A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Category Archives: funny/special moments

Life as Pictures: a day or two…or three in an ordinary life

Has it really been so long since I’ve managed this form of post? I like to mix it up, but here I was thinking it’s been endless publications of this same format…Oh, how I’ve been mistaken!

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Remarkable the way times change… When Little Man was born, I’d religiously experience a Saturday lonesome outing. It was miraculous! These days such frequency ebbs and flows…mostly ebbs at the moment. My go-to had always been to attend my Weight Watchers meeting before jetting off to the expansive mall down the street…sometimes some errands that would be easier to accomplish sans cherubs. I never used to be a mallrat, but sometimes it’s pleasant to be around a crowd of people. Staying home can be lonely and isolating, and while not perfect, sometimes it is a comfort to just meander with other meandering people. I’ve also turned into a weird kind of chatterbox. I have no qualms with talking to random people. Interestingly, no one places me as some crazy person intruding on their solitude. It’s a rare thing to be unable to bring forth a chuckle from a stranger that happens to be loitering within close proximity to me. Lately, however, I discovered an exceptionally pleasant diversion. I go to a frequent weekly meal haunt, but without my children. It’s rather luxurious. I eat lunch on my terms…without heartburn. I had been buying a three pack of the above cookies, but I must lament that they are no longer as tasty as they used to be. That discovery was a bit traumatic for me. But, I’ll sit down…read a book that’s been in progress for years. I read quite a bit during the week, but my diversions are among the collection residing in my tablet. I actually like this book a great deal, but it’s usually a disaster to pull it out in the house. So, it remains a sporadic treat for the time being.

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I’ve mentioned my fiberware. This is no longer the current progress update of my second ever afghan composed of the yarn stash I couldn’t bear to toss. I crochet about a row or so daily. I’m about three or four colors further as I post this.

The newly minted two-year-old Warrior Queen has tantrums about getting dressed most of the time. I’ve found a loophole that works about eighty percent of the time; imperfect, but I’ll take it. Getting a sharp kick to the throat on a regular basis is tiresome even under the best of circumstances. It’s a simple intervention, really. I allow her to choose her ensemble. I appreciate the way she throws items together, as I am one for clashing patterns and askew color combinations in my wardrobe…aside from my penchant for unnecessarily endless varieties of black dresses… My fierce girl loves pink, as well as cars and trucks, so stereotypes be damned! She also adores hats, and has excellent taste. It’s a challenging time of year. Her current clothing is too small for the most part, particularly the shirts that are currently reminiscent of 1980s belly shirts. The weather hasn’t been consistently nice enough to transition to the appropriate garb, but at least she’s little, so no one thinks twice that she looks ridiculous. Besides, with outfit pairings such as this, she would naturally be forgiven for an ill fitting wardrobe. My girl can rock the penguins combined with pants I affectionately term “Bubbe’s sofa.”

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I’ve mentioned my resistance to going outside. On a pleasant day I’m usually fine once I’m in the throws of the outdoors, but I consistently find excuses to remain inside…It’s probably why I need to consume almost the maximum dosage of vitamin D in supplement form. Warrior Queen and I had just dropped off Mr. Man for his morning at preschool. I’d committed to taking her immediately to a park or outside on our front lawn. It was supposed to be a beautiful sunny day, and I’m trying to commit to spending more time with the kids outdoors (spoiler alert: I still suck at it pretty profoundly). Warrior Queen decided that she didn’t want to make an appearance at one of our local playgrounds. Rather, she preferred to run with reckless abandon on the preschool’s property. I followed her as she climbed the various stairs, subsequently running down the ramps. I even chased her, soaking in her delightful giggles.

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The rare moment Warrior Queen sat. It was a fleeting instant. I think she just wanted to try it out to see if it was for her…It wasn’t.

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Fantastic hat, right?

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Warrior Queen also loves bows…all of them. I strategically place the remaining three on the other side of her head, and by “strategically” I mean I land them wherever they will stick on a moving target that squeals a somewhat garbled, “More bows!” It likely doesn’t help that I’m usually laughing as I lumber over whatever death and destruction my kids plot from their toy carnage haphazardly strewn everywhere we told them not to. And, for whatever reason all I can think from my fierce girl’s request for hair adornment is, “More cowbell!”

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We went to some kind of local festival with a llama theme; I assume in memory of Anna Dewdney. It was exceptionally well organized affair and a beautiful day. This particular game was pin the tail on the llama…I think. Mr. Man didn’t really move past the desire to wear the mask. The game efforts themselves were unremarkable, but at one point he pulled the mask up briefly to give me an air kiss before returning the mask to the above rightful place.

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After spending an exorbitant amount of time trying to convince Little Man to visit the alpacas, this was pretty much the only view to behold…

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This is mid tantrum…I opened the door. It’s sad I don’t have a video of one of her exhibitions, as they are impressive with their gusto. They have an incredible fortitude and limber quality to them. Certainly she’s loud and has a proclivity for ample tears on demand, but the flailing is a sight to behold. She literally pounds the ground with her fists and kicks her feet as one would expect any trite child caricature. Additionally, she kind of rocks her body in a spastic back and forth motion; occasionally looking up at me to ensure she has my attention. Inevitably she notices that I’m essentially laughing at her or I casually ask her if she’s done. That usually doesn’t go well, so she perseveres. Her tantrums amuse me because they just keep going…until they don’t. Often I won’t give into her demand, so she changes her demand mid stream…only she’s too upset to really communicate it…Consequently she’ll keep crying and screaming. At some point I figure it out from what I can only assume is divine intervention. It’s usually something reasonable and fine. I fulfill her request, and then it’s over like the episode never happened. She does her awesome toddler prance-trot off to play or whatever all smiles and sweetness, wiping the hair from her face…sometimes asking for a tissue. More times than not these days the act of asking for and receiving said tissue is enough to end the tantrum.

