A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Category Archives: funny/special moments

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.

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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.

Life as Pictures: when they are equally brave and annoying

Things are good. I was asked to teach for the same university for the fall semester. I’m pretty jazzed about that…a bit surprised too. I felt I did a good job, but this is a grant funded gig. I assumed when I wasn’t asked to return shortly after I finished, they moved onto other agendas. I don’t quite understand the mission of this department subset. Other cool things…did I mention I was nominated for a nonprofit Board? I’ve volunteered for them in various capacities for a few years, but I hadn’t considered and opportunity like this. It was flattering to be recommended by the Executive Director, Board Chair, and Vice Chair. It isn’t unusual for superiors and colleagues to sing my praises to some extent, but I’m always flattered and humbled by this kind of positive regard…and then I proceed to find ways to dismiss the accomplishment and undermine my positive mindset…I’m working on that…

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Mr. Man is an interesting character. Some things I can’t get him to do for the life of me, but going to the dentist and receiving shots is a total nonissue. Of course, if I had shades like that maybe I’d be down with it too… Actually, while I’m phobic of needles, the dentist never bothered me. As a middle-aged woman I continue to have excellent oral hygiene. The dentist and hygienist were shocked he had no issue throughout the appointment…totally chill. We spend quite a bit of time talking about bravery anticipating scary things. It’s worked surprisingly well. About a week before appointments we start having discussions about these things…doctor’s visits…dentist…whatever that might be considered unpleasant or scary. Sometimes Little Man will frantically wave his hands and tell us to stop talking. Literally. He interrupts us mid sentence saying, “Stop talking,” in a rushed breath. We do. But, we still manage a healthy dose of normalizing fear, discussing bravery and the process of confronting fear. These days my son will ask me what I’m afraid of and what I do about it…and I will confirm that I am afraid of an irrational shit-ton of things. I think, however, it’s helpful for him to hear of all the things the family members he admires fear. After all, everyone is scared of something.

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I can’t believe it, but I have potty training news! The peanut gallery can FINALLY get off my back…for now. My son isn’t quite there yet. Sometimes he will urinate in the toilet. Most of the time this month he decided to use the toilet to poop, which is quite a lovely thing. He’s pretty good at wiping himself as well. Given there are easily about three poops a day per child, I’m livin’ large. It isn’t perfect. Little Man isn’t ready to transition to full-time potty (probably because he doesn’t yet realize he will be left alone to eat a snack and read a book for a few minutes). We haven’t had accidents so much as expressions of his reliable need to control people and his environment. His refusals to poop in the toilet seem directly related to very specific events I don’t want to get into, but for the time being are unavoidable. And, the day after his first toilet dump, he didn’t scream and tantrum when I mentioned buying underwear. He chose the above selection. I can’t stand that show. Their notion of diversity are having both blond and brunette White boys…one of them is the leader, and totally obnoxious. The girl is not quite White, but simultaneously is. She has an exotic name, so that must count, right? (Oh, look, there are my tonsils!) I say this because the lack of diversity, lead girls, and general stereotyping in children’s programming GREATLY bothers me. But, I digress. Mr. Man seemed keen on his underwear, but Warrior Queen seemed significantly more so. My money is on her using the toilet shortly after her big brother stops needing diapers during the day. She’ll see him strutting around in his annoying Cat Boy underwear, and that will be the end of diapers for Warrior Queen!

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Mr. Man enjoys puzzles. I’d been giving him puzzles for a three-year-old, which are much too easy, but he enjoys repetitions like that. This one is the first four-year-old puzzle he’s tried. He could probably do it himself, but prefers it as an activity to do with an adult. For the first time in my life I enjoy puzzles…because I can manage one for a four-year-old. It took a bit for Little Man to sit for this one, but he enjoyed schlepping all the pieces around. This was the first time we managed to get through it without him building something random and incongruous with the project of piecing together the thing. I never did find that piece, and it’s unbelievably annoying.

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This is not an impressive game of the retro Pick-up Sticks. This is Warrior Queen battling me over an almost full box of pasta. It was already open and resting on the counter. She apparently can scale our island to grab anything and everything off the top by using the drawer handles as a ladder. I had my back to her for a second…of course, that’s a parenting motto: “It was just a second!” You’d think I wouldn’t be a total idiot about where I place things, yet… She wanted to carry it over to me, but I’m not THAT much of an imbecile. Her wanting to “carry” it over consists of shaking the box and dumping the contents everywhere. But, that’s not what happened in this instance. There was no shaking with a gradual overflow of objects out of a container. Warrior Queen cut right to the chase and immediately dumped everything, subsequently screaming as I tried to retrieve the completely empty box.

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Warrior Queen spent a good fifteen to twenty minutes refusing to eat anything but the broth of this soup, which is just wrong. Who doesn’t passionately love chicken noodle soup? I mean, I’ve had bad chicken noodle soup, but it’s practically an art to completely fuck it up. I remember looking down for a moment, and when I glanced back, this was the situation before me. I even checked the ground and her lap before marveling at her efficiency of sucking down the cup’s contents.

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.

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.

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