Monday, December 20, 2010
I am not making the gingerbread cookie dough that was on the docket for the evening.
I am not even wiping the freezer out after a tragic exploded-bottle-of-carbonated-beverage incident.
Instead I am telling y'all about a funny little tradition that sneaked up on me, and became my favorite much like the quietest kid in the class makes his way into the teacher's heart.
Cookie houses. I know. I know: the minute I type that phrase your insides clench up like they do in an particularly mortifying episode of The Office, and you think gaaaaaaaaah. no. NO COOKIE HOUSES. ARE YOU INSANE?
I'm not. Really I'm not. I'm nowhere near an over-achiever, and my perfectionist streak has been handily beaten out of me by 3 kids, and old house, and an extremely phlegmatic husband. So.
We are talking cookie houses of the non-threatening variety. Cookie houses made of graham crackers, and Royal Icing. Now hang on, don't start hyperventilating on me. Royal icing is simply that really hard, bright white icing that they stick gingerbread houses together with, and I'm here to tell you [I'll whisper, in case Martha Stewart's listening in]: it's really easy to make.
Here's the super secret recipe: 3 egg whites, 1 lb of confectioner's sugar (icing sugar, for all my Euro pals), and 1 tsp Cream of Tartar. Whip it. And I'm not kidding - you have to whip the heck out of it. Like, way way past the nervous 'is it getting stiff yet?' stage. You really want it to be, well, stiff. (I'm such a juvenile. Am I really the only one sniggering when reading these directions?)
So you take a graham cracker, snap it in half, then cement the two halves together with a dab of the icing. That's your first wall. Do it again, that's your 2nd. Glue them parallel to each other on a paper plate/fancy platter/piece of cardboard with more globs of icing, then finish your house shape with two single squares of cracker. Snap another in half, and use the two pieces for a leaning-against each other roof (see, a fancy blogger would call it Cantilevered. ooooh.) And you're done.
Really. Let it dry - a few hours maybe. Yesterday I needed to speed it up so I stuck it in my oven at 100 degrees, and it worked a treat. Then, give your kiddos all the leftover icing, a bunch of different candies & sugar cereal pieces, and let 'em have at it. My rule was 'no candy in your mouth until your house is done'. This left the 3 year old's house very minimalist, and gave her a head start on 'tasting'.
Do it with just your kids, or do it with 11 like we did yesterday. It really is the simplest, happiest little exercise that makes you feel virtuously domestic, them happy that they got to play with frosting and make a house, and everyone a little bit cheerful-er about all this holiday nuttiness we get into.
Try it. You won't be sorry. (Unless the royal icing gets in your shag carpet. Then you will be sorry. But you should already be sorry that you believed it was back in fashion. So. There you have it.)
Friday, December 10, 2010
Forgot to... why didn't I... need to pay... have to remember... what IS it she thinks Santa is bringing? this bill... that list... those emails. On and on the siege raged.
Out of the shower, drying off, I noticed the very first snowflakes of winter swirling past the window. I peered out into my backyard, and saw the faintest dusting on the kids' swings, on the Adirondack chairs, on the picnic table.
Funny, how often it is that nature will speak to us when rational thought eludes. Stop, Kirsten. Enough. Enough. Be still.
Once dressed, I went outside to take photos, my kids fully occupied by sweeping off the front lawn. [Bizarre, I know. They're just goal oriented, I guess.] The heavy snow-filled air demanded silence of me, and I obliged. I watched as the white flakes covered all that remained unfinished - the abandoned toys of summer, the leaves of fall - and I was still. I silenced my anxieties, and chose peace.
