Category Archives: Mother to the First Power


Last Dance, Last Chance, For Love

February 12, 2009


Tomorrow night, Bear tests at the Karate School. If he is successful, he will walk away a black belt.

I was talking to an old friend this afternoon, and we go back. Way back. I'm talking rainbow suspenders, Mork & Mindy, and Donna Summer. I'm talking roller skates, the kind that have four big wheels on them.

Continue reading "Last Dance, Last Chance, For Love"
Tags: karate, parent, child, growing, life, hope, dream, milestone
Posted on February 12, 2009 at 07:38 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Big Boy Room

February 08, 2009


His room? Is painted.

There are parts of the trim that hadn't been dusted, painted, washed, or even looked at closely since we moved in over 8 years ago. Well, specifically that long piece of trim about 1 foot from the ceiling, that serves some decorative purpose that remains a mystery to both CD and me.

This has been the master bedroom for a few years, even though it is technically the smaller of the two main bedrooms. We can't remember why we switched, so please don't ask.

Although we chose an organic, no-VOC paint for the walls - the trim was done in regular give-you-a-massive headache white latex enamel. The truth is, we have about 3 cans of the stuff in the basement. Bought on sale at some point back when we didn't care if we polluted the environment or killed Mother Earth. You know, last year?

So now, I have a massive headache forming. Time for some Alleve and a stiff drink. And to bask in the glow of being almost there.

Bear is getting a bookcase/desk combo from Ikea. We have to pick it up this week, and then put it together. It's funny, I showed him some other pieces he could have if we saved for a while but he really loves this set. There's a twin of it at his tae kwon do school and he totally digs the idea of having cubbies that he can use to sort his massive collections of Lego's and books and of, course, trophies.

By the end of this week, there should be a whole new room to show for all this. Before we put up the paintbrushes tonight, Bear gave me a big hug. I asked him what it was for and he said; "for knowing how much I really, really, wanted a big boy room."

Tags: childhood, decorating, painting, organic, VOC, parenting, life
Posted on February 08, 2009 at 08:11 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Groundhog Stew

February 02, 2009


Slow day, as we recover from colds. At one point, I was just hanging out online while Bear was watching a cartoon.

"Hey, the groundhog saw his shadow," I called to him.

"What does that mean again?"

"Six more weeks of winter."

"I say we find that groundhog and make him change his answer!"

Continue reading "Groundhog Stew"
Tags: groundhog, cabin fever, homeschool, parenting, humor
Posted on February 02, 2009 at 08:37 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Into the Looking Glass

January 31, 2009


I took 3 boys to lunch at the local diner today, and it freaked me out how much has changed.

Two years ago, a friend and I went to the same place with these boys and it was a riot: they needed to be entertained, refereed, cajoled. It was all: Power Rangers! Pokemon! Batman vs. Spiderman!!! Just ordering their food took top-tier negotiation skills: they all wanted to make sure that they all had the same foods but there was little they agreed on.

It was like herding cats.

That was then.

This time, they perused the menus casually. The waitress popped up with her pad.

"I'll have a half-slab of ribs," said the first.
"French toast, with bacon," said the second.
"Hamburger, medium-rare," said mine.

She came back with the drinks and each stopped to say thank you. we played a game of cards while we waited. It was clear as we went that they were each used to different "house rules", yet they shrugged it off and worked at staying in a good mood.

As we ate, they talked about the sports they were into.

"Basketball, we had a game this morning," said the first.
"I just started a new fencing class," said the second.
"I'm still doing karate," said mine.

Once we were done, they needled me for some of the penny candy by the register. I allowed each one two pieces, and no two got the same thing. The woman at the register asked them how they liked the meal.

"It was great," said the first. "Too much for me to eat!"
"It was fine," said the second. "I love the bacon."
"I liked it," said my son. "Hamburger was just right."

As we stepped out through the two sets of doors, pulling zippers up and jostling our way, the wind hit Bear's face in just a weird way, pushing his hair around and making him seem different for a second. In that flash, their three shadows seem to elongate onto the sidewalk.

Suddenly, it was three strong men looking back to make sure I was following. Their voice rough and deep as they called to me.

I blinked, the sun blinding me. My heart beating fast.

Their childhoods slipped by. It was the future. They chuckled as they hit the sidewalk, ribbing each other about how warm it seemed compared to recent subzero temperatures.

Strong, and confident, and good.

"Mommy!" Bear shouted, shrinking suddenly in a blur. His freckled cheeks turning pink in the air. "Come on, already!"

With a quick breath, they were kids again. Jogging to the car, shouting about the front seat. I reached out to hug my son, wanting to feel his body in my hands but he moved too quick.

And I realized: Already, gone. In so many ways.

Tags: Life, Growing, Parenting, Boys, Dream
Posted on January 31, 2009 at 06:22 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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How old is old enough?

January 23, 2009


I did something this morning that I'm still conflicted about.

We're temporarily living with one car. By and large, this means no car for me and Bear because CD usually has to be at work on the south side of Chicago before 6AM. It's a 40-minute drive but because of the vagaries of the CTA, it's a 2.5+ hour commute on public transport.

However, this morning CD's destination turned out to be about a mile away. He needed a ride, though, because it's colder than a witch's uh whatever - in Idaho. And uphill both ways.

Continue reading "How old is old enough?"
Tags: Parenting, Independence, child rearing, mom, life, question
Posted on January 23, 2009 at 01:27 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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A Bad Mommy Day

January 14, 2009


I have a bad case of ennui.

I'm fighting a cold, and have spent too many hours in front of the keyboard. The combination has made me sore, sneezy, and unwilling to battle the little crap life flings at me.

(Bear took full advantage of this and played Roller Coaster Tycoon for about 5 hours today - so much for practicing his handwriting every single school day of 2009, huh?)

Where's the path to getting out of this hole?

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Posted on January 14, 2009 at 08:26 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Good Things Out of Unwanted Things

August 04, 2008


We wanted more than one. We were honest about it, right from the start. The both of us wanted a few children, bunched close together.

Maybe there's some who say a guy can't be 'baby hungry' but mine was - and is.

But he went ahead and picked the chick with the broken biology and, as the pastor says when he holds up the bag of treats for the Sunday Schoolers; "You get what you get."

We got one (1) copper-headed, funny, imaginative, affectionate, sturdy, and brilliant boy, complete with: dog, Transformers obsession, personality quirks, nudist tenancies, and overwhelming love of ketchup.

(The ketchup was extra, but nothing's too good for our kid!)

One? Is more than you can ever dream of - when you're dreaming. We often wondered, because an only child seemed such an unwanted situation, if we should reach out to the universe to find siblings for him.

But, as it turns out, one is its own treasure.

When I reached my limit some months back, frustrated because my son was with his friends (and their mother) and out of contact beyond the time he'd supposed to check in. But despite my repeated tries, she wasn't answering her mobile. I looked at CD and said, "right. order the damn phone."

I wasn't worried about precedent, or having to buy ones for other kids. My (almost) 8 year-old has a cell phone with a GPS locator because for $10/month technology means that his independence doesn't have to equal my stress.

Because it is just him, Bear has taken on a lot of responsibility. Since he was 6, he's been able to go out and start the car and the car heater for me on cold mornings.

The truth is, while he is very much the kid in the family dynamic, because it is just the three of us - we do tend to just hang out and enjoy each other's company without the big wall that both CD and I remember between us and our parents. We regularly decide activities together, by consensus. When something breaks, there's no dodging who did it - and we all pitch in to fix it. We expect honesty from each other, we also expect kindness.

On the one hand, I so sometimes ache to go through the baby years again. To discover a new person as they grow up. To be part of the cycle, again.

But most days, I realize how much I want this life, just as it is.

Oh, and I guess one more benefit? Is that we never, ever FORGET Bear. Not for a second. 'Cuz, you know... "One?!" "Here!"

Just saying.

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Posted on August 04, 2008 at 10:19 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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It's so hard...

July 21, 2008


It's hard having a 7 year old smarter than me....

Driving home from camp.

Me: Hey there's a police officer on one of those things!

Him: One of those things?

Me: You know, 2 wheels and a stick?

Him: You mean a Segway, Mommy?

Me: Yeah. Thanks, kid. (Reach back my hand for a high-5, get a knuckle bump instead.)

Tags: comebacks, smart aleck, kid, parenting, funny, humor, segway, love
Posted on July 21, 2008 at 07:34 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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(Updated!) An Unusual Circumstance

December 18, 2007


Someone asked me if I am always so optimistic.

I decided the next time I started feeling hopeless, I would say so.

Except, I hate sounding whiny.

Well, screw it.

Welcome to this morning.

So far? It's not-optimistic day.

meandbear.jpg
(Me and Bear, when he was 2)

I was looking at all these pictures over the years. The uncountable amount of times my hands have been leash, safety, comfort, steady as his mom.

Isn't it strange what we take for granted?

In about 20 minutes, Bear and I leave for my EMG appointment.

I don't like needles.

That aside, it's my second one of these so we're not exactly hurtling into the unknown. He's packing up his workbooks, and Leapster, and video iPod.

("Can you download me some new Scooby Doo episodes?" "No." "But...WHY?!" "Because I'm not paying 4 bucks for 22 minutes of 30-year-old cartoons." "Huh? Aren't they NEW?" "No, they were from my childhood." "Wow, that IS old!")

If you had told me a few years ago that there would come a time that I would hang up the corporate power suits, the modulated 'I'm in Charge' voice, and the dozens of Excel spreadsheets to be homeschooling my son in doctor's waiting rooms... I would have spurt latte out my nose.

Trade financial security for minimum payments and mounting medical debt? Are you HIGH?!?!

Heh.

It was a fanciful daydream, that featured cartoon bluebirds and sunbeams and laughter and not a dozen needles and remedial phonics.

Would I go back and do it differently?

On a day like today, I don't spend too long thinking about that.


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

UPDATE

Well, we're back. Bear was an angel - he winced a bit when the needles went in me but otherwise remained calm and quiet and wrapped up in his Leapster.

The good news? Other than some borderline carpal tunnel, I have no (permanent) damage from the Raynaud's/Lupus.

Which isn't to say what hurts doesn't hurt when it hurts - 'cuz, yeah. It does.

BUT once the flare eases, my arms and hands are find and dandy thank you.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

Hate to say, but its true. I'm all glowing and optimistic again.

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Posted on December 18, 2007 at 10:53 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Overheard

December 13, 2007


Bear: How can your recognize a werewolf when he's not in his wolf form, Daddy?

CD: Hmmmm, that's a good question. Maybe it's like that scene from Barnyard. When they throw the ball, and the dog can't help himself and has to chase it. If you think someone is a werewolf, then you throw a ball and if they gotta chase it then...

Bear: Naw.

CD: No?

Bear: Wolf, not Dog, Daddy.

CD: Ah.

Bear: Now, if you throw a HUMAN and he's gotta chase it....

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Posted on December 13, 2007 at 12:31 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Golden Slumbers

October 03, 2007


Last night, Bear woke up around midnight and decided to go out to the kitchen.

"Bear," I said, following him. "What you doing?"

"Um, sleeping, and then I got hungry," he told me.

He was wearing his footie pajamas, the ones with his name embroidered on them. Looking tousled and adorable and not quite....awake.

"Sweetie, are you awake or are you sleepwalking?" Hey, it seemed reasonable to ask.

"Mommy," he sighed, looking down at where his toes wriggled under the fleece. "Do sleeping people want cereal?"

"Depends, what kind of cereal?"

He thought a moment. "Hamburger?"

"Yes, sleeping people want Hamburger cereal. Awake people want Apple Jacks or Cheerios."

He nodded, sagely. "OK, I'm asleep. Will you carry me back to bed?" Reaching for me.

So I picked him up, his arms wrapped around my neck, the heavy warm weight of him in my hands. And put him back to bed. Pulled up his Knights and Armor comforter. Made sure his stuffed animals were all safely stacked in their places. And kissed him goodnight, again.

essexelizabeth200.jpg"Mommy," he murmured as I left the room.

"Yes, Bear?"

"If you were still a kid, then we could have a sleepover. And go to the park tomorrow."

When I was a kid, I had princess nightgowns the twirled around my knees when I danced. I had a curtains my mom made that matched my comforter. I had my special blankie that made me feel safe. And the boys I played with liked Cops and Robbers and always made me the Robber.

I turned to answer, not sure actually what to say, and saw that he'd already closed his eyes. His breathing steadier, and steadier.

And my heart broke with love.

Tags: Parenting, motherhood, love, dreams, sleep
Posted on October 03, 2007 at 03:58 PM and filed under: Bear Stories
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Homeschool School

September 10, 2007


One day you're jumping killer waves at Old Orchard beach in Maine....

oldorchard beach.jpg

Then, a few days later, you're at your first day of "Homeschool School".

boysinmotion.jpg

Lucky for me, most of my neighbors homeschool.

It's a movement, a trend, a fad. And I don't know what it means for this generation of schoolkids - but for me, right now, it is fantastic. Because it means that I have lots of mentors and programs to pull from for help.

One of them is a once-a-week enrichment program that gives Bear a day 'at school' to have Gym, Art, Science Experiments, even Drama Club with a bunch of other homeschool kids.

He gets all the stuff I can't give him - like social interaction with his peer group - in a way that supplements what we're already doing at home.

Bear told me last week, sandy from the beach and mulish, that he didn't want it. Would hate it. That I couldn't MAKE him go.

Then, as I dragged him away from the huddle of other 1st and 2nd grade boys after the day was done, he said 'Mom! You never told me that it was a Homeschool School!'

'Oh, does that make a difference?' I asked.

'Yeah!! This is great!'

And, for the first time in 2 years, I relaxed about Bear's education.

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Posted on September 10, 2007 at 04:19 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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The Sun Turns Around, The Earth Turns Around, and Then You Are 7

September 06, 2007


Every year, on the anniversary of the day he was born, we pull Bear into bed with us and tell him his birth story.

This morning, he woke US up. Too excited to be 7. Too excited to start his day.

"Tell me!" he insisted, diving under the covers betweens us.

"Tell you.... what?" I teased.

"About the day I was born!" Bear exploded, laughing and squirming.

Maybe we started the tradition because Bear had been a high-risk pregnancy. I am what they so tactfully used to call a 'habitual aborter'. They don't know why - whether it's my Lupus or my blue-green eyes.

But either way, it started on January 12, 2000.

"You took a test?" he prompts.

"I took a pregnancy test," I agree.

What I don't say is that I'd had my period the week before, so it was an insane thing for me to pee on a stick. But I'd had a very vibrant dream and I just felt.. I should.

"It was positive!" he grins. "That was me!"

Back then, we were excited but also confused and afraid all at once. I called a friend on the way to work - a woman who'd had two 'miracle babies'.

"I don't know what to do," I cried in bumper to bumper traffic.

"Get yourself to the doctor. Now," she insisted.

A few hours later, CD and I stood and shook after my exam waiting for the doctor to tell us the news.

He handed us some pamphlets about miscarriage and said that it didn't look good. I was spotting heavily and he sighed a lot as he spoke.

He scheduled an ultrasound, and made us promise not to get our hopes up.

We lied.

We went home and sat together on the couch.

We waited.

"On January 14, 2000, we heard the most beautiful noise you can imagine."

"Thudda-thudda-thudda-thwudda..." CD rumbles.

"Me!" Bear cheers.

We nod in the dim of the morning. Then 226 days of bedrest later (plus 10 days of great health sometime in May).

"You and Daddy went on a trip to California and I swam in your tummy in you and you were in a pool on a roof of a hotel..." Bear fills in.

"The Intercontinental," CD agrees. "My work flew us all out because I said I couldn't leave mommy."

"Or me," Bear reminds him, seriously.

"And then, on September 6, 2000, after a day of laboring and trying to get you born, the doctors told Daddy and me that you couldn't wait anymore.

"So at 3 PM, we went into a special room and 52 minutes later they took you out of my tummy by your feet.

"You stretched out into the world.You reached out and grabbed the doctor around the neck. She had your handprint there for hours."

(Yes sweetie, you slapped the doctor...)

"Your dad cut your cord. There was extra blood in there that is very special and the doctors took that to help others."

(From the very start, your birth blessed so many...)

"After they wrapped you up, your daddy got you and held us all close together. We all finally got to meet the baby with the powerful heart."

(You had dark blue eyes and big cheeks...)

"The nurses and doctors wanted to take you to the nursery but they just had to wait until I was stable before your dad consented to leave my side."

(No, Bear, he was never going to leave yours.)

"Hours later, when I woke up in Recovery, your dad brought you to me again."

(...and then we were a family.)

"On the day you were born, it was warm. The sky was blue with puffy white clouds. A doctor walked with your tiny handprint on her neck. The Cubs were winning in extra innings. Jane Addams would have been 140 years old...

"And a miracle happened."

Was I the miracle?

Yes, Bear. You were. And you still are.

Down Memory lane....
2004
2005
2006

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Posted on September 06, 2007 at 08:48 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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I抦 gonna stand guard, like a postcard of a Golden Retriever

June 10, 2007


I believe the light that shines on you | Will shine on you forever | And though I can't guarantee | There's nothing scary hiding under your bed | I抦 gonna stand guard | Like a postcard of a Golden Retriever | And never leave till I leave you | With a sweet dream in your head - Paul Simon

I'm a little hard of hearing.

It doesn't matter.

In college, I had a routine hearing screening with equipment more sophisticated, I guess, than what I'd grown up with. That's when I found out that I have hearing loss in both ear - much worse in the right.

It doesn't matter.

Except in little ways. Little inconveniences & personality tics. Like I have to use a phone on my left ear, can't switch when it gets all hot and sweaty. Probably done it my whole life, didn't even realize it until I was 21. Then it made sense.

And if you're deaf? You can usually spot me. I don't why. But dozens of hard of hearing and deaf people have approached me over the years.

One obvious manifestation - I'm slower to wake up to sound than CD. In the parent possum game? I was all-time winner. That man did - conservatively - 80% of the night-time diapers.

A few years ago, we shared our life with a Chow-German Shepherd-Mastiff mix named Ragnar. At least until he grew so big that they assigned him his zip code and reclassified him as 'big honkin unknown furry beast'.

He went to live in the horse country that is Barrington, with people who had much wider hallways.

He was CD's dog. Sure Bear and I were 'in the pack' - but CD was shazizzle in Ragnar's eyes.

Now Sara has come into our lives and I guess part of me was expecting 'Ragnar 2'.

I was wrong.

Since we emptied the kitchen for the reno, we had to push everything else everywhere else. Her condo-sized crate needed a new home and the only available real estate was Bear's room (under the window).

Since we moved her in there, she has become smitten with Bear to the point of been a celebrity stalker.

The boy has been known to have to go poop with her paws reaching for him under the bathroom door.

She loves me, she loves CD, she licks the cat unmercifully (which we worry may be confusion that Maggie is somehow a walking appetizer)... but she would, even at only 3 months old and 26 pounds, without a doubt die for my son.

I didn't anticipate this.

I have no idea when she is sleeping.

As I wonder around at night waiting for my insomnia to subside, each time I near my son's room to watch him sleep - there she is.

Keeping watch.

With a fascination that I thought only CD and I had for him.

He sleeps in the heat, partially covered in one of his dad's old t-shirts. Snoring and peaceful.

There she is, chin on paws. Listening to him breathe.

I lean against her crate, in the soft glow of his night light. "He's out cold," I tell her. Laughing at his frog-legged sprawl. "You should sleep, too."

And Sara gives my fingers a lick and then settles back down, 'hrf' she says softly.

That's when I realize that even though I sometimes worry that I won't hear him in the night - she will.

Without a doubt.

Somehow, that revelation comforts me. I slip Sara a treat and pad out of the room.

I can sleep.

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Posted on June 10, 2007 at 11:33 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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I Got It

April 06, 2007


Bear started T-Ball this week.

They did a mock game, with Bear at shortstop.

Batter up, hit a line drive.

Bear dove down on the dirt and triumphantly grabbed the ball. Then turned his attention to finding a runner.

Looked left.

No runners.

Looked right.

No runners.

Looked straight ahead.

Coach gestured wildly for him to throw it home.

Shook her off.

Dodged his teammates, who were trying to steal the ball from him.

Spied a target.

Ran full steam.

We screamed 'no!' from the sidelines....

Too late.

Bear tagged out the third baseman with a full frontal tackle.

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Posted on April 06, 2007 at 09:55 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Torpedo Tubes

March 09, 2007


Here's the thing.

No.

Wait.

It's not that.

What I mean to say is that I realized that getting serious about the already serious was what was...

No, that's not it, either.

See, now, I've got myself confused.

Worst kept secret in the world? I withdraw in a crisis. Sink inside my little bluebell mind and blink slowly. Processing. Processing.

Sure, it looks like I'm all cool and Lauren Bacall.

Waitl. I mean, when I'm nervous I get chatty. Have you seen me nervous? It's like a string gets pulled between my shoulder blades.