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This kind of dress is not my bag, but I saw it for cheap, and simply knew my feisty girl would love it. She watched me as I removed the tags and pushed it into the hamper for a first washing. Warrior Queen rooted it out, and demanded she wear it that very moment. How could I deny her such a request?

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Watermelon might be my girl’s favorite food among a long list of other favorites. Perhaps this one is more reliably eaten than others? This was day #2 of the pale pink ballerina dress. She woke-up requesting it. The dress was fairly soiled from a mere several hours of play the day before, but there was absolutely no amount of convincing that could be managed. I suppose the look on her face wearing it for the second day in a row is enough to assuage the dreaded Mom Guilt. Not than anyone could tell from her wardrobe selection for the day, but it’s eighty degrees outside. For the life of me I couldn’t even convince her to shrug off her sweater. I purchased it because it was three dollars, and I needed a bigger sweater for her just in case. I had no notion she would become so passionate about it. Maybe because it’s colorful and subtly shimmers? The pants sparkle too…and her shoes are multicolored hearts…The girl likes to make a statement!

The memories feel like they fly by, and I don’t have enough documentation of their every wonder. The knowledge of forgotten morsels break my heart; I want to remember all of those perfect times. More-seasoned-than-I parents offer an almost universal nugget of unsolicited advice, that I should enjoy every moment. I think that’s complete bullshit. Every moment is not worth enjoying…but so many are. I deeply wish to forget some of my parenting encounters, but others I want to stretch so I can savor them for an eternity. And, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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Forms of Love

I feel like this will be a rushed post…partly because I’m overdue. I’d been hoping for ten day increments, but it seems like two weeks is more realistic these days, and even that’s a stretch sometimes. I’ve had to scale back the effort with my posts or else I’d never publish anything. I’d always focused on my content as a priority, and the pictures and hyperlinks were more a gold standard of excessive effort I’ve chased. It seems I’m mostly returning to strictly content, which makes me a bit sad…maybe a bit like I’m failing in some respect. But, that’s my shtick. I’m sure I’m overreacting as a singular force to create weakness where they don’t exist. At least I’m funny…to myself. BUT, I can say after three years of at least a minimum low grade struggle that things are looking up in important ways, like there is some movement out of a rutted cycle. I’m afraid to think it, but can’t stop myself from a deep core hope.

Warrior Queen is two now, and Mr. Man is four. Little Man’s development isn’t quite so awe inducing these days. He’s a gregarious soul, and these days he “feeds me” rain clouds, sunshine, and tornadoes. It all originated from a nothing mall outing…just like so many of the others. A vacant rectangular folding table draped in black cloth and a single chair, my son and I pretending that he is a vendor while Warrior Queen gallops around as she does best. My huge, shoddy pantomimes with strangers eyeing me strangely…unless they have small children of their own. In the latter case, they laugh. Mr. Man sells me televisions and cookies and chocolate…enormous televisions that I almost break a hip pretending to carry. My son is delighted; my daughter spinning around only pausing briefly to smile at me with her open mouth, full teeth baring lips. I’m not sure how it transformed, but suddenly there was a joke about weather. The next moment I’m swallowing storms with thunder rumbling in my belly that he pretended to hear, and lightening out of my mouth in excitable sparks. The sunshine dries it up, so that I don’t burst from all the rain consuming my insides. The tornado manifested so that I could sweep him up into my arms, squeezing him tightly and spinning him around. As of this morning the rain was no longer appealing. He wanted endless funneled winds of me hoisting him from the back of the sofa, and Warrior Queen stopped her dancing to ask for tornadoes of her own.

The past year has been shifting collections of savoring what I can, and imposed self-care at every opportunity. Some of it leaving a combined bitter taste and elation. Through all of this there have been “the grandpas.” Another mall memory. It’s a collection of elderly veterans who mall walk at approximately the same time every morning. They are quite passionate about my children, and one gentleman is quite passionate about my rack. He’s polite enough, but I assume holds a strong preference for well endowed women…which I am. He rarely misses an opportunity to hover his eyes on my chest. The leader of the group prompts me to warm smiles. I doubt he’s ever heard anything any of us has said, but I remember a cool morning sometime after the presidential election and subsequent inauguration aftermath. Since that time, it’s been uncomfortable. MPOTUS is a horrible, hateful man; and he holds the nation’s highest office. As a minority, albeit hidden beneath a White surface, I worry…always. I haven’t had to worry like this since I was a youth. It’s reasonable to say I didn’t miss this feeling. It’s an oppressive weight that I’m not really safe; that it’s obvious I don’t belong. It was a harsh reminder of where I grew up and never returned. Perhaps not as terrible as the reality of so many others, but it was terrible for me. But, one morning I hear this man yelling to his friends in heated discussion I only half caught, “I DON’T CARE; YOU DON’T VOTE FOR A WHITE NATIONALIST!” His voice boomed in the mostly empty food court. Since that day I’ve sought to visit him and his friends…a silent appreciation for his existence. He’ll probably never know the impact of his words; I doubt he remembers. To him it was a nothing conversation with his friends, unremarkable in the course of outings with peers. But, I remember, and I likely always will. And, now Little Man specifically requests to see “the grandpas.”

