and upon my return I will have to quick as a bunny do all the homework for tomorrow's class (which has to be turned in online before midnight).  So you might be asking yourself, "Why did all that homework wait?  Why isn't it done already?"

So glad you asked!  For the last three hours, I was supposed to have "study" time.  This is the time I have previously referred to as, "nap time."

But, as every time my children are sharing a cold (thanks, M), the don't want to nap.

No, instead they want to torture me.  By inflicting horrific psychological torments on each other.  This is what I imagine was happening in the room.

SI and DD's frog- foreshadowing
The scene: A peaceful, lovingly and half-assedly decorated nursery.  The walls are a soothing green in the low light, and lullabyes play quietly in the background.  A ceiling fan, its blades a rainbow swirling into one spiraled blur of color, spreads a light breeze that gently rustles the pages of an open book laying on the ottoman.  The time is 12:17pm.  The door clicks softly, as the doting mother leaves her apparently drowsy children laying in their cribs with their favorite loveys clutched to their chests.

DD opens her eyes, making certain that Becoming SuperMommy has left the room.  In a flash she has thrown off the soft cotton sheet that was tucked lovingly around her middle, and jumps up to peer over the side of her crib at her sister in the next bed over.

SI doesn't stir.  She is a sleepy child, and the morning was full of games and merriment.  She needs her rest.

DD laughs at her sister.  In a jumble of consonants and squeals, she shouts something that can only be interpreted as, "Come and play some more!  I know a GREAT game!"

SI ignores her.

DD shouts, "If you won't come play with me willingly, I'll MAKE you come and play!"  She grabs a book off the shelf (requiring a superhuman agility in order to bend her arm in an astounding seven directions between her shoulder and fingertips), and bounces across the bed to take aim.

She throws the book directly at SI's head.

Fortunately for SI, she prefers to sleep on her stomach.  Her eyes are safe.  But now she's alert- she's just been given a book!  Her favorite of all objects!  She pulls herself to sitting, leans against the far side of her crib to face her sister, and looks her in the eyes.

From this angle, DD must stay on her very tippy toes to see what SI is doing.  With her nose pressed up against the slightly taller edge of SI's crib, she works her legs madly to get a slightly taller foothold.  SI grins at her and opens the book.

DD is beside herself with anticipation.  She squeals, she laughs, in her incomprehensible half grubling/half English patois she screams, "Read it to me, SI!  Read me the book!  I know it's a good book!  I LOVE that book!  Show me the pictures!"

SI doesn't look up.  She settles the book onto her knees, and begins pointing to images on the page that DD cannot see.

DD, unaware of the misery about to unfold
DD is beginning to get desperate.  "I can't see!  Show me the pages!"  DD has completely forgotten that it was she who offered SI this once in a lifetime opportunity to read the book all by herself.

SI points to a cow, and moos.  It's more than DD can stand.  As she jumps as high as she can, aided by the springiness of her mattress, her foot slips between the bars of her crib.  She comes crashing down, her leg slipping farther between the slats, until her thigh is excruciating pinched not only between the bars but also between both cribs.  She begins to scream in pain.

Her doting mother, unable to study well with all this noise coming from the next room, rushes in to see what has happened.  It takes a full three minutes of tugging and bending, but she frees DD from the clutches of the evil crib.  SI uses this opportunity to hide the book beneath a blanket.  Books are not allowed in the cribs during nap time.

As Becoming SuperMommy rocks DD and coos to her, strokes her hair and wipes her eyes, SI stands to peer over the side of her crib.  "Mama!" she shouts, "Mama we're not sleeping!  See how much more fun it is when we don't sleep?"  DD, forgetting the misery of a moment ago joins in the refrain.  "We're still awake!  We can play!"  Becoming SuperMommy lays them both down, shushes them, and again leaves the room.  It is now 1:09pm.

This time, SI is the first one up.  She runs to the edge of he crib to peer at her sister.  "DD!  Let's play another game!  Let's trade all the toys!"

DD doesn't hesitate.  At once she hands over her blanket, her lovey, and the crayon she had cleverly hidden in her pants.  SI hands over the treasured book, her lovey, and her blanket, and they both laugh uproariously.  They have tricked their mother, they are awake and having fun.

But they are tired, and standing on one's tippy toes is hard work.  SI yawns, prompting a louder peal of laughter from her sister.  She ignores this and lays down again.  All alone in her crib.

DD, who has somehow managed to "win" the trading game by accumulating all of the possessions, gets angry.  "I'm not done!"  She screams at her sister.  "Play more!"  SI ignores her.

DD begins to throw the objects at her sister again.  First, the blankets.  This has no effect, as the blankets only serve to make SI more comfortable.

Then, DD throws the crayon.  This hits SI squarely in the forehead, not only causing her to shout out in irritation, but also leaving a blue mark on her face.

SI, again with DD's frog in the background
Next, the book.  It hits hard enough to make SI cry, but the mother doesn't come.  She isn't sure what the cause of the crying might be, but she knows from the sound it will be short lived.  And true enough, after a few anguished peals, SI again closes her eyes and prepares to sleep.

And now, DD throws the treasured loveys.

For almost a minute, nothing.  And then it gradually dawns on DD... her lovey has gone where she cannot reach it.  She is utterly, profoundly alone.  She begins to wail.

"Frog!" she calls, tears and snot streaming down her face, "No, Frog, No!  Frog!  Come back to me!"  Or so it sounds to her.  To her mother, still on the first page of her reading thanks to the unceasing noisome chaos, it sounds like, "Fra! No no no no no Fra!  Me me me me me me!"

She begins to call to her sister.  "SI!  Please!  Have mercy!  Give me the frog!"

Si reaches up a hand to feel her bruised head and shoulder.  She can't see the blue mark, but she knows it's there.  She slowly sits up and returns to her seat at the end of the bed, were DD must strain to see her.  And then she grabs the frog.