But that's nervous.

That's not a crisis. That's not looking down at blood pouring out of a wound.

Once we get to blood, well, that's when I start to look sauve.

Except, it's not real.

I realized this about myself once upon a time at a Lesbian bar in Ravenswood.

I don't know how many years ago.

But there was this other group of women. And one of them knew my friend's girlfriend. They had dated at some point and it had ended badly. So there was my friend and her girlfriend and this other woman and people all shouting and throwing issues and unresolved relationships at each other like arrows and the bouncer (yes, there was a bouncer) was all posturing by the door and issuing warnings.

Then someone raced to the bathroom and then someone else started crying over by the jukebox.

I sat on my stool and drank my G&T and when Nina the bartender asked me if I knew what was going on, I said 'Hell, no," ordered another round.

Then somewhere there was a slap.

So the next thing you knew, we were kicked out and piled up in the hatchback driving back home and everyone was all talking at once and, finally, about 5 blocks from the bar, Lyn pulls the car over with a squeal and shouts "OK, I need to process."

But me? I was already deep inside my mind. I was halfway through processed, curled up in a mental ball, sorting it out. And Lyn looks at me, crowded up in the backseat with our friends, and said something like "You kept your cool."

And I said something like "Nah, I barely know what happend. I like to grab a head start on processing a situation. In fact I start processing so early I usually miss everything that happens after the start." Which means, see, that I seem all deadpan but really I'm just clueless and mentally constipated. Plus? Dealing with stuff seems to take me twice as long.

Ask CD. Everyone once in a while, he'll be like "What's wrong?" And I'll be like "You jacked up the credit card for a LEGO ROBOT THING??" And he'll be all, "Hon, that was 3 YEARS AGO!" But me? I just got it processed to the point where I can actually be in touch with being angry.

When I get quiet, it's usually because I'm tucked up inside the gooshy part of my mind. Dealing with something.

The "something" recently is Children's Memorial Hospital. And the doctor's office and the neurologist's office and the pharmacy.

I just have a hard time talking about what's happening while it's happening especially if it's the kind of happening that scares the ever-living crap out of me. I got to quiet down and let my mind process like a cracked-up gerbil in a wheel until I can breath like a human again.

18 months ago, Bear got sick and spiked a fever. It kept topping out around 104 (f). There was hives and vomiting and shaking. And it didn't go away.

The first couple of days, doctors said it could have been one thing. The next couple of days, well, doctors said maybe something else.

10 days. 10 days of extremely high fever, Emergency Leave from work, visits in and out of the clinic and the hospital, and even my mother flying out.

And then, some combination of drugs seemed to finally work. He got better.

No known cause. No explanation. At first, I couldn't care less. I was as giddy as a Muppet, singing with a Gibb brother on a rainbow of satin.

But then... it came back. Like that dammed cat in that song.

And faded.

18 very long months.

The consensus has been that it is an allergy. But he has tested no severe allergies to any of the common triggers.

He spikes a fever, sometimes a little rash, congestion. Then, a day or so later, fine again. Right now, he has severe sinusitis because it's been too much.

We know that because last week, they strapped him down with velcro and slid him back and forth through a Stargate machine. Much less frightening than the torpedo tubes, you know.

Two days in and out at Children's Memorial Hospital. Where helicopters land in loud thwup-thwups bringing sicker kids in for treatment. Where they give you those restaurant-style flashing beepers when you sign in so you can know when they're ready to see you. Where there's a McDonald's in the basement and $10 Mad Lib books in the bookstore.

As Hospitals go, it rocks. As childhoods go, Hospitals suck.

Bear? Is still sick. In fact, being sick is something that has become part of the weft and weave of our life. He's healthy maybe half his days. The rest of the time it is a swinging 40's dance of 'how healthy - how sick'.

And I hate it. I hate it so much that there are moments, away from him, that I gag and try not to throw up all that anger and fear and frustration that is rotting away inside of me.

But I don't know how to talk about it. My brain is still processing. Processing....

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Posted on March 09, 2007 at 09:52 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Me vs. Education, The Continuing Saga...

February 06, 2007


Since Bear is both-handed, he's developed task-hand-specific stuff.

He writes lefty. He uses a computer mouse righty. His t-ball coach did this thing with his eye-hand coordination and said Bear is strong in the right eye, so Bear should try batting/throwing righty - which, as it turns out, has Bear delighted with his power and accuracy. Coach says Bear will probably develop into a switch-hitter later.

For every new activity, we have to trial-and-error what hand (or foot) will be primary long before we can even open the manual and start doing whatever it is we're doing. Bear likes to try both sides, think about it, and make a choice. And if you attempt to push him along, you get a quick lesson in stubborness.

Me? I step back. And, you know, make soup.

His stubborness is an old friend by now. And I have learned to appreciate it. That he is reading and writing at age-appropriate levels is a frigging monument to his stubborness, and the hours upon hours we have spent at the dining room table doing countless maze books and woorkbooks and tactile fine-motor-building activities - like Lego's.

BearWrites.jpg So we homeschool in the morning. And then he goes to afternoon kindergarten. And I'm room mother. And I'm on the PTA. And I just hang out, a whole shitload of time.

I've noticed that his teacher, who may be a very nice person outside the classroom, doesn't seem to want to actually be IN the classroom.

She gets frustrated very easily, and snaps at the kids - even in front of me. 4 years in Montessori, and I don't think I heard any of Bear's teachers raise their voice at the kids once. She does it most days. You can hear it through the door.

Does that upset me?

Does it show?

Look, I love teachers. My first real job was as a teacher, and it's a tough gig. But that's not a blank check.

Bear's teacher isn't engaged. The school isn't engaged. And that's reflected in the fights that break out at the drop of a hat. The test scores. The attitude that pervades.

When I suggested we move to healthier cookies and bottled water for the class parties - I got PTA Boss telling me that I have to provide juice boxes and cupcakes because non-sugary alternatives 'won't seem like a real party' for the kids.

But what just sent me over the edge was when Bear came home with that little red bruise for a SECOND time.

He was standing in line, a melee broke out, and he got caught in the fallout. I looked at the red smudge and I was ready to blow like a tube of croissant batter in a hot car. Well, actually, I did blow.

So I called the principal.

Three times.

Finally I left a message that if she didn't return my call immediately, I was going to call the police and the Board of Education.

She called me back in about 20 minutes after that message. Told me that this school had a student body that was 80% elgible for aid. And that I was more used to the atmosphere at Happy Montessori, where the 'socio-econmic makeup is more affluent'.

She told me that children from lower-economic strata tend to use violence as the answer, even in Kindergarten.


Basically? She was telling me that POOR PEOPLE ARE VIOLENT.

Holy frigging crap.

THEN she said that my son should "stop complaining to his mommy about it and tell the teacher when it happens".

What the....?

He had a BRUISE. That I could SEE. And she thought she should equate that to getting the smaller portion of fingerpaint?

I mean, we tell our children to complain to an adult they trust. If he doesn't trust his teacher to give a shit then that is her failure, not my son's. (Especially when the teacher has given these kids all kind of anti-tattling lectures).

But more importantly, my son shouldn't be BRUISED. Is this a difficult concept? No blaming poverty. No complaining about WHO is reporting it. Deal with the actual problem, lady!

She asked what I wanted out of the situation, and I said I wanted a non-violence policy with zero-tolerance that was enacted and enforced. I said, maybe if these kids had higher expectations, they would rise to them.

The Principal informed me that I clearly didn't understand poor people.

I was so furious when we hung up that my next step was the Board of Ed. But when they returned my call, they told me that the prinicpal of Bear's school had announced the next day a new program of community partnership to end violence and bullying in the school.

I said I'd like to volunteer.

No on has gotten back to me.

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Posted on February 06, 2007 at 12:13 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Don't Listen To Your Gut

January 03, 2007


Bear misses being around other kids. So I signed him up for a couple of days at a Snowflake Camp through the park district to help fill in over the long Christmas break from school.

After I did that, I found out some of his friends would be visiting Chicago. But still, this morning, I dressed him up and took him over to the rec building.

Egads.

It was a sad little group of 6 boys - half around 10 years old and half around 6 years old (Bear's age). The big boys were hucking a basketball at each other with no discernible rules except to throw as hard as they could. The younger boys were making bracelets with lanyards.

Bear went and investigated a corner of the room.

"Look," I told him, after forcing the counselors to introduce themselves, "you don't have to stay. This was supposed to be fun."

"I know," he answered, looking around. "But it's OK. You can go. Just come back after lunch, OK?"

I found a chair and watched for another 15 minutes. Nothing much improved.

"Bear?" I called him over from looking out the window at the windy, empty playground. "You sure? I can just sit out in the hall and read my book, if you want more time to make up your mind."

"I'm fine," he insisted. "It's good for a little while."

I don't want to be one of those mothers. The ones that hover long after their kids have pushed away for some independance.

But, man, it was so hard to put the van in gear and drive away.

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Posted on January 03, 2007 at 12:27 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Not That I Have Any Business Talking About This

October 24, 2006


My son is not circumsized.

My beloved grandmother told me this story when we were discussing the topic before Bear's birth: When her first son was born, she considered circumcision for him. Her father-in-law said "Leave the boy's foreskin alone and let him wear it off when he grows up".

Yup, I got all kinds of modest in my family.

Meanwhile, Icelanders as a rule do not circumsize. I personally believe it is because Iceland is damn cold and they need the warmth of the extra layer. My husband says it is because Icelanders are too smart to let anyone near their penises with knives.

So circumcision was a non-starter. Bear's got all his original equipment.

Except. It hasn't begun to be retractible yet.

At his last checkup, our new pediatrician (who we really like) mentioned that guidlines say that she should refer Bear to a urologist for a forcible retraction because it should be at least partially retractible by age 6.

Our reaction? "Oh, hell, no."

But there is a part of me that wonders - has anyone else gone through this? Are we just projecting our discomfort? (Notice the Wikipedia article cites that at least 2 mothers fainted watching their sons go through the procedure. That tells me it is major freaky bad.) Are we possibly imperiling his health?

CD seems more sure than me that we leave all Bear's private parts alone. But it's been 6 weeks since the pediatrician offered the referral, and I'm still going back and forth.

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Posted on October 24, 2006 at 06:30 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Letting him down...

September 12, 2006


There are days when I am just certain that I am the worst mommy alive.

Last year, I was all organized for Bear's birthday before we left for New England - I had the invitations, the address book, the reservation made at My Gym.

This year, in my chaos, I had to enlist CD long distance after I had already left. It took about 20 phone calls and 3 different reservations before we came to a date with My Gym and then I was in the strange position of sending out sort of anonymous Birthday Invitation fliers to his new school and invitations to his old classmates.

Last night we got a call from My Gym - however it happened in the flurry of calling in August... there was a miscommunication.

Bear doesn't have the venue for this weekend when we thought. Another party is in there at that time and they were confirmed first.

I tried to look calm as I broke the news to Bear. He listened, and didn't cry.

More stoic than me.

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Posted on September 12, 2006 at 08:42 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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On the day you were born

September 05, 2006


Bear8weeks.jpg We will wake him up, and pull him between us in bed. Like we do, every year, on this morning. And we will tell him his story...

Mommy sat, like a bird on her eggs, for 236 days.

Actually, it was 276 days until your egg hatched - but there were 24 days before we knew about you and 16 days during the second trimester when we went to LA and swam in the rooftop pool of the Intercontinental Hotel.

So, yes, it was 236 days of bedrest when all the nice doctors listened with all their instruments and decided that it was time, really time, for you to be born.

At the Evanston Northwestern Hospital, they gave me a special medicine at 5PM that would poke my body and tell it you should be born.

By 9PM your Nana arrived from Boston, and your Aunt Dee was there, and Daddy was singing to you inside of me.

At 1AM, we took a long hot shower. It was supposed to make me feel better, and it did because I laughed and laughed to see your daddy climb in with me with all his clothes on.

At 3AM, I was given a shot to make me rest. Your dad and Aunt Dee would giggle as I would wake up and shout "ow ow ow" with each contraction and then fall back asleep.

At 9AM I got a really BIG shot called an "epidural" and then the nurses said I should try and push you out.

At 11:15AM Daddy saw your head when I pushed! The doctor told us your head was turned the wrong way to be born and manually worked you around to the right position.

At 1PM the doctor said "great pushing but Bear hasn't turned all the way and was well and truly stuck."

2PM, they said "Stop Pushing!" Sweetie, you were jammed in my pelvis. In case you've forgotten, let me remind you: Neither of us liked you there.

At 3PM, the emergency C-section began. It took 52 more minutes to free you. My body was really tired and the machines all were beeping and almost simultaneously, you were born and the doctors decided it was time for me to rest.

As they took you out of my tummy by your feet, you stretched out into the world. The doctor turned you right side up and you surprised her by lifting your head. Then you reached out and grabbed her around the neck. (Yes, Bear, like a hug) She had your handprint there for hours.

Your dad cut your cord and they harvested your stem cells to be donated for someone who needed them - because you didn't anymore. (You see? From the very start, your birth was a blessing.)

The people in white coats rubbed you, measured you, and wrapped you cozy in a blanket. Then your dad grabbed you up. I got to see you and you had dark blue eyes and big cheeks. Your dad held you close to me, close to our faces so you could see your mommy and daddy.

The nurses and doctors wanted to take you to the nursery but they just had to wait until I was stable before your dad consented to leave my side. Because, he was never about to leave yours.

Hours later, when I woke up in Recovery, your dad brought you to me again.

Finally, we really met.

I smelled you and touched you and memorized your face. For a long, long time the three of us rested on that bed together quietly, the way we still do.

On the day you were born, it was warm. The sky was blue with puffy white clouds. A doctor walked with your tiny handprint on her neck. The Cubs were winning in extra innings. Jane Addams would have been 140 years old...

And a miracle happened.

Was I the miracle?

Yes, Bear. You were. And you still are.

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Posted on September 05, 2006 at 10:25 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Overheard

August 08, 2006


In a conglomoration of all the things he has learned and wanted... this is the conversation I overheard him having in the Doctor's waiting room the other day. As I sat with my nose in a Golfing magazine while he talked to the mom of a new baby that was entrancing him, with her tiny toes sticking out from the carrier.

Bear: "Is she going to have brothers and sisters?"

OtherMom: "She already has one of each, they are older."

B: "Oh. I have lots of brothers and sisters. Lots and lots."

OM: "You do?"

B: "Yeah. In my mommy's tummy. But I'm the only one who ever got born."

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Posted on August 08, 2006 at 11:22 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Don't try this at home, folks. I'm a professional.

August 03, 2006


My nicknames for Bear are varied and used liberally. Two of the most common are "Sweet Pea" and "Sweetness".

The other day at the store, I started pushing down the aisle and called for Bear to follow; "C'mon Sweet Peaness," I said, unthinkingly combining the two.

He looked at me for a long, bland minute. And then shook his head. "Uh, Mommy?"

First uncomprehending. Then my mouth opened in a big circle as I realized what I'd said. Then a blush of apology. And then, as I walked away, I burst into hysterics.

Oh, I'm the baaaaaad mommy.

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Posted on August 03, 2006 at 04:16 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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The Day Off

June 21, 2006


Bear was sweet and helpful from 8am until 5pm.

As we were driving home from washing the car, both of us sopping wet in our clothes and laughing, I glanced in the rearview mirror at his happy face and said "wow, we're having a good day - huh?"

"Yeah, I figured we needed a day off from fighting."

5 going on 15, I tell you.

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Posted on June 21, 2006 at 04:39 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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The Education of a Bear

June 12, 2006


We chose Happy Montessori for many reasons, the most pressing being that he showed early signs of being ambidextrous. It runs in the male side of my family, and has led to all kinds of learning problems. I mentioned it to my son's first pediatrician, who informed me that it is an extremely rare condition to have at birth and Bear would eventually "show a side".

Guess what?

Yeah. Bear has never "shown a side". Dumbass expensive over-booked pediatricians. Should have dumped them right then and there.

Meanwhile, the OT testing he went through showed that his, indeed, naturally ambidextrous. And despite all the fabulous pre-writing work that Montessori Schools are known for (in terms of teaching the muscles in the hand to hold a pencil and work on the fine motor control) - Bear has switched back and forth so much that both his hands show the fine muscle control of about a child 2 years younger than his actual age. The tester told me that it's clear that he's split the work that was designed to foster one hand to being able to write across both his hands. Which sucks for Bear, he's so frustrated about his letters because he sees what his friends are able to do.

So I'm not exactly sure if we got that benefit we paid so much for. Which has been disheartening to both CD and I.

Meanwhile, Happy Montessori demanded that they see the OT testing results before they invite him back for next year.

I asked why and they couldn't give me a clear reason, other than they aren't sure if he should go back to Kindergarten (which would be age appropriate) or to the first grade (which is where many of his friends are going). CD and I said that of course he's going back to kindergarten, he needs the extra time to get the OT therapy for his fine muscle control.

We were supposed to meet with the school this week and bring the report. And I have been battling that, around and around in my gut.

The thing is - I don't know what options I have. The local public school is excreable. And I'm going to have to go back to work, because CD just hasn't found a job that can support us. Happy is the only private kindergarten that even thinks about sliding scale and scholarships - which is the only way we are going to be able to afford anything.

I don't know what to do.

As much as I have grown to mistrust Happy Montessori, logically it seems like the choice that keeps Bear in the most loving and supportive environment.

And we're down to the wire, right? I should just suck it up and release the report (which basically just says he needs fine motor therapy and eye testing) and let Happy do as they will...

Then why am I eyeing the phone, thinking of polite ways to call and say "Screw Off"?

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Posted on June 12, 2006 at 09:33 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Welcome to Parenting101

May 19, 2006


UPDATE:

SO, my neighbor had small bunny ears that I can dye, and I am looking for a feather duster tail... THANK YOU BJ, Suz, and Caltechgirl!


I got an email last night that I saw this morning - for the big end of the year thing at Happy Montessori, the kids in Bear's class are singing a song. Apparently, they can dress up as forest animals. Bear told me that he's going to be a fox.

The thing? Is tomorrow morning.

Anyone know where to find fox ears on the fly? (the children are not supposed to be wearing costumes, according to the note. Just regular clothes in appropriate colors, face paint, and ears or wings).

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Posted on May 19, 2006 at 07:34 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Birds and Bees

April 20, 2006


As we were leaving for school this morning, Bear excitedly pointed out two birds 'fighting' on the front lawn.

"Mommy!" he shouted, pointing.

Now, it should be said that Bear's class has two finches - Batman and Princess Leia - who laid 14 eggs last month. So you'd think... but, no.

"Uh, honey... they aren't fighting..." I murmured, hustling him into the van.

"Well, they're being loud!" He complained. "And the big bird isn't showing respect!"

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Posted on April 20, 2006 at 09:46 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Visit to the Past

April 19, 2006


OK (I write, as I nibble some MORE chocolate)... so the flip of going to hell is?

No, too easy.

But I did take Bear and CD to the Cathedral for Easter services. I hadn't been back in almost 10 years, since I quit.

I'd forgotten how beautiful the place is. Breathtaking.

It was Bear's first Communion. We practiced on Friday, the whole kaboodle. Time came, we got in line and up we went.

Priest gave Bear the wafer. He forgot to say "Amen", but being such a great kid he did say "Thank You".

He cupped the wafer in his hands all the way back to the pew. Finally, he looked left. Looked right. And nibbled it.

And immediately spit it out.

"Mommy!" Bear announced in a loud whisper. "This thing is NOT yummy!"

I practically laughed the wine out my nose.

CD was a certified angel. He tood Bear out a couple of times as the service drifted on for about an hour and a half. (Bear's internal "We're done" buzzer went off at 45 minutes.) The orchestra, choir, pagentry all entraced him for a bit but then he bagan to squirm mightily.

And when the lady behind us began to sing very loudly and off-key, poor Bear just about lost it. He has an incredible sensistivity for key and pitch -which he does NOT get from us - and CD swooped him out before our favorite red-headed critic actually turned around and said something. (And he would have.)

After services, I gave the guys a 2-cent tour. Secret gardens and passage ways and the elevator to my old office. It was all very nostalgic and somewhat lost in time. I felt detached for most of it, and then suddenly would realize I was misting up.

"Mommy!" Bear asked, marching down a hallway lined with photographs. "Do you know these people?"

"Some," I told him. Pointing out the Bishop, a few priests. Bear reached up and touched the frames and I lifted him into my arms for a hug.

Then we made our way out into the spring drizzle. Back to the car. Back to Dee's for lunch. Back to the now.

Although I will admit a bit of me is still there. Lost in ....

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Posted on April 19, 2006 at 06:41 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Too funny.

April 01, 2006


It rained here the last couple of nights - along with a thick sprinkling of thunder and lightning. As I came to bed, a particulary loud 'BOOM' shook the house.