Seeing the interactions between all of these beings generated another idea. When things are hard, I lean into something that allows me to step away from myself. I also look for ways to consume my kids in some kind of activity, preferably for free. Sometime this month my kids and I will be volunteering at an assisted living. Mr. Man likes to talk to anyone anytime about anything. I’m not sure what Warrior Queen will do…probably stare down everyone around her from her small state and say, “thank you,” although she’s been more chatty to strangers as of late. Originally I just planned to bring the kids to visit seniors, but I think it’s morphed into me reading something from our collection of books each week. That’s an added bonus. I love reading children’s books to an audience. It never occurred to me that it would be an elderly population. I had resigned myself to the thought that I would wait to volunteer as a reader in a school classroom when the kids were older. I enjoy when hopes materialize before I planned.

I’m stunned by the passage of time as a whole. I wouldn’t say things have passed in a blink, rather in such a short span the kids can do so much, particularly Warrior Queen. A few months ago she snuggled me in certain way before bedtime. For a bit she no longer wanted snuggles, opting to spin herself dizzy and fall to the ground. Her language continues to develop. She returned to her nightly snuggle with me in a rocking chair, but now she wants me to cradle her so she can look me in the eye. She’s always appreciated my singing more or less…it comes in waves. These days she requests songs that she can sing along to…sort of. She’s on key, but doesn’t really know the words. The words she knows often mispronounced. But, that smile of hers, and the look of adoration on her face. I hope I always remember it.

The routine before nap time is a bit different. Little Man insists on singing his sister two lullabies that inevitably turn to three or four. On cue he walks himself back to his own room, waiting relatively patiently for his own tuck-in. Warrior Queen turns in my lap quietly so that her cheek will press directly to the skin on my chest. She stretches her arms around my shoulders, clutching whatever shirt I’m wearing while we rock. Eventually she’ll utter, “I sleepy,” and it’s in the crib she goes. Oddly it often coincides with when I begin to hear Little Man shouts, “Mommy, tuck me in!” He’s half asleep when I reach his closet door, the small inner room that houses his mattress. He enjoyed his toddler bed for a week, and since that brief excitement over the transformation of his crib, has opted for his very own man cave. He always asks for an extra, “hug, kiss, snuggle, squeeze, and smooch.” I almost always acquiesce. He knows it’s my downfall.

Warrior Queen knows my passion for snuggles as well. These days if I’m still, she insists on laying with me or sitting on me. Often resting her head somewhere on my person…cheek to cheek…my thigh. Sometimes she sits on me as I’m laying on the sofa, otherwise ignoring me entirely. Periodically she’ll look back to me saying, “snuggle,” which I oblige. Her snuggle routine is for hugs and tickling kisses on her cheek and neck. She has a delightful laugh, and the only consistent way I bring it forth is from the speckling of light kisses to her sensitive skin.

Both of my children are older. I hope they will always be this loving. I hope the elderly we visit will feel their warmth as I do. The world has a shortness of uninhibited love sometimes, and I wonder why. It’s the first profound thing I noticed about my children…love. As humans we seem to be distinctly born with the intense capacity for it, yet it fades. So strange that something that saturates babies washes away in seemingly easy fragility. Maybe because it hurts so intensely even when it’s good. I think the pinnacle of my hope for my children and their lives is that I raise them to persevere through the hurt because nothing else feels quite like home.

Milestones

My children will have their first sitter this week…twice actually. My parents have watched them without either me or my husband present, but never a stranger. It isn’t about some kind of grand plan or trust concerns. I’ve simply never gathered my shit to have people available for things like a rogue date night or something. I’ve felt the constraint from time to time. My husband and I agreed that I wouldn’t pay childcare to volunteer. It would be one thing if I needed the break for self-preservation, but I’ve largely been fine. It simply didn’t make sense to pay money so I could work for free…It’s irrationally and depressingly expensive.

Since a bit before my pregnancy began with Little Man four years and some change ago, I haven’t received many paychecks. It doesn’t bother me as much now as it used to, but I remember the first consulting-like contract I achieved…a few months of a check, and it felt indescribably good. It was meager, but adequately supported my tea and chocolate habit…the unnecessary cheap sweater.

I couldn’t admit it for years, but the reality is that the entirety of any income I’d earn would be consumed by childcare costs…if I’m lucky. My earnings would likely not be sufficient even if I managed a leadership position. The only exception is if I squared a first level manager job in a state agency, but that’s the equivalent of happening upon a baby purple unicorn shitting cookies in my family room while discovering that no version of Law & Order is running on any television channel. I’m lucky my life is comfortable. My husband makes a good living, even if the situation isn’t perfect. We are smart with our expenses, always planning for this, that, or the other thing. But, I can’t deny my socioeconomic privilege.

I worried for at least a couple of years about resume gaps and what my future held for me as a person. My employment passion is a tricky beast, and I met with endless dead ends as I explored ways to be engaged in any kind of worky-like thing. It was heartbreaking for a long time knowing that I couldn’t attend meetings or venture to whatever location to volunteer. Most events are not on weekends or evenings.

