Monday, January 31, 2011

HOOKERS!!!

"Why are you hanging your bag all the way over there, babe?" I ask Chago last week at school. "Why not hang it closer to the door, so that maybe you'll remember to take out your snack and lunch bags more often? And so maybe there's not a trail of gloves and jacket and hat all up the side of the ramp? And maybe all your homework actually makes it home? On the first day? In one piece? Maybe."

"I can't hang it there, Mom," he says with a little smirk on his face.

"Why not, bubba?"

"Uh-uh," he says, shaking his head furiously.

"Why? Not? Son?"

"Well..." he begins, "Shaelyn's backpack is almost always on the first hook, and if I put my bag anywhere near it, then Emmabella gets upset that it's too close to Shaelyn's. But Lindsey's backpack is almost always on the end, so I can't hang it too close to there either. Sooooo..." he takes a deep breath, "it really is just easier to hang it right here in the middle and try to do a better job of keeping track of my things."

[what. the. hell.]

"Hunh," I mutter.


[He's only 7. He's only 7. He's only 7.]

But as I look at him stretch to reach that middle hook which is clearly the highest one, and the effort he has to put forth to hang up his backpack, unzip it from the top down, pull his stuff out, zip it back up, all while he's practically up on his tippy toes, and then I watch him remember (at least this time) to pull out both his bags and drop them into the bin, and then I see him turn away with a smile as he prepares to zip off to the playground perfectly oblivious, still and always Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky, the only thing I can really actually say to him (and honestly mean it) is, "You know what, baby? I think you might be right on this one."
...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"MAMA," HE SAYS, "WHAT'S A F**K?"

Yes, from THAT face.

And out of THAT mouth.

And the fact that I didn't run over the jogger on the side of the road, or knock that city worker into the ditch he was digging was not even the most amazing part.

As I tried to maintain my composure, realizing we were only two blocks from home, I desperately scanned my mental parenting toolbelt for something, anything, to help me just, well...stall.  And, evidently, my best immediate defense was to feign hard of hearing.

"I'm sorry, son?"

And, of course, what the hell could I have been thinking because it was bad enough to have heard it come out of his mouth the FIRST time, and now here I had just asked him to repeat the thing.

"F**K!" he yells, because...clearly...I'm...hard...of...hearing.

And at that point, I think things actually began to blur.  And those little lights started to twinkle behind my eyelids, like right before you pass out.  And I tell myself to say something, to stop him, for crissakes, from saying it again, but all that came out was, "Where did you hear that word, Bubba?"  Only the voice didn't sound like my own. It was ethereal and distant, like it was being pumped in through the truck speakers. One more block. One more block. Don't hit the dog walker.  One more block.

"Oh," he says cheerily, "I got it from Saia," as he turns to look to her for confirmation.

And when I glance up in the rearview mirror at her, she's nodding affirmatively, and then opens her mouth to add to my growing terror.

"Emilie told me about the f**k last year," she says very matter-of-factly, and I realize my knuckles are turning white from gripping the steering wheel so tightly.  Did she just say "the fuck"? Like George Bush's "the internets"? I knew at some point I just needed to tell them to stop saying it, but it was all just happening so fast, spinning and whirling and there was no time to stop it, like this huge fucking rolling stone with a whole lot of fucking moss and it was coming down the fucking hill right on the fucking top of me!!!

"Hold on, Beauty," I manage to eek out as we turn into our driveway. "I don't want to interrupt because we need to continue to talk about this, but I need you both to understand right now that that's a VERY bad word and you can NOT say it anymore, ok?"

And if you've ever had or been around 7-year-olds for any length of time, you know the next two words out of both of their mouths, in unison, were "But why?"

So, for the next 10 minutes I was on automatic pilot. We got our things out of the vehicle, got the mail, let the dogs out, gave them treats, kicked off our shoes, emptied out backpacks, washed hands, and then they were both standing right in front of me, like they were waiting for dessert, wide-eyed and attentive, and quieter than I ever remember them being.

"Ok," I begin.  "Here's the deal."

And I proceed to explain to them, with as little detail as possible, just why "the f*ck" is not ok.  We talk about other off-limit bad words (which, for our kids, still includes "butt," "stupid," and "fat").  I explain that this is the mother of all bad words, that people often use it to be nasty and mean to others, that there is absolutely no reason why any child of any age should be using it, and that it just needs to be put into that bucket and locked up until they're old enough to take it out.

