Thursday, June 24, 2010

Every picture tells a story, don't it?

Do you ever find yourself in a situation in which you kind of step outside of your own body and have a sense of a snapshot of the scene that you're in?  Like when the chaos reaches a critical mass, and the only way to deal with it is to mentally step back, as if you're not really there, but simply an impartial observer.

That happened to me this morning, when I was sitting in my underwear, with blood all over my shoulder and bra-strap, trying to console a hysterical baby while crying myself and at the same time, trying to not get too worked up so that the toddler wouldn't completely lose his mind as well.  

I actually got a decent night's sleep last night, even though I had Zeke pressed against me the whole time.  I let him sleep with me because Jason has been working overtime in Vail since Monday, and it was the easiest way to get Zeke to settle down and go to bed.  Plus he was so sweet about it.  "I sleep in your bed, Mama?  We can give hugs!  I love hugs!  I love you, Mama."

Seriously, how can I resist that?  It's like a shakedown, only with lethal cuteness rather than threats of broken kneecaps.  

So I woke up relatively refreshed, as both kids slept through the night without incident.  I heard Josie stirring at around 6:45, so I got up and she was all bubbly and happy to see me, and we went upstairs to have a bottle and watch last night's episode of The Daily Show, as is our routine.  Zeke woke up at around 7:30, and was also chipper and happy.  We hung out and had some breakfast and watched some Elmo, and then went downstairs to get dressed.  Everything was copacetic.

I put both children in the middle of my bed, where they usually bounce around and chatter at each other while I get myself ready for the day.  It's a big bed, so I don't worry about Josie being in the middle of it, and Zeke always keeps her giggling and occupied for a few minutes.  But today, she decided that her new-found ability to almost-crawl, i.e., pull herself around on her belly with alarming speed, was too irresistible, so I was in my closet with my back turned for about a minute when I heard a "thunk."  I turned around and saw Josie lying on her back on the floor -- she had apparently pulled herself over to the side of the bed, fallen down head-first, hit her nose on the bed frame, and then flipped over onto her back.  

I raced over and picked her up, where she shook silently for a couple of seconds and then let out a wail and completely lost her shit.  I held her to my shoulder and tried to comfort her, only to discover after a few minutes that she had a bloody nose and was bleeding all over me.  So I gently touched the bridge of her nose and determined that her nose wasn't broken, she just mushed up the cartilage at the tip.  But it hurt like a bitch, and she was scared out of her mind, crying and crying and crying on me.  

I felt so awful for her and so guilty about turning my back that I started crying.  Zeke looked at the two of us, saw my tears and said, "are you a little bit sad, Mama?"  Because the few times he's seen my cry, I've tried to reassure him that I'm OK, just a little bit sad.  He came over to both of us with a scared look on his face, and crawled into my lap and put his arms around us, kissed Josie and kissed me, trying to will everything to be OK.

He really is such a sweet boy.

And that was the point that I kind of mentally stepped back.  The picture keeps popping into my head, even hours later.  Me sitting there in my underwear, with blood on me, trying to console both children while having a hard time keeping it together myself.  Josie with the tip of her nose all purple and blood on her face, because every time I tried to wipe her off, she waved my hands away.  Zeke in his pajamas, diaper sagging, curled into my lap with his arms around us, afraid that his little world was crumbling.

Eventually, I managed to get it together.  Josie calmed down, stopped bleeding, and reluctantly let me clean off her face.  I found a clean t-shirt and some jeans, and figured that no one at the office gives a shit about what I wear anyway.  I got Zeke into a clean diaper and clean clothes.  We all sat for a bit in the living room and chilled.  Josie was in my lap, leaning against me, sucking on her fingers and doing the "huh-huh-huh" thing that kids do when they've been crying too long.  I got them off to school, and made it to work, where I've been somewhat productive (except for a little lunch-hour blogging).

But I'm still feeling shaken.  I can't get that pathetic picture out of my head.  I see my poor little girl, terrified and bloodied, and I start crying again.  I have a huge tolerance for physical pain, but my baby gets a bump on her nose and I'm a freaking basket case.  Pitiful.

I really need a vacation.  Or a drink.  Or both.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Home?

When I was in 11th grade, we moved to India in the middle of the school year.

A nightmare, right? Most people looking back on high school can think of nothing worse than being the new kid, let alone the new kid in the middle of the year after class schedules, team rosters, routines, and friendships have been established.

