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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Time to Write

Finding time to write is difficult at best, and some days it is next to impossible. With my small people running around, I am always amazed at how busy and tired I can be without actually accomplishing anything. Take this morning as an example.

The baby and I wake up at six, because Boy Two never bothers to check the calendar to see if it's Saturday or not. He's been sick since the day before yesterday, and for the second time in a row his eyes are crusted shut with dried goo that had oozed from his face overnight. Blinded, he cries, first with confusion and then with anger as I pick him up out of bed and attack him with a warm, wet washcloth. Between the tears and the steam his eyes open, but he is an angry, grumpy mess, making all kinds of noise as my husband and Boy One try to sleep. I decide to take him on a bike ride to get some breakfast, because every day is better with a breakfast burrito. (Three cheers for breakfast burritos.)

Getting out of the apparent with my bike and baby gear takes almost forever. I have to dress the kid, find shoes and sweaters, helmets and my wallet, and then lead my bike with one hand and the baby Burley with other out the door and down the hallway, just hoping that Boy Two will follow. Getting two people and all of the vehicles into the elevator is a herculean feat, then I take up most of the entryway downstairs trying to hook the Burley to my bike without my little person running down the hallways into anyone else's apartment.

Finally everything is hooked up and strapped down and we glide out the glass doors, riding like a helmet-clad tortoise with a trailer through the apartment complex and onto the street. The baby sneezes and snot bubbles out of his face, but I can't very well stop in the middle of traffic to wipe his nose, so he wipes it himself, spreading boogers all over his cheek and arm. I continue to ride.

We ride to the park, but it is too early in the morning and the equipment is too wet for a sick little boy. No dice, but breakfast calls. Umm...breakfast burritos....

We ride to Sammy's Burgers, Subs, and Taco's, which is as dark as the day is long. They don't open until nine, and according to the woman in pajama pants fumbling with her purse and phone, it is only 7:52. She walks into Starbucks and I bemoan my burrito-less luck.

We ride over McDonalds, which is never closed, and park the bike and Burley in a parking space. We are almost as long as the Prius in the space next to us, and I collect my wallet and my child.

Inside, Boy Two screams bloody murder because I won't buy him a cookie, and the man asking for Splenda besides me thinks this is hilarious. I want to say that I think his pink pants are hilarious, but I hold my tongue. Maybe he is just laughing at my helmet mirror. It deserves to be laughed at.

Content with his hashbrown, Boy Two lounges in the Burley as I peddle, lamenting the three inches of pavement that the road calls a bike lane. After the reverse acrobatics required to get everyone and everything upsatirs, I collapse into the apartment.

Boy One is upon me before I can even get off my shoes.

"Last night I had a dream that I had a million Pokémon and all of them were the best with 1000 damage and no one was able to beat me in any of my battles!"

"That sounds great. Are you hungry?"

"I want pancakes."

"How about a fruit and yogurt parfait?"

"Sure."

Chaos ensues as Boy Two demands the yogurt and Boy One teases him. The rest of the hash brown and most of the yogurt end up on the carpet, and all of this fun before 8:30 in the morning.

Now, don't even talk to me about the dishes.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday

I got up at 6:40, which is sleeping in, so I can't complain. Boy Two was up a few minutes later, in tears because breakfast wasn't delivered to him in bed within seconds of his becoming concious.

Through the tears, I cooked eggs, most of which he threw on the floor before demanding a large serving of BBQ pop-chips. He did not volunteer to help clean up the eggs.

I tried to take a shower alone, but Boy Two came in and stood outside the tub, ripping at his clothes trying to take off his shirt and yelling, "Bahf. Bahf!" Okay, fine. I took off his clothes and tried not to slip on the super-hero bananza that he dumped in the tub upon entering.

After the shower, wet kid tried to run all over the apartment butt-naked, refusing to put on his diaper lest hell freeze over. I tried to get dressed myself instead, so he decided to cry some more. Fun times all around.

Boy One woke up from the screaming and immediately began to relate his dream to me in intricate detail. There were giant kangaroos and swords and he was a tad embarrassed to admit that the whole thing had creeped him out. Hard to blame the kid for that, though. I never want to find myself facing a squad of giant sword wielding kangaroos either. That kid has the strangest dreams.

Everyone up. Everyone dressed. Everyone in the car. I called my parents on the way to church, and Boy Two fell asleep in the car. I carried him, drowsy, into the sanctuary.

The boys sat with me for half of the service, but the sermon wasn't to Boy Two's liking, so we had to leave when he started running up and down the last row of chairs. Thankfully no one sneered at us on our way out.

