A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Life as Pictures…when the day gives you beaches

Little Man has been five for a couple of months now. I’d had visions that he would take part in some kind of summer day camp and learn to swim in such a program. But, alas, he is not potty trained…a permanent life motto should be Plan “E” is the new “A.” A friend recommended this lake beach to me last year, but I was too anxious to consider it at the time. It’s a good deal for both the pass and lessons, and she raved about the cleanliness and general positive environment. But, I don’t like outside. I especially don’t like beaches, and I extra specially don’t like new routines. Combine them together, and it didn’t happen. I don’t think I even had a good excuse for it. But, that hasn’t stopped my Mom Guilt from overtaking me. Kids love a beach, so this year I pulled up my big girl pants and registered for their two weeks of daily lessons and the summer beach pass.

But, the process had been dragging out after I made the decision, and just wanted to be done with arranging it…but the town was taking their sweet time, which gave me the opportunity to ruminate further on something that was inherently making me exceptionally anxious. Even when we were registered and things were purchased, I was anxious with anticipation. I never made a dry run prior. I had no idea where I was going. I had no idea of the set-up. I didn’t really know what I needed. And, I still don’t like to be outside. And, there was also this vague thought nagging me that this was a waste of money and too good to be true…Surely I need to mortgage our house or utilize our children’s college fund to have my son learn to swim in one of these custom kid swimming places that require me to (gasp) wear a swimsuit and wade into the pee pool!

The morning started out efficient. I even decided to not exercise in the morning to ensure I didn’t have any weirdness with my timing. I usually don’t, but I didn’t want to pressure myself with my schedule of exercising throughout the day…requiring even more showers for a mommy with terribly sensitive skin, and an unpredictable nap with the kids. Keep it simple was what I was going with, and first thing in the morning that deceptively worked…until the directions my husband gave me took us to the same lake as where we needed to go, but the actual beach for the next town over.

I ended up at the first beach ten minutes early. After a tremendously long and steep schlep up a hill, it was lovely. The kids having a ball, and I prided myself in getting there despite the entire town under construction. But, time ticked, and no one was there. I started to worry. And, then I looked out over the water, and saw a second beach that suddenly was populated. I hurried to my bag to realize that we were now fifteen minutes late for the lesson that was occurring at another beach.

I swear. I hustle the kids. They were understanding and accommodating as Little Man narrated the events of my fuck up…something he does best, which is endearing until it’s on a loop for thirty minutes. They are soaked and confused. I’m bullshit, and screaming at my husband because I tried to get to the other beach, but couldn’t find it. Mind you, I’ve only been in this state with my husband once before…It was a blizzard when we were newly sort of living together. I was heading out to join him for his work party. My car in his garage, but the snow was piled on the driveway before the condo plow people had an opportunity to remove the snow. My now husband, then boyfriend had not seen the state of his drive, told me to, “just punch it,” which I did, and subsequently was stuck with only half my car out of the garage. In dress pants and a waning blizzard, I dug out my car. It’s funny now…a little over fifteen years later.

So, now my anxiety, that had been mellowing, was spilling out of every conceivable pore without relief, but he got us there. Fortunately the same age group had another class for Little Man later…not that I wanted to be at the beach so long, but that’s what a Plan E is all about.

As I do with almost all things that make me anxious, I plan a menu of some sort. What better beach fair exists than pasta salad? Actually, I have no idea. I hate the beach, and can’t remember the last time I went, except it was pre-kids and I was probably disgruntled about it as I spend days ridding myself of sand from my unmentionables. I’m generally proud of my pasta salads, but must say that this one was probably among my best…pretty good when my strategy was to buy whatever shit that seems like it vaguely fit with the hope that this beast would last the week. It turns out that I’m not the only one impressed. Little Man enjoyed it so much that he asks for another helping about every ten minutes. Aside from the green beans, he eats most everything in it. That surprised me as he’s never been a pepper or cucumber fan. He didn’t quite clean his container, but it came close. I’m not sure how he selected which items he would leave for me, as he didn’t completely refuse to eat any one item entirely. That said, I prefer this mystery to some of the others my kids gift me.

It’s remarkable how much I’ve grown in the past five years. As much stuff as I hauled for this first trip to the beach, it’s probably half the amount I used to when Little Man was a baby. Another notable difference is that I mostly used everything. It was such a chaotic beginning to the day that yielded us staying much longer than I’d planned…and realizing upon arrival that I didn’t have everything required to keep me comfortable and avoiding a rash from too much sun exposure…I didn’t change the kids before heading home. They both mostly sat half-naked in their car seats because I was done and needed a nap by the end. But, shout-out to the other moms who had their shit together, and my friend who allowed Warrior Queen to pilfer her entire snack collection. I seriously don’t know where she puts all the food she eats.

Warrior Queen enjoyed her digging, but I can’t say that there are any non parent delights with her process. The above picture was her when there was no toy phone or Hello Kitty ice cream to consume her attention. Mr. Man, however, spent two days diligent at work. The first, pictured above, he built a “beaver dam” he excitedly used to experiment with water flow. Day two it was lava, which is not a surprising story-line for him these days. Among other obsessions, I find myself learning ALL about volcanoes and lava…earthquakes…environmental catastrophes associated with climate change and global warming. This is in addition to his human body fixations, and all possible ailments one might encounter…like cancer. Believe it or not, but I very quickly reach my limit agreeably discussing all the ways in which one might develop and die from various cancers. Sometimes these two interest areas intersect…like this morning when environmental destruction led to dying from skin cancer…in case anyone were interested in inviting us over for a party.

I was playing around with trying to appear artistic while also wanting to guarantee I had images to document this day for my blog. But, in addition to noting that I’m mostly well hydrated and in a constant state of needing to pee, I want to take this moment in self-admiration for managing to find a pair of sandals for Little Man without diving too profoundly into our ice-cream truck fund. Kid shoe shopping is a process that really should be reserved for its own circle of hell…if I believed in such a place. But, frankly, I rank finding both kids shoes between stubbing my toe and bra shopping. It was terrible, but while I still need to get Warrior Queen something better than the shoes pictured…preferably something that doesn’t leave her feet grotesquely black and impossible to clean, I managed a pretty decent pair for Little Man…I’m waiting for these bastards to disintegrate when they hit the water. So far their maiden voyage had them sitting in the sun. The second day equal use. But, while I need to try to locate a spare set for him, and two for Warrior Queen, I can’t stomach it at the moment.
This fella…or fell-ette decided to join me today on this second beach day that whispered rainstorms to come. At first I was a little freaked…do butterflies bite or anything with their tube eating things? But, life is all about risks, right? And, this risk ended up as a total diva…chillaxing on my pastyness for all the surrounding kids to gawk. It flew away shortly after they became bored and returned to their digging and general festivities. I guess I can’t please everyone all of the time, but not gonna lie…a butterfly confusing me with something flower-like is not a bad way to spend a morning.
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Weighs and Means

As an educator Autism was described as this extreme, unreachable thing…grueling and heinous. I’ve had friends working with the population of extremes that cemented my belief system, even though I’ve encountered variations. The Autistic adolescents in my classrooms and schools have had complex profiles, the Autism piece fading into the background in some respects as other mental health issues and aggression became more worrisome. I suppose it’s all linked, but we were never in the game of “fixing” their Autism. Looking back, I’m glad I stumbled onto that small piece of an appropriate belief system.