As DD watches, wailing and pleading, she spreads the frog across her lap.  Lovingly, she dances her fingers across its soft green spots.

DD's wails become immeasurably stronger.  "Please!  Have mercy!  Give me the frog!"

SI lifts the frog to her mouth, and staring directly into DD's face, she kisses it.

In her abject horror and misery, DD devolves into a a baboon,and Becoming SuperMommy takes this as her cue to enter the room once more.  It is now 2:21 in the afternoon.

In one swift motion, she snatches DD's frog from SI's grasp, and replaces it with SI's own pink frog.  She lays her children back down, and SI's eyelids instantly flutter and droop.  DD is inconsolable.  Her breathing hitches and she sniffs and splutters as she is tucked back in, her hair stroked, her tears wiped away.  And then- horror of horrors- her mother leaves her there.

She stands up as the door closes.  "NO!" she screams, "No, Mommy!  Come back! Come back! NOOOOOO!"

She looks for something to throw at the door.  Surely, a thump on the door would alert her mother to the gravity of the situation as no amount of screaming could.  But before leaving, Becoming SuperMommy had taken away the book and the crayon!  What was left?

With a Herculean effort, DD flings the frog at the closed door.

And again it dawns on her.  Now the frog is gone.

DD in Becoming SuperMommy's birthday shoes
Too exhausted and emotionally weary to do anything else, DD sinks to her knees as she wails.  "Frog!  Frog!  Please, Frog!  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  FROOOOOOOG!"

Lucky for her, Becoming SuperMommy is just standing banging her head into the wall outside her bedroom door.  She swoops in, returns the stuffed amphibian, and once again disappears behind the door.

DD, stunned and relieved, lays down with her frog and is silent.  Perhaps even sleeping.

...and Becoming SuperMommy, stands in front of her open refrigerator door, trying to decide if at 3:20 in the afternoon, when she has class in ninety minutes and she has mountains of unfinished homework to do, there's time for her to have a martini.

Instead of a martini?  I get to go find out why SI's crying.


June 19, 2011

"There is something else you must do..."

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
A while back, I shared what I thought were the most important books for my children to read as they grow up.  I have recently realized that I made one glaring, unforgivable omission.

Perhaps the book I read as a child, over and over again, that had the most profound effect on how I have developed as an individual was Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney.

Miss Rumphius shared all of my passions in life.  Art, literature, and adventure were the driving forces in her story.  She embodied for me all of the virtues of adulthood that I coveted.  She was a world traveler, she helped people, and most importantly- she was entirely happy with who she was.

She was the only adult woman in my stories that never seemed somehow lessened by being single, there was never any hint that she might be lonely.  And that seemed very important to me.  Here was a girl growing into a woman, and then an old woman, without romance.

As an adult, I wonder what her private romantic life must have been like, but as a child I began to build my fantasies of my own adulthood on her model.  I always knew that I wanted to have children, but to be honest I envisioned myself living, like Miss Rumphius, in a cottage by the water, probably raising a horde of adopted children with a few like minded friends.  I saw myself as being too independent, too self governed, to tie myself into a traditional marriage.

Of course, then M came along.  He occasionally tells me that he feels guilty for somehow changing me, making more boring.  I don't think he did at all.  He just turned out to be another thing that I, in my independent and self governed soul, decided that I wanted.

So as a child I would whisper to her book, "Someday, Miss Rumphius, I too will live the life I want to lead without regrets.  I too will see distant lands, and hide away in libraries, and cultivate my love of nature, adventure, and art.  I will have adventures and, I will collect stories to share about faraway and strange people.  And I will someday go to live by the water." (I've always preferred lakes and rivers to the ocean, Miss Rumphius's choice.)

And I could hear her voice in my ear.  "That's all well and good, little girl, but there is something else you must do.  You must do something to make the world a more beautiful place."

This is, of course, the moral of Miss Rumphius.  That living for yourself is vital to living a happy life, but that it is a life without meaning if you do not use it to somehow improve the world that you will leave behind.  It is a story that on every page expresses a cognizance that we only get to live on this earth for a short time.  And the thing that we do to make the world more beautiful is the most important part of the lives that we lead.

Miss Rumphius' grandfather, who taught her the things that she would grow up to teach me, was an artist who painted landscapes based on his own adventures, contributing to the world of subjective beauty.  Miss Rumphius made her corner of the world more beautiful in a literal way.  The lesson hidden in this was that there are many kinds of beauty.  There are types of beauty that you can't even see.

So when I was in art school, I found myself dissatisfied with the beauty I was creating.  It wasn't that I didn't like my art, which I thought was improving rapidly, it was that I didn't see it having the kind of impact I had hoped.  My paintings were insignificant in the world of creative expression.  I might make pretty pictures, but I was losing a sense that I was contributing something of real value to the world.  Of real beauty.

When I applied for AmeriCorps, I wrote them an essay about Miss Rumphius.  About how I wanted to make the world a more beautiful place by helping people be more beautiful to each other.  That I was applying for a program based partially around providing recycling services didn't hurt either.

I'd been on a bit of a writing hiatus since getting accepted to art school.  But while I was a VISTA, I wrote CONSTANTLY.  I wrote about all the horrific things that I saw, doing a job that was essentially mopping the deck on the Titanic.  The entire Chicago Housing Authority was being restructured, all of the people I was trying to help were being evicted from their homes, and the mood was helpless and miserable.  And then it was winter, and nobody in the CHA bureaucracy seemed bothered in the slightest that there were families living in high rise buildings in the blizzards of January with no glass in their windows.  That the plastic playgrounds in front of those buildings were warped from fire, and were riddled with bullet holes.

I wrote about all of that.  I woke up before dawn and wrote on the train ride all the way across the city.  I got off work at dusk and wrote all the way back to my tiny studio apartment.  And then I would go to anywhere that had an open mic, and I would read my poems.  Slam style poems, about children who don't know how to speak but know how to be silent, about hiding inside the truck when the guns came out, about how desperate the look in somebody's eyes when they have seven children and their only income is from collecting other people's trash to sell for scrap.  Or to recycle for grocery vouchers, as the case might have been.

