A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Life as Pictures: holiday weekend edition

I went into Thanksgiving this year knowing it would be harder than most years, but I don’t want to immortalize what will inevitably be an undercurrent for a long time still. Leading up to the holiday I toyed more seriously with the idea of walking our town’s charity 5K with the kids. This is a tradition I hope to start in the coming years; each year I inch closer to taking the plunge. I don’t get my hold-up; I can walk a 5K easily, and the kids would be fine. I suppose it was a bit helter skelter this year; too much going on. I emailed the group organizing the race a couple days prior with some key questions…some more of a barrier than others. Although it seems I can just show up with my motley crew, there was a brief note of the course description that had me wonder if I could maneuver a stroller. It’s a turkey trot, so I probably could; but I read into the lack of response as a sign that this year would not be the year. And, really, I was already feeling overwhelmed as the weeks blurred by. Generally, when I feel stuck in angsty ruts, I create a new task for myself that allows me lift others in some way. This approach definitely improves my sprits to varying degrees, but at some point adding more tasks to manage is exclusively madness destined to be withheld until a better time. I experienced an irrational amount of guilt declining; life is short and unpredictable, and a bunch of what ifs flood in…What if I never have the opportunity again…madness.

Self-preservation aside, there is a simple fact heading into any day with no outing; Little Man NEEDS to exit our home in some fashion sometime during the morning, or anyone in a vague radius will want to rip their face off experiencing his destructive enthusiasm. I needed some fresh air too before cooking, so as a lowly duo, we set out for a walk around the neighborhood; and it was perfect.

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It’s a fairly large neighborhood for the area…many families in various stages of children. As a child nowhere remotely close to this area, I remember kids outside all the time; but maybe not. I often expect more bustle for some inexplicable reason. It was a quiet morning on the early side before a food-for-all; I’m not sure why I expected more kids around. Maybe because it’s one of the last remaining tolerably warmer days a few wisps above freezing. November is my favorite month; this year that sentiment virtually escaped me even as I tried to remind myself of that paltry fact. But, starting down our street a ways with some of the color still contrasting with a clear sky, I took a deep breath, filling my chest with a month’s worth of brisk fresh air at a glorious time of year.

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This is supposed to be a drainage ditch, but over the years the surrounding woods began reclaiming it…probably not a good thing in terms of flooding. I don’t have a single iota of how these structures function, but I’m fairly certain it’s not for little men to find fantastic sticks purposed for whacking dried plant debris.

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Eventually Mr. Man returned to me…jarring me out of my thoughts that were separate from his hushed leaf crunching and imaginative chattering. I couldn’t see him, but his sounds were reminiscent of fantasy stories depicting the whispers of small, winged pixies out to do mischief on those who trespass. When he emerged from the woods, he was so proud of his stick that stretched beyond his height. It was, in fact, a very good stick that merited Mr. Man’s chosen adjective for the day. From his first waking hours, dazzling things were “delightful” to him.

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The end of the stick. We were barely acquainted, yet it felt like family…entertaining my son for a whole ten minutes. It didn’t even have the opportunity to destroy something or injure someone before I would snatch it mid power struggle. Be well and at peace, dear stick.

 

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What is it about children who are perpetual furnaces? Little Man kept his hat on for twenty minutes before asking me to hold it for him. He refused it until I explained that his ears were bright red. He allowed me to jam it back on, which prompted periodic commentary about red ears and the need for hats.

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My husband is usually the one to take Little Man outside. I’m not sure what they do; usually I’m told in some form, but I often don’t pay attention. My son had a great time; end of story for me.

We kept walking. I used to distance run before injuries became more of a rule than they should otherwise be. I knew the terrain; Mr. Man eventually did not. We were embarking in an area where roosters can be heard from the road…because people in my town love their fresh eggs…or whatever. Why does any suburbanite willfully choose to house chickens? But, chickens are a top fav of Mr. Man, and the journey did not disappoint.

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A boy and his puddle, although this sucker should really be called a lake. Eventually I managed to move Little Man along, priding myself that he refrained from stomping through it like I asked.

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He didn’t romp through this one either, maybe because the surface ice was more distracting than the liquid underneath. I’ve leaned with Mr. Man that things are a progression. Rocks broke through the solid surface of this particular puddle. Copious questions about the physics of ice…and frozen pipes in the event that water remains in them through the winter…because my son is curious about pretty much everything. Smaller, more shallow future puddles tested his body weight before we continued on our journey. As we walked he continued to prattle on about pipes…water heaters…steam pistons…all things I have no clue about, but apparently he does.

Eventually the lure of puddle storming became too much for my three-and-a-half-year-old. For the last bit of our walk he was soaked, but to his credit he did not complain. That said, things were no longer “delightful.” Our traipsing was an hour-and-a-half, and, wet socks and shoes aside with a smattering of annoyed reprimands on my part, was still absolutely perfect. The memory didn’t even diminish when I realized on our driveway that I dropped his hat somewhere along the way. Well, immediately the memory was diminished, but looking through the pictures after my shower, I returned to the realm of “absolutely perfect.”

