Tag Archives: children

Moving On

After Richard died and left our house to me in his will, many people assumed that I would be selling it.  As one friend put it, “It will be easier for you to move on with your life if you’re not still in this place.”

I didn’t want to give up our house.  Yes, it was too big for just me.  Yes, it was a lot to maintain on my own.  Yes, every corner and crook held a memory of our time together there.  But I didn’t want to give up my house.  One blazing hot July afternoon, I came home to an HVAC unit that had been struck by lightning, a green pool, and a leak in the basement.  I stomped around cussing and pouring chemicals and mopping and panicking.  I didn’t want to let myself start crying because I wasn’t sure how I would stop.  I remember glaring up at the brick face of the house as I turned the hose on and shaking my fist at it.  To be so huge, it was hugely empty–just me and three dachshunds.  That night, as I watched the Atlanta news and ate my dinner all alone in the den, the anchor introduced a story about kids who needed to be adopted.  Three siblings who hoped to stay together.  It’s hard to find a house with that much empty space–but I had one.  A part of my wretched heart opened up at that story because it dawned on me that maybe the house would give me options down the road that I wouldn’t have otherwise.  Like any gift, my house held possibilities.

kids

One of the dearest things about Richard’s gift to me is that he knew how much owning a home meant to me.  He had grown up with a home–his parents lived in the same house from the time he was in elementary school until after he was out of college.  He loved the little yellow house so much that he was furious when the next owners cut down “his” azaleas.  My childhood memories were scattered over several places–the trailer in Greenville, the brown house in Hollonville, the old plantation house, the tin-roofed house on the Circle.  By the time I was an adult, neither my mom nor my dad lived in a place where I had ever had a room of my own.  I didn’t have a childhood home to go back to.  Fartbuster and I had bought a house together, but it never felt like a place to put down roots.  I didn’t know any of my neighbors there…or my husband, for that matter.  When we divorced, I felt like I was being forced into the decision to sell.  I rented two more places on my own before Richard and I bought our house.  After he left it to me, I had a place I would never have to leave unless it was my choice.  So I chose to stay.

Within five years, all the bedrooms were full with three siblings.  Not those sweet kids from the evening news–my kids.  Yesterday, two of them and I were playing in the backyard when I witnessed something that taught me a new lesson about moving on.

The very idea of “moving on” is an illusion.  We put together our lives not by moving away from the past, but by integrating the past into the present and the future, regardless of where we might be.

bluebirdI’ve told the story before about the bluebird who appeared at our backyard wedding (A Tuesday Kind of Miracle).  Well, yesterday, as I sat in the sun and watched Vivi and Carlos playing in her wagon, a pair of bluebirds flitted out of the forsythia bushes on the far side of  the yard.  I thought I was seeing things.  One perched on the fence down by the river–in the exact spot where the wedding bluebird had sat almost nine years ago.  As I was marveling at the beauty of the bluebird–and the memory I associate with them–Carlos caught my eye and chirped, “Hello, Mommy!”  Time collapsed in my backyard as my son stood in the same place Richard and I had stood to say our vows, and called me by my new name.  Mommy.

If I had sold this house and moved in to a new place, I would have missed that moment.  I would have missed seeing my Now blend so seamlessly with my Then.  As I sat there being happy, it dawned on me that that is what HOME is–being somewhere long enough that stories have time to come back around.

Be Good For Something

This quote from Henry David Thoreau inspired my column today at Work It, Mom:

thoreau

The story is called “The How, When and WHY of Work: Fostering a Healthy Work Ethic In Our Children.”  Here’s an excerpt:

A few years back, my father hired a teenage boy to be an afternoon kennel assistant at his veterinary clinic.  Cleaning cages, feeding the animals, tidying up–a job of all work.  Mopping kennels at a vet clinic doesn’t require a tie, but this kid always showed up to work with his jeans sagging down off his butt.  Every time he stooped over to put a bowl of water on the floor, he had to adjust his pants.  While he stocked shelves or swept the exam rooms, he was constantly hiking his pants up or pulling them down to keep them in just the right spot.

