A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

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.

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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.

All the Love…All the Feels…

Sometimes I love my kids so much I can hardly stand to exist in my skin. I’ve had a minor cold since last weekend. It’s nothing; a cough thing with laryngitis. I don’t lose my voice all that often, but I’m well aware of the havoc such a deficit inflicts.

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(Famille-epanouie.fr totally caught the throbbing vein about to erupt in my forehead. Though, truth be told, I’m usually yelling about the same things, so I’m not really sure why words are necessary anymore.)

Mostly the four-and-a-half-year-old Little Man and two-and-a-half-year-old Warrior Queen will be bummed I can’t read them stories, and by “bummed” I mean ridiculous tantrums that won’t abate.

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(I have two children, so one of the only certainties in life is that the second kid will meltdown immediately after the other mysteriously manages to get it together, but the reasons for both tantrums will be equally absurd.)

That isn’t the kind of thing that makes my heart ooze and explode with glow.

Earlier in the week I was fairly miserable. I’ve been anxious about the election…waiting to vote…all kinds of things. And, then there is just the run of the mill other things on my mind that have been a consistent companion when I wake to use the facilities at three in the morning.

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(Am I a terrible person that I get so annoyed in my inability to go back to sleep that I try to wake my husband just so he will be miserable too?)

I was up early. Little Man up earlier than usual, but nothing at the level of disturbing ides for the day. Little Man quietly pads to my side asking for Mommy-son storytime and snuggles. My throat was killing me, but how can I refuse something like that? I grab my tea, and my son began giving me pointers for taking care of myself. I had to be sure to drink slowly, so I don’t spill and burn myself…cute things like that. He skids his feet across the carpet to the books, and begins pulling a hefty pile of some of our simplest stash. While he doesn’t usually gravitate to that part of our collection, it also isn’t unheard of.

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(HME Photography knew that my throat was weeping upon the first glance of Little Man’s selections.)

Mr. Man arranges his leaning pile on the sofa, and crawls in under the blanket next to me sitting up. He opens the first book on his lap and begins to read it to me…then the next…and then another. Little Man can’t actually read; these books are uttered from memory down to the exact page. He didn’t look at me, but continued down the pile until his sister woke.

Warrior Queen is snuggly as well…that isn’t particularly new, but I like to think of the way she sits on my lap facing me asking for one more minute…for the following fifteen. She looks at me and says something silly, laughing to herself; then she will collapse her head onto my chest. Sometimes she will stretch her arms to grab my shirt or something. Sometimes she tucks them under herself while I fold her into my embrace. Often while laying on my chest she will look up to me with her bright brown eyes and smile…stating some cute observation before falling quiet. I wonder if she likes to listen to my heartbeat.

These moments don’t last long enough. Within heartbreaking minutes I’m back to yelling my disdain for something I’ve mentioned countless times prior. But, fortunately, there are at least equal numbers of moments when time stops, and I can use all of my senses to preserve my children at these loving stages; hoping they will never outgrow them in their independence altogether.

Life as Pictures: lessons in saving myself

Where has the time gone? I had been allowing myself rare copious praise for everything I’ve accomplished in the past few months…and then I noticed the last time I posted something. Ugh. Life just escapes…

But, I will detail my excuses because I’m quite proud…for the most part. I always find something that isn’t good enough, which is a torment as much as a driving force. I managed to finish a FORTH program a couple of months ago. It was a request from a director at our maximum security prison. I didn’t think I’d manage it quite so soon since I’d just finished three others at a gruelingly slow pace. But, it’s done. I’m pleased with the content. If the powers that be like it, then I’ll finish the application, and, tah-dah, the DOC will have a social skills program designed for younger gang involved men that I structured around respect. This population is steadfast in the issue, but their notions of respect are not always compatible with societal expectations. This, of course, does not intervene with the allure or complexity of gang affiliation, rather expands their communication skills beyond those directly connected to their culture. When choosing the content and general approach, I hailed back to my time working with gang involved adolescents in a clinical capacity…the conversations on this topic that seemed to have the greatest impact. Though I can’t speak to long-term success of my interventions, at least they didn’t scoff at what I said in the moment…that’s usually the way it goes. I developed a curriculum that standardized my approach; maybe it will do some good.