The Thanksgiving meal ran uneventfully; I figured it would. By the evening I was formulating the game plan for the following day. We live in close proximity to various farms and wildlife preserves. I saw news of a festival of sorts at one farm that we’ve attended on the rare occasion. It’s pricey by itself, and claiming the drastically reduced tickets housed at our local library is a pain. But, the “Black Friday” deal for the morning had me sold predicting a nice day to be outdoors.

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What nightmares are made of. How can ANYONE in their right mind gaze upon these animals who are clearly plotting human demise and think, “Now, that’s a fantastic pet!”?
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I don’t care how clever his proposed names are, it’s all fun and games until one of those little bastards pecks at his finger.

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I should probably be embarrassed by this, but I always assumed cows were a certain size. This bad boy…girl(?) was enormous, and I simply was not expecting it. It wasn’t just the height that had me, everything about this animal was massive. I never pictured cows on the scale of a schnauzer or anything, but I figured I could at least look one in the eye. As is, I was tushie level, so you know where I made a point to stand…I need no help in the poop exposure department, and my kids could easily give this heifer a run for her money.

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Warrior Queen was in a constant state of “go” throughout this entire journey…not unusual during outings, but she was particularly exuberant on this beautiful fall day among the animals and open landscape.

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It’s funny, Warrior Queen is like her brother on this front; she’s usually pretty indifferent to animals. I’m starting to figure that I have something to do with it. Try not to judge me.

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My parents were delighted that the eighteen-month-old Warrior Queen was saying, “Moo,” while visiting the cows…until literally EVERY animal was saying, “Moo.”

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The remaining pieces of the weekend were an unremarkable fizzle, but even unremarkable states of parenthood are a blur. It’s comforting for me knowing that as I trod through the frenzied days leading to and stretching through this particular weekend, I will have the imperfect kindness of my memory’s reflections…and a few scampering cherub photos buried with my olfactory recollection of these specific late autumn days…complimented by truly horrifying chickens.

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What To Do with a Day?

Little Man’s behavior…around me, at least…has become phenomenally better over the past several weeks. He’s three-and-a-half now. Maybe that can account for it? I can’t say for sure, but it’s lovely…at least until Daddy arrives. At that point, he’s excited and all bets are off. Some Wednesdays ago I wasn’t able to think of a decent activity plan. I was simply drained. I decided we would stay home for the day, which I never do. I went into it thinking it would be such madness because my son is so much more difficult to manage when I keep him in. I fought through copious guilt, and determined Mr. Man would be vegging out in front of the television all day, so I could be left alone…to grieve…exercise…for some quiet…whatever.

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(Obviously, Interesly also enjoys vegging out in front of a television all day.)

Eighteen-month-old Warrior Queen still takes two substantially long naps, so my planning consisted of calculating my time to be left alone.

I’d prepared in the most absurd way. I asked several friends for permission to even consider this agenda.

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(Without a doubt Colourbox understands a day of television requires copious amounts of planning and color-coded, alphabetized spreadsheets…)

I begrudgedly accept that my son watches about two hours of brain rotting television nightly. It’s a compromise that I don’t want to get into, but it bothers me. It’s the only media he encounters. My phone is not for his use, nor is the computer. He doesn’t play games or tinker with fancy apps.

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(Are Big Bad Baseball and I the only ones worrying about the effects of too much Puppy Dog Pals, PJ Masks…or whatever other stupid ass shows that are peddled to my son when I’d rather watch the news?)

I’m extraordinarily cautious about media exposure. People come up with all sorts of rationalizations and excuses, but the fact of the matter is that technology and devices impact brain functioning at all ages, particularly in the arena of social skills and empathy. It’s strange because there isn’t a lot of direct acknowledgment of these two key social issues. Almost all of the documentation focuses on every other conceivable skill, yet ignores the way in which we exist as social creatures. At best there are rumblings about social media exposure and texting for adolescents, but so much of our learned behavior in the world begins at the sponge stage.

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(I guess Care.com also heard that referring to small children as sponges is associated to their perseveration on toilets.)

This is not to say that I am emphatically anti-technology. It’s a tool, and a marvelous one. But, it’s just that, a tool. It is not a replacement for engaging with others or forgoing the commitment of the often irritating and tiresome process of teaching offspring to be reasonable people in public. Admittedly, my kids are very young. Who’s to say? Maybe they will grow to be total twatwaddles under my parentage, but I can’t imagine cultivating my style exclusively around the functions and interventions of media will swoop in and save the day in the event my kids are a consistent embarrassment when they are definitely old enough to know better.

