Monday, June 14, 2010

Writing Exercise: Part Duex

Our writing exercise a couple of weeks ago was very interesting, I'd like to share it with you. Here are the rules: You have fifteen minutes in which to write, you must use the words, sentences, or phrase given at the beginning of the exercise in your piece. The rest is up to you. Here were the choices of words which we could write about: (there were several but all I can remember are these) drunken chickens and cupcakes, and This is for my mother Ruth. I chose the latter and the following is what I wrote.

This is for my mother, Ruth

Dear Mother,

As I sat by your bed this morning we talked about the lilacs and how they've finally bloomed. Their heady perfume drifted in your open window, past the billowing lace curtains, and into your mind. You told me about the year you planted the lilacs. It had been a long and particularly harsh winter, and when spring finally arrived they were the first thing you put in the Earth. Your Earth, you called it. You remember the lilacs...but you don't always remember me.

It hurt the most at the beginning when I would come to you with your favorite tea, made just the way you like it: one scoop of sugar and a splash of vanilla cream. You would greet me with a puzzled expression, "Oh, who are you?" you would ask, a trace of deja vu on your brow.

"Mom, it's me, Naomi, your daughter. Remember?"

"Naomi? My daughter is but a child, and she's still at school now" you replied.

Like burning darts into my soul those first times were,ripping and seperating pieces of who I am from who I was, and it was as if an actual piece of me was lost along with your misplaced memories of me. But, no matter how much I tried to wish the hands of time back, or at least still, they moved forward, ever forward as they have always had a way of doing. And in those moments between then and now, past and present, the searing pain became a dull ache and I learned to love the new, absent you.

It's strange the things you forget and those you remember. You recently heard the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show and exclaimed that I should run and get Naomi because her favorite show was on. It was my favorite show, and for a moment I wanted so badly to take a step back in time and be Naomi in pigtails, Naomi with homework to do, Naomi with a mother who remembers her. was fleeting, and as reality, the present, settled back in, I pulled the covers up under your chin, smoothed the creases to the edge, and gently kissed your forehead. "Ill go and get her," I said "She's probably just finishing her homework."

Friday, June 11, 2010

For Gordon

Dude, this one's for you.

I've been meaning to do this for a long time...and then, you know, life kinda happened. But here we are now. So gather round the fire children and I'll tell you a bed time story. It is a tale part dreadful and hair raising but a tale mostly of great courage from a small hero.

The year was 1997. My parents had left for a week in Cancun, a week without their children. Oh now that I have two children of my own I can just imagine the scene as they left us behind, their hands clasped together, the two of them skipping with joy at the thought of their short bit of freedom. My brother and I , well, we were skipping with joy for reasons of our very own. Being left alone for a week meant that we could stay up as late as we wanted, eat pizza for every meal, and we definitely, most definitely were not going to clean anything up....until right before they got home that is.

This was the year I turned 17 which would have made my brother 12. I lorded my seniority over him with an iron fist, never letting him forget my place as first born and eldest. Shotgun, you say? I THINK NOT! I'M OLDER! IN THE BACK SEAT, TINY! Oh, what's that? You'd like to watch one of YOUR shows? NOT AS LONG AS I LIVE IN THIS HOUSE! I was not always a cruel sibling though. I picked him up from school, threw rocks at kids who were mean to him, and once I even let him come to my birthday party...only after he had to go and cut his head open and be a cry baby about it.

This time though, I remember us having a pretty good time. Our parents had put our dog, Gracie, in a kennel while they were gone thinking that it would mean less responsibility for us. As if we could have been and LESS responsible. So it was just Gordon and I, endless pizza, and way too much TV.

I had taken to sleeping in my parent's room while they were gone, I think it may have been another display of seniority on my part, who really knows what teenagers are thinking. My brother had been falling asleep every night on the couch to cartoons, this was perhaps the pinnacle of his young life at the time. On this particular night I was awakened by a great clap of thunder. It was loud and close, close enough to startle me awake. For some unexplained reason, my adrenaline began to rush and I was afraid. I listened for more of the storm but the night replied with silence and cicadas. This further disturbed me so I crept into the living room and woke my brother up.