Aspberger’s no longer formally exists, replaced by the umbrella of “spectrum.” I’m not opposed to this change…maybe? I don’t really get Autism still, though following disability Twitter with the throngs of testimonials has my immeasurable depths of gratitude. It truly is a spectrum, though I suspect the people charged with describing it don’t comprehend the term as they should.

Mr. Man is a marvelously unique gent. I’ve never worked with these little ones, so it’s hard for me to understand what’s part of a dominant neuro pattern, and what diverges. But, I always knew Little Man was different, and I almost tear up thinking of his wonderful ways that sets him apart from so many others.

At some point last year I began wondering if my son fit somewhere on the spectrum. I’ve never been sure if he would meet the criteria for a formal diagnosis, but certainly some of his behaviors had an Autistic feel to them. As he’s aged, even in such a relatively short span, the behaviors more pronounced. Doubt seeping away watching his individuality draw its distinct lines. But, I’ve been the only one in his life who believed Autism is a part of him…nothing new. My own neurodivergence yields that I see the world differently; I’m used to doubt, but within my wheelhouse of assessment of people and situations, I’m seldom wrong. My little man is no exception.

My son’s evaluation concluded some months ago, and it was a very gratifying experience. He’s young, and his presentation borderline for a diagnosis, so we will have him reassessed in the fall. But, no other diagnoses applied. As I listened to the results of his assessment, and the recommendations the psychologist listed, it occurred to me that Little Man’s borderline levels of Autism are because I’ve been busting my ass to intervene in the areas he struggles. For example, my son is not so great a reading facial expressions, and initially he couldn’t whatsoever. I’ve been working with him for years now in understanding social cues and reading expressions. He’s still odd in some respects, but because he has the capacity to do unexpected things, the assessment did not register an area of need. That said, he’s clinically significant in four areas with a moderate level in two more. As his world becomes more socially complex, I’m guessing his Autistic profile will evolve even more.

When we attended his yearly physical, I think his very skilled and knowledgeable doctor was hovering in the neighborhood of my son existing as a different and interesting kind of kid that no label would accurately describe. But, as the appointment unfolded his doctor saw some telltale Autistic behaviors, and I watched as he sat back and smiled. I could read on his face that Little Man is simply a delightfully interesting kid who happens to have skills most people don’t associate with Autism…unless one reads commentary among the Autistic community on forums like Twitter.

The last several months have been a whirl of stakeholders and the cacophony of life…my son becoming more rigid, but also better at interacting with his peers. It’s been an expansive behavioral give and take, but all within the scope of what I would expect Autism to be.

My husband initially uneasy with the label and its implications; I outlined a context of difference I don’t think he realized. I’ve been progressively more out there with my disability, at least in the flesh and blood of my life. Disability is a balance of stigma and strength, and I’ve learned there is power in embracing difference…taking pride in the attributes disability provides. I explained neurodivergence in terms of my own skills and achievements, and framed other more meaningful examples for him as well. We never discussed it, but I feel the impact of my words. My husband no longer takes issue with Little Man’s diagnosis or the behavior criteria it entails. Our son is simply marvelous for who he is…most of the time.

But, it’s been difficult to catch a glimpse of the future harassment from peers he might experience for his oddities. It’s reassuring to watch his strength and good humor about it, even if some of it is accidental. It’s been hard to see myself and aspects of my life in him, though so far we don’t share a diagnosis. As proud and content I am with myself and my path, I’ve cried privately on several occasions considering the prospect that more of me develops in him. I have no choice, but to stumble along that bridge in the event it manifests at some point.

But, for now I consider how we measure a person’s brilliance, and while I never had too much faith in cognitive measures, witnessing Little Man’s growth I very personally appreciate the deficits in how we as a society understand such things. Until now my focus as been on the inability for such intelligence indications to measure future success. But, sometimes Little Man startles me with something in his brilliance that can’t really be collected in a meaningful way. It’s almost always something pretty cool, and the coolest aspects to who Little Man fundamentally is I can wholeheartedly attribute to his Autism.

Life Lessons

I’m trying to consider where my head is these days…other than a mess, which is a hyperbole. I have a lot of things swimming around, but mess probably isn’t a great description. I’m struggling with some things…I feel like I can log that tid-bit under the: “What Else is New” file. Besides, once middle-age is reached, isn’t there always shit going on?

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I purchased another much-too-easy puzzle for Little Man. He enjoys them as a soothing exercise, appearing to almost impact him the way my fiber crafts do me. This is a good thing since he’s increasingly having trouble managing the intensity of the emotions he feels. This latest puzzle is a pretty cool image. I enjoy looking at it. I enjoy sitting on a cushion by the coffee table with Warrior Queen on my lap as Little Man and I piece it together. I do not, however, enjoy that these puzzles always seem to have one piece that walked away. This had me thinking. No matter how well my shit could be together or how spectacular the product, there is always a piece missing that I wouldn’t otherwise notice other than the context of everything else is relatively put together.

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Another story of my life…sometimes the crusts are SO terrible that only a nibble from each sandwich piece is manageable. I periodically have too many crusts in my life, and although such things are temporary, I will squander whatever I can to avoid having to deal with them. And, at the end of the day when I managed to choke them down, the crusts were tolerable. I will never rejoice in them, but sometimes the avoidance of them becomes sillier than just scarfing it down and moving on.

Life as Pictures…outings, interactions, and decisions to make

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My husband and I are lousy with planning for the weekends, resulting in doing nothing particularly memorable that’s procrastinated until we are bumping dangerously close to naptime…I experience a lot of guilt about this, yet simultaneously not motivated to change the behavior…the story of my life. Little Man was in too long and behaving like an epic douche all morning. I wasn’t feeling well, and my husband decided at the last minute to whisk Little Man away for some errands. One of those stops to the grocery store, which includes a cookie for the kids for your parenting trouble. These days Little Man is often too excited to nap when his daddy is around, but Warrior Queen usually will, especially if not tempted with older brother wrestling and bed jumping. But, leaving her at home also translates to a meltdown that can easily consume forty-five minutes to an hour when she’s overtired…which she was. But, as the gents headed out, my little girl was rightfully wailing. No way she would fall asleep in the ten minutes until quite time, and I generally felt lousy that essentially Little Man was rewarded for his antics, and a mildly less horrible Warrior Queen remained indoors. I took her out to a local coffee shop where she was allowed to pick whatever single treat her mighty heart desired. She chose chips. I like chips, don’t get me wrong, but why not a cookie? This place has pretty awesome ones that she requests almost every day, especially when I arrive at her school in the afternoon for pick-up.

I had a troublesome day a couple of weeks ago, all the more troubling because the outing is reliably delightful. I took the kids on a Sunday to give my husband a break. One would assume that having the kids all week I’d be bothered to take them an additional day when he’s around. Oddly, in some respects it’s much less stressful because I have my routines and rituals that don’t require compromise with another adult present…I’m weird that way. We were at one of the malls I love that contains a free play area that my kids can occupy themselves at for easily a couple of hours. Little Man is doing better with social things these days, namely he will seek kids his age to play with, and provided the other kids aren’t terrible, it will go well. This day in question was not one of those days.

