Saturday, June 25, 2011

eight and three quarters

watching her in motion is like watching two ostriches do cartwheels - all long legs and arms waving around of their own volition.

long long long feet rest on her flip flops, showing me all the growing that is still to come. three sizes, she grew this school year.  three shoe sizes.  

mosquito bites make a point-to-point map up and down her shins, meeting at the matching bandaids on both knees.

the denim miniskirt, so big she had to tie it on in the fall rides high - almost too high - this summer.  A hand-me-down Hollister t-shirt from her cooler, older neighbor friends up the street has been chosen over all the sweet flowered blouses in her drawer. 

the [finally] long hair meets her shoulders, the summer blonde streaks starting to shimmer throughout - it was carefully brushed this morning. i recognize the calculated nonchalance of hair tucked behind ears Just. So.   instantly, i remember those painful early days of knowing you want to look a certain way, but having no idea how to make it happen.

her smooth cheeks slope over razor-like cheekbones she got from her dad.  i watch the dark brown eyes follow everything that goes on around her, exactly as they did when she was six months old.  even now, so serious, she can't help the way they sparkle with curiosity, with challenge, with imagination.

she folds those knobby knees underneath her as she sits, graceful when she's not thinking about it.  she's completely unaware of my gaze - rare for her these days, with a 3rd grader's budding knowledge of the world's perceptions and judgements.  she is wise after a tough year at school, learned some life lessons far more critical than the second grade curriculum of math facts and reading strategies.

my changeling - changing.  in front of me.  so much the same as the day she was born, and yet ever a new creature in our lives.  inexorably, she moves all of us to the next phase: a hazy future involving growth spurts, hormones, algebra. a life away from - outside of - us. 

she'll never know the moments i have taken to study her.  to etch her into my heart, the exact way she looks today.  i haven't had enough moments of absorption, of making sure I know her.  just today, just this split second, i caught my girl in mid flight, even as she begins to soar so far beyond us.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Uh, Dr Schneider? You're the BEST. love, your kid

Did you notice that the Universe tilted just slightly askew last November?

I'm not sure I remember any natural disasters that happened then, or any particular blip in the stock market, but I can say without question that the world hasn't been quite the same since November 2010, because that's when my dad retired.

Ah big deal, you say.  He's a baby boomer - those guys are dropping out of the work world like dozy August flies.

But my dad, every day of his working life, changed someone's life for the better.  Every single day.

My dad was - is - a pediatrician.  For forty years he prodded small baby bellies, palpated big kid sprained ankles,  took countless histories from overwrought and sleepless new parents, and gently broke bad news to families.  He worked in hospitals, as the single pediatrician in a town way out in the country, as a family practitioner in a busy Maryland suburb.

He was that amazing doctor who chatted with siblings in the examining room, took the time to find out family stories, who had boundless patience with the parent who had endless questions.   He encouraged moms to listen to their gut instincts, and he thoroughly enjoyed dads who wanted to be part of the parenting journey.

Most of all, he loved - loves - children:  all sizes, all ages, all stages.  When he left his practice, the parents in our part of the world lost one of those doctors who would value your family to his core, and do everything in his power to make your child well.

When he retired, I think I couldn't quite believe it.  He'd made the decision 6 months earlier, and none of it came as a surprise.  So I missed my chance to tell you this story back in November, because I was still getting used to the idea.

But I realized I don't share much about my dad here, in these stories I tell.  I'll often see him three times a week, and yet I don't often include tales of this person who has been such a huge part of my life, and so incredibly formative in my growth as a parent.

My sweet mom & dad.  Aren't they cute?
But this week, this week.  I decided I had to tell you what a gift my dad has been to me this week.

In the midst of CT scans and blood tests and a spinal tap (all for The Boy, not me), my dad has been my ally, my advisor, and my motivator to go out and advocate for my child.  To make sure that I had the information I needed, and had the confidence to fight to say you will figure out what's wrong with my kid.  Who has called every single morning to check on his little patient. Who has remained calm even though I knew with certainty he was as wild with worry as I was.

I can tell you many stories about a childhood filled with adventure, with endless activity, with sledding and hiking and canoeing and football and ... all of it.  I can tell you about a dad who was wrapped around his only girl's finger on a pretty consistent basis (barring that tricky 13-17 era. Oh, and the time I crashed his truck.)  I can tell you all about how he taught me how to change the horn (in self-same truck), check the oil (only one time I forgot. in a big style black-clouds-of-smoke on the PA Turnpike way), and to throw a baseball the right way.

The stories about what a loving grandfather he is?  A whole 'nother book's worth of words.

But today I wanted to celebrate my dad not for the man he has been in my life, but for the man he has been in other's lives.  Because this week I lived with that man, and I was so blessed.  Am blessed.