But that's the thing about growing up and moving around in Foreign Service or military households, and going to diplomatic schools. You have this whole ready-made community wherever you go, made of up people that live the same kind of life. So every few years, you uproot yourself and leave the people and places that are familiar, but you're plopped into a new, often exotic place with like-minded (usually), and like-experienced people to create a new life with.

So in addition to being interesting and exciting, it just wasn't that hard. The communities tended to be small, and people were coming and going all the time, and it was always intriguing to learn that someone new was going to be arriving. Will they be cool? Will they be funny? Will they be good at sports? Will they be smart? New people had built-in buzz around them, starting well before they arrived.

So when we got to India, everyone was expecting me, and waiting eagerly to meet me. The first day of school, I was invited out by a group of people to go have ice cream after school. That weekend, I was included in all the big party plans. Within a week and a half, I knew everyone, and felt completely comfortable and included, like I'd been there forever.

It's too bad moving experiences aren't always like that. Because making good friends in a new city when you're a grown-up (and I still have a hard time thinking of myself that way) is hard.

Of the big moves I've made since leaving school -- Atlanta, Hawaii, and Denver -- Hawaii was certainly the hardest. Jason and I moved there not knowing a soul. We met some kindred spirits, made efforts at connecting with people, and left with a handful of good friendships, but it was really difficult. I felt incredibly isolated most of the time I was there.

And now we're in Denver. It's been almost a year and a half, but it's been a difficult time, with Jason gone so much and money being tight and everything in my life feeling so turbulent and crazy. I have good friends and some family here, but I don't get to see them as much as I'd like because it's so hard to organize everyone's schedules. I still feel like the new kid, trying to make this place feel like home.

I frequently fantasize about time travel. Like, if I could go back in time and change this event or that event, how would my life be different. Or, if I could snap my fingers and have one wish granted, what would it be, and what would life be like afterwards.

Winning the lotto would obviously be nice. But sometimes I think I'd choose having a ready-made community, like living in a kibbutz or something, where I feel accepted and welcomed and like I fit in. Because I haven't felt that way in a long, long time, and I miss it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

All children, all the time

Jason is slammed with work until the Vail project, on the verge of completion, is finished. The bosses are panicking over missed inspection deadlines and generally acting like whiny, bitchy little girls, meaning the crews are working long hours and being threatened with firing if they don't stay until late late late. On Saturday they asked if the guys would be willing to work on Sunday for regular (i.e., non-overtime) pay in exchange for a day off on Friday. I think the request was half-hearted because they know Jason is married to a lawyer, and that he thus knew that the request is totally illegal. So the bosses weren't too miffed when, upon Jason's legal advice, the guys told the bosses to go piss up a rope. Which meant that at least Jason could come home Saturday night and also have Sunday off.

All of these late nights and working-on-the-weekend schedules means I'm on child-care duty all the fucking time. And I love my children like crazy, I really do. They're funny and sweet and generally well-behaved and a pleasure to spend time with. But they're still really little and require constant supervision. I can plop them in front of Dora the Explorer for maybe 15 minutes while I go shower, and pray to Saint Jude that Zeke won't stick a screwdriver in the DVD player while trying to "fix" it or that Josie won't find a stray piece of cereal bar under the couch that she will put in her mouth and choke on. But the rest of the time I'm with them, and they're on me. Strapped to me via the Snugli, sitting on my lap, lying on me, crawling on me, jumping on me. I don't want to be Mean Scary Mommy, but it seriously took all that I had, numerous times over the past few days, to not just scream in Zeke's face, "STOP TOUCHING ME!! GET OFF OF ME!!"

It's gotten to the point that Jason can forget about getting laid until the Vail job is over, because there's only so much human contact I can take. But he's too tired, in any event, so I don't think he even cares. Ah, the joys of the modern American marriage...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Bragging rights

As I've mentioned many times in the past, I grew up in a happy home. Accomplishments were lauded. Sunshine was blown up butts. My parents praised us and encouraged us and bragged on us. As in Lake Wobegon, we were all above-average.

This applies exponentially, of course, to the grandchildren.

Whatever my children do, it is a sign that they are geniuses, according to my parents. Last year when Zeke started counting and knew his alphabet and was figuring out various animal noises? Genius. Josie sitting up and rolling over? Genius.

For some reason, I find it so charming and endearing that my parents react this way, yet I can't quite embrace that attitude myself. Like it's bad form to talk too much about how smart your kids are. Plus as a special education lawyer, I'm so aware of the various disabilities that could befall children, so there's a superstitious part of me that doesn't want to go on and on about how super-smart and accomplished my children will be, because it's like tempting fate.