My education seminar is progressing up the DOC approval chain. I look forward to its blessing. For the most part things are more rubber-stamped the higher up the signature tree. I think it’s in the final stages now. I don’t really work with female populations…there are many more men in prison systems, so it’s easier to get administration in male facilities to respond to my inquiries simply because there are more of them. I have my programming dreams for incarcerated women that focus on children and pregnancy, so it will be good to have an in. When people have a face to requests, it’s easier to make progress. I don’t usually have such a luxury, but this one is particularly important to me on several levels. The seminar I created has value in and of itself. I can’t remember if I described it on an earlier occasion, but I will be providing information about special education, interventions, and policy as it pertains to the education of struggling children. Over the years I’ve run into consistent issues that are challenging to navigate for even the most high functioning family system and professionals. So, I’ll be outlining those various issues for the women incarcerated in our only state facility. Things like transportation, homelessness, truancy, general resources out there and process…a slew of issues that are more common than people like to admit, consequently ignored by larger educational systems. I’m pleased that I can provide some expertise to caregivers who usually don’t have access to it.

My college/prison class hybrid is going well. Two sessions in the prison have been solid. I have an entire group of writers, which has never happened. I almost laughed during my intro the first day. In the overview packet I include a nothing piece I wrote. I mentioned it, and every hand began to vigorously flip through in search of the sample. I don’t know if any of them ended up returning to the piece back in their cells, but it’s new to have men take interest in reading my work. Having such a large collection of writers for the first time; the discussion has a very different feel. Cool is probably a lackluster term, but it is.

I’m not calling Congress as much, which is disappointing to me, though my political bitching has thrived on social media. I’ve met a collection of interesting people very unlike myself and my experiences. I’m trying to surround myself with as many marginalized people as I can, and I can say that’s it’s nurtured compassion and a more appropriate view of the world…I also get better access to what’s happening in the country and world. Most interestingly is that I’ve found peers on social media who are like me. I cried the first time someone sharing my diagnosis found me. I can’t say I’ve met someone else with my mental health issues, and access to disability Twitter allowed me to feel pride in my own learning shtick. So, it’s been good. I’m certainly dancing with the ugly side of social media, but can appreciate what these forums add for those marginalized without a voice beyond screen perimeters. I’m grateful to sample their voices…that these individuals take the time to share their worlds not always well received.

Another new experience, I’ll be working in my town’s polling station for this election. I also signed on to work a morning shift for early voting. That’s exciting to me.

Our volunteering at the assisted living is also going well now that we join a woman who works at the facility. I don’t know what I’m doing, so now most days we just show up and sit there. Last week, though, was the first time I saw the power of having my kids do this. Little Man was playing some kind of weird catch with a gentleman who adores both of my kids, and the feeling is mutual. A man I hadn’t seen before was next to their activity kind of scowling blankly. I was starting to feel bad that maybe my son was bothering him. But, then I saw the corner of his mouth begin to quirk. The small squishy ball rolled to him. He gingerly retrieved it from his wheelchair, half toss, half rolled it back to my son who jumped on it as he tends to do. Little Man isn’t much of a catcher, but he makes up for whatever clumsiness with enthusiasm. When we left the man was smiling. It was subdued, but there and because of Mr. Man.

It continues to be a hard time I can’t quite shake, but at least it’s easier than it was. The first anniversary of a very good friend’s death rolled through the calendar recently. I have yet to hear news of another who was seriously injured over a year ago. Other than no obituary online, I don’t know how he is. I send a brief text update about every ten days or so. I don’t know if he reads them…or can read them. I don’t know if I’ll hear from him again. That’s hard, and I’m not sure if I should hope, so I just kind of numb it out like I’m practiced at doing. But, each time I sent my words there are these moments of holding my breath for a response I know won’t come. And, there are some other losses too that I don’t want to get into. Mostly it’s too painful at the moment to put it to explanation. But, I’m trying to be as positive as I can…more pragmatically than anything else. I have a Warrior Queen and a Little Man to tend to. I can’t afford to live in my funk any more than I already am. I’m good at numb…a lifetime of necessity nurtured my ability to push away inconvenience of emotion for the most part. But, it helps that I have healthy outlets these days. It helps that I’m more connected to others than I’ve ever been.

