Monthly Archiv: November, 2013

I’m taking the bait, Dear Abby

I think you need to have a real life musical evening…where everyone sings what they have to say. Sing through dinner….etc. If you yell at the kids, you have to sing it. heehee . . . .

(This was from Abby’s comment to my “Singing in the Snow,” post.)

Dear Abby,

Have you ever tried this yourself? This is a seriously great idea. You have now officially planned the first musicals kick-off night of the upcoming family musicals tour. . . date still to be determined.  I’ll post back the results, but really you are killing me. I wasn’t going to start the tour until school was out . . . Dec. 19th? 20th?  But if you think I can wait that long to sing my grievances at my children, you are wrong.  I have already begun working on possible lyrics. So far, I have a short number on the state of their rooms set to the tune of “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”  I am still playing with the words to my impending mental breakdown serenade, but am using the tune of Amazing Grace to contrast nicely with my thoughts on uncivil sibling bickering and how it is affecting my peace of mind.

Many thanks for the brilliant suggestion. As soon as I can pull it off, we’re going for it.

Sincerely,

Singing to sanity, or not, but having fun, on County Road 21

Thanksgiving, thanks and more thanks

Growing up we never lived close to my grandparents, but I felt their love all the same. Especially from my grandmother. As a small child, I sometimes wondered if my grandfather even knew my name, but somewhere in there, he started talking. He’s never really stopped since. I know entire extended families rather well through the stories of my grandmother. My grandfather and I share a love of silly rhymes.

I wasn’t sure how things would work after my mother died.  Usually it had been my mother that kept us together.

My grandma called me on the phone.  “I call my kids in order. All their numbers are on the wall. I’m too old to change from four to three. I’m putting you in at your mother’s spot,” she said.

She travelled up to meet my first baby. I travelled down with the other three when they arrived.  She bought me diapers and tucked twenty dollar bills in my coat for gas. I sent pictures and letters I had never taken the time to write before. We weren’t  forgetting my mother. We were loving somebody else who loved her. Along the way, we found a lot of love and joy between us. My mother would like that.

My grandfather doesn’t remember things now. He has cancer that he isn’t treating. Many conversations, he can’t follow. He joins in by telling jokes he thinks of.

This year we had an early Thanksgiving dinner together. My grandparents, my girls, and me. I brought one of our chickens. The girls drew turkey pictures and made place cards. We ate brownies for dessert and saved the pumpkin pie for the next day so we could properly enjoy it.

I went to bed afterwards thinking about books. How every chapter should be the best you can make it. Every sentence matters. But as good as it all is, if it’s done right, the last chapter is the best. Everything comes together. The beautiful intensifies to a level you had no idea was even possible back when you were reading in the middle and enjoying every page.

I am struck with my grandfather’s gentleness amidst confusion. His quiet trust in my grandmother is not a tenderness I could have imagined in him twenty years ago.  He needs a lot of help navigating daily life. My grandmother learns what she needs to do, and does it.  She does not spend her days grieving who my grandfather is not. She looks at the man who is present, figures out how to give him what he needs, and loves him as he is.

I have been reading the book of their lives for a long time now. So many different chapters. So much for me to learn. But this last chapter. It takes my words away and sits me down quiet with wonder. About love. And it never, ever being too late to become like the Velveteen rabbit. More real. More beautiful.

Singing in the Snow

We put a pretty big value on family time over the Christmas break. This year, we have a plan that we’ve gone so far as to tell the kids, so there’s no going back now.  We’re going musical, as in musicals. All that’s really left is to pick the ones we’ll watch and get them.

`              Here’s why we’ll be watching so much singing and dancing this December . . .

1. Boy one announced that the music from Fiddler on the Roof was some of his favorite music in the world. (We didn’t even know he had downloaded it.) He started singing Fiddler songs around the house, but had no clue about the story.

This got me thinking. Then two more discoveries pushed the idea into a full blown mission.

2. Boy one confessed that, “Matchmaker,” was his favorite song at first because he assumed it was about someone playing with fire . . . and how cool is that, you know, mom?”  He said he sang it for a while before he figured it out.

3. We discovered that only one of our children had ever seen, “The Sound of Music.”

How it was we got this far, we two who both love musicals, without sharing this with our children, I have no idea. We did a test run last week with the 1971 movie version of, “Fiddler on the Roof,” to help us gauge our range for choosing.  They obviously understood it at different levels but regardless of comprehension, it was a big hit. Do you know how nice it is to hear your kids singing those songs around the house?