So one day when my parents were going on and on about how smart Zeke was, I remarked that he is undoubtedly intelligent, but probably not a genius, because so few people truly are, and that he most likely falls in the "high average" range.

I will never, ever live this down. My mother laughed uproariously at me. My father exclaimed, "High average? Did she say my grandson is high average?? He's brilliant! 'High average' -- pffft. Ridiculous!"

Zeke does have advanced verbal skills for his age -- he speaks very clearly, in complete, mostly grammatically correct sentences, with a huge vocabulary. And he knows and can recognize his letters, and knows which words start with which letters. He can count with one-to-one correspondence, and is learning the concept of very simple addition. So I have to admit that, by all appearances, he is a smart little cookie. But still, there's such a broad developmental range of skill acquisition in children, i.e., one kid could be counting at 2 and another at 3 1/2, and it's still all within the normal range.

Now when I talk on the phone with my mom or dad, they'll ask what the kids are up to, and what new things they are doing. And I'll tell them about the newest funny thing that Zeke said or did, and they'll snort at me and say, "high average, huh?" Then they'll crack up, laughing at me. This happens multiple times a week.

Josie has started chatting up a storm lately. She is particularly fond of the "ba-ba" and "da-da" syllables. And she does seem to say "da-da-da-da" over and over when she sees Jason.

I was telling this to my mom, and she said, "she says 'da-da' when she sees her daddy?? Wendy, that's very advanced."

"Yeah, it's pretty cute. But I don't know if she's really saying 'da-da' or if she's just repeating the syllable that is so predominant in her repertoire these days. Plus, she is 8 months old. It's not unusual for kids to be chattering at this age. Zeke certainly did."

"Well, I think she's obviously very smart."

"I guess."

I could hear her chuckling to herself. I knew what was coming.

"High average, right?"

*sigh*

Monday, June 07, 2010

Monday miscellany

  • Vacaaaaatiioooooon! This morning at my office's monthly staff meeting, everyone giving their little department report was to also talk about any fun plans they had for the summer. So I talked about how I'm going to D.C. over 4th of July weekend to visit my parents and to go to the big all-class reunion for the school I went to (and graduated from) in New Delhi, India. I am so excited to see so many old friends, including Lisa, plus people I haven't seen in the 23 years since graduation. Plus my mom and dad rented a big house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina the last week of July, and Jason and I are taking the kids, along with my brothers and significant others and children. There will be surfing and suntans and grilling and at least one meal at Awful Arthur's. My family has been vacationing on the Outer Banks since I was 8, and I love the fact that we still all go there as a family. I've been really looking forward to both trips, but talking about it this morning made me almost cry with anticipation. I can't wait.
  • Sleeeeeeeeep! For the past week I have been working like crazy on a big project at work. It's been really fun, litigation-y lawyering that I love, but the timing has been crappy because Jason has been out of town and there simply haven't been enough hours in the day to get everything done. So I've been working late at night and on furlough days and into the wee hours of the morning. And I'm fucking tired. But it's done now, so I can get some rest.
  • Goooooooooooooool! The World Cup starts on Friday. I adore the World Cup. I've always liked soccer, but then I saw Argentina play Nigeria in the men's gold medal game of the 1996 Olympics, and it was seriously the best sporting event I've ever witnessed (and I've seen quite a few), so like turned to obsessive love. I'm trying to figure out a way to sneak the Fiddy out of the house and have it installed in my office for a month so I can watch all the games.
That is all. I'm off to deliver my brief, and then may stop for a margarita. Happy Monday, everyone.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Damn, it feels good to be a gangster...

I like living in the city. Our neighborhood is full of cute bungalows and Victorians, tree-lined streets with sidewalks, parks and shops within easy walking distance, and neighbors that are uniformly cool and neighborly without being homogeneous. Gay, straight, black, white, families, singles, retirees, it runs the gamut. I dig it.

But we are also indisputably in an urban neighborhood. The liquor store up the street frequently has drunken homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk outside. There's a "lingerie" shop a few blocks away. About a month ago the cops knocked on my door to ask if I'd seen any suspicious types around, because a couple of guys were held up at gunpoint across the street from my house.

But I'll take that over the soul-crushing sameness of the suburbs.