Warrior Queen is just about two, and Little Man is just about four; I’m on the cusp of earning my second paycheck since a bit before my pregnancy with Little Man. It isn’t much, but just enough to cover the four or five hours of childcare I’ll require weekly. It’s an unexpected thing that is the product of me sending out nets of interest as I make contacts…keeping my ears open for information.

The past three years I’ve gradually found my way back to corrections in a context I didn’t know to envision. I live in a big government state, so there seems to be endless programs with the support of countless nonprofit and university work. I’d known this, but I didn’t know it. There’s been so much to learn, and so much to do. Up until now all of my efforts have been voluntary, but it’s been cool to see what I’ve managed…a lowly stay-at-home mom with a couple of young kids…the successes and inroads I’ve attained from behind a computer screen and the scattered phone calls.

Last summer I finally mustered my shit and returned to teaching a class; I’d missed teaching…missed doing a lot of things, really. I’m not unhappy, but so much of my life is resigning myself to change that I might not necessarily want. It isn’t a complaint, but it’s a challenge to love who I used to be, and have to let go of that identity completely without knowing if anything comparable will take its place. I’ve learned to trust the process more these days. I’m genuinely a better person than the one I released to my history. But, I couldn’t have known that at the time.

It began as a lucky stumble to a local nonprofit providing rehabilitative programming for some of our correctional facilities. When I joined, so did new agency leadership. I appreciate uncountable things about this director, but mostly I value feeling important. My work with this agency ebbs and flows as there is purpose for me, but periodically I’m asked for an opinion about various odds-and-ends. That holds meaning. It isn’t often I’m asked about anything outside of parenting anymore. It’s a small thing, but I’ll buzz for a few days after.

The ebbs with the agency made me anxious. My interests and their needs are not always compatible, but there is a consistent place for me at this point, which I appreciate. Over the past few years I’ve managed contacts of my own through the tasks I’ve taken with the agency. Now I’ll periodically help corrections administrators directly with their programming needs that would otherwise be pushed off indefinitely for lack of time and resources. When there is no explicit assignment in the works, I interface with enough people that my own projects make their way into the system. It’s hard to explain in such vague terms, especially for people unfamiliar with these systems; but all of this is quite a feat.

This semester I started teaching my first college level class. It’s mostly online, and certainly not a traditional class for this level and university prestige. I offered my availability so that I could teach in a prison beyond the summer. The parameters of this particular class is bringing some university students into the prison with me. The college kids (When did they become kids?) have been completing reading and writing assignments in the context of criminal justice issues while the incarcerated population will be experiencing the creative writing class I designed and taught last summer. The college group will be participating too, but their vantage point is to understand the humanity of incarcerated populations. The prison group will learn tools for self-expression.

This week we’ll finally manage the facility orientation, and my children’s first sitter. If all goes according to plan, the first creative writing class will begin at the end of the week. At some point I will receive a paycheck. All of this surreal. It’s a mix of fear and inadequacy…confidence it will work, and a vague question if I will have this opportunity again. I try not to think about it; to get ahead of myself. I suppose parenting has prepared me well for this venture.

Life as Pictures: colorful heart in winter

Something about this time of year is inherently dreary. But, winter has a beauty in its perpetually damp and icy death. It’s been a blurred confusion for a bit; suddenly I’ve caught a partial breath, and we are at the doorstep of spring…or at least the end of the driveway. I find March the worst of the months, as it always feels like it should be progressing quicker than it ever does. It’s a weird chilled season this year; the past two or three winter drudges had us slammed with snow well into an established false sense of security approaching February. Even with the trilogy of storms the past couple of weeks, things melt quickly this time of year as the world presses on.

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I feel an initial obligation to remove the color from some of these scenes. Isn’t that a prerequisite for attempts to pass something off as artistic? But, it’s winter; this picture from the heart of February. It’s so easy to forget that the sun shines when the air crumbles around from the heaviness. I know this these images so well. We attend the same library music class, and this is the library’s very own enclosed sunken patio. In the spring it’s sprouting with a complex collection of life and hiding book character cut-outs. I’ve always been one for textures, so while my children do their thing I survey the debris and think about nothing worth remembering.

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The almost four-year-old Little Man is a sorter, committed to arranging things…anything. He will spend endless time organizing meticulously rambling about some kind of story that makes little sense to me. Periodically he’ll communicate whatever jargon he’s created, only requiring me to nod and smile. He has this verbal crutch that I hope never vanishes, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. Unexpectedly within his conversational story chatter, he will flow into a deliberately pronounced and unaffectively uttered, “He he,” or similar notation of amusement before he flows into the remaining portions of his story.

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The almost two-year-old Warrior Queen idolizes her brother in between the times when she dramatically attempts to get him into trouble. She’s a slick one. It’s hard to say what she’s envisioning during these kinds of above musings. Sometimes it’s an attempt to be an asshole by wrecking something her brother built and loves. Sometimes she wants to take part in something her brother created…adding her piece to be closer to him. In this case she’s moments from adding a stone of her own. It’s something of an interesting note about my son. For all of his care and deliberations to have things just so, he’s never particularly disturbed when something he’s spent a good deal of time on is altered or destroyed entirely. He’s not a particularly anxious kid. It’s almost as though the monument is not as important as the process. Sometimes he rebuilds, sometimes not. Sometimes he sits aside and watches the enjoyment on his little sister’s face as she stomps around in a chaotic blur of destruction. When her task is complete, he’ll rise and begin some other activity. At times it’s reading or “building pipes.” On other occasions it’s destroying our sofa by flinging pillows throughout the room despite my consistent ardent pleas for him to desist.