On the way to the car, I stopped at the bathroom, and while I was using the facilities Boy One turned off the lights and refused to turn them on again. Boy Two squealed with laughter until he ran into the door in the darkness. I managed to find both of them and get us to the car without any further damage.

Then, we were off to Ikea. It went about ad well as could be expected. High points included when Boy Two spilled my soup all over his pants and the tantrum of the stuffed giant carrot I refused to buy. Ice cream soothed the soul of all upon departure, but Boy Two wore more of it than he managed to eat.

I've given up on ever having a clean car again.

Next came Sprouts and a fit over when we would or would not go to the park. Miraculously they were both bribed successfully with the purchase of grapes, so we managed to escape yet another public establishment relatively unscathed.

Then it was time for the park. I spent 45 minutes following Boy Two around while Boy One ran here and there and climbed on top of the tube slide. "Better the top of the slide than the roof of my apartment," I thought. When I finally convinced Boy One to go, it was almost two o'clock.

The days are so, so long.

After that, we came home, ate lunch, put the baby down for a nap, washed two loads of laundry, did some dishes, put together the lamp from Ikea and played a round of Lego Star Wars. Then, my husband took the boys back to the park, and I went to Trader Joe's, put the groceries away, and wrote this lovely reflection on why I am never excited for the weekend.

It's six o'clock.... Man, am I ever ready to go to bed.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Victims of Anger

Angry people do angry things.
They throw papers off of the table,
Scatter dinner across the floor,
And refuse to brush their teeth,
Unconcerned by the consiquences.

The older one sings a song
Despite requests for quiet.
He repeats, louder each time,
Disrupting the ever-shrinking peace.

The small one cries.
Not the cry of the sad, but the cry of the angry.
Angry that he is small; angry that he cannot speak,
And his anger seethes out, staining the hopeful darkness of the night.

No one rests.
No one sleeps.

Everyone lives in the angry, vengeful rage.

And yet, we still dream of sleep...
Peaceful, restorative sleep.

Perhaps, one day, it will come,
As easily as the sunset,
As quiet as the moon.

Until then, we suffer,
Victims of our own choices.
Victims of the children we were born to love.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Thankful in October

I love the fall. I love sweater weather, school in full force, and the promise of holidays to come. So now, as October rolls into full force, I am reminded of November, the month during which, for several years now, I have posted on social media each day, from the first to Thanksgiving, one thing for which I am thankful. Today, I am reminded of all for which I am thankful, even though it is still October. Please indulge me as I explain.

I had the luxury last week of going on vacation with my husband and boys for the first time without grandparents allowing us to tag along, and I am thankful for the generosity of my husband's parents as well as our ability, finally, to afford this vacation on our own.

While we were away, we swam and ate and saw the sights.

I am thankful for our able bodies, good food, and the beauty of the world.

I also had to do much of the inane and everyday tasks that I would have to do at home anyway.

I  am thankful for fully-stocked grocery stores, Target, and machines that make my laundry clean.

My first-world life, while full of first-world problems, is also amazing and filled with ease and comfort.

May I always remember the gifts, even when I struggle with the challenges.

May I always remember to be thankful.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Joy is in Forgetting

I think joy comes with forgetting
With living in the moment
With time that separates itself
From everything else
From the noise
And from the heartbreak.

I can forget when I read:
Lost in a story
Whether true or make-believe.
I can forget my faults, my limitations
And find peace with myself.

I can forget when I teach:
The world shrinks down to that room
Those students
And the outside dims.
Time races.
I can find my strengths, my abilities
To question, to explain, and to respect.
I can be at peace with myself.

Thinking robs the joy
Fills time with what ifs and should haves
Awakens the beast
Of utter discontent.

But one cannot live in forgetting.

And so I ache for the moments when I forget

Only knowing them
When they have already gone away.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Bedtime is Terrible

His angry words burn like glowing daggers.
His small frame shines with the might of armies.
He tramples my soul with his dissatisfaction.
His anger overflows.

He is my husband, my father, my brother.
He is me and mine.
A snarled reflection of all that I hope to be.
A fragrant symbol of repeated failure.

I am responsible
And I have no words.
Nothing kind, nothing gracious
Only anger and fear to face the same.
We stalemate at the edge of the evening.

It is night, and yet no one is sleeping.

Anger is wide awake.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Some Days are Better Than Others

Today was a good day.

I got to go to work early, nothing exploded, and I left before 4:30. Both boys were fed before either one managed to go to pieces, and I got to ride my bike, which is more exciting than it sounds.

My small people and I rode to the park, where I ran into a woman who used to attend a yoga class I frequent and who was the recipient of an extra car seat I had sitting around taking up precious real estate in my seemingly tiny apartment. She has a daughter not much younger than my second son, and together we talked as our children played together.