I feel a town crier is in order, although chances are that both the crier and my excitement about sharing musicals with children would be met with confusion.  Watching the kids enjoy, Fiddler on the Roof, was just so satisfying. I feel a kind of civic duty bursting out of me. Like I should be stopping people at the grocery store to tell them about it. Like I should be knocking on doors of people I don’t know and handing them copies of, The Sound of Music.

This is why I have a husband.  He reminds me that I will probably not want to knock on all those doors in the morning, so perhaps best not to print out all those fliers tonight.  “But that the original idea,” he will say carefully, “the one where we show 4 or 5 of the best ones to our kids . . . well, it’s just so manageable . . .”  And normal, he kindly does not add.

So, no posters, no grocery store announcements. Just a blog.  :)  Did I mention that we haven’t finished narrowing our list yet? Sound of Music, and My Fair Lady, for sure. After that, I welcome suggestions!

Healing and how the short people do it

photo compliments of morguefile.com

photo compliments of morguefile.com

In the spring, I had a miscarriage that went beyond sad, straight past to scary. My then nine year old was home sick from school. Sick, but quite recovered enough to be enjoying his first Indiana Jones movie while I was passing out on the bathroom floor. Everything was trending with a distinct downward trajectory, so I eventually made him stop the movie and call his father, who could not be reached. Against boy’s strong wishes, but saving him from finding me unconscious and unable to be revived later, I made him call 911. (I would have gotten the phone myself, but the inability to stand and remain conscious was challenging me at the time.)

Son relayed when a police car arrived in the driveway. I had to argue him into answering the door. The ambulance came followed at last by my husband. I worried about my son, but there wasn’t anything to say other than please not to worry, and the ambulance people would make everything better.

In the days that followed, we said thank you. We told him we were proud of him. In the quiet spaces, I tried to check in.

“How are you doing about when you were home with me that day?”

“Fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.  I just didn’t want to talk to the 911 people.”

“So really, you’re ok?”

“Yeah. I really liked that movie.”

 

A check in a week or so later yielded similar results. I decided not to push the point. If he wasn’t traumatized because he didn’t understand how serious things has been, I didn’t see anything good about changing that. And if he was upset, he wasn’t ready to talk yet.

Last week, a little more than six months since that day, we were sorting through his clothes.

 

“What’s with these shorts?” I ask. “You never wear them.”

“Give them to charity. I hate them.”

“They don’t fit or you don’t like them? What’s wrong with them?”

“I hate them. They fit but I’ll never wear them. You were wearing shorts just like that the day the ambulance came.”

“You don’t wear these shorts because I was wearing shorts like this the day I went to the hospital?”

“Yeah. I’m never wearing those shorts. ”

“So you were scared that day?”

“I was so scared. I didn’t even know what would happen. And then they took you in the ambulance. It was a really bad day.”

“I’m sorry all that happened.”

“It’s ok.”

“Are you ok now?”

“Yeah, but I hate those shorts. Give them to charity.”

“They sound like pretty lousy shorts. Maybe we should burn them.”

Boy slowly grins. The thought of the shorts on fire is in his eyes.

“Maybe, I’ll burn mine too,” I say. “I don’t really like the shorts I wore that day either.”

“Yeah, we can burn them both.” Boy laughs, then looks me in the eye. “We can just give them away. It’s ok, Mom.”

My heart lets go a little more, because finally, I believe him.

Navigating creativity

On Friday, the boys arrive in the house triumphant, almost dizzy with joy.

“We’re going to tell you a secret,” declares boy two to the girls.

“After dinner,” says boy one.

“But you’re never to tell.”

“Best fort in the whole world. Ever.”

“But no grownups allowed to know about it.”

These pronouncements are met with vows of everlasting fidelity from younger sisters. The fact that I am standing three feet away is part of their fun. They want me to know that their secret is so good, they can’t possibly tell me.

Detective mom is now on high alert. The case of the secret fort has begun.

“Sounds great,” I say as if I’m hardly listening.

“No adult can ever, ever go there.” Boy two can’t stop moving, he’s so happy.

“No, never.” Boy one sighs content.

It has been pouring rain all day. Their lack of appropriate soakage despite their absence is working against them.  Detective mom considers the implications.