Monday, June 13, 2011

House. And Home.

Sunday night found us pulling up to the Yellow House after the third party in as many days.  Kids were tired, hot, and weepy.

I squinted critically at the Great Prepare The House for Painting Project - whole swathes of cedar shingles in various stages of scraped or painted, giving passers-by the distinct impression of a bad case of mange.

On the way inside I kicked the kids' buckets, scooters and bike helmets out of the way disgustedly.  A pigsty, I muttered darkly to myself.  This place is a total pigsty. [A brief reality check here: who says pigs are so filthy?  I mean, did you ever see a pig with a million dusty tchochkes on the shelves, or hear a pig complain about paying too much at the Container Store for organizing products?]

I heard the tap dripping upstairs, all the way from the front hallway, and set my purse down amongst the pool totes, reusable shopping bags, and backpacks cluttering the rug. Sure would be nice to have a hall closet for the kids to ignore, I groused.

Stupid house.  Stupid old time-sucking money-hemorrhaging house.

And then.

Monday morning found me with a listless and crying six year old on my lap, pressing the sides of his throbbing head to somehow lessen the pain.  Monday afternoon found me in the pediatrician's office, the lab to offer blood samples, and, by evening, a radiology center for further tests.

Honestly I didn't think much about my house, or the junk inside or the case of mange outside, this Monday morning.  Didn't think at all about it, in fact, until I heard a wavery plea from the face buried in my neck: please take me home, Mommy.  I just want to go home.

This was the refrain I heard all day, as we waited the long minutes for our name to be called.  Please take me home, Mommy.  I just want to go home.

To him it was not the stupid old time-sucking money-hemorrhaging house.  To him it was rest, it was reassurance, it was cool darkness and sheets that smell like 'our' laundry detergent.  Home had not the first thing to do with peeling paint or dripping taps.

That's how this house works.  Because this house is, to us, home.


This post is submitted as part of Peter Pollock's One Word at a Time Blog Carnival.  The theme is 'Home', and although I've been pretty clear with all of you that my true home will always be England, there is a pretty charming little spot right here near Baltimore that's got a tight hold on my heart. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pardon me, Madam, your neuroses are showing

Ah yes.  There's a title to pull 'em in.

This spring was a strange ol' season.  There was a fair bit of 'putting myself out there' - a big writing project for church, a reunion, a 10-week fiction workshop.  Some of these went a little more successfully than others: the church thing went well.  The reunion, super happy. The writing class, tragical crash n' burn.

What, you say?  You crashed and burned at writing??  Why yes, yes I did. Somehow I might have convinced all of you that the words come burbling from me like a mountain stream straight out of Heidi, and that I am, in general, a wildly confident person cruising around town in my Swagger Wagon.  If so, well, high fives.  I didn't mean to trick you.

Actually, there are a fair few games that my head plays with me.  And let me just say, my head does not play fair.  In fact using the word 'games' seems to give it a little frisson of fun, which is misleading because my head's not such a fun playmate these days.

There's the sneaky procrastination game, where my head convinces me that absolutely, tonight after the kids are in bed I mean early tomorrow morning okay so maybe during naptime if you can distract Lars with your iPhone things will get written/researched/dealt with.

Then my head starts up with the you can'ts and you'll nevers and the what is your frakking point??s.  Oh, and the constant sarcastic background noise of Awesome parenting, there, girlfriend. Keep it coming!

Add to this the standard (but usually quashed under layers of denial and willful ignorance) freakouts over  finances (oh, a stay at home mom?  hm.  yes, the finances are always a source of freakout), over What Will I BE When I Grow Up, over ack, you know.  Lots of things.  I'm kind of a professional freaker-outer.

In a totally polished and cheerful and zen sort of way, of course.

Why do I share this with you?  (See there? The what is your frakking point?? just popped up again.)

Well.  There is a lot out there on the interwebs about how we only present our very bestest most perfect selves on our blogs, on Facebook, on Twitter.  And this makes all the other people on the interwebs feel bad/anxious/depressed, imagining all of these perfect lives and being confronted with charming snapped-on-the-iPhone evidence of the perfection.  (I am guilty of the iPhone snapping. Sorry.)

But for all of that perceived perfection, I'd hazard a guess that most of us are just people trying to get by.  People doing the best they can, trying to ignore all the crazy in their head, one day at a time.

Maybe, just maybe, the sharing of small moments of joy has much less to do with lording my "perfect life" over yours, and more to do with trying to find whatever magic there is in my day.  Maybe it is a reminder to myself that amidst the yelling and the eye rolling and the peanut butter sandwiches there are tiny little shards of brilliance:  shards that, combined, make a gem of a life.

I'm thinking there must be those shards for all of us to gather.

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