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Archive for the ‘questions for the universe’ Category

I’ve begun to think about a short story based on my recent joy in purchasing winter coats in the most reasonable way ever – online at Land’s End. There is not much more to write about buying a coat for a child on-line at Land’s End. I did it and it’s done. Amen. But that is not the way I have traditionally purchased (or come by) winter coats.

Because of money. And so really, the short story I’m outlining is about money and mothering. The first thing I ever wrote about money came out of my brain whole my junior year in high school while I was reading Virginia Woolf. For some reason it became incredibly clear to me right then, sitting at a desk more appropriately sized for an 8-year-old, staring at the gigantic word processor my dad had bought me (some sort of type-writer with a screen that looked like it could swallow me), that it would be nearly impossible to “do better” than my parents had. I called my sister at college and she agreed, so I figured it must be true. The mere fact that I got a hold of her on the hallway phone for her floor was like some sort of sign from the gods that I was onto something (much good may it do me, as they say)

Both my parents were in the first generation of their families to go to college. Both came from truly working class backgrounds. Both of them had advanced degrees & professional jobs in Manhattan. It seemed unlikely I could even duplicate such a leap, let alone overtake it. I wrote a paper and did not mention the word money or class. I had no idea what I was writing about but it hit me – the urgent impossibility of my position being educated at prep school in New York, sent off to college and absolutely bewildered about what I was going to do for my life (code for earn money, I think – the 17 year old brain perhaps fuzzy on this point.)

This proved to me even more true when I graduated college during a tiny recession that by today’s standards does not rate. I was working, married and thinking about all of these things – and also none of them because I was working so much for not so much money, as was my spouse – and then we had a baby and so I was home to think about them all day long. All day – and some of the nights too.

My breastfed child did not enjoy me holding a book while I nursed. He repeatedly swatted at it. It was just this object in his peripheral vision to be grabbed, I suppose. So I did not read but rather thought about things. Does anyone else have a child old enough to remember breastfeeding in the years before streaming video and podcasts? My youngest child was breastfeed to podcasts and streaming npr, netflix – and even had the tenderness to not swat at books or magazines while they were in my hands.

That many years later, with children off at school and my career taking some pleasant turns, I am here pondering NaNoWriMo, sketching out this story & wondering if there is quite enough there for a novel. I don’t want to start writing until I know. Because two years ago, when I last attempted the athletic feat that is NaNoWriMo, I was without an idea at the start. I had such a long ramp up period, that I never could have finished. I also had a three-year old and we all know how crazy they are.

What do you think about mothering and money? And what do you think I should do about the agony of National Novel Writing Month? What are you going to do? Also, one more thing about the Land’s End coats – they have grow with me sleeves. Why did I not invent that when I was 17 or home breastfeeding a baby who rejected novel-reading?

*PS Land’s End did not pay for this post.

Sadly.

– Maybe –

Never mind, I like it better this way:

The coats are great. My thoughts are my own.

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Summer’s end has been celebrated here for the past few weeks: one last swim with friends, one last trip, one last time eating ice-cream for dinner, one last beach day, one last let the kids stay up til they are stupid-tired and tip over when they walk.

I’ve been preserving the harvest, allowing the kids to watch one more TV show so I can get the jars packed and sealed in the proper time.  For the last month, I have shelved every possible project that seemed like it could stay on hold until they all went to school, all day, for the first time since I had my first baby 12 years ago.

That day is tomorrow. Summer’s true end was bedtime tonight, with my husband scrubbing down the children after a sticky long weekend  and with me filling out the last bits of the school paper work at a kitchen table littered with jars of sauce, salsa and chutney.

Our kindergartener  is asleep.  In a matter of hours he will be off and away with his brothers and friends. I have no idea what tomorrow brings for me – aside from sorting through the endless projects, ideas and tasks that I have spent my summer brushing aside with what has been become a mental tick of so many years making, “this can wait til everyone is at school.”

I am going to have to stop saying that.

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It’s too insane to be real. A baby-swinging mother, from Russia now living in Egypt, can show you on the internet how to do ” intense baby yoga” with your newborn. And it is crazy. Sane mothers everywhere look at their screens and hope it is a newborn doll – like the slightly surreal looking ones used in childbirth classes at hospitals.  The video quality is just poor enough to allow for disbelief. But then, Gawker says it is real.