My son was visually obscured, but I could hear him, and it didn’t seem quite right. He often makes weird noises when he’s excited. It seems to be a type of stimming for him. The noises I heard him making had a similar feel to me, but not something I’ve heard from him. It was strange, though. I could tell it was him, and I’m not sure why. I moseyed over, and there was this other child around his age pretty hard core assaulting him. Little Man is not new to kids getting uncomfortably handsy, and he can usually manage well enough on his own…sort of; this kid seemed to really be hurting and upsetting him. While I couldn’t really get up into the structure well, my voice disrupted what was happening, and my son climbed down.

The thing about Little Man is that he doesn’t process intense emotions well. It’s something I’m trying to work on with him, but this is a big ticket thing that doesn’t come up so often that I feel I’m making a dent. But, my sweet boy stood in front of me with his eyes outlined in red as they get when he’s on the verge of something he doesn’t know what to do with. This instance he didn’t start crying; sometimes tears leak from his face without any other noticeable change in his expressions. It’s moments like these when I know he will start hitting, punching, scratching, and kicking me quite hard. At least two weeks later, and I still have some of the markings on my forearm from his nails that almost drew blood. I’d actually never seen him quite so upset as I had particular moment in time. He was having a tremendous amount of trouble processing his feelings, and his contact with me was hurting quite a bit. I’m not sure what ultimately got him to calm down…not that he really calmed completely. He didn’t want to leave, so we didn’t. He went back into the structure to play, which went well.

Then that kid returned, but I had been standing around for this particular reason. There is something about that other boy. He was mean to others as well; children much younger. I think he scratched another little boy’s face. If I had to guess, that child was in the two-and-a-half-year-old neighborhood to my son’s five years. I couldn’t figure who was in charge of this abusive child that seemed in the five realm as well, but I seemed to have scared him once he attempted to lay into my son again…I’m very scary, even when I’m not terribly mean. All I said was for him to please not hit my kid. He stopped, and left Little Man alone after that. The first time I redirected him for hitting, he ceased in that moment. This second time seemed to finish the behavior altogether. Interestingly, my son was peaceful after this…played fine, and we went home.

I mention this because Little Man is getting picked on at school…maybe? I’m not sure what’s happening, but I don’t like it. There is this one kid that my son has issues with. I don’t think he’s a bad kid, not really. I don’t know that he is especially mean either. That said, I have a focused problem with him, and have since the beginning of the year when similar situations presented themselves. And, frankly, I’m not quite sure how to manage it. Several things bother me about the dynamics that are occurring during this parent supervised outdoor play after school, and I’m left wondering if I’m the only one in the parenting lot of Little Man’s class who holds their kid accountable. That sounds very judgey, and I don’t like thinking it. But, my friend witnessed the situation the other day, and thinks I’m too charitable with regard to the jerk kid’s mom. This is a thing with me. I tend to recognize my possible bias in any given situation and overcompensate by dismissing behaviors more than I should.

The event started with me looking over and witnessing Little Man swatting this child who he towers over…My son doesn’t usually do this kind of thing unprovoked. The problem is most of the time don’t see the precursor to these events, just my kid assaulting someone. But, my friend noticed that this kid looked to have said something mean to Little Man just before. And, as my friend is telling me this, I start seeing this same douchemonger kid becoming abusive while his mom isn’t watching…not that it would matter. She thinks boys will be boys anyway…how nice for her.

I reprimand Little Man for hitting. Hitting isn’t a good answer, as much as I understand that he should defend himself. I approach this from a different angle…a more jaded one. My son is quite tall and very strong. He is also a different kind of kid, the peer is among the cool kids…as are his friends. I’ve seen time and again how these things go down. It’s usually the different kids who bear the brunt of discipline when fighting back…one way or another. As is the friends of this jerk kid have grasped that I will hold Little Man accountable for inappropriate behavior, so they will tattle to me about things he does. I recognized it the first time it happened, and pleased that I under reacted to the statements of whatever “mean” thing Little Man managed knowing there was likely significantly more to the story they weren’t revealing.

But, watching the interaction with his peer rapidly unravel, I lightly redirected Little Man’s hitting, and asked if he was ready to go. He left immediately for the car…that NEVER happens. There is always some degree of teeth pulling to go home. I lasso the ignored Warrior Queen into her car seat, and walk over to Little Man who is sitting on the ground by an open car door. I don’t know what to do with this situation. This can’t be a terrible problem because he isn’t refusing school like he did in the beginning of the year for a spell…due to this same dick kid. I ask him if he’s okay, saying I noticed that kid was not treating him well, and asking if he wanted to talk about it. He balled his fist and hit my foot a couple of times. I responded how I usually do…validating his feelings, but saying I don’t deserve to be hit. In this instance I didn’t have to set the limit that I will walk away if he continues to hurt me. Those two relatively half-assed motions and he stopped. As usual he didn’t want to talk about it, but was peaceful in the car.

Later that night I asked him again if he wanted to discuss the situation; he didn’t. Five minutes later he’s eating a snack at the table suddenly saying, “I love you, Mommy.” Another minute later adding, “so much.” And, I still don’t have an answer for this.

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I’ve needed a good deal of self-care these days. A friend said not long ago that as you get older, things get more complicated as life experiences become more involved. I see that with my college students, particularly one of them. I suppose the most obvious change with the passage of time is that I’m not as angsty as I once was. I’m probably more focused on self-care than your average bear…especially your average-bear-mom-with-small-children. My exercise has been all over the place…my hip bothering me earlier this week…missing exercise is an extraordinarily big deal for me for emotional regulation. I’m isolating these days…I don’t want to, but I also can’t bring myself to be social. I need to force myself because this will not end well. One of my things is that when I’m feeling low or powerless, I tend to do some kind of community service thing…some have a greater impact on my well being than others. Postcarding is a surprisingly profound lift for me that I don’t really understand, though it’s been derailed by sick kids more often than I like. It’s a crazy thing that I volunteer so much that it seems I’m volunteering to do things I didn’t know I signed on for…good causes, but amusing, I guess. Right now I’m in a space of resignation for a couple of things. I have my self-care measures…some I manage more than others. There’s my latest afghan I never quite drag myself off Twitter to work. It’s amazing how much it’s grown. With life decisions made, this project will have a definite home, but I can’t bring myself to work on it, even though I figured this outcome was inevitable…I suppose things aren’t really inevitable until they are. One life lesson that’s strengthened over the years for me is control…or lack thereof. I don’t know that I’ve found a hard and fast answer about things out of my grasp, except an awareness that almost everything is to some degree. That’s actually fairly unsettling. But, I’m middle-aged now…my remarkable, marvelously different boy will likely have a hard path in school…like his mommy on at least one front. I don’t think there is anything I can do about that. Too many other things I can’t change as well. But, I have things like this afghan that is looking beautiful with each colorful row…cheery and festive when I’m not. I’m in a position, for a while anyway, to pursue my bucket/ambition list…things to distract me as I seek to add another prison facility to my list, and a remote chance to make it a longer term thing…It’s important for me to have things to work toward. Most efforts fail and are disappointing, but I never seem to have a shortage of projects for toiling. I have a Warrior Queen who loves my snuggles, and a Little Man who sits next to me on the sofa with his head on my shoulder. I ask him how he slept, and he tells me to, “Focus on making my dinner.” There are so many things I wish I could control, but sometimes the things I can’t are heartbreakingly sweet.

Where did the giant go?