Enough. There will always be more, always be not-quite-right. But for now, especially now, I will simply be still. I will find quietude for my head, for my home, for my family. The stillness of the snow came early enough to teach me.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
In November, at winter's gate, the stars are brittle. The sun is a sometimes friend. And the world has tucked her children in, with a kiss on their heads, till spring.If you're a lover of children's picture books, check out Cynthia Rylant's beautiful text. It is a beautifully illustrated meditation on one of the simplest months of the year.November closes feeling exactly as it should - ominously cold, anticipatory of winter, and austere enough to be peaceful.May we all find quiet peace in the next few weeks.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
It's our Thankful Tree. I ran across the idea somewhere in the blogosphere last year, and it was a big hit here in the Yellow House. The concept is simple: each night, we go around the table and each family member names one thing they're thankful for. If certain 2nd graders insist, they are given rights to the coveted brown Sharpie marker to write their own leaf.
Ahh, friends. Today on Classic Play I am guest posting all about a Friends Thanksgiving - the meaning of a holiday spent with The Other Kind of Family. Let us never forget the gift of our families, crazy as they might be, but also? Keep those friendships on your Thankful Tree. There's nothing like 'em.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Does anyone else notice the light changing? I was looking back through some summer photos and observed the 100-watt bulb quality of the afternoon sun: strong shadows, a yellow-white light that makes you want your sunglasses, even looking at photos late at night.
Early in the morning (I am so well acquainted with the early-morning sun right now!), before my eyes have fully opened I am aware of the golden quality of the sunlight. Its liquid gold pours through my east-facing windows, glowing in my terracotta laundry room like treasure in a red velvet bag. The summer light was more of a hyper-shiny platinum, urging you out into the day, spurring you on to activity and accomplishment. The autumn sunrise is less... activity oriented. It invites you to take time with your coffee, to savor the warmth of the day, to enjoy wearing a sweater with your shorts that afternoon.
This fall light is gentler, cozier. 'Mellow' is the word the poets keep tossing around. To me it feels more....nostalgic. The afternoon sun has a regretful quality to it, as if it were urging us to get outside while we can. The light seems to apologize for its nearing departure, and as it prepares to go it lingers in the rosy skin of apples, in the golden sheen on the pumpkins - I swear you can even taste it in the cider from our local farm.
Youth is like spring, an over praised season more remarkable for biting winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.
Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh
Fall isn't the hyper young Spring, gamboling on the lawn, it isn't the glamorous and impossibly gorgeous Summer wearing nothing but a bikini. It is the slightly older Autumn who has seen enough to know she doesn't know it all, who is more forgiving for that knowledge, who has the wisdom to treasure the fading light. This makes her gentle, and ineffably, more beautiful.
It's Thursday, my readers: a gorgeous fall day in which we may all gain in fruits. Enjoy.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Agreed. WHOLLY AGREED.
But I have this problem. No matter how supportive, affirming, and positive my mom friends are, there is always going to be that one person who will pronounce the icy words of judgement on my most recent parenting efforts. When at the end of the day I review the high and low points and, let's face it, start to obsess over the 'distinctly low', there is always the one individual I can count on to remember every profanity [accidentally] uttered, every pointless accusation I threw at my small offspring, even my failure to provide nutritious and/or balanced meals. Remember? Remember how you served mac n' cheese TWICE today? With HOT DOGS?!?!
That reliable individual is always me.
There is a simple name for what I pour upon the ash-heap of my day's failures: condemnation.
What a loaded word, condemnation. When I say it out loud I can't escape instant associations with over-zealous televangelists, with loud pronouncements from an anonymous pulpit, with memories of The Scarlet Letter in the 10th grade.
Fascinating, that I instantly have such, well, condemnatory associations with the word condemnation. Doesn't stop me from doing it. Honestly, I wouldn't dream of judging others in my community with the same words I use for myself. Not others in my church, not others in my neighborhood, not even the mom I see in Target hauling off and smacking her two year old upside the head. (Okay, I don't have kind words in my heart for this woman, but at the very least I have an element of compassion for what I perceive to be her 'limited disciplinary toolbox.' Me? I know better.)
It has to stop, this judging. As I said at the beginning: none of this negativity is helping me parent any better. In the immortal words of Yoda: Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. Condemnation encompasses all of that fear, anger and hate, and yes: it leads to pointless and unproductive suffering.