I probably think too much about this singular issue. It isn’t out of nowhere. I’ve spoken of my concern that my children will inherit my brain. Consequently, it is a concentrated focus of mine to ensure they have a background knowledge and general reserve of strategies for social navigation and situation comprehension. As is, if they have my brain both will be in an unavoidable quagmire of struggle. It’s gut wrenching to consider, so I try not to think of its impact. But, it’s important to me…as their primary caregiver…that I teach them whatever strategies I can to counteract as much as possible. I don’t believe in the fool’s errand of striving to ensure my children are happy. I have no control over such a thing, and part of life is about learning how to navigate the unhappy times; that also begins in early childhood. My role as parent isn’t the happy-maker; it’s teacher and home…and ass-wiping aficionado.

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(Sketch Club captured how ripped my arms have become wrestling Warrior Queen into the car seat she suddenly started abhorring a month ago.)

Circling back to planning for what should be a typical Wednesday…untypically at home. I managed to give myself the permission I needed as personal self-preservation…It’s been a colossally shitty six-months with devastatingly insignificant amount of time to myself. I was all prepared…talked myself through the day…what would happen and when. The three of us played together in the morning; the two surprisingly entertaining themselves to an unexpected degree. A smooth transition to Warrior Queen’s morning nap; Little Man was looking through some books, and continued without distraction when I returned downstairs. I decided to leave him undisturbed, and take care of some emails for my volunteering gig. I managed the entire list of correspondence; no concerning noises from the other room. Mr. Man was playing, not asking about the television. I carried on with my stuff, even managing to do a bit more exercise. I actually couldn’t believe he left me alone to do it. He usually insists on annoying me throughout my entire routine until I give-up and tend to whatever issue he forgets as soon as I’m available.

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(XDA Developers get that EVERYTHING is imperative to Little Man provided I’m busy doing something else.)

I kept waiting for Little Man to ask to watch the favorite boob tube, but he didn’t. He entertained himself all day, even when Warrior Queen rejoined the festivities. I couldn’t believe what an easy day it was…without cartoons or inquiry of any kind. As the day wrapped I was feeling pretty good as a parent. I’ve learned to take these wins as they come without questioning or second guessing.

A couple weeks later a similar predicament. I assumed I wouldn’t be as lucky, but figured I had television time bank. Warrior Queen went for her snooze, but my son didn’t immediately inquire about the television. He wanted stories, so I read to him snuggled on the sofa for about 45 minutes before I needed a break. He tinkered for a few then asked for cartoons. I don’t know if I fully thought out how much he would watch that day; I guess it was a play by ear kind of thing, even if I didn’t want to admit it. Such an approach wreaks havoc on my anxiety and general rigidity with routines, but I’ve simply been shit at organizing these kinds of things lately.

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(Sure, no probs…I can totally go with the flow…easy peasy lemon squeezy…)

Mr. Man ended up viewing an hour longer than I’d hoped. I’d watched the minutes tick away as I was discussing the creative writing program I designed with a colleague of sorts. It was an important conversation for me to have, and it wouldn’t have been possible that day without my son distracted. Fifteen or so minutes, sure. But, and hour-and-a-half conversation was an impossibility. As it went Warrior Queen was becoming challenging to manage for the last thirty minutes of the discussion.

For the longest time I spent my parenting time finding patterns and consistent interventions. Now that my daughter is more of a little person every day, consistent pattern pursuits is just one more fool’s errand to forgo. Some semblance of routines and procedures are definitely important, but at this point I have a whole range of interventions in my mind’s catalogue for just about every growing moment of my children’s lives. I can feel my brain’s plasticity as I do whatever works in any given moment before moving onto the next moment.

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(Pinterest concurs; I’m a BOSS!)

Part of what works in my life’s bigger picture is seizing moments that give me feelings of some kind of positive boost…usually unrelated to parenting. I consider it a momentum thing where the result encompasses everything else in my world, particularly how I interface with my children. That was this phone call.

I’ve come to understand that our Department of Corrections doesn’t value creative writing programs…not as a platform of self expression with no direct career implications anyway. There might be some literature attesting to the value of writing, but doubtful there is anything conclusively praising its prevention of recidivism. And, when resources are tight, results matter. I get it. I don’t like implementing squishy things, but anecdotally I know writing to be a tremendous benefit and outlet, even if I don’t have the concrete data of a study to support it. I was told that various individuals have been trying for twenty years to reinstate a creative writing program to no avail…until mine was approved…the one I ran at our maximum facility this summer. So, a local and prestigious university is running my program this term. I’m still not entirely clear how such a thing came to fruition, but it’s pretty groovy…humbling…unexpected. I’m a stay-at-home mom who toils in stolen minutes with things important to me. I rarely talk with peers, even more rarely do I meet with anyone pertaining to something within a professional realm. I have my passions, and I strive to make a difference; but in this field I’m often blind to my impact. I just do my thing, but surprisingly often over the past year I’m dumbstruck by feedback of some marvel of a task I accomplished.