From across the hall I heard his small, tired voice; "Mommy?"

"Yes, Bear?"

"Could you please tell God to turn it down? I'm trying to sleep here."

(I guess I'm the last one in the house still scared of thunderstorms, then!)

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Posted on April 01, 2006 at 08:39 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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In The Middle of the Night

March 20, 2006


So Bear likes Calvin and Hobbes. I am not sure he understands all the concepts, but he digs the tiger.

I gave CD a Calvin and Hobbes book last Christmas, and Bear will bring it to me and ask we read some of it together.

He loves the "unique" snowmen.

His favorite is the one where the one snowman is made to look like he's just bowled a strike with the other snowman's head. He giggles so hard at the one that he starts to snort.

Or the one where one snowman is eating snowcones and the snowman is lying face down with an ice cream scoop in his back.

I was checking on Bear just a minute ago, tucking his comforter around him. He's wearing his Spiderman jammies and then over it, one of CD's t-shirts (magical Daddy shirts made good sleepers). I stroked his still-a-little-chubby cheek and kissed his head.

He blinked up at me.

"Did it snow tonight?"

"No, sweetie. I think the clouds passed over," I whispered back. "No more snow this year."

"Poor Calvin," he mumbled. "No more snowmen." And he gave me a ghost of a grin before burrowing back to sleep.

God, thank you for my miracle Bear.

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Posted on March 20, 2006 at 11:36 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Bears say the darndest things

February 08, 2006


This afternoon, in the car:

Me: What do you think we should get Elia for her birthday?

Bear: A hairdryer.

Me: A... what?

Bear: A hair blower thing, you know? A Hair Dry-y-ER. Her old one is broken.

Me: Uh, it is?

Bear: Yes. We could get one at the place where, you know, we got my Transformer last time.

Me: Uh, Target?

Bear: Yes... and one of those coupons, too, so she can pick out something.

Me (Just dumfounded at this point, was it just last week that he thought a rock was a great gift?): You mean a gift certificate?

Bear: YES. That's what I meant. And I will paint her a nice card.

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Posted on February 08, 2006 at 06:32 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Paint the Sun

February 02, 2006


Me to Bear this morning: I'm really tired of gray skies, buddy. Wouldn't it be nice if we got some sun?

Bear to me: Well, Mommy. How about when I get home we'll paint the sun on a BIG piece of paper from the craft store and you can tape it on the window?

Me: Wow, that's a great idea, Bear. The only thing is that pictures don't glow and feel warm...

Bear: No, but we can put all the lights on and then you can hug me and we'll make cupcakes.

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Posted on February 02, 2006 at 11:35 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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She's Pissing Me Off

January 27, 2006


Bear's school, the highly expensive Happy Montessori School in Poshville, is really pissing me off.

Actually, it's the "Hi I have 4 advanced degrees" in-house learning specialist, Mary, that is doing the pissing. And I am just about ready to start fighting back.

So, she called today to find out if we've enrolled Bear in Occupational Therapy yet. We'd agreed at the meeting at the school last week that we would follow up on her recommendation that Bear get an OT evaluation and she was looking for status.

Mary has been working with Bear for about an hour each week for the past 3 months. She has been providing him with tutoring in reading and writing during school hours.

I told her about Bear's doctor's appointment on Wednesday. How Bear's pediatrician gave him all these milestone tests in the exam room - and passed with flying colors. Bear wrote his name legibly (with his left hand - with his right, he piled the letters vertically), draw shapes, numbers, and point out words by first-letter keying (She told Bear her first name was "Jane" and Bear looked around and correctly pointed out her name on her prescription pad by looking for a word that started with the 'J' sound.)

She was very impressed that on Tuesday, Bear's school buddy had told Bear hisphonenumber and Bear had written it down correctly and then, after school, had solemnly stood in my office and dialled the number so he could invite his buddy over to play. (Hey, that impressed me too)

(Insert joke about buying a 5 year-old his first cell phone here.)

The learning specialist huffed at me that, in her educated opinion, Bear is still having fine motor difficuties and problems getting himself situated in his space to write. She said that he'd had a lot of trouble getting small flashcards in and out of a box in the correct order and direction.

I reminded her that, as we told her last week, we've switched over to an HMO (to control our out-of-pocket healthcare costs). The pediatrician has to make the refferal in order to get the OT evaluation paid for by insurance.

And hey, I dutifully took Bear to the pediatrician's office just for this purpose. And the pediatrician is a good doctor. And I think it is actually a good sign that she wants to do some research before she makes the referral.

She snapped at me that she had to go and hung up on me.

When I picked up Bear today from school, I asked about the flashcards as part of our usual "how was your day" conversation on the ride home. Bear said that the learning specialist had accidentally dropped the cards in the hallway as they'd walked to her office and he'd helped her pick them up. He told me that she liked them to go in the box in a special way, so he'd had to take some out and put them back in again. And that the big kids had been coming in from recess and had been careful not to step on the cards.

And I'm like.... what the fuck?

Bear can actually shuffle cards - rudimentally, sure, but let me tell you - he is pretty good at it. So I am just completely confused now. CD told me that a couple of the other parents he was talking to during some volunteer time they were doing both had their kids in OT on the school's recommendation as well.

So I am Really. Confused.

And a slow burn starting.

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Posted on January 27, 2006 at 08:01 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Martin Luther King Day

January 16, 2006


So I was explaining to Bear about Martin Luther King while we waited in line at the water park.

Wait, let me back up.

Once upon a time, in our pre-Bear days, CD and I had volunteered for a business trip to Memphis. We drove down from dreary Chicago, into the hot sun.

In between visiting the ducks that waddle to the elevator at the Peabody Hotel and checking out the glorious kitsch that is Graceland, we visited the Lorraine Hotel (now a museum) - where Martin Luther King was killed.

We entered happy tourists; we left thoughtful and sad. I don't think, until we stood on the spot where he was shot, that either of us had ever really let the enormity of the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King's impact on the world really inhabit either of our consciousnesses. I mean, I know from my perspective I always just took him for granted as an American icon.

But he wasn't an icon, he was a man. Flawed and real and that much more amazing to think of it. Dr. King was only 39 years old when he died. He changed the world in such a short life. 35 when he won the Nobel Peace Prize. The night before he was shot, he'd given the "I've been to the mountain top" speech, that so resonated with mortality, with wisdom, with perseverance, with righteousness. And, as so many have noted, with a prescient text that still reverberts today:

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

I told Bear that Dr. King had lived in a time when how you looked determined where you could live, and where you could go, even what jobs you could have. I told him that Dr. King had walked in the front row of a revolution, that he had said that all people are equal, are humans. That he'd said that all people are sisters and brothers and should share the planet in peace, with opportunity for all.

We were waiting in line at the indoor water park when we were finishing up our conversation. Bear looked around.

He asked: Like this water park?

I said: Yes, like they had rules who would be allowed here.

He looked at me, completely and utterly disbelieving.

It's true, I assured him. When Dr. King was born, they had rules and it was all about how you looked on the outside. And the police put Dr. King in jail 30 times for saying that people should stick together, and protect each other's rights, and never be judged for what they are on the outside.

Bear reached up an touched his bright copper hair tentatively. His expression thoughtful, he glanced at all the people standing in line - people of every kind of description.

And as Bear lost himself in thought, I realized that in the pantheon of my parenting decisions - introducing Bear to the concept of racism and the Civil Rights movement while in line at a water park may have not been the brightest parenting decision I had ever made.

But then Bear huffed out a breath and gave me that deeply wise 5-year-old nod and said: Mommy, that's the dumbest thing I ever heard.

And I knew he got it.

Happy 75th Birthday, Dr. King.

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Posted on January 16, 2006 at 06:49 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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What a Bear believes

December 15, 2005


So, CD's from Iceland. Born and raised. And in Iceland, Christmas is celebrated not just with Santa but with the J贸lasveinar (YO-la-sway-nar).

To sum up: for about 900 years two evil trolls - Gryla and her second husband Leppal煤冒i, who live in a mountain cave - have been playing mean tricks on the folks of Iceland. About 500 years ago they had kids, lots and lots (some say around 60) little (like elves) and very strange male children. (Don't think Disney dwarves, these guys have a streak of scary in them).

Each year during mid-Advent (either 9 or 13 days before Christmas) Icelandic children the world over start putting their boot in their bedroom window. And each night, one of the strange and gnomish J贸lasveinar will leave a small gift for the child (if he or she has been good) and play a trick on the adults of the house (like steal the ham or slam a door).

There is lot about this season that people celebrate. I've tried to focus on the generousity of St. Nicholas of Myra, the miracle of Chanukah, and the blessing of Jesus and his birth story .... and, the rest? Well, we've let Bear be exposed to it all - from Kwanzaa carols to the science behind the solstice.

Bear will go his own way, as always, and he has happily blended Santa and Rudolph and Jesus Christ and the J贸lasveinar and Frosty the Snowman together with our practiced traditions like Advent supper and Christmas crackers (the kind that pop) and decorating the tree and lighting the sacred candles and the Christmas pagent into a his own, unique, mythology of the season.

All of which he firmly, and deeply, believes.

And from his faith in it all, CD and I are constantly reminded what the season truly means. Bear reflects to us the miracle of faith. Of believing in things that you can not prove. In things that make no sense. In things outside yourself. In goodness. In love. In elves. In Christmas.

Some grown-ups keep that lesson close to their hearts all the time. But CD and I - what with all the busy running around and ranting and being stressed and all - well, we misplaced our map back to Whoville along with the frigging checkbook some weeks ago....

This morning was the 3rd night of the J贸lasveinar. At 4AM, CD heard Bear moving around and went into his room to check what was going on. He found Bear out of bed by the window, excitedly hugging the gift he'd found in the boot.

"A Transformer! Scattorshot!" he crowed. "The J贸lasveinar knew I loved Transformers, Daddy! He knew it!"

CD told him that he had to leave it until morning and go back to bed. Reluctantly, Bear gave up the toy to his father and climbed back up into his bed. He slipped back under the covers, and CD kissed him good night.

While CD pulled the door closed, he saw Bear lean towards the window with the empty boot in it. He stood, watching, making sure Bear wasn't about to sneak back out of bed.

And Bear wasn't.

As CD watched, Bear whispered "Thank you" to the window where the J贸lasveinar had been. Just in case he was still out there, just in case he could hear.

CD, who'd remembered that he'd forgotten to buy gifts the day before. CD who had grumbled and grunted and run out to the store... found himself misty-eyed outside his son's door....

And when he told me, later, I felt it, too. And we both remembered what we'd forgotten in all our worry about jobs and money and lawyers...

It's Christmas.

And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
"Maybe Christmas ... perhaps ... means a little bit more!"

And what happened then...?
Well ... in Who-ville they say
That the Grinch's small heart
Grew three sizes that day!
~ Dr. Suess (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
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Posted on December 15, 2005 at 10:06 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Naked

December 09, 2005


So. A girlfriend of mine was talking the other week about some kids that she knows and how they see their parents naked on a fairly regular basis (I guess the parents sleep in the nude and the kids are very casual about that and it shocked my friend). She told me about it in that "Can you believe those evil troll parents?!" tone of voice and vented about how it was inappropriate, and how some people just didn't know about setting up boundaries.

I gave her the stink eye. As best I could over the phone. Perhaps not that effective, but the thought was there.

"Bear sees me naked just about every day," I told her.

"He does not," she denied, a bit of the nasty in her voice.

"Okay, think about it. We got one bathroom in our house and it sits between the two bedrooms."

"Oh, like you don't close the door."

"Seriously. Every morning I take a shower, and I leave the door open because CD has already left for work so I need to be able to hear the Bear," I point out. "And sure as God made little green apples, the sound of my shower wakes him up with an urge to pee and in he comes. And you know that he's going to stick his face around the shower curtain to make sure it's me in there. No matter how many times I tell him not to do that."

"You need to make sure he knows that it is wrong to peep on you in the shower."

"Wrong?" If I knew how to verbally lift an eyebrow, just one, I so would have.

"Wrong. After a certain age it is wrong to be naked in front of your children, especially those of the opposite sex."

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why is it wrong?"

"Are you serious?"

"Yes. Explain it to me."

We were quiet for a long moment. "He isn't respecting your boundaries," she said.

"Yes, and that IS a problem. But not the naked. The naked is not the problem. Bear loves to be naked, he thinks his body is a miracle, and we're all for that. Bodies are miracles."

"By 5, though..."

"What? Are we talking sexuality or nudity? Because they are different topics. Someone tries to get sexual with my kid, and I'm taking a cleaver to them. But I think that the nudity level we have in the family is really quite healthy. We happen to be fairly modest people in a house full of windows so it's not like we're prancing about doing interpretive ballet in our birthday suits. Well, not CD and I - Bear would be naked all the time if let him but that's just not feasible."

"So you admit there are standards?"

"What is there to admit? I mean, naked because you're changing or bathing is very appropriate. Sleeping naked when it is 100 degrees out is more than healthy - it's a necessity. Naked because CD and I are being intimate? That's completely unacceptable. Do we flaunt our bodies? No. But I don't lock Bear out of my room in the mornings when I am getting dressed, either."

"And that's teaching him not to respect the privacy of his body or yours. You're desensitizing him to sexuality," she accused.

"Are you kidding me?"

"I'm serious, Elizabeth."

This has just been bugging me ever since. Does nakedness hurt children after a certain age? And if so, why?

Reminder....

It's "de-lurking Friday", so please let me know you were here and I'll do the same for you! Thanks.

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Posted on December 09, 2005 at 02:02 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Signposts

November 23, 2005


parisisgnposts.jpg In Paris, there were these great old-fashioned signposts. Crazy roads with no lanes and drivers with homicidal bents, sure. But great signposts.

Eiffel Tower thisaway. Notre Dame thataway.

I wish life had these kinds of signs.

Bear loves Happy Montessori. And being non-dominant (they used to say ambidextrous) and learning all his fine motor skills with both sides thankyouverymuch, we wanted him in Montessori. An educational approach that is designed to be non-pressured, strong language focus, and most of all, child-centered.

Because his birthday is September 6th, Bear missed the public school deadline for being in Kindergarten this year. We could tell that Bear wasn't quite ready, in any event. Since Happy Montessori doesn't have to follow the same guidelines as public schools, Miss G - his sweet triathalon-running pigtail-wearing teacher of 3 years - talked with us and suggested that we move Bear into the all-day program that Montessori has instead of Kindergarten this year and then just keep Bear there for 2 years if we felt he wasn't ready for first grade next year. She said that this way he would spend his afternoons in the company of his favorite group of kids - the one he'd been in class with since he was 2.

It was with a conflicted heart that we decided to allow it.

A few weeks after Bear started staying in the afternoons; Miss G called me and said that Bear was struggling a little with retaining his morning lessons into the afternoons. Retention not being a big issue that I had seen at home ("Mom, 6 months ago you said I could take swimming lessons....") I chalked it up to stamina - going from a 3-hour day to a 6-hour one.

Then she called a couple of weeks later and said that Bear's non-dominance meant neither writing hand had the fine-motor development of most of his peers and that she was concerned. I reminded her that this was one of the reasons why we decided he was getting two years of the 'kindergarten' program. At home, Bear is happy to draw and paint and fill up a sketch book with his letters ... using either hand. He is excited by his growing abilities to make what is on the paper reflect the ideas in his head.

Then she called and said that the schools full-time learning specialist (3 Masters degrees and 18 years experience) would be spending some time each week with Bear to help evaluate his learning style and see if there were better ways to be presenting Bear with Language skills. CD and I discussed it and called her back with our agreement. As Dee told us, it doesn't hurt to learn as much as we can about Bear.

Then, yesterday, Mrs. Quilt - the learning specialist - called. For an hour, she made recommendations. Occupational Therapist to assess his non-dominance and help him develop his fine motor skills. OK. Mrs. Q herself will spend 3 sessions a week in Bear's classroom as a helper, seeing how he learns and helping present information in new ways as one of the "helpers" that often join his classroom (like student teachers, parent helpers, and other specialists). She is working with a couple of other children in Bear's class so it should all flow well. OK fine.

And by "OK fine" I mean; "What the frelling frell is going on?"

He's been in an all-day program for all of 7 weeks and what? He's being covertly watched by a shuffling crowd of All-but-thesis types taking notes and nodding vigorously?" I mean, I'm ALL - make that WE'RE ALL - for our kid getting every scrap of loving guidance where he needs it but don't you think he's going to NOTICE HE'S A LAB RAT?! This is a bright kid. He is very aware of his environment. Is all this to the good for him? Or damaging?

Anyone know? Anyone? Bueller?

So last night, CD and I sat, shell-shocked. We asked Dee for her counsel. I mean, it is nursery school. Expensive and well-respected nursery school, but still. How many specialists should be intervening in the life of a child who isn't even kindergarten age?

Bear writes his own name as well as MOM and a couple of other words (with both hands), sight-recognizes several words in books, draws really great representational pictures, can do simple adding and subtracting, has a spoken vocabulary far above his age level, and can round kick the stuffing out of his karate teacher. At home and with friends, he seems right on par.

The thing that's scares us the most has actually nothing to do with his cognitive skills or learning method. It's that he's sensing there is something wrong.

In class, Bear has begun "masking" - pretending he can do things that he hasn't actually mastered yet. Like "reading" starter books that some of his peers are reading. This, everyone agrees, is a sign he feels pressured.

But no one knows - pressured from his realization that something is expected of him that he is not doing, or pressured from his internal desire to be at the same skill level as the older 5 year-olds and 6 year-olds in his class?

I am baffled, flummoxed, and feel a little railroaded. We've decided that our next step is to demand an in-person meeting with the school folks (and we're bringing Dee). Maybe then we'll get better answers about the problems we're trying to address and if this level of intervention is necessary.

Meanwhile, CD and I look at each other and try to act calm. Maybe all this is just responsible and proportional on the part of the school. I don't know. There are no concrete right directions, no pretty signposts anywhere we look...

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Posted on November 23, 2005 at 10:58 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Follow Me

November 02, 2005


That song by Uncle Kracker came on the radio, and I didn't think to change the station until it was too late.

From the backseat, Bear's sweet voice; "Mommy, what's this song about?"

This is a very common question. And usually, I answer. And honestly. But this time, I was truly stumped. Go on, YOU play "Scruples" with a precocious preschooler.

Me, trying not to show fear. They can smell fear. No fear: "Uh, what do you think it's about, sweet pea?"

Follow me, everything is alright...I'll be the one to tuck you in at night...

Bear: "Oh, I know! It's about a babysitter. A special one like Elia who comes all the time and takes me to the park! And makes me take a nap, but only when I'm tired!"

(There's a bullet dodged)

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Posted on November 02, 2005 at 09:53 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Sick Day

October 28, 2005


I was feeling a little punkish this morning, Scratchy throat, tired. Nothing major.

Bear crawled into bed with me, and I kept saying that we had to get ready for school.

After about 30 minutes of that, he finally touched my forehead and smiled.

"Mommy, I have a better idea. How about we stay home instead?"

"And what would we do?"

"Watch Scoobie Doo. And eat soup."

"Oh," I thought. And really, doesn't that sound good? "OK," I agreed.

He grinned.

(Just so you know, he DID make me icecube-jellybean-carrot soup for lunch.)

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Posted on October 28, 2005 at 12:48 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Unbehaving

October 25, 2005


So for those of you keeping score at home, the 4 stitches are out and the lump was benign. Yay for benign.

A quick Bear story: The other day, Bear came home and told us one of his classmates, Elliot, had to sit with the teacher at lunch. When we asked Bear why, he responded; "Well, that's a long story. But what happened was, Elliot had his unbehaving on."

Continue reading "Unbehaving"
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Posted on October 25, 2005 at 05:01 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Home again, Home again

September 28, 2005


We're home, all three of us.

It's not Strep. It's not Kowasaki. They don't what it is, just some virus. And all the doctors sing the same song (Doo-wop, Doo wop) that 6 days of 104-ish temperatures are not normal.

They pulled fluids, are running some tests. But the upshot is that they let us take Bear home. (If his fever climbs again, or if he's not better by Friday, or if he gets one of 2 freaky rashes, then it's back to Children's.)

Bear is curled up with his dad in front of Scooby Doo. Thank God for our blessings. And thank everyone for the good thoughts and prayers. I don't think we've ever been so scared in our lives, and I can't begin to describe what it means to know that people are so kind.... (oh, can't talk. I'm verklempt.)

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Posted on September 28, 2005 at 06:16 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Road Trip


Well, we're off to the hospital.

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Posted on September 28, 2005 at 10:17 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Positively Zen

September 27, 2005


I'm begining to feel like a walking train wreck.

My new manager called to inform me (while on leave to take care of my son!) that he was temporarily demoting me. Only in title. It's hoped by those "on high" that this would calm the crazy customer who, despite my project being in Green Status and on time and budget, has asserted that he doesn't feel like I understand his priorities.

