Tuesday, November 26, 2013

travelin' thru


In a few days we will be driving south for a few hours for a family gathering to celebrate Thanksgiving.  There will be people there representing 4 different states, and we will be celebrating in a different, fifth state.

Given our nomadic graduate school early adult lifestyle, Jonathan and I have lived in five different states since we were married.  And our children were all born during this nomadic time, one in each of three different states.

And so, I was a bit surprised the other night, when I was helping Julia with her homework, which was to learn the names of the fifty states, that somehow this personal familiarity with many states had not actually transferred into an ability to fill out a blank map of the United States.

She was sitting on our bed, tucked under the quilt, with an iPad in her lap.  She and Jonathan had opened a blank map of the United States on the screen and she was holding a stylus, writing the names of the states she knew onto the map.

I took a look at what she had so far.  And became dizzy as she zoomed in and out, fingers together and dragged out to make it bigger, fingers apart and dragged together to make it smaller.

Tech-savvy Jonathan refers to these as gestures and he had actually made this motion at me the other night as I was anxiously yammering about something, his effort to get me to stop talking for long enough for him to get a few calming words in.  I think he was zooming me out, but I had not realized what he was doing at the time.  Now I did.  Cut out the minutiae.  Let's look at the bigger picture here.  Ah.

Julia was scouring the country to find an empty state, thinking about whether she knew it, puzzling through a few mnemonic devices she had learned at school.  MIMAL with a Tray of Kentucky fried chicken for example.  If she was able to figure out the state's name, she would tap, zoom in, make it big enough to fit the letters of the state's name, write it, and then zoom back out again.

And though she knew much of the Midwest, and much of the Southwest and other scattered states here and there, she had very few of the New England states filled in.  But her birth state?  The one with a curvy arrow pointing to it, her actual labeling hovering somewhere over the Canadian boreal forest? You know, the one that we travel through to get almost everywhere we go?  And in which we visit two particular towns with a good deal of frequency?  You know, Massachusetts?  Was Cuneticut.  

Hmmm.

And so, asking her to focus her attention away from those states in Tornado Alley, I said, let's start up here, let's makes sure you know all the ones over here.  Where we live.  They should be easy.  Because we know people in all of these states.  We have visited all of these states.

OK, she said, a bit irritated already with my distracting her from much more fun places like the big oversized geometric monstrosities of the former frontier.  She is, after all, studying the Organ Trail.

Nope.  That's not a typo.  That was how she pronounced it and spelled it until a few days ago.

Dropped a kidney in Wyoming.  A lung left in Wisconsin.

I swept my finger across the iPad screen to try to move us across the country.  Back toward home.  We began our journey east.  We gestured as far as Missouri.

Then, the screen froze.

I paused.  Reminded myself that many of my struggles with devices are resolved by waiting a few seconds.

And then, the screen became responsive again and I tried to move us closer to New England.  We were currently poised over Ohio.  But now, instead we zoomed in, Ohio now took up the entire screen.  Julia giggled.  And made that hand movement that Jonathan had made at me the other day.

I tried again.  Zoomed out.  And swept up and over, as New England blessedly came into view.  Thus ensued some in and out and in and out views of various states while I tried to get us set up to work through our hood.  And I dropped the iPad into my lap exasperatedly and started to look about the room for an atlas.

Julia picked up the iPad and said, let me do it.  It's okay.  Her confidence was a bit calming, but soon she too was getting a close up view of the Quabbin Reservoir, the lake bottom topographical view, alternating with a satellite view of North America.

She and I are not meant to endeavor jointly on these technology tasks.  We are both a bit too confuzzled by it all.  And really, when it is 7:50 pm and the world is zooming in and out, in and out?  All I really want is a piece of paper and a pencil.

Now let's just be clear here.  Mr Cox, my middle school history teacher, fell off a ladder early in the school year while setting up for a dance, streamers trailing down as he fell.  And instead of replacing him, we had what can best be described as a study hall for my entire school year.  Thus, there are one or two gaps in my knowledge.  I am sure there are other reasons for these holes, such as my poor memory for anything that does not smack of a good story or is not of a social nature.  Mr. Cox apparently began each school year with the phrase You are all ignorant.  My brother had prepared me for this phrase.  I was ready, I knew what it meant.  And he did say it the first day of class.  But I do believe that the idea was that he planned to fill us in a bit with some facts here and there.  But I was left as I began.  Ignorant.  So, let's blame it on the absent history teacher for a year of my formative learning era.  And apparently the year we were going to cover geography, and a few other topics that I don't even know about and of which I remain ignorant.

You should see me try to play Trivial Pursuit.  It is not pretty.  And no one wants to be on my team.

So it is funny that I am the one taking on Julia's Unknown States of America knowledge.

So we live here, I point.  I mistakenly touch the screen, which sets us off on a whole new adventure of learning the opposites, near and far.

Maine!  she shouts out.

And Grammie and Grampa live here.

She looks at me blankly.

Okay.  Deciding to take another approach.  In a few days we are going to drive to Rhode Island, right?

Yes.

I decide to go for imbedding.  To put her into the story here and see if I can jog the facts out of her.

So, we are going to drive down to Bob's (our favorite clam hut) and cross the Duck Bridge (so named for the fact that we always duck our heads as we cross it, our little family tradition as we come in and out of our one time vacation destination state, now home).

And when we get across the bridge, we will be in a new state.  What is it?


New Hampshire!

Yes.  Okay, so then, we drive for awhile.  It is not too far, and right here near the Atlantic Ocean, I drag my finger across the famed 18 mile coastline of NH. Maybe I did learn something in middle school?

And then, we will cross into another state.  What is this one, I ask, drawing my finger across the long body of Massachusetts, from the Cape to the Berkshires.

Still blank.  Then, Boston!  

Yeesh.  That's the city.  You were born there.  And we lived there for a few years.  And in the middle of the state is Amherst.  Where Daddy and I met.  But those are cities and towns.  What's the whole state called.

Nuthin.

Massachusetts?  I let her off the hook, hoping she has at least heard of it.

Oh.  Yeah.

Geograph-who??

Deep breath.  

And then I move on, continuing our journey.

So then, we will pass through Boston...

You said that was Massachusetts.

Right.  Massachusetts.  I spend a moment imagining last year's traffic jam, lasting hours near UMass Boston, on our way to Thanksgiving.  And hope that our plan this year for traveling in the wee morning hours might help avoid this.

Down here, we will pass into another state.  This small one here. 