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(Desktop Nexus Nature never envisioned its role in my time occupations when I’ve had a good day.)

The conversation I had this day was with the individual teaching my creative writing program through the university, updating me and strategizing…comparing notes from my class over the summer at the same facility. We are in the beginning stages of developing a systemic writing program that will eventually join with a larger national writing group with ambitions to extend their reach in our corrections system.

I’m grand at dismissing and minimizing my accomplishments. This program is no different. I always assume that anyone can do what I do…anyone can create what I can…anyone can achieve the results I do. Often I question the results themselves. It’s rare I get a clear window into the quality of my skill in any given capacity. Even these months later I’d been feeling insecure about how my class ran over the summer. I’ve received feedback that the class was a great success, but I’ve had a significant amount of difficulty believing…or accepting such notions. Intellectually I kinda get the way things went down; the issues out of my control and the barriers to teaching…intervening with incarcerated populations. But, I perpetually strive to do better. Unfortunately, my time is not my own so I likely will not have an opportunity to be better until the spring or summer of next year. It’s painfully long to try out the interventions I’m considering. But, this small moment that I needed in the midst of a horrible six-month period when my threenager watched too much television…my toddler toddled around while I mostly ignored her…I could tend to myself. I seized an opportunity to give myself a needed boost that I certainly deserve if for no other reason than I am a human in this world tramping along like anyone else.

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(Toddler was left to her own devices, but totally worth it, right Encounters with Cinema?)

I can’t say that things are consistently easier at the moment, but I have something important to smile about and focus on when another wave of sadness hits or I feel my control slipping. In the days following the phone call, I had a little more patience with my son…much of the time. I was little more interested in the snuggles Warrior Queen provides. I’m a believer in moderation in just about everything. I’m a believer in experiencing moments. I’m a believer in connecting to people in real time. I’m a believer in most of our learning is not through images on a screen. But, these days I’m focusing on the belief that at some point something has to give, and a rare day of wasted time can yield future moments that aren’t.

Love Above All…another year of gratitude

It’s been a heavy…long time. I’ve started a bit of a tradition with this blog. Around this time I create a post of gratitude. I have to say I kinda enjoy it, and look forward to this post as it approaches. I’ve read stuff periodically about the benefits of having gratitude during the more grueling times in life. It’s a double-edged sword for me. On the one hand it can be helpful to focus on the very good things in my life. On the other I use it as a justification for why I shouldn’t or have no right to feel miserable at the time. But, now is not the moment to focus on one more part of my lengthy list of shtick.

I’m grateful to know love…to experience it in its many forms…the love of and for my friends…the love of and for my husband, but mostly the love surrounding my children. I don’t love easily. It’s something I’d never wanted to risk confronting, but I’ve had key people in my life, especially relatively recently, who have allowed me to slowly release the excruciatingly tight fist of this sentiment. And, then there are my children.

When Little Man was born I was struck fairly early on with the profound realization that he was nothing but a being of love. It was pretty much all he knew, and I’d never experienced anything like that…to have someone look at me the way he did. So many things are learned, but our capacity to love…for love…is innate. I’d lost that somewhere; who knows where. But, in those early, immediate moments I was determined to preserve this capacity in him as long as I could…Warrior Queen too, as the equivalent level of love stretched blatantly across her delicate features within a similar initial timeframe as her brother. Ultimately these types of things mean that I must model how I want my children to interact with and receive the world. It’s been a beautiful lesson.

Some of my most wonderful…unexpected moments for me in this process of raising children are the unabashed snuggles I can give them. Part of my commitment to Little Man and Warrior Queen was to always demonstrate the depth of my love and appreciation for them. Something like that isn’t such a leap. I’ve lost important people in my life through some means or another. The first never knew how I felt about him, and it’s probably my life’s greatest regret. I can attempt to repair…or at least resolve a burned bridge. Death is finite, so I have to carry everything I’ve never said for the duration of my flitting over life’s terrain. My husband never escapes a day when I haven’t told him how much I love him…how much I appreciate who he is and his role in my life. These things have become a compulsion of sorts. I tell my kids I love them regularly, especially when there have been a plethora of redirections and yelling in a designated time span. But, mostly I opt for a constant stream of squeezes and smooches. I can’t hold them close enough…hug them long enough, and I’m so grateful for that feeling.

But, the other night while I cuddled with my son for the three minutes before tucking him in…hopefully…for the night; I lamented that I will miss the soon approaching days when he will no longer climb all over me with every effort to crawl back into my uterus. Both my children are so affectionate and snuggly almost every waking minute of their lives. They will play independently for a span, but then gravitate toward my person in some wonderful fashion, and I can only want each minute to extend for an eternity…even if I have to pee or my lunch is solidifying into a chilled mass on the counter. It’s all worth it because these days will soon fall from their grace. I’d never thought I’d be that person. Most of the time I don’t like people touching me…like to comedic proportions.