 

I suppose winter is one more span of time, but my life consists of minutia after minutia that I could easily forget before moving onto the next bit of nothing. Little Man notices everything; remembers everything. If I assert that an event will happen at a designated time and say nothing more, Mr. Man will note the task the very second it comes to pass. I suspect Warrior Queen is similar. She often stares, taking everything in. Her speech is developing as it should, unlike her brother’s at a similar age. Some day her thoughts will become clearer. But, until that day her brother will fill any silence with blustering cacophony of sound.

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My son loves color, I guess. We’ve been frequenting the same eating establishment of late because the cost of food in comparable to anywhere else I’d take them, and the eating area was designed to entertain children. I’ve even managed a solid five minutes of conversation with friends before someone darts off to look at cakes or something. Perhaps it lowers the credibility of my disposition, but looking at food is a bit like porn to me. And, don’t get me started on cakes! When my son was old enough and capable of stringing complex sentences together, he began to rattle off a favored statement of mine in grocery stores, “Let’s go visit the cakes!” Fortunately, my son likes studying all kinds of things, the above flowers have become a preoccupation for him. Every week, sometimes more, he has to stop and examine them, asking me for my favorite assortment. Sadly the last visit had some of the arrangements looking a bit sorry. But, it’s still the rare bright color in winter…even if somewhat artificial in its design.

 

I mentioned Little Man’s structures and garages. Warrior Queen enjoys the same towers. Sometimes I can tell she misses her brother when he is at school for those two mornings a week, as she will inquire for me to build similar structures that my son presses on infinite building loops. Otherwise her default is to stack balanced blocks, holding her breath with wide eyes and smiling open mouth as she places bricks almost beyond her reach. I hope to hold the delight stretched across her face when the tower doesn’t topple, to keep that memory during moments I’m trying to escape.

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Sometimes they work together. Mr. Man expands out while Warrior Queen builds up. Often they hand each other parts, and my fierce sprite of a girl is quick to utter a garbled, “Thank you,” even when she offered the gift.

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Aside from the portion housing books, my husband and I have virtually abandoned replacing toys on the shelves; opting for the stylish cardboard boxes we’ve managed to bring home from a grocery store. I suspect we are perpetuating this catastrophe because the kids can’t find anything, but by the end of the day I’m too tired to care. In the random box it goes! And, sure enough come morning, Little Man dumps out each and every box for no other purpose than for shits and giggles. Warrior Queen, however, enters the room on an explicit recovery mission for an envisioned car or truck originally gifted to her brother that he only cares about when he sees she wants it. My feisty girl has her process. She retrieves and jams on a blue fishing cap so that it obstructs most of her vision. Then she hunts for and drapes each and every haphazardly beaded necklace her brother made in school before he can notice the theft. Finally, she adorns her small, expressive hands with my bright, fuzzy socks. The remaining morning routine she spends clutching a chosen stuffed animal or car. I watch with great care so I can note her preferred toy for the day. It will be the best chance I have changing her diaper without a foot to my throat.

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Returning to a relatively warm winter day on a desolate, mostly colorless patio, Warrior Queen only has eyes for her brother…attempting to see the world how he sees it. Most of the time his goal is to preserve the world for her as he believes it should be.

Crafting Shit My Kids Won’t Want

I was unexpectedly out of work shortly before becoming pregnant with Little Man. I don’t think I gave much thought to my offspring inheriting quaint knitted objects prior to that time, but I was assaulted with multiple fronts of anxiety and a steady stream of anger; seemed like the perfect time to spend my woefully empty days with types of projects I enjoy.

At the time it took an extreme amount of effort to consume time, and I’d frequently become hopeless with what was in store for me without a professional occupation. No matter the antidiscrimination clause, employers don’t hire obviously pregnant women. That wasn’t the entire story, but the short of it is that I was in the midst of a tremendous avalanche of unknowns…I’ve never liked unknowns…even with chocolate. Those assortment boxes often end up housing some of those grotesque Harry Potter flavors, and who needs that kind of horrible in their lives?

I’ve been a knitter since childhood, but it didn’t really take until ten years ago. I make all kinds of things, but I especially enjoy color work and fancy stitches…toys are fun to make as well because they don’t require any particular process with the end strings. I can just leave them floating in the toy innards.

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(I’m a HUGE fan of the granny square, and also a lover of colorwork and interesting stitches. I, however, do not enjoy seaming in the ends that are buried rather poorly underneath the above pieces. They look pretty nifty though; I vow one day to create a full sized afghan using this motif…when my children won’t impale themselves or destroy my projects. Fun fact: I was working on these beauties after my water broke with Little Man. it was three in the morning. I was told to call at nine…no chance I could have returned to sleep.)

For years I’d wanted to learn crochet. I tried to self-learn through the internet, much as I had expanded my knitting repertoire. No dice. But, unemployment had a benefit in at least one realm. I took a crochet class through a community program of some kind. It’s been a blessing since.

But, here’s the thing with knitting and crochet…at least for me. I often need some person of inspiration to whom I can bequeath a random article of kitsch said person will subsequently misplace or give to their cat…never to be seen again. The alternative is my husband bitching about what I plan to do with whatever project I’ve just completed.