Condemnation is the absence of compassion. Can I really justify withholding compassion for the mother of my kids? When you put it that way.... I guess not.
I've written about Condemnation today as part of the One Word at a Time blog carnival, and I am grateful that I waited to write it until having read some of the other posts on the subject. It wasn't until I read other posts that I realized just how damaging my thought patterns are, how limiting my judgement is, and how universally all the bloggers who've posted seem accept that to live in love, we cannot live in a spirit of condemnation. For anyone.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Well I'm just popping in this afternoon to tell you about a nifty little guest-post feature I did over at Mommypants. Cheryl hosts a Monday feature called 'Mommypants Moment', and so today I'm there talking about the first time those Mommypants dug into my postpartum flesh.
Ever worn something that fits you so perfectly that you forget you have it on? Something that you love so much that you wear it to death, but every once in a while you look down and can't believe you've still got it on?
Those are Mommypants. They're standard issue, and you can't be a mom without 'em.
So go check out the guest post, and then while you're over there you could look around - Cheryl is so damn funny that her incredible talent as a writer is almost taken for granted. If you visit, you'll definitely be back, so be prepared to bookmark a new fave!
Thanks y'all - I'm just going to go scrub the pizza sauce off the knees of these here pants.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
I wasn't sure, when I posted that here, whether I'd keep my word. Whether I'd grant myself my wish. Because life is crazy - I am up late in the night attending to details, adult details of my life that get ignored all day. I have three busy kids, one hardworking husband, and a million little things that demand my attention.
Well I have big news.
Yesterday morning I ran like a seven year old. I ran with abandon - up the hills and down the hills and around the lake and around the potholes and... I ran with unfettered joy.
I ran in a marathon relay: I was the fourth leg, with a run of 7.2 miles. This was the first race I'd run in 20 years. The longest distance I've raced ever. I ran and ran and ran and smiled the biggest goofiest smile you've seen on a mom of 3. I had a blast.
And guess what. Turns out, running for joy - for the sheer fun of it? Makes for a smoking fast time. Well, smoking fast for a girl who was planted firmly on the couch watching CSI reruns last fall.
What I felt yesterday goes beyond proud. Beyond 'accomplished.' Beyond happy. What I felt yesterday was Joy.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
That simple sentence has resonated all week. I am here because it feeds me.
The question started niggling around in my head as I ran, as I sorted laundry, as I spent an hour online. What feeds me?
I thought about McDonalds. I thought about how you can order an entire family's worth of food, have the crowd swarm around the table, stuffing french fries and picking breading off chicken nuggets and dripping Special Sauce from their chins and at the end of the meal feel ... unfed. I may feel bloated, greasy-fingered, maybe even full, but without fail, when I leave a table at a fast food restaurant I feel unfed.
Conversely, cooking does feed me. The act of sourcing ingredients, of methodically chopping the vegetables, of remembering that thyme tastes better in this soup than basil, of simmering beans and tomatoes and garlic and onions in a cast iron pot all day: this is feeding myself. The warmth of soup in my throat, the melting parmesan on top, the crusty bread to dip in, the appreciative humming of my companions: this is feeding my people.
Writing feeds me.
Cleaning does not.
My Thursday morning class feeds me.
Filing papers does not.
Teaching feeds me.
Running feeds me.
Sit-ups do not.
Connecting - genuinely connecting with people - it absolutely feeds me.
Funny: once I started asking the question, the answers came thick and fast. This feeds me, that does not. This feeds me, that........ meh.
Saturday morning dawned a beautiful autumn-y gold. There was so much on the schedule: tight timeframes, a lot of shuttling back & forth, parents juggling duties to fit it all in. I finally rolled up to the sidelines of the soccer pitch, coffee in hand, thinking This day won't feed me. It won't feed any of us. I said as much to Torbjorn.
So we ditched the day's agenda.