Internal customer, mind you. We all work for the same company. Oh, and same rank as me. But let's put a pin in that.

My Executive told him that people don't get changed around on her team because of feelings. She demanded that he provide some kind of paper trail showing that I was doing a poor job.

Of course, no such paper trail exists.

Then, out of the other side of her mouth, she told my manager to demote me. Keep my pay, responsibilities the same. Just get me out of the guy's sight.

So, back where we started. My manager called to inform me...

After a moment of disbelief, I got good and pissed. He told me that I should take some time to think about it, since I was tired and had "family distractions". I told him that if he attempted to demote me, in any way, that I would go to the mats. I would go to HR, I would go to my operational management, and I would go loudly. That he better be bulletproof, because no one was messing with my professional career and reputation.

Wow, he said. I admire your spunk.

Yes. He really said that.

Meanwhile, we took Bear off the meds to see if he'd turned the corner.

His temperature is 104.9.

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Posted on September 27, 2005 at 05:56 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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The Heat Came Back, The Very Next Day...


Bear's 103~104ish (f) degree fever has persisted now since begining on Friday.

I've learned more about childhood fevers in the last few days than I thought there was to know. Turns out that the fever itself is not a bad thing, and may be a tool Bear's body is using to fight whatever infection he has. And when he gets a drop in temperature (thank you, Tylenol), he becomes "himself" again - talking, joking, wanting to read stories.

But then the heat comes back. He fades away, before our very eyes. At the doctor's office, "New Doctor" (ND) heard a heart murmur that she says should go away once he is well. More than that, his hands shake, he gets a couple of red spots, he whimpers, he vomits.

The ND says this is OK - not dangerous. Yeah, but that shaking and whimpering looks scary to us. It rips our still-beating hearts from our body as we cling to the side of his bed, whispering to him that everything is going to be OK.

Then we slip him some more Tylenol and walk on eggshells until it kicks in.

The problem here is that we're on Day 5 without a known cause (other than a fair belief that it is not Meningitis) or an end in sight. If he doesn't turn the corner soon, then it's off to the hospital.

I got this from the Blue Cross site:

My child has a fever and no other symptoms. What's wrong?

When a child has a high fever that isn't accompanied by a runny nose, a cough, vomiting, or diarrhea, figuring out what's wrong can be difficult. Some viral infections, such as roseola, cause three days of very high fever followed by a rash of small red bumps. More serious infections, like meningitis, urinary tract infections, or bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream), also may trigger a high fever without other symptoms. But infections aren't the only triggers for fever; tumors, autoimmune diseases, and certain drug reactions can cause it. For these reasons, call your pediatrician if your child has a high fever but no other symptoms.

Yeah, we're all kinds of calm.

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Posted on September 27, 2005 at 10:51 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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The Lost Weekend

September 26, 2005


I spoke too soon, about the bad week being over.

Friday afternoon, and as I pulled into the mall parking lot Bear started to complain about tingling poking feelings in his legs. Next thing we knew, we were hustling out of Lowes with a son with red cheeks and glassy eyes.

His fever has hit 104 several times and his only other symptom was sleepiness and a headache. We started grappling with the fear that something might really be wrong.

The on-call doctor said if his fever didn't break then we needed to bring him into the hospital - possibly for a spinal tap to rule out Meningitis. At the last minute, his skin grew slightly cooler. Within the hour, his temp had dropped a few degrees and he was looking like his old self.

Reprieve.

But then last night the scary heat came back.

I won the coin toss, so I stayed home with him today. CD is at work, half asleep on his keyboard. I'm not much better, but the only one relying on me is Bear. Who has had a tall glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and some Motrin and is actually playing right now in a (you guessed it) nest on my bed.

In a couple of hours, we're heading over to the doctor's. The NEW doctor.

Trial by fire.

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Posted on September 26, 2005 at 11:39 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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The Letter

September 23, 2005


bearandCD.JPG It's been a tough week - the low point being last Friday, when Bear's pediatrician called him 'obese'. For the record? She wasn't looking at him at the time, she was looking at something called a "BMI Chart". A tool she had not explained to us; with flaws she did not discuss. Which, on top of everything else, she used improperly.

First we dealt with the fallout to Bear (he was actually very reasonable in accepting that the doctor wanted to make sure he ate the right foods. He is pretty confident in his choices, but agreed that we could cut down the french fries.)

Then we dealt with our personal fallout. I can't speak for CD, but what kept me churning was that I had known she was wrong, but didn't do anything to stop her.

My regret is that I should have stopped her, you know? I should have interrupted her bad self and gotten my son out of there. I should have scrawled "Respect" on a sign and jumped up on the reception desk, holding it aloft.

I am ashamed of myself for not fighting back in the moment.

And?

I am ashamed of her.

Today I wrote a letter, explaining to her and to all the doctors in her practice why we will no longer be using their services. I mentioned that we were discussing it - me and the parents of the 22 other children at Bear's party - and discovered that lo! and behold! there were two other parents that had quit the same practice for similar reasons. And one other parent who was using the practice but got recommendations for another one based on our conversation.

I said that a doctor of children has a special responsibility to see children as individuals. To model and teach them respect for themselves, and pride in good health - which is not a number but a state of being.

I said that my son was not a pig at the fair to be weighed, measured and talked over. And that if a practice of doctors dedicated to children thought that was acceptable, then I would challenge each and every one of them to look deep in their hearts about their choice of profession.

Before they went bankrupt.

Or worse, did more damage to the patients in their care.

All that's left now, is to find a stamp.

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Posted on September 23, 2005 at 10:58 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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One more for the road

September 22, 2005


ElizabethandBrother.JPGSince his older friends are begining to lose their teeth, Bear has a lot of questions.

Today I dug up this old picture of me (and my brother) and showed him how even his mommy lost her baby teeth, once upon a time.

(See, Bear? Nothing to be afraid of. See how I have a lost tooth in the picture but look at my mouth now... it grew in!)

Bear looked at the picture.

Then at me.

Bear: Is this really you?

Me: Yes, Bear, of course.

Bear: Wow. You got WAY more older. I mean, way way way way way...

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Posted on September 22, 2005 at 08:39 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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This Moment

September 20, 2005


Bear9months.JPGI remember the first time he tried CD's infamous ketchup spaghetti. I was sure Bear had more sophistication, even at 9 months old, than to like it.

I was terribly, terribly wrong.

Turns out, like his father, he thinks ketchup is a food group.

I never thought I would forget that day. When he grabbed chopped-up strands of pasta with two chubby, fumbling hands and shoved the food in the general direction of his mouth.

Oh! We exclaimed. The coordination! The concentration! Our boy, he is a genius!

See the way he gets almost some of it in that mouth?

And about the 3rd helping, we cut him off. Wondering what so much of a new food would do to his immature system. He tried screaming, shouting, and grabbing. And then he sadly realized that there would be no more.

Seems like yesterday.

It is going too fast, Bear's childhood.

BearBDay.JPGSunday was his first big-boy birthday party. He'd picked a local children's gym and invited everyone I would let him invite.

It was a great party.

A party attended by kids of all shapes, colors, genders, and sizes.

Differences that are, to Bear, nothing. Because my son doesn't know there is a world that says otherwise. (And idealistically, I wish he never does)

All he saw were friends.

My son is 5. And he is amazing.

He jumped, and balanced, and climbed with the rest of the kids. He was a copper-haired blur, laughing and stretching and running. He climbed up onto the edge of the ball pit, and dove in - fearless and giggling.

He radiated joy.

And I realized, in this moment, the world he knows is fair and just. People in trouble are helped. People in danger are protected. People hurt are all given the best healing available. And bad guys wear distinctive clothing so you know which ones they are.

In this moment, littering is a serious crime.

In this moment, my son loves everything about himself. His parts and his thoughts delight him. His own opinion of himself is strong and confident and happy. He shows and expects respect.

In this moment, my son has faith in Santa Claus and the Yule Elves. He is entranced by fireflies and rainbows and hermit crabs. He dances whenever there is music. He sings whenever he knows the words. His mistakes leave no scars only lessons.

And at one point he came running out of the gym to get himself some water. As he gulped, he leaned against me.

And I held firm in my spot, to support him.

He knew I would. He counted on me to.

Because I am Mommy.

And then he ran off again.

I guess i have been obsessing on what the doctor said last Friday, and that I have somehow put my son's health at risk. Because Dee walked up and wrapped her arm around me and whispered in my ear to look around. To register that Bear looked just like the rest of his friends. To accept, once and for all, that my mother's compass knows True North and it is OK to tell even an upscale doctor that they are full of it.

I nodded, and wiped away the tears.

"Elizabeth, look around," she urged. "See Bear? See him? See how healthy, and happy he is? See his world? See this moment?"

And as embaressed as I was to be weeping up at my son's big boy party... I understood.

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Posted on September 20, 2005 at 02:48 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Hello, I'm your pediatrician. You'll be firing me today. And maybe suing me.

September 17, 2005


Crappy week just took a nosedive. One of my favorite bloggers was in town, and I missed meeting him (argh!) because, you know, it was one thing and then another. And then it was Bear's 5-year checkup at the swanky, prestigious, downtown pediatricians' practice that we still use even though we moved out of the city 4 years ago.

Before I talk about what happened, I want to share my son with you. These are two pictures of him, taken in the last couple of months. One helping his dad, CD, push a lawnmower while wearing his special superhero helmet. Another pretending to be a jet plane in crazy game of tag with a bunch of friends at a park.
bearbiggi.jpg
Bearplane.jpg
This gorgeous redhead? Is Bear.

So the pediatrician does all the normal things at first: height, weight, blood pressure, and a solid inventory of parts. She scolds us because Bear can not recite his full name, address, and phone number on demand - most of which he knows but he was acting a little frozen.

Then she sat down and began talking about food choices. We explained that Bear was a picky eater and, in fact, we supplement his meals with a vitamin drink as was recommended to us a couple of years ago. (Bear chimed in with his favorite foods - carrots, apples with peanut butter, watermelon, pasta, meatballs, french fries, lingonberry jam (yes, he's Scandavian), pancakes and sausage, and grapes).

She sighed, and, ignoring Bear's list, pushed us about how we feed Bear. She wanted to know about the fats we give him, the sugars, and the starches. She gave me a fake smile and asked about the amount of butter we used on Bear's bagel - and Bear explained he hated butter and ate bagels plain.

We could all tell something was wrong, and grew tense.

Then she started talking about how Bear had gained more weight last year than he had grown in height. I looked at her, confused. She looked me up and down. And then she told me that we needed to stop making irresponsible choices for Bear. That annual BMI (Body Mass Indicators) tracking is now recommended by American Academy of Pediatrics. And that it was showing scientifically the undisputed fact that Bear's BMI number is (I just had to double-check) 16.7, which is 80% and thus Bear is obese.

CD and I gave each other a confused look, and then CD took Bear out of the room.

I babbled that I didn't understand. That Bear is extremely active, wears normal sizes, and that except for a little pudge on his tummy that goes away at each growth burst and big chipmunk cheeks (which are a genetic trait in my family) - he is, (in my completely objective opinion) ... perfect.

She gave me a stern look.

I tried to rise above the dread like a rock chafing my guts.

I explained that we had carefully avoided making food a battle ground, that we let him not only have input into his meals but also a responsibility in helping prepare them. That we severely limit convenience foods except on rare occasions. That we still use a small salad plate for him, so his portions are the right size. That he looks the same now, in proportions, as he has since he was 2 - and the same as most of the kids in his class.

I was babbling, and finally she interrupted me.

It was clear she felt that I had nothing valuable to say - I am overweight and I would, OBVIOUSLY, make my child overweight unless she stepped in and managed the situation. (And while we're making me the demonic pusher of fat, let's also ignore my tall, healthy husband and his influence completely).

The doctor then explained that she was prescribing a low-carb diet for Bear (for a 5 year old!) and wanted him back in her office in 3 months to make sure he had either stopped gaining or was losing weight.

On the way home, I wondered if I was just upset because I didn't like what the doctor had to say to the point that I might be rejecting a very important diagnosis. So in the car home, I called two family doctors and a noted child psychologist - all of whom know Bear.

They each consoled me that my son is in perfect health. That BMI's on children - especially as young as 5 years old - are flawed at best and that a respected panel had said so just a few months ago.

They pointed out that Bear is active, strong, healthy, has a stable body type, good eating habits, and emphatically re-iterated to me that he is NOT obese.

That there IS an alarming trend of overweight children in America who forge poor habits at a young age and then have to struggle with lifelong issues. But that Bear is FINE - in fact, the rosy picture that pediatricians should be striving for - no issues one way or another.

(Me? I was a perfectly active, healthy, and small kid. Got my bad habits the old-fashioned way. In college.)

I heard what they were saying, and it echoed what both CD and I feel in our gut. But it didn't stop me from crying, and hanging on to CD, and asking him if I'd been a bad mother for not pushing more steamed fish on Bear.

That pediatrician is SO fired. How could someone say these things? How? WHat gave her the right to be.... like that???? I mean, isn't my child supposed to be more individual than the current hysterical trend????

Excuse me, I am still so upset I want to scream.

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Posted on September 17, 2005 at 12:49 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Guilt

September 14, 2005


Bear got sad today, telling me how much he would miss the our "Big Blue House". He's listed the things he doesn't want to leave, and it's been just gutting me.

On the one hand, he is eager to go.

On the other, he clings to it all - because it is all he is ever known.

So tonight found me, sitting on the kitchen floor crying. I was frustrated, unable to find the cheese shredder. Because I have the worst kitchen in Illinois. The thing only has two cabinets, with narrow openings, and I can never lay my hands on anything without pulling out a pile of stuff. And it's just been a day, you know? A day. And I cheered myself up thinking about a new kitchen and being able to cook - really cook. And not race out to a restaurant at the least possible provocation.

Then I looked at my sad, forlorn son. Telling me how much he was going to miss the tree in our yard.

And now guilt is flowing through my veins.

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Posted on September 14, 2005 at 07:17 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Revisiting the nest...

September 12, 2005


We made the decision recently to cut back the hours of Elia, our longtime babysitter.

CD changed his work schedule to 7AM-3PM, which means that I am now doing both drop-off (8:20AM) and pick-up (11:30AM) at Bear's Montessori (as well as picking up Elia on the way home).

That will reduce Elia's daily appearance from 6+ hours to 4 hours a day. Writing it down makes it seem like a lot of work for a little payback, but in addition to the monetary savings (about $350 a month) there is the flexibility for Bear's schedule (Elia doesn't drive, which means those afternoon playdates with his classmates were rarely something I could agree to) as well as the overall goal of lessening Bear's dependance on "MyElia", as he calls her.

Between her other job at her brother's restaurant and her new boyfriend, Elia readily agreed to the reduction of hours and offered to stay flexible if we needed it. So this morning began the new schedule...

At 6:30AM, CD carried Bear from his bed into our bed and set the alarm for 7:30AM. He kissed us both and headed out the door.

For the next hour, I found myself snuggled, climbed on, patted, and tickled as Bear enjoyed being in the "big bed" in the morning. (So much for sleep). At one point, I got up and visited the bathroom. As I stepped back into my bedroom, I saw that Bear had confiscated all the pillows, except one left for me. He'd built a fort for himself, his blue eyes peeking above the top.

I collapsed in laughter.

It has been a while since the Bear built a nest....

Continue reading "Revisiting the nest..."
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Posted on September 12, 2005 at 01:28 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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On The Day Your Were Born

September 06, 2005


Soon enough, I will talk about how we went househunting and crunched numbers this weekend. How we celebrated the end of the summer. How a room finally got walls, and how fragile a trust can be. How we continued to wait on pins and needles. But now? Now is for something more important....

Because today is the anniversary of a miracle.

This is the story we tell every year on this day. You may remember it from last year. But of course, the telling changes a little as the years go by....

Continue reading "On The Day Your Were Born"
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Posted on September 06, 2005 at 10:34 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Crossroads

August 30, 2005


We have been weighing our priorities. Bear has decided we need a second floor. Of course, he's also decreed that he only should use toothpaste on Sundays. Also? Naps on Tuesdays, but only if he's tired first and I make him a sippy cup of chocolate Instant Breakfast - heavy on the chocolate.

Furthermore, he feels any new house should have a bedroom for Nana and another one for his Auntie Dee - who he wants to marry when he grows up. Because Police Officers are real people when they aren't working and plus he's going to be an Archeologist Police Officer. And a daddy.

One of my former bosses here at Mega asked me today if I would follow him join his team at our offices in Australia for a couple of years. He would sponsor the visas for CD and I. He needs strong PM's, and he's offered this before - and I am sorely tempted. But it would mean going into an office every day. Oh. And being half a PLANET away from my family and friends. And that snow I like so much? Yeah, not so much.

I look around, and realize that my impotent anger at being stuck in a house that doesn't work is fading. I see the future as possibility now. It helps soothe some of the bruised parts of me.

I looked at CD last night and said "With the money we'll get from the sale of this house, we could just bum around the world with Bear."

"You mean a vacation? Or a month?"

I blinked and thought. "No, I mean, for a year."

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Posted on August 30, 2005 at 08:57 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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I guess he's glad to be home

August 22, 2005


Me: Good Morning.

Bear:
Good Morning! (Bounce! Bounce! Bounce!)

Me: Uh, what are you doing up so (glance at clock) freakishly early?

Bear:
It's a BEAUTIFUL day, Mommy! I'm really excited! Can we start now?

Me: Uh, sure.

Bear:
Yay!

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Posted on August 22, 2005 at 08:54 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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He's a Breast Man

August 21, 2005


Me and the Bear are hanging out tonight. Other than a long trip to the town zero-depth water park, zippedee has gotten done today. CD's off at some work emergency.

Curled up on the couch, watching Power Rangers - but not an episode with the mass-murderer in it. And out of nowhere, he sticks his head up my t-shirt and rests his face between my breasts.

At some point, I'm going to wonder what triggered my almost-five-year-old to regress....

Me: Hey, what doing?

Bear: Nothing.

Me: Then why is your head up my shirt?

Bear: Because I like your breasties.

Me: That's nice, sweetie. But your head belongs somewhere else.

Bear: Where?

Me: Anywhere else (rearranging him).

Bear: I miss your milk.

Me: Hmmm?

Bear: When I was a baby, I drank milk from your breasts.

Me: Uh, yes. Yes, you did.

Bear: Why did I have to stop?

Me: You didn't have to, honey. It was just time, and you let me know you were excited to do other things.

Bear: Like what?

Me: Uh, walk?

Bear: Oh. OK. And help pick tomatoes?

Me: Uh, sure. You want to go do that now?

Bear: Yes!

*whew*

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Posted on August 21, 2005 at 07:59 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Don't you wisht y'd go on forever?

July 25, 2005


farmtrip0705.jpg
We started traveling with him almost from the moment he was born, so I never hear things like "are we there yet?". But he's a little kid with a little bladder, so I did hear things like "I got to go potty" - and by that, he means now.

But the path to my friend's house in western Illinois was decidedly not paved with McDonald's. It was almost an hour on country roads once we exited the highway; it was farms and fields and cows and corn and, yes, at one point I think I saw a surrey with the fringe on top.

Luckily, we did keep finding potties just in time.

Then, finally, we found the "s" curve at the bottom of my directions. The nearly-hidden driveway that pulled up the steep hill. And we came to a stop right in front of the red barn. Bear looked at me and announced (as he eagerly pulled off his seat belt) "Mom! I like this place!"

5 rampaging boys made immediate friends. Through dog licks, kitten scratches, water fights, a wasp sting, bruises, running, screaming rounds of tag, tears, giggles, sharing, not sharing, stops for snacks and clothing changes, and the periodic shout to behave from my friend or I.... it was a wonderful time.

She and I had hours to visit, to chat or just sit and sip, to prepare dinner and do the chores of life, to marvel at how far our lives have come since college so long ago.

It was a whole 'nother day by the time I pulled into our driveway - in more ways than one.

By then, many decisions had begun to settle in my heart. As I watched CD carry our sleeping son to bed, the chubby hands instinctively wrapping into his father's hair, I knew the magic of the trip had worked on me. As I followed behind with the blankie and the luggage into the cool rooms, I knew the words would keep.

I took a deep breath, already missing the country air.

Now comes the work of setting vision to action. But in that moment, I was still in the medicinal peace of a day away. To a place I hope to go back again, soon.

When we hit that road, hell fer leather,
Cats and dogs'll dance in the heather,
Birds and frogs'll sing all together and the toads will hop!
The wind'll whistle as we rattle along,
The cows'll moo in the clover,
The river will ripple out a whispered song,
And whisper it over and over:
Don't you wisht y'd go on forever?
Don't you wisht y'd go on forever?
Don't you wisht y'd go on forever and ud never stop
In that shiny, little surrey with the fringe on the top!
- written by Oscar Hammerstein II, music by Richard Rodgers, originally from the musical "Oklahoma!" (1943).