I don’t usually have cause to write about Warrior Queen exclusively these days. I chew on that often, and I don’t have a good answer. Usually there is something noteworthy about both kids for each post, or the focus on Little Man because he is older with a smattering of atypical development periodically worth mentioning.

Little Man is in his four-year-old preschool program three mornings a week. Warrior Queen is enrolled two, so we spend some moments together as a twosome. I mention it often, but it merits repeating. She’s such a fierce, feisty sprite of a girl…so much character and personality.

It makes her angry, but I can’t help myself. In the car she will start to nod off, and I’ll ask her repeatedly if she’s tired.

“I’M NOT TIRED!”

“Are you sure? You seem tired.”

“NO! I’m not tired anymore!”

“Are you just grumpy?”

“I’M NOT GRUMPY!”

“Are you sure?”

“I promise.”

I could do that to her all day, which probably makes me a terrible person, but I can’t help myself. A side benefit is that the exchange keeps her awake when we are dangerously close to quiet time and moments from pulling into the garage. Warrior Queen seems to only scuttle to oblivion a mile from home no matter how long the journey, and those few minutes of sleep will make her a total asshole who will forgo her nap altogether. Some time ago she successfully climbed out of her crib. I’d deluded myself that such a sleeping arrangement would persist until high school, but, alas, I heard a ruckus above me, and proceeded to yell at Little Man who was actually in his room, staggering out confused. Warrior Queen was on the floor prone with her blankie over her head. She looked up at me and grinned. Thus began the first sleep in a toddler bed. The transition was much better than I feared…Isn’t that always the way? A bit more coordination, but sleep manages to happen. I’m finally well, which means exercise can happen too.

Warrior Queen has all kinds of things to say, and I love her imagination. Much of the time she tells me stories, “There’s a monster coming!” She isn’t scared; it’s just a story. She’s only two-and-a-half, so the plot leaves much to be desired, but I can see the gears turning. One day the stories will be something to behold!

Another favorite of which I don’t understand the origins. I’ll tug a shirt over her head, and as soon as her face escapes the confines of the material, she’ll squeak, “I’m a pickle!” Subsequently, the remaining portions of her head will push through the opening.

My spirited girl is always the assertive one; I admire that about her. She was walking throughout the kitchen and family room wielding a bowl of cereal with milk despite my less than gentle urging to eat at the table. Predictably she has an accident with the contents of said bowl. Probably also predictably is that the milk spilled over our heat vent…when the heat kicked on for good measure. I’m a terrible housekeeper, so I would assume that the smell of baby vomit might not be as jarring as a normal person would expect. “It will dissipate,” has become a kind of life motto for me these days. My husband cleans the situation as best he could. Warrior Queen with a thinly replenished supply continues to eat. My husband and I look down at her waiting for another accident as we rehash the previous moment’s events. As we mostly ignored her, mindlessly chatting to each other, she shifts her attention away from the precariously tipped bowl to look at us and says, “I’m still mad about it.”

I discussed the playgroup we’ve been attending at a local library. There is some kind of director who works there. I don’t know what he does or his name, but Warrior Queen is captivated by his existence. He’s an enormous fellow, and my daughter refers to him as a giant. She doesn’t want to meet him, but every time we pass the main desk, Warrior Queen asks, “Where did the giant go?” She will hover in her spot at the foot of the stairs waiting to see if he will appear. And, it takes a good deal of convincing to move her onward when his office is dark and empty. Stomping our ascend she continues to ask me the same questions about his whereabouts that I can’t answer. I’m usually left with the distinct impression that she is unsatisfied with my responses, and doesn’t completely believe me. Sometimes she stops midway looking at me as though his presence will spontaneously generate from my rather large bag like some kind of weird library programming magic trick. She gives every inclination to want to approach him for some kind of conversation like she would with most people. But, when a desk librarian asked if she wanted to meet him, my fierce girl decisively said, “No,” immediately leading the way out the door and to the car.

Life as Pictures…and needs for life

It’s winter. Climate change dictates that we consistently have these random warmer days into January. Certainly it wasn’t super warm,  but not the frigidity one might expect this time of year. This never lasts, only about a day or two before the erratic plunge back into expectation.

I wasn’t thinking of sitting outside; I will use just about any excuse to get out of it, even if I seldom regret the decision to confront the sun. My husband suggested it. Little Man was vacillating between outside on our driveway and going somewhere we weren’t going to go regardless. The driveway won out, though not taking a walk as my husband urged. We hustled outside in a dervish wind. I snagged our vaguely uncomfortable, but better than standing or sitting on wet pavement, chairs. And, my husband and I simply sat in the warmish sun while our kids entertained themselves and made us laugh. Thus prompted a theme I identified for the last year, and what I hope to nurture in the next.

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These are ridiculous cars, yet everyone seems to have one. Little Man wasn’t interested in it until he became much too big for it. When he was younger, he loved sitting in them provided I was pushing him around. I’m a solid pusher…running around with jerky turns and sudden stops. My endurance for the exertion is pretty good too. I’m usually surprised how long I can prolong the effort without feeling as though I want to pass out. But, in the pushing days he loved it; Warrior Queen loves it now. I love that they love it, but my zest for their enjoyment pales with their desire for me to run around the area pushing around this ridiculous car.

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It was a joint pretend play…Little Man filling the gas tank that turned into Warrior Queen’s expectation at a later point. One of my favorite things is to eavesdrop on their pretend play. They both create these stories I don’t understand, but they are always completely engrossed in whatever is happening in their minds. That’s a trait…or habit I’ve always possessed, which makes a part of me nervous that they inherited my brain. But, as they grow into more distinctive people, I’m learning that it is less about genetic matter traveling as following modeled behavior…at least to some extent. I spend a good deal of time considering nature and nurture, and I find myself landing in interesting places on the matter.

I’m never comfortable. Mostly it’s my mental health that dictates my homeostasis. Best likened to chronic pain, my threshold to just be is different allowing me to function. But, I’m not ever comfortable. My life is in a constant state of pushing my limits or I’d be paralyzed in a small windowless room unable to escape. I suppose that’s the reason why there are some things I simply won’t do because it’s exhausting to exist and do something interesting with my life outside my head.

Spending the time outdoors would have been one of those decisions, but I followed my family’s flow. My husband usually the one nudging us outside. It occurred to me suddenly that I inadvertently surround myself with people who know what is best for me with the minuscule, nothing events in life; and push me into decisions I wouldn’t make on my own. Big decisions are all me, but the small enjoyments outside of chocolate and cookies that disappear into my memory are almost exclusively other people…like my husband. I enjoyed watching my kids while sitting in the sun because he knew experiencing this brief warm day in winter was a worthwhile effort. I need that in my existence, and I don’t know if I formally understood that until this particular moment sitting in my vaguely uncomfortable chair.

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A brief walk down the street to the festival of the fire cisterns that have captivated Little Man from toddlerhood.

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Paw Patrol has nothing on rocks.

I’m part of activism groups, and I’ve found that I collect similar nudging people. Little by little I find myself taking on something I never thought I would do…tiptoeing into things that make me nervous, and suddenly my tolerance for scary things shifts.

I will start postcarding when Warrior Queen begins school. I don’t know my exact schedule, likely not weekly. But, I plan to regularly attend groups that do this sort of activism. I don’t really understand how it works, but for a couple of years now I’ve seen marvelous posts of this effort…my longing to participate, but I froze not knowing how to start…what to do. The women I’ve met in my political network groups give me access…nurturing sentiments…and an abrupt push to start something new. I don’t understand how it happens, but I end up committed to something that I never regret…even if the venture doesn’t flourish into my hopes. These women have the connections, so I just dive in! I’m terrified, but I know I’ll be okay.