Enter, birthing a child.

I made all kinds of things while I was pregnant with Little Man: a whole slew of various sized socks, a selection of toys, and a sweater attempt that faded into obscurity shortly after it began. I didn’t have any grand ideas about any of these yarned trinkets. I just needed some kind of vague search term for Pinterest.

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(These baby socks don’t have pairs. I made uncountable numbers of these bad boys in all shapes and sizes…my children wore exactly zero of them. They simply didn’t fit quite right with no stretch to speak of. I get whatever yarn is cheap, which means the selection is limited in these kinds of sizes. Plus, I like bright, bold colors which apparently is unconscionable in baby yarns.)

After my son was born, some of the articles were a bust, but some of them still surface from obscurity from random time to time, particularly the owl rattle I created as my first non stitch sampler crochet project. At this time the owl is in its vacation home…somewhere with the secrecy of Camp David. But, even at three-and-a-half my son becomes quite protective over it when it decides it will blow in to town. Warrior Queen feels equal passion for “Otto” the Owl, and there have been some scary brawls over it. I wonder if this dynamic is where Oz writers formed their most compelling fight scenes.

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(The owl rattle “Otto” was a favorite of both children when they were babies, and was my first real crochet project. The giraffe “Gerard” was my second. When he began understanding that the blanket I had been making would go to his sister, Little Man started taking an interest in the giraffe stating it was because I made it for him. He hardly touches it, sitting pristine on his shelf, but he would definitely know if it were missing. The mice were trinkets of my unemployment. All of these toys are variations of the original patterns…I usually tweak them in some respect just for the hell of it.)

But, here’s the thing that is not so novel for those of us crafters for our cherubs. After the first, it becomes a substantial ordeal finding the time and motivation to make these same efforts. Like in all things through my parenting journey, I had to be flexible and alter my expectations and plans to ensure that my daughter would also be a beneficiary for the thought behind what these tasks represent.

The first barrier is that my kids are almost exactly two years apart. Knitting, in general, is a bad scene with a toddler who is into everything, especially if it could maim or kill him, milling around. First there are the needles…I use double pointed ones for my favorite projects…EXTRA bad news, and don’t get me started on the cable needles. Baby things often use small needles, so not only would I have multiple sharps biding time to inflict death and destruction, but this shit has a tendency to disappear…until only the toddler discovers it. Finding these things tend to be the Excalibur for small, barely walking children. Then there are the directions that would be ripped and otherwise desecrated on the regular. Lastly, it would be inevitable that something would happen, and I’d drop stitches, make a mistake, or have a needles pulled through by a demon spawn committed to fucking with me. And, who really has three years of time trying to return a knitting project to the correct working order?

By default Warrior Queen would benefit from my latest knowledge fund in the crochet world. But, some of the rubs are the same. While having a single less scary hook, and one stitch with which to contend, I can’t have directions laying about. I’d never considered making an afghan before…mostly because I’ve never had the attention span to stick to such a large, time consuming project; but the decision was a stroke of brilliance.

From the beginning the plan was a full-sized blanket. I didn’t trust myself to diligently work on this thing, and how annoying would it be to finish a baby blanket for my daughter in time for her to attend high school?

In the end it was a dream project I never expected. I finished it a month or two after Warrior Queen was born…I could have completed it sooner, but became unmotivated in the last month of my pregnancy despite only having a row or two left. I have to say, though, it’s a beautiful blanket. I used my yarn stash that my husband spent years urging me to toss. The afghan is so large that its striped glory ate one entire bin of languishing yarn. I chose an easy stitch too, and I faithfully carried the growing blanket to whatever activity that allowed me to sit for a swath of time while he played independently.

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(This is the bulk of the finished product…not too shabby, right?)

As the blanket grew, it attracted a child following. Certainly my son was passionate about it…he still is when it’s out. The colors are bright and the textures interesting. Until I seamed in the loose strands with a thin border, Mr. Man enjoyed pulling on them. I have such fond memories of my son burrowing into the stitching as I worked quietly. When it was long enough, he’d wrap himself in its stripes; looking up at me and giggling or uttering something I didn’t understand. Warrior Queen’s afghan attracted the attention of scores of other random kids…it’s just that kind of blanket. One day I’ll give it to my daughter…one day soon. I’m making a second at the moment with the remaining bin of yarn, and if her reaction to the work in progress is any indication, she will love my stitched gift to her.

Little Man has always known the blanket was for his sister, and since she’s been born, the giraffe I made him has been revered. He doesn’t do anything with it…no snuggles or playdates. But, he once told me that he loves it because I made it for him, and it’s his. So, maybe these kinds of gifts are really just crap reserved for hoarders, but maybe even when they are smallest the thought counts.

Life as Pictures…more miscellaneous and good tidings

Life is good…it’s been a long time since I could say that without pause. It feels carefree almost…well, as carefree as herding preschooler and toddler cats anyway. Per my usual state, things are BUSY…good busy.

What began as a general email of interest to a director I recently helped, turned into something unexpected. Assuming he achieves the last minute required enrollment, I’ll be paid to teach my writing class for the spring semester. I finished my first ever college syllabus a week ago; I pray I didn’t embarrass myself with it. Much of the class will be the same incarcerated clientele I taught over the summer in our maximum, but I’ll also have a few college “teaching assistants” along for the ride. It’s a new experience for me…like so many other new experiences I’ve had over the past couple years. My general policy these days is to open myself up to whatever floats my way because I can’t know where things will lead. When I originally emailed this director, I assumed I wouldn’t hear back until long after I forgot I sent the message…one never knows.