I’m grateful for so many things…or at least I try to be. I’m grateful for these simple black dresses I’ve found that allow me to feel as though there was some effort placed into my appearance. In that same vein, I’m thankful for hair pins because I can’t be bothered to figure out how to pull my hair into a ponytail that doesn’t look like a disaster. Maybe it’s because my hair is really too short…maybe I’m just a hot mess with this task to the point that experiencing a seizure in the process of hair fixing would help the situation. Hair pins are quite forgiving and give the illusion of a stylish updo, especially for a curly mop such as mine. I should add flannel shirts to this particular list. If I didn’t have those colors and patterns, then I’d look as though I was in a constant state of attending funerals.

Stupidly immature patterned socks are also a marvel of child sweat shops the world over. Hard to be in a bad mood when one’s feet are adorned with hotdogs or dinosaurs. I recently purchased socks with alternating chicks and fried eggs, which is actually pretty morbid; but part of me can’t wait until those make an appearance. I’ve decided to save those for a drastically shitty kind of day. I’m grateful that day has not dawned.

Tea and dark chocolate earn their permanent nod as up at the tippy top of any list consisting of wonders that make the universe right, but maybe cookies deserve the very same placement? It’s hard to say because I’ve never really met truly bad chocolate. Sure, some I like better than others, but I can’t say I’ve met a bar or truffle I’d kick out of bed. Cookies, however, are a different matter. Some of them taste like absolute garbage. Have I ever not finished a cookie? Of course not, I’m not an animal. But, lousy cookies leave an air of disappointment long after its remains shuffle off this mortal coil. I’m not grateful for that. Good cookies? I think we can all agree there is a special place in the heavens for their creators. I’m not a believer…but an exquisite cookie can almost make me trust in a higher power.

I’m grateful for the uptick in civil action…activism…investment in preserving the best in society…the best in us…community that exists even behind anonymous screens. So much of the time I’m alone during the day…maybe lonely in need of the bare minimum of human connection when the days and weeks blur together in a swirl of, “what just happened?”…staying home with wee ones can do that. Social media is a wonder of like-minded people who are also new to political involvement. I’m too old for the inspiration of far distant figures to motivate me in any particular way, but the flood of the everywoman is something so awesome in its magnitude. We aren’t happy with…things, so we strangers who will never meet band together to do our small things, and accomplish the impossible amidst a sturdy collection of naysayers. I’m grateful to feel so powerful even on those days when nothing else is done beyond a call to Congress or a typed notion of support to an unknown, discouraged peer. In those moments I matter outside myself, and I’m thankful to feel that…to force myself at all times to matter in the smallest of ways outside myself. I’m grateful for sprawling spaces in comment sections of like-minded people. I’m inspired by the number of ordinary women leading ordinary lives, and changing things in not so ordinary ways.

I’m grateful for so many of the opportunities I’m afforded…that I worked damn hard for, and finally materializing into fruition. I’m thankful for my voice; I’m thankful others find it valuable enough to dedicate sparse moments in a flustering life. I’m grateful for progress…always progress, but at its very core; love…in its many forms and expressions.

Life as Pictures

Staying home is a weird dichotomy. So much seems to be a state of killing time for the next…whatever. But, visibly buried within the constant shuffle are noteworthy mundane moments.

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A favorite playground because it’s entirely enclosed…with swings. It also happens to be in a good location for killing a few extra minutes before we need to be this place or that. Now that Warrior Queen is VERY mobile, Mr. Man can indulge in the swings until his heart’s content (read: Mommy becomes too tired to continue), and Warrior Queen can climb and drunken gorilla walk aimlessly without the risk of some kind of sudden death or destruction. This time of year the lovely outside days are in the final limp into winter, but, boy, are they perfect; and I say that as someone who finds excuses to stay indoors.

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The finger in the shot adds a certain quaint artsy purposefully amateurish quality, don’t you think?

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The library we frequent. It has a sunken patio, completely enclosed. My kids like roaming the small area looking at the various critters while I sit and ponder the meaning of life…or time my next chocolate fix that minimizes me having to share my sash…whatevs.

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There are amazing details with this area. I’m not a fan of outdoors and there are entirely too many bees…because flowers, but there are all these eye catching attractions and book characters hidden in spots. Little Man derives great joy from noting each character and every book we own that contains each one. We’ve shared some amusing anecdotes about the storylines of his favorites, and how it relates to his life. My son is quite amusing with his imagination, and he certainly did not inherit his memory from me.

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There are details of wear in this small often seldomly used area. I appreciate the imperfections. Maybe it’s because they are signs of a special place well loved.

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This is my default view of Warrior Queen at all times when we are in public. If I blink, she’s gone…and likely achieved climbing on the object with the highest elevation in any given location.