I was having my own kind of adventures.  The sort of adventures that inform.

And then I fell in love, and got married, and had children.  And I am still writing, although not about scenes of human tragedy.

And I had somehow, in these last few years, forgotten all about Miss Rumphius.  About her last lesson.

I have lived my life with almost no regrets.
I have seen some distant lands, but I have many years ahead of me to visit more.
I have made my home a library, and I have cultivated my love of nature, adventure, and art.
I have had some adventures, and collected many stories.
And someday I will live in a little house on the water.

But I don't know if I've done something to make the world a more beautiful place.  And I know I must.  And I do not know what that thing might be.

June 18, 2011

Things My Father Taught Me

Becoming SuperMommy with Poppa, 26 years ago and 3 years ago

I've been reading/hearing a lot of Father/Son stuff around the web for Father's Day, and I'm slightly bothered.  I'm not a son, but I do HAVE a father.  And I love him very, very much.  And while I understand that the bond between a boy and his father is unique, so is the bond between ANY child and their father.  And the bond between ANY child and their mother.  And so I would like to pay tribute to my father, who has no sons, because he taught me so much about being a human being. 

Poppa and DD

Things My Father Taught Me:

Make up your own job description.  Whatever your job title, the reality should make you part teacher, part inventor, and part entrepreneur.  These three skills will take you anywhere, so long as you're clever enough to utilize them.

Learn to make friends.  You need to know how to laugh at people's jokes, to make them laugh at yours, and to poke fun at yourself without actually making yourself a target.  You need to know how to ask people personal questions without offending them, to find out truths about their inner selves, and show them how good they actually are.  You need to make other people feel smart, because they mostly are smart, and most people are bad at seeing that in themselves.  You must set people at ease by taking them off their guard.  Being open and honest to the point of awkwardness can help with this.
Poppa went to Deep Springs College because it was the hardest to get into

You have to keep very high standards.  You cannot settle for less than you know you are capable of.  No matter how comfortable a situation might be, if you are intellectually stagnant you might as well be intellectually dead.  You must constantly challenge yourself to do things that are harder, that you have never done before.  Because you never know whether or not you're going to be good at something until you try.  And it is always more rewarding to be good at something hard than to be good at something you already know.  Take pride in your work.

It's important to try new things.  To have new experiences, to get yourself out of your element.

Poppa in Amsterdam (picture by Aunt Genocide
That said, it is also important to remember your values.  No matter how you experiment, you must remember that every action you make says something about your character.  This means that you must self impose limits, and that nobody will know better than you where they should lay.

Never speak or act out of anger.  You will always regret it.

You need money.  But it doesn't buy happiness.  It can buy lots of cool toys, the latest gadgets, and the opportunities to create happiness, but it does not actually provide you with real satisfaction.  You can make money and you can lose money, but real happiness is not owning the car of your dreams, it's laying in a hammock in the sun with a good book and the sound of the wind in the trees.  Real happiness is in moments with people you love, doing what you love, and no amount of money can buy that.

Learn to appreciate good food, especially good beer.

Poppa with his friends at my wedding
True friends are friends forever.  You are always in the process of growing, of becoming somebody new.  But at the same time you are always fundamentally who you are, and nobody knows this better than your friends.  So keep your friends, remember them, and cherish them.

It's okay to have flaws.  Be aware of them, but don't let them consume you.

Cultivate your quirks.  They might make life difficult for you but they also make you memorable, they make you unique, and as you grow up they make you interesting.  And interesting people are good company for everyone.

Never be afraid to say, "I love you."  Also, cry freely and often.  Laugh even more.


A scene from my recurring nightmare
I could tell you stories about my dad, about when he would say crazy things in his sleep, or make me and my sisters Cheerios with Corona for dinner, or say wildly inappropriate things to my red headed friends.  I could tell you that he's a brilliant writer, and an internet guru, and a jet setting world traveller who goes places I can only DREAM of visiting.  I could tell you that he's the subject of one of my recurring nightmares, or that he may have helped save the world from nuclear catastrophe.  I could tell you how he made millions of dollars and lost it all.  I could tell you why he was written up in Playboy as a kid.  I could tell you about finding my own father in history books at the library when I was a teenager.  I could tell you how he taught me that I am capable of being a much, MUCH better writer just by editing myself.  Heavily.  And that editing yourself is much harder than writing.

Instead I'll just say that he's my dad, and that it's Father's Day.  I didn't get him anything, even though he could actually use some neckties for once (so if you know of a good place to get a vegan necktie, let me know!  He still has birthdays!).  But what I got FROM him was all of my ideas about what it means to be a success.

What I got FROM him was gigantic host of neuroses, a set of complexes about what I have to accomplish in order to feel validated as a professional and as an artist, that I know I will never satisfy.  Because my father has very large shoes to fill in that regard.

What my father taught me was how to be a different version of him.  It's what every child learns from their parents.  He also taught me a lot of what I know about being a parent.  About rolling on the floor with my kids, and being ridiculous, and making sno-cones.  And like the things I learned from my mother, I believe these are important things.

Grandmommy, Poppa, M, me, and Phil Forsyth
I am proud to be somehow like my dad.  I hope that someday my own kids will be proud to be somewhat like me.  And I hope that my father takes pride in knowing who I am, and that a great deal of who I am is another of his own successes.

June 15, 2011

Makin' with the Smarts

Becoming SuperMommy is all smart and ready for school!
Hello lovely readers!

As you may not be aware, my summer semester just started.  Oh, and it's a doozey.

That said, I think I've found a nice rhythm.  Gardening, cleaning, crafting, studying, and going to class, all balanced precariously on the presumption that I am capable of maintaining this sort of pace for eight whole weeks.