“If your fort is outside, no problem. If the fort is located in a building that we own, and Dad or I accidentally find your fort some day, there are no guarantees about privacy. The buildings get used for  farm needs.”

Gleeful laughter.

“You will never accidentally go into our fort,”  says boy one. They want to tell me so badly I think  their chests might burst from the pressure of holding it in. But neither wants to be the one that told if the telling goes badly.

I am satisfied. Petrified. Horrified. But the case is solved. They are pleased when I guess the location but I say little. I can’t bear saying yes or no.

As my brother would say, here is what you need to know:

The fort is roughly 6 x 10 feet, with walls and a roof. There is a decent size window to let in light. Currently, there is precisely one entrance” to the fort.  I am guessing it to be 12 x 18 inches at the most. An easy fit for the younger three. The oldest says he has to wedge his shoulders through on the diagonal and shove. The entrance was not designed for humans. Until recently, it was heavily trafficked by 30 chickens. The fort was their coop, the entrance, their access to their outside run.

Normally, the second coop is accessed by going through the main coop, using a very people size door. With the meat chickens gone, and winter coming, an insulated wall has gone up between the two coops. This keeps our egg layers cozy. We had fancied the second coop inaccessible until the wall came down.

Saturday they bring out speakers and music.  Apparently hooks were put up. They come back cold, filthy, wet, and very pleased about the indoor snowball fight they have managed with bits of hail and snow scrapings.

I say, strip off those clothes and get in the shower. I add bleach to the wash. I never say yes, I just can’t quite manage to get no out of my mouth.

Photo Friday

Me thinking about cleaning the house. Do I have to?

 

I’m going to clean

I’m getting up

Really

I’m just figuring out what to do first

 

Me getting the kids out the door to school

Me getting the kids out the door in the morning . . .

 

Your hair looks fine, but nobody’s going anywhere

until those teeth are brushed

and sucking on the toothpaste

doesn’t count.

Two minutes.

I’ll be standing here waiting with your backpacks.

 

humble beginnings

When I was a teacher, I would tell my students that it was important to dream. That really no one, including you, knows who you might become. At the same time, I would tell them, we are only human. We have limits. There is something called reality. If you are two feet tall, you are not going to star in the NBA. Accepting your limits is ok. It doesn’t mean you stop dreaming.

I have a child who wants to become a saint. Let’s just say, it’s a long shot.

It hurts to watch her struggles. Her dream is painful to me. Part of me wants to tell her to give it up until she can at least listen to her mother, but something tells me to keep my mouth shut. There are worse things to dream about.

I want some comfort.  I want cold hard facts. Tell me that Mother Teresa once had a thing for stealing chocolate milks, and I’m there. Mostly. Maybe add in that Mother Teresa lied like a cheap rug. Was a master storyteller, practicing her art at a tender  age, before she taught us how to live.

If sainthood requires compliance, this mother superior sees trouble ahead. Things like, do not go into my room without permission, are routinely ignored despite consequences. Nail polish, scissors, or a button are deemed worth suffering for.  I went through the boots last week and found something to fit everybody. Young saint deemed her grey boots unsuitable.  She hides sneakers in her bag because they are boy boots and she would rather have her toes frozen than inside them.

Give it up, child! I want to scream. It is hopeless even without your dream.

She frustrates me , confounds me.  Her dream to be a saint is beautiful, but it hurts to think about. Her teachers couldn’t possibly do anything but laugh at the idea.

This summer at the bus shelter, I discovered chaos. My recycling had been raided. Plastic bottles filled with this and that were on the floor. The benches were covered with piles of papers, disheveled,  some also on the floor. I clenched my teeth, sick of the messes and picked up a few of the pictures.  They had little money signs taped on them. 25 cents.  1$. A sign said, “Art sale.”  Beside it was a labelled jar. “Money for the poor,” it said.

Sitting in a parking lot yesterday, I realized that I was being asked to give more than clear re-direction, and considered consequences. Against the odds, in the face of everything that laughs, I need to believe in her dream.

I didn’t arrive home to angels dancing. I arrived home to stories that didn’t add up. Today I will drive her to school and stand with her while she makes amends.  Others may rightly shake their heads in frustration.  I am sad at her choices, but I will hold her hand today and believe that this little girl will someday be a saint.

(Fasting from all things masculine as prayer for the sick? Stolen art for the needy? anybody? anybody?)

No, really, I’m going to believe it. We both need me to.