That's Rhode Island.  She says.  Proud of herself.

I think, hey there smarty pants.  Don't get too proud.  You just totally failed Birth State 101.

 And next to it?  This one?

Again, a blank stare, because she has not yet reworked her initial Canadian labeling of Massachusetts as Connecticut.

That's Connecticut.  Where Nicholas was born.  And where we lived and Daddy went this way each morning to, I pause, to give her a chance to label New York City, which she does, and I went this way, to New Haven.

Oh.  She says.

And New York City.  And here, in the Hudson Valley where we visit your cousin?  What's this state?

New York!  She says.  And that's Long Island.

Yup.

Buoyed by her knowledge of that slender riotous island which extends itself due east of New York and which she has never visited, I add, and this big state here?  This is where Mommy and Daddy lived when we were married.  And where your aunt is from.  It's Pennsylvania.

And is that New Jersey?

Yeesh.  She knows New Jersey and not Massachusetts??

But, feeling a bit relieved and like we had worked out way through our adjacents, our staterhood, I decide to run through them again a few times.  To try to get them to stick.  I imagine moving down to Florida the next night.

Ok.  So let's go back to Maine.  We get through NH with a side trip to Vermont.  And then I put my finger on Massachusetts.  What's this?

Um.  Sorry.  Wait.  It's not Connecticut.

So we are going to start here.  I may feel the need to sing state songs, chirp the state bird's call, and get out and touch the ground of each state as we travel south for Thanksgiving.  Perhaps I'll gather and label small jars of native earth.  Or write the state's name in the dirt of the rest stop, followed by a dousing of Purell of course.  You know, use the whole kinesthetic multi-sensory approach I learned about effective reading instruction.  I imagine myself, dressed up as the State of Massachusetts, the Cape attached to my wrist for support, with a small cardboard cutout of Paul Revere riding across my belly in efforts to give her some context.  A star over Brigham and Women's with the label, You Were Here.  I am not sure I am going to be able to fit all the props and costumes I will need for each state we pass through in the back of the Subaru.  Because it is now obvious that mere traveling through the state, visiting the state, and entering the world within the state has not been enough.

Clearly we have missed an entire category of knowledge here, and I am sure there are many other holes.  That will continue to show themselves at rather unfortunate times.  Like five minutes before bedtime the night before a quiz.

Now, where exactly is Dollywood?

P.S. I'm hoping Julia doesn't stumble upon this U.S. Map near the top of the Google Search list.  NOT helpful.

P.P.S. See you in a week when we return from Massahampshicut.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

has honey bees

We were leaving Nicholas' guitar lesson, packing up to go, me still struggling to zip my boot while standing on one foot, holding his guitar upright and keeping it from falling over with my other hand.  Nicholas and I, his full sized guitar, a coat rack, several pairs of shoes and a stool were all precariously balanced in a very small space at the bottom of a narrow flight of stairs, a quick landing and turn just before the door from the apartment to the stairwell.  I looked over my shoulder, still hopping on one foot.  And grabbed for Nicholas' fleece on the coat rack, the one he was about to leave behind.

All during the ride over to his lesson, we had been working on his Latin homework.  He was memorizing declension lists.  He has been surprising me at how good he is at memorizing things.  Like lists of words.  In English.  And not in English.  And though I don't actually know what the word declension means for sure, my inner teenager smirks each time he says it, because it sounds like declenchion.  Snort.

This had launched us into a conversation about what he feels like he does well at school, and what he does not.

And like the appropriately egocentric 12 year old that he is, that conversation from before the lesson picked right back up again, him talking fast and enthusiastically about math and a reading project he had just completed.

Want me to carry my guitar?  he interrupted himself, noticing my struggle.

I glanced at the sign taped to the wall.  Please try not to scratch the paint with your guitar cases.  

No, I'll do it, I answered.  You carried it on the way in.  You take your bag.

Ok, he said, thanks, and walked out the door of the apartment.  The door, on an admittedly strong spring, slammed shut between he and I.  He had not held it, had not thought of it, his latest still child act.  I switched hands, pried open the door again, and hobbled out, burdened by the guitar, my bag, his fleece, folded in half because I have caught the hem of my skirt in my boot zipper.  Hugging the guitar case, hoping for a clean and nonscratchy -- albeit graceless -- exit.

Sorry, he embarrassedly grinned.  And talked faster to make up for the moments of conversation we had missed while the door had so rudely come between us.

I laughed, and we started down the stairs.  Four flights of stairs.

You know, that's true, I say.  Pant, pant.  Sometimes I see you do something and I think wow!  How do you do that so well.  Like stacking the firewood.  Or figuring out connections between different ideas.  And then it hits me.  It's Lego.  Thunk, I smack the guitar case into the railing.  You got that from doing so much Lego.  You know how to make things fit.  How to make things symmetrical.  Gasp, I trip as I turn the corner onto the first floor landing.  Patterns.  Three dimensional envisioning.

I think I lost him in there somewhere.  But he kept jabbering back at me.  Then we declenched all the way home.  He in the back seat, me driving.  Using the stopwatch on my iPhone to time how many seconds it took him to scribble out his list.  Speed competitions, it turns out, are a great motivation for the middle school boy.  He worked at making his pace faster and faster, a homework pass on the line.

We arrived home to the swirl that is the going to bed routine of his brother and sister.  They were reading together with Jonathan on our bed. And headed off to their beds soon after.  Elliott to sleep. Julia to do her assigned independent reading homework.

Jonathan soon joined me in the playroom, just outside their bedrooms.

Inspired by the change of weather, and necessitated by the fact that certain parts of the house had become so messy that it was either time to move or dig in, we have been reorganizing the playroom.  This is the room into which the three children's bedrooms as well as their bathroom and our bedroom all empty.  We haven't quite figured out how to use it well, despite having been here for some time now.  The room gets tidied up, toys sorted into bins, games into the small vestigial closet, art supplies into cubbies, every now and then.  Five doors, one small window, a fireplace and a closet -- all with no hallway on the second floor; it all adds up to a kind of a hallway/room.  Our previous cleaning of it and better containing the toys in there had resulted in no seating and no table surface.  Which resulted, a few months later, in heaps of toys and art supplies and board games on the floor.

So, we are at it again.  I have decided there must be a table.  And there must be comfortable places to sit.  We are starting there.  And then figuring out what to do with the stuff of the room.

Because three children later, one of whom has been receiving toys for the past 12 years and with a mom who had a pretty well developed stash of toys from her play therapy days before he was born?  We have a lot of stuff.