The deeds that I mentioned above are a double-edged sword of an outlet. Corrections stuff, which are more of an ambition or professional passion for me than anything else, are compartmentalized in a different space in my mind than the other occupations. The more random tasks I volunteer for drift into penance too often. I regularly grapple with unhelpful feelings of what I deserve and personal worth. Too much of me holds that if I give enough of myself, maybe I’ll stop losing friends…or babies. It’s the toll of a lifetime of loss and other kinds of trauma. Intellectually I get that the universe doesn’t work that way, but it’s a compulsion. I think it’s always been there in some form. But, I’m a middle-aged woman now, so I have more options of what to do. I’m letting myself feel bad these days, which is long overdue and good, so I channel those feelings into something else to scrub whatever internal stink I might possess. I genuinely enjoy the charitable work, but I’m well aware of the other role it plays. It’s effective in giving me a needed lift, but my worth does not rise with it. Not so much a self-esteem thing, but it comes from another place, guilt maybe? I have many blessings in my life. On some level I’m trying to deserve the good things, and make the painful ones stop…at least for a little while so I can regroup. This is a textbook trauma response. I get that, but it’s unhelpful nonetheless.

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My newest afghan is enormous, and a lesson in baby steps getting a job done. I might get a row in, but often less…ten minutes to work on it. But, little by little it grows, and another color wraps…then another. I look forward to the day that it warms my legs as I work the stitching. That’s still some time away, but with diligence that time will arrive before I know it. I’ve also found that something this massive and colorful is an exceptional conversation starter. I was raised in an area where people talk to anyone and everyone, even if we don’t really like them. There are many reasons why it’s hard for me to get my conversation act together sometimes, so it’s helpful to have a prop that makes me significantly less awkward. I’m a bit too blunt at times. I’m not necessarily mean, but I don’t have much of a filter; and years of working in a field consisting of events off the beaten social path at every turn, I’m extraordinarily desensitized about pretty much everything. I lost my North Star of propriety a long time ago. Now that I’m middle-aged I mostly just embrace it. I look forward to the adolescent years of humiliating my kids by simply existing.

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Little Man’s preschool is housed on the property of a newly renovated church. After drop-off, Warrior Queen darts over to the stairs beckoning me to follow her. I love her thrill at my chasing her down that very ramp. She giggles as I look like a lunatic to the teachers and children who can watch me running with waving arms outside their window. Eventually I’m able to shepherd her into the car with the promise that after school she can plan in the leaves. The people who tend to the exterior rake them in piles around the tree, and the kids wade in almost waist deep every afternoon. Fall is often wet in my area, but there have been several perfect autumn days. My son in his 90th percentile stature and expansive arms collects a mass of leaves to throw on a friend who is unhappy that his collection is so paltry. Those two have had some discord. My son is not quite a rough and tumble, though he can certainly give back. At the end of the day, though, he’s more silly than aggressive, often confused when peers become mad at him. He much prefers a little girl in his class, and both have asked for a playdate. I like her mom too, so that’s definitely a win. While Little Man doesn’t seem to have the same issues in school as last year, I’m seeing more defined spectrum characteristics. In a couple of months he will be evaluated. It will be good to have more tools added to my belt.

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There is the pretty fantastic exploration pace for kids near us. We were gifted a membership, so I took Warrior Queen while her brother was at school. This picture taken just after her visit to the water area, which nurtured some of my fierce girl’s hair spirals coming to life. My sprite is about two-and-a-half now, so I can no longer just head home and do nothing every day with a baby doing her baby thing around the house. While I don’t make spectacular plans for her, I like to think she enjoys herself and has the opportunity to socialize with other kids until her school program begins in January. She looks rapt at this magnet thing, but Warrior Queen kept returning to the area with the large bin of sand and construction trucks to push granular loads…little girl here loves her trucks, and had a fit when it was time to leave the building to collect her brother.

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Warrior Queen and I worked on an art project…really. It was the two of us, and my role was to ensure the glue didn’t end up sculpting her eyebrows or hair. She chose all of the various adornments. Stickers are her favorite, so I watched her study the pile of them as she delicately pealed them from their backings. She would look up at me and name the sticker picture or ask me for details. Generally my daughter is a chatty one, but at the moment I studied her face in concentration. After about fifteen minutes she suddenly slides off her stool, headed to the next diversion without any thought to our masterpiece. Sniff…I was forced to leave the project, unhappy that it would not find its home in our trash bin…like all of Mr. Man’s artwork that consists of two scribbles on paper and a line of tape stuck to it.