I’m hanging on to disbelief – yes, for the obvious reasons – I don’t really think this is a safe newborn practice. I am old school:  swaddle them, support their heads, keep them warm! Plenty of time for nose-dives when they are 2, that’s what I say. I’m also hanging onto disbelief because this woman seems to be offering herself as a path for mothers to take – come, you can belong here, be part of our baby-yoga-swinging community. You can do this and belong.

We seem to be finding smaller and smaller camps to divide ourselves into as mothers. Are we so unwilling to hang out with people who do not mother similarly to ourselves? Do we do this while we tell our children they are unique and special? Do we do this while we teach them to celebrate the diversity in their communities, be that home or school, town or country?

Did our mothers so sub-divide themselves, or where their fewer divisions. You were poor, middle class, or rich and  you were black, white or latina. You lived in the suburbs, country or city – but that is all. Are we more fearful? More confused? More lonely?

When I had my first child the term “Attachment Parenting” was just hitting the streets of my community. There was no internet in the way we have now. No websites, coaches, groups and fan pages. There was one sling for sale in the whole wide world.  I visited an attachment parenting play group and felt it was a group too exclusive for me.  I could not believe there was only one right way to mother. I could not be so vehement about umbrella strollers. I’d grown up in an odd little corner of Manhattan where Harlem met Columbia University. To me, attachment parenting meant rigid hippies in suburbia who had Subarus. If they had to walk as far as the mothers of Harlem, they’d have umbrella strollers too.

I never went back. I continued to breastfeed. I continued to use a stroller and a baby carriers of various sorts. I continued to “co-sleep” until none of us slept well and then we put the baby in a pak-n-play. We didn’t call it “co-sleeping.” We called it sleeping and the babies slept, with us, until they didn’t. When friends or family asked how we slept, we said, “great!” or “terrible,” depending on the day. I breastfeed and let them grab food of my plate – and formula fed when faced with Henry’s intense medical challenges.

Before the wrath of the attachment parents visits my blog in the night, I have many friends now who refer to themselves as attachment parents. They use strollers, have a long way to walk (and some of whom have Subarus.) But I won’t pick.  I won’t pick breastfeeding or formula feeding or extended co-sleeping or cribs, schooling or not – nor will I pick attachment or whatever its opposite may be.  And I will not pick intense baby yoga swinging. I’m assuming you won’t pick that one  either, but I’d love to know what you won’t pick. Or if you have picked, why it works.

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Where am I am smiling, mom?” We are looking at baby pictures of Henry in our photo software. It’s opening because iPhoto has been acting all strange. Things are not where they are supposed to be. There are 3-4 version of some pictures. In off moments, I’m trying to sort, to make room for the hundreds more pictures we will take this year.

Is that me, smiling?” He scans for signs of happiness. He absolutely smiled when he was a baby. I know because he was just the sweetest little soul. I can tell from the pictures that I kept trying to get just one with eye contact and a smile. The ones with his older brother are the best, or his baby friend Ella.

Did I like being a baby? Did you like that stroller? Did that toy make me laugh?” My kids always know. They share just enough of my own thought life to know where it is worth digging for treasure or dirt.  I wish I could say I blocked out those early months with Henry, but I have not. My husband does not enjoy the walk down memory lane. “It hurts to think about,” he says. I agree but it hurts more to look at those photos and not talk about it. I carried that child on my body for months. The pictures I have of him not in my arms were moments he was well enough to be put down. There were moments I had arms and distance. I’d take a picture to document his cuteness. But, he was too thin and sad. He was sick. He was sick and now he is 6 1/2 years old with just a little bit of information.

I’m not sure when to have the talk. When do I tell him that he was such a sick baby? Does it matter now?
Maybe my larger question is how to talk to Henry about Sensory Processing Disorder and Anxiety without making it all too hard, sad and terrible. There are amazing things about him that come with the SPD and the anxiety. He has all the highly sensitive person traits that people talk about, without the introversion. He has a will of iron which he uses to attempt to bend the universe into a manageable level of stimulation. It’s not pretty but it has served him well over the years. He wants to be “normal,” and is not. He has no savvy. It’s like living with Linus, the most sincere Peanut person of all human history.