This cleanup is partly for them.  I am a very strong believer in keeping kids playing, with real toys, not virtual ones, for as long as we possibly can.  A reorganization, a freshening, a remix of toys often inspires new creative play and months of new ideas and themes.  An old toy, placed next to a toy that was hidden in the back of a shelf behind a bin, feels new.  I am reluctant to stow away any, or do anything that in any way suggests that we are taking the toys away.  Or suggests to the kids that they are getting too old for playing with some of the toys.

But this cleanup is likely equally for me.  I cannot accept yet that we are moving way from the toys, especially some of the younger ones.  That perhaps there should be a ping pong table and Wii (shudder) in the room instead of the toys. 

We pulled a table from the porch and put a few chairs around it, a floor lamp next to it.  The toys from the bins that were previously on that wall are now in heaps in the middle of the room, cute animals and Legos and Playmobil and fabric scraps silently screaming in unsorted agony.  Nicholas entered.  Freshly showered, sporting the pajama pants that make me do a double take each time because something about them screams man pants.  He entered the room.  And said, Cool!  A table.  Can I do my homework in here?

Well, I had imagined art work, board games, and perhaps a puzzle left out for people to fit a few pieces into every once in a while.  But okay.

Standing overwhelmed and a bit heartbroken by the heap of toys in the middle of the room, I said sure.  And realized that this table, a place on the second floor for homework, so Nicholas could be close by while we put the younger kids to bed, allowing him to ask questions that might come up, was just what this room needed.

Homework.  In our playroom.

Nicholas said, I am reading a chapter for History on beekeeping in ancient Egypt.  It is really hard to read.  Can I read it out loud to you? I think you will like it.

A few months prior, it had struck me that Nicholas, when asked to describe himself in a few phrases, had included: has honey bees.



I don't know why it surprised me.  Maybe because I consider the beekeeping thing to be kind of my thing, definitely not middle school cool, something best done in the privacy of our backyard.  I think it may have something to do with the element of danger, with the need for equipment, with the possibility of swarm catching -- our own version of the Homesteading X Games.

But there it was, scribbled in a colorful marker.  All proud like.

But clearly, this beekeeping thing.  It is something he considers that we do together, just as we used to create whole worlds out of Playmobil figures and blocks and plastic animals for hours on our playroom floor together.

I collapsed into one of the wing chairs we got for free in a barn sale, desperately in need of slipcovers, and started listening.  Relieved that I was not going to need to box up our children's childhood right then.  Because Nicholas and I were going to read together, about bees.  This is also something we do and have done, reading together.  We were on familiar ground here.

He parsed the dense text, rich in meaty vocabulary words, strange in its phrasing, and just plain hard to understand.  I listened, working hard to understand it myself.  Stopping him every once in a while to make sure he was following what he was reading.  Which he was, mostly.  And I listened to the content.

Apparently Ancient Egypt?  Had honey bees.  He read me passages about the honey bee as the symbol for Southern Egypt.  Of reliefs found depicting beekeeping practices.  Of the uses of wax, honey, and the treatment of the bees as sacred.

I listened closely as Nicholas read to me about barges that were built and poled up the Nile, to follow the pollen sources of heather.  The barges started up river, with the hives placed in pyramidal stacks on them.  The bees were allowed to forage for pollen and nectar on the river banks and then they brought their loot back to the hives on the barges.  Once the nectar flow was waning in that area, the barges would be moved down on the river's current a few miles and the process would begin again.  It was, likely, the first evidence of migrant beekeeping, the origins of our commercial migrant beekeeping today, with hundreds of thousands of hives being moved across the United States each year, pollinating monoculture crops, ending up here in Maine, for our blueberry and apple crops.

He got the the end of this section and said to me, Wait.  Doesn't spring come first to the south and then move north?  Why would the nectar flow be moving north to south there.

Hmm.

This is happening to me a lot lately.  I am finding myself rather unhelpful in the homework department.  Already, Jonathan has been commissioned to help with all questions History and English related.  And Jonathan is not allowed to help with Math.  That is my domain.  And Science.  We have become specialists in our respective disciplines.  But even just the other day I found myself quickly googling addition and subtraction of positive and negative integers.  Because I could not for the life of me remember how to calculate -8 - (-9).  My math teacher/mother was called in on that one.

Wait.  Does it have to do with being on the other side of the equator? he asked.  I glanced about the room for a map book, or a cartoonish world map puzzle in the heap.  And then I spotted it.  The retro world globe we had purchased when Nicholas was a baby at a tag sale in Connecticut, which fit so well into his baby room decor of vintage childhood toys, glass marbles in ball jars, painted wooden letter blocks spelling out NICHOLAS, some of my vintage Fisher Price round bottomed people from the children's hospital set...

Luckily, given their likely lead paint content and sharp edges and choking hazards, he was just a baby.  And they sat there on his shelves, looking pretty.

And somewhere in the transition from baby to little boy to big boy to boy, and from fuzzy to baseball to Lego to homework, the globe got rejected from his room and had landed here, in the playroom.

I grabbed for it.  And tried to find Egypt quickly, without needing to admit to Nicholas that I did not know exactly what relationship Egypt and the equator have with one another.

I gave the globe a spin, noticed that Russia looked a bit different on this globe than on more recent maps I have seen, and started searching.  Nicholas rose and came over to my chair and we looked together.  Egypt, as you all know, and he and I both now know, has no relationship whatsoever with that all important world bisecting line.

So we were a bit mystified.  It is likely that over time, the territory, the division of the world has changed, that what once was a large area has been chopped up, boundaries moved.  Dictators and armies and wars have likely made their historical marks here.  This was Nicholas' explanation.  And also, like children, rivers don't always run in straight lines.  And their flow is not necessarily from what we think of as top to bottom.  A straight line from young to grown up.  That the flow, the movement, is not always in the direction we would expect.  This is my explanation.

We decided to read on.  It was getting late.  It was, after all, getting on toward 9:00 at night.  Nicholas sitting in the circle of light at the table in his man pants.  His childhood in a heap on the floor.  Me sitting in an unknown old woman's chair.  We decided that pulling from the heap, pulling from what we knew, what we had thus far, wasn't quite enough.  We decided that we just didn't know yet.

Nicholas and I will likely learn about all of our questions from that evening.  About bees.  And Egypt.  And growing up.  Together.  We will have our honeybee explanation at some point in the future.  And just what has bees meant.  To Egypt, and to Nicholas.