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Posted on July 25, 2005 at 11:57 AM and filed under: In My Life
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God and the Angels

July 20, 2005


This has been a very dry summer but today we got some massive thunderhead action and finally, after hours of opressive humidity, we got rain.

I was running with Bear to the van after picking him up from camp, the sky opening up and the wind buffeting us. We held hands as we jogged to the parking lot and he shouted to me that the rain was good. That God and the Angels were watering the flowers.

"And the tomatoes," I said.

"Well," he yelled. "Maybe not the tomatoes. Just the flowers. And the grass."

"But not my tomatoes? Or the basil?"

"No! God and the Angels like chocolate!"

Go figure.

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Posted on July 20, 2005 at 04:27 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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In the blink of a eye

July 12, 2005


The last time we took Bear to the doctor's, we were still in the position of translating and advocating for him. The Dr. asked where it hurt, and Bear would point to his throat, and CD or I would say "Well, he began running a fever on Staurday and then yesterday he started having trouble swallowing..."

This morning, we touched the future again. As we did the first time someone rang the doorbell looking to play with Bear, as we did the first time we dropped him off at carpool instead of parking and walking him into his classroom.

He answered all the doctor's questions.

He knew how old he was, and where it hurt, and that he didn't want the doctor to use a tongue depressor ('They make me sick'). He knew when to lift his shirt and suck in a breath, and how to hold quiet and still for his blood pressure.

All CD and I did was nod.

She was a new doctor for Bear, but by the end of the visit he was complimenting her. He told her how he used to not like planes, but now they were fine. And that maybe he felt the same way about doctor visits.

When we filled out the paperwork, CD asked me how much Bear had weighed and how long he'd been at birth.

I couldn't believe he'd forgotten.

To CD, it's been almost 5 years. So much has happened and now, here we are, parents of a rough and tumble preschooler on the verge of so much independance.

To me, it was all just yesterday that he was a wriggling curious infant with curious blue eyes and a shock of red hair. I look and listen to our son with awe, and realize how much has happened in the blink of an eye.

Which is probably why I misted up tonight when "100 Years" came on the radio.

The sea is high
And I'm heading into a crisis
Chasing the years of my life

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Posted on July 12, 2005 at 03:44 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Just a Post before I go

June 24, 2005


Knowing that each day we prepare him more and more to head off into the world and find his own bliss, I try and grab the moments now. While he is young. And press them into my memories...

I lasted until 4:20PM today and then I couldn't stand it any more. I called my neighbor, who was watching Bear, and told her I was on my way to get my kid.

He met me at the door. Covered in the remnants of a day - paint splotches, popsicle juice, lunch stains, dirty knees.

He grinned.

I grinned back.

I touched his hair, his face, and then hugged him close.

We gathered up his stuff, treasures, extra clothes and trouped back to our house. My neighbor followed with his carseat, and as we were putting it back in the van, Bear announced he was tired.

I suggested he go in the house and rest in the air conditioning while I finished chatting with our neighbor.

A few minutes later, I followed.

In the doorway, his sandals.

On the couch, his hat.

On the table, his treasures.

In his bed, nearly zonked, Bear.

"Hi," I said softly, pulling up the sheet.

"Hi," he said with a yawn and drooping eyes.

"Why didn't you nap over at the neighbor's house?"

"It was fun there. But I like sleeping at home the best." he said.

"Hmm," I agreed.

"I missed you," he said, as he reached out and pulled my hand to his chest and closed his eyes. Then he fell into sleep.

And I melted. Quietly, so I wouldn't wake him.

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Posted on June 24, 2005 at 05:29 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Huzzah for the Big Boy Bear!

June 09, 2005


I rarely do this *ahem*, but HUZZAH for my son Bear!

This morning was his second night without a Pull-up and no accident!!!!

*clapping*

CD and I knew from before he was born that we were, perhaps, maybe, a little enthusiastic as parents. Him having the sonogram tattooed to his stomach was a bit of a clue.

"And see here?" CD would say. "That's his foot! See how he's flexing it? Well, we've talked to the leading-most soccer players in the world. In fact, we called up Pele, you know? And they ALL AGREE that this flex here is indicative that Bear will be a championship central forward!"

No, really.

And we're still paying off that billboard from when Bear slept through the night at 6 weeks. And when he stood at 3 months. When he started talking, walking, and singing. When he potty-trained before his 3rd birthday after we explained the school needed him to be in big-boy underwear.

Sheesh. Like we're the first.

No, really.

We know, the 3 of us, that it is mostly a matter of chance. But if you know us, then you know that it is not just the milestones themselves - it is the sangfroid and humor with which our son seems to handle them.

A few days ago, Bear informed CD that he didn't want to wear Pull-ups to bed anymore. He's experimented with going without in the past, but his body didn't wake him up before he wet the bed - which was a yucky feeling to wake up to. So we'd go back to Pull-ups pretty quick.

But he's been waking up dry most of the time for weeks so this time was really it.

Yesterday morning, Day 1 of No Pull-Ups, I went in to talk with Bear as he was waking up.

Me: You're dry and no Pull-up!

Bear, smiling a little: Yeah.

Me: How does that feel?

Bear: It's good. I like it better with no Pull-up.

I nodded.

This morning:

Me: Another morning and no Pull-up!

Bear: Yeah.

Me: Wow, is that exciting?

Bear: No.

Me: No?

Bear (giving me a sigh and an indulged look): Mom, it's just underwear.

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Posted on June 09, 2005 at 09:26 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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How to gross out my kid

May 20, 2005


Have I ever mentioned that I cook? I am not great at it, but I love to do it and someday I am going to go to culinary school. In the meantime, Alton Brown is my love object - although I am ok with sharing him.

Have I ever mentioned that Bear hates to eat? He is incredibly picky not only about the food he'll put in his mouth but also about the food he even is willing to look at or smell.

Wednesday night, CD was late coming home and it was just Bear and me for dinner. So I made him Dinner #2 (Kraft Macaroni and Cheese) in the rotation of the 5 dinners this boy will eat (the others are: ramen soup, meatballs from IKEA, orange chicken from Panda Express, and pancakes and sausage).

Myself? I had bruschetta.

I cut up the remains of a loaf of french bread on the bias and threw the pieces under the broiler. Then I "whir-whirred" (in a clean coffee grinder) half a tomato, a quarter yellow onion, some basil leaves, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Then I flipped the bread to toast the other side. Chopped up the other half of the tomato and stirred it in with the whirred-up mixture. Then I took the bread out of the oven, and spooned the mixture onto each piece. Shaved some romano on top (cuz, really, cheese makes everything yummy). Stuck it back under the broiler for about 2 minutes. Voila.

Rinsed the grinder. Put my meal on a plate, put his meal in a bowl, stuck it all on a tray with things like spoons and napkins and glasses of milk and presented the fine repast to Mr Snarkypants.

Who wrinkled his nose and sighed.

Bear: I can't eat now. My tummy hurts.

Me (Sputtering): Why?! It's your favorite Mac 'n Cheeese. I followed the directions just like Daddy.

Bear (A little whiny): Yeah, but you made my nose hurt. 'Cuz you made stinky food. AGAIN.

Me (Outraged): Bruschetta is NOT stinky food!

Bear: Mommy, just don't cook stuff, OK?

Me: Then what am I supposed to eat?

Bear (After a long moment of thought): Fruit gummies. And peanut butter. And you can have some of my Mac N Cheese after I'm full.

So we ate on opposite sides of the room. With him pinching his nose and making faces at me when he thought I wasn't looking. Afterwards, we made up and cleared dishes and made chocolate pudding together for desert. 'Cuz by then the "stink" of my food had settled down enough for him to handle being in the kitchen. That and the lure of running the mixer and licking the bowl.

P.S.: Funniest caption of the week: HERE!

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Posted on May 20, 2005 at 03:37 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Post-Script to Constipation Nation

May 04, 2005


Picking Bear up from his Montessori morning preschool program (when did we stop calling it 'Nursery School'?) this morning, I swung into the carpool lane listening to my most recent homemade CD*.

Bear marched up to the car with his teacher, Miss HotChick, holding his hand.

"We heard Bear had quite a morning," she said with a grin as she helped Bear into the van and into his car seat.

"Yes!" he agreed enthusiastically. "Remember, Mommy? I had a stuck POOPY and it hurt a little but then it was ok and then I medicine in my boom-boom and then it came RIGHT OUT and then I watched it in the potty and I was all better!"

Miss HotChick tried to keep a straight face at this recitation as she pulled on the seatbelt to get enough for Bear to click it into place. She was careful of her 1-inch purple sparkly fingernails.

Bear informed me, "You know what? Miss HotChick has a Tongue ring! A red one!"

"Really?" I asked.

"Five years I've had it and Bear is the first student to ever notice," she admitted. She stuck out her tongue at Bear with a smile. It is a red enamel stud - about as low-key as a tongue piercing can get.

Bear stuck out his tongue back and giggled.

She told me that she'd been honest with the kids once Bear had announced her piercing and explained that it had been done for decoration and only by a doctor when she was a grown-up. And that it had hurt a little when the needle had gone through.

"You know what, Mommy?" Bear asked as we pulled away from the curb. "I told her the medicine for her owie tongue!"

"What, Bear?"

"Just like my boom-boom - a 'POSSITORY' !!"

Continue reading "Post-Script to Constipation Nation"
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Posted on May 04, 2005 at 01:59 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Bear Lives Here

April 28, 2005


A pounding on my front door this morning.

Finally, I staggered to open it. Somewhat dressed. 8:49AM and I got to bed at maybe 2:30AM. There was a neighbor lady, from up the block. The one from that historical house that hosts piano brunch benefits for local politicians.

She was looking harried. "Does Bear live here?" she asked.

I blinked.

"Bear. With the red hair. He lives here?"

I blinked again into the sun. After a long moment, the starter on my brain finally caught and my mouth begin moving. Slowly. "Yes."

"Well," she snapped, impatient. "I have my Grandson with me. All Day. Can Bear come to play at my house?."

"Uh, he goes to Montessori in the mornings. I pick him up at 11:30." I don't know why I am having this conversation. Her Caddy is idling over the oily spot in my driveway. In the front seat is a boy, I can barely make out his brown hair.

I vaguely remember my son referring to someone named Caillou. Of course, I thought it a fanciful story.

But no, "His name is Kyle," she tells me. Her gray hair is sensibly cut, her lipstick is perfect, her skin unmade-up. For a minute, I see my grandmother standing there. No-nonsense Yankee woman, cutting to the chase.

For 4 years, we've lived in Pleasantville. Her house is on the way up to the park, about a block away. For 4 years, she has waved back as we walked past. First with the baby carriage, then the stroller, then wagon, then bike. My son growing up before her eyes, as we've walked past. And now, he is a person. A boy to be sought. He is no longer my son. I am now Bear's mother.

"I'm Elizabeth," I say. Trying to find my manners.

"I know," she retorts. She looks frustrated. Her grandson is 10 years old, recently moved in with his dad to her house. I learn this later. My Bear is only 4, but he plays well with children of all ages.

"I will send him by, around 1," I tell her. "With his babysitter," I add.

An expression of barely controlled asperity, she nods. She marches to the white Caddy and opens the door to get in. I can hear her telling Kyle that Bear will be by at 1, and he smiles at me.

I smile back.

At 4:30PM, Bear comes racing home with Elia after his playdate. Grinning, laughing. A big kid has played with him for ages. Transformers. Lego's. Elia tells me how genteel and welcoming Kyle's grandmother was to them, how relieved to have a playmate for her grandson.

"I told him," Bear says between long slurps of juice. "I said, you can come to my house anytime. Just ring my doorbell and if I'm home then I will come out and play. That's ok, right?' he asks.

I kiss his sweaty forehead and smile. I remember years of doorbells from my childhood, of boys shouting for my brother. Of pick-up games and flashlight tag.

I look at my son, and realize that the future has already started.

Bear lives here.

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Posted on April 28, 2005 at 10:45 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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The Morning Routine. Or not.

April 18, 2005


Because CD had an early meeting, I took Bear to preschool today. Because I haven't done the morning routine with Bear regularly in over six months when I do have to get him up and to school, we run into all kinds of pitfalls.

1. The Battle Of the Trophy.

Bear won a trophy at his Tae Kwan Do competition on Friday Night and he wanted to take it to school. It's his first-ever trophy, it's as tall as he is, and even though they gave one to every competitor under a certain age you can bet that Bear thinks that HIS trophy is unique in all the world. I had to physically restrain my little prince from sneaking it off the shelf about eleventy million times.

2. The Fashion Disaster.

Bear has grown out of all his clothes.

Normally, I would have gone to my favorite bi-annual swap meet by now and stocked up. This is the first one I have missed since he was born. The consequence was a tearful choice.

There was an old (you know, from last winter) pair of pants that now stop at his shins ("My favorite!") and cut off blood circulation to his waist when snapped up. Or the new "Church" pants that haven't been hemmed up yet and had to be rolled up so many times that it looked like his ankles were wearing flotation devices.

We went with the flotation slacks. With a green t-shirt and grey socks. And sandals (because his sneakers are still wet from "washing the car" yesterday). To sum up: He was dressed in the very latest refugee attire.

3. Breakfast of Champions.

Bear wanted nothing to do with food. Sat down and began crying at the thought of Cheerio's. Told me that Cheerio's would make him vomit. Told me Cheerio's would poison him and turn him into a Transformer. A BAD Transformer.

4. Cleanliness was next to Impossible.

Bear brushed his teeth well enough but then refused to wash his face North of his nose. We wrestled in the bathroom for several long minutes and I am not ashamed to admit - ALL that boy's parts were CLEAN when we emerged.

However, we were both wet. So I found another clashing t-shirt.

5. Pack Rat.

Bear then insisted on packing for the 20 minute drive. He gathered up books. He grabbed about 15 thousand toys and began loading them into his arms. I drew the line at one. He drew the line at four. We settled on two.

6. He'll have the half-caf soy latte with cinnamon.

I bought him a "Purpleberry" muffin at the Dunkie's Drive-Thru (For those of you from somewhere west or south of Boston - that's Dunkin Donuts). And an iced coffee for me. About 5 minutes later, a choking Bear asked me to pass him his juice. Juice? Oh, crap. Yes, I sent my child to school with a stomach full of sugar, fruit, and carbs - all laced with caffeine.

We talked about what it was like when I grew up. He was fascinated to hear that his Nana would get up and make his "Duncle" and I breakfast - every.single.morning. AND pack lunch for us. He began listing all kinds of food to see if his Nana had made that: bacon, sausage, pancakes, fruit juices. All while eating a commercially made muffin.

7. Disco Lives!

When we finally pulled up at his school, he and I were singing "I will survive" by Gloria Gaynor (Bear knows all the words) at the top of our lungs.

I pushed the remote on the side door and the parent helping unload the kids this morning jumped back as a cacophany of noise and stuff came spilling out - music, muffin parts, toys, napkins. My son was covered in crumbs and grinning.

To sum up; my son arrived at school this morning in the disguise of a caffienated, sugar-high preschooler dressed like a refugee and singing disco.

8. Be Very Nice to the Crazy Lady.

The parent stuck her head in back the van and I turned down the music with a snap of my wrist.

"Your husband out of town again?" she asked.

"No, just an early meeting. He'll be driving Bear the rest of the week," I replied.

She just BARELY stopped herself from saying "Good." I could see it in her eyes.

I pulled away with a squeal of tires and an uncontrollable laugh. And turned Gloria back on. Loud.

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Posted on April 18, 2005 at 09:38 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Posted on April 08, 2005 at 08:42 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Never get involved in a land war in Asia

April 07, 2005


I've spent these days in a fugue. Also? In a fug. To see me right now is to disavow any knowledge of me. I look like my mug shot (*cough*).

I've had strange medication dreams. Dreams of living in the woods, off the beaten path. Dreams of living vegetarian and cooking with kale that talks back. Dreams of spiders that wake me, crying. And Dreams of gentle hands, touching, consoling.

I wake up sweaty, in time to drive Bear to or from something. His little hand touches my forehead, rosebud lips pursed. "You're still hot," he sighs. His coppery hair seems blonder, the forsythia and cherry trees are blooming, he brought me bright branches in a pint glass full of water. Proud, concerned.

My heart breaks in love for him.

Wednesday, Bear was pleased that the candidate we voted for the day before had won. He demanded that we drive to the election office so we could get a lawn sign (yes, after the election) and I was too weak to fight him, so off we went.

We walked in, and Bear shook the candidate's hand. Asked politely for the sign.

The candidate had a staffer bring us a couple of signs. "Maybe in a few years you'll be voting for me," the candidate informed Bear expansively.

"I already voted for you."

The candidate looked a little nervous at the thought of a 4 year old voting for just a second and then realized Bear meant that he'd helped ME vote and nodded.

Bear talked to him for a minute about meeting the candidate at the last block party (yes, that my son remembered this from last August was a surprise to me, too) and from the town council meeting we'd attended. The candidate listened and smiled broadly, impressed.

I was feeling woozy so I told my boy that it was time to go home. Bear carefully picked up the two lawn signs (so big for such little arms). The Candidate stood there smirking at his staff, exceedingly pleased with his little supporter.

Bear didn't like that. "You won," he told the candidate. "But the guy who losed was not a bad man and maybe next time I'll vote for him."

The guy was gobsmacked. His staff burst out in laughter.

And sick as I was, even I giggled a bit. OK, OK, I snorted.

Maybe it was the drugs, maybe it is the bone-deep knowledge that all parents have - that our kid is unique and amazing. But what kept going through my head was a corruption of that famous Princess Bride quote:

"You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The first is never get involved in a land war in Asia. The second, only slightly less well known, is this: Never, ever assume you've got the Bear in your pocket. He may only be 4 years old, but he's definitely his own man."

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Posted on April 07, 2005 at 09:21 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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'Cuz it's on the way

April 04, 2005


My father is/was infamous for the plane tickets he would buy for us.

Back in the days when redeeming Frequent Flier points demanded an advanced degree in Chaos Theory, he would always manage to get us from PointA to PointB but there would sure be stops along the way.

I could just imagine him on the phone with one of the airline reps back in high school when he would get me a ticket so I could be shipped off to Florida to spend Spring Break with his folks.

"How many points do I need to spend for a direct flight? 25Billion? Mmmhmm. Ok, what have you got for less points? One stop in Philly? And that's only 10Billion points? Right, can you do a little better? Ok, a stop in NYCity, then on to Detroit, then she sleeps in the lounge in Butte, and finally arrives in Florida at 6AM the next day? And that's HOW many points? 9.5Billion? I'll TAKE IT!"

He once gave my brother a ticket from Seattle to Chicago that stopped not once but TWICE - the second time in Dallas. (You got to figure with kids this dumb, we probably deserved what we got, trip-wise.)

(Did I mention that, unfortunately, my brother fell asleep along the way? He woke up at the trip terminus in Minneapolis dazed and confused with a flight attendant asking him if he knew what day it was. But that's a whole 'nother story.)

Up until I was in my late 20's, all my flights were either purchased by the Church or my Dad, and I suck at geography anyway. So imagine my surprise to discover one day that Atlanta is NOT on the way to everywhere.

I think I actually called and woke my father up with the information. The way he'd been routing me all those years, I figured there was no way he already knew this.

You'd have thought that this would be genetic and that I could get away with a whole lot of fudge on our trips with my son. Heck, no. Turns out he is smarter than your average Bear.

This morning, after preschool, we were discussing our trip tomorrow. We're going to drive to Indianapolis and spend the night with friends and then I'm going to leave him there while I drive to my meetings in B.F.E., heading back to him the very next day.

"I can stay here, with my ni帽era," he informed me.

"No, this is a better idea."

He looked at me doubtfully and demanded I show him on the map where Indianapolis is and where I would be. So he climbed in my lap and we mapquested the whole trip (see how I made up a whole new verb there?).

Turns out that I was right, but I maturely refrained from doing a touchdown dance.

He sighed and agreed that the friend's house IS, indeed, A) on the way and B) much closer to my meetings than our house is. He further decided (praise the Lord) that he would be happier sleeping there because it would minimize our time and distance apart.

Negotiations with my preschooler completed, he ran outside to try and convince his ni帽era that she should come along for the ride. Don't place bets one way or the other, folks.

I know one thing for absolute SURE: my son ain't NEVER spending the night sleeping on his luggage in Butte.

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Posted on April 04, 2005 at 12:52 PM and filed under:
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All Aboard the Clue Train

March 02, 2005


So, Bear is now an Orange Belt in his young kids martial arts program.

He tested last Saturday (his kicks are more like hops, but hey - he's 4) and afterwards, the tester asked who would like to be promoted to orange belts. Bear shot his arm up and bounced, his little body tight as a drum with excitement.

When the tester told him to come to the front and get his new belt, I just about burst into tears with happiness for him.

No, wait. I DID burst into tears.