This drove my dad NUTS.  So he, as the business owner and boss, told the kid, “Those pants are interfering with your work.  Either wear a belt tomorrow or don’t come in at all.”  The kid got huffy and replied, “I don’t have to put up with this sh*t!”
 
Which led to much laughing from the actual adults who worked there.  Gina, the lead tech snorted, “Oh, yes, sweetheart–YOU DO have to put up with this sh*t!” 
So click on over and find out what happened!

Playing Telephone

play phoneHow about a silly story that has nothing to do with Christmas?

When my nephew, Jackson, was about two, Brett dropped him off at Nana’s house for the afternoon.  Jackson’s diaper was riding low.  Brett said, “I’ve tried everything short of tying him down but he will NOT let me change that diaper.  See if you can get him to cooperate.”

After a while at Nana’s, Jackson pulled a yellow plastic phone out of the toy box.  Nana acted all excited and said, “Jackson!  I have a great idea!  Let’s call your daddy and talk to him about that diaper!”

So Nana pretended to dial the plastic phone.  She waited for it to ring and for someone to pick up…all the while Jackson was giggling and wiggling at their silly game.  Then Nana said:

“Hey!  Could I speak to Jackson’s Daddy?  Why yes, I’ll hold”…….”Hey!  I hate to bother you at work, but I need a little help.  Jackson has a wet diaper and he doesn’t want me to change it.  Would you talk to him and tell him that we need to change that diaper?”

Jackson hung on every word that Nana spoke into the yellow plastic phone.

She went on:

“OK, so you’ll talk to him for me?  Good!  Let me put Jackson on the phone.”

She handed the baby the phone.  Like a pro, Jackson stuck the phone between his ear and shoulder and began pacing back and forth across the floor.  He listened carefully to the imaginary voice on the other end of the line.  He nodded his head and said, “Uh huh.  Uh huh.  OK.”

Then he handed the phone back to Nana and said, “Daddy said NOT to change my diaper.”

Well, okey dokey then.

phone

The Stuff That Comes Out of My Mouth

wdyaParenting Pop Quiz – December 16th

Which of the following statements did I utter this weekend?

A.  “Please wash the poo off the bottom of the minivan.”

B.  “Grab the Dustbuster.  He just poured half a cup of powdered garlic down his diaper.”

C.  “Get your foot out of the popcorn.”

D.  All of the above.

I guess it’s lucky that only one was said to G.

What Is This Word?

Child with a Dove, Pablo Picasso, 1901

Child with a Dove, Pablo Picasso, 1901

I try to do at least one New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle per week.  After Richard died, his mother left a half-complete collection of NYT puzzles at our house.  I asked her if she wanted me to mail it to her and she said, “No.  I did so many in the hospital these last few months that I don’t think I ever want to do one again.”  So I picked up her book and finished it.  Then I bought another one and another one.  There are 200 in each collection–now that I have kids, one book can last me over three years!  But anywho…one of the clues this week for a three-letter verb reminded me of a sweet story from when Vivi was little and G and I were still in the throes of parenting an infant.

I make fun of G’s Brasilian accent now and again, but the man has an exceptional command of the English language.  Shoot, he even helps me with those crossword puzzles–usually for things like isotopes, names of stars, or atomic numbers.  Still, every so often, he bumps into a word he’s just never needed to know until that moment.

Like the time we took Vivi to the pediatrician when she was about six months old.  Vivi had a lot of ear infections, so we were talking to the doctor about whether they might impair her hearing and speech development.  The doctor said, “Does she make normal baby sounds?  Is she cooing?”  I assured him that she was and the doctor told me it was nothing to worry about.  He told us that we could get Vivi dressed again and left the room.  G put his hand on my arm and leaned in close.  “What is this word ‘coo?'”

It’s a delicate whisper of a word–coo.  Not something he would have run across in a chemistry lab, or a research paper, or a citizenship exam, or a patent application.  Not a word you hear at the grocery store, the gas station, the tax office, the cafeteria, the television.  It’s such a precise word.  You might know it if you have been close to birds or babies, but not otherwise.

