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Archive for August, 2010

Token Parenting

She has not usurped my authority–even in the least, so much as she has repeated my own words and gotten him to do the very things I was asking.  Only effortlessly.  And without getting upset.

I suddenly want to be her.

I think it’s her voice.  Maybe even her face.  Or the fact that anything she suggests is about the coolest thing he’s ever heard of.  “Do you want to go potty?” she asks him.  Only her hands are completely animated, extended in front of her like she’s about to hand him ice cream.  And her eyes are alive, saying just as much as her words. “Do ya, bud?  Do you want to go potty?”  And the energy in the room is pulsing.  “Yeah!” he shouts.  And she finishes, “well, let’s go then!”  And the two of them burst by me to the bathroom and slam the door.

Nevermind that she is six.  And he three.  Or that she will send him out the bathroom door first, wearing his underwear in the right direction, beaming with success.  “I went potty, mom,”  he’ll say.  By which time I will high five his unwashed hand, as she affirms from the sink that he did a great job.  Then she’ll add, “I think he should get a cookie.”

Only I will take this moment to a peek into the same bathroom mirror to see if I’m still wearing the orange shirt I thought I was.  Or…if I’m invisible.

While I’m there, I’ll hug her or pat her back or shake her hand and tell her she’s doing a great job raising her brother.  And since she’ll decline the cookie I offer her, saying, “no thanks, mom. I just want to spend some time reading, ” I can only sit down and eat the thing myself.  His, too. 

And wonder for a brief moment…

where on earth she came from.

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We knew better than to eat lunch and leave.  Or maybe we didn’t.  Because we ate lunch, and then left.  Roast beef sandwiches, that is. 

Then we’d shoved what we thought ought to go in a backpack–water bottles, food snacks, the camera, and a jacket for everybody.  And we got as far as the driveway before we stopped and I ran back in for a box of bandaids and my Leatherman.  “You just never know,” I shrugged.  And I climbed back in.

Then we were off.  For a family hike.  Somewhere in the direction of Mt. Rainier.  Only four turns in, as we wound down through Orting, our son started whimpering about his back.  I reached as far behind me as I could from the front seat and slid my left arm around him.  But my little pats did nothing to soothe his back or quiet his sobs.  And so the dilemma seemed obvious– to wisely turn the truck around and give this poor child a nap…or keep driving and try to outlast his tears. 

We continued snaking our way on the back roads.  Our gut instincts playing second fiddle.  And within minutes our son was hot and wanted all the windows down. After his third window request of, “a little bit more, daddy,” he was silent.  I turned around and saw his small face staring past me out the front windshield.  His tears from a moment ago stopped in time on the edges of his eyes.  And that’s when I noticed he’d turned yellow.  The sort of yellow that says to anyone paying attention, “I’m going to barf in a mere three seconds.”

One…

“We’ve got to pull over, NOW,” I insisted.  But the shoulder was too skinny for even a bicycle.

 Two… 

“We can’t,” my husband countered.  “There’s no safe place.” 

 Three…

And then it happened, our yellow, car sick son began upchucking his lunch.  His roast beef, his cheese, his watermelon and anything else that had gone down his throat an hour ago.  Anything.  Or everything.  All of it.

And though the urgency was past, we skidded to a safe spot in the road and bailed faster than a fire drill.

I wanted to get mad.  In fact, I started to.  But when I surveyed the depth of the damage–puke all the way to the front seat, puke on my husband’s pants, both kids’ hats, the whole of my left hand, and in every crevice and strap of my son’s carseat, I couldn’t.  And when I realized we had just three wipes, a roll of toilet paper and a used sandwich bag to stuff it all into, I laughed harder than I have in a month. Here was my son stripped to his drawers and barefoot, his skin  more gray now than yellow.  My daughter still reading a book about dolphins, only now standing in a ditch to do it.  And my husband and I swabbing the carseat with crumbling toilet paper squares.

There would be no hike today.  Just a 34 mile round trip with the windows down and a near-naked child with his hand over his nose asking, “what’s that smell?”