So, about last night.

Normally, CD takes Bear to class twice a week. Last night I did it because he was running late.

I thought it would be like it had been on Saturday, all the parents cheering for all the kids. After all, you have never seen a more egalitarian or cheerful dojo in all your life.

The instructors are every color, gender, and age. The teaching approach, while grounded in respect and tradition, just oozes kindness and support. The kids LOVE this place, it is bright and happy. They line up early and press their faces against the glass wall that divides the spectators from the mats.

Was I ever an ignoramous. So totally missed the clue train that I think I was in the wrong station.

The mother next to me asked which one was "mine" and I pointed out Bear. (He's easy to spot - being the youngest one and, oh yeah, that BRIGHT ORANGE HAIR.) She pointed out "hers", a big girl who she said was 7 years old.

She then spent the next 40 minutes telling me what Bear (and everyone else) was doing wrong. And what her daughter was doing right.

The father on my left pointed out his son. He had 2 little girls squirming on his lap, but in his free seconds he provided me with color counter-commentary to the woman on my right.

The lady standing behind me started to chime in. Her daughter has been doing martial arts for a year now, and so obviously she was an expert. She raised the bar by telling us what the teachers were doing wrong.

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore.

I burst.

When the first woman informed me that Bear's feet weren't parallel, I interrupted her.

"I don't care," I said, cutting her off.

"Well, you see..."

" I. Don't. Care." I repeated.

"You will when he falls down in competition..."

I refused to respond.

"That's your son?" Lady #2 asked me. "Why is he always raising his hand?"

"He likes to be called on, is my guess," I answered.

"Well..."

"Is that your son?" Lady #1 asked right over my lap to the man on the other side. "He would be a good sparring partner for her son," she indicated me.

"OK," I interrupted. Again. "Look. No offence meant but I'm just here to watch my son. And he's just here to work off some energy and have fun."

Silence. Ahhhhh.

Then. Behind me. Lady #2 to Lady #1. Sotto voce; "She'll learn."

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Posted on March 02, 2005 at 10:56 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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He would share

February 28, 2005


Driving home today after dropping his babysitter off, Bear and I were discussing whether he felt well enough to hit the grocery store.

(He'd stayed home today with a mild case of sniffles).

We agreed we should stop in and get some food. Bear suggested that we should buy some gifts for the new baby - some family friends recently had a little girl and we've been gathering up little gifts and hand-me-downs to send.

I praised him for being thoughtful and we talked about what new babies need. He talked about how hard it was at first to think about sharing some of his baby things.

Then, after a few minutes, he said: Mommy? If we had a new baby, I would share all my toys. Even if it was a girl.

And I just about died.

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Posted on February 28, 2005 at 11:59 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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And I love him

February 03, 2005


Mommy, you need a joke.

I do?

Yes. Knock-knock!

Who's there?

Elephant footprints in the butter!

Um, I don't think you....

Knock-knock!

Uh, OK. Who's there?

(snorkling with laughter)

Bear? I didn't hear you.

Elephant in the butter!

Oh, ha-ha. Ok then....

Knock-KNOCK!

(sighing) Last one, ok?

KNOCK-KNOCK!

Who's there?

Banana and Orange!

Banana and Orange WHO?

I want a banana and orange you glad the Elephant didn't EAT IT?!?!

(Rolls on floor laughing hysterically with son)

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Posted on February 03, 2005 at 02:50 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Lucky

January 12, 2005


I recently followed a link from another blog to a little girl named Savannah [warning: midi music on page!].

Savannah is sick with a chronic and life-threatening disease. She is lovely, with curly brown hair and a gorgeous smile. And she is facing a transplant that the doctors hope will help her.

Her smile has been haunting me.

This morning, Bear packed up (as he will) all his favorite bed stuff (including the stuffed animal) and travelled across the hall and into bed between CD and I. He does this almost every morning.

We all talked softly for a bit and then CD headed off to take a shower. Bear snuggled closer to me and stroked my face.

Mommy, you're beautiful, he said.

I kissed his forehead and counted the freckles on his face. I found 12.

He squirmed and decided to share my pillow with me. Because of the bazillion pillows on our bed, clearly I had the primo one.

I tickled him and he giggled.

And then I started to cry.

What's wrong? Bear asked.

Nothing, honey.

Then why are you crying?

How to you tell your son that you're crying because he's a living miracle and you know just how blessed you are to have his small, healthy body next to yours? That his big heart is an inspiration to your life?

I told him that it was happy tears, because we are so lucky to be a family.

And then I told him to go brush his teeth.

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Posted on January 12, 2005 at 09:00 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Duet in the Frozen Food Aisle

December 20, 2004


Picture, if you will....

Grocery store. CD's pushing the cart, Bear's in the kid seat.

They're scouting ice cream and bobbing their heads to their own internal rhythm.

CD: "Right about now..."

Bear: "Funk soul brotha"

CD: "Just about now...."

Bear: "The funk soul brotha..."

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Posted on December 20, 2004 at 11:16 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Friend to Buskers and Tin-eared Critics Alike

December 02, 2004


CD got out his guitar and started playing THAT song. "Love is all you need". Badly. And singing. Badly. Sweetly. But badly.

Bear got up, went over to the change jar, got a handful, and dropped it in CD's open guitar case.

Don't encourage him, kid.

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Posted on December 02, 2004 at 10:50 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Life is just a Monty Python Script. And then your house catches fire.

November 22, 2004


Bear began the night much better. A tepid bath, clean teeth, fresh sheets, fresh jammies, and hovering at a relatively cool 101.5F. I read him about 8 books, he drifted off to sleep (snoring, head high on pillows, humidifier going full blast) about 9:30PM.

I decided to stay awake until 11PM - the next dosage point - to see how his fever was.

Then CD and I got on the phone.

I think we both had the best of intentions. But ....

I was dizzy, and overtired, and on the phone with a guy who was telling me that I am to blame for everything that is wrong with him. Especially to blame for being angry. That he is justified in avoiding me, and by extension Bear, unless I get over everything and make him feel welcome.

And then the smoke alarm went off in the front of the house.

A candle on the fireplace mantle had gutted, leaving the label on the bottom burning like napalm. It caught the picture over the fireplace, and then dripped down to catch the wood and paper in the tin basket on the hearth. My living room was on fire.

I grabbed a wire mesh waste basket and dumped the eerily burning candlestick into it and ran it outside. Then I raced back in and dumped the entire contents of the firewood basket into the fireplace and open the flue. Then I put out the picture frame, soaking it in water to avoid it restarting.

Breathing hard and looking for something I missed - I realized that I hurt. Because I had burned my hand. Because I am JUST that dumb.

Windows and doors open to vent the place, Bear cocooned in his room, a bag of peas on my throbbing hand, and the phone - there where I'd dropped it - with my angry, angry husband on the other end.

And then it occured to me, with absolute horror chilling my bones, that I have become... a movie of the week.

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Posted on November 22, 2004 at 09:12 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Sick Bear

November 21, 2004


To all the single parents out there, my esteem for you has risen 10-fold this weekend. Taking care of a sick child with no backup has been the most emotionally and physically draining work I think I have ever done.

My little Bear is still very sick. The doctors think it is some kind of flu, and 2 nights in a row his fever has hit 104F degrees. He's just miserable, hot, and all his sinuses draining.

He is trying to be a brave little bear, but he's only 4 - so sometimes he gets overwhelmed and starts to cry in frustration. It's breaking my heart.

I've run out of sherbert and tissues, so my friend Dee is coming over to watch him so I can go to the store. All I can do for him is make him as comfortable as possible, fight his fever, and pray this passes soon. If it goes on another night, the doctors want him in the hospital.

I feel so helpless for him.

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Posted on November 21, 2004 at 11:23 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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He's High on Baby Motrin

November 19, 2004


Sniffly, drooly, cuddled beside me in a nest of pillows and we're watching Clifford on the portable DVD I've brought into my bedroom. He's glazed over, a Motrin lull.

Bear: "I like your breasts."

Me (A little taken aback): "Uh, OK."

Bear: "Is there milk anymore?"

Me: "No, I told you. Not for a long long time."

Bear (as I wiped his nose, for the 7 millionth time): "*sigh* OK, OK, OK.... What about chocolate milk?"

Me (trying not to laugh): "No, honey. Not chocolate milk either.... You know, kiddo, sooner or later we're going to have to get some of that Kid's Claritin stuff in you the way the doctor said."

Bear: "No, thank you. You see that thing?" (Indicates the portable humidifier blowing at him from the bedside table.) "That's doing the trick."

Me: "That's doing the trick, huh?"

Bear: "Yeah."

Me: "Then how come your nose is still running with all those icky snots?"

Bear: "I don't know. How come your breasts don't have chocolate milk?"

So. There.

I tell you, don't go up against a 4-year-old on Motrin. He'll take you down. Yes, he'll take you down hard.

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Posted on November 19, 2004 at 07:07 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Smarter than your average Bear

November 09, 2004


BearRain2004.jpg
Picture by Elizabeth: Bear, in the rain. 2004.

Bear comes into my office this morning and announces that he doesn't want to go to preschool.

The same preschool morning program that he's been in since he was 2. The one that cost us an arm, a leg, and 3 eyeballs to pay for. The one he begged to go back to, when we didn't re-enroll him at the start of this school year.

I pulled him on my lap and asked why.

"Because XBoy doesn't want to be my friend anymore. He said so."

Note: XBoy is this amazingly charismatic and popular little boy in Bear's class who will, undoubtably, be President some day. Or a rock star. Everyone wants to be his friend, and he uses that power about as kindly as you would expect. His mother, FormerModel, doesn't do play dates and doesn't make eye contact with us lesser parents. It's all very "As the World Turns".

So I reminded Bear that he hadn't wanted to put on his rain boots last time it rained, but then he did and he had a blast playing in the puddles. And that sometimes doing things that we don't think will be good turns out to be great.

Bear looked at me a long while. And then sighed. Because I am, after all, the MOST exasperating parent on this or any planet.

"Um, no," Bear informed me in his best 'DUH!' voice. "Mommy, School isn't boots."

So. There.

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Posted on November 09, 2004 at 09:41 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Overheard, Some Bear Stories for a Friday

October 22, 2004


This morning, while Bear and I were in the car:

Bear (this is a common question): Mommy, what is this song mean?

Me: This is a song named "Amazed" by a man named Paul to his wife, Linda

Bear: Do you like this song?

Me: Yes. It is a good song.

Bear: (a few minutes later) What about this song?

Me: About a boy who is asking his Daddy for help because he's in trouble.

Bear: Lawyers, Guns and Money?

Me: Uh.. yes. He is asking for those things.

Bear: What's a Lawyer?

Me: Someone who can go in front of the judge and help you if you have been arrested.

Bear: OK. And guns?

Me: You know what guns are.

Bear: Well, that's naughty, right? Is he a bad guy?

Me: I think he is just saying he wants help.

Bear: Well, guns aren't help, silly! He just wants his daddy. He should say he's sorry and then his daddy can come. And the lawyers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This evening, Bear and CD playing & chatting after dinner:

Bear: Daddy, what did you do today?

CD: I helped people with computers.

Bear: Good Job!!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Later:

CD: What are you doing?

Bear: Playing pretend. This is my store.

CD: What are you selling?

Bear: Potties. For girls.

CD: Uh. OK.

(wait for it....)

CD: Uh, Bear?

Bear: Yes?

CD: Why?

Bear: Just because!

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Posted on October 22, 2004 at 07:05 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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The Great Pumpkin

October 17, 2004


PumpkinFarm102004.jpg
Picture by Elizabeth: Into the Pumpkin Farm, 10/2004

Today was the annual trek to the pumpkin farm.

Since he was born, we've used a picture of Bear atop pumpkins as our Christmas Card. Yes, the hair. Right. So off we went, in eleventy-degree freezing weather. But clear as a bell, with colors aglow.

This place is nearly an amusement park. With food stands and a gift shop and pig races (yes, Arnold Schwartzenpigger won!) and a maze through the corn fields. Bear petted everything at the petting zoo, including some animals that would surprise you. Baby Water Buffalos, as it turns out, have warm tongues. In case you were wondering.

We got our pictures, and even a pumpkin. Bear threw himself atop a large misshapen thing that he hugged and rolled towards us, pleading with his big blue eyes. We gave in. We're suckers. CD carried the beast for a quarter mile back to the car, a sleepy and grateful Bear tagging behind happily.

PumpkinFarmField102004.jpg
Picture by Elizabeth: Pumpkin Field, 10/2004

I'm wind-burnt, full-up, happy, and not entirely de-stressed. I head off to dreams of John Crichton and caramel apples. Good night.

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Posted on October 17, 2004 at 11:23 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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With This Ring

October 16, 2004


It is a cold and dark and blustery day in Chicagoland. The three of us burrowed under the down comforter this morning until the last possible minute. Reluctantly Bear and I dropped CD off at work.

"Where are we going to go now?" Bear asked me as I turned onto Lake Shore Drive.

Good question.

Runner10162004.jpg
Picture by Elizabeth: Runner on Lake Michigan, 10/2004

The lake was deep green and almost deserted. Navy Pier was lit up like a neon sign. So I swung into the $19 parking lot and in we trundled - over, over, around the strange singing people, and up the escalator to the Children's Museum.

Bear liked everything: the dinosaur dig, the water works, the construction zone, the ambulance and safety display, but his absolute favorite thing was Clifford's world.

He strapped on an official mail bag and delivered and picked up letters from the mailboxes scattered throughout the display. Then he would sort them at the 'Birdwell Post Office'. Giggle, concentrate, triumphantly match, rinse, repeat.

bearcmuseum1016.jpg
Picture by Elizabeth: Bear in Birdwell Post Office, 10/2004

I was struck by how many Dads were there. Usually, Bear and I hit the Children's Museums (we have a national membership) during the week when, and not to be sexist but reality is what it is, there is hardly a dad to be found.

Today, though, it was Dads-aplenty. All ages, sizes, colors, and shapes. And wedding rings galore. Big yellow gold numbers, thin silvery ones, and all kinds in between.

As Bear did his rounds back and forth, I watched families sifting around us. I smiled as one man gently tucked a strand of hair behind his wife's ear, the engraving of his ring catching the light. Another man, handsome and leather jacketed, enwined his fingers with his wife's and then pulled them up so he could kiss the back of her hand.

I laughed as one dad with gold practically down to his knuckle laid down in submission on the floor while his 3 boys (THREE!) pounced all over him. His wife held their pile of coats and tried to stifle a laugh as her man caught an accidental knee to the groin. His "oof!" had 20 of us, nearby, in a compassionate group groan.

I missed CD, and thought about how much fun he'd have with us. I thought about how his ring would join the tonnage of husbands' rings in the room. I thought about how profound and sacred it is to push a ring on someone's finger and claim them as your mate.

It's that moment. That intimate, vulnerable moment when the question is asked - "will you? me?". A wedding ring shouts "yes"!

In my religion we call it 'an outward symbol of an inward grace'.

I know not all cultures use them. My parents never wore wedding rings in the 22 years they were married. So I have no idea how I come by this... conviction. But there is something about them that resonates deep in my soul.

On an autumn night a long time ago, I once danced on a sidewalk under a streetlight to Anita Baker's Giving you the Best That I got as it echoed out to us from a party. I remember getting choked up at the line "I bet everything on my wedding ring".

I still get choked up when I hear that line.

Shaking off my thoughts, I saw that the big dog himself had showed up for an interview with a television crew. Bear informed me that the 鈥済uy in the Clifford costume鈥� gave him "a bad feeling" so we put away the postal tools and moved on.

clifford.jpg
Picture by Elizabeth: Clifford, 10/2004

Bear held my hand, and twirled my ring.

I smiled to myself.

Back on the road, the hard winds rocking the van at the stoplight, dang if that Anita Baker song didn't come on the radio. Guess I was in synch with somebody out in radioland.

I sang loudly and badly as we looped out of Navy Pier. I got choked up at the end like I always do. The streets felt almost deserted. The wind was pushing aginst the few people out on the sidewalks. The threatening sky was a dark ceiling overhead, and I wondered if we'd make it hom before the rain hit.

leavingnavypier102004.jpg
Picture by Elizabeth: Leaving Navy Pier, 10/2004

鈥淢ommy?鈥� Bear asked, puffy-eyed and tired in the back seat.

鈥淵es, Bear?鈥� I answered, turning down the music.

鈥淣ext time, we should bring Daddy. OK? Does that sound like a good idea?鈥�

鈥淭hat sounds like an excellent idea,鈥� I agreed.

And I thought of CD, wearing my ring as he worked. A physical, visible, unspoken announcement that he is a part of me, wherever he is. And me, a part of him.

And we... a part of him.

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Posted on October 16, 2004 at 09:19 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Definitely the BLUE Power Ranger. Definitely.

October 12, 2004


I sat down with Bear yesterday and explained to him that we were going back to see his Nana in Boston. That we would be spending Halloween with Uncle and Aunt and not, as originally planned, here at home.

Bear: But I'm still going to be a Blue Power Ranger?

Me: Yes, honey. You're still going to be the Blue Power Ranger. With your sword AND your shield. That will be just the same. I just have to hem the costume to make it fit

Bear: But not cut it

Me: Yes, a little bit. We talked about this. The one we got is too big

Bear: No, it's not

Me: Yes, it is

Bear: Is not

Me: Yes, it is

Bear: Banana Farts!

Me: No Banana Farts! Bear, I still need to hem your Power Ranger outfit. It's dangerous to have you tripping on it

Bear: NO YOU CAN'T OR ELSE YOU WILL TAKE ITS POWER LIKE SAMPSON!

Me: Power Rangers do NOT have hair, they have helmets and this is not the same thing

Bear: Yes IT IS

Me: No, it's not

Bear: YES IT IS BANANA FARTS INFINITY. And Power Rangers DO have hair under their helmets. Especially the Blue one. And the Black one

Me: Bear, yes I understand that you are the leading authority in the Power Ranger field and that is very cool. But Daddy and I are responsible for your safety and tripping on that suit in the dark is NOT safe. If you don't let me hem it up for you, then you can't go out trick or treating with it. Do you understand?

Bear: Fine. I only want it for bad guys anyway. I don't even LIKE trick or treating!

Me: Fine

Bear: Fine!

Yeah, I'm a bad mommy. Cuz you know what I did? While he was napping? Yes. I CUT THAT SUIT. I did. And? He didn't notice! So. There.

Meanwhile, in adult-land... Dee bought us tickets to our (hers and mine together) 8th Lyle Lovett concert as an early birthday gift! Lyle's coming to town with John Hiatt in February.

lylelovett.jpg

Heavens, just get past that hair, which is some kind of freak of nature, because you have got to LOVE a man who writes a lyric having Tonto finally say "Kiss my ass Kimosabe" to the old Lone Ranger. Yes, baby, if I had a pony - you know I'd be riding him on my boat; and if I had a boat I would ride out on the ocean...

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Posted on October 12, 2004 at 01:01 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Houston, we almost had another Bathroom Incident (TiVo, how we love thee)

October 09, 2004


This boy is SERIOUS about his daily half-hour of Rescue Heroes.

Bear (holding himself and bouncing up and down in front of the TV): I got to go potty!

CD: Then GO, don't just dance!

Bear (bouncing and pointing at the TV): But it's Rescue Heroes! Pause it!

CD (Lurching towards the TiVO): OK! Go! GO!

Bear (From the bathroom): OK! I made it!

CD (To me): What happens if he has to go somewhere where there is Rescue Heroes and no "Pausing"?

Me (Shuddering): There are places without TiVo?

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Posted on October 09, 2004 at 04:36 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Breakfast Orders are Due on the Door by 5


Me: Bear?

Bear (looking up from empty Cheerio bowl): Yes, Mommy?

Me: Please put your bowl in the sink if you're finished.

Bear: But I'm stil hungry, Mommy. Very very hungry.

Me: Oh, I didn't realize. OK, I'll pour you some more Cheerios.

Bear: No, my tummy wants bacon and pancakes. Hear it grumbling?

Me: Oh, no. I'm not in a cooking mood this morning, Bear. Let's stick to Cheerios. Or there's yoghurt.

Bear (heaving a big sigh and reaching for his little apron): No, thanks. I'll just cook it myself.

P.S. Well, of course I ended up helping.

MapleLeafPancakes.jpg

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Posted on October 09, 2004 at 01:15 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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The Bathroom Incident

October 07, 2004


Tales from the Mommy-front ~

Bear (bending down and wiggling to look): Wow, Mommy! That's the most biggest poopy I EVER SAW!

Me (averting my eyes): Mmhmmm, hold steady now while I finish wiping.

Bear (excitedly): And it's GREEN! Mommy, my poopy is green goblin!

Me (glancing quickly as I throw in the TP): Well, honey, it's really mostly just brown...

Bear: No! It's green and it's FLOATY! My POOPY IS FLOATING! MOMMY! GET THE CAMERA!