I made our apologies for unmet commitments, and we took off for the country, for a day in the fall sunshine. There was some time spent on our backs in a Virginia meadow watching clouds, there was some spiced cider and kettle corn, there was art and music and... simple. And there was soup at the end of the day.
Is it so much to ask, that your occupations will feed you? I'd argue that no, it isn't much to ask of your life, that you pursue those things that will make you full, sated, content. And yet easy, so easy, to navigate your days, mindlessly ordering the spiritual equivalent of Happy Meals, constantly 'consuming', and never ever feeling fed.
So let's do a little experiment, shall we? How 'bout you go through your day today and ask yourself what feeds you - ask if what you're doing feeds you, or if might be filling your life with psychic Big Macs.
I'd love to hear what feeds you.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
I am from ancient quilts reeking of mothballs, from lemony furniture polish and well-tuned pianos.
I am from suburban bricks on a cul-de-sac, from spaces filled with books and inherited furniture, from darkened rooms with flickering Super8 family movies on Friday night.
I am from the redbud, the azalea, the tall oak and maple - the riotous daffodils, the drifts of cherry blossom.
I am from Friday's meal of potato and beans and from the Family of Righteous Indignation, from Joan and Jack and generations of Klooster.
I am from the corner of Stubborn and Devoted - the two intersect in many places.
From a house where rowdy boys riled a peace-loving sister; where quiet quirkiness was venerated.
I am from a remnant church, a community in the world but not of the world. I am equally from the wider world that then found me. I am from faith, I am from love, and I am from a life that offers grace at every turn.
I'm from Malaysia, from England, from Veja-Links and cucumber sandwiches.
From the steel-grey and ever-elegant piano teacher who guided a crowd with laughter and poise through war, heartbreaks and car crashes, always taking the higher road. From the gifted and also-elegant elementary teacher who is everything and nothing like her mother, who has a heart forty three times her size.
I am from no place - I am from Family, located on eight hearths before I was eighteen. I am the books, the photos, the film reels, the stories: the memories of a host of genetics. At the core is Family.
This post is linked as part of The Red Writing Hood, over at The Red Dress Club. The assignment this week asked us to participate in a long-running writing exercise in which we were all invited to complete the same basic form, delineating our perceived roots: where we are from. You can read more about the exercise here. I'd encourage you to try it, even if (especially if!) you don't see yourself as a writer.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
It was weight that had hung around since Kid #1: nothing dramatic, and I certainly wouldn't have made it onto the opening lineup for The Biggest Loser. But it was a fair chunk of flesh that had over-stayed its welcome.
Without any real plan for Losing Weight (I am extremely anti-diet), I started running more. Working out more often. June and July were spent at the pool, and snacks were watermelon chunks, roasted almonds, and fresh raspberries. All of the sudden, my clothes started to fit differently. In fact, most of my wardrobe started to get really too big: as a running joke I would tally the number of shorts and skirts that I could pull off without unbuttoning or unzipping.
But here's the funny thing. I lost weight, and it didn't change my life, making me happy, successful, or, well, perfect. (I know. I was devastated to make this discovery. But there you are.) The goal weight that I'd fixated on for so long was nodded at on the way down the scale, and passing it didn't change my life one iota: my husband didn't love me more, my kids didn't find me a better mother, my writing didn't improve commensurately with the dropping numbers on the scale.
In one of those rare insights that Oprah calls an "a-ha! moment" and I call an instance of "well, duh" - I realized - so freaking late in life! - that the lifelong pursuit of the beautiful body, of the elusive 'perfect' body was so much emptiness. That having once been spectacularly fit, then not so fit, then outright chubby, and finally kinda-sorta-fit all means.... not much.
So what next? Do I just stop running? Do I give up, sit down with a bottle of wine, a slab of cheese and a half-kilo of good dark chocolate? Because, after all, what we're saying is that being fit doesn't change your life, right?