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The Price of Change

I’m not sure exactly when the day began, or when it’s appropriate to count its beginning.  But somewhere long before the crack of daylight, my son wandered out of his room, carefully closed his door and found his way to my face.  He hadn’t traveled light.  His train blanket was over his head, and his blue puppy was hanging from one of his hands, and he was tripping over both, when I slid out of bed and turned his little body around.  I wasn’t planning on having him stay.

It was too easy, I guess. This new bunk bed thing.  He could just crawl out, roll out or fall out, open the door, and be right there.  Which he had.  In the middle of the night. 

So, by the glow of his night light I wrapped him back in his blanket, curling the bottom up like a burrito.  And with minimal words shut his door and slunk back under my own covers.  That hadn’t been so bad.

Until the next click of his door some twenty minutes later when my little boy from his big bed showed up in our room again dragging his whole entourage and mumbling through his binky about needing food.  Only I could see the clock now, and it was 2:42.   His tummy would wait. 

So we shuffled back to his room.  Re-wrapped.  Re-burritoed.  He asked for ice cream.  And I croaked out most of Twinkle Twinkle…

He would let me lay in my bed for two and half more hours before enthusiastically fleeing his bottom bunk for the last time and scrambling up the side of mine.  It woudn’t kill me, I reasoned, to let him stay a minute or two.  Only my reasoning was askew, and it would be all the time he needed to pee his pjs and part of mine.

Ahh… the price of change.  Expensive sometimes.

But right now.  This minute.  An uninterrrupted night of sleep would be worth every penny.

Were it only that simple.

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The Wenatchee City Pool

The summer we moved to Wenatchee, I learned to swim here.  I was six.  And the pool was huge.  Right there by the steps was where I had my first swimming lesson.  And where I led my own children into the water now thirty years later.

We’d paid our buck a piece (if you can believe it) and then filtered our way through the locker room to the pool deck.  It was eleven in the morning.   On a sunny Saturday.  By which time I noticed that there might’ve been seven people there.  And four of them were wearing whistles.  I guess that’s legal.  Us paying three bucks for the whole pool, that is. 

Only it doesn’t make sense to me anymore.  This colossal pool with no one here. But maybe that has something to do with moving away and finally appreciating what I’d always assumed would be here while I was.  The pool.  Only I’m not here–except on this Saturday.  And agghh…it just seems like such a waste.

Which is why, I suppose, they closed the pool for the summer, hours after we left.  And why after sharing overcrowed, indoor pools with I don’t know… thousands, that I just can’t wrap my mind around it. 

But, uh, goodness…where was I?

Right. 

The pool.

Here are my kids inching their way down the stairs.  It’s a little brisker than we’re used to.  Actually, it’s a bit darn cold for me with the wind blowing and all.  But it’s that ‘going under water all at once’ that I just can’t seem to do anymore–even if it really is less painful.  I tend to take my cold water in small doses these days.  One toe at a time.

Here’s my dad in his speedo (more on that sometime) and a few other folks who woke up before noon on Saturday and thought to swim.

 And here’s my dad beside my son who did his own series of laps on the stairs.

And here are my kids with a lifeguard who was kind enough stand beside them.  And who, by doing so, reminded me of Shelley and Cindy and Mark, my favorite lifeguards from the years when I was growing up at the pool.

And though it’s starting to sound like I was wiping my eyes and blowing my nose in my towel the whole time, that wasn’t it at all.  It was only part of the time–heh heh. 

No…I was just glad for the living memory of a place I’d onced loved.  Glad to have shared it with my kids.  Glad to have squeaked in before they closed for the summer.  Just glad.

Because it was great then.  And is still great in memory.

The Wenatchee City Pool.

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There has been no better alarm clock this summer than a small boy climbing out of bed, slamming his door and hollering somewhere in the hallway, “MOMMY, TIME TO GET UP!”  And all this before seven.  Which wouldn’t be so bad, I suppose, if I went to bed the second I felt tired around six p.m.  Or simply collapsed when he napped. Which I’d do, I guess,  if my house was presentable, no one needed to eat later, and I didn’t have another child requesting a craft.

But enough of the hypothetical.  What I was really trying to say is that all this fragmented sleep (at best) has made my short term memory anything but reliable. Which is really my problem these days.  Remembering anything.  