We'll soon find out!  Thank goodness I live with a Spanish tutor (I love you M!), thank goodness my daughters have decided that summer is for sleeping in, thank goodness I have friends who will babysit for free, and thank GOD that I finally figured this semester out!  For a day or so, I honestly thought this summer would completely derail my graduation.

All this to say that... I probably won't have much time for blogging this summer.  I'm sorry my lovely readers, but it's true.  Nap times and post-bedtimes are now relegated to the realm of mis clases.  I must study and do my homework instead of writing about life around Casa SuperMadré para ti.  (Yes, I'm taking Spanish.)

But I have new glasses!  See?  Now I look extra smart!  And that means that I will WIN THE SEMESTER!

Coming up (when I've got the chance): all about our summer rhythm, which is lovely.  And about gardening (yesterday I almost finished prepping most of my garden!).  And about how our life is, like you, most lovely.

Many thanks, and I'll be seeing you soon!

June 14, 2011

Rockin' the Bump

I've always loved Jewel.  But that's not why I'm linking up with Rockin' the Bump.  I'm liking up because I ROCKED the bump.  I LOVED the bump, no matter how miserable or uncomfortable I was.  I LOVED the bump.  So I showed it off.  And here, for your viewing pleasure, is how I rocked the bump.

22 weeks pregnant with twins
25 weeks pregnant with twins

28 weeks pregnant with twins

30 weeks pregnant with twins

32 weeks pregnant with twins

33 weeks pregnant with twins

34 weeks 5 days pregnant with twins, just a few short days before popping.

June 10, 2011

30 Lessons For My Daughters

I always knew I wanted to be a mother.  More than that, I always knew I wanted to have a daughter.  As I grew up, I made constant notes about what I would teach her.  When I was very small, I would commit to memory small events, moments that I thought were essential for when I was the mommy.  Things that seemed infinitely important, that held all of the weight of import that childhood is capable of placing.  The most crucial parts of my life as a new person.  I ferreted them away, cataloging them so that when I was the mommy, I could pass them along, make sure that my daughter was a bit better prepared for life than I had been.  By the time I was ten, I had a mental list of surprising specificity of my educational tasks for when I was a mother.
  1. How to make cookies
  2. How to sing (I thought my father the author of all James Taylor’s songs)
  3. How to make quicksand in a pail, and to provide assorted dolls to slowly sink into said bucket
  4. How to tie shoelaces (I myself never learned properly until I was in high school)
  5. How to sew
  6. How to remove a splinter
  7. How to play the recorder, piano, and any other instrument that might fall into your hands
  8. How to be brave when faced with such obstacles as gigantic freshly paved driveways
  9. How to enjoy getting really dirty, even if it means there are bugs or thorns involved (my mother was an expert at this)
  10. How to approach potentially terrifying wild or dead animals
  11. How to build a snow fort
  12. How to use the monkey bars

These weren’t always the most relevant things in my life, but they were the things I either got the most pleasure from or saw as important on some cosmic level.

During the next five years of my life, I became an avid reader of sci-fi and fantasy and began to live a very vivid private life.  I wrote constantly when I wasn’t reading, and at the same time began to develop a wide circle of friends for the first time in my life.  The whole while, in some small part of my brain, I was collecting a to-do list of things that I would have to teach my daughter whenever she was old enough… whoever she might be.

  1. How to stand in the middle of a thunderstorm and feeling the electricity in your soul with your barefoot feet on the soil
  2. How to cry until your chest is empty of the painful feelings you thought would never leave
  3. How to wrap presents so that they look magical
  4. How to paint
  5. How to wear clothes that make you feel like yourself
  6. How to tell your friends that you disagree with them
  7. How to write what you really think and make it more eloquent than your own confused mind
  8. How to deal with your crazy curly hair
  9. How to find music, artists, and authors to devote your attention to
  10. How to try every new food, within reason
  11. How to always be willing to fall in love, despite how teenagers are complete idiots

Again, I never mastered some of those skills, but I had this gut feeling that someday I would, that someday I would be an adult and all of those things that were so difficult for me at thirteen would just somehow be better.  And unlike my own mother, I would find the way to teach some of these invaluable skills to my own daughter.

During the rest of my teen years, the list of things I must someday teach my daughter grew slowly.  I was busy thinking about things that were much more important- the present.  I was so focused on my friends and my boyfriends and my wild, youthful experimentation… the idea of being a mother took a back burner.  I was much more concerned with not becoming a mother in the foreseeable future.  Still, more items made my little list.

  1. How to tell your parents if something horrible has happened to you
  2. How to keep horrible things from happening to you
  3. How to let go of the horrible things that happen to you, once it’s too late anyway
  4. How to know the difference between a good idea and a bad idea

Then I went out into the world to seek my fortune.  For many years I felt I failed, wandered from place to place and thing to thing, and never finished anything.  Over the last decade only a few lessons were added to my list.

  1. How to go somewhere, anywhere, with a purpose
  2. How to stay connected to your roots, your faith, and yourself
  3. How to lose with dignity

And then I fell in love, and I got married, and fate granted me not one, but two daughters.  So far I have taught them none of these things.  They are still too young to even begin to understand, and I must confess that I am afraid of trying to teach them so much of what I believed they must learn.

My granny once told me a story about her own childhood.  Her mother, my great-grandmother, grew up in a household where her own mother never cooked.  All her life she wanted to make fudge with her mother, and was determined that when she grew up and had little girls, they would make fudge together.  Well, she grew up and had two daughters, my granny and great-aunt, and they hated fudge.  It wasn’t until my own mother was born that she was finally able to live out that particular dream.  But with her granddaughter, not her own children.

I have never been able to imagine a life where I didn’t have a daughter, where she didn’t love playing in the dirt, baking cookies, making music, and learning about the world around her.  I have never been able to imagine a life where I didn’t create a child who was essentially like me.  Who had the same needs that I had, who had the same desires that I had, and who had the same pains that I had.  I never doubted that I would become a mother, and that I would have a little girl, and that I would teach her all the things that I wished I had learned, and that I had loved, and that I had treasured.