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The same establishment has a diner area. Warrior Queen fed me…this…and coffee…lots and lots of coffee. Then she remembered I don’t drink coffee, and offered me tea. This place has all of these delightful details…like the spices. The shakers are sealed from opening, but the kids can smell their contents. I love to cook, and started this activity with both Little Man and Warrior Queen. We rummage through my collection, open, and smell the various spices. Mr. Man asks what each one is and what it’s for. He will sometimes offer a story about the spice that he pulls from somewhere in his creative mind. Little Man is a marvel with his stories. Much of the time I can’t really follow his train, but I could stare at the twinkle in his eye and listen to his giggles as he makes himself laugh uncontrollably all day. After a final sniff, he holds the container down to his little sister requesting that she smell it as well. As she tries to inhale, but doesn’t quite get the task; my son tells her what she is smelling, and she looks at him adoringly. These moments are almost worth Warrior Queen going into our pantry at random points, snatching whatever spice (usually paprika), and dumping it on the floor. Naturally, these events occur when I’m in the middle of something that can catch fire.

Life as Pictures…always transitioning…

Season transitions are strange…school begins, but it’s technically still summer. But, really my days are mostly one blur to the next with vague awareness of a change in seasonal guard. Basically I’m forced to face it when my activity line-up shifts. This isn’t a complaint, but my life is home with the kids, so a weekend isn’t really an event…just another day, except my husband is around. As much as I love spending time with him and the entirety of my family, it’s disorienting. There is another adult I need to navigate when planning things, and my husband and I have different notions of what accounts for festive entertainment with kids.

Little Man began a new school year. He’ll attend three mornings in a row per week, compared to the spaced two of last year. So far the previous year’s behaviors haven’t reared. I can’t say I’m surprised by that, but we’ll see if such a trend continues. I learned from a friend that his last class had a significant number of high need kids. I have a slightly better idea than vague as to what that means, but I’d mentioned at the mid-year conference that I suspected my son was getting lost in the crowd. I was mostly ignored, so it’s validating that I wasn’t wrong.

But, in any case there are things to remember as I wade through the next bit of life…one with more time with a soul Warrior Queen. She’s old enough to need some kind of planned activities. I feel like the school year crept upon me this year, and I’m not prepared. That isn’t a complaint either, but it feels weird to have this kind of openness to…things.

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I can’t remember what prompted this walk in our neighborhood. The temperature must have been below Hades, which were relatively few and far between this summer. I can’t say there was much memorable with this walk…nothing particularly cute or funny to tell, but I remember enjoying it…enjoying watching my kids just do their small child frolicey thing. Warrior Queen kinda nailed the stroller push benchmark. It’s hard to say. While it was certainly veering into the grass more times than not, it’s a pretty shitty stroller. That kind of thing happens to me as well. Whenever I try to deal with it I’m left wondering if there is such a think as perceived Stroller Under the Influence or something.

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Totally Lady of the Flies, right? I for one am absolutely TERRIFIED!

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They were playing a secret game that only siblings understand. While Warrior Queen’s language is quite good, much of the time I have no idea what she uttered. Like her brother, she asserts something and dissolves into hearty chuckles asking me if I “get it.” I don’t, but he seems to. Most of the time my son’s role is sister translator. I don’t know if that’s a common sibling thing, but I soak in each and every moment of it.

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Another relatively tolerable summer temperature day. I don’t remember much other than the under boob sweat could have been significantly worse. We visited a favorite splash pad I’m sure I mentioned. Excellent facilities…outstanding playground. And, while my kids didn’t seem to want to be wet, I appreciated sitting in the shade and watching them play from a distance. I look for these moments when I can stand back and simply savor them as a unit.

Then there are other transitions, probably things that are only noteworthy to me. Important transitions on my end pertain to accomplishing something…usually mundane.