And then, of course, the negotiations begin.

"But, Mama," he says, "what if I need to tell someone that someone else said the bad word?"

"Although you shouldn't be tattling for no reason, if someone is using that word to hurt someone else, then yes, you should tell a teacher or parent or principal that someone used the f-word."

"So, I can say 'f-word'?" he asks, clearly trying to stake out his claim.

"No, you can't.  Only -- ONLY -- in that specific instance. Not ever in any other situation."

He scowls.

"What about if I spell it?" he begins, and then before I can stop him, he adds, "Can I just say that someone said f-u-c-k?"

[My whole body cringes.]

"No, it's exactly the same thing."

Temporarily defeated, he turns to Saia, who is clearly ready with her argument.

"But Mama," she pleads, "I just don't really understand what it means.  And it makes it hard for me to know why I shouldn't be using it if I don't really know why it's so bad."

[Damn logical girl!]

And that's when, clearly cornered and well into fight-or-flight mode by this point, I instinctively launch into my there-are-just-some-things-you're-just-too-young-to-understand schpeel.  Topped with the when-you're-old-enough-we'll-explain-it-all.  And with a little bit of if-we-ever-hear-that-either-of-you-ever-uses-that-word-again-we'll-wash-out-your-mouth-with-soap on the side, just for flavor.

A little stunned by my finger wagging, off they go to begin their homework while I frantically text their Mommy, whose text response I cannot repeat because...well...this is a fucking family blog!!!
...

Monday, January 24, 2011

WHAT'S 8 DAYS WHEN MY LITTLE TEA LIGHTS HAVE STAYED LIT FOR 6 WEEKS?!?!?

My altarsito
I've had an altar for as long as I can remember. It's always been in bits and pieces, sometimes just a few candles here and there, sometimes just some special trinkets on a shelf.

But for the past few years, my altar's been boxed up in the garage. (Clearly, that's a problem. All sorts of bad feng shui there, I know.)

So, last year, I finally took it back out.  Because of where I have it set up this time, though (and my propensity for pyromania), I can't really light all the candles I'd like to (or need to).  So, back in December I picked up a pack of those battery-operated tea lights.  I thought, at least they could give off the illusion of the altar being lit up because, you know, Jesus falls for those things all the time. But, more importantly, they would serve as a little reminder to me when I walked by and saw the flicker, freaked out for a few seconds that it might be a tiny mouse with a dagger seeking vengeance for the mass rodenticide poisoning of 2010, and then remembered that I was supposed to be praying for something, or at least contemplating something very intensely.

And, also, I wouldn't be convicted of arson.  A big plus right there.

And it really did work.  I got it all set up, dropped the tea lights into the candle votives.  And then forgot all about them after the third day.  That was over 6 weeks ago.  And guess what???

They're still twinkling.  Yes, really!!  When I used them in my jack-o'-lanterns, I was replacing them every few days.  When I weaved them through the garland on my mantel over Christmas, I had to ensure that I was turning them on and off with the rest of the lights every single night so that they'd last through the holidays.  But not these guys.

These guys are still twinkling.  Not brightly, mind you.  Not steadily, even.  But they're on.  Surrounded by the baby shoes of my niece and nephew, a rosary from my grandmother, a wooden cross necklace from my brother and sister-in-law, a tiny ceramic frog from my father, a worry stone, yerbas buenas, memory cards from family funerals, a tiny cauldron from New Orleans, hope and wishes rocks from Seattle, a wrought iron cross from Massachusetts, and candles that remind me of my Tía Elvira's altar.

And all of this really really really makes me smile.

And for at least a few minutes, I don't worry so much that I'm not an active church-goer, that the only thing I'm truly devout about is being a mother, and that my spiritual dance card is not always overflowing, although my cup certainly is.  Because it's not about where or how or when or how often you find a way to connect with the world beyond and outside of you, it's THAT you do it. In whatever way works best for you.