We will turn to each other in that moment, when the changing historical, topological, and developmental map has been explained to us, him at the homework table and me in my little old lady's wing chair and say:

Oh!  Thats funny.  Remember the whole thing about the barges and the honey bees and how they moved down the river and we thought this meant from north to south?  This is why!  I will hear the sound of a Lego piece clicking into position.  Shoring the whole structure up.  Making it all hold together firmly and with strength.  Click.

But for now, we will wonder about it.  Together.

And so, after Nicholas goes to bed, Jonathan and I will put the toys in bins and back on the shelves.

We will weed a bit, sending a few "too young but not too special" ones off to the thrift shop and send other wooden special ones up to the attic in sealed bins.  To either be pulled out next time some creative spurt occurs, of Narnia meets mad scientist lab meets farm animals balancing precariously on each other's backs type scenario.  Or when we are wondering about something that is connected to what we already know, what we already have from our heap of childhood.  When that happens, we can run up to the playroom and the attic and find the carefully labelled bins and bring them down.  To play around with.

Or perhaps, the bins will stay there.  For a long time.  Until sometime in the farther away future, I open the bins, pushed back behind more recently packed bins of ice skates and sports equipment and saved art and school work.  And I will pull out the wooden hand carved animals.  And hold them in my hands.  And fit my memories of these children, as the persons they were when they last played with these toys,  shoring up the person that they are then, known to my future self in the attic.

I am confident that it will all make sense.  That I will have a moment of understanding something about them that baffled me back then.  Back now.  All afforded by the things that are laying in a heap at my feet right now.

Click.



Friday, November 22, 2013

collecting rocks

We were out for a walk.  Down a dirt road, our bright colors blazing, singing songs and being loud.  It is, after all, hunting season here in Maine.  And one does not wish to be mistaken for a moose.

Julia and Elliott were lagging behind, stopping every so often and picking up small pebbles.  Filling their hands and pockets.  Every once in a while they would run up with an especially exciting one to show me.  One that sparkled.  One that was white.  Once that left a mark when you scratched it across another. 

Mommy, can you help us carry them?  They are getting heavy!

We rounded a corner in the road and came upon a large boulder.  One that we have passed many times. But something about the way the light was shining on it made us all notice it.  

And then, Mommy!  That rock.  It looks like a baby elephant.  

And then, almost without pausing, Can we climb it?







I am not sure what it is about a large boulder, reimagined as a large and gentle creature, that makes you want to climb it, sit on her, gaze out from her.  But it did.  

They tucked their pebbles into her wrinkly skin as they did so.  Freeing up their hands, lightening their bodies so they could jump off her back.  She held these treasures for them so well, especially behind her ears.



As we left, I reminded them of the pebbles they had placed all over her.  Don't forget your rocks.

It's okay.  She can keep them, Julia said, jumping down.

Elliott was a bit more reluctant to leave her behind.  Can we come visit her next time we are here?  And bring her more rocks?

Though we of course left her behind there on the side of the road, we collected her too.  What she looked like in that light.  How she held the kids.  What she allowed them to see from her back.  How it felt to stretch to climb her and how it felt to jump off her.  And we left a bit of ourselves with her as well.  Waiting for the next visit.

It only took a few minutes, this visit with her.  But now?  She is named.  She is re-imagined. She is Elephant Rock. Wrinkles, ears, trunk, pebbles and all.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

drawing in anticipation of a rewrite

A little doodle. A quick change. A small visual act of anarchy. Like the mustache drawn on the mean popular girl in your high school year book. It makes you feel a little bit better. Quietly. On the inside.

Or the time that I took a green marker when I was ten. And on the IBM box that was in my bedroom I wrote the word green, after the letters IBM.  I know.  What can I say? I was bad to the bone.  And that is just about as subversive as I got as a child.  Moments later, after grinning to myself as I stood back to admire my work, I grabbed a black Sharpie marker.  And scribbled over my writing.  And turned the box around backwards to the room.

But doodling.  Naughtily.  It is power.

Every summer, we stop into a shop near the beach which has a collection of postcards that make me laugh.  Hard.  I go in there just to spin the turning postcard holder and be amused for a few moments.  I have gifted these items to a few friends.


I am not sure they were as amused as I am.  And I have a magnet on my bread box that I am not sure amuses my father.


I am saying nothing about my life, which does in fact sometimes feel as though it alternates between that of a 50's housewife, Ma Ingalls on the prairie, and the Real Housewives spiral of destruction in rapid waves of irony.

In reality, I love our life.  I love the 50's motor boat in the barn that only occasionally works.

The new to us antique drying rack that is so beautiful to hang out our laundry that just left a straight line of brown goo on each and every item I hung on it last night.

The fact that we can only have sandwiches when I have remembered to make bread.

That our 250 year old home has gifted me a rich history.  And seven mice in the silverware drawer.  And that was just today.

Or that I will be headed to school for the all family assembly in a bit, but clad in a certain aroma.  Of chicken poop worked seamlessly into my fabulously stylish boots.

I enjoy the contradictions of our life.  The quirky blend of old and modern, so perfectly represented by this old home we live in with the lacrosse bounce back walls and bouncy houses in our yard.  The fact that I am pretty sure there's nobody else in a full sweat under her LLBean parka at school pickup because she was just chopping firewood.

This is what makes our family, our story, the story we each write for ourselves.  The quiet behind the scenes, I can't believe I am doing this right now kind of stuff we do.  Like rooting around in the back seat of your car for something, anything, to wipe your child's nose with.  And in the end pulling off your sock and swiping at that sweet and typically kissable -- but right now utterly disgusting -- nose.  So very good a story this life is.  Yet sometimes that IBM green rebel bubbles up in me again and I just want to draw a mustache on it all, want to do something to turn the sickly sweet on its head.

* * *

And that is what drew me so completely into the hilarious Battle Bunny, by funny men Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, and Matthew Myers, when I took it out of the library this week.  I leafed quickly through it, recognizing it from having read a bit about it on that whole interweb place.  Here.  And here.

I took it out and had to reassure Elliott on the way home that someone had not defaced the book.  That it was intended to look as though someone had doodled all over it.  I should have known right then that Battle Bunny was going to cause some trouble in our lives.

A few days later, I found the book again.  This time in Nicholas' room, on his nightstand.  Under his library copy of Catching Fire.  This pairing was funny to me.  I picked Bunny up and popped it in the bag of activities I was assembling to entertain Elliott while we sat outside Julia's piano lesson.