With my prison work I was genuinely delighted to finish writing three programs over the expanse of the summer. They took me entirely too long to complete for reasons I completely understand. Heading into the summer I feared they would remain as a loose end, but they are completed and submitted to their various parties. One is a second writing program I hope to teach in the spring. This program is the most uncertain, as writing programs from outside entities are a challenge to get into the system. I hope, though; I’m quite excited about it. Right now it is hovering at the most challenging level to get through at this particular facility. The administrator had a question, which I answered well; but I don’t know where she is with my response. Apparently she is on vacation at the moment. This official and I appreciate each other, so I hope that’s enough to quell any concerns.

The other is a program I designed as a monthly education seminar I hope to begin facilitating in our women’s prison at some point in the fall. Incarcerated women tend to be primary caregivers, as opposed to incarcerated men who are not. My seminar will be providing information about special education and various other education impacting situations like discipline, literacy, homelessness…things like that. Essentially, giving these women a rundown of the issues I bumped into the most.

The third program was helping a friend adjust an established reentry program to fit individuals serving a life sentence.

As it turns out I had the wherewithal to begin a fourth program that I never envisioned attempting at this point. It is a request from the DOC…a type of social skills group. Many of my projects directly from the Department of Corrections are not from created scratch…at least not on my end. I’m asked to contribute to or develop something specific, so they are more of a shared experience. This one will be created with no other direction than something pertaining to social skills for a facility with a mostly young, gang involved population. I am framing it around respect after exploring if something I had in mind already existed. Like the other three it’s slow moving, but I’m well into it. In many ways it’s easier to create than I thought it would be…I enjoy pleasant surprises.

But, in many ways equally exciting is the change in a hobby project that I’d easily spent a year inching on.

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I finished my second full afghan made from my yarn stash a couple weeks ago. The first one will be gifted to my daughter when she moves out of her crib and into a bed. The second I’d hoped would go to a third child; the back up plan to my son. He would have eventually received one, but I’d hoped it would be the following project. But, alas… In any case, there is not enough yarn stash anymore to support much of anything, so I was afforded the opportunity to raid the bargain skeins at a local store. This is all very exciting!

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This is the beginning of my newest crochet afghan project. It’s fun to decide on the colors and stitch work I will be consumed with for quite some time. I’m never sure of things until about five colors in, certainly this time was no exception. But, I think it will be quite nice when all is said and done. In my dream world this blanket will belong to a final child, but…sigh. I tell myself it will be mine, but I suspect its destiny will belong to another. I have this weird fantasy. After the third or forth loss, I started envisioning what I would do with the last blanket. I had to finish it, but would it be too painful to keep around? It turns out that I’m neutral about it in that respect…Mr. Man will adore it once he realizes it’s for him. But, I had these visions of donating it to a teen mom in foster care…that’s actually a thing. There are teen mothers who need foster parents to help them navigate pregnancy and eventually parenthood…assuming she is choosing to keep her baby. I’m not sure what happens with the foster arrangement if the baby is given up for adoption. At some point I’d like to make one of these blankets and anonymously donate it to a young woman like that. I would have these thoughts as I toiled with the last afghan; that it should be the holder of memories involving a baby growing through its stages. I don’t know if this one will be such a gift, but at some point I’d like to see that ambition come to fruition. Children of all sorts seem to gravitate to my stash projects. This one isn’t quite stash in the same sense, but it’s bright and colorful. As I schlep it with me to outings bearing scores of random kids, I expect the same result as with the other two.

But, then there are the daily random things having nothing to do with anything. They have phases too, which is perhaps why I include them in my transition basket of memories.

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My son builds things. He goes through phases…materials…structures. At this juncture it was cohesive towers that he craved to dance around. Warrior Queen would carefully add her touches of random bricks that fit nowhere else. Mostly she’d have to stretch in her effort, her bother watching her from a distance quietly. In those moments seeming to hold his breath in anticipation. He often seemed as proud as her once the task concluded. Sudden swinging crashes as they gleefully destroyed their work to begin a new.

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There is no real significance with these figures, though I find it interesting that Lego has a plethora of variously colored mullets in their serial killer collection bin of fragmented body parts. Does something like that really need to be memorialized?