Last week, I was all caught up in the physical and emotional pull that the full moon appeared to be having over me.  This week, I realize that it was PMS.  But for those few moments I felt connected to something bigger than myself.  And even today, as my breasts begin to swell, and the dreaded bloat begins to set in, and suddenly my house is cleaner than it's been in...well...a month, I'm still in awe that that happens because my body was made to have babies.  And that makes me feel like the tiny speck in the universe that I am.  And now I'm warm and fuzzy all over.

But that could be the PMS, too.
...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

THE STORY OF O: AN OPEN LETTER TO JENNY

Dear Jenny:

You have the right to choose whom you want to love.

You even have the right to choose not to love them anymore, to erase them from your heart, from your memories, from your life.

But just because our political system is inept, just because in this particular state at this particular time, just because you currently CAN, does not mean that you SHOULD be able to abduct the child you birthed and move all the way across the country with her just to spite the child's other mother.

I can't say that there wasn't a part of me that didn't empathize with you -- for just a half a second -- when my own relationship fell apart and the thought of not being with my children for a minute, or a day, or a weekend, just about drove me insane.

But the fact is, Jenny, the actual, tangible, take-it-to-the-bank fact is that she does belong to BOTH you and L.  And it doesn't matter, not for one second, that you don't like it.  It just is.

She is her mother, too.  And no amount of courtroom vitriol will ever be able to refute that fact.  And your daughter has not seen her other mother in over 342 days.  Three-hundred-and-forty-two days, Jenny.  Can you imagine?  Can you even for one teensy second try to imagine from a mother's perspective how that must feel?  No phone calls. No Skype. No photographs or video.  No communication whatsoever.  She's missed every holiday, her last birthday, and this past Christmas.  It's just not possible that you can't imagine the roles being reversed.  That this just as easily could have been you.

And it just. needs. to. end. now.

To deny your child the unconditional love and support and comfort that she was getting from not just her other mother, but her other mother's entire family.  Her own grandparents, Jenny.  A thriving, loving, generous network of aunts and uncles and cousins and friends that you've pulled O away from.  To prove a point.  To ease your guilt.  To pretend that for those 7 years you weren't gay.  And the thing is, the real honest-to-God truth is that you probably aren't.  But that's irrelevant.  Completely and utterly irrelevant to the issue at hand.  Your daughter has TWO mothers.  Period.  It doesn't matter how you got there.  The fact is that you're there.  And now, where do you go from here?

What path do you choose -- not for you -- but for her?  What lesson do you teach her about doing what's right, and standing by your commitments, and upholding your promises, and about what it really means to love?

Yes, O came out of your womb, Jenny.  But she is a vital part of a community of people that love and adore and miss her.  And no matter what your personal feelings are about L, about homosexuality, about the donor, YOU CAN NOT DEPRIVE HER OF HER RIGHT TO LOVE BOTH OF HER MOTHERS.

Jenny, I know you're afraid.  I do.  I know you're terrified that you're going to lose her.  That if you allow her to be with L and with the other side of her family, that she's somehow going to love them more, want to be with them more, and choose them over you.

But you have to believe me when I tell you that it's truly every mother's fear.  It is.

And you couldn't be more wrong.  O will love you more for giving her more to love.  She will respect you more for your difficult choices.  She will trust you more for telling her the truth.  And she will thank you most for letting go.

No one is trying to take O away from you, Jenny.  No one.  That's not what this is about.  This is about giving O the family she was promised before she was ever even born.  This is about giving O every opportunity in the world to be happy and strong and centered.

This. is. not. about. you.

And whether or not this case drags out for another 14 years, L will still be trying, and waiting, and pushing, and searching.  And if the system in all its wisdom never does right itself, when O turns 18, she WILL know.  And then what? And then where will you be? How will she ever be able to trust you again?  How will she ever be able to forgive you for what you've deprived her of?

But we all make mistakes.  Every day, we make mistakes.  Some bigger than others, yes, but hardly ever any that are so irreparable.  And you can fix this, Jenny.  You can still fix this, and do right by your daughter.  You can start living your life again, and release everyone that you've held hostage for over a year.  And maybe in that process you'll learn to release yourself, too.  All the secrets you were trying to hide are out now.  There's no reason to lie anymore.  It's time to move past this, to move forward, to start living.

The one and only question you really need to be asking yourself now, Jenny, is not what kind of mother you have been, but exactly what kind of mother are you going to be?
...