Me: No... honey, now...

Bear: I think we need to take a picture! RIGHT NOW! OF MY POOPY!!

Me (reaching over and flushing): No, honey. No, now we're just going to wash...

Bear: MOMMY! You flushed my poopy! It was MY POOPY! I wanted to flush my poopy! I wanted to take a picture!

Me: OK, I'm -

Bear (throwing himself unconsolably on the bathroom floor and wailing): You FLUSHED MY POOPY! That was naughty!

Me: Next time you can flush -

Bear (sniffing): I miss my poopy. It was my favorite poopy ever.

Me: Well, poopies are waste, Bear. They are meant to go back into the ground and -

Bear: And it wasn't yours. It was mine. I flush my poopies, Mommy.

Me: Well, from now on -

Bear (sighing, last BIG sniffle, standing): It's OK, Mommy. Everyone makes mistakes. Now I have to wash my hands. You stand over there, OK? You just watch.

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Posted on October 07, 2004 at 04:30 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
Comments (9) | Permalink

Stupid Snaps and Bad Puddles

October 04, 2004


Twice a year, I wake up at Freezing Forsaken Crack O'Dawn and drive 45 minutes to a county fairground. There, I stand in line for about 90 minutes, hopping up and down, and drinking the last of my very-bad no-good McD's coffee (with about 100 sugars). And finally, at 8AM, I pay my dollar and get the 30 seconds all that effort bought me.

30 seconds as the first (FIRST!) one at the piles of boy's clothes at the worlds nicest and best-run rummage sale you will ever find.

Here, gender stereotypes are proven. Because the piles of girl clothing actually teeter; pastel towers that reach up to eye level. Adults smoothly sort through them, chatting to each other. Chatting!!

By comparison, the little piles at the boys' tables are scraps. They are grabbed up indiscriminately by snarling, territorial parents. Sweat pants and pajamas are pounced on in rabid packs. It's not all 'Lord of the Flies' though - some civility remains as we growl "Excuse me" to each other while ripping windbreakers off hangars.

There are "sorting tables" at the back, where you can surreptitiously flip through your booty. My piles of blue and red give me away as a 鈥渂oy鈥 parent, and anything I discard into the "return to tables" box is immediately grabbed up by a pack of wild adults, who've been eyeing me and drooling.

This is a 'good' resale - all the clothes are good quality. No visible stains, rips, loose hems or anything like that. The clothes I bring home are a mix of Tar-jay and Old Navy labels as well as Gap, Children's Place, and Gymboree.

But it's getting harder and harder. Boys' clothing past 4T gets worn out, not outgrown. There was less to choose from at this recent sale and I was hard-pressed this time to find even half of what Bear will need for the next 6 months.

Plus, the women who have been my partners and advisors in this twice-annual pilgrimage have all dropped out, one by one. I was alone in the crowd.

So it was a uniquely poignant frustration that followed Bear's accident on the bathroom floor last night.

He was wearing a pair of his "new" pants for the first time and I hadn't realized when I bought them that the snap was very tight. Bear couldn't undo it in time, as he bounced around doing the "potty dance" while I was running his tub.

By the time we got him free, there was a small puddle. He looked so sad, as I quickly wiped it up.

"I鈥檓 sorry," he said, from atop his throne and using an entire roll of Charmin on that which was about to be in a sudsy bath.

"No worries, sweetie. I鈥檓 sorry that there鈥檚 a bad snap on the pants," I said, pulling on the fastener to make it a little looser. "But now it should be fixed. All better."

And even though I knew that I could have just as randomly spent $25 on a new pair of pants and had them be just as stupidly designed, suddenly I was just overwhelmed. I love our life. The sacrifices that we make are negligible, when weighed against the reward of bringing up Bear ourselves, at home. So I don鈥檛 mind, that he鈥檚 wearing used pants with a stupid snap.

But sometimes? I do.

Bear flushed the toilet a couple of times just to be sure and clambered past me into his tub. Then he clambered out again and hugged me. 鈥淚 like my blue pants,鈥 he whispered in my ear. My chest hurt so bad with love, that I almost started crying.

When he was back in his tub, he looked down and said 鈥淥ops, puddle!鈥

I threw down a towel on it and smiled. 鈥淭his was a good puddle,鈥 I said, doing the 鈥渢wist鈥 to wipe it up with my feet.

And he laughed. And it made me laugh, too.

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Posted on October 04, 2004 at 07:15 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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My Guys (See? I'm not deep)

September 30, 2004


This is for Helen, whom I adore and who (evil, evil) had the temerity to call me "deep". Oh, my broken heart. I will thus endeavor to be as absolutely silly and shallow as I can for the rest of the week. This made possible because the quarterly review is OVER and DONE. Ding, dong the meeting's done! The meeting's done! The meeting's done! Bwa-double-HA for at least another 10 weeks! (Can you tell I've had twice as much coffee as I've had hours of sleep? Can you? WELL?)

Without further ado:

"Well, my tummy wants pocorn. And my mouth wants yoghurt. So I think I need chocolate."
- Bear, to Elia and I, on his choice of snack.

"No, Bear. No. Although, I like your thinking...."
- CD, To Bear, as he insisted that Elia didn't actually have to go home last night and could spend the night in the lower bunk of his bed.

"What are we supposed to do? Duck?"
- CD, to me and Bear, as we drove past a sign on our way home that said 'Beware Low Flying Planes'.

"Quack!"
-Bear, in response.

"*big sigh* Pajama Sam needs a time out."
- Bear, on being foiled at his computer game.

"That's OK, Mommy. This is a hard song."
- Bear, last night, on correcting my air guitar to Genisis' 'Follow You Follow Me' as we bounced on the daybed during a work break.

"Mommy! I love this song! Dance with me, baby!"
- Bear, to me, in response to the opening bars of "Carry on Wayward Son" by Kansas.

"Dance with me, baby, PLEASE!"
- Bear, to me, upon being told that the previous was unacceptable language.

"No more Doody Brothers, Mommy! I mean it!"
- Bear, on my choice of music.

"This is for Daddy, so he will get better."
-Bear, on giving me a cracker yesterday that he'd 'cooked' in his play kitchen, for CD who was sick in bed.

"Mommy! Don't yell at the squirrels! They aren't eating the flowers. They are sniffing the flowers. See? *SNIFF!* Be quiet to the squirrels, they don't like yelling."
"Bear, they are NOT sniffing. They are eating. They are eating our flowers and our tulip bulbs. That's naughty."
"Mommy, they are sniffing. They TOLD me."
- Bear, as we were outside this morning.

"Mommy, I think you need a nap now."
- Bear, interrupting my 4th chorus of "Ding Dong the Meeting's Dead"

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Posted on September 30, 2004 at 12:15 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
Comments (3) | Permalink

Happiness is...

September 29, 2004


My son, racing into my office clutching a spray of wild roses (let's not ask from where) and shouting excitedly - "Mommy, Mommy! These are for you! Because you're beautiful!"

BearsRoses09282004.jpg


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Posted on September 29, 2004 at 01:40 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Indoctrinating Bear

September 23, 2004


One of Bear's Godparents gave him an adorably illustrated soft-cover book of Bible Stories for his first birthday.

Since we got this, I have discovered that there is a massive industry in mangling the Bible for children.

See, in Bear's Parragon-published book not only is there a page with a pretty cartoon of Moses (who is strangely albino) with "Ten Commandments" tablets displayed to round happy (albino) people who have never spent a day in a desert in their LIVES - but worse, there is a whole NEW version of the story that I got to believe was made up late one night over a couple of bottles of Blue Nun.

And? BRAND NEW COMMANDMENTS.

Hot off the presses!

Number 8: "Husbands and Wives should love each other and be nice to each other".

O-kayyyyy then.

Don't get me wrong. Nice sentiment. And Exodus and Deutoronomy both contain guidelines that push the concept.

But - and I think you're with me on this, right? - isn't the point of indoctrinating people to have them educated in the, you know, actual doctrine?

Not just nice ideas that go well with the pretty pictures?

This book is messing with its little audience. These kids are going to grow up and head over to the clubhouse and all the other Christians are going to LAUGH at them when they try and show off their Commandments.

And how cruel is that?

So if the Commandments seemed to the publishers to be too adult for a kid then ... and this may seem radical but work with me .... they shouldn't have put them in a children's book. Not rewritten them for a "G" audience.

I'm just saying.

On the other hand, if those publishers are going to continue getting all creative with Biblical canon, they just may want to hire my 4 year old. He has the distinction, unlike some, of being both imaginative and of not knowing better -

"Mommy, Can you tell me the Jonah story again? About how the Rescue Heroes came and told him that he had to help save the Power Rangers but then he ran away and a whale named Carl saved him and then his mommy gave him chocolate and kisses and he wasn't scared any more and also he had a flashlight?"

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Posted on September 23, 2004 at 10:21 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Beslan

September 14, 2004


I have been haunted by the Beslan tragedy.

I haven't been sleeping well. I have been hugging and snuggling my son within an inch of his life. I have set up a little workstation in my office and I've been having him "work" next to me when CD is doing other things. I don't care what that does to my job.

I am becoming even more overprotective, and I'm probably doing all sorts of un-good things to my son's psyche. It won't last; it's just for now. Until I find a way to buffer myself from this reality, and believe that it won't happen here. That it can't happen here.

I've done it before. Columbine. 9/11. I've seen the horrors before, and been afraid, and found a way to find again a sense of safety - real or imagined - in my little world.

Soon, I will once again blithely bring my son to the little schoolroom with the aquarium full of goldfish and the clock that tweets the hour and believe he is in a safe place.

But for now, I am haunted by adults who plan to harm children. I keep thinking about how it wasn't one screwed up homicidal sonofabitch that accidentally killed some kids. I keep thinking that these adults, these holy warriors, planned it. Looked through lens of a weapon and saw chubby cheeked little faces, and felt vindicated in squeezing the trigger.

I am nauseated with confusion. What cause is more important than the moral imperative as a species to nurture and protect the next generation to be better than ourselves?

How do you deny humanity and target the most innocent, most vulnerable amongst us?

I keep thinking, those kids. Those frightened kids.

Kids who believed in fairies and superheroes. Kids who believed that mommy kisses magically make hurts all better. Kids who believed that monsters could live under the bed. And then the monsters came into their classrooms and tortured them And the monsters looked like adults - the kind that checked their teeth at the dentist's office or coached their football teams.

Kids who died, after suffering hours of pain and fear and learning that their protectors - teachers and parents - were helpless to save them.

I have been haunted by Beslan.

How? When did killing children - deliberately, painfully - become a group activity aimed at any purpose? When did this become our world? I thought 9/11 was the depths of depravity, and now I no longer have the imagination to know how low we will go.

I have been haunted by Beslan.

I am afraid.

Continue reading "Beslan"
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Posted on September 14, 2004 at 01:23 AM and filed under: Not The Nightly News
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Fairy Tales, Do Come True

September 06, 2004


This is the story we tell every year on this day. The picture (yes! a Bear picture!) is from his 3rd day of life.

Once upon a time....

After 120 days of bedrest, we went in for a second Level 2 sonogram. 30 days earlier, we'd discovered you were a boy and that you were not thriving quite the way all those nice people in white coats would have liked.

The same technician again, measuring and computing. Finally, we asked "How is he?" She told us you were "Perfect. And very adorable." (well, of course!)

"How are his lungs and his weight?" I wanted to know. Your lungs were hard to measure, but your weight was about 1lb, 13 oz.

"Is that good?" we asked.

The technician smiled and told us that you were now in the 53rd percentile - 3% larger than the average fetus of your gestational age. She was telling us that you had come from behind to the middle of the pack.

She could have told us you also had won a special congressional medal of honor for kicking so good and we wouldn't have been happier.

At 128 days of bedrest, we were back in the emergency room. They triaged me pretty quickly - after all, we were frequent fliers - and did a fast sonogram. Your heart rate was fine.

I was the sick one.

I had a virus, and like everything else - moving, eating, filing my nails - it had set off a spike of high blood pressure and contractions.

Another visit to Labor and Delivery. We were really scared this time, because they started saying that it might be time to let you finish your great escape.

How would you ever survive?

Your dad and I sat in silence, and Bear - we prayed. We prayed so awfully hard.

And they dripped me full of stuff, and after a few days your dad sprung us - you still safe and sound in your mommy-shaped home.

By 236 days of bedrest, the nice people in the white coats decided that it was time, really time, for you to be born.

So we called everyone, packed up the car, and then dawdled at home for a long hour discussing the day ahead. It was our last moments as a family of two.

They induced at 5PM and from then on the Pitocin contractions never let up.

By 9PM, the gang was in place - your dad was excited, your nana arrived from Boston, your Aunt Dee was there, and even El. They were cheering, I was huffing through the pain and walking in circles, and you were tucked in for the long haul.

At 1AM, we took a long hot shower. It didn't help. But it was worth it to see your dad looking silly in wet clothes.

At 3AM, I was given a narcotic and it knocked me out. Your dad and Aunt Dee would giggle as I would wake up and shout "ow ow ow" with each contraction and then fall back asleep.

At 9AM I got an epidural. I turned human again just as it was time to push.

At 11AM, I was told I was pushing wrong.

At 11:15AM the doctor told us your head was turned the wrong way to be born and manually worked you around to the right position. Your dad was able to see the head the next time I pushed.

At 1PM the doctor said "great pushing but Bear hasn't turned all the way and was well and truly stuck."

2PM, and you were jammed in my pelvis. In case you've forgotten, let me remind you: Neither of us liked you there.

At 3PM, the emergency C-section began. It took 52 more minutes to free you. That epidural? Not so effective. I would slurringly announce things like "Gee that knife is sharp. Could you stop hurting my right side like that?"

That didn't make the doctors very happy. Didn't make my body happy either. My blood pressure was 220/160 despite the medication.

Almost simultaneously, you were born and they knocked me out.

As they took you out of my tummy by your feet, you stretched out into the world. The doctor turned you right side up and you surprised her by lifting your head. Then you reached out and grabbed her around the neck. (Yes, Bear, like a hug) She had your handprint there for hours.

Your dad cut your cord and they harvested your stem cells to be donated for someone who needed them - because you didn't anymore. (You see? From the very start, your birth was a blessing.)

The people in white coats rubbed you, measured you, and wrapped you cozy in a blanket. Then your dad grabbed you up. I was almost able to register your birth before falling into the black place. Your dad held you militantly at my side.

The hovering white coats, eager to finish their protocols, just had to wait until I was stable before your dad consented to leave my side. Because, he was never about to leave yours.

Hours later, when I woke up in Recovery, your dad brought you to me again.

Finally, we met.

I smelled you and touched you and memorized your face. It was primal, instinct, necessary. We imprinted on each other. For a long, long time the three of us rested on that bed together quietly, the way we still do so often, as a family.

It was the beginning.

Bearpic0909200.jpg
Happy 4th Birthday, Bear

Continue reading " Fairy Tales, Do Come True"
Tags: Baby, Story, Birth, Son, Redhead, Pitocin, Cesarean, Emergency, Parent, Birthday, Bedrest, Mom
Posted on September 06, 2004 at 01:12 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
Comments (0) | Permalink

Fairy Tales, Do Come True


This is the story we tell every year on this day. The picture (yes! a Bear picture!) is from his 3rd day of life.

Once upon a time....

After 120 days of bedrest, we went in for a second Level 2 sonogram. 30 days earlier, we'd discovered you were a boy and that you were not thriving quite the way all those nice people in white coats would have liked.

The same technician again, measuring and computing. Finally, we asked "How is he?" She told us you were "Perfect. And very adorable." (well, of course!)

"How are his lungs and his weight?" I wanted to know. Your lungs were hard to measure, but your weight was about 1lb, 13 oz.

"Is that good?" we asked.

The technician smiled and told us that you were now in the 53rd percentile - 3% larger than the average fetus of your gestational age. She was telling us that you had come from behind to the middle of the pack.

She could have told us you also had won a special congressional medal of honor for kicking so good and we wouldn't have been happier.

At 128 days of bedrest, we were back in the emergency room. They triaged me pretty quickly - after all, we were frequent fliers - and did a fast sonogram. Your heart rate was fine.

I was the sick one.

I had a virus, and like everything else - moving, eating, filing my nails - it had set off a spike of high blood pressure and contractions.

Another visit to Labor and Delivery. We were really scared this time, because they started saying that it might be time to let you finish your great escape.

How would you ever survive?

Your dad and I sat in silence, and Bear - we prayed. We prayed so awfully hard.

And they dripped me full of stuff, and after a few days your dad sprung us - you still safe and sound in your mommy-shaped home.

By 236 days of bedrest, the nice people in the white coats decided that it was time, really time, for you to be born.

So we called everyone, packed up the car, and then dawdled at home for a long hour discussing the day ahead. It was our last moments as a family of two.

They induced at 5PM and from then on the Pitocin contractions never let up.

By 9PM, the gang was in place - your dad was excited, your nana arrived from Boston, your Aunt Dee was there, and even El. They were cheering, I was huffing through the pain and walking in circles, and you were tucked in for the long haul.

At 1AM, we took a long hot shower. It didn't help. But it was worth it to see your dad looking silly in wet clothes.

At 3AM, I was given a narcotic and it knocked me out. Your dad and Aunt Dee would giggle as I would wake up and shout "ow ow ow" with each contraction and then fall back asleep.

At 9AM I got an epidural. I turned human again just as it was time to push.

At 11AM, I was told I was pushing wrong.

At 11:15AM the doctor told us your head was turned the wrong way to be born and manually worked you around to the right position. Your dad was able to see the head the next time I pushed.

At 1PM the doctor said "great pushing but Bear hasn't turned all the way and was well and truly stuck."

2PM, and you were jammed in my pelvis. In case you've forgotten, let me remind you: Neither of us liked you there.

At 3PM, the emergency C-section began. It took 52 more minutes to free you. That epidural? Not so effective. I would slurringly announce things like "Gee that knife is sharp. Could you stop hurting my right side like that?"

That didn't make the doctors very happy. Didn't make my body happy either. My blood pressure was 220/160 despite the medication.

Almost simultaneously, you were born and they knocked me out.

As they took you out of my tummy by your feet, you stretched out into the world. The doctor turned you right side up and you surprised her by lifting your head. Then you reached out and grabbed her around the neck. (Yes, Bear, like a hug) She had your handprint there for hours.

Your dad cut your cord and they harvested your stem cells to be donated for someone who needed them - because you didn't anymore. (You see? From the very start, your birth was a blessing.)

The people in white coats rubbed you, measured you, and wrapped you cozy in a blanket. Then your dad grabbed you up. I was almost able to register your birth before falling into the black place. Your dad held you militantly at my side.

The hovering white coats, eager to finish their protocols, just had to wait until I was stable before your dad consented to leave my side. Because, he was never about to leave yours.

Hours later, when I woke up in Recovery, your dad brought you to me again.

Finally, we met.

I smelled you and touched you and memorized your face. It was primal, instinct, necessary. We imprinted on each other. For a long, long time the three of us rested on that bed together quietly, the way we still do so often, as a family.

It was the beginning.

Bearpic0909200.jpg
Happy 4th Birthday, Bear

Continue reading " Fairy Tales, Do Come True"
Tags: Baby, Story, Birth, Son, Redhead, Pitocin, Cesarean, Emergency, Parent, Birthday, Bedrest, Mom
Posted on September 06, 2004 at 01:12 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
Comments (0) | Permalink

The Only Job I Ever Wanted

August 06, 2004


Note: This is my entry for Jay Allen's cool Blogging for Books contest. The assigned topic: best or worst experience you've ever had working for someone else. I picked "all of the above". Jay has said that for this we should get our funny going. And I tried. But I have written, instead, what my husband is calling "A funeral hymn for a dream". I hope you forgive me.
**************************************

Late at night, I'm holding on for tomorrow.

My son woke up this morning, and came looking for me. I wasn't there. He asked my husband "Mommy not home yet?" Because he hadn't seen me in a day. Because I came home so late last night and left so early this morning. I told myself, when I heard this with a flinch at lunch, that I would make it up to him.

I left the customer's office at 3PM but it took 2 hours to get home. I found my son, wired from watching TV all day. His teeth still unbrushed. I found my husband, writhing with the flu and a fever and hanging on by a thread.

I meant to help. I meant to.

But I had to collapse for a few hours before I could even remember my name.

I've become the kind of parent that I can't look in the eye. I cringe to think how easily I sometimes unplug from my son's life.

This isn't how it was supposed to be.

Growing up, I knew my life's ambition was to be a mom. I played teacher. I played author. I played rock star. Inside I knew being a mother was the one true thing I wanted to do with my days and my nights. Knew it like some people know they want to be astronauts, or doctors.

I also knew that paying jobs and me, well, let's just say that we didn't get along so well.

My first job? Babysitter. 13 years old. Let the popcorn catch fire and their kitchen was never the same. Paint took care of the most of this discoloration but the smell lingered for about 5 years.