And later that day I pulled it out, sitting on a bench in our piano teacher's home.  I struggled with how to read it to him.  And decided, since I was alone and whispering and Elliott insisted on being read to, that I would read each page twice, once as Birthday Bunny and once as Battle Bunny.  I was amused.  As amused as I'm also enjoying this apocalyptic love triangle Nicholas had been, as reported by Jonathan who had found Nicholas giggling and reading the book long after bedtime several nights before.

But Elliott?  Elliott was not amused by Battle Bunny.  Not even a teensy eensy bit.  He would have happily read Birthday Bunny perhaps.  Somehow his preference for a story that was supposed to be a joke, supposed to be the most boring silly insipid overdone story ever created?  To be honest, it made me feel a bit like a failure.

He prefers the cute to the subversive.  In this age for him of growing awareness of his world, of how sometimes this world is a bit uncomfortable, unsettling, or scary, and not so cute, he still wants to believe in the possibility of a surprise party thrown by furry friends.  And also?  Please don't take away the magic.  I need to remember this as I snark it up a bit more with my older children, smile at things that a few years previously I would scold them for it being potty humor, sarcastic, or not nice.  

Elliott is not new to the concept of rewriting a story.  He has been at this for some time now.  One of the first times I remember him doing it was after finishing Chris Van Allsburg's The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.  In this story, a mischievous dog finds his way onto the grounds of a grumpy man, Mr. Abdul Gasazi.  The boy, searching for his dog, comes upon Mr. Gasazi, who tells the boy that he has changed the dog into a duck.  The boy sadly heads home, after his possible dog/duck flies off with his hat.  In the end, he finds his dog back at home, waiting for him.  But it is unclear whether Mr. Gasazi played a trick on the boy and never performed this act of magical punishment, or if in fact the dog had been ducky for a bit and returned home after Mr. Gasazi's spell had worn off.

Upon finishing Gasazi, Elliott frowned.  And sat silently.  And then got up and grabbed a piece of paper and a marker.  And drew the missing picture.  Irritatedly.  Drew a picture, and then placed it where it belonged between two of the last pages.  And closed the book.  And returned the book to the shelf.  There.

I forgot about the picture, but found it a week later when I was pulling out books to return to the library.  Elliott had drawn, in a thick black marker, hurriedly but purposefully, a picture of the house.  With a hole in the roof.  And the hole in the roof had a definitive shape.  That of wings.  I could clearly see evidence that a duck, with a hat in his beak, had dropped out of the sky, crashed through the roof and returned home.  Elliott had apparently not been pleased with the uncertainty, the ambiguity of the end of the book.  And had inserted his own evidence of what had actually happened.  Allowing a reader, once they get to the end of the book to go back perhaps, and find evidence of what had really happened.  Evidence of magic no less.

He could accept the magic.  But not the uncertainty.

More recently, we were reading Tony DiTerlizzi's Search for WondLa.  The book was, admittedly, a bit over Elliott's head in some ways, and there were parts that were frightening for him.  But we read on carefully, pausing, discussing, and checking in, because Elliott was connecting with the futuristic creatures in this book in compassionate and thought provoking ways.

However, toward the end of the book [spoiler alert] one of his favorite creatures dies.  And Elliott?  He was not ok with it.  He was so very sad.  He sobbed.  And in the end, he did his rewriting.  This time taking it to a whole new level.  He convinced Jonathan that his ending, the fixed chapter, the one in which nobody dies?  Needed to be illustrated, printed to match the text, fastened into the binding of the book.  And so, in the interest of psychological health and a good night's sleep, we did.


A few months ago he and I were looking through the book again, at the pictures for ideas for Sculpey clay creations.  And we came to the end of the book, a bit lopsided with its extra pages.

Oh.  That's from when I rewrote the end.  So that nobody died.  I didn't like it when that happened.

He looked at his chapter for a few moments, running his finger over the string that held it in place.

We can probably take that out now.  He smiled a bit sheepishly at me.

And I want to draw a better picture of Otto.  I can draw him better now.


* * *

One of the things that has struck me most about Battle Bunny is that it was written first as a traditional Golden Book-ish sweet young children's book.  But written with the intention to be overwritten.  To be changed.  To turn the sweet eyes of the Birthday Bunny into the heavy eyebrowed devious glances of Battle Bunny.  That the space in the pictures, the action, the original figures, needed to allow for change.

The power of editing, of changing, of rewriting.  I am in the midst of it myself.

I have taken that pricey graduate school degree of mine. And scribbled over it.  It's still there.  I use it each and every day. The next version of myself with babies is overlaid on that picture as well, but that layer is fading as well.  And now?  Now, this version is less formal, with a lot more grit, and chicken poop, and dirty laundry.  And growing children who demand very different parenting, their needs changing rapidly and unexpectedly.  And I have erased some of the untested assumptions about childhood and parenting that I had back then when my fancy degree was the whole story.  Unblemished, sparkly and Birthday Bunny new.  Now it is my background.  And luckily, and entirely unintentionally, I left space for the rewrite.   I have doodled a Bogs wearing, ax wielding woman with an egg basket dangling from one arm over the picture of the tidy professional I once was.  I stand back, run my finger over the picture and take a look.  And I like what I see.

Even so, I am sometimes still tempted to scribble over the image, the me, for now.  To turn the defaced box around backwards, to hide it from scrutiny.  But that impulse to hide myself?  Now it's something I want to stop myself from doing.  And so, I'll leave it.  Here.  For a while at least.

The power of revision, the power to change something.  We all have it and we all do it.  When one feels unsettled or something isn't quite right.  And I hope our children will do it, will rewrite when they need to.  Will remember to leave space for changes, possibilities, and opportunities to layer over what once seemed right but no longer is.  And to do it with a bit of humor.

And our “new” version of the story was so much better, so strange, so satisfying.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wynona and Twilight, pigs, and bees


This is officially my current favorite spot in our house.  In the kitchen, just inside the back door.  Tucked in close to the woodstove, with three recent finds at a barn sale.  A small deacons bench that fits at the end of the kitchen island as though it was made for the space.  A large wooden barrel with a top, a solution at last for my enormous sacks of flour that I have not been able to find a home for in the kitchen until now.  And a beautiful and functional large wooden drying rack for all the laundry we would otherwise hang outside, but which the cold temperatures have made less attractive these past few weeks.  Until the arrival of the bench, I have felt like I could not get close enough to this stove on the cold mornings while I wait for the stove to warm the air, farther into the room.