Monday, January 17, 2011

I HAVE A DREAM...

MLK by Saia
MLK by Chago

I just don't think I have the heart to tell them how it really is. Still. After all this time.
... 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN

It's always this time of year that gets a little difficult for some.

The cold fronts, the rain, the weight of the clouds, the seemingly neverending overcast days, and the downpours and the snowstorms and the chill.

And you just don't wanna get out and run errands. You don't wanna get out and go anywhere.  You just want to stay home because some part of you is comforted by that thought, by some romanticized childhood ideal, even as the other part of you clearly recognizes and shouts from the rooftops the dangers inherent in trapping oneself in an enclosed building with two wired, stir-crazy children for any significant length of time.

So, you pull yourself together.  And you remember that your little Pisces fish were also born in Seattle.  That they love the water and the rain because you used to.  Before it made you sad.  Before it felt like God was crying.

You load up your brood and you make it all the way down the street, a whole 10 blocks away, to the bank, so that you can at least check that one thing off your list this week.  And as you turn away from the ATM, annoyed at the brisk breeze stinging your cheeks, and the mist weighing down your product-laden hair, ready to usher your little swamp monsters back into the shelter of the warm and dry vehicle, you see them smiling like sunshine and hear them laughing from deep down in their bellies, and for at least those two seconds you really do remember what it was like to run carelessly through rain puddles, all barefoot and gangly, picking up earth worms and splashing one another with rainwater, and you involuntarily stick your tongue out to feel suddenly smaller than the world around you, and yet somehow connected...to everything.

And maybe sometimes...

on some days...

for some kiddos...

and their mother...

a little rain and a couple of brand new umbrellas make absolutely everything okay for a little while.

video
Singin' In the Rain
...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

HOW FAST DO SNAILS ACTUALLY TRAVEL? I MEAN, LIKE, WHEN THEY REALLY REALLY HAVE TO?

No. Really. How long must the sliding door have had to have been left open, screen and all, in the middle of a cold spell, in order for a SNAIL to actually make his merry way out of the grass, across the cement porch, up the two cement steps, over the lip of the sliding door thingamajig, inside my house, and up the rosemary plant?!?!

I just can not fathom how this happened?  Or why it's bothering me so.

And did you know they were LOUD? No? Me neither.

But they are. At two o'clock in the morning.  When the TV's stuck on some channel in between the channel you left and the channel you never made it to, and there's no noise in the house at all, and all you can hear is this shhhrrrup, shhhrrrup, shhhrrrup.  And it wakes you out of a dead sleep.  Well, dead-ish. As much as you can be, on a sofa, with a crick in your neck because of the overpropped pillow beneath your head because, of course, you had no intention of falling asleep there. Again. Loser.

And at first, naturally, I thought it was in my head.  Where all weird things reside.  Then, I thought, no, maybe the window. But I'm not gonna look out THERE, in the dark, alone.  But, then, perhaps, it was coming from the fireplace. No. Under the sofa? No.  Behind the giant-ass TV? No, nothing. Then, I pretty much became obsessed. Ob. Sessed. Because it was all I could hear. And it seemed to be growing louder by the minute.  It was all very Tell-Tale Heartish.  Only I hadn't killed anyone and ripped out their snail.  At least not that I could recall; it HAS been a rough couple of years.

So I'm on my hands and knees crawling around the living room, laying my ear to the floorboards, lifting rugs, sniffing for...God knows what.  And that's when I ended up in the plant cemetery.

Well, no, of course it didn't start off that way.  There used to be a live orchid, a live herb garden, a couple of live poinsettias, two live chrysanthemum plants (one gold, one burgundy), and one live green-leafed thing with white blooms.  But, clearly, they've all died now, although their scraggly brown crisps of skeletons remain. Still potted. It's all very morbid.  I'm sure I've mentioned my black thumb before.

And it was there that I saw, with the flashing of the TV light, the silverly slimy glint and glow of the irrefutable snail trail.  And it wasn't a direct route either.  That boy had been making donuts on my indoor/outdoor rug, for crissakes!  And diligently (and, granted, a little psychotically) following the mucous, I tracked that little fucker right to my rosemary plant.  And it's not like he was buried down in the soil either. Oh, no. Not this boy. He had inched his way to the very tip top of the 2-foot-tall plant. There was no place else for him to go.  And I'm almost positive he was about to wave a victory flag before I snatched him off with a suctioning schwap and tossed him back out into the yard.