I’ve made my peace with the anxiety of postcarding…the nerves numbed, and now I’m so excited I practically vibrate. I feel as though these mornings to myself have been too far away to consider in any meaningful capacity, yet I’m now at the edge of somewhat wide open time…to waste…to be productive…I hope to actualize it all!

The plan for postcarding mostly set, my newest focus at the moment is text-banking. I’ve been circling the perimeter of such an effort for a while. To be fair, the candidate text-banking for the 2019 elections doesn’t seem to be in full swing quite yet, which reinforces my anxiety induced procrastination. Candidate text-banking that is a back and forth type of deal might be too much of an effort for my first crack at this kind of thing. But, as I responded to a post about my pride for the past year and my hopes for the next, I lamented my concerns to the fairly massive group of mostly women. I’ve decided to table the candidate work for the moment and start with some environmental issue texting that is more about guilting people to the polls than a specific issue or person. This effort provides polling information, which isn’t such a huge deal in my state, but in areas with voter suppression knowing where to vote, what is needed, and other logistics is crucial. This environmental group will be good training wheels for me. There isn’t an expectation of reciprocity for this first venture. That’s good. I can meander in my haphazard, catawampus way through how these things work; it’s all so foreign to me at the moment, and too many new things at the same time makes my ability to process strategy impossible. At some point I hope to become more involved with the group I initially contacted…when some of the aspects of text-banking are no longer new, and my learning curve will almost exclusively focus on the issues and candidates I’ll be supporting.

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I’ve heard it before…that you fall more in love with your partner watching them with your kids. I wholeheartedly agree, but the notion is beyond something I could’ve ever possibly fathomed. We’ve always had a strong relationship, but the level to which our connection has transformed defies anything I could coherently communicate. Not only can I watch the kids for endless hours, but time stops when my husband is interacting with our children. I might meet very specific and important needs for our little ones, but certain things Mommy can’t do. Those Daddy activities and interactions enrich their lives in ways that deepen my love for him, and the more mundane the instance, the more I melt seeing it. And, then there is the way my husband’s face lights when our little people enter a room or greet him in ways unique to him. I often wonder if he’s aware of how his stature and presence transforms looking at Little Man and Warrior Queen. It doesn’t matter that an entire day could be spent yelling at our precious cherubs, I’ve never seen my husband quite so light and enamored.

I’m a little nervous about the spring semester as well. I will teach two sections of my college class provided there is enrollment for both, a likely scenario. I will be entering the prison in the morning as well as the afternoon for the first time, and have a significant increase in college students as well, not that it’s all that many in totality.

The two sections I’m teaching are old hat, though the afternoon is a different group of men…different gangs with different prison functioning. I’m not sure what to expect, but probably much of the same. Having a sitter for my kids all day is a transition I’m feeling better about, but still uncomfortable for completely irrational reasons.

I offered to donate my time to the university with another program I was planning to run anyway, should it be approved, also a likely scenario, but one never knows until the process is complete. I’ll be running my Education Seminar one evening a month at our women’s maximum facility. I offered to bring some college kids in to observe if it’s permitted. The seminar, however, is a bigger process than it might seem. I’m still attempting to learn of its approval, which I believe is more of a rubber stamp than anything else at this juncture, but since I’m not employed in the Department of Corrections, I can’t know these things for sure. This program was at the request of the prison director I’ll be working with, so I expect everything is fine. But, I always feel uneasy until something is on the books and I’ve started. An additional nagging thought in the back of my mind is worry that the administration turns before this program is established. While this effort wouldn’t necessarily be squashed, a significant delay in an already long process is highly likely…unless I’m already in with a session or two under my belt. Having a relationship with people, and a face for a name is a pretty huge deal with these kinds of things, and I have other ambitions for the programming at this particular prison. I very much want to get started there.

Then there is the added college contingency. I would’t have offered such a thing if I thought it to be a long shot, and it isn’t as though there are committed promises. I merely suggested that I’d explore the possibility if this program is approved. My hope is that I can expand my usefulness with this university, and other opportunities might grow from it.

There are several additional moving parts with having college kids come with me into the prison. Certainly the logistics, which are not all that problematic because I understand the system expectations and am efficient. But, I’ve never run this kind of program before, and new things are always hard for me…probably for anyone. I have high expectations, and tend to fixate on failure that usually doesn’t materialize. Given the nature of this program, a complete crash and burn probably won’t be the case. My creation will be helpful for the incarcerated women; I’m just not sure what to expect from the program itself, and that’s swimming in my mind. It isn’t fear, more getting my head around planning, and just wanting to start already.

The university director I’m working with thinks this is a solid opportunity for his department. He’s planning for it as a noncredit option for the students. I assume credit can’t be awarded because it meets once a month as a single session entity, but I’m not certain if there is something additional I will need to create to make this a thing on his end. Some kind of assignment or written structure isn’t a problem, but a collision of other things I’m trying to organize in my mind with everything else. That isn’t a complaint. This kind of stuff is exciting for me.

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Little Man has always been about the mechanics, cherishing the non toys as toys…the sprinkler bric-a-brack no exception. My husband begged our son to keep the parts in the shed where they belonged, but Little Man simply cannot switch gears once an idea is in his head. My husband decided quite wisely it wasn’t worth the fit that would ensue for absolutely forbidding the activity.

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Watching Daddy do house work is also much more fun than any kind of toy he could be offered.

I relish having all of these pieces to consider with the flurry of other time occupations I’m pursuing, as I watch my children toil with various objects and each other on a warmish day in winter. I value my husband ushering the kids in a ridiculous toy car before he transitions to figuring if any of his various ladders will allow him to accomplish some kind of household task he keeps forgetting about. It was a hard couple of years, and my baseline is never particularly easy; but increasingly I’m convinced that I attract the people I need at various moments in my life. Too much of the time my closest relationships end, often jarringly so. It isn’t always a death or injury. Sometimes we naturally drift…sometimes I’m a shitty friend because I’ve struggled with intimacy my entire life. But, I suppose the nature of life is temporary, so in the next year I’ll take more time to bask in the people who force me to sit outside in a vaguely uncomfortable chair, or press me to do new things they don’t realize are terrifying. And, maybe if I plunge often enough into disquieting unknowns, the world can become a better place in some impossible to measure way, and I can make some new friends while honoring the people I’ve lost.

Life as Pictures…twosomes

I was all set to finish a couple of other posts and realized that I haven’t created this format for a bit…I like to mix it up.

The a-bit-older-than-two-and-a-half Warrior Queen and a-bit-older-than-four-and-a-half Little Man love to play with each other more than just about anything. The other night my son taking a bath. His sister apparently tall enough to climb in on her own had ripped off her diaper once again to join her brother…streaking has been her thing the past couple of weeks, and good luck catching her to replace the diaper she’d rather not wear. My husband and I watched them giggling as they tuned out the world. We have this random assortment of rubber duckies that must have been re-gifted to us throughout the years. The kids were using a couple of them to suck up the water and spray each other…or Little Man was anyway. Warrior Queen tried, but eventually her inefficiency yielded that she allow her big brother to monopolize the effort, and she loved every spray of it…busting in a hearty laugh as he did. I’m sure the flatulence-like noise urged the ruckus. Can’t say I disagree. As much as I redirect potty themed jokes, there is truly something hilarious about a solid tushie horn, even rubber toy inspired.

