Thursday, December 20, 2012


I am a realist.  I grew up in countries around the world and was, from an early age, exposed to war (Israel and El Salvador), extreme poverty (India and Papua New Guinea), the ravages of Cold War totalitarianism (Romania).  I have a positive outlook on life, but I harbor no illusions about what life is like for many, many people in the world (i.e., nasty, brutish and short).

I actually think things are far better now than they have ever been.  Advances in medicine, advances in civil rights, social safety nets, a reduced crime rate -- they all contribute to make our lives, particularly here in America, pretty good, on average, and certainly as compared to 100 or 200 or 1000 years ago.

Of course, bad things happen all the time.  Human beings suffer all the time.  But life is for the living, so I try to keep my head up and do the best that I can for myself and my family, without letting negativity weigh me down.

So I'm surprised that I'm continuing to have such a hard time dealing with the school shooting in Connecticut.  It's perfectly normal to be sad and horrified, and to want societal changes that will reduce the likelihood of that kind of mass-killing to recur.  And I'm not suddenly worried for my children's safety in any heightened sense -- I don't worry about them being at school, or playing outside.

But when I close my eyes, I see a classroom filled with bullet-riddled teachers who have tried in vain to protect bullet-riddled children.  It's an image I can't shake.  It's an image that feels so real to me.  I feel a cold clutch in my chest, a desperate desire to turn back the clock so that this unimaginable horror could be undone.

I've never been this affected by an event that I wasn't personally connected to.  I'm haunted by it.  I'm not sleeping very much.  I'm constantly on the verge of tears.

Maybe because I have small children, including one who is so close in age to the 6 and 7 year-olds who were so senselessly slaughtered.  I have a sense of what was truly lost.

When I come home from work and walk in the door, the kids are usually on the couch hanging out or watching a dinosaur documentary or something, winding down from their day and waiting for me.  And every time I enter the house, I hear excited shouts of "Mama!!"  Zeke is usually naked, because he tends to be when he is in the house, but it still makes me laugh every time.  And he will run up to me and jump into my arms and tell me about his day.

"All green today, Mama!"*

"Me too, Mama!  I had an all green day too!"  Josie exclaims.

"That is outstanding, way to go!"

And they'll chatter and tell me whatever is on their minds and ask me to come and snuggle with them and give me hugs and kisses and tell me how much they love me.

It's the best part of my day.

I find myself imbuing these littlest moments with such significance, as if each were the last, like I'm trying to make up for what the poor parents of the murdered children can no longer do.

Today is Zeke's last day of school before going on Christmas break for 2 1/2 weeks, and his class is doing pajama day.  He'll be going to school with Josie tomorrow for her last day before break, and her class is doing pajama day as well.

This is the greatest thing in the world to Zeke.

"Mama, I am so, so lucky.  I get to do two pajama days in a row!"

This morning, we put him in his adorable footie PJs with the sports balls all over them, and he couldn't stop grinning. He was so excited he was practically vibrating.   He was about as happy as he could be, and it was infectious, which meant that everyone around him got to feel the joy of being 5 years old and getting to hang out with your friends in your pajamas all day, playing games and watching movies and being silly.

He's not the only lucky one.  I am as well, as is every parent out there who gets to enjoy their children for another day.

I just wish I could get those horrible images out of my head.

*The kids in his class are on a green/yellow/red behavior system.  "Green" means behavior is great and all privileges are in place. Josie's school has no such system, but she has adopted it for herself nonetheless.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Working through the universal taboos, one at a time...

The other day the subject of marriage and weddings came up.  Since J and I got together, we have done an annual yearbook on Kodakgallery (or Shutterfly now, since they bought KG this year), so we have a nice series of photobooks chronicling our life together.  The kids love looking at them, especially pictures of themselves as babies, and pictures from our weddings.

Zeke and Josie were looking through the books and talking amongst themselves.  They then declared that they had an announcement to make.

"Mama," Zeke said, "when I grow up and Josie grows up and we're both grown-ups, I'm going to marry her."

"You're going to marry Josie?"  I asked.

"Yes.  I'm going to marry Josie."

"You can't marry Josie."

"Why not?"

"Because you can't marry your sister."


"You just can't.  It's against the law.  It's one of those things you just can't do.  Plus it's weird.  If you marry someone, you have to marry someone outside of your family."

We went back and forth about this for a while.  He seemed unconvinced.

Josie said, "OK, then I'll marry Juliette [one of the girls in her class].  Because she's tall."

"That sounds great.  If you get older and decide you want to marry Juliette, you can.  It'll probably be legal everywhere by then."

A couple of days later, J and Josie were sitting on the couch together, being snuggly and cute.  Josie said, "Mama, I don't want to marry Juliette anymore.  I want to marry Daddy."

I considered whether to base my response on the incest or the polygamy angle.  And then decided that no response was necessary.  She lives with the man and has seen how he eats, dresses and farts.  She'll change her mind soon enough.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What is there to say?