From a personal fulfillment perspective the class was gravy. I’d already committed to writing a couple more programs on behalf of the Department of Corrections. I’d completed my sizable piece of the reentry program that will be implemented system wide…pretty jazzed about that. The new programs will be interesting as well, each in a unique way. Like everything else, I’ve listened for possibilities, and take the plunge even if I’m uncomfortable. It’s all been a pretty groovy result for the most part…more than I would have expected. It’s an odd balance though. I’ll be paid to teach, but the rest I commit to as a volunteer. Without a check my time is squirreled within minute spasms throughout my day. But, all my seemingly infinitesimal exertions yield a good amount of task completions. It usually takes my forming of periodic accomplishment lists to realize the magnitude of the mountains I’ve moved in relatively short amounts of time.

And, of course there are my full-time responsibilities hefted upon countless overtime. But, these days the kids are funny. All sorts of things that are hilarious to me and possibly people who know them. Likely a snore to strangers, but I’ll give it a whirl. Little Man is all about his nether regions and various excrement or fluids these days. We’ve been talking about how urine and poop come to be…the process of energy for the body. My son likes to remind me at random times, “Pee pee comes from my peanuts. There’s a hole.” The other day he told a friend of mine, “Stinkers come from a tushie. You tell her Mommy,” as he sweeps his hand in a gesture for me to carry on the conversation.

Little Man finds new and innovative ways to assert himself almost daily. My husband telling him to hang-up the phone, “I can’t. I have to make a call.” All kinds of funny things.

Warrior Queen is her enduring feisty self. I took the kids to a cafe within one of our grocery stores. It’s a brand spankin’ new building. We hadn’t been yet, and I was delighted at the care that came to the eating space. Not only were there toys, but good ones to boot! The area was clean, and the sustenance surprisingly tasty as well, even if it isn’t quite worth the cost. My fierce girl enjoyed her cookie, roaming around to stand and stare at other patrons. She wouldn’t smile or say anything, just look at random fellow diners for an uncomfortable amount of time. She’s cute and small, so all of them smiled at her as she continued to unblinkingly perpetuate her stare-down. Periodically, she would determine someone was worth a wave of greeting.

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I feel like this is the modern day Sisyphus…my futile attempt to maintain a consistent store of bananas. I’ll buy a mass of them, and within a day they are gone. I don’t even know how something like that happens, and part of me wonders if this is part of the inspiration for the republic thrown around these days. One would think the running state of my household is supporting the big pharma of laxatives, but that is SO not the case. If my kids can claim no other skill in this life, they can take pride in their prolific propensity for pooping. Eventually I’ll rue the day that I didn’t act on some kind of partnership with a local farm.

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This image represents the most twitchingly horrific part of shopping, and I betcha anyone reading this who is a parent will immediately understand why before they lapse into a fit worthy among some of the more damaging epileptic seizures. It’s on purpose, and I will forever hold a grudge for this industry. Maybe the jerky gets the preschooler or toddler side-eye, but mark my words they are well versed in whatever garbage toy or latest brand of candy housed within easy reach. And, the lighter’s a nice touch…one of these days my son will burn this shit to the ground while I’m trying to locate my wallet within the black hole that is my purse containing a smaller version of a Walmart.

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I took this picture a day or two after we confirmed the suspicion that bats set-up residence in our attic…along with a family of mice and flying squirrel as it turns out. I remember happening upon this display and wondering what were the odds of us housing this specific brand of winged critter.

 

So, as I write these absurd odds-and-ends with no real sequence or purpose, it occurs to me that a post such as this captures the essence of my life more than any other: randomly without purpose most of the time, yet I find myself laughing throughout.

 

Life as Pictures…miscellaneous edition

 

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I’m a haphazard tower builder. Mr. Man has his ideals for structures, and fortunately they are relatively compatible with my general building capability. My husband has these complicated, remarkable pursuits. I just stack shit on top of the other, and hope it stands…at least for a few moments before they crumble into child oblivion. Little Man’s latest designs are building the above “garages with houses” while Warrior Queen contributes by randomly piling whatever bricks are in front of her. Big brother watches his little sister’s efforts to add to his pride without batting an eye; I kinda love that about him. And, how can I forget him carefully placing the remaining bricks filed tightly together on the end to “keep the chickens from entering the garden?” I can’t really blame him. Chickens are horribly scary creatures. In the event of an apocalypse, those sketchy bastards will be leading the charge with the cockroaches and politicians.

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I enjoy cooking, but I reserve special treats for when my husband is out of town. It isn’t all that dramatic when he is gone, but I miss him. If I have the wherewithal to plan, I try to find certain things that I can look forward to…something special…usually food related, but not always. These mini quiche muffins are on my fairly lengthy list of favorites, but I hardly am able to indulge because the children pilfer them whenever there is a whiff of the container in the open.

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Easiest pumpkin muffin recipe ever. I’m not a baker, so adding a can of pumpkin to a box of spice or carrot cake mix is about all I can handle…

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The carnage of a mandatory home day…the poor bastards didn’t stand a chance. The children were merciless, and I’m still a little traumatized.

