Category Archives: Family

Impending unholiday

My annual dread is fast approaching. Before the kids went to school, I solved it by turning off the lights and playing games in the basement to end October. Since then we have 1) ignored the non-holiday in other ways 2) dressed up and gone out to get ridiculous amounts of candy from people who are obviously very insecure about seeming cheap.

Halloween seems so overblown to me that I feel the need to wave the flag of moderation . . . but really is it candy and costumes that drive me crazy.

On candy, my children eat freely the first night and can only get through a tenth of it at most. They don’t want it for days after that . . . then what?  How am I supposed to sleep at night thinking about their little immune systems processing all that sugar, cavities forming in triple time. What happened to getting ONE piece of candy at a door? Or an apple?

On costumes, I love kids dressing up, but nobody does that. Everywhere, people are wearing freshly purchased costumes that will rip quickly and end up in the trash. Occasionally, someone is wearing something hand sewn by Grandma or Aunt Betty, but no one, I mean, no one, is wearing a costume imagined, designed, and assembled by the actual child wearing it.- – – Ok, there are four of them . . . but they are all mine. If Halloween was about creativity and pretending, I would be there. Handing out whole wheat, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in moderation, but I would be there.

Instead, it is all so plastic. Buy, get, need, want, gotta have . . . more candy, slicker costumes

Sometimes I wish someone would tell my kids how much they don’t get it. How much their costumes look so extremely homemade by 8 and 10 year olds, with touch ups from a 5 & 13 year old . . . Then I could say forget it and stay home. But no one has said a word. Old ladies and farmers have complimented the get-ups and asked for explanations. All parties seem pleased with the interchanges I can’t quite hear from the car.

I live with children who have yet to notice much beyond the beautiful of the world around them and I’m not sure it’s time to change that. The possibility of expanding their audience once a year to showcase their creations to complete and total strangers delights them. The fact that I throw away their candy slowly over weeks irritates them but not enough to diminish the joy of one of three days in the year when I declare, “CANDY FREE-ZONE,” for a few hours. I assure you that those words are danced to as wildly as any tribal dance anywhere.

Birthday Girl

Dear Birthday Girl,

When you were born, I was so afraid I was shaking. Outside I was smiling but inside I was scared down to the deepest parts of me. I wondered if God had made a mistake – not about you, just about letting me be your mom. I wanted you so much the words for wanting you couldn’t get out without closing up my throat and coming out in a whisper. But you were a girl.  And a girl was me. And I didn’t have any idea how to be someone that you would want to grow up to be like.

You took care of that part, being so much yourself that I didn’t have to worry about you trying to be like me, I just had to love you. And that was easy.

I’m glad I got that little jean jacket outfit for you when you were a baby. Otherwise, I would have never seen what my kind of clothes looked like on you.  As soon as you could walk and open drawers, you tore off anything you didn’t like. Only the frilly stuff stayed on, so I could dress you in what you loved or find you playing naked and search the premises for whatever reject outfit I’d chosen.

Here’s a picture of my favourite present you ever gave me. You made it for me when you were about five, wrapped in tissue paper in a box and you danced while I opened it.

“You’re going to love it. I made it myself.” And then leaping and pointing. “See! It’s a rosary. There’s the beads. And the cross. I got it off the bottom of a toy car. I couldn’t believe it. Doesn’t it look just like a cross?”

Eventually, when summer came and the sun got hot on my dresser, I found out that you had used molasses for the glue to hold it all together. Three years later, the top of the coffee lid  medallion is still sticky. It was too perfect to change so I didn’t.

So much you have taught me, my curious, artsy, feminine, non-conformist.

Love,

Mom

Plastic coffee lid rosary

Birthday Season

By Sunday we will be three quarters through birthday season. Birthday season is something I should have been warned about. At my high school we had an entire semester devoted to reproductive education. Hours upon hours on basic mechanics and never, not once, ever, did anyone give so much as three seconds to such a thing. My mother, that matron of proud practicality? Also silent. Ten years ago, the fact that she was unfortunately only here for the birth of my first child might have excused her, but I’m Catholic now and that means the little line between death and life on earth isn’t quite so cut and dried. Believing now that death is no match for love and that if anything she loves me more now, there really is almost excuse for the oversight. I’m not holding it against her, but really as my mother – surely she could have found a way to say something, after say child #2, about the importance of NOT creating a birthday season.

It isn’t the number of kids – we’d have been happy to have more if had worked out that way – it’s inventing a new holiday season when there are already enough. It’s having four birthdays in ten weeks. And all. those. parties.