I worry that part of why these lessons were so important to me was that I had to learn many of them for myself.  I remember learning to make quicksand from a library book, and taking out that book week after week, to keep making buckets of quicksand in which to slowly sink my Barbie dolls, and from which to rescue them heroically.  I remember removing a splinter ALL BY MYSELF as my family was house hunting the year I was five, feeling so full of pride I could burst, and having an understanding that showing the splinter to my mother and boasting of my accomplishment would somehow diminish it.

So I maintain my list.  I secretly treasure it, waiting for the days that I can pull it out and pass on my very important knowledge to my infinitely more important daughters.  I know I will never be able to teach my children to use the monkey bars, I’ve always sucked at that.  I know I am incapable of teaching them to avoid the horribleness of being a teenaged girl.  I know that I may be unable to teach them to play piano or paint or sing if they have no interest, and I will not force them.  For the first time, I have doubts.  I have daughters and doubts, and I had always believed that so long as I had one, the other must simply not exist.

I see myself more in my daughters every day, but in different ways.  In one, I see my enthusiasm for learning and my constant need for approval and affection.  In the other I see my willingness to put aside my fear and just get dirty, and hints at something akin to my creative streak.  I have a hard time picturing one of them standing beside me in the rain, with our eyes closed and our feet bare, while the thunder shakes the air around us.  The other, I can’t imagine her sitting still at the piano day after day, learning to make beautiful music.

Perhaps I have been granted two daughters so that I might actually be able to pass along my full list, divided though it may be.  Perhaps we all come into the world with different needs, and different desires, and as completely different people.  Perhaps we are all essentially the same person, and me and my great-grandmother and our need to pass along what we see is an important part of being a daughter or mother.

Or perhaps we might all simply be cursed to live confused, single lives.  And our duty is to protect our children from all of our own memories of the confusion of being young, being a human being, and having endless faith that one day we will be exactly who we want to be.

June 9, 2011

The Internet Is For Porn, or Talking to your Kids About Rep. Weiner's Penis

My daughters and I looking at pictures on the computer
I am very lucky.  Thanks to my father, I grew up on the internet.  I got to sell girl scout cookies to his coworkers via a multimedia email message, and that was a pretty big deal.  I remember when he was working on MIME, he tried to get me to start up a correspondence- become "pen pals-" with a colleague's kid in Australia.  At about eight years old, I really didn't see the point.  I didn't know anything about that kid.  Or Australia.  For all I knew that kid had never even heard of the Babysitter's Club.  What else was I going to talk about?

My first boyfriend and I carried on nearly our entire relationship online.  On message boards, or via email.  This was when AOL chat rooms were just coming into popularity.  He and I were on the cutting edge.  We lived alternate lives online (we were both writers with wild imaginations) where we were so much cooler than in real life, over the top.  We talked on the phone constantly when we weren't sending each other elaborate messages.  I don't know how he feels about it now, but I know that we both still care about each other, and that we're probably equally pleased, in hindsight, that we didn't get married.

And then I met M online.  And now a remarkable amount of my creative energy is spent blogging.

That said, the internet is a new media.  And like all new media, it's an opportunity to behave very, very badly.  Since the dawn of time, new media has given us new ways to come up with poor behavior.

Was the Venus of Willendorf a sexual totem?  Was she intended to arouse paleolithic men?  Was the Marquis de Sade expressing the desires of an entire class of horny and angry aristocrats?  Was Barbara Eden's belly button a siren luring young people into heinous acts of degradation?  I don't know.  But I do know quite a bit about online porn.

Once upon a time, you could publish pictures (and later, video!) of people engaging in all sorts of sexual acts, and you could charge other people a great deal of money to look at those pictures.  People selling those pictures became millionaires.  People looking at those pictures found markets for every bizarre kink or perversion known (or previously unknown) to human kind.  A gigantic industry was born.

Nowadays, internet porn isn't exactly the same sort of moneymaking enterprise that it was fifteen years ago.  Nowadays, it's hard to make money taking dirty pictures of other people and charging other people money to see them.  And that's because nowadays people make their OWN porn.  The inventors of chat roulette never had to come up with content.  Their users did all the work for them.

The point is, people aren't particularly bright about publicity and technology.  You'd think that after more than half a century of exposure, we would have learned our lesson about being stupid on television... but no.  Anybody besides me remember elimiDATE?

The internet is worse.  Especially because, as with most new technology, the older generation (i.e. parents) have no idea what's actually going on with it.  I never had this particular experience, but I definitely remember my friends teaching their own parents how to set up the nanny-ware features on the new family PCs.  Rendering that software totally useless.  And then heading off to look at porn.

So here we are, about two decades in to the internet as we know it.  And that means that you'd think we'd have gotten a little smarter about it.

Oh, how wrong you'd be.

A strange man I met on the internet
The fact is, people assume that if they "discover" something for themselves (like internet porn, or twitter, or chat roulette), that nobody else anywhere (except for their partners in cyber-naughtiness) will ever find out about it.  And they're wrong pretty much 100% of the time.

Which brings me to this insanity around Anthony Wiener.  To be clear, I think he's one of those idiots I just described.  He had no business sending pictures of his penis around on the internet.  That's just plain reckless and dumb, not to mention that it's sexual harassment.  But the fact of matter is that, while this is no doubt embarrassing for him and his family (and the Democratic Party), I don't see it as a very big deal in the scheme of politics and scandal.  Was he caught having sex with prostitutes after running on an anti-prostitution campaign?  No.  Was he caught having sex with men after making a career as an anti-gay spokesperson?  No.  Was he caught overseas with an exotic mistress instead of wandering around in the woods?  No.  He was caught engaging in asinine behavior online, presumably behind his wife's back.