 

Having small children pushes me to notice…appreciate small wonders because for my kids everything is such a very big wonder. Over time random things take on a sentimental value. It’s strange because the vision itself is not necessarily something that is a monument to a special or lovely event. Maybe it’s because the image holds some kind of beauty for me, and it represents every other beautiful moment the location holds…even if I’ve forgotten some of the details.

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This is a silly merry-go-round…small and lackluster in my eyes. I can’t explain why even a three-and-a-half-year-old Mr. Man feels compelled to visit this very structure. I almost never purchase ride, but we reliably visit this area for the children to climb upon before they reluctantly move on. Periodically music will suddenly play among a chorus of bright lights, as though a phantom of sorts spontaneously selects to freak-out unsuspecting children. Initially it will give Little Man a fright before he gives a cautiously delighted smile.

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One special me and Mr. Man day I took him for a ride on this larger version and much more impressive merry-go-round. I don’t know what I expected. I don’t think he was particularly sure how he felt about the movement. He selected the dizzy tea cup, and certainly enjoyed making it spin…much to my chagrin. But, the color and detail of this particular object holds how I look at our times in this particular outing. Even though my kids are mostly indifferent to this carousel, I feel a loving ache every time it’s in site. Something indescribable about it has become a symbol of sorts.

Life as Pictures

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Naturally this is a full mug of lukewarm tea despite persistent…possibly overzealous…microwave reheatings.

 

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Have I mentioned I plan to have Little Man wear a diaper to high school?

 

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If it looks artistic, I don’t have to feel like a shlub for leaving toys everywhere, right?

 

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My kids will have kids of their own, and I will still find Cheerios from time to time.

Sharing is Caring

I don’t have siblings, so this whole two children in the same home thing is pretty jazzy for me to ride through. I have many favorite things in my parenting journey, and taking part in the sibling experience is among the top, especially now that Mr. Man is three-and-a-half and Warrior Queen is eighteen-months. They’ve been interacting for a while now, but my children are on the cusp of playmatedom; I can’t wait to see what this next phase holds!

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(I’m not delusional; this is what it’s like to raise siblings, right Shutterstock?)

Big brother is Warrior Queen’s favorite person among a small crowd of people she is quite fond of. I often stare at her silently as her eyes follow my son in his independent play. So often she has a unique smile when her brother is involved, and everything her brother suggests is the gold standard of what needs to occur.

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(Why that’s an incredible idea, Big Brother! Thanks for the swanky hint, daddytypes.com…)

I took away her bottle a couple of months ago when it was obvious she was no longer using it for milk sustenance. Fazing out the bottle in itself wasn’t an issue; getting Warrior Queen to consume milk without it has been. Water from a cup has been a non issue, but she only is willing to drink a sip or two of milk before she hands the cup to me and trots off to dismantle something. There was an intervention that seemed promising, but didn’t last…or at least it is unsustainable. Warrior Queen was willing to drink from a regular cup and straw when she saw Little Man doing so. It was the cutest thing. I asked my son to show his sister how the deed was done. Her concentration on him is something unique to his very existence. She immediately accepted the straw she refused mere moments prior. Between the two of them trading off sips, most of the cup of milk was drained…after all, Mr. Man loves his milk. But, unless that very process is repeated where he is directly involved in getting her to drink from the straw, she has almost nil interest. But, the pride beaming off of Little Man when he taught his baby sister to use a straw almost makes the ordeal for each and every milk episode worth it…almost.

Warrior Queen is a good eater…like her brother, and she seems to have an endless appetite these days. I’m not sure where she is keeping all the food she’s ingesting.

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(I’m sure BBC is on the cusp of discovering that black holes are the stomach of a toddler who loves her food.)

Dinner is an especially interesting experience. She will eat her fill of whatever I served, as well as Little Man. Invariably there are some remnants on my son’s plate. Warrior Queen waits patiently until he departs his chair, and every time climbs in front of his residual setting and cleans her big brother’s plate.

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(Leftover cold and vaguely recognizable food? Game on! Thanks Little Rock Family.)

What is especially amusing is she will scavenge every morsel even if it was an item she refused of her own serving. I don’t know if Mr. Man fully realizes this extraordinarily reliable occurrence. The one time I mentioned his sister would finish the cod he left, he immediately shoved almost half a child-sized plate of fish in his mouth in one nauseating stroke.

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(It’s all mine…MINE! Thanks, Pinterest.)

So on the one hand this kind of thing would totally chap his ass if he knew, but on the other hand he might be too involved with the first of his several after dinner treats to care.

And, there is the multitude of small loving moments…the two holding hands in the back seat as we journey to our every day. Little Man will scratch Warrior Queen’s back. Occasionally I’ll bathe the two together. After both are clean and it’s time for play, they will sit in companionable quiet, occasionally trading cups in perfect unspoken harmony. Periodically, Little Man will fill a small cup with warm water and coat Warrior Queen’s back to keep the air from chilling her small body. Sometimes she won’t acknowledge the gesture, but other times she will look up to him before resuming her activities.

