Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Landon's World

"Who are those people up there, mom?" (in an overhead walkway to the light rail)
"I think they are passengers from the train."
"What are passengers?"
"People who ride a train.  Or a plane.  Or a bus."
"Oh, so their name is people and their middle name is passenger."

Something like that.

We were doing our Memorial Day Annual Puzzle (though I can't remember if we've only meant to do this every other year), when Landon spilled his drink over half of it.

During the clean-up Bill said, "Landon, I could use a hand here."

And oh, so earnestly, Landon held up his hand in Bill's direction and kept it there.

Got you covered, dad.

Oh!  And now I must go b/c a certain favorite little boy just came in and said, "I can read now!" with a book in hand.

This oughtta be good.  

Friday, May 25, 2012

All in the Same Boat

"How can I judge you, when this is my kid?"

This is what I ended up saying after Landon was a guest at one of my library programs.  My mom had very sweetly agreed to bring him, but he was being anything but sweet when he got there.

When it was time to pass out rainbow scarves, Landon went to the bin and took them all.  (I had not realized this was possible).  He gathered them all up to his chest, and clutched them with a fierce look on his face.  "These are mine!  I'm not sharing these!" he declared.  When another child tried to pull one free, they began the toddler dance of possession, with the accompanying territorial grunts and groans.
"Oh, buddy, we share the scarves.  You need to let this boy take one."
I am talking to a tyrant.  He is not softened by my gentle tone or the affectionate use of "buddy".
Instead I must resort to, "Landon, if you can't share, you'll have to go," which is a trigger for him to begin a loud wail that even picking him up could not comfort.
He had to go.
There was that awkward half moment when the rest of the moms are watching to see what I'll say.

"I could be mortified, but I'm just....not."
And they laugh.

Collectively, we share the knowledge that we try to shape these little people, but we cannot control them.
We can set reasonable boundaries and they stomp over them.
We can model good behavior, we can practice it, we can expect it, we can ask for it:
and not get it.
And at inopportune times they can make it seem like we have no parenting "skills" at all.

So really, dear friends whose children are as mixed a bag as my own sweet boy,
how can I judge you?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

To a Birthday Boy

You were a noisy bundle bent on survival as a newborn
A bright-eyed, happy baby at one
A hundred questions, a thousand discoveries, a climber and a runner at two
Now you are an exuberant,  interesting little person, a talker, a thinker, a mover and a shaker at three.

Every age has had its challenges
And every age has had its joys
You are more than I could have imagined, and better than I dreamed
So happy birthday to you, dear Landon!

Let's enjoy year three together.

Monday, May 21, 2012

One Man's Gas

When do you start teaching a child about money?  I figured when Landon's piggy bank was full would be a good starting point.

This weekend, it finally was.  So technically, he's been learning a bit for months now as we've gathered loose change and let him put it in the slot.

I told Bill that I thought it would be a great plan to put some aside for giving, most for saving, and one dollar (plus tax) for Landon to spend at the dollar store. 

I came home late Saturday night, and the very first thing Landon says to me (skipping, "hi, mom,") was, "I bought something from the dollar store."

I couldn't wait to see the bubbles or car or stickers or puzzle he had picked out.

Instead: Flarp! Noise Putty.

I'm not kidding.

Some weird pink goop in a little container that when you pressed your fingers in, made realistic noises of the most unpleasant kind of flatulence.

"Really?" my eyebrows asked Bill.

Landon demonstrated and was so hilariously amused, I had to crack a smile.  Bill was laughing so hard his eyes were crinkling up.  Watching the two of them reminded me that there is, indeed, a realm in "boy world" that will always be just slightly beyond my understanding or appreciation.

Although I think it might be kind of funny to tell Landon that at his very first opportunity to make his first self-directed purchase he bought a fart.  Or, more precisely, a "flarp!"

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Last Child by an Urban Stream

The park was noisy, large and loud.  A trio of teenagers dropping f-bombs.  A few smokers on an erratically windy day.  Every child in a 3-mile radius climbing over the apparatus like a herd of ants collecting a morsel.  Perhaps the whole structure would begin to move away when a few more kids joined the effort. 

I wanted it to be fun and joyful and peaceful.  I'm not even sure if Landon was enjoying it,  although on principle he wandered around and tried not to get knocked over amid the horde.

"Let's go walk around the 'lake', buddy."  (To be fair, I did not put air quotes around the word lake when talking to my 3-year-old.  I only add them here to suggest that 'lake' may be a bit generous of a word for a man-made scoop in the soil in the middle of suburbia.)

At first, the option held little appeal to him.  But we pulled away from the pack, and onto the sidewalk path that circumvents the water and began our new adventure.

Quieter.  Landon talking to me.  One hand clutching my finger as he balanced on a retaining wall.  We stopped to talk to a gentler trio: a grandson, dad and son sitting patiently by their fishing poles. 