This isn't a question of inappropriate sexual behavior.  (Well, it is, but that's a separate issue entirely.  And one that Shakespeare Sister handles eloquently.)  It's a question of having any kind of understanding about your personal media, and your publicity.

So what do you tell your kids about Rep. Anthony Weiner's naughty pictures?  You tell them that the internet if full of stupid people doing stupid things, but that they're still REAL people, and those things can still have REAL consequences in the outside world.  Both for you and whoever else you might involve in your self absorbed shenanigans.

The fact that the internet gives us access to a whole new universe of potential friends or victims, while maintaining our relative anonymity... it's unprecedented.  And we've never really had to deal with the cultural shift in where and how we live our lives.  The fact is that despite having physical places to live and work, we exist on the internet just as constantly.  We carry smart phones that let us tweet every moment of every day.  We have laptops and tablet computers, we have WiFi hotspots and guest computers in hotels and hospitals.  We are just as much creatures of the internet as we are creatures of the "real" world.  But we don't teach our kids how to be citizens of cyberspace.  We just teach them how to be citizens of earth, and that the internet is somehow different.

Well, it turns out that the internet isn't actually so different after all.  If your wife catches you sending pictures of your junk to ladies online she'll be just as pissed as if she caught you handing a picture to your accountant.  It's still an inappropriate picture, and it signifies a breach of trust.

My father, the internet greybeard
So I say, don't just tell your kids that the important politician is in trouble because of sexual misconduct.  The most important lesson is that the internet is a real place, and that the things they do there, from entering credit card information to bullying other kids to putting potentially compromising pictures of themselves on Twitter, matters.  Just as much as it does "IRL" when you can't close the browser and make it go away.

It doesn't go away.  The internet makes thing so much more permanent than the real world.  The internet makes every mistake you've ever made public, opens you up for every criticism and attack.  The internet is, in most ways, worse than the real world.

So teach your kids about the internet and e-citizenship.  Teach them not to be stupid about their exhibitionism.  When you say or do something mean or stupid in the real world, after a few days or months or years, nobody will remember.  If it's online, somebody is going to find out.  And they'll probably find a way to use it against you.

There is no hiding from the internet.  Pretty soon every grass hut on the savanna is going to have wireless.  And everyone online is going to talk about every stupid, public mistake you've ever made.  On the internet, all you need to be instantly famous is to be an embarrassment to yourself.

And that is the lesson that I hope we can all take away from this silliness.

June 7, 2011

"It Wasn't My Fault"

Picture ©Michael Courier, with thanks!
I have been struggling to write this post for days now.  And not just in the sense that I have very little writing time on a good day, that my personal life has been a little crazy, that I've had house guests, or that my daughters are cutting new (and very sharp!) teeth.  It isn't that I've been experimenting with date and rose créme brulée or having long conversations with my best friends about adopting cats and upcoming nuptials.

I've sat down and stared at my blank monitor, trying to drag up the right words to start the conversation.  And that pretty much sums up the whole problem I want to discuss.

SlutWalk Chicago, 6/4/2011
I'd like to sit here and write to you, my lovely readers, about simply talking about sexual assault.  About how many people you know are victims, and about how many people you love are survivors.  About how you don't have to be afraid, or ashamed, and that you can have this conversation.

Obviously, I'm not doing a very good job.  And for this I tend to blame my mother.

Don't get me wrong, I adore my mother.  I think that not only did she do a fantastic job raising me, but that she was a wonderful role model, an incredible human being, and a person whose mastery of calm when faced with chaos is something that I continue to aspire towards.  I don't often blame either of my parents for my own personal failings.  Another sign that I think they did a good job.

However, she did not prepare me for this.

She never really talked to me about sexual assault.  Not until it was, I'm sorry to say, too late.  And even then, we only ever skirted it.  Even after I wrote this post, we didn't really talk about it.  We just sort of skirted around.  I didn't talk to my father about it either.  It's a hard conversation to have.

So, like most of the people on this earth, I never learned to talk about sexual assault in a serious and open manner.  I never learned not to be uncomfortable simply talking about a specific something that is genuinely important.  To all of us.
Teaching the right lessons

There is a nearly universal problem that women face.  One that, once you break it down into a simple statement is so ludicrously obvious and painful that it shocks me to think that it's true.  And that problem is this...

We teach our girls how not to get raped.  That's where our focus is.  Universities hand out guides to college life telling female students not accept strange beverages from strangers, to travel in packs, to avoid binge drinking, to dress conservatively.  We teach them that the weight of not getting raped is on them.

We don't put that sort of energy into teaching anybody not to rape people.

We just assume that it's a lesson learned a priori.  We assume that only bad people must commit sexual assault.  That nobody we know is going to do something that horrific and evil.  That people we know are good people, who would never, "press their advantage," as Victorian writers might have said.

I think that it's a very poor assumption.

The boy who assaulted me in high school?  We share Facebook friends.  And I still feel shame and fear and repulsion even thinking about pointing this out to those old high school acquaintances who invite me to his concerts.

I think about the girl who was kicked off her cheerleading squad for refusing to cheer for the boy who raped her, and I feel for that girl.  Her school has basically told her to get over it and move on, because that's what everyone else did.  That's not how you treat a victim, that's how you treat a screw-up.  But she didn't screw up.  She was assaulted, and she stood her ground and demanded a modicum of justice.  While her fellow students cheer for the boy who performed a violent act of selfish blindness, who's cheering for her?
"Not an invitation."

But it's worse than simply misappropriating the burden of education and awareness.  There is a pervasive attitude that, because it is a woman's job not to GET raped in the first place, that if she IS raped she must have somehow been, "asking for it."  Particularly since the sexual revolution freed women to dress essentially however they pleased.  If you dress in such a way as to get male attention, you deserve any variety of male attention that you get.

In fact, that's what police officers scattered across North America keep saying.  In Toronto, a police spokesman said, "Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."  Here in Chicago, a prostitute was raped by two police officers and the attitude has largely been to shrug off the assault, because the woman was a prostitute.