On Friday morning, I was at the doctor's office, taking Josie for her 3 year physical.  She was pronounced healthy and smart and wonderful and beautiful and surprisingly tall.  She got a Hep-A booster and a flu shot, which made her cry for all of 90 seconds, but that was enough to merit a trip to Starbucks for muffins and hot chocolate before taking her back to school.

After dropping her off, I headed off to run errands, mostly consisting of taking one of our cars to have its emissions tested, then to renew its registration, then to go grocery shopping, then home to put away the groceries before heading to Zeke's school to pick him up.  As I pulled away from Josie's school, I turned on the radio, heard the news about the school shooting in Connecticut, and promptly burst into tears.  I cried off and on at the emissions place, the DMV, the Safeway, and the playground.  I cried talking to Zeke's teacher and I cried making dinner.

I can't stand all the "hug your kids tighter today" and "something must be done about guns and mental health" and calls for action on assault weapons and fucking Mike Huckabee and people talking about how the problem is that the principal and teacher weren't armed and all of it.  I just can't.  I feel like every time something like this happens, there are expressions of horror and dismay and vows to do something about guns or whatever, and petitions are circulated and calls to congresspeople are made, then time passes and everyone goes back to their lives and nothing changes.

Then it happens again, and the cycle starts all over.

I don't know what else to do but live.  So we spent the weekend going to the science museum and watching J play flag football and watching movies and playing with paper airplanes (Zeke's latest obsession) and going to the Blossoms of Light exhibit at the botanic gardens and reading Mo Willems books and buying Josie a new car seat because she outgrew her old one.  And on Monday I took everyone to school and J and I went to work and life goes on.

Because there's no alternative.

Friday, December 07, 2012

What I'm saying is, I've had better trips to Target. On the plus side, my immune system is off the chain.

It's been a hell of a week.

Last Friday, when I was enjoying a somewhat leisurely flex day (leisurely in the sense that I was free to run errands, clean the house and get shit done without children in tow), I got a call from Zeke's school that I needed to come get him because he had a fever.  He spent the weekend feverish and coughing and mostly resting.

J caught a mild version of it and stayed home with Zeke on Monday.  Then on Monday night, Josie started spiking a fever.  So I stayed home with both kids on Tuesday.  I tried to get some work done at home, but taking care of two tired kids who felt like crap did not make for a mellow or productive day.  I did take Zeke to the doctor because while his fever was gone, he was still coughing a lot.  The doctor said that if he was fever free without medication, he could go back to school, even though the cough might take a few weeks to clear up.

So Wednesday, I stayed home with Josie again (her fever was still bad, plus she was starting the coughing) while Zeke went to school (and was NOT happy about Josie getting a day to herself with Mama, but he dealt with it).  During the day she seemed to be getting better, but then Wednesday night she was a mess -- she had a raging fever and felt horrible.  I was up with her most of the night, wiping her forehead with a cold washcloth and snuggling her.

J stayed home with her yesterday, and her fever didn't come back and she was doing much better.  Zeke had a good day at school and they were both feeling chipper. We decided she would go back to school today, and all was well.

Now, in the meantime, everyone I speak to at the kids' schools or at work has been imploring me to stay healthy, or has expressed worry about me coming down with whatever cooties the children have.  The truth is, I never even bothered about worrying whether one of the kids had taken a drink from my glass or whatever -- they're all up on me all the time, so if I was going to get it, avoiding a potentially germy drinking glass wasn't going to make a difference.

But I feel great.  I'm doing the Ultimate Reset again (which is great for boosting the immune system), doing my workouts, and drinking my Shakeology, so I'm healthy as a horse.  (Are horses really all that healthy?  They have to get sick *some* time, right?  Anyway.) 

So last night, I had to go to Target to pick up a few things, and with everyone appearing to be relatively healthy and happy, I offered to take Josie and Zeke with me.  While we were there, Josie saw a little pair of purple metallic ballet flats that she liked.  They were way marked down and in her size, so I told her she could have them.  She wanted to put them on, so I pulled the tag off and put them on her.  When we got to the checkout line, I gave the lady the tag to scan so that Josie could continue wearing them.
the non-shoplifted ballet shoe

All was well until we were loading up the cart with the bags and getting ready to leave.  Josie suddenly freaked out, convinced that we were leaving without paying for the shoes on her feet.  I explained to her that I had paid for them and everything was OK.  She starting crying and screaming, "you didn't pay for them! you didn't pay for them!"  I said that I had. She insisted I hadn't.  The checkout ladies on either side of me tried to reassure her.  Zeke piped up as well.

But she was unmollified and becoming hysterical.

So with bags and children loaded into the cart, I had to wheel everything through the store to the exit and through the parking lot to my car while Josie screamed, "YOU DIDN'T PAY!  YOU DIDN'T PAY!" and I hissed at her, "Yes I did would you please calm down stop saying that STOP IT!"

It turned a few heads and a couple of people shot me looks of concern and disapproval, brows a-furrowed.

Thank goodness she's back at school and I don't have to stay home with her another day.  A) I've got a ton of work, and B) we might kill each other.

And the real kicker?  She doesn't like the way the shoes feel when she walks and wouldn't wear them to school this morning.

I can't win.