We are often together as a threesome, but three mornings a week Little Man has school. Shortly Warrior Queen will attend two mornings herself, and I will be without child for a few hours. My son and I don’t have nearly as many outings together, though we have moments smattered throughout the day. I sometimes forget to document these events, and then they fall to our collective history.

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I take Warrior Queen to a library play group that she mostly loves. She will inquire about seeing the guy running it for days prior, but at the last moment becomes shy. She’s pretty big into men in general, but this particular person isn’t really her type. He’s a bit odd…nice, but odd. Regardless he holds this special magic for her, and she tracks him in the room even if she won’t actually speak to him. That’s also a surprising kind of thing. Warrior Queen isn’t usually coy with her greetings. She also isn’t usually reserved in a crowd or struggles to detach from my lap in public whatsoever. Lately she’s been super snugly with me at pretty much all times anyway, but it was notched to eleven this particular day.  Maybe it was because there were some older rowdy boys in attendance doing their rowdy boy thing? I have to say that as disappointed as it was that I couldn’t manage some work on the afghan, I soak in this kind of contact whenever offered. At some point these moments will cease to be. Even though my fierce sprite has been sick, waking from her nap grumpy and feeling lousy, I savor its implications. Mommy is the only answer for her, even falling asleep on me the other night when she awoke an hour too early from her snooze. Her favorite position it seems is to curl into my warmth with her head on my chest, arms pulling me closer. I think she likes listening to my heart…always has. She has a gentle snore to her sleep, and I get lost in my strokes to her cheek and hair. It doesn’t matter how badly I need to use the restroom, I always hope for a few moments more.

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Little Man and I spent the rare day out together while my husband and Warrior Queen remained home in their sickly state. I’d promised him one venue too far from home, and upped the ante with a first ever arcade trip closer to the homestead, hoping it would entice him enough to switch gears…It did, which is not always the case. It probably took a good chunk from the college fund to pay for this outing, but totally worth it, crashing market be damned! Mr. Man immediately drawn to the indoor mini golf so easy that one would think I could fair quite well. I didn’t actually try, my best effort to ensure my son had ample time to play…and frankly I wasn’t sure he would finish one of the most points expensive attractions offered. For my part, I have subterranean levels of a competitive edge to my disposition, and an even more pathetic spacial ability. While he fumbled a great deal, I feel endlessly convinced I would have embarrassed myself in record making proportions, as I’d be totally owned by a preschooler no matter my concentration or effort. But, I like to think I’m a reasonably involved parent; I tried to teach Little Man the grip and stance…I clearly failed. But, he had fun, and we moseyed to the next distraction in an entirely too loud expansive room.

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It’s kinda a thing how little athletic talent my family has from its various circles. My son is mostly no exception, but I give him profuse efforts for trying. Swipe after card swipe, Little Man delighted at shooting his hoops…eventually managed to swish some in. But, increasingly it became apparent that he was more captivated by the mechanism of the ball release. This is a timed game, but he’d periodically stop to evaluate how this particular machine functions. With remaining seconds, Little Man would stop his ball tossing, jumping, and flailing to bend over and watch the machine trap the balls. But, sometimes it wouldn’t, so I could see him puzzle such things to the point of me reminding him he could still try to score more points…or tickets or whatever. Toward the end he was doing well, no longer launching the balls outside of the contraption or behind the basket never to be seen until an additional ball landed on top of it, knocking the stuck one back into circulation. Little Man, the embodiment of effort rewarded…I should have created a meme…if I knew how to do such a thing. But, then he figured the machinery to his specific undisclosed standards, and he was abruptly off to another flashing mechanism. I halted his momentum, so he could finish the allotted time. He immediately threw his heart and excitement back into his ball throwing game for those trickling seconds, but his mind made its determination. We scouted the next source of excitement at the first possible moment.

Disappointments

The semester is over for me, but the writing class in the prison isn’t. Since I’m already there with more material left in my curriculum, I want to continue through the holidays. This time of year can be a challenge for prison populations, so if I can offer a measly distraction, I’m happy to do so.

The sitter canceled at about six-thirty in the morning. Her kid was sick with something that sounds lovely and includes vomit. It would be a dick move to be angry about a mom taking care of her kid. And, I’d be ridiculous for wanting someone entering my house coming from that situation. But, I was disappointed. It was so last minute that no childcare replacement could be made. My husband had a meeting with his supervisor, so he couldn’t stay home. I called-off the class. I deeply love the man who had regret all over his face seeing the brief moment of defeated shoulders I didn’t realize occurred. He knows this class is the highlight of my week, and a good one lifts me for days after. But, nothing could be done, and it isn’t like this was a catastrophic thing. The college group is finished, so I’m back as a volunteer. All things considered this wasn’t that disruptive of a situation.

In the novelty her toddler bed, the two-and-a-half-year-old Warrior Queen was up too early. I probably woke her when I started exercising. When I have class, I set my alarm to start my day strong and energized with ample time to get my blood running, read my smut…and check the conclusion of the previous night’s Twitter arguments. But, a too early rise for Warrior Queen means I’m limited in where to spontaneously take the kids. With no more crib in the equation, I can’t have my fierce sprite falling asleep in the car too close to “quiet time.” Perhaps some parents appreciate the exertion of perpetual ushering into a bedroom, but I am not such a parent.

For a good chunk of my morning I had to repeat to myself that the unexpected nature of the day was not the end of the world. It wasn’t, but I was still disappointed. Something I’m trying to do, and mostly failing at, is accepting what I feel without judgment. I decided the day needed to be special…because there was no where interesting to go, and I was sulking about my class.

And, the entire foundation to the day was rough. The four-and-a-half-year-old Little Man was thrown by the sitter thing, and started to tear-up when I told him I would remain home. For some reason he conflated my missed class with his consequence for stealing. He took a nothing wood thing from his classroom that he considered a treasure. But, it doesn’t matter what it is. Stealing is not acceptable behavior, and he needs to return it. The object, however, is now lost somewhere in our house. Little Man has until his next school day to find it, or he will lose one of his own toys of my choosing as a symbolic gesture that his teacher is forever missing one of hers. He’s anxious about this, but has put in zero effort finding the object he stole. Either way, come next week I’ll stand with him as he explains what happened to his teacher and apologizes. We’ve spent DAYS talking about this situation. In his mind that morning he thought he was losing a toy sooner or something, and I think generally confused with a suddenly disrupted routine. But, we talked it out; and he proceeded to sit on the sofa, rhythmically throwing his back against the cushions like he’s been doing since he was old enough to sit on it without keeling over.

Grocery shopping was the plan, courtesy of my husband who reminded me we didn’t have dinner for the night. The prospect of bringing both kids to the store alone gives him fits, but it isn’t that bad during off hours. The kids are usually chatty about silly, adorable things; and my son is always super polite. It feels good when he delights random strangers. It’s a vanity thing that I’ll take…plenty of other moments when I want to crawl into a hole with regards to my public parenting.