But, not everything is well received. Mr. Man wanted my husband to retrieve his grotesque dog from behind the sofa. My husband asked Warrior Queen to complete the favor; my son empathically refused to accept the dog unless it was from his daddy’s hands.

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(You’d be all over picking up this toy too, wouldn’t you Flickr?)

Then there was the other day when Warrior Queen was quite distressed, as she often is when there is a combination of something unimportant happening and she is ignored for too long. On this specific occasion she wanted me to place a silly fishing hat of sorts on her head, but her ability to communicate her needs was halted by a preschooler chasing her around the kitchen assuming a hug and kiss would make the world right again.

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(Pretty sure this is how Warrior Queen saw the situation.)

It was loud and annoying until Little Man finally cornered a disgruntled and whining toddler, gently wrapping his arms around her and laying a light smooch to her cheek. There are many conversations I have with Little Man about receiving consent before touching other people’s bodies, but sometimes the need to fix what is ailing his sister is too much for him to ignore. Shortly after Warrior Queen was appeased with her costume, and scampered off to destroy a room and probably tamper with a wall outlet unaffected.

I can’t stand people tickling me, but Mr. Man loves few things more than a hard core ticklefest. I don’t get it, and I don’t particularly love that he descends on his sister with this singular motivation to share an experience he adores. It seems, at the moment anyway, that she isn’t opposed to tickles in and of themselves. Warrior Queen is quite assertive with her displeasure, and I always wait for her screams when her big brother is in one of these rough play, tickling moods. But, more times than not she will be amused and giggle like no one else can bring from her belly, and she will smile in anticipation until he resumes.

Now that they are growing older there are more events of them sitting together “reading” stories. Sometimes Mr. Man recites her favorites to her…sometimes they sit together on the floor and page through the pictures independently yet coupled.

Sometimes they build towers together. Mr. Man will begin by asking me to build him something, but shortly thereafter he wants me to watch him and Warrior Queen take turns stacking things before the structure crashes to a shambles and they begin again.

Often they sit next to each other on the sofa throwing their backs into the cushions until the section they are sitting on is gradually positioned across the room. A common occurrence them running and climbing over each other, scaling the piled length of the sectional. When there are cushions on the floor they dive off the sofa equally, all of it simultaneously delighting and driving me crazy.

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(Knockout Mag knows this is clearly the pinnacle of any day.)

Then there are the spoken words of support. Warrior Queen’s vocabulary seems to increase every week. Not everything is a complete word. More often than not she pronounces the first two or three sounds of words, but recently she started uttering “Mommy” and “Daddy”…well, mostly Daddy. Car rides to school frequently have Warrior Queen calling for my husband. Little Man usually responds, “Daddy is at work. It’s okay. You’ll see him tonight when he gets home.”

One of my new favorite routines is right before “quiet time.” I try to synchronize as much of the afternoon nap as I can; I’m usually successful to some degree. These days Warrior Queen climbs the stairs with me and Mr. Man. Excitement radiates off her as she staggers her drunken gorilla self to her big brother’s room. I read the same story before quiet time because I don’t want to be stuck reading a long story when I want nothing more than to eat lunch or relieve myself in the restroom. At this point Brown Bear has been read so many times that occasionally Little Man insists he’s the one to utter the tale. Most of the time, however, he only wishes to recite the final page. When it’s only me and my son, I’m not ashamed to admit I skip as many pages as I can get away with. But, now that Warrior Queen is privy to the routine, I wouldn’t dream of stealing one moment. Little Man half attends to the story most days, but Warrior Queen hangs on every page…every word, and my full attention is watching her every entranced expression. My son often tries to have his sister lay down next to him…or on him. She usually wants no part of it.

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(Warrior Queen just wants to hear the rest of the story!)

Little Man acquiesces relatively quickly to her needs…I think he loves her enjoyment of the story as much as I. I can’t explain it, but this small moment might be one of my favorites in any given day. It’s a quick blur, but I try to absorb each second hoping that it will stretch out longer than it ever does.

As territorial as he can be, my son adores having his sister play in his room now. Many days he requests that they have these private play sessions behind his closed bedroom door…she almost never cries for the short time these exchanges last. But, I think for them this infinitesimal period ranks above most of their times together. Sometimes I watch them through the monitor. I know they are okay…Warrior Queen will inform the entire house if she isn’t, but I simply enjoy watching them exist together without my influence.

