Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why do I care so much?

My children have no fear. OK so that's not entirely true. Actually there is a rather long list of things that frighten them: dogs, monsters, mean guys, bad guys, the boogey man, Mom and Dad fighting, etc. But with the exception of the friendly neighborhood dog all of those "evils" which frighten them have some reasonable basis. I suppose what I mean more than fear is the idea that differences, insecurities, self-esteem, and or ego don't cloud them.

Life has not changed them. Yet. Sigh.

When we hit a playground or public space of any kind (pool, restaurant, grocery store, pathway, retail store, etc.) they are completely undetterd by others. They don't worry about age, race, dress, appearance or even language. Nothing stops them from approaching a person and questioning them or giving a statement of opinion or fact

Why do you have purple hair. I've never seen purple hair before? Mom, can I have purple hair?

Nothing deters them from making an introduction.

Hi my name is Conor. I'm five. Do you want to play hide and seek with me?

Or even sharing random comments with a complete stranger.

I'm hoping to get a transformer at Target with my piggy bank money.

I see their fearlessness and I love it. While, at other times it's completely awkward and unsettling. Yet, invariably upon my return to the car I secretly revel in whatever true statement has been uttered---oftentimes I find that I was thinking much the same thing---but my social sensor stops me from uttering these "truths". Yet my adult-ness often clouds or even ruins these otherwise innocent and wonderful observations---rather than seeing things for simply what they are, they invariably become about me and my failings, misplaced judgment, insecurities, or hang-ups.

Perfect example: Last summer this astute observation was made about a woman in the bathroom at a local pool.

Mom, her breasts are much, much bigger than the ones on your body.

This woman did have enormous breasts, that were rather perky for a woman who appeared to be in her mid-fifties which gave me serious pause. But again, I was thinking the EXACT same thing BUT I did not make this observation known to the world.

And I suspect at age 3 and 5 the observation for my children ended with the recognition of the size difference. And that's it. Not so for me. The trail of thoughts in my head became more jumbled and ridiculous:

Man, those are huge boobs.

Gosh I look like a 12 year old girl.

But they are clearly FAKE.

What's the big deal with her FAKE boobs?

Do I really care if she bought them?

Would I buy boobs?

If I am jealous of her fake boobs, what does that say about me?

God I'm pathetic.

Let's get out of here.

Let's make sure we don't come to this pool tomorrow.

God I'm pathetic.

Man, my boobs are tiny.

All of this in the span of a few moments. When all my children see is the black and white nature of the clear and obvious size difference.I suppose what they are missing is the analysis piece. When exactly do we become bogged down by these ideas? 9, 10, 14, 21, 30?

He just sees what he sees. Period. And they seem much happier for it.

I think my children have done more to help me find peace within myself than years of therapy and prozac. I guess I just need a few more decades of "child therapy." That's probably the best prescription.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Better than Valentine's day

Before the second snowstorm last week we ventured out to get food and new books to make it through. We did a drive by my mom's office when we realized the library hadn't opened just yet. Given that her office is right nearby, we dropped in to blow the 10 mintues and visit rather than wait in the car. Once there I was accosted by my Mom and her many colleagues about making sure the kids were squared away on the ole H1N1 shot. So, I left the kids with her at her cubicle while I filled out paperwork for the last booster---boy do they LOVE my mom's office now, right!!---I warned her but she insisted I get the booster, and given that they were given the first part in October it was well past time. After that we left, got books, made soup, and waited for the snow to start falling.

Later that night Kendall and I had the following conversation:

Mom, I really want a princess dress like yours.

I love dresses Kendall, but I don't have a princess dress.

Yes, you do. And you have very beautiful flowers.

(Me undoubtedly staring blank-faced at Kendall).

In the picture on Grammy's desk.

(And then I remember that my mom has a photograph of me from my wedding on her desk.)

Oh, that's from my wedding to with your Dad. That's the day we became a couple.

(I was a little stymied about how to describe that exactly. I chose not to get into the lack of name change thingie, and the idea of being equals and all that, right now anyhow. So I left it at that and figured the conversation was over---all the while thankful that for once she saw her mom all dressed up.)

Ohhh, so that means Dad is your prince.

(Me----totally in shock. With no words. Even a little teary.)

We'll, yes it does.