The change of weather is inspiring changes here and there about the house, putting summer things away, taking warm clothing and gear out.  And moving everything as close as we can to the two woodstoves that chug out heat for us all winter long.

It is where I sit and work.  It is where I sit and greet the kids when they return from school.  And then move away to fix a snack for them, and they plant themselves on it.  With a game.  Or a book.

Jonathan's gathering of little things here and there, morsels that have made our day just a little bit better, seems to be ongoing.  His reaction to the cold, the transition of seasons.  Gathering up what we will need for our winter ahead.

One trip into the world to get milk for our morning's coffee led to another find.  And oh my goodness.  I must share.  I was already quite excited when Jonathan called Saturday morning and told me to wait to start breakfast because he was bringing home donuts.  I mean really.  Donuts.  

But then, he arrived home with these.



No.  Your eyes are not deceiving you.  That there is bacon.  These are Sweet Pigs.  From the Urban Sugar food truck.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Bacon jam and maple bourbon glaze.  

From the breakfast table and the now empty donut box, I headed out to the garden to try to get it a bit tidied up for the winter.  The chickens were there, happily working along with me as I pulled the stakes, cages and fencing and put it away, scratching at the earth I turned as I did so, finding worms and other things that were exciting to them as I worked.  

I decided that it was time to pull the parsnips.  They are seriously huge this year.  Raspberry worked along side me here as well.  



I also harvested another batch of broccoli and found a forgotten patch of beets.  

And then, Jonathan returned home with some new members of our backyard flock.  We had lost two of our hens about a month ago, to a raccoon.  Sadly down two of our best layers, and as our flock ages and lays less, and also lays less frequently given the colder weather, we have been needing to supplement our eggs from the store a bit lately.  And so, we began searching for a few new hens, and hoped to use what we have learned about how the chicks are raised affecting their behavior as we did so.


This is Twilight, a Black Australorp.  Elliott named her for her dark coloring and the blueish sheen she has in the sunlight.  She is sweet.  A bit shy.  And very mellow.


And Wynona, a Wyandotte.  She is gorgeous.  Not so mellow.  A bit frantic even.  When it is time to lay an egg, she moves about like a small child strapped in her seat belt in the backseat of the car on a long road trip.  A bit of a pheathered Phillip.  And she is quite the flyer.  She follows me everywhere, including in and out of the garden as I come and go.  Over the fence.  To Elliott, she is Speckles.  A good name.   But to me?  She is Wynona.  I think I detect a country twang to her singing, and her coloring works too.


They are gorgeous ladies, young but already laying, gifting us two eggs on their first day here.  They were raised by a young girl and her mother, handled gently and frequently and free ranged.  Their substantial size and beauty and health as well as their gentle tameness and comfort with me are evidence of the difference between chickens that are farm raised in large batches, versus chickens that are perhaps better suited for small backyard flocks, often being tended by families with children.  They are more social, more comfortable with the attention they may receive, more rewarding when we all coexist in such close proximity.

All this talk of their personalities.  We know they are just chickens.  And we have certainly experienced a good deal of loss to predators here.  But, while they are here with us, we try to treat them humanely and caringly, hoping that our care for them and our children's observance of this and care of them themselves will teach them a respect for creatures, for nature, for the earth through these relationships and experiences.

And for now, they stick close together, and deal with the antics of the rest of our flock, who seem intent to assert themselves as dominant, even though I do believe that Twilight and Wynona could kick their feathered fannies, should they choose to do so.  Which I don't think, given what I have observed of them thus far, they will choose to do.  

And then, late last night, we listened to a message from my bee mentor Bonnie.  Warning of high winds and rain the following day and hoping I had remembered to strap my hives.  Oops.


Apparently, when your wife checks the weather app on her iPhone and announces, at 10:30 pm, that the hives need to be strapped and secured...now...one stumbles out in the dark to the barn and roots around for straps.  And uses whatever strap-like material one can find at that hour.  In the light of the iPhone.  

Our roof rack straps.  Ah well.

The sun is out today.  And the bees are venturing out even.  I spied some pollen in their sacks as they returned.

Autumn Pollen.  New chickens.  Bacon jam.  Just a few of the little things we bring home as we all get ready.  For the winter ahead.  For Warmth.  For Nourishment.  For Comfort.

Friday, November 15, 2013

chicken soup for the fowl

I had a lot planned for this week.  And a few things I wanted to work on.  But I did not get to any of them.



Because Elliott has been home sick all week.  And it took a while to settle into our being together.  And for me to accept that our being together meant that my plans?  They were not going to happen.  Between medicine and comfort food and keeping him as comfortable and resting as I could while also preparing to drag a sick child as germlessly as possible all around town in order to get the two well children to all of their activities and to school.  It just did not happen.

But you know what did happen?  I settled in.  And pushed my pile of books aside.  He and I had a lovely few days together.  We read lots.  Moved from the warmth of one wood stove to the other.

Visited the river and watched it slowly start to freeze.



And had time to see just what happens if you throw a rock into it.



Played quiet games together.


Baked things.  Like this:  a pumpkin pie using the puree we made from the pumpkins Elliott's teacher gave us after the pumpkins had served their purpose as weights on a scale made of blocks for their math unit on weight.

And this morning he is well and happily back at school.  And now?  I miss him.  And would rather be tending him than doing that list of things that I had such a hard time letting go of earlier in the week.

And so, what I have left of our time together this week is a pie in the refrigerator.   Well, it is there, for now.

Fuzzy blankets abandoned all over the house.

Three thermometers in various stages of disrepair.  One that takes too long to work.  One that has a battery that seems to be impossible to replace, and which slowly slipped away toward its useless condition over the course of the week.  And one that is new, and it and I are working on building a relationship of trust with each other.  Elliott and I were like Goldilocks as we started with our favorite but fading one, then followed with the one that took too long and was often sneezed or popped out before the beep finally sounded, and the last one was then used, but its accuracy questioned each time.



But the most lasting souvenir of our time together? The chicken tunnel, of course.



Elliott and I made our annual chicken tunnel.  And by annual, I mean we did it last year too.  I don't know why this amuses me.  But it does.  So very much.  A tube of chickens, like a line of colorful gumballs in cellophane, that you can squeeze the end of and one will pop out and roll away. Or in this case, run away.  Or lay an egg.  Or something.  It just makes me giggle.