I’ve learned when things make me anxious…like an unplanned day with almost no warning or flexibility, or I’m just feeling lousy for whatever reason, “special” does the trick. Special can have all kinds of meanings. For me it’s mostly a food thing, and I can’t forget my iced tea purchases that are obtained so often I don’t know if they count as special anymore. But, I certainly enjoy them, and they are a high point of enjoyment for me no matter how many days I have them. I buy cookies at a local bakery regularly as well, but the morning’s disappointment demanded chocolate chip even if the event itself is not so unique to my existence. But, cookies will always be inherently special, and make everything better.

And, there is something cool about our car rides, shorter distances anyway. For the longest time the music had been kid stuff. I’m not sure how or when the shift happened, but now the kids request songs from one of my favorite groups. Little Man almost has I Hope You’re Happy memorized.

Warrior Queen is most passionate about the following song on the disc, which is a more hard core sounding tune with an embarrassing amount of profanity to it. It isn’t at the level of “bitch digs my stick,” but it isn’t something winning me any parenting awards either. That said, it isn’t like the song deviates from my own regularly used colorful declarations. So far it doesn’t seem like either kid has noticed; maybe because it’s hard to follow the lyrics? Both kids usually have some kind of clue what the song should be called based on the words they hear. Warrior Queen calls the song she adores “Chomp.” I don’t know what the song is actually called, but it isn’t that. I give her credit though, “Chomp” actually fits with the general feel of it.

Otherwise, most of the car rides go between I Hope You’re Happy and Your Love is Like a Car Crash…the kids just call it “Car Crash.”

I’m thankful I don’t have to try and guess what they want as they stare out the windows. Both kids assert their needs quite clearly as long as communication isn’t occurring mid tantrum. Even the arguments between the two of them make sense, and I’m kinda delighted that they work out their song disagreements without my involvement or with one of them habitually caving. All things considered, they are pretty balanced about the car music selection. Little Man regularly forfeits his song turn to please his sister; I love that about him. Like my daughter, my son loves music, and will be excited to hear his “Happy” song, sigh with a “Fine, we’ll listen to Chomp again,” rocking his head against his car seat patiently until it’s finished. Then it is his turn, and I will hear him singing to himself what he knows to Happy, and my heart melts. And, there are other times when Warrior Queen changes her mind, even mid song, to please her brother. I’d been mostly sick of the same discs I’ve been listening to since Little Man started toddling, so I will not complain about the development of their new musical interests.

The car itself has become a sort of event for me in and of itself. I try to enjoy every precious morsel of it, so often find myself in a scramble once reaching destinations I haven’t put much consideration into. As we meandered through the store in our partially catawampus way, on a whim when thinking about lunch, I bought the ingredients for calzones, which are not nearly as tasty as ones purchased at a restaurant, but figured my kids would appreciate it. They did. Little Man was talking about it for the hours leading up to the meal. The grocery mostly uneventful. Warrior Queen didn’t attempt to flee the cart basket, and managed her “gentle hands” lowering items behind her. Little Man didn’t wander off and boisterously greeted people we passed…the occasional properly placed, “Excuse me.”

The bakery not so uneventful. Mr. Man toying with the small Christmas tree in the corner before I had a chance to say something, knocked an ornament to the floor. To his fright it shattered to a substantial number of dazzling pieces. Thus commenced the tired lecture since these festive trees have made their presence…everywhere. His earnest and unprompted apology to one of the bakers concluded; we purchased very fancy winter cookies, and hustled in an excitable blur out the door. Well, the kids had fancy winter cookies. I stuck with my tried and true chocolate chip.

Kids tethered to their carseats with surprisingly little controversy, I texted my mom to see if they were available in the next thirty minutes to Skype. Eventually she replied, which allowed me to feel better that I hadn’t attempted such a thing as often as my parents would like since their return south earlier in the month. Kids distracted. I cooked. We ate. Forty-five minutes of book reading with Warrior Queen sprawled on her back over my reclined body and Little Man nestled into my side, and it wasn’t a horrible day.

Later in the evening I received preliminary confirmation that I will teach two sections of my class in the spring. I have yet to teach an afternoon in the prison. Different gangs involved with different prison functioning issues, so that should be interesting. I’ll have a significant increase in college students in each class, which will be a nifty thing as well. I have to say that I’ve quite enjoyed the college students. I didn’t expect to as much as I do. My primary motivation for reaching out to this university originally was to afford me the opportunity to teach in a prison without relying on my parents remaining in the area for childcare. It’s marvelous to find that I enjoy the college contingency as much as I do. It isn’t so much that I thought I wouldn’t, rather the perception from this piece of the experience not occurring to me.

A little later in the evening I received an email from the graduate student enrolled in my class. The last syllabus assignment is an optional request for course feedback. It was a truly lovely and unexpected message…humbling. And, while it was still a disappointing day, I can’t deny its outcome.

Pillow Talk and Other Conclusions

Little by little my pressure release valve turns. Much of my acutely bad days are very specific, last a day or two, and then life moves on…until the next cycle where I repeat the process.

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(Shutterstock knows how it is…)

Yesterday I learned my pap smear is fine…exhale. I’m good about doctor visits, which includes whatever annual check-up. I am especially diligent about appointments having to do with my lady parts. I have a history of cervical cancer that led to two cone procedures ten years apart. I don’t remember when the last one was, certainly at least a few years before my pregnancy with Little Man. I could have sworn I had the exam last year, but there is no record in the computer system. So, either something else was bungled when the hospital that includes my physician’s office switched to a dramatically new computerized system, or I forgot. I’ve never forgotten to have the appointment, but my memory isn’t great with a lot of things.

I had my primary care doctor do the exam, which I was fairly uncomfortable about. I never realized how little I liked having men rooting around in my nether region for an examination until I had a woman do it. I always thought it was just an unpleasant procedure that made me anxious. I have a trauma history, so it isn’t a mystery as to why such an exam would bother me. But, now that I know the difference, it’s more glaring a decision to make. At the moment, however, it’s too much to sit in the waiting room of a large practice that is perpetually spilling with pregnant women. My primary care doctor has always been pretty fantastic, unlike most of the other doctors I’ve encountered though my health travels. I decided to pull up the big girl pants, and just do it.

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(Live at Everett couldn’t fit in “Neener neener…”)

I was nervous going in for many reasons, but mostly worried that having lapsed a year something was wrong. I don’t want to be overly dramatic about this. The cervical cancer I get moves at a glacial pace and easy to treat, but I still worried things weren’t okay. In reality it was more about the addition of another thing to think about, but I’d still been holding my breath about it. I abstractly knew this, but sometimes it’s hard to understand weight until it’s gone. This exam has been plaguing me for months. But, I’m okay…exhale…and another item from my list of thoughts removed.

I’d like to say I’m a spectacular parent. I suppose I’m a good one, but with so many things bombarding my mind, it’s hard to feel my best. It’s hard to stay in the moment and just appreciate. I can in finite spurts, but there always seems to be consuming competition.

My parents were up for Thanksgiving. I’ve mentioned a few times of how my son struggles with the excitement. I’m more in tune to this mechanism than I’m describing, but it seems each visit my son struggles a bit more…sooner and more intensely. This was about a three week visit with an unusually jammed schedule. The week of Thanksgiving my son had no school…changes in routine consistently hard for him. The saving grace for vacations or lack of structure is that I’m around and shepherding him through his days. If I’m present doing the lackluster mundane life stuff, he’s usually fine and quite chill…both kids are. The past few weeks, though, were meetings and appointments and simply a cacophony of stuff that required Mr. Man to spend some hours or much of a day under my parents’ exclusive care. He loves Nana and Papa, but not as much as he loves a normal day with me. He will simultaneously be exuberantly excited for the time with my parents, and seething at me for reasons he is a little young yet to explain.