My second job? Grocery store. Cashier. I stank. The manager was a family friend and he would regularly key into a register with my code and work it, in order to bing up my all-important "Items Per Minute" average.

Then my uncle died and I took off some time for the funeral. Then I asked for some more time off to go to his funeral again. Naturally, they had to fire me.

I actually felt bad for them when my father went in and demanded they expunge my records. How could they know that the shipping company had temporarily lost my uncle, necessitating an actual second funeral.

Even I thought it sounded like I was making it up.

My third job? At a restaurant. On my first day, I succeeded in committing a series of errors that, cumulatively, was nothing short of felonious.

But even after using a paper cup on the shake machine (to save time) instead of the metal one and spraying an entire line of customers with chocolate shake. Even after dropping the cash register tray on the floor, causing a scramble for money all over the restaurant. Even after exploding the top of the iced tea dispenser. Even after spilling the oil from the fryer and causing a nice cook to head to the the hospital with a possible concussion...

...Even after all that, they made me keep coming back.

Like my own "Twilight Zone" meets "Groundhog Day". The manager was my English teacher. Clearly on some kind of a Yoda trip. I, however, am no kind of a Luke Skywalker.

My first job in college? Campus tour guide. Accidentally led a group of alumni into a wedding in progress at the campus chapel.

My first job out of college? File clerk at a factory. Walking around and around a table collating a handout. And around. In nylons. In summer. In a break room. In a factory. With, you know, beefy men around. Taking LOTS of breaks. And trying to pat me.

My next job? As a temp in a trucking company, as a receptionist. I was fired after 4 days and called into my Temp Manager's office. "Elizabeth," the woman said sternly. "Don't wear your skirts so tight. Or so... yellow. And only one button undone on your blouse."

"Can it be the bottom button or does it have to be the top?" I snarked. She fired me on the spot.

Eventually, I became a chaplain. The kind of warm fuzzy job that didn't include me being near money, electricity, food or food by-products, or hornball truckers.

I regularly worked projects with other charitable agencies. One time a group of us was making our way into one of the Projects here in Chicago, when a big guy tackled me to the ground. He covered me with his sweaty body and kept telling me to shut up.

I screamed and never noticed the rest of our little group huddled nearby.

"Quiet!" He ordered in my ear. "Stay still for God's sake. Can't you see we're being shot at?"

It wasn't for another 10 years that I finally "fit" somewhere. I intuitively understood MegaCorp. It was like all these bizarre half-skills that I'd acquired all my life suddenly knit together to make me really good at something.

Hard? Yes.

Crying in the bathroom, hoping no one notices me. That kind of hard.

Learning to swim with the corporate sharks, I had a few bites taken out of me. But I am good at this. I am better at this than anyone I know outside my corporate life. I want to sing the chorus from Handel's Messiah. I love this job! I LOVE this job!

And looking back, I would have done it for a decade, maybe a lifetime, happily; stuffing my first dream away.

Then Bear came along.

And in an instant, I remembered why I was put on this Earth. I was born to be his mother.

And I dropped Mega like a hot rock.

Once he was in my arms, I knew certainly what I had known as a dream growing up. Motherhood was the only job I want as a full-time occupation. Luckily for me I had 7 months. 7 months where our plans worked and my job description was two words: Bear's Mother.

There isn't a word for how my soul felt. Happy is the pastel wannabe of the word. Amazing is a dim cousin.

Then circumstances changed and I was suddenly scrambling to nail down a paycheck job. Thank God, Mega took me back. Thank God, I do well at Mega. Thank God, Mega pays me well in return and set me up to work from home.

But there are days when I have to leave before he wakes. Days I am still gone when he goes to sleep. And I don't get to pick the days. Sometimes those are the days when Bear really needs me. One time it was the day he took his first steps. This is not Mega's fault. These are my choices.

Even though it's the only job I ever wanted, it's not my only job.

That means after doing dozens of jobs really, really, really badly I find myself torn between 2 jobs I love.

Well, maybe "torn" is not the right word. "Torn" implies that I am tugged between knowing which one I should do. I know I should be with my son.

What has me "torn" is the work. Ripped up inside over increments of hours, when my ability to prioritize is hog-tied. When the almighty dollar comes first and I twist in agony waiting to get back to who is really important.

God help me, I have not turned out to be the mother I could have been or the mother I wanted to be.

I am trying, instead, to be the best mother I can be.

I'm making decisions in the creases and sometimes? Too often? I am getting it wrong. Those are the times, like right now - like at this very moment in the deep of the night -that I just pray and hold on.

Hold on for tomorrow and try again.

Continue reading "The Only Job I Ever Wanted"
Tags:
Posted on August 06, 2004 at 12:58 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
Comments (0) | Permalink

The Only Job I Ever Wanted


Note: This is my entry for Jay Allen's cool Blogging for Books contest. The assigned topic: best or worst experience you've ever had working for someone else. I picked "all of the above". Jay has said that for this we should get our funny going. And I tried. But I have written, instead, what my husband is calling "A funeral hymn for a dream". I hope you forgive me.
**************************************

Late at night, I'm holding on for tomorrow.

My son woke up this morning, and came looking for me. I wasn't there. He asked my husband "Mommy not home yet?" Because he hadn't seen me in a day. Because I came home so late last night and left so early this morning. I told myself, when I heard this with a flinch at lunch, that I would make it up to him.

I left the customer's office at 3PM but it took 2 hours to get home. I found my son, wired from watching TV all day. His teeth still unbrushed. I found my husband, writhing with the flu and a fever and hanging on by a thread.

I meant to help. I meant to.

But I had to collapse for a few hours before I could even remember my name.

I've become the kind of parent that I can't look in the eye. I cringe to think how easily I sometimes unplug from my son's life.

This isn't how it was supposed to be.

Growing up, I knew my life's ambition was to be a mom. I played teacher. I played author. I played rock star. Inside I knew being a mother was the one true thing I wanted to do with my days and my nights. Knew it like some people know they want to be astronauts, or doctors.

I also knew that paying jobs and me, well, let's just say that we didn't get along so well.

My first job? Babysitter. 13 years old. Let the popcorn catch fire and their kitchen was never the same. Paint took care of the most of this discoloration but the smell lingered for about 5 years.

My second job? Grocery store. Cashier. I stank. The manager was a family friend and he would regularly key into a register with my code and work it, in order to bing up my all-important "Items Per Minute" average.

Then my uncle died and I took off some time for the funeral. Then I asked for some more time off to go to his funeral again. Naturally, they had to fire me.

I actually felt bad for them when my father went in and demanded they expunge my records. How could they know that the shipping company had temporarily lost my uncle, necessitating an actual second funeral.

Even I thought it sounded like I was making it up.

My third job? At a restaurant. On my first day, I succeeded in committing a series of errors that, cumulatively, was nothing short of felonious.

But even after using a paper cup on the shake machine (to save time) instead of the metal one and spraying an entire line of customers with chocolate shake. Even after dropping the cash register tray on the floor, causing a scramble for money all over the restaurant. Even after exploding the top of the iced tea dispenser. Even after spilling the oil from the fryer and causing a nice cook to head to the the hospital with a possible concussion...

...Even after all that, they made me keep coming back.

Like my own "Twilight Zone" meets "Groundhog Day". The manager was my English teacher. Clearly on some kind of a Yoda trip. I, however, am no kind of a Luke Skywalker.

My first job in college? Campus tour guide. Accidentally led a group of alumni into a wedding in progress at the campus chapel.

My first job out of college? File clerk at a factory. Walking around and around a table collating a handout. And around. In nylons. In summer. In a break room. In a factory. With, you know, beefy men around. Taking LOTS of breaks. And trying to pat me.

My next job? As a temp in a trucking company, as a receptionist. I was fired after 4 days and called into my Temp Manager's office. "Elizabeth," the woman said sternly. "Don't wear your skirts so tight. Or so... yellow. And only one button undone on your blouse."

"Can it be the bottom button or does it have to be the top?" I snarked. She fired me on the spot.

Eventually, I became a chaplain. The kind of warm fuzzy job that didn't include me being near money, electricity, food or food by-products, or hornball truckers.

I regularly worked projects with other charitable agencies. One time a group of us was making our way into one of the Projects here in Chicago, when a big guy tackled me to the ground. He covered me with his sweaty body and kept telling me to shut up.

I screamed and never noticed the rest of our little group huddled nearby.

"Quiet!" He ordered in my ear. "Stay still for God's sake. Can't you see we're being shot at?"

It wasn't for another 10 years that I finally "fit" somewhere. I intuitively understood MegaCorp. It was like all these bizarre half-skills that I'd acquired all my life suddenly knit together to make me really good at something.

Hard? Yes.

Crying in the bathroom, hoping no one notices me. That kind of hard.

Learning to swim with the corporate sharks, I had a few bites taken out of me. But I am good at this. I am better at this than anyone I know outside my corporate life. I want to sing the chorus from Handel's Messiah. I love this job! I LOVE this job!

And looking back, I would have done it for a decade, maybe a lifetime, happily; stuffing my first dream away.

Then Bear came along.

And in an instant, I remembered why I was put on this Earth. I was born to be his mother.

And I dropped Mega like a hot rock.

Once he was in my arms, I knew certainly what I had known as a dream growing up. Motherhood was the only job I want as a full-time occupation. Luckily for me I had 7 months. 7 months where our plans worked and my job description was two words: Bear's Mother.

There isn't a word for how my soul felt. Happy is the pastel wannabe of the word. Amazing is a dim cousin.

Then circumstances changed and I was suddenly scrambling to nail down a paycheck job. Thank God, Mega took me back. Thank God, I do well at Mega. Thank God, Mega pays me well in return and set me up to work from home.

But there are days when I have to leave before he wakes. Days I am still gone when he goes to sleep. And I don't get to pick the days. Sometimes those are the days when Bear really needs me. One time it was the day he took his first steps. This is not Mega's fault. These are my choices.

Even though it's the only job I ever wanted, it's not my only job.

That means after doing dozens of jobs really, really, really badly I find myself torn between 2 jobs I love.

Well, maybe "torn" is not the right word. "Torn" implies that I am tugged between knowing which one I should do. I know I should be with my son.

What has me "torn" is the work. Ripped up inside over increments of hours, when my ability to prioritize is hog-tied. When the almighty dollar comes first and I twist in agony waiting to get back to who is really important.

God help me, I have not turned out to be the mother I could have been or the mother I wanted to be.

I am trying, instead, to be the best mother I can be.

I'm making decisions in the creases and sometimes? Too often? I am getting it wrong. Those are the times, like right now - like at this very moment in the deep of the night -that I just pray and hold on.

Hold on for tomorrow and try again.

Continue reading "The Only Job I Ever Wanted"
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Posted on August 06, 2004 at 12:58 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Things cubby dwellers never have to worry about

July 29, 2004


Talking on my speakerphone this afternoon:

J (My Vendor's Account Executive): Elizabeth, we can certainly have those reports for the meeting tomorrow. If you want the blah blah report, the data will be from Monday unless you want to wake up the guys in the UK to do another data dump for us...

A knock sounds at my office door, as it simultaneously opens. Bear leaps to my side, hugging me.

Bear: Hi! Hi! Phone!

J (Laughing): Hi!

Bear: Mommy you have beautiful breasties!!!

J: Pardon? Beasties? Are there beasties?

Me: Sorry, J - I'm just gonna mute this for a sec and...

Bear: NO! Breasties! Where she has baby milk! YUMYUM!

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Posted on July 29, 2004 at 06:23 PM and filed under: On The Job
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The week from hell, part 2

July 20, 2004


Until last week, my summer childcare consisted of a very flexible work schedule and a preschool day camp at the YMCA, overlapped with the services of the babysitter we've used to varying degrees since Bear was 8 months old.

So last Tuesday, Dee came over at lunch on a whim. Bear was at the camp, and she was looking to cheer me up because the day before we found out we weren't having another baby. Dee and I headed to the mall - got manicures and strolled around. Something I haven't done in... ack, I can't remember. Not this year.

We were heading home, feeling good, Dee asked if we could stop in and see Bear at his camp and say"Hi". She hadn't seen him in, like, a week. So we dropped in at the "Y" unannounced at about 1PM.

The preschooler camp room is at the front of "Y", attached to a little playground. We could see it was empty before we got there.

The "Preschool Camp Director" was sitting alone, in front of her computer. She didn't hear us approach and jumped when I called her name. "Hey, PCD, where's my son?" I asked. She told us that it was too hot for the kids to play outside so she'd sent them to let out some steam in the racquetball courts.

So Dee and I headed off to the racquetball courts at the back of the building. PCD quickly caught up with us, telling us that it was nice and cool in there yada yada yada.

We got to the racquetball court and peeked in the little window. The kids were not moving. They were quietly seated in little clusters in the corners. In the center of the room, a teen-aged boy was instructing one of the kids how to use a little toy basketball hoop.

Dee and I scanned the room. The were no adults. We watched for about 1 minute, watched my son yawn three times. The teen-aged "camp counselor" (He's maybe 15 or 16?) kept playing with the one kid. The other 21 kids, including Bear, sat. Drooped.

Sitting against the walls. Not allowed to talk with each other. With - did I mention this? - no ADULT in the soundproof, locked, racquetball court.

If ever there was a moment when I felt like all my standards as a parent had been failed, it was that one.

"Are you taking him home?" PCD asked me.

"YES" Dee and I answered in unison.

Dee was muttering under her breath "dumb dumb dumb dumb...."

When Bear saw us through the window, he came running. The teenager let him out of the room and Dee picked him up and we left.

I know what we saw wasn't torture. I'm not trying to make too much out of what was just a lapse in childcare standards and the care ratio.

But it could have been a disaster in one easy motion.

God forbid if something had happened - a fire, the counselor getting hurt, whatever. What would have happened to those kids? How would they be heard? How would they get out?

*grrr*

Mostly? I'm just pissed with myself - my gut told me long ago that Bear wasn't getting good care there, that PCD was lazy and untrained (constantly yelling across the classroom - "those are MY toys and I'm not going to let you play with them if you don't do as I say!") and I didn't do anything.

So I called and eventually had a meeting with the executive director of the Y.

I outlined my concerns and disappointment. He told me that all legal standards and insurance requirements were being met. I snorted, like a horse. He agreed the lack of supervision, if true, would have been a bad thing.

He was going to "look into it".

I'm pointed out that I was going to need a refund. To help pay the gap childcare I need to dig up.

Which is probably why PCD then called me to "sort this out" and beg Bear to return (oh yes, yes she did).

I told her; he's not coming back. You're just lucky that I KNOW I'm an overly sensitive mother.

Sure, it was a small careless unthinking moment. Send the big kid and the 21 little kids (some who really should still be in diapers) to go sit in the racquetball court with nothing really to do while the only real adult surfed the 'net in peace.

But my bottom line? She f*cked with my kid. And there is no measure to the level of fury a parent can unleash. *ahem*

So, anyway, that's why I suddenly don't have enough child care.

posted by Elizabeth at 8:52:56 AM

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Continue reading " The week from hell, part 2"
Tags: Life, Parenting, Family, Love, Children, Childcare, YMCA, Supervision, Failure, Preschool,
Posted on July 20, 2004 at 03:34 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Moons and Junes and ferris wheels

July 13, 2004


I was dreaming about you in 1988.

That's when you started to become real, when I knew in my heart that I would see you soon. You'd be the first of many; a loud, chaotic, affectionate bunch that I was in training to manage. Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians were singing "What I Am" on the radio as I made vanilla potpourri or some other homey craft and fantasized about non-alliterative family-friendly furniture that wasn't criminally ugly.

I was dreaming about you in 1991.

The cats and I moved into Chicago so I could go back to college. That summer, I was cleaning homes for cash and living in an empty, gusty apartment. I would sit on the fire escape with my dinner and watch the alley in the twilight.

I would sleep under the window: the bedroom always smelled like peaches and there was a little breeze. I had to get used to the occasional wail of sirens as I laid quietly, rubbing my belly and feeling you slipping farther away from being real.

I stopped dreaming about you in 1993.

Curled up in a bunk, clutching a plane ticket, and mourning. You already know that I don't cry pretty. My eyes turn red, my nose runs, and my face creases.

Oh, honey. It was like I couldn't wash that sweaty sad hospital scent off me. No one could help and it was such aloneness. Alone, as it slipped away. And then, I slipped away, too.

It was over a year before I exhaled and came home. It was a long time before you were dreamed of again.

I dreamed of you again in 1997.

Music by Goo Goo dolls and Savage Garden and Sugar Ray on the radio. A new job with Mega Corp. A new love, with your Dad. And suddenly, you were there again.

Clear in my dreams and my waking hours. You and your siblings, and a home for us all. I walked in sunshine, chewing peppermint gum and grinning like I had the secret of life.

You were real in 2000.

We'd joked about a millennium baby and then, suddenly, we had one.

Bright coppery tufts of hair and clear curious eyes. I was singing Joni Mitchell to you in my arms, feeling "The dizzy dancing way you feel, When every fairy tale comes real."

We whispered, the three of us deep in the night, about all our dreams.

There would be sandy summer days with relatives. Wind chimes and dragon tales and soccer balls. There would be homework and snowball fights and band-aids.

We designed tree forts, planned car trips, and imagined big Sunday dinners and holiday traditions that we would invent and carry into the future. I wanted you to be able to share all this - your childhood - with other children. Siblings to grow up with and against, challenge and enjoy, hate and love.

In my dreams of you, there were always more.

But it doesn't seem like it will be a blessing we'll have. And I'm sorry.

I've thought about this so much over the last few weeks and you should know, it isn't for lack of wanting or trying. I'm not normally a quitter. But the miracle of you took the dedication of an entire group of doctors, the bedrest of your stir-crazy mom, and the bedrock belief of your dad.

Somehow, now, I feel it in my bones. Lightning is only going to strike this particular spot once.

It is what it is.

For all the lonely times you may have in the years ahead, know we will be doing everything we can to saturate your life with the camaraderie of others.

For the times when there will only be your parents on the other side of the dinner table, know that we will do everything in our power to expand your view of your world.

No, this wasn't the original plan. But that doesn't mean that the reality will be any less amazing. If ever there was a child who was dreamed of, and then came true - it was you.

You are loved, you are enough, we are enough. We are a family.

Continue reading " Moons and Junes and ferris wheels"
Tags: Infertility, Pregnancy, Life, Parenting, Family, Goals, Plans, Hopes, Love, Baby, Children, Award-Winning, Blog,
Posted on July 13, 2004 at 04:41 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Should have been Dawson's Creek and a Tomato Sandwich

May 14, 2004


The afternoon plan was this:
1) pick up Bear and his babysitter
2) stop at Town Hall and get permission slip for garage sale on Saturday
3) arrive home
4) make self a tomato sandwich (lightly buttered toast, fresh tomato slices, salt, pepper, and maybe some herbs or cheese crumbles if handy) and sweet tea (half herbal iced tea, half lemonade) and
5)catch 30 minutes of my current guilty pleasure - Dawson's Creek reruns.
6)Then work myself silly for another 5 hours.

Instead:
1) picked up kidlet and babysitter
2) dropped them off at one of the town's water parks with $1 for an ice cream
3) raced to where I thought Town Hall was
4) looked around some more for Town Hall
5) called 411 and asked for directions for Town Hall
6) found Town Hall
7) circled Town Hall. and again. finally found parking.
8) begged for a garage sale permit, despite less than 7 days notice. Was chided. Complimented clerk on picture of baby granddaughter.
9)Got permit.
10) headed back to water park
11) Answered cell at intersection before water park

And here the wagon fell off its wheels. Thud.

Me: Mr. Vendor Rep! You were supposed to call me this morning

VR: I had to go out of town

Me: So you're probably going to miss our meeting in Chicago tomorrow?

VR: Yes

Me: So the project manager you were going to assign to assist me - will he be making the trip?

VR: Not so much - he's no longer with my company

Me: So update me; how are you going to make next week's milestone?

And out of the corner of my eye I see that Bear and babysitter - both wet - are approaching the van.

At the same time VR quickly conferences in "Vendor Rep 2" - a guy he thinks might be helpful to our cause.

Simultaneously I hear VR and VR2 come on the line I hear... "MOMMMMMMMMY! Where's my popsicle? I don't want to go home!!! I want to stay and play!!!!! MommmY!" and then PUSH the "mute" button.. yes...toooo flipping late.

VR: Elizabeth? Are you there?

VR2: I need to change phones, I'm hearing a lot of noise in the background...

Sometimes, I HATE being a work-at-home (or van) Mom.

Continue reading "Should have been Dawson's Creek and a Tomato Sandwich"
Tags: Business, Jobs, Work, Careers, Life, Parenting, Telecommuting, WAHM, Project Management, Balance,
Posted on May 14, 2004 at 01:41 PM and filed under: On The Job
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