And it really got out of hand yesterday.  I needed hamburger from the freezer in the garage so I could make chili and there I was sifting through the refrigerator part making eye contact with everything.  Only none of it seemed right.  So as I closed the fridge, I saw the cat with his head hidden in the cat food bag and put it together that someone ought to feed him.  But I didn’t have an old yogurt container to scoop the food out with, and I didn’t want to grab it with my hands, so I went inside to get one.  Only I heard the oven beep that it was ready for me to put something into it.  Which I figured were the cookies that I’d neither started nor found the recipe to yet. Only it wasn’t the oven, it was the washing machine.  But since there were clothes still beating around the dryer and all the clothes baskets were upstairs, I walked out of the laundry room with the light still on and started chopping an onion somewhere in the kitchen.  Which is when I remembered I still wasn’t holding any hamburger. 

And which time I sat down, wrote out the recipe for ‘ice water’ and taped it to the fridge. 

Well, I didn’t.  But I should’ve. 

I’m counting on remembering who I am today.  But if things get sketchy…I’ll think about a name tag.  

I probably wouldn’t need to check it more than twice.

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Peace Like a River

I only mention the river because I miss it already.  It was our getaway this summer.  Our fifteen-minute-away reprieve from the heat; our temporary sanctuary, if you will, from the rest of the world.  Our family time.  And as it’s August now, the tail end, I wonder if yesterday’s river trip might’ve been our last…for many months. 

We never carried much.  Just  packed our chairs and enough food and water so no one would keel over, and a camera in a zip-loc, if I remembered. 

 Then we’d walk the dike a hundred yards or so and teeter our way down the gray rocks clutching children until we either reached the sand or tripped into the water.  And then my husband and I would look at each other and point this way or that and we’d eventually end up plopping our chairs in a spot where I could sit and still eyeball our kids and he could begin the next engineering feat with a pile of rocks.  And two helpers.

In all our river trips, we never stayed long. Invariably someone was near melt down or past nap or couldn’t ‘hold it’ any longer and we’d surmise that it was best to pack it all up and head home.  But not yesterday. 

No, yesterday was something special.  I think we all sensed it.  This end to summer, to dam building, to daring each other to lay down in the river, to finding the ideal stick for walking or swinging at rocks or poking your sister.  And we didn’t want to leave.  We just…didn’t…want to leave.

And so we sat.  And we ploonked a few more rocks.  And we reminisced in brief about our summer. 

And then since it’d been two hours and since we knew better than to wait until a pair of someones said they were starving, we folded the chairs and packed ourselves out.

I shall be telling all this with a sigh….somewhere–down by the river…two kids and two parents played…and I, I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. 

As it’s made all the difference.

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When It’s Urgent

They’d gone to the backyard to eat their macaroni.  Which she did.  And he’d started to, only something more interesting came up.  Then with only the muffled warning of their voices near the back door, they burst into the house, tripping over each other and urgently calling my name.  Whatever it was couldn’t wait.  “C’mere, mom,” they both insisted.  “You’ve gotta see this!” 

Only I recall the last time I was needed this desperately– just after lunch today. My daughter had tapped me excitedly on the shoulder and said something similiar like, I just had to see this right now.  And then she led me out to our lone, sad peach tree and showed me that our two peaches–our only two peaches–we’re turning orange and red.  I focused on not dropping my jaw and saying, “that’s it?”  I mean, I love that she’s fascinated with the fruit changing colors. And I love that she wanted to share this with me.  But I was prepared for something, well, borderline exciting.  And here we were peeking at peaches.

Which is why I knew that if I didn’t get out to the backyard immediately, whatever was there would likely still be there when I could get out.  But I didn’t treat it that way.  I set down last night’s chili pot and the sponge I’d been using and followed the two of them around the side of the yard along the path where the ivy has started to grow over the stones.  And  then my son shouted, “Look, mommy!”  And my daughter pointed near our feet.  And then since I could think of nothing to say, she explained, “it’s dog poop, and two slugs are eating it.”

And suddenly I’m… 

aghast, embarrassed, disgusted, grossed out and not far from gagging.   I’m also just…

just sorry my husband isn’t here to see it. 

But…I’ll call him next time.

It’ll be urgent.

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