I explained, “Oh, you know the sound doves make.  No?  It’s those little happy sounds she makes, like she’s trying to talk to us, like a cat purring.”  He smiled and cupped her tiny head in his calloused hand.  He leaned close to her and said, “Do you coo, gatinho do papai?”  I watched him as he tucked that word into his mind, on the English side, across from “arrulho.”  A sweet word that only came his way because he’s a Daddy.  

Is there a special word you associate with a moment in your life?  What’s a word you remember learning?

Sleep, Baby, Sleep

When it’s time to go to bed, I can’t walk past my children’s bedrooms without stopping in to check on them while they sleep.  Tonight, I took an extra moment to sit still beside them.  I rested my hand on Vivi’s chest and felt her heart tapping along beneath my palm.  Peace.  In Carlos’ room, I pushed the sweaty curls off his brow.  He stirred then sighed.  I put my hand over his heart and breathed in the quiet in his dark little haven.

There is no faster path to the present moment than feeling my child’s heart beating.

Léon Bazille Perrault [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Léon Bazille Perrault “A Mother With Her Sleeping Child,” via Wikimedia Commons

Pecked to Death By Chickens

Look, I know I’m lucky to live the life I do.  I KNOW.  Tonight, I had to change channels away from the news before Vivi saw a picture of a child killed by poison gas in Syria.  I flipped to local news where she saw coverage of the school hostage situation near Atlanta.  Nope.  A quick punch of the remote and there’s Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins with his fangs hanging out.  I know, I know.

Then my mom guilt kicked in that I wasn’t spending 5pm-7pm doing a craft project from Pinterest with my adorable children while a healthy, balanced, organic, free range, fair trade, non-GMO, locally sourced meal from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook simmered in our solar crockpot.   Nope, G was heading to pick up pizza.  Non-organic pizza because we had a coupon, dammit.  And we ate it off of Sonic the Hedgehog paper plates left over from a birthday party.

 

Evil Chicken

Evil Chicken

I know we are lucky to have money for pizza, a roof over our heads, birthday party paper plates, and a TV.  Still, today has left me spluttering.  I saw a sign once that said, “Raising children is like being pecked to death by chickens.”  It’ll kill you, but it takes a good long while.

Top Five Stupid Things That Are Eating At Me:

  1. Every surface in this house is covered in paper clutter, dog hair or crayon marks.
  2. There are five trucks on my kitchen floor.  I have to shuffle through a parking lot to not cook dinner.
  3. My son thinks that he is a siren.  He has been shrieking “WEEEEEE OH WEEEEEE OH WEEEEEE OH” for 48 hours.  Then he pauses, holds up his toy and whispers, “Fire truck.”
  4. Someone dragged sand box toys across the den and onto the sofa.  And you know what the secret prize is inside of sand box toys?  Sand.
  5. It’s always my stuff that gets broken.  This week alone:  a vase I’ve had for 15 years, some glasses that Richard loved, the finish on the dining table, and the lid to the pine toy box that my Daddy made from boards rescued from the ruins of my great-grandfather’s house.   Oh, and my spirit. That, too.

I know that in a couple of days I’ll be back in the ring and swinging.  Today, not so much.

Top Five Things That Kept Me Going Tonight:

  1. Carlos discovered the “Radio On” button on my alarm clock.  He pressed it and said, “DANCE!”  I started dancing.  He turned it off and I froze.  We did this for the entirety of “Mojo Rising.”  He just about forgot how to breathe he was laughing so hard.
  2. My friend Sara had a dead battery.  I dropped the plans I was making for not making dinner and went to help her.  I applied jumper cables successfully for the first time in my life.  A sweet boy in a Chi Omega formal shirt asked if we needed help then stood back and watched us manage fine.
  3. When we were watching Jeopardy, Vivi got a question right (Category:  Disney Villains) and she was soooo proud of herself.
  4. After bath time, I read “The Very Busy Spider” twice then snuggled Carlos for so long that the sleeve of my shirt was wet from his hair.
  5. This picture that Vivi drew at the YMCA:
"All Shall Be Loved"

“All Shall Be Loved”

All Shall Be Loved.

And I live to fight another day.  Back to the trenches!