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Warrior Queen doesn’t care much for dresses or dolls,  preferring trucks and other vehicles…maybe the occasional toy pony. BUT, she certainly loves sparkle and pink. These delights are a bit too large for her, but her eyes light up when she wears them. Beaming eyes while she utters a vaguely garbled, “sparkly.” These days I’d do just about anything to watch her dance around. It used to be focused, jerky hip movements; but now she throws her arms King Kong style. If there is the promise of her dances, then I’m prepared to offer her all the sparkles she could ever hope to desire.

The Lessons History Tells…and how to ensure it ceases

I have this random worry…part of the worry is that it shouldn’t be that random. I worry about my children’s education in a very big picture sense. We live in a relatively affluent area. I hear rave reviews of teachers from the parents of other, older children. My concern isn’t about access or resources. We mostly fulfill the appropriate bullet points of what should be considered quality education.

But, I’m an educator. More specifically my world consists of the children or adults who didn’t fall through the cracks. People…policy makers…professionals created cracks and pushed them through. With such a reference in mind I worry about my children’s notions of the world once public education begins. I worry about the forces that perpetuate the narrative of oppression, eventually yielding the status quo that those receiving its advantage are unwilling or unable to see.

I’m not bringing vague liberal ideology to this party. My notions have very real evidence. I worry our district uses McGraw-Hill or other similar publications for textbooks. Texas based companies produce most of our country’s learning material, and for quite some time on a concerted mission to “deliberalize” our history. As I write these simple notes, students throughout our nation regardless of origin or heritage receive an education that completely removes slavery as though it never existed. In its place is “triangular trade” or some random immigration label completely devoid of meaning or accuracy. For the moment our society embodies throngs of individuals in power who have a notion of this singular issue, but what happens when a generation passes? I don’t want my children to understand that reality. I don’t want my children to ever know the harm and hurt something like that will perpetuate on others who are already at a disadvantage regardless if such a belief is widely accepted. As is there are scant notes of notable White women in history, forget about the other remaining melanin or belief spectrum. And, even if White women are mentioned, the entirety of the legacy is suppressed.

I worry that my children will be witness to the false history that the North was good and the South was bad; it was all bad. Allowing any of us to be cushioned from possible guilt keeps us stuck in the same cycle of exploitation. I want my children to be taught and to understand the slavery in the North…the medical experimentation…dubious notions of consent. I want my children to hear and see the words of the Black suffragists whose role much mightier than their White counterparts if for no other reason than their steady endurance despite the hatred for existing as a perceived lesser. I worry that my children won’t learn the endless tales and strengths of those forgotten to our past saving a random Google search from something whispered from somewhere unknown.

I worry my children will endorse more wars overseas because our education system does not provide the most basic of narratives as to why others do not trust us. How much longer will we be in the Middle East? Forever. We have been there forever, and will likely always be…interfering as western powers do best. I don’t want my children to grow a dismissive hand that an entire swath of people are animals because our history bloats our exceptionalism and nurtures righteous indignation. I want my children to learn how Israel came to pass, and decide their own judgement of our Jewish state. Will it give them comfort or will it be a guilt-ridden burden that plants seeds of ill ease because of its possible illegitimacy and questionable governing? I want my children to understand the complexity of existence over time…that history in and of itself establishes reality, and we cannot move forward without understanding how we arrived to this point.

But, I know what our history books say. I know they talk of the West almost exclusively. I know that the Middle East fades away after a brief glimpse of a convoluted Ottoman Empire. I know there is little discussion of colonization boundaries and imperialism which haunt us every day in our military expansion and need for more protections.

I worry my children will grow to be voters without exposure to the truly exceptional Chinese Empire–one of the original and most tenacious superpowers. They pursue questionable tactics, but their culture and innovation dominated most of human history. It seems their momentary fall from grace will fuel their ascendance to dominance once again…with the help of our less than exceptional leadership at a pivotal time.

The ghast cruelty of this situation is that my own education reeked of such heinous misconceptions, and it unwittingly haunted me through much of my emerging adulthood. Perhaps my kids would be thoughtful enough to overcome such things as I commit to do in my own bumbling in life. Certainly how I raise Mr. Man and Warrior Queen has a profound impact on many fronts. But, I worry that I am up against a losing battle of written inaccuracy. I worry my kids will invest so much in their inherent advantages that they will be entrenched as another piece of a faceless mass joining social media completely deluded…convinced their privileged reality is the entire story, and they won’t be strong enough to consider the alternative.

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