And I'm sorry, but regardless of how many people you've had sex with or why, no matter how you dress or where you are, the only thing that makes sex anything BUT rape is mutual consent.  And if there isn't mutual consent, it is rape.  Pretty black and white.

We need to stop making excuses for people who force themselves sexually on other people.

That's why this weekend, I took part in the Chicago SlutWalk.  I threw my toddler daughters in my overheating minivan and trundled them off downtown, and in the 95º heat, 70% humidity, and blazing sun I marched around pushing that stroller surrounded by women, men, and children baring signs and slogans to end the victim blaming.  To start the conversation.

I hadn't expected it to effect me so strongly, but it really did.  The whole day made me realize how much energy I put, daily, "...in order not to be victimized."  How much of typical female life is a tightrope we walk between trying to live up to expectations of beauty and sexuality, while still not attracting too much attention.  Looking appropriately beautiful, but not slutty.

Pre-SlutWalk Picnic
When I picked up fruit at the market for our pre-march picnic in the park, an elderly Orthodox nun GLARED at me pointedly.  I was showing a lot of cleavage.  How dare I.  What a whore I must be.  I was just asking for it.

At the park, I felt myself getting tense about cleaning up the strawberries smooshed into my chest.  And the fact that at least once I found myself holding a GIANT banana in my mouth while I wrangled my children.  Pretty provocative stuff.  I was making a spectacle.

Once we reached the protest. I cried.  I cried as I marched, as I read people's signs, and as chants erupted around me.  Every few minutes, a fellow SlutWalker would stop to take a picture of my motley crew (one of my friends was carrying a "Knitters for the Flying Spaghetti Monster" sign), or tell me what a Good Thing I had done by bringing my kids, and I desperately wanted to tell them exactly what had happened to me and how grateful I was to be there.  And that I had never really talked to my mom about it.  And that I want to talk about it with my children.  I kept reciting a poem I wrote last year in my head, over and over, wanting to shout it out loud.  To stop walking and perform it in the street.

Instead I just cried.

I cried because I finally had a way to start the conversation.  It was already started.  I was there.  If my children had been more verbal, we could have talked about why we were there, and that it is not their job not to get raped.  And that means that it's not their fault if they are.

Becoming SuperMommy and Friends at the Chicago SlutWalk
And there it is.  The big breakthrough that we need to have.

If it's not your job to avoid being assaulted, it's not your fault if it happens.

It's so ingrained, this idea that it's our job as women to protect ourselves.  And there are all of these statistics that back up the fear.   Every two minutes somebody is sexually assaulted, fifteen out of sixteen rapists never spend a day in jail, one out of three women in the United States is sexually assaulted during her lifetime.

Do you have daughters?  Sisters?  A wife?  Female friends?  Ever asked them, point blank, if they've been the one in three?  Terrifying prospect, isn't it?

So with that many women being assaulted, of course it becomes our job to defend ourselves.  But who's out there raping all of those women?  I promise you, it isn't one dude with a jet pack and an inexhaustible libido.  There are over 680,000 sexual assaults in the United States each year.  I think it's probably safe to assume there are half as many rapists.  And that's basically a full percent of the US population.

I do not believe that all men, or even that only men, commit these acts.  But I do think that a great many men, and some women, do not understand that what they're doing IS rape.  That because a girl said, "yes," once, she agreed to any future encounter.  Or that she was hinting that she was interested, or that by saying nothing at all she had given her consent.  Or that she won't care or remember anyway.

I can also promise you this, both of the men who assaulted me genuinely don't believe they did anything wrong.  The fact that they wanted to have sex with me was just more important to them than any opinion I might have had in the matter.

© Flickr User Gozamos
Although I never went to the police the first time, the second time I was told that by letting a man I was dating into my apartment at night, I had been, "asking for it."  All of my fears that I had failed in my most important task as a woman, not getting raped, confirmed.  That I should have known better.

So let's have this extremely uncomfortable, painful conversation with our children and with each other.  Let's talk about sex as something wonderful that only ever gets to happen if both parties are explicit in their intentions to say YES.  Let's stop putting all the pressure to stop rape on the victims.

And I for one am going to make the title of this post my personal healing mantra, because despite the fact that it was thirteen years ago and I was a fourteen year old playing at being older and cooler, it was not my job to make sure I didn't get raped.

And if it was not my job to avoid being raped, it wasn't my fault that I was.

June 2, 2011

Congratulations to our winner!

The winner of Lullabyes From The Land Of Nod is Joshua and Matthew's Mommy!

Congratulations!!!!  And thanks for all the love.  :)

You can download the songs all you want, but Joshua and Matthew's Mommy will be getting a whole host of swag, including a CD!

Thank you all!

Yes, with these lullabyes you need never experience nights like this!

June 1, 2011

Maximizing and Mellowing

SI and DD with a beach ball Memorial Day weekend
I didn't have big plans for my vacation.  I had small, reasonable plans.  The sort of plans I thought I could absolutely keep.

I was going to get my plants out of their pots and into the soil.
I was going to TRY to clean my house.
I was going to start potty training again.
I was going to finish the half-dozen sewing projects- mostly baby gifts and birthday presents- I had waiting for me.
I was going to cook dinner.  Every night I was home.

Oh, how those plans went awry.

The weather completely foiled me.  If I had put my tomatoes in the ground, they would have died.
Cleaning my house is impossible.  I should have remembered.
Potty training requires time, and my clever plan to just let the girls run pantsless was, like my gardening hopes, dashed by the inclement weather.
My sewing machine didn't technically explode, but let's just say it's still in the shop.
SI got this eye infection that might or might not have been symptomatic of an awful bug that I caught, and then DD caught, and then M caught, and then Grandma caught, and then Grandpa caught...
I did not cook dinner every night.  I am the only person to blame for that particular failing.  Well, me and the bug.

And now this is my last week of vacation.  Five goals for my month off.  Five goals completely unmet, thus far.  But it's not too late.  I have five days left.