Hello there! Happy Halloween! Trick or Treat, but no tricks, because that would not be so nice. Are you having a good holiday?

That is how Henry tricks and treats. At Christmas, he shouts out “Christmas Joy to us all!” He has no idea how much cuter he is made by his big hair. He has learned it is big. “Will kids make fun of my hair? Will my friends laugh? It is so big today.” It gets bigger when he is happy, sad or angry. He is almost always happy, sad or angry. His hair knows, like he knows he was not a “happy” baby. He has no neutral. We strive for 3rd gear. Getting out of 1st and staying out of 5th may be a life-long project.

He was happy, when he was well. By temperament this is a person who loves to be joyful but trips on every obstacle in his path. So, do I tell him he has a disorder? Is that just another obstacle for him. I want him to have a little savvy. Just enough to help himself out of a fix, and let his hair do its own thing. I want him to know the bright lights and extra loud sounds of PE may set him on edge just enough to create a meltdown later in math class when he writes the number 4 not quite right. I want him to know his penmanship is exception for someone with such overall low muscle tone, but I also don’t want him to change the benchmarks he has for himself. I don’t want to promote the idea that anyone is expecting less. We are not. I’d just like him to give his own 6 year old self a break sometimes. But he won’t. He is driven. He will no more give himself a break than he will give me a break. His brain is a sponge. It needs more and more to chew on. When he is bored, he worries. When he worries, his adrenaline sky-rockets, and the sensory processing get worse.
He must press forward. He cannot pause. I am left wondering if I should tell him, what I should tell him if I do tell him. I’m still looking for him smiling in the pictures. It’s there. He knows. We both know there is a truth not yet uncovered in all this. I’m not trying to hide it. It’s hidden in plain sight.

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At night, they sleep in star fields, by day they run with wildflowers.

10/14/2000

Lily Rose 2/8/2005

 

A gift from my sister. If you are remembering anyone today, I’d love to know about it, to hear your story. You can leave a link or just share in the comments. As you can see, I am 10 and 5 years out from these pregnancy losses of my girl children. I’m upright and alright. If you are needing support, I recommend Share and Glow in The Woods, a best friend, some brownies, maybe a glass of wine.  Beyond that I have no advice, I’m just listening.

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Dear Universe,
I guess this is really more of a comment, for I have ceased asking why questions of you. The incessant whys of my children have inoculated me against reasons. So my comment – slash – question is really this:

Tomorrow I am buying a minivan. In the last three days my Subaru has nearly been aggressively smashed into twice in parking lots with me driving about 5 miles per hour. Here’s my thing you need to know, we are not getting rid of the Subaru. It is a good car. We like it. Matt will drive it and treat it well, we just can’t fit all three kids with their various car seats and shoulders into the wagon at this time. We still want the Subaru. Don’t kill it with your powers of unleashing bad drivers all over Connecticut.

As an additional comment – slash – follow-up question: We don’t want the Saturn, but please don’t kill it either. Just let us sell it to a college student and we’ll use the money to buy new tires, okay? please okay with sugar on top? I’m not even asking you why (oh why?, oh why?) this has been happening as I go about my business of, you know, going to the store for food and such and try to keep my heart beating in some what regular rhythm.

Karen

Additional note to mother of three in grocery store,
Dear other mommy of three adorable children,
Sorry. I do not as a rule let them have pacifiers at the grocery store. In general, we leave them in our beds, or at least in our own rooms for quiet play. And I know, they aren’t babies they are two and four, and yes, four years old is quite old for a pacifier. I totally agree with your three year old on that one, but I didn’t really want to take the time to explain Sensory Processing Disorder today, because I had to rush home to meet Thinker’s bus. Therefore, I ignored you – well, really your three year old. I heard her shouting, “Why they have passies, they not babies. Why mom? They cannot have those passies. Are they babies?” I realized you probably made her give hers up when your little 5 month old was born and yes, you are a better mother for it. You rock. I didn’t make eye contact when you said “maybe they are teething,” instead I got some popsicles from the case, but you were right, the two year old is teething pretty bad right now. And normally, they’d be nothing but we’d been to the doctor and LP has 4 vaccinations and a blood test. If I’d explained SPD you’d know how bad this day was for us and you’d have maybe asked your three year old to, you know, stop yelling at my kids. “You’re not babies, you can’t have those, give them back. maybe I teething too, huh?” Fortunately for all of us, my kids were distracted by the popsicles, so they didn’t notice the threats to their passies and their manhood.