Au contraire. This fitness, the weight loss? It DID change my life. What changed my life was this: The outrageous sense of achievement when running five fast miles. Lifting weights whilst standing on one foot, knowing that my core was supporting me. Hoisting my 30 pound toddler up and down behind my head in a sneaky attempt at a triceps workout. Swimming laps for an hour and loving it.
Losing weight did not make me more interesting, more intelligent, or more loveable. But the path towards losing weight has changed my perspective entirely. What has changed is that once again I know I am strong. I am taking care of myself. I'm not giving up and rolling over and getting old. I'm taking time for me - even if that has to be at 5.30 in the morning.
When I came across this video on Facebook this week, my heart sank. Because what the speaker - Jean Kilbourne - is talking about here is the opposite of all the things I learned the hard way this summer. She's discussing the insidious idea that our girls continue to be sold: the idea that if pretty enough, if thin enough, they will BE enough.
It would be disingenuous for me to pretend that I never dress my girls in pretty clothes, or marvel at the way my 8 year old looks in skinny jeans (the girl's built like a grasshopper: she was meant to wear this particular trend, even if she hates 'em.) But daily I pray that I am doing enough to let them know how valuable - how significant they are, regardless of outfit, regardless of accessories, regardless of body type.
It may be the biggest gift I will ever give these girls.
Or indeed, myself.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Here's the picture this week:
Now, you faithful readers who've been around for a bit may remember that I'm a little obsessed with air mail letters. You could go back and read my post on bloggers as the new pen pal, and the art of the long-distance letter, and my little ode to the aerogramme.
But today, I'm writing about the anti-letter. Otherwise known as Skype.
There was a little conversation on FB yesterday about Skype - how everyone loves it so much for when their husbands are out of town on business, how the kids are fascinated with talking to daddy on screen.
I have blogger friends who Skyped each other loads before ever meeting in real life, and I'm sure its an incredible way to be friends. In fact, my friend Jamie tells me he's up for a Skype convo, seeing as email isn't really his thang.
Here's the thing: Skype STRESSES ME OUT. I'm not great on the phone anyway. I feel fragmented, inarticulate, and anxious to get the conversation over with. Yes, even conversations with my husband or my mother.
Skype, in my view, makes all this worse. Not only am I twitchy and unfocused, but the person I'm Skyping with has a full view of me in all my ADD glory. They see me yawn, they see me staring at the ceiling.... I feel the pressure to put on a show.
My kids are obsessed right now with a tv show called Liberty's Kids - a cartoon about various stories from the Revolutionary War: in one episode, we find out that Abigail Adams got exactly TWO letters from John Adams in his 18 months in Paris. TWO. Not two phone calls. Two letters. From the man who fathered your 6 kids, who is some big shot in the new American government, and who has swanned off to Paris for almost two years. So to be 'limited' to "just a phone call" all of the sudden started sounding not-so-tragic.
I'll tell you: I love my husband, and he is an incredible partner and father when he's here. Participates in pretty much everything. But when he's away on business, it doesn't help me to chat face to face. No matter how off-the-wall the kids have been, a little face time isn't going to change it. I know he misses us when he's away, I know he understands all the challenges of parenting on one's own. He knows he's missed in a big way. But honestly, to survive the long days & nights on my own, I just have to get stuck in, get on with it, and not spend a lot of time on how I wish I had some help around here.
Is this cold hearted? Am I on a tragic path towards living in separate homes as old people, because we get along better that way? I hope not. Skype is a miracle. A lifesaver for some. For me, it is yet another technology I just don't get.
Anyway. I know I'm a Luddite. I know I need to get with the times. I'll figure it out, just like I found my own little way on Twitter. But I'm just sayin': nobody wants to see the faces I make when I'm on the phone.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Suburban Drama #6,793: In Which I Mortify Myself Entirely
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Say you're the kind of person who loves to know what's happening today, tomorrow, and the next day. The kind of person who tries not to cringe when an acquaintance casually says, "Oh, we'll just figure it out when we get there." What? No plan? Ack ack ack ack ack.