Granted, the day we made it was Day 1, of 3 sick days, and I thought Elliott was just a teensy bit under the weather and likely should have been at school but I had misjudged where his sickish demeanor was headed.  And I forced him outside into the mid 30 degree temperatures in his fuzzy clothes despite his protestations, thinking of my mother as I announced, let's just got outside for a bit.  The fresh air will be good for you.  And he insisted on wearing Jonathan's parka instead of his own, which is very warm but also very big, and the gusty frigid wind was going right up inside his parka.  And about half way through he started to cry about how cold he was and then we went inside and I took his temperature.  Oh dear.



Anyhoo.  We did this together.

The garden, though needing to be tidied, the last few cold crops brought in, and the stakes and fencing put away for the season, is just about done for the year.  I had hoped to work on it a bit this week when I needed a change of pace and some fresh air myself.  I did not do any of these things, but I did start to look at all of the fallen tomatoes, the frost bitten greens, the soil that needs to be scratched up a bit and worked and decided that it was time to let the chickens at it.  I was so pleased last year with their work on the garden in the fall, tilling the soil a bit, adding their own fabulous manure to the soil, working in the leaves and other compost I throw out there and let them at it.  And get their fill of fresh greens before the winter makes these nutrients harder to come by.  Maybe it was a coincidence? But I think letting them in made a huge difference in the garden's yield.

So, in order to allow the chickens access to the garden which has been off limits to them all summer, and also to make things a bit easier with our dogs, we designed a rather genius system last year in which I cut a hole in the fencing of the chicken area and a hole in the garden fence, and then used some spare fencing pieces and pinned them to the ground on opposite sides, to make a rounded tunnel, connecting coop to garden.  Safe from our marauding dogs, but low enough for the dogs to leap over when they want to move through that area.  Scraptastic, and it allows the ladies to move back and forth throughout the day, taking cover from the city hawks, getting food and water, and laying eggs back at the coop whenever they need to.



I would like to point out my rather crafty work in the above picture.  Tunnel 2013 is apparently shorter than Tunnel 2012 and therefore a rather "defeats the purpose" opening was left when I connected the tunnel to the garden fence.  No problem.  I wiped the blood from my scratched and seriously frigid fingers on my pants (have you worked in 30 degree temperatures with scraps of sharp ended garden fencing?) and thought for a moment.  And then grabbed at the dangling remains of the staking wire I had used to support the sunflowers when they started drooping a few months ago. And took care of my problem.  Lovely, eh?

Somewhere in all my wandering around with a grumpy sick child in tow, I left the garden shed door open and Zebra took it upon herself to find a much more desirable place to lay than the boring old coop laying boxes.  And now all the ladies have begun to leave their eggs for us here instead.


It takes some convincing to get the chickens to use the tunnel.  Elliott, chicken whisperer, was very helpful with this, talking to them, dropping some scratch, calling to them.  But no luck.

Eventually we scooped Light Hawk up from the chicken area and deposited her across the way in the garden.  She trotted about the tunnel for a bit and then returned to the chicken area.  It was like walking the Fowl Fashion Runway for her.  Lots of exclamations of admiration and clapping (from us).  And bawking (from the girls).  We pretended not to notice the unattractive molting.



Isn't she lovely?  Raspberry, our hen who thinks she is a rooster, now saw the opening in the fence.  Man, they can be a bit dimwitted.  And then she headed in, strolling toward the garden, the others soon to follow.


Unfortunately for Light Hawk on her way back over, Millie discovered what we were up to and decided to try to join in.


Which just proved to us that Chicken Tunnel 2013 is in fact dog proof.  And open for the season.

So, while some mothers might have taken it upon themselves to make something chicken related of a whole different variety, like say chicken noodle soup, I made a chicken dispenser.

And a pumpkin pie.

And made one grumpy sick boy happy and healthy again.

Which was, in fact, a very good use of my week.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

just a little higher

I guess we were on a bit of a snow hunt.

Early this morning, I dashed outside with my camera to capture our first snowfall before it melted.



We had come for a short visit, having heard that snow was predicted in the mountains.  Arriving at camp after dark, we had missed the actual snowfall the day before, but we could see it glistening in the headlights as we drove down the fire lane.  

And I did not want to miss it in the daylight.

The woods there at camp are dark and wet.  Moss is in its element.  In the summer, we burrow our feet into the spongey carpets, seeking the sun's warmth that the soft and fuzzy moss holds.  And now, just a blink later, the texture, the bounce, the lift of the moss, holds the snow.  Holds it away from the ground, from it's moisture, and up and into the cold air just enough.  Just enough to allow the snowflakes to last, just a bit longer than the rest.

And the leaves, the dry and earthy smelling ones from just a few weeks ago, the ones we tossed up into the air and piled into cushioning heaps so we could jump into them from the swings.  Are now wet and coarse and crunchy.  Holding the snow aloft as well, up toward the sky from which it fell.  Giving the snow a bit more time before it disappears.  


Later in the day, out for a walk, the kids asked, can we find a patch of snow?  So we can touch it for the for the first time this year?


And then later.  Mommy.  The mountain.  It's covered in snow.  Can we climb it?  To see what the summit lake is like with snow?  I wonder what it is like up there today.


We did not climb the mountain.  But we all spent a moment, thinking about what it would be like to be up amongst the snow clouds, high up there.  Held up by the mountains, just high enough to hold the snow and our imaginings a little bit longer.

Friday, November 8, 2013

dancing in other people's shoes

Who are you callin' Nicholas?  That's my maiden name, said the man in the green hat, when I mistakenly spoke to him using the name we had carefully chosen for him 12 years ago.

My name is Dr. Jade, con man.



We were in the midst of a hilarious mystery dinner game with family friends this past summer. We all had characters assigned to us and we were working our way through the evening, trying to figure out whodunnit, who took the treasured jewel, who had the most likely motive, the most suspicious history, searching through clues.

I was most struck by our children's ability to stay in character.  Despite playing the game with very good friends, children they have known for many years, they were stepping quite comfortably out of the roles of the children they typically were together.



And dressed up as movie stars, mad scientists, maids, and international travelers.  They were quite dramatic and had a seriousness that made my inability to stay in character the exception, not the norm.

But really, what I was paying the most attention to, which likely explained why I was having the most trouble of all of us staying in character, were the skills this game was asking of our children, ones that some clearly did not have, and others did, having managed to pick up of them somewhere along the line.  Such as cocktail party conversation skills.  The ability, while wearing one's feather boa, for example, and holding a fizzy drink in a brandy glass, to walk up to someone you do not know, and learn something about them.