Because we a) live in the country  b) are a tiny bit introvertish and  c) live in a world where everyone we meet runs madly from thing to thing to thing, birthday parties are the last best piece of kids being kids together. . . at least that’s the kind of parties we try to have. Our kids really look forward to their parties, so that means 4 friend parties plus 4 birthday dinners with extended family . . .all in 10 weeks.

Did I mention that it was birthday season that brought Misty and Shorty here in the first place?

It’s ok, Mom. I forgive you. Besides, I’m already half way through it again this year. :)

Last night’s prayer

These days my son is almost this and not quite that. His skin doesn’t seem to fit right. Certainly he has no idea what to do with his hands, his mouth, or the repetitive strumming of what we hope are brain waves.  For the first few weeks of school this year, we wondered if he would ever be quiet again. Please, I would say through clenched teeth. For just three minutes. Don’t talk.

It is exhausting, that constant chatter of nothing. The kitchen is filled with information bullets undaunted by my pleas for a ceasefire.

I’m joining two bands. I’m thinking about choir. I can’t decide which sports. Maybe volleyball and soccer. Maybe basketball. Definitely not cross country. I like it, I mean, you know, it was fun, but if I can only do two sports – two sports – then cross country’s like not even on the list. And did I tell you that I saw . . . By the way, I’m only packing things for my lunch that you can eat standing up now because we don’t sit down anymore. We go out.

And so it goes. A boy on fire with possibility. Neither fish nor fowl but in clear sight of both. As summer slipped away, so did his inclusion in the many imaginings and games of his siblings. I watched him watching them. Unsure of whether to mad or sad to be leaving the group.

It is much too soon to invite him to be one of us in those precious pieces of adult time devoid of short people. He’s tall enough. I see him watching us too. But he isn’t ready for grown up land and we two who run the place need those minutes. Besides, he talks too much.

Almost two months into school, the chatter has slowed enough to save us the constant nagging concern about muscle strain in his jaws. Yet appropriate levels of noise and motion are demands he finds so unreasonable as to be almost incomprehensible. He complies with a mixture of curiosity, dogged attempts, and then resigns himself to non-compliance in a leap or bang or whoop of energy.

Everyone is in bed now and in the quiet I can hear him and see him for what he is. An off the charts excited boy, scared boy, not sure boy, trying to figure it all out boy, want to do the right thing boy, hoping to fit in boy, wanting to be liked boy, not sure if he is good enough boy, distracted boy, changing boy. Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom.  Yes son?  Mom, look at me mom. Ok, son, I’m looking. Sigh. Awkward turning. Mom? Yes, son. Could you stop looking at me now?

Oh my beautiful wingless fish and sputtering bird. Soon my boy, you’ll be flying just fine. In the meantime, I guess you’ll just keep splashing in circles cawing madly, tossing rocks at the crows with your shrivelling fins.

I will listen in the silence tonight better than I did during the day and await with joy your waking, where we may once more begin again.

Tears for Shorty

After two weeks of searching high and low, and following even the faintest of leads, a man is on his way with a trailer to pick up Shorty. Although I have been praying madly, beseeching, growling, and otherwise making a nuisance of myself at the gates of Heaven, I now feel like crying. The horse I thought might want to kill me now looks innocent and misunderstood. I am reminding myself that this is how he looked right before I let him out last week and he turned into Happy Days, Fonzie/Get away from my woman, in 3 seconds flat.  But I feel sad anyway and my thank yous that he is going are softer and less festive than I had imagined.

This is what having children has done to me. They have squirmed in when I wasn’t looking and set about enlarging the chambers of this grinch’s heart. The living ones are obvious enough. Having been away last week, the hugs to prove how much I was missed have almost cracked bones (mine, not theirs). It’s the lost ones that teach me more quietly. Maybe because they can’t talk. Years I have prayed for the gift of tears on the outside. Some sort of acknowledgement that the tears on the inside are real too. I wouldn’t have known that lost babies who never saw the light of day would hold those keys. That they would know how to sit it out inside the depths of me, kneading with tiny fingers at the hardness of my heart until it softened.

So that is me now. All those years of lip biting and tough talk and I am ready to cry at the departure of a danger to hearth and home. Albeit hiding in the innards of a cute little 300 pounds of small horse.  I am a shadow of my former strength. A whisper only now of togetherness.

Still wouldn’t trade those tiny fingers. For anything.