So, again, I’m sorry. My slacker behavior opened a big can of why between you and your kid. However, I didn’t take it personally. We all have different rules and standards -and I was even bending my own today – and it is hard to know what to tell your kids when they observe that. I certainly struggle at the playground when some parents choose to let their kids climb up slides. Still we all survive. There is one tool I felt you had at your disposal that you didn’t use. I’m not criticizing, mind you. It just could have saved the both of us some maternal embarrassment (you felt too, huh?) We were at the store, which last I checked is inside. I think you were maybe distracted by the pacifiers, so I’ll just say those two little words for you should we all meet again with passies.
indoor voice

yours in the motherhood,
Karen

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Dear Universe,
I guess this is really more of a comment, for I have ceased asking why questions of you. The incessant whys of my children have inoculated me against reasons. So my comment – slash – question is really this:

Tomorrow I am buying a minivan. In the last three days my Subaru has nearly been aggressively smashed into twice in parking lots with me driving about 5 miles per hour. Here’s my thing you need to know, we are not getting rid of the Subaru. It is a good car. We like it. Matt will drive it and treat it well, we just can’t fit all three kids with their various car seats and shoulders into the wagon at this time. We still want the Subaru. Don’t kill it with your powers of unleashing bad drivers all over Connecticut.

As an additional comment – slash – follow-up question: We don’t want the Saturn, but please don’t kill it either. Just let us sell it to a college student and we’ll use the money to buy new tires, okay? please okay with sugar on top? I’m not even asking you why (oh why?, oh why?) this has been happening as I go about my business of, you know, going to the store for food and such and try to keep my heart beating in some what regular rhythm.

Karen

Additional note to mother of three in grocery store,
Dear other mommy of three adorable children,
Sorry. I do not as a rule let them have pacifiers at the grocery store. In general, we leave them in our beds, or at least in our own rooms for quiet play. And I know, they aren’t babies they are two and four, and yes, four years old is quite old for a pacifier. I totally agree with your three year old on that one, but I didn’t really want to take the time to explain Sensory Processing Disorder today, because I had to rush home to meet Thinker’s bus. Therefore, I ignored you – well, really your three year old. I heard her shouting, “Why they have passies, they not babies. Why mom? They cannot have those passies. Are they babies?” I realized you probably made her give hers up when your little 5 month old was born and yes, you are a better mother for it. You rock. I didn’t make eye contact when you said “maybe they are teething,” instead I got some popsicles from the case, but you were right, the two year old is teething pretty bad right now. And normally, they’d be nothing but we’d been to the doctor and LP has 4 vaccinations and a blood test. If I’d explained SPD you’d know how bad this day was for us and you’d have maybe asked your three year old to, you know, stop yelling at my kids. “You’re not babies, you can’t have those, give them back. maybe I teething too, huh?” Fortunately for all of us, my kids were distracted by the popsicles, so they didn’t notice the threats to their passies and their manhood.

So, again, I’m sorry. My slacker behavior opened a big can of why between you and your kid. However, I didn’t take it personally. We all have different rules and standards -and I was even bending my own today – and it is hard to know what to tell your kids when they observe that. I certainly struggle at the playground when some parents choose to let their kids climb up slides. Still we all survive. There is one tool I felt you had at your disposal that you didn’t use. I’m not criticizing, mind you. It just could have saved the both of us some maternal embarrassment (you felt too, huh?) We were at the store, which last I checked is inside. I think you were maybe distracted by the pacifiers, so I’ll just say those two little words for you should we all meet again with passies.
indoor voice

yours in the motherhood,
Karen

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