Uncertain and solid things

photo compliments of morguefile.com

photo compliments of morguefile.com

Once upon a time I was camping with a group of girlfriends. The man I was dating was nearby and invited me for a canoe ride. He arrived early.

Go, said my friends.

I’m still reading my Bible, I said.

Read it later. (They were very insistent.)

I wore my lucky yellow shoes and got in the canoe.

Let’s explore this island, he said.

Maybe later, I said.

The man argued poorly but steered the canoe to the island anyway.

There was a lot of consternation about where to land the canoe. There seemed nowhere flat enough to pull it up onto the bank.

Forget it. I’ll swim for it later, he said.

I protested. A spot was found.

Two bounding steps later, he was fiddling to get something out of his pocket.

It was making sense now.

Will you marry me? he asked and held out the ring to show me.

Yes, I said.

There was nothing else to say so we didn’t say it. It was like holding hands with Tigger from Winnie the Pooh as we walked up the path to find a rock to sit on.

We went from zero to sixty in opposite directions. He from frazzled and uncertain to the top of the world. Me from confident and assured to blithering idiot. Tigger sat down content. I sat down and an entire river system smashed every dam holding me together.

I cried uncontrollably.

I kind of thought it was going to make you happy, said Tigger a little worried.

I am happy, I whispered.  Then I couldn’t talk. I was shaking inside down deep where you don’t let anything touch you. You don’t know how much more it can take in there, you just know it’s not much.

Tigger was relaxed and happy because he didn’t have a clue how dreadfully wrong things could go. Tigger was already so far into the sunset he probably wouldn’t even come back for a year or so. I didn’t believe in sunsets. Didn’t trust them.

An hour later I had stilled the terror enough to stand.  The sun on the lake and the old pines sang something like a lullaby that I recognized. Pieces of the Canadian Shield jutting up all around reminded me that come what may, some things would remain solid.

I like remembering that day.  It was the biggest leap I have ever been asked to make. Now it’s one of the solid things I go back to look at when it feels like too much is shifting around.  Yesterday, Tigger cleaned out the chicken coop and got it ready for winter.  Last night I asked him what he thought of a piece I had written. He hemmed and hawed to say he didn’t like it.

For some reason that made me happy. I woke up wanting to say thank you for those lucky yellow shoes.

The Misty saga

We don’t get things for the farm that we can’t eat. Pigs not fun anymore? The freezer awaits. We aren’t in France, so horses have been out. Until this year. Somehow a burning desire to give kids a great birthday equalled Misty. You really haven’t lived until you have picked up kids from school, driven them home and sent them to the barn to meet the horse they thought they were never getting.

Besides in-edibility, I didn’t want a horse because they’re scary. My research said that our kids would be able care for the horse themselves, so I put this aside. Even more compelling is the common knowledge that pioneer children raised ponies unaided from the age of 6 or 7, but I didn’t depend on history. I did research.

Here’s what the research did  and did not mention . . .

1. Thirteen year olds can take care of horses . . . if they have grown up with horses, understand them, and are comfortable taking authority when the horse disagrees.

2. Ten year olds can do a lot . . . if they don’t develop sudden onset terror of horses and refuse to leave the house on threat of torture or a trip to Goodwill to donate all their Lego.

3. You’d be surprised what an eight year old can do. . . you’d be surprised too, how contagious that sudden onset stuff is.

4. Five year olds can’t do much. I agree.

We had a choice. Give up on the best birthday present ever or get re-enforcements. This is how it stopped working that I only saw the horse from the kitchen sink.

Learning and working with thirteen year old is showing me a new side of him. We’ve never done anything like this together. We listen to advice from horse people, then try to apply it with Misty. He needs me, but he can do things I can’t. There’s nothing to argue about because we’re on the same team. More than anyone else, it is he and I that are spending the hours. Seven or eight extra hours in a week is a sacrifice for me, but it is for him too, and he isn’t complaining, so neither am I.

Eight year old was back on board the second I got involved. And she can do more than you’d think. Ten year old was delivered grumbling to mandatory horse lesson this weekend. Yesterday he helped with Misty for twenty minutes. This equals previous compliance times ten.

The hardest part, I tell my husband, is leading team horse, when I’m still afraid of horses.

You’re afraid of Misty? That’s so funny. She doesn’t bother me at all.

Says the man who only has to look at her in the field from fifty feet away because we need his time to do other things.

Originally, that was supposed to be my job.