"Hey. Psssst, hey, Gordon. I'm scared, will you come and stay in Mom and Dad's room with me?" I asked plaintively.

"What?" he grumbled, "No, go away, I'm not sleeping with you."

"But please, I'm scared," I pleaded.

"I said no!"


And so I did. I scooped him up, young thing that he was, easily and carried him to our parents room where I put him in the bed with me and he fell fast asleep. Although I was comforted by the familiar body next to me, I still couldn't shake the sense of uneasiness I felt. I lay in the dark and listened to every tick, every breath, every rustle, and then I heard it.

Someone, or something, was prying the screen from the window and trying to get into our house to do what, I could only imagine. I leaned forward, gripped with fear, and saw in the small space of visibility between the blinds and the window, a man. He was crouched down and working furiously to get into the window. I was so consumed with fear that for a moment I could not even breathe, much less move. And then I snapped out of it long enough to shake my brother and hiss: SOMEONE IS OUTSIDE THE WINDOW RIGHT NOW TRYING TO BREAK INTO THIS HOUSE!

He sat up, transformed into a man in the blink of an eye, and said: get in the closet. I grabbed the phone and we both got into our parents large, walk in closet. As I dialed and began to speak to the operator with 911, my brother, who was TWELVE, picked up our father's 30-06 rifle, loaded it, and aimed it at the window.

Now Dear Readers, let's take a step back in time for a moment, shall we? Let me tell you about my brother as an even smaller child. Sure, he liked cars and trucks and playing in the mud like most little boys, but what he really, really liked to play most of all was heroes. He had his favorites: David, slaying the great Goliath, and of course there were the Ninja Turtles, but his best, his all time favorite, his gold standard of heroes was Superman. Sure, every kid wants to be a hero. Every little boy dreams of saving the day, but how many have done it? How many could pick up that gun that weighed more than they did and point in the face of danger and say: BRING IT! My brother, that's who.

As I sat in that closet, on the phone with the 911 operator and watched my brother act with such great courage, time seemed to stand still. The voice of the operator faded into a tinny echo in my ear and I remember feeling a great sense of calm come over me. He's got this I thought to myself, he's really, really got this. He will kill that man if he steps foot in this house, and I feel good about that.

I wonder what it must have felt like to have been on the other side of that window? One minute you're down for a little late night raping and pillaging and then the next thing you know, you're staring up the long, cold barrel of a gun that could blow you seven different ways into next week. And then when summon the strength to glance up to see just who's staking claim on your life, you meet they eyes and face of a child. A child with the heart of a lion and a look on his face that says, oh yes, I WILL kill come on in here, I DARE you.

Needless to say, the guy fled...probably because he needed to change his underwear after that. I know I did, I kid, I kid. It took the police over 20 minutes to get to our house because they were all probably at Dunkin Donuts. When they finally got there and had a look around, they found our screen a few dozen feet away from our house, twisted and broken. They suggested we spend the night with a friend (which we gladly did) and then they were gone.

It all seemed to happen with great speed and so slowly, if that even makes any sense. We lived. He saved us. My brother, not the police. And that night something changed. Even though I was still older, he was the bigger one now. I have learned time and time again that it is in our darkest hours that we discover the stuff of which we are made. And it is in the trials and difficulties of life that you can observe what others are made of. I have often been disappointed by others in tough times, but in those few harrowing moments in the closet, I realized that I would never have to be afraid if my brother was around. In the words of Mark Twain: it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

Even though I still like to pick on him and call him names, I have a great reservoir of respect for my brother, because, as I like to say to him: Ya got moxie, Kid.

My brother, Gordon, is on the right. Perhaps a bit of real-life foreshadowing, eh?

Well children, did you like that story? Good! Now let's review the lessons we learned tonight, shall we?

1) Never leave your children unattended and run away to a foreign country with spotty phone service.

2) If you MUST leave said children alone, by all means, leave the dog at home.