You may be the kind of person who is mortified by these tendencies. You may wish daily that you were a fly-by-the-seat-of-yer-pants kinda gal. You may wish that it didn't give you an ulcer to be lost in a strange city, or to rushing for a flight, unsure if you'll make it in time. You may watch people who operate without a wristwatch with envy, wondering if it EVER bothers them not to know what time it is, or if they're late, or how many minutes it is until the next appointment.
It's funny how life works. Because say you're that kind of person, and you fall in love with a person who approaches life in exactly the opposite way: someone who always flies by the seat of their pants, someone who never knows where their watch/wallet/keys are, but lives in faith that these items will turn up eventually. Someone who hates to brush their teeth the same way twice, much less drive the same road, run the same course, or wear the same shoes two days in a row.
These two opposites might get married, might delight in this particular element of opposite-ness, and might make a darn good life from it.
And then might come a cosmic event where the kids had a day off from school, the Farmor would be in town from Norway, and the forecast for the beach would be sunny sunny sunny.
Then the Seat of Pants Man may come up with the bright idea of taking off for the ocean - driving into the night, and then spending tomorrow at the beach. Mrs OCD might struggle mightily with ditching her schedule, with leaving all of her routines at home, with just "throwing sleeping bags into the car" and driving off towards the coast.
But she will do it.
Because man oh man does she love the adventures that Mr Seat of the Pants comes up with. She loves that he has passion for possibilities as-yet-undiscovered, and loves that he ignores (in the nicest way possible) her protestations of practicality.
So we're off, dear readers. Off on our next adventure. Look for photos of the Not-Plan soon.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
We found out we were both into Oingo Boingo and Talking Heads when many of our peers were embracing Bon Jovi and Richard Marx. And thus began a music geek friendship that would take us to concerts around the world - from outdoor festivals to huge stadium events to tiny grotty clubs in London. My parents trusted him implicitly, and as soon as I assured them I'd be with Jamie!, I was allowed to go pretty much anywhere.
We commiserated over crushes as well as breakups through the years. He was best friends with my high school sweetheart, and yet he said nothing unkind when we broke up; he found a way to stay friends with both of us.
|J and K, circa 1993? 1994?|
He went off to England for college, and I missed him. I'd get the infrequent letter scrawled on pale blue aerogrammes, apologizing for not writing more often. The next year when I was utterly lost at the University of Maryland, his letter came: Kir - You sound really unhappy. Get on a plane and come to England already. I'll look after you!
Five weeks later I stepped off the plane at Heathrow and was met by his friend (thanks again, Brian!). Jamie had arranged it all for me ahead of time. We adventured all over Europe - rode silly bikes in Belgium, slept in parks in Paris, stayed out all night in a club in Berlin. Again, my parents were happy with only the occasional collect call because they knew - I was with Jamie.
We've seen each other at our our happiest, our saddest, our most inebriated. I attended his eighth grade graduation, his high school graduation, his college graduation. He once changed a tire for me, I cooked a fair few dinners for him. We've watched each other get into dustups with friends and partners, but I can't think of a single time we've fought. (Of course, sarcasm and snide remarks don't count in that tally.)
I sat in the car with him the day he decided to leave America for good. We knew it meant he'd miss my wedding two weeks later. We also knew we wouldn't see each other for such a long time.
I've only seen him once since then. And every minute of that visit was like having all of our teenage years back again, only better. That visit he brought with him the beautiful Justine, who was (and is) perfect for him. The day it was time to take them to Heathrow, my heart broke all over again - knowing it would again be years before we would hang out.
Jamie has taught me much, but most important is this: he taught me that family can be many things beyond shared genes, the same blood. Jamie is my family, just as surely as my brothers are, and he owns his very own place in my heart.
Miss you, my friend. Miss you so very much.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
You don't need to hide your shocked faces. It's ok. In the spirit of over-sharing that is the hallmark of this blog, I thought I'd just come clean and let you all know at once.