Tonight we went to the "castle park," which is a playground on the west side of City Park, in the middle of Denver. It's a favorite of Zeke's because the jungle gym is huge, shaped like a castle with turrets and slides and funky walkways, plus swings and cool stuff to climb on. And there are kids from all walks of life, races, socio-economic strata, you name it. Which is great.

Except that based on the crowd tonight, I think the castle park has been taken over by the Latin Kings or something. All the parents were covered with tattoos and piercings and wearing t-shirts that looked suspiciously gang-like, with lots of black and gold lettering. The women were all squeezed into too-tight tank tops with their boobs spilling out and their neck tattoos well-displayed. A number of the guys had shaved heads with full skull tattoos.

Even the kids were decked out like little bangers. One kid, who couldn't have been more than 2, looked like he stepped out of a toddler production of West Side Story, complete with jeans with rolled cuffs, little baby Chucks, a tight t-shirt, and longish hair slicked back with gel. Another toddler had the low-riding shorts, a baggy t-shirt, and hair spiked up with plenty of gel.

Oy.

Zeke, in his little preppy polo-type shirt and his madras shorts, Josie in her little Hanna Andersson romper, and me in my basic Gap t-shirt and capris -- well, we stood out like sore Yuppie thumbs.

But, everyone got along, the kids played nicely, and foul language was kept to a minimum. So I looked the other way at one couple sitting in the middle of the playground popping each other's back zits. I mean, who hasn't done that, right? Live and let live.

And if any of the other parents even choose to strike up conversation with me, I guess I could mention that a great-great-uncle of mine was part of the Jewish mafia in Baltimore back in the 1800s. Everyone's got a little thug in their background.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sucker

The house is quiet, for once, so I'm taking the time to sit and get some work done while everyone else sleeps. No TV, no radio, just me and my files and statute books.

Then I hear some indistinct chattering that sounds Zeke-like.

We have been working on going to bed "like a big boy." Meaning no fussing, no crying. For every night that he does it, he gets a sticker on his chart. For every three stickers, he gets a trip to the book store to pick out a new book. It's working well, or so I thought.

I poke my head around the wall from the kitchen to look down the stairs. He has turned on his bedside lamp, and I can hear him reading to himself.

I go down and stand in the door of his room. He's sitting on the floor looking at a book.

"What's going on, honey? You know it's bedtime."

He looks up, smiling broadly at me. "Hi, Mama!"

"Hi, sweetie. It's bedtime. Time to turn out the lights and go to sleep."

"Oh, but I need to read this book." His bright blue eyes are wide and innocent-looking, but he's totally playing me.

I walk over to him. "I know you want to read the book, but it's late and time to go to sleep."

He climbs into bed, taking his book with him. It's the farm board book.

"I need to sit and read, Mama. Do you want to sit and read with me?" He's got that adorable toddler pronunciation going, so it comes out, "do you want to sit and read wif me?"

I look at him. He's so insanely gorgeous, and so sweet. Lately Josie has been lighting up like the sun whenever Jason is around, but Zeke is mine. When we went up to the mountains this weekend, he was chilly in the brisk morning air when we went for a walk, so I gave him my bright magenta fleece pullover to wear. It hung down to his ankles like a cassock. We walked along the river, chatting and stopping to throw rocks and look at the guys fly-fishing in the water. All he wanted was to hang out with me and tell me about all of the things that he finds so fascinating.

I look at his hilarious feet, which are exactly like mine. My nice high arches, but also my ridiculous 4th and 5th toes that are stubby and curled in like little cheetos.

I look at the book, which we read the night before, and had a remarkably good time with. First we looked at the pictures of the animals and I explained the different names for mommies and babies -- nanny and kid for goats, mare and foal for horses, that kind of thing. When we got to the page with all the pictures of fruit, Zeke said, "let's have a snack." And he pretended to pick up a grape off the page and eat it. "Would you like a grape, Mama? They're good grapes!" So we had a snack of peaches, berries, potatoes, peas, and peppers. Then we counted. "Count the strawberries wif me, Mama! One, two, three..."

It won't always be like this. He'll grow out of his mommy stage and want to do everything by himself, or with Jason, or with his friends. He won't always want to snuggle and tell me about every aspect of his day.

"Mama, do you want to sit and read with me?"

I look at the clock. It's after 9 -- so totally past his bedtime. And then I climb into bed with him.

"Of course I do, sweetheart."

_______________________________
Zeke has already earned one trip to the bookstore, and has another one due to him tonight. Here's a clip from our last trip. You can see why it's so much fun to go with him.

video