Monday, February 15, 2010

From my bookshelf

I'm copying a blog/website that I like to read: She is quite the reader. If only I had as much time to read as she does. Alas---she posted some answers to these questions. And I love lists. So here is my book list:

A book that changed your life: This is a toss up. A few years ago I stumbled upon A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. I’m not sure how I found or even chose this book from the book store. If I recall it was when I was on maternity leave with my first child---who was colicky---and with Jamie traveling frequently it was all I could do to make it through the days. Luckily I figured out how to read while feeding Conor and those moments were both relaxing and needed. Needless to say I think I stumbled upon this book at our local used book store---a short walk from our home at the time. It was such an eye opener for me about how close to poverty and how precarious life is for millions, and millions of people. These are realities that I was not unaware of, but this book really helped me see the world in a different and more detailed way. So too, was the effect of Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner. Wow. From the first line, this book sucked me in: "I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid and overcast day in the winter of 1975." I received the book as a holiday gift while staying at my in-laws. I think I finished it within 2 days---and we were heading out on skiing afternoons and excursions and I still found myself reading at every possible free moment. As with A Fine Balance, Hosseini’s book opened me eyes to how dramatically different one’s life would be if by some cosmic turn of fate you were born into a whole new world.

A book you’ve read more than once: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee never gets old for me. I often teach this book---but I still re-read it each time. But each time I find some new and exciting---and I’m always pleased with how satisfying this book is for me. It’s so well-constructed and well-written. It's a wonderful book to teach as well, because there are so many wonderful examples of literary device, argumentative structure, narrative set-up, and just flat out a fantastic narrative! Besides---it's got a fantastic heroine! I only hope my Kendall loves Scout as much as I do.

A book that made you laugh: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. This past summer I truly enjoyed both Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead and The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (however this also made me cry too) by Junot Diaz. Please, please someone read this last one so we can talk about it. It's a bit risque!

A book that made you cry: A few years ago a colleague recommended The Chosen by Chaim Potok. It was a wonderful story about family and friendships. While it was a tough read for me because it was about a world and upbringing so much different than my own, the themes resonated nonetheless. I also enjoyed and cried at the end of Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. This book was a bit crazy, and at times I wondered about the madness of where the narrative was headed. However the ending was a surprise and the shock! And of course who could forget Charlotte dying at the end Charlotte’s Web? I'm mean as an adult you know her life is going to end, but as a young reader it is a startling and poignant moment.

A book that you wish YOU had written: I just love E.B. White. Whether it’s Charlotte’s Web or Stuart Little, each sentence is a treat on its own. And Cider House Rules by John Irving was a real treat. It is filled with neat characters (some that you love, loathe, and just don’t quite know how to understand). And the story is so thought-provoking. It really addresses the grays that get lost in the partisan discussion that always seems to accompany anything dealing with abortion.

And a book you wish had never been written: This is a really hard one for me. I just don’t finish stuff that I don’t enjoy. There are some selections for my book club at work that I haven’t been so jazzed by, but I don’t know if they’d fall into so extreme that they don’t exist---but I did think the bestseller The Shack was pretty ridiculous. Ridiculous. I still don’t understand what all the appeal was all about.

Books that you’re currently reading: Arghhh. There are always too many books on my bookshelf. My general rule is to commit to the first 50 pages. If at that point I’m not drawn in it goes back to the library. There are way too many books to be read in this world to mess with one that you aren’t enjoying. I figure you can always go back if you’d like. I’m currently involved in Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian. I got Stones into Schools Stones by Greg Mortenson and have just begun to flip through and look at all the pictures first! And I'm re-reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe since that is what my students are reading right now.

A book you’ve been meaning to read: Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I WILL get these read this summer while enjoying my trips to the local farm market!

What are you guys reading?

Monday, February 8, 2010

It took about 25 inches of snow to really slow down. Phew.

I believe that in a strange way Mother Nature was looking out for my family. We are very normal people. I personally revel in this normalcy. I've never quite understood the fascination with wanting to be somebody. Aren't we all, already someone? While I cannot claim to be immune to falling victim to scandalous celebrity gossip or the ridiculous reality show gone wrong, I've never, ever wanted the sort of fame that goes along with all the money and madness. But my supposed ordinary existence, is at times a bit much, and even I want to get away from it; or take a break; or just have a reason to sit back and disappear from all responsibilities.