To inquire, to probe, to investigate all the while seeming proper and fancy, revealing enough about yourself to keep things interesting.  Or the ability, within the context of long time friendships of kindness and playing together, to act as though you do not like that person, in fact that you are estranged from that person.  Eye rolling, whispering, disparaging the friend you were least likely to disparage in real life.

This evening of watching my children dress up, and acting like people they were not.  It was so fascinating to me.  It was not lost on me that Nicholas was wearing my suit, the one I purchased a year before his birth, for an interview for a fellowship.  I had not worn it since.  And it fit him.

And Nicholas, reminding me of his role, of his character, of his temporary persona...was preparation for the coming year ahead. The reminder to allow him to maintain his persona, to let him be that person for a bit.  Because part of my new requirements of parenting this child, of this age, is allowing him an opportunity to decide who he wants to be.  Despite my memories of the summer Nicholas, and the Nicholas at 10, 8, 3, and as a fresh and pink newborn, and everywhere in between.

And yet, in his misunderstanding of the word maiden, such a funny and sweet reminder of his still-childness.

* * *

A few weeks after this game with friends, Nicholas entered middle school.  And the dressing up continued, but was of a different variety.  And with a different purpose.  He exchanged his bathing suit and crocs for school attire.  He put away the green sequined hat.  His fashion sense now gravitates toward the sporty athletic, and makes him, well, blend, with the pack of middle school children standing in groups as I drop him off each morning.  Apparently, a bit of insignia, a logo, is middle school chic these days.  I enjoy still seeing moments of Dr. Jade from time to time, reflected in his choices of bright and colorful socks, lacrosse socks yes, but socks with a dramatic flair.  He talks sports and music and technology and school projects more.  And jellyfish in the waves and legos and fort building come up less frequently, at least at school anyway.

And then, well established in our school routine a few months in, sports company logos well represented as I watch his form move away from me each morning and blend into the swirl of the similarly dressed friends standing in packs outside school, came our next development.  Preparation for the first middle school dance.

Middle school dance!  These children, dancing together in groups, the brave ones dancing for the first time with their hands on the shoulders of another classmate, more eye to eye than they have likely ever been with each other.  How did this happen?

Nicholas did, however, point out that they have been this close to each other when playing sports together, or standing back to back on the tetherball court at school.  Yes, that's true,  I said.  And decided that his lack of awareness of how this closeness was of a bit of a different kind than his example should be kept just that, and to myself.  And his naiveté also made me feel a little better.  I keep looking for signs that he is still in there.  Still young.  Still my child.

The dance had a barnyard theme, a costume theme.  Allowing them a bit of childishness.  A break from the cycle of athletic logos.  A reminder of the fun amongst the swirl of hormones and awkwardness and coolness and newness.

Nicholas went as a farmer, considering wearing my cowboy-ish boots for a bit.  Then decided that nimble and comfortable feet were an important part of his evening.  His feet?  Had become bigger than mine.  And so, he exchanged my boots, for his man-sized Nikes.




Much fun and silliness was had in the kitchen before the dance, all of us a little nervous, all of us benefitting from being a bit goofy for a bit.  Julia stood lookout, watching for the headlights of Nicholas' ride to the dance.  Because there was still, behind the enjoyment of the childishness, still that: the pack.  The developmentally appropriate awareness of the evaluations, judgements and acceptance of peers.


But luckily, his ride was also in the spirit of dressing up and one farmer and one barnyard animal shimmied down our walkway together, laughing and chatting, and were driven off, into the night.  Thus ensued a very fun night, and I will leave it at that, because as they move from child to young person, more must be left unsaid, partly because we don't know and we weren't there, and partly to respect his privacy and allow him space to grow away from us. 

This dressing up.  This trying on of persona.  The power of trying to be someone else, hidden behind a mask, or a costume, or clothing decorated with the right company's logos.  To be someone else for a bit, walking in the shoes of a slightly different walker, but still the same behind the mask.  That is middle school.  And sometimes it feels as though what they wish most at this age, for acceptance and the ability to blend in with the pack, is in direct contradiction with what we as parents wish for most.  To remain who they are, who we, as parents know them to be, these years of familiarity between us.

I happened upon this post, by James Preller, on one of my favorite children's book blogs.

Beginning with this quote, which Jonathan and I both love,
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Preller says this:
Let's...agree that one of the greatest achievements in life is to become, simply, one’s true self. It sounds easy enough, but as we know, it is not. I’m a father, I have three children, including a 7th-grader and a 9th-grader. I watch their awkwardness and insecurities and struggles. 
To be content in your own skin. 
To not look to others for your cues. 
To accept and trust who you are, to follow your own inner compass. 
These are not easy things. 
At no time in life is it tougher than in middle school, when peers begin to replace parents as prime influencers. How to dress, what to talk about, what to watch on television, how to act, where to sit, whom to befriend, whom to avoid. This is how we forge identity, hammering out our awareness of self (which is a created thing after all, the “self” we decide to become). At middle school, many of these daily details are powerfully influenced by the pack. 
by James Preller, for the Nerdy Book Club Blog

Perhaps it is because my training as a child psychologist focused on early childhood, and particularly on birth to five years old. Or perhaps it is because, if you visit a book store or peruse information online, there seems to be a similar early child focus. But this parenting gig? It keeps on rolling. They are not cooked yet when the what to expects give out. And they are not yet young adults when their minds beginning to grapple with many of the same issues that we as adults do, only with less experience, less perspective, so much being for the first time. They are still raw and too tender.  Unlikely to survive alone in the wilderness.  The evolutionarily adaptive cuteness of big eyes and heart melting drooly grins has given out to stinky feet, acne, and bodies that need products and showers to keep them lovable. And their behavior, sometimes, seems more an effort to push away rather than pull you in.

We as parents are dancing the jig of supporting and processing and guiding this young person in our life, while he takes more of the outside world in, and while some of those young adult things start to trickle in and enter his awareness.  And all the while, maintaining his privacy and autonomy.

And so, as though I have reached the end of the sidewalk, as though my oxygen tank is running on empty, as though I am going to have to take a deep breath and keep on walking, one foot in front of the other on foreign and uncertain terrain.  The shoes I walk in feel a bit uncomfortable, need a bit of breaking in and getting used to.  But we keep parenting, keep walking, dancing more and more, trying to be a bit different, to change how we have been parenting, for a bit.  To see how it works, and doesn't work, for us.  To see the value in this.  And to enjoy the music.

Just as we hope our children will accept and trust who they are, and that they will be people who follow their own internal compass, we attempt and hope the same for ourselves, as parents.