Mr NilsenLife knows about it, and is incredibly supportive, if a bit worried about how it'll play out. My kids know about it, and as with most things I decide, they figure if Mommy thinks it's smart, they'll go along with the plan. My parents know too. They think it's the right thing for my family.
So: I'm starting an affair - an affair with homeschool.
I flirted heavily with homeschool last year. In fact, I think it's safe to say that homeschool and I got to third base: I bought a full curriculum, notified the school, made lesson plans. But at the last minute, I chickened out.
I couldn't go through with it. It's risky behavior - dare I say transgressive? Maybe not so much anymore. Maybe lots of people are doing it and as usual I'm late to the swingin' party.
When I tell friends about it, the 'holy moly, I thought this girl was sane!' thought bubble pops up momentarily. Then they smile and say "I'm sure you can do it. I'm just not the kind of person who could ever do that." They're not judging; rather, they're worried about me. They're concerned that I don't know what I'm getting into. They worry about what it'll do to my family.
But the allure of homeschool... so seductive. Slow mornings in pajamas, school outside at the picnic table on nice days, allowing time in the schedule for snow storms or beautiful spring afternoons, field trips every week if we want. We will indulge a small scientist's fascination with The Way Things Work, we will examine the Walters Art Gallery at our leisure, away from the weekend crowds, and we will take a tour of the fire station.
Everyone knows affairs have their dark side. Knowing you're flouting conventions, always wondering if you're doing the right thing: all of this will arise I'm sure. Perhaps by missing kindergarten in a classroom, my boy-child may be deprived of the experience of a lifetime. Who knows.
What I do know is that I don't enter into this without thought, without some serious prayer. I am following a mother's heart, and much of what's in my head backs my heart up. I have a little guy who isn't quite ready to sit in circle time and listen. A bright boy who is incredibly curious, incredibly thoughtful, and convinced it is not his right to demand any attention. A small boy, born with a full head of hair and a serious expression - both make him seem more grown up than he is. A boy who's learned to disappear in the noise and stress of a houseful of people - a boy who deserves his moments in the sun with Mom.
He will make his way in the world. He will do beautifully in school when he gets there. But for one short beautiful season in his life, he will be allowed to be just Lars.
I'm getting involved in this thing for my boy.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
So. God-given gifts. Turns out my gift is the capacity for great love. (Not great lovin'. Although maybe that too. I just haven't had enough wine to blog about it.)
This is the space in your heart to love someone - be it spouse or friend or sibling - with the depth and breadth of all emotion. Maybe it could be described as Super Loyalty: an unfailing belief in my people, regardless of missteps, ill-chosen words or outfits, even the most awkward of moments. (What? Kiss me and then vomit on my new shoes? No, I'm sure you didn't. I don't remember that at all!)
But this capacity for love can be crippling. Because to love that much? It hurts. And it is never more painful than when you are watching those you love grow, change, and do all the painful things that humans must do to become more - to get bigger according to the Existential Size Chart of The Universe. It hurts to be along for the ride, even if you're not the one doing the growing that particular day. Did I ever tell y'all about the year I grew 8 inches and woke many nights with searing pain in my limbs, as I literally felt my legs stretch into a 34" inseam? These are the same searing pains, just in your heart.
But equally, when you experience love this deeply, you will also live with transcendent joy. You will feel the moments of gut-busting pride, the seconds of evanescent enchantment when happiness trumps all, when dark and sad and bleak become mere grease stains on the hem of delight's napkin.
Come Monday, I will put my eight year old on the bus. I will send her to a new teacher, and trust my girl's sensitive loving heart to go out in the world and come back intact. Then, I will take my five year old and my two year old by the hand and we will walk a trail and look for the first signs of autumn, and I will show them "how this life became a miracle to me."
I came across this Dar Williams song this week - a friend posted it and commented that ''this is for all those parents sending their child out into the world this week."
Again and again the chorus muses "so when they ask how far love goes/ When my job's done, you'll be the one who knows."
This is what I do with my gift: I show them how far love goes.