Flowers to smell. Goslings to adore. Goose poop to be endlessly fascinated by:  avoiding it, pointing it out, exclaiming over it, examing it, warning me against it...yeah, we're still in that poopy phase.

And it started to get fun and joyful and peaceful.
I had never really noted that one side of the path runs parallel to an urban stream.  A wild little wonder that just so happened to have steep foot trails to its bank if you wanted to take the path less traveled by.
And Landon did.

In a classic knee-jerk reaction, I said no at first.  I was still wearing my work clothes and shoes.  The eroded path to the water was steep. I could picture harrowing run-ins with drug paraphanalia, broken liquor bottles and used prophylactics.  (yeah, I've taken these paths before, little man; sometimes they are disappointing)
But if you could see the way he put his hands on this thighs to bend over to peer into the unknown, and then look back at me with such eager hope that, "Please we go there?!"  you would know why I decided to stay alert for the biohazards of my worst-case-scenario thinking and follow him down.

I was ten thousand times rewarded for the decision by a little boy turned intrepid-explorer who had no end of delighted comments to make about these wonderful woods.  The water, the cozy tree space, the magical forest, (yeah, he actually used the word magical), prevailing past where I could comfortably get my grown-up body: ("Crawl under, mom!")  We found a circle of trees that had fourteen trees (I counted) sprouting from one small circle, that felt like a place you'd want to sit around and tell stories in.  We found our favorite spots. ("The woods are lovely, dark and deep." ~R.F)
We found the urban waterfall, cement lined and litter-strewn, but Landon's big take-away was, "It sounds like thunder, mom!"

I saw none of the unsavories I had feared, only the joy of seeing a little boy gravitate toward nature the way the moon pulls the tide: irresistable, mysterious forces creating life on the edges of the tumult. 

We may not be a wildnerness-exploring, backcountry camping, cliche of Colorado-ness family, but the whole little outing reminded me:

We need to draw a little closer to creation.
I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before we sleep.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On the Teeter-Totter of Parenting

One day, I'm regretting not having a camera with me at all times to capture all the adorable, milestoney type moments that seem too precious to let slip by.

The next, I'm grateful nobody can hear my frustrated thoughts, hoping that this is not the scene that becomes an indelible childhood memory.

So here was the "teeter" day:  (Teeter is the high side of the apparatus in my book)

Landon and I see a crew of guys putting down new asphalt in a fast food restaurant parking lot.  I pull in and park and we get ourselves front row seats on a grassy part to watch this motherload of fascination: men building a road.  At first, I'm doing it for Landon.  I'm remembering the trucker we met a while back and enjoying another moment to learn something about the world Landon is drawn to like a magnet.  But then, the scene is pretty interesting.  They steam-melt the old surface, rake it up, pour new asphalt to mix with the newly softened patch, rake some more, and then--grand finale--steamroll it.  The steamroller comes so close, Landon shudders in that mix of fear-turned-happiness to be near.  He's grinning so huge and talking a mile a minute, alternating between asking questions and explaining the whole thing to me as though he were the narrator of a documentary we should be filming.

And I'm happy.  Happy just to sit on the grass with him and watch the world get built.  And those guys are happy.  We give each other that little chin-up nod that is acknowledgement without being too gushy.  And they wave and grin at a little boy so completely enthralled with their every move that his mother would let him sit and watch it as long as he wants.  It's hot, hard work.  I tell one of the guys so and he says, "Yeah, and I yove it," and his accent suggests that he is probably working harder than I can guess.

So before we leave, I follow an impulse and buy them all a drink at the drive through and we drop them off before we head on down the road.  And still I'm happy.  Happy all around.  Those guys, my little guy, me.  

But the teeter-totter stays on the move.  And the moment finds its counterpoint today when I try to take a walk with Landon and Bill to the local grocery store. Is it worth detailing all the ways my patience wore thin, my nerves frayed and I finally snapped?  Near the end, I felt like I could not endure one more moment of fussy, whiny, crying, inconsolable behavior.  I'd already said a number of regrettable things; I didn't want to keep adding to the list.  So I begged the house key from Bill and left him to get the trike and tike home, and hightailed it away from them as fast as I could before I had a meltdown as ugly as my toddler's.

I felt like such a meanie.  I tried to make up for it by making our dinner salads especially nice.  Lots of chopping.  By hand.  Folded napkins.  You know, little touches I'm sure would mean the world to a three-year-old and his harried dad.  I wished I could get off that simply.

Instead, we had to chalk it up as "not one of our better days" and hope the bump of these "totter" days doesn't negate the "wheee!" of the teeter ones.