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Happy place…happy place…My children swinging from the chandeliers shrieking their battle cries as they hurl their wincingly pliable bodies onto the sofa cushions that littered the entirety of any exposed flooring. BUT, I have my stash, so bedlam be damned, and you can bet your ass I’m not sharing! I’ll laugh maniacally in their faces as I enjoy every morsel…Okay, maybe not in their faces…I’ll cower in the bathroom like all normal and rational people to avoid the conflict.

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It isn’t always about the chocolate stash when I’m teetering on the edge of losing whatever minuscule cool I’ve managed to retain since having children. I’m also growing my second afghan in painful contributions using the yarn stash my husband spent years nagging me to toss. The first afghan will soon go to Warrior Queen, and it is quite lovely. I’m not sure where this one is headed.

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We aren’t remotely religious, but the menorah candle lighting was the most successful aspect of our Hanukkah festivities this year. I want to always remember Mr. Man launching himself out of his nap to tend to the candles.

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If I’m honest, these latka beauties are my favorite part of the holiday which are a healthier version of the original…because potatoes…

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This sweater doesn’t have anything to do with anything other than it simply exists. Nothing pleases me more than to live in a time and place where seven-year-olds in a country across the planet work to create this number that I would never think of wearing, but I’m sure someone could pull it off who is significantly more fun than I. In the meantime, I’ll be in the bathroom progressively nibbling the chocolate stash I’ve cultivated over the past couple of weeks.

 

Hopes and Plans

I had designs to write a type of New Year post…something short…trite…everything this time of year might expect in a blog. But, Warrior Queen became sick, and it’s a pretty nasty one too. It’s only a matter of time before that shit spreads, and I can’t wait! Little Man returned to school this week…finally. It was only a week-and-a-half, but it felt like a month. I’d been itching to return to normalcy, but I had an additional week to go before that happened. I’m in the home stretch, and I can’t wait!

I don’t create resolutions; I never felt compelled. That said, there are things I want to remember specifically with this transition.

Warrior Queen has a bedtime routine with me these days. I push her to the precipice of a sleep hunker down before she issues her edict that only she can manage, “Rock!” She sits on my lap facing outward as I rock on the chair I’ve owned since college. She garbles her displeasure, “I falling!” and pushes my face away with her small hands when I cuddle the incorrect way. But I hold her, listening to her light breathing. I can’t see her face, so I periodically ask her how she is. In incremental quiet utterances, “Good.” It’s a funny declaration; a heavy, strong guttural assertion. I ask her how she is all the time, so that I can giggle on the regular before her speech is more developed, and significantly less endearing in this respect. The now twenty-month-old Warrior Queen doesn’t like me to count down at the end of a routine as her brother requires. It strikes me as funny because some of her favorite books involve numbers. And, whenever in doubt what a new favorite story will be, my money is always on anything with some kind of counting. But, just before her sleep we rock together for a stretching time because I have a deep need to snuggle her in the uninterrupted quiet. The other night I hummed some concoction I created on the spot. I repeat rhythms when I express these musical inclinations. Warrior Queen recognized the patterns quickly, and attempted to hum along with me with surprising accuracy, but maybe she’s just growing older. She almost fell asleep on me that night. Her hands jutting up to cradle her head the way they used to when she was a baby…I miss that.

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(It’s even more adorbs when it’s an infant.)

Gradually her head became heavier on my arms, but she continued to answer my inquires with a whisper. That wasn’t how I spent my New Year’s Eve, but I think I’ll celebrate that moment as the conclusion to a trying year I hope will improve as I roll through another calendar designation.

And, how can I forget Little Man? I wish every comment he’s made over the last several months could be preserved. We managed a hair-cut for him, and he’s always so very chatty…about really random wonderful things. The stylist asked how his Christmas was, “We don’t celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Hanukkah, and it’s over now.” As I had my own locks experience an overdue trim, I found myself shaking in buried laughs with his narration.

I took him to the grocery by himself on New Year’s day. Most of it was a rare truly annoying away from home experience, but I’ll focus on the highlight of the trip. I drink a good amount of water…and tea throughout the day. Restroom trips are a running gag between me and my husband, and the chuckles increase exponentially when I’m pregnant. The perfect segue with Little Man left me devastated to find they were cleaning the bathroom. Like most parents understand, having children is to hold oneself in a constant state of needing to use the facilities, but I still don’t like it. My son is witness to the degree to which my back teeth will float more than I should probably admit. Eventually, I manged relief and we resumed my hurried and imperfect efforts to check items off my list amidst a three-and-a-half-year-old losing his luster.

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(Familiar, right?)

Searching a shelf I caught my dearest first born describing to the two teens stocking shelves the degree to which Mommy needed to pee, and how I went about to remedy the situation. I found the items I needed, commented that they must feel pleased that their lives can resume with such pertinent information for their existence, and jetted off before Little Man destroyed the store. In that moment he was keeping it together, but part of parenting is developing a sixth sense of when shit is about to go down…My accuracy is unparalleled and this outing reinforced my impressive average. But, those other stories are not how I wish to remember the turning of another guard.

Maybe that’s what I’ll carry with me into this new span, pointedly remembering the pieces I want to cherish, and extinguishing the pieces that shouldn’t take up any more real estate in my gray matter than absolutely necessary. After all, there are already some pretty fantastic things to look forward to. And, if I’m exceptionally lucky, the fruition of some of my greatest hopes will come to pass, and I can’t wait!

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.

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.

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