Bring on the nightmares, baby!
...

Friday, January 07, 2011

TALES OF A SECOND-GRADE SMARTA$$

Chago's work on the left;
his teacher's comments on the right
Cleaning out Chago's backpack after their first week back from the holiday break.

Evidently, our boy's not quite ready to fully re-engage with academia.

But...it's...just...enough.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

I'VE GOT A CRUSH ON YOU...SWEETIE PIE

Chago and his New Year's creampuff
 When I was 7 years old and in second grade, I kissed a boy.

Now, that in and of itself is not the point of this post, although you may be surprised (or not) by that tidbit of information.

I do think I remember who it was, but I don't trust my memory for anything, and, truth be told, I think it likely could've been one of at least two, maybe three, now that I think about it.  But that's a whole 'nother story.

So, I'm fairly certain it was on the playground of our elementary school, under the big slide.  We didn't have tanbark then. It was concrete gravel, or some other ungodly combination of knee-mutilating material.  But that, too, could be yet another embellishment of my actual reality.

What I do know for sure is that my being 7, and in second grade, and kissing someone for the first time, is a really really sweet (albeit foggy) memory for me.  And although I suck at the specifics of it, the FEELING of the memory is still so warm and comforting and home.

What I also know, though, is that hearing for the first time that my son has an official crush on someone in his class nearly gave me a fucking aneurysm today.

He was all giggly and giddy afterschool. Stealing secret moments with his sister, who was also blushing and sheepish and smiling from ear to ear. (This, people, is NEVER a good sign.)

We finally get to the truck and she says, "Mama, Santiago wants to tell you something." [giggle, giggle, snicker, giggle]
Saia with her New Year's creampuff

"What is it son?" I ask, turning up the radio and putting the truck into drive.

"Nothing," he grins, and covers his face.

"What's going on, pop?" I ask.

"I don't want you to get mad," he says.

I move the truck from drive to park, turn off the radio, and turn all the way around in my seat.

"Talk to me, boy."

So, he proceeds to tell me, between chuckles and hand-over-mouth, that his latest best friend (a recent transfer from L.A.) finally confessed her true full-fledged affection for him.

And as he's already prepped me with the thinking that I might be mad comment earlier...clearly, I can't now be mad. (I know, I know, he's a freaking genius.)  So, I put on my best I'm-listening-as-objectively-as-I-possibly-can face, and he spills it.

"What did you tell her?" I ask.

"That I felt the same way about her," he said. My heart fell on the floor and dissolved into a million water droplets.

"So..." I begin, knowing I reeeeeaaallly didn't want to know any more, but finding it utterly impossible not to ask, "where were you guys when you had this discussion?"

"Well," he begins, and his sister is just g-r-i-n-i-n-g, "she asked me to walk with her by the lake."

"BY THE WHAT?!?!"

"The lake," Saia intervenes. "It's really just an oversize puddle in the play yard off to the corner in the back..."

[Oh, dear God, just shoot me now.]

"And we walked around the lake together and she was asking me things about myself," he says, "like...my favorite color...and my favorite food..."

[Ooooh, she's good.]

"And did you ask her anything about her?"

"Huh?" he says.

[Oh. Hell. No.  But we'll have to save that discussion for another day as I'm currently trying to re-inflate my womb with my fleeing babies. :( ]

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

WELCOME TO THE WORLD, LITTLE BREE GEE!!!

Brecia Jessica Gee
Saia and Chago welcomed a brand new baby cousin into the world this morning!

Congratulations, Uncle Trevor!! We're so proud of you (and Sonya, too, of course). ;P

Ms. Brecia Jessica Gee is a cutie patootie, weighing in at a cool 7lbs 5.5oz and 20" long! Just look at them lips, Angelina!!

And congratulations to Mommy on becoming a new aunt. We all can't wait to see little Bree Gee in person.  Something about sniffing baby heads and chewing on baby feet just makes me utterly high.

What a phenomenal way to start the new year (the new life, not the altered state -- although, that works, too).  ;P

wordless wednesday: somewhere over the rainbow (eva cassidy)