This past weekend left 25 inches of snow at my doorstep. And well, that gave us plenty of time to ourselves (and of course the great outdoors)!

A bit Friday and most of Saturday was spent shoveling snow. We live in a townhouse community. So, as a result there is very little green space. That means there is little t0 nowhere to put snowfall. And normally this is not a problem. But it kept on coming. And as it did the pile grew higher and higher and higher. The one small garden we have now a mountain. I do not kid. You could launch yourself off this sucker (and with the expected snow fall projected for tomorrow evening---up to 10 more inches--- I will be setting up a course for my children off this mountain and into the street before they plows come through. ) You think I'm kidding. It's at least 15 feet high. I suspect it'll be there until April. I'm guessing tax day!

On these days we had all the time in the world for one another. We played in the snow. We shoveled. We climbed our "mountain". We made our lunch together. We ate leisurely together (again that means---I didn't need worry about what time it was---because we had nowhere to go and a whole lot of nothing to do!---This never happens on a weekend.)! We played games. We watched TV. We read books. We colored. We ate chocolate chip cookies. We did sit-ups out of guilt (OK I'm the only one who did sit-ups out of guilt.).We headed back outside to shovel some more. But in all these ventures we did it together.

And we did it without a time frame in mind. At all.

Normally each morning is a tight balancing act, with each and every minute tightly scripted---when if even a moment or two is out of order or takes a bit longer than normal, the backup ricochets into the remainder of the day.

I know that I am not alone in that I have to be at work at a certain time of day. Most folks arrive or even clock in at a specified or routine time. However, most folks don't have 61 teenagers waiting to get into a classroom and find their seats at promptly 720am. Upon arriving at work my day is planned by the minute. Each class period is divided into sections I hope to accomplish and my notes indicate approximately how long each one should take (but you can see Beavis and Butthead to understand that I am flexible at times)---so even when class begins I'm constantly checking the clock. The bell schedule runs on a precise time-frame and rings announce the dismissal or arrival of the next class. After work it's a race against the clock as well. If I want to exercise I have one hour (220-320) to do so. After which I join the rest of the suburban masses and get onto the roads---oh how I hate my car (If only I lived in a walkable city---I'm sure I'd find reason to be annoyed with that, and I'd still have errands to do, but at least I'd be walking and my ass would look better! ). Often I "treat" myself to the grocery store sans children. Who knew that grocery shopping without children could be so blissful? Then it's to school to pick up the kiddos (thankfully both are at the same spot, at least for the remainder of this school year). I pick up Kendall first: talk with teacher, put on coat, say goodbye. Now for Conor. See earlier sentence---same routine. Then (my favorite) back in the car and this time onto the highway. By now it's usually about 415. And to think we found ourselves on this same highway (albeit going the opposite direction) at 645am. Woo hoo. Even when we get home I'm still a slave to the clock---unpack groceries, unload backpacks, put dishes away (as invariably I have run the dishwasher the night before), start dinner, eat dinner, give baths, set out clothes for the next day, brush teeth, comb hair, read stories, say goodnight.

Woah---it's 8pm, where'd those 3 1/2 hours go. But wait stop whining, stop wasting this precious free time. It's time to party. Or maybe not---I'm pooped at the prospect of doing this all again, and in less than 12 hours. Possibly I'll go buck-wild with another glass of vino----all the while getting the rest of stuff together (pack lunches and determine what I can wear to work that doesn't need ironing). Usually the day ends with the alarm being set and the crossword puzzle on the bureau (on a good day it's about 3/4 done).

So exciting, I know.

Remember, though, I said earlier, I do love my very, normal life. It's the routine nature of it that often gets to me. But I'm such a creature of habit, that the most exciting thing for me might be to meet a dear friend at ChikFila in the middle of the week in lieu of cooking dinner. And let's face it. Parents don't go to ChikFila for the fantastic cuisine---because while they might make a kick-ass Chix nugget, the indoor play facility is the real draw. Why they don't serve draft beer and wine for the adults is beyond me. They'd make a killing.

So, Mother Nature, you threw 25 inches at me this past week. And while I fought loving it for a long, long time, when I finally did submit to the beauty of it all, it really was quite blissful
Because for a few nights I didn't look at the clock once---except of course when I set the oven timer for our freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.