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(This is what I can expect when the cherubs are left to their own devices behind a closed door…)

And, finally there is the sharing. Mr. Man is truly wonderful at sharing…on his terms…and when he isn’t in need of a nap. Outside of our home sharing is a nonissue to a relatively perfect degree. Having friends over I’ve had to be creative. It’s a new routine…before anyone arrives I have my son select five toys that will remain out of his friend’s reach with the expectation that everything else will be fair game. We will spend a good amount time reviewing play conditions before any arrival. It isn’t a perfect system, but it’s the most successful intervention in this arena thus far. Toy sharing with his sister is always a mixed bag with Little Man. Usually he attempts to force random toys on Warrior Queen regardless of her interest. But, so often when my son is eating something he enjoys…even if it’s cookies or ice-cream, or it’s something he knows his little sister appreciates; he independently takes a piece from whatever is his to give to her. He will insist she partake…whether she likes it or not.

Life as Pictures

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Needs Met

I received an unexpected call from a good friend. We haven’t caught up in ages. I think it’s the mark of middle-aged friendships that there is a basic understanding you will not speak for excessive amounts of time, but the conversations begin as though no time elapsed. It was a brief call; in transit. I gave her the thumbnails of events in the last six months, and found myself apologizing for their depressing, edged nature. I like telling jokes; I don’t like complaining…I suppose with humor it can be one of the same.

But, the morning was a reprieve from the draining monotony of my dreary, racing thoughts at times. Overall my life is a good one, but I’m definitively nursing some internal wounds at the moment. The week like the last one push me to concur the healthful benefits of community. I have a collection of wonderful people in my life; I’d certainly be lost without them. This morning, however, was a different sort of reprieve that gave me respite from the diverse waves of bombarding negative thoughts.

It was a beautiful morning, simultaneously cool and warm. My husband and I took the children to a local park. Mr. Man used a regular swing for the first time. It took some prodding, but he was giddy with excitement as I pushed him as high as I could muster. Warrior Queen has a death wish rooted in daring oblivion; Little Man almost punted his sister across the wood chipped enclosure as he swooped forward. I snatched the chain, jerking my son off the seat. He clung onto the swing drifting back toward me.

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(That’s actually the expression he gave me, and it was probably wrong for me to laugh.)

Warrior Queen wandered off in her typical drunken gorilla posture to interfere in the amusing activities of another unsuspecting child.

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(How did Daily Mail get a picture of Warrior Queen noticing that I opened the pantry door?!?)

Little Man is of the age where a parent realizes he can climb up…things…tall things, yet fears the windy swoop down. Eventually he determines he will not be owned by a staticy expanse of smooth green plastic, and takes the risk. I admire his bravery in all things. For Warrior Queen’s part, she enjoyed the softer slope of her own slide, even as fatigue began to take over. On her belly and smiling, she would lay her head upstream momentarily before requesting that I boost her up once again.

My husband and I had the rare moment to sit on a bench in the enclosure; both children momentarily independent. There were no great disclosures or profound remarks, it was just peaceful and comfortably warm for my soul to sit with him and laugh about absolutely nothing worth remembering. I suppose those are the most nurturing moments after almost a decade-and-a-half commitment.

I’d like to say this simple trip to a playground on a perfect autumn day is enough to compensate for the entirety of my struggles, but fortunately I encounter enough quantity to make a dent.

Life as Pictures

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Loss

This is an odd post…a situation I’d had a low lingering inkling that I didn’t want to accept. I have…had a close friend. He was an amazing and very tortured soul; most of his life. Out of respect for his privacy, I’ll leave the details for the winds to whisper as part of his memory. But, he touched so many lives…people forgotten…left behind. His strength and power always inspired me to be my best self. He embraced his frailties; I’d always admired that about him. Tragically, however, he spent most of his life lonely. I’m not sure how he passed; I’ll never know, but I have notions within the realm of possibility, and it breaks my heart.

I’ve lost like this before; someone terribly close. I was an adolescent at the time, and my greatest regret was never expressing my love for him, and the depth to which his friendship shaped me. As much as a piece of me had been expecting to find my friend’s obituary online after two weeks of a quiet phone, I worry his last days were spent feeling unloved. I’d been especially neglectful for a couple of weeks, not checking-in as regularly as I’d practiced over the last several years because of his circumstances. Whatever happened I couldn’t have prevented it, but I hope from the center of my existence he knew on some level what he meant to me. I doubt he ever accepted his value, but in pleading ardent hope I pray I communicated it nonetheless. I think I did. I can’t bear to think I didn’t.

He will forever live on in my thoughts, and inspire my actions…to selflessly embrace the big, seemingly unsolvable problems…because that was his life. Furthermore, I’ll try to laugh more, worry less because barriers are never as insurmountable as they seem. That was his life as well.

I hope my children live a life knowing how to laugh with their whole beings…to seek humor in the most unlikely places. It’s one of the things I remember most about my friend; his endless humor at the most random, odd things. I hope to be as steady a presence during the most terrifying of moments. I hope to level opposition with a pointed, intimidating stare. I hope to have the flair for colorful language that kept us rapt and peculiarly joyful during meetings. I hope I’m brave enough to feel life as he did…to experience humanity in all of its remarkable and horrifying facets, and seek to make it better.

But, most of all I hope he finally has peace.

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