3) The second amendment is COOL!

4) Guns don't kill people, PEOPLE kill people, and we WILL kill you if you try to break into our house...or car...or backpack.

5) I am most definitely NOT a pacifist.

*I do realize that this post may incite some people's fear of guns. I would just like to say, for the record, that my brother and I grew up around guns. We were taught that they were not toys and to respect them and only use them for their specific purposes, which in my family happened to be hunting. There was never an incident when they were used as toys or in an inappropriate manner. I believe it is ignorance and irresponsibility that causes accidents. That being said, Jeremy and I will teach both of our daughters how to care for and use them...when the time is right of course.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bicycling With Children

Fat bottomed girls they'll be riding today, so look out for those beauties, oh yeah.

I haven't written about my bike in awhile. Just in case you were wondering, I am still madly in love with her. Although, our relationship has changed in some ways. Just as the passage of time creates wrinkles and scars on all of us, so it has on my beauty. She has nicks in her paint and her skirt guard has faded to more of a cream, her basket liner is stained and she no longer holds a baby seat. But...just like each scar tells a tale about us, and as women we bear the badges of motherhood proudly (sometimes, wink wink), so each nick and stain tells a story about my bike.

The scratched paint near the bottom of the front basket is from the time I crashed on the trolley tracks on St Charles Avenue in New Orleans. We were but young lovers then, me and my bike. I didn't quite know how to handle her, but now we speak the same language and are almost like a horse and it's rider (except in this case it is I who have to do all the work) in that I have learned to anticipate the next move and maneuver accordingly.

We've come a long way from the shiny, white maiden cycle and timid (no, PETRIFIED) mother of only one baby. I now am able to hook the Chariot up and have it out of my apartment with the kids loaded (which is no small feat, BTW) in less than 10 minutes. I bike almost everywhere and I have learned to be cautious while really enjoying myself. Believe me, the world is much better appreciated from the seat of a opposed to a car.

I have many friends who are just getting into cycling, some with kids, some without, so I thought I'd just share some of the things I do/don't do and some tips I've those of you seasoned cyclists who may read this, if I've left anything out, please comment and let us know.

I make it a point to walk almost everywhere that is easily walkable, this gives Ellie a chance to ride HER new bike. These places include the grocery store, the post office, dry cleaners, pool, and Hooters (bet you didn't know that was one of my favorite wing places). For those places that are further than reasonable walking distance with two kids, I ride my bike. I pull both kids in a Chariot Cougar 2 which, by the way, is just about the MOST. AWESOME. THING. EVER. Not only can it hold over two large reusable grocery bags full of food in it's storage compartment, but when I reach my destination, I just unhook it and convert it to a stroller and VOILA!

I have two baskets on my bike. In the front one I usually keep: A small purse, a bottle of water, my lock and keys, and whatever else I collect along the way...hey, injured rabbit, want a ride to the hospital? In the rear basket ( which was conceived out of necessity to hold MORE SH&T!) I have been keeping library books, goods from the farmers market, or just bags of stuff I have purchased. (husband, if you are reading this, that was just a little joke, no matter who says they saw me doing it, I DID NOT go shopping this afternoon) It could hold takeout and beer or wine nicely, although I have yet to figure out how to get a pizza home on it.

In the storage compartment of the Chariot (which we shall hereafter refer to as Hercules) I usually keep: an extra change of clothes for each kid, a few diapers and wipes, hand sanitizer, snacks, drinks, and a tire pump and patches. After today, I think I'll carry an extra set of clothes/skivvies for myself because after biking about 10 miles in the BLAZING HEAT, I looked like I had peed myself. Lovely, I know, but I'm telling you this to spare you from the same disgrace. You see what I just did there, that's called self sacrifice, and I do it because I looooooove you.

That leads me to my next point, while those Copenhagen girls may look perfect all the time, if you run into me on my bike this summer, I'll probably be as brown as a paper sack and dripping sweat like Michael Jackson at a T-ball game...oh wait, that was wrong wasn't it? Can't help it, cuz, I'm BAD, I'm Bad, you know it, I'm bad! OOOOOOOOOW! Sorry, now where was I? Yes, appearances. I do get dressed nicely and put makeup on before I leave the house, but it is hot, and humid, and there are a lot of hills here and my bike only has three gears. least I try, right?