Today, cleaning the house.  Today I will clean and clean and clean until my elbows are completely encased in their proverbial grease.  Then I will hang out with Great-Grandmommy and Great-Granddaddy (my grandparents haven't seen the girls since their birthday!), and make dinner.

M and the girls playing with the beach ball
Tomorrow, thanks to the sudden and dramatic turn of weather towards pleasant and garden-loving, I will put my freakin' tomatoes into the freakin' soil.  And the girls will run in little circles around the back yard.  And it will be lovely.  And then I will make dinner.

On Friday, hopefully, the machine will be back from the shop.  And I will turn all of the cut out pattern pieces co-mingling on my sewing table into stuffed animals and tummy time mats.  And then I will make dinner.

On Saturday, I will tend my garden, re-clean my house (no doubt all the mopping I do today will be thoroughly un-done by then), and put finished baby gifts into the mail.  And then I will not make dinner, because I'm going to a wedding shower instead.

On Sunday I will do the routine mending that's been piling up- a patch here, a hem there, that sort of thing.  And I'll enjoy hanging out with my whole family.  And then I'll make dinner.

And then Monday morning, I'll go back to school.  And my home will quickly return to its current disastrousness, and the mending will pile up, and the weeds will threaten my peppers.

Instead of a leisurely month of sewing, gardening, cooking, and cleaning (believe it or not, ALL activities that I enjoy), I had a hectic month of storms, illnesses (M is STILL sick), and Ikea (that'll trash a house).  I'm following this with a short week of chaotically squeezing my "recreation" into minimal hours so as to make them as much like work as possible.

The fact of the matter is that my life just plain doesn't revolve around me anymore.  I'm not sure it ever really did, but I definitely got that impression.  It seemed to me that my life was a matter of my wants and needs.  I had long accepted that nobody else's life revolved around me, but I thought mine did.
DD is very cool

And it doesn't.  My life revolves around three other people.  I'm afraid the cat hardly factors into the equation.

My life is a series of events that are directed at the management and care of my children and husband.  I'm sorry, dear friends, this is why I almost never see you.

I don't often do what *I* want to do.  I'm much more likely to be folding diapers or mopping green eggs off the floor than I am to respond to your Facebook pokes.  (Seriously, Rachel!  Who even still does that?)

I've been saying since last summer that I get it- that I don't ever get to have another vacation.  Because no matter how far away from my kids I am (and I'm not particularly interested in being that far away from them) I'm still on the job.  I'm still on call.  And even if nobody calls me and everything is fine, I'm going to be worrying.  Because I can't leave Mommyhood at home and just be a 20-something wacko singing Dover at a Rock Band party.  I'm a karaoke-ing weirdo with a cell phone on vibrate and in close enough contact with my skin so that the moment it buzzes I can stop mid lyric and check to make sure that my offspring haven't swallowed dishwasher detergent.

Simple things that I associate with mothers- a clean house, a garden, finished projects, a family dinner every night- I'm beginning to discover that this isn't something that just happens.  You have to get to the point where it's possible.  And toddlers aren't exactly helpful.  Right now the only reason that I have the moment to blog is that my girls think Sesame Street is pretty much the best thing in the world.  Next to me reading them that Noah's Ark book ad infinitum.
SI is very cool

You need time to build to that kind of routine.  It doesn't just fall out of the sky.  I can't expect my kids to suddenly act like reasonable people just because they're essentially verbal and mobile.  If anything, that just makes it harder.

In another three years, I imagine I'll be able to do those things so much more easily.  I'll be able to say, "SI, would you like to help me tear up this lettuce for the salad?"  Or, "DD, would you like to help mommy cut out the fabric?"

I'll be able to ask them to play nicely for an hour while mommy works.  I'm not saying they'll do it, but there's a decent chance.

Right now, asking them to go play somewhere else throws them into a panic.  The sort of panic that I'm going to leave the house without them- horror of horrors!  Right now, I can't count on a solid hour of time to do absolutely anything.

And somehow, I still keep forgetting that.

I know I said this last year, but NEXT summer things will be easier.  And it might just be.  But then again, it might not.  There might be all sorts of other obstacles to my domestic success that I hadn't considered.

DD and SI in dresses Aunt Genocide brought from Mazatlan
They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  Well, that's how I feel about my attempts to achieve perfect domesticity.  It's just terribly unlikely.  but at the same time, it's NEVER the same thing.  Every day my children are different, changed.  It's a hard thing to explain, but every week or so I'll look at them and think to myself, "Who the hell are YOU?  And what did you do with the baby that was here last week?"

I wonder if my parents think that when they look at me.

M and I are definitely planning on more kids.  Right now we're in agreement on two more- one more biological and one more adopted.  And I know that each new child is going to come close to resetting the progress I've made to being, as I silently refer to it, on top of things.  I need to take a good long look at my life, at my parents lives, and just accept that I'm never going to be on top of things.  Things are just going to keep rolling me under, taking over.

Things are in charge.  I'm just running damage control.

I can't control what happens to our family.  I can't control whether M's tumors start to grow again, or whether we'll have more children or it will turn out that we can't, whether our educations will end as we've planned, whether we'll be able to get better jobs, whether we'll need to move or we'll be able to stay in the lovely home we've made.  I can't control when my kids will bring home nasty bugs that will spread to our nearest and dearest in turn, or swings in the economy that turn our worlds upside down.

I am just plain not in control of anything.

SI and DD moments ago
Except for my broom, and my mop, and hopefully by the end of the week, my sewing machine.  I can set these little goals.

I can control what food I feed my family, even if it is takeout once a week.  I can control a tiny plot of land behind my building and fill it with vegetation I can eat.

I can even control my children, to a certain extent.  Right now they're sitting on the floor beside my desk, eating Cheerios.  They've completely forgotten about Sesame Street.

I just need to stop being so hard on myself for utterly failing at them.


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