But, for three weeks he’d been aggressive toward me. Little Man isn’t really an aggressive kind of kid. Certainly tired or hungry, but it’s isolated. I often get the brunt of it, but probably more do to proximity than anything else. The past few weeks, however, was intense, frequent, and mostly directed at me. Sometimes he’d stand inches in front of my legs and give this Damien glare that is creepy at a level I can’t describe.

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(Having the occasion to reminisce about my horror movie loving days I realize Little Man completely blows this kid out of the water…no contest.)

Other occasions he’ll begin hitting me without obvious antecedent, and sometimes quite hard. And, while I intellectually get where a four-and-a-half-year-old is emotionally, and I know he still loves me; this kind of thing very much hurts my feelings. I’ve been vulnerable anyway, and just don’t need my little man to be focusing his ire at me, especially in such a hostile manner.

The other night I was tucking him in. We have this routine called “dinosaur jokes,” and while it’s kinda a dinosaur thing, it isn’t remotely a joke thing. Its genesis was jokey related…more like word play I can’t quite remember the specifics of. It was an impromptu spin from a book my son never wants read, but somehow has memorized. I couldn’t get him to change his diaper or something, and he was getting mad. I began this word play thing and it became something he started requesting almost every quiet moment of the day for weeks. But, now it is exclusively a night time bed routine, and it’s somehow morphed into something else entirely.

My son makes a comment, and I as the dinosaur (indicated by me saying, “Roar,” before my statements) respond with some kind of sequence or cause/effect remark.

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(Tenor must be listening in on our dinosaur joke extravaganza each night to create an equally believable dinosaur characterization.)

The last few weeks it’s been about the dinosaur eating his fruits, vegetables, and bacon. We have ten rounds that I count down, and invariably he speaks about sharing whatever food items with friends and family. Even when it isn’t about food, he will rope in friends and family.

Occasionally, however, this exercise becomes a way for him to express what’s bothering him. The last time was a conflict with a peer that he needed to work through at the beginning of the school year. But, the other evening he was talking about the dinosaur missing people. The phrasing, however, didn’t make a lot of sense. The only thing clear was that the dinosaur missed people he loved. My parents were leaving in the next couple of days. I assumed his focus was on that, but I know better than to run with such assumptions, as I’m often wrong…or not exactly right when I apply my logic to his thinking. Little Man regularly perseverates on things that aren’t immediately obvious. So, I asked an open ended question at the conclusion of the “jokes”…certainly I can’t interrupt the ten exchanges. That would be madness!

I don’t remember my exact wording, something along the lines of: Are you missing someone? Do you want to talk about it? He did, in fact, want to talk about it. His face close to mine facing me on his pillow, and quietly tells me he doesn’t like it when I go away. While he noted the days of appointments, he was mostly referring to when I teach one morning a week. Interestingly, he hasn’t had a problem when there are hired sitters watching him, unless my absence is two days in a row with no time in between that he can spend with me. We had a conversation about how I need to have things for myself to be a happy mommy, which I don’t think he could accept in that moment. He repeated that he has been missing me and mad. We talked some more, and I haven’t mentioned it to him yet, but this weekend I’m going to try to take him out for a day with just the two of us…that hasn’t happened for a while, and he’s been asking to visit one of our local mall haunts.

After my quiet conversation with Little Man, I returned to my bedroom telling my husband what had happened. I relayed that I don’t understand why he misses me because I’m around all the time. That isn’t delusion. Even with my appointments and such, I’m rarely away from my kids…that’s what it is to stay home. Sure, my son has school three mornings a week, but that was completely absent from his lips moments prior. My husband looks up from whatever he was watching and says, “You’re his person,” and returns to his program. It might have been hormones or fatigue from the second cold in a month, but my eyes became watery. Sometimes I don’t feel like a particularly good parent that’s present and joyful. I don’t think I’m necessarily terrible, but some days it’s hard to engage. But, with all of the distracting colliding thoughts in my mind that make me feel irritable and wanting to escape from myself, I don’t know that my son knows the difference.

Trying…

It’s Thanksgiving again…

I’m thankful there are so many establishments around me that make unbelievable chocolate chip cookies. I’m sure they have other confectionery marvels, but I guess I’m a traditionalist…not that I would decline any kind of cookie, but I have my preferences. Along that same line I’m grateful to have a friend that periodically bakes me chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. They always turn out perfectly soft, and the oatmeal makes me feel like I’m doing something positive for my body. On impulse I tried making cookies from scratch a few weeks ago. The baking soda was a relic from quite easily a decade ago…the cookies were flat, but I still managed to eat most of the batch in one day. They didn’t come close to my friend’s cookies, but morally I will not leave any cookies feeling unwanted or unloved…I’m generous in spirit that way.

I’m thankful almost all of my pregnancy losses the past couple of years have been so early that holding weight is the only real bodily disturbance. I’m thankful that my weight gain allows me to look like a drawn 1950s pinup. While I would prefer to fit into things more easily and buy a bra that fits, there are worse outcomes in life.

I’m thankful that I was so close to someone that even a year after he shuffled off this mortal coil I can still envision perfectly how he would respond to my various antics. I often craft texts and emails to him in my mind; before long there is a vivid exchange. I don’t believe in an afterlife. He’s lost to me forever, but I like to think that his memory isn’t. I had another successful class at the prison; perfect attendance once again despite some really screwy lock-ins lately that yielded one random student arriving. I can practically hear his responses to my stories…his laughter. I’m indescribably grateful for that, but I miss him. It isn’t much of a substitute, but I didn’t have these kinds of things when I lost my best friend at sixteen. I wasn’t able to stomach those thoughts, so I pushed everything down trying to escape the effects of losing someone so vital to my existence and happiness. I didn’t though…not really.

I’m thankful my husband is so funny. I’m not very good at communicating things. He sometimes reads this blog, but doesn’t tell me when or comment about the content. He knows I’m having a hard time, but probably not the details. I’m better at sharing things these days, but I never reveal the complete picture to anyone. But, my husband has always loved me for my faults, and no one makes me laugh as he does. I’m grateful that he provides me one of my life’s greatest pleasures: laughter.

I’m thankful for middle-age…really. I love the feeling of what this point in my life quest reveals. I now suddenly have this impenetrable armor I had spent my youth unsuccessfully trying to mold. For so long there were all of these notions I internalized as weakness, but as a middle-aged woman these vulnerabilities and my humanity are what make me strong…less fearful…more joyful. There is no better shield from a foe.

I’m thankful my kids are so snugly. I’m grateful for their chatter and smiles. I’m thankful that they have the capacity to remind me of the best parts of myself. I’m thankful that they will eat my cookies happily even though they are nothing more than a smear on the baking sheet. I’m thankful that while they will eat them, they won’t eat too many.

Oddly, I’m thankful to feel loss in it’s lonely grasping pain. I’m finally ready to attempt justice for the memory of such remarkable people. In my middle-age I’m secure enough to preserve the most hallowed parts of who they were, and continue the legacies I’m sure they never considered. I’m thankful I can give them such honors, and hope it offers me peace at some point.

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