I do NOT wear a helmet. I also do NOT ride my bike in the street, EVEN if there is a bike lane. Sorry, but I'm travelling with two small kids and there's half of Central America driving like they're being chased by INS WHILE talking on their cell phones on these roads. Not for me, no thanks. These kids have to live. If something happens to them who's going to change my diapers when I'm old? With those points being said, I am VERY careful. I use cross walks, give pedestrians the right of way, use hand signals and look both ways...twice and inform someone when I am passing them by saying on your left or right or by just ringing my bell at them until they move over. I also shoot daggers with my eyes to those dotes who pull their vehicles out into the crosswalk when I have the right of way. AGHHHHHHH! That makes me want to use language that my children need not learn. But hey, I was stupid(er) once too.

I live in a pretty bike friendly city with a lot of trails and I try to use them whenever possible to avoid the main roads. Sometimes I prefer the main roads for the sense of safety they provide as some of the trails are in wooded areas and don't seem all that safe to me, AHEM, Chandra Levy anyone? But overall, if there are a lot of other people out, I feel it is a pretty safe place to bike almost anywhere.

My kids are actually their happiest when riding in Hercules. I give them snacks and drinks and a couple toys and they can see the world and all the action it contains. Although you will notice in the pictures that the screen is up on Hercules, when I am cycling, I always put it down because you never know when your bike or a car or an act of God might kick up a small rock or piece of glass and them BOOM! another pirate in the family. And...OH OH OH, I am almost too excited to tell you this, but...we just ordered a harness and leash for our pet dove, Olive so that he can come with us on bike rides too. He thinks I'm his mate, which is another post entirely, but I feel bad leaving him all the time. Anyway, we'll see how that goes.

I'm going to leave you with the hand signals for cyclists...who knows if the drivers of cars even know the signals but it seems pretty obvious to me that when someone is on a bicycle and is pointing left, that they're probably going to turn left.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sometimes My Life Is A Drama, Today Its A Comedy

Looking back on this here little blog, I am kind of shocked at how morbidly serious I've become. Back in Ye Olden Days I was just The Good Time Girl, always ready with a quip and a perpetual laugh that bubbled over and spilled out of my soul. And then...DUN DUN DUN (aww, you missed that didn't you) I don't quite know what happened. I suppose I've spent far too much time alone and reading the instruction manuals of children's products which include about fifty pages each of warnings that all ultimately end with: COULD RESULT IN IMMINENT DEATH!!! Yeah, I actually read the booklet when I installed Ari's toddler car seat and was shocked to discover that for about two years I have been driving around with Ellie's seat fastened improperly which...COULD RESULT IN IMMINENT DEATH!!!

So freaked out was I after reading this manual with picture after picture of the crude outline of a baby with it's neck snapped and those lightning bolt symbols implying IMMINENT DEATH!!! that I drove first to the police station to see if they could help me make sure I had it installed properly, they could not because they all happened to be at Dunkin Donuts when I showed up. TRUE STORY. So then I went to the Fire Department. God bless those firemen! Even though they weren't certified to inspect car seats, they came out (in the rain I might add) and checked and pulled and pushed and fastened until we were all pretty sure that even IMMINENT DEATH!!! wouldn't mean imminent death.

Oh, but look, I got distracted. That seems to happen a lot lately. I make myself a cup of coffee, someone wakes up, I start their breakfast, someone else needs me to wipe their butt, the phone rings, someone needs me to email them right away, second person wants milk, but not THAT milk, different milk, the bird needs food, first person needs to be wiped down because she has smeared blackberries all over herself, her hair AND the wall, and all in the midst of all this I have started and abandoned about five cups of coffee. WHEW! Wait a minute, where did I leave my brain? I think it's somewhere next to that first cup of coffee.