Maybe I need to find a better parenting metaphor.
Thinking about it, this one really stinks. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Larger than the National Debt

I spent hours doing dusty-basement, primary-source research.  Interviewing ladies well into their 80's.  (one even died shortly after I interviewed her, adding urgency to the task of capturing the memories)  I took notes. I made photocopies.  I compiled and cited sources.  It was a large project, and I chipped away, feeling responsible and mature.  But in the end, the project was larger than I could wrangle, and too much of the final writing got left to the final hour.  For reasons I can't remember, (maybe because this was high school before everyone carried a computer in their back pocket) the only computer on which I could type and print it up was at my dad's office in town.

So I typed.  On and on.  All afternoon.  Past the evening and well into the night.  The office took on the quiet hum of a burbling water cooler and a buzzy florescent. And still I typed.  All thoughts converging to support a thesis, to tell the story.  But I couldn't be in that business space alone, so my mom stayed with me.  All through the night.  Into the wee hours of the morning.  I can still picture her dozing on the hard office floor, a hostage to my lack of time management skills.

The sun rose.  I began editing.  Printing drafts to "see" the mistakes that eluded me on the screen.  (I still must do this.)  My mom awoke bleary and sore to the sound of me still tapping away, working feverishly to get the paper done.  No one collated and stapled a research project together with more tired satisfaction, to be sure.  The night labor was done.  The baby born.

She drove me to school.  (Which had already started a couple hours before) and I went straight to my English class.  I handed in the paper on time, and then handily walked out the door, back into her waiting car, and straight home and into bed.

We slept.  Sound and sweet.  It was done.  She had endured the travail without complaint or criticism (though I deserved both) and that was that.

Weeks later, in front of peers, parents and teachers, when I received money and award for the research paper, I shook my teacher's hand and felt nothing but gratitude to my mom.  In my tunneled-teen-vision, it never occurred to me to hand the entire check over to her--she being the more deserving of the two of us who earned it. I was aware enough to realize that she never held that occasion against me, ever.  She never brought it up as a sacrifice, or a reminder of what can happen to graduating students whose "senioritis" flares up too soon before the end.

She clapped in kind support and never made mention of the long-prisoner-night when she surely must have wondered how so much prior work still required such sleeplessness at the end.  Her sleep.  And comfort. Sacrificed to let me own a success we really shared.

She let me own it.  And has never once mentioned that I owe her a thing.

Since I owe my mom my very life, perhaps she threw out the ledger entirely when she told me years ago, "Pay it forward."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fork, Spoon, Spork

I recently read a blog post that got me thinking about identity--how it changes, sometimes immutably.   We go into marriage half expecting that our individual selves will remain intact.  We expect to blend our life with another with salad metaphors in mind, keeping all the unique parts of our personality fresh and unchanged.

But it is alchemy. Mysterious and transcendant, inexplicable alchemy.  The dross most certainly does rise.  But even in that painful process, something else happens, too.  Your life becomes so completely engaged with someone else's: their pain and joy is your own.  Some freedom goes away, some responsibilities get added, but so do new pleasures, and some burdens are lightened.
Sara Groves says it beautifully with, "Life with you is half as hard and twice as good."

I am eternally changed for having married Bill.  If we were a fork and spoon before, we've each changed into something else--a spork, perhaps, or maybe even a pair of chopsticks.  There's no going back to our old roles and routines.  We have formed something new here, and even if it all fell apart, I would never fit back into the same single-girl-spoon slot I originally comfortably occupied.

We do not blend like salads, easily extracted from each other.  Alchemists sought it in metallurgy, but it happens with us: our base selves are transformed into something improbable and beautiful: one solid team, a golden pair.

I have all the more compassion for anyone who has found themselves not just missing a person in their life, but finds their very soul severed from a loss of such magnitude.  Reinvention is no small task.   

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Grateful Without the Mess

The kitchen: complete disarray from cooking soup--from scratch.  (I can't seem to use the food processor without making a big mess...you'd think the thing had no lid and splattered like a toddler)

Me: working as quickly as I know how to clean it up

My thoughts: fixated on wanting to leave it exactly in its post-processor glory, as a tribute to the rare heights of domesticity I had achieved in this kitchen

Because here's the deal: I'm just immature enough to think that if I make soup from scratch, I want all the eaters in my household to be keenly aware of the labor and love and work and clean-up that the project entails.  I want them (him) to look at it and think (say), "Wow, you really put a lot of love and effort into this.  Thanks."

So I cleaned it up.  I am trusting my eaters to have imagination (recollection) enough to be able to picture the kitchen totally trashed and myself dragging away from the table with regrets that I couldn't do another thing...

Maybe this new scene will leave a better aftertaste in all our mouths and a better memory in our minds:

The food appears plated on our table; the sink is empty as we eat.

(Only here, in the wild blue of my yonder-blog, do you know that I would actually think that a messy kitchen would somehow make a good meal more endearing.)