Anyone that knows me will tell you I'm a clown...most of the time. Except when I'm warning you about IMMINENT DEATH!!! In light of all my seriousness over the past year or so, I wanted to lighten things up a bit and tell you some of the humorous things that have happened around here lately.

While waiting for our cars oil to be changed, Ellie and I went to Dunkin Donuts for some breakfast (TRUE STORY). The girl behind the counter, who happened to be very nice and accommodating, also happened to have the teeth of GOLLUM. As we were waiting for our order, Ellie, who had been staring at this woman's mouth, said something about how her teeth hurt. I begin silently praying that she would not say anything about it. I wisked her away to the bathroom where I explained that while the lady's teeth were very unusual, it was not polite to point them out to her because it may embarrass her. Ellie said that she should just see a dentist at which point I explained that dentists can be very expensive and not everyone can afford to have one fix their teeth. We left it at that and went back out to claim our food. After we sat down, I could see that Ellie was thinking intensely and before I could even do anything, she stood up on her chair, yelled: EXCUSE ME, MISS, BUT DID YOU KNOW THAT MY DADDY IS A DENTIST AND HE IS A VERY NICE MAN AND HE CAN FIX YOUR TEETH BECAUSE HE IS A VERY NICE MAN!

Oh. My. God.

What do you do? Smile? Apologize? Leave as quickly as possible, never to return? All of the above? That, and then when you're alone with your family (sans kids) you laugh because this was just one of many moments of verbal toddler diarrhea in your life. You laugh and wonder at their innocence and gall and deep down vow to be more like them...only with more grace.

And then there's Jeremy. Oh, Jeremy! I married my opposite, have I ever mentioned that? I love it, to be sure, but there are those moments when I just stand back and go...what the???
This guy is a numbers guy. He makes handwritten calculations of how he would divide hisPowerball winnings and what his return would be on a 6.73444444% investment over 30 years. Yeah, fun stuff like that. He can fix anything, knows more about cars and bicycles than I would EVER care to. And his life philosophy is more along the lines of let's check all the rules first and then if we still aren't sure, we should call ahead and ask about the rules so we can make sure we're following them. Mine is more: it's better to ask forgiveness than permission.

So, a few days ago while attempting to feed her turtle, Ellie accidentally poured THE WHOLE CAN of turtle food into the tank. It was a brand new can mind you. We fished out as much as we could and bought some new filters to help clean the water out. It wasn't working. When I walked into Ari and Ellie's room yesterday to get Ari up from her nap, I thought she had had one of those colossal poops that make even the parent of said child want to heave into a bucket. And then I realized it was the fish tank. We ended up losing all but one fish and the turtle, and when Jeremy came home from work, he took everything out including the rocks and cleaned it all thoroughly.

Later, after dinner, I was speculating why it had killed everything and smelled so bad. IT WAS JUST NASTINESS, I said.
"Actually, Jill, it was the bacteria in there that after feeding on the food depleted the oxygen levels and suffocated the fish."

"DAY-UM, BILL NYE! I was just going to settle with the conclusion that the sheer nastiness killed them and then you had to get all science-y on me!" He then chuckled in way that seemed to say: HAHAHA fool, you are a mere troglodyte! Stand in awe of my math and science prowess! At which point I used some words that have more than four syllables which caused his eyes to glaze over and smoke to come out of his ears. Yeah, that's how we roll. Tomato, tomah-to.

And then there was last night. We both laid in bed and giggled, about what, I don't even remember, for over an hour. Silly things, old things, us things. And it felt really good to just laugh like a kid again. I vow to do it more often...even in the face of: IMMINENT DEATH!!!

WHAT!?!? You laughed without ME!!! I am BEYOND insulted! If I could properly articulate my great umbridge at this heinous offense, I would declare the both of you negligent and grossly unfit parents, while promptly informing the proper authorities. Since you people can obviously not decipher my attempts at communication with you because it's complexities are far beyond the grasp of your insufficient and age addled minds, I shall have to, instead, inform you of my great displeasure by relieving myself on one or both of you at the next opportunity!