We chatted about having small children, about her job, about my recommendations for starting children to school early or holding them back. We laughed as our small people demonstrated their mastery, or lack thereof, in throwing a frisbee. We had forgotten each other's names, and we were both too embarrassed to ask, but together, nameless, we enjoyed motherhood and the park with our chilpdren.

Upon coming home, I found abundant food to offer my small people and electricity to keep it cold and make it warm again. Tears were kept at a minimum, and everyone ended up brushing their teeth.

Now, after the screentime and the p.j.s and the story and the hugs, we all drift off to sleep, a home full of blue eyes, with my green ones watching silently over them all.

May there be many more such days to come.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Life is a Journey, But I Want to Go Live at the Destination

At work, I cannot see incremental progress. I know intellectually that our program has improved, that I am a better teacher than I was in the past, but because there is still room to grow, because I am not all that I want to be, I stress and fret and am never satisfied.

At home, I cannot see incremental progress. I know intellectually that my children are small, that they will not stay one and five forever, but because Boy One throws a fit, because Boy Two pulls all the clean clothes onto the floor, I stress and fret and am never satisfied.

I do not know the solution to my problem.

I do not know how to manipulate how I perceive time and my own shortcomings or how to find more peace within myself.

I do know that I love my children and respect my students, all of whom are talented and beautiful, flawed and deeply human.

May I find a way to grant myself that love and that respect.

May I find a way to see the progress without drowning in the incremental.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Bedtime is Terrible

Bedtime is at 7:00.

(And unicorns are real and M&Ms have more vitamins than kale.)

It is now 8:27. We have officially been getting ready for bed for more than an hour and a half. One boy is sleeping. One boy is throwing blankets off of the top bunk. One mommy is silently gripping her sanity, holding on for dear life.

Can someone please tell me that this will eventually get better?

After screen time was over, Boy One threw a fit to end all fits because he wanted to watch another episode of Rescue Bots.

After smearing blueberry yogurt basically everywhere, Boy Two demanded more food, none of which he was willing to eat in his high chair.

After working for close to ten hours, I wanted to drink some wine and watch an episode of The Good Wife.

Obviously, my expectations for life are far too high.

Now, at 8:35, both boys are finally asleep.

I am physically and mentally exhausted.

And tomorrow will not be any better.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

I'm at the Park, Again...

I'm at the park, again, and the breeze is soft and warm. Boy Two is wandering around with only one shoe, a green monster truck clenched in each hand. Boy One is climbing on the outside of the play structure, showing off for an older girl in pink tennis shoes and a cat helmet with ears.

The girl's grandmother watches her from a nearby bench, occasionally saying something in a language I do not understand. The girl speaks a mile a minute, peppering Boy One with questions.

"Can you ride a two-wheeler? Can you climb on the top of the monkey bars? Have you ever been to a pool with a high-dive?"

She's said more since we got here than he has said in a lifetime.

Boy Two finds his shoe under the slide and waddles over to me, shoving the shoe in my face. I pull him into my lap and put it on his tiny foot.

In a moment, he's off again, chasing Boy One as he rides around the blacktop on the little girl's scooter. When Boy Two finally catches up, the three of them stand around for awhile, the girl talking the entire time. After a few minutes, she takes her scooter and rides away.

Both of my boys stare at her as she goes.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Fits are terrible

When anger overflows,
Like a volcano,
Like an explosion,
Everyone suffers.

Everyone is burned by the heat,
By the fire,
No matter the reason,
No matter the source.

The anger of children
Lashes out
In every direction,
Flailing, scalding,
Regardless of cause
And immune from reason.

The anger of adults
Focuses in,
Bores a hole,
Targeted, searing
Bursting with cause
And stuffed with reason.

Reason is less than it claims.
Anger is more than it seems.

In a fight, anger will always win.
No matter the topic.
No matter the reason.
No matter the bodies left behind.

Anger, unfortunately, conquers all.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Driving Doesn't Always Take You Home

Most of the time, as I drive, I listen to NPR.

It makes me feel up-to-date. It makes me feel like part of what is going on in the world. It makes me feel intelligent, knowledgeable, connected.

But then, sometimes, as I drive, I listen to music...

Then I am 16 again, lost in the world and free to be foolish, free to scream the words as I drive down Bolsa Chica Street. Free to yell. Free to be.

Most of the time, as I live, I am constrained.

Constrained by my desires, by my children, by my expectations.

But then, sometimes, as I live, I listen to music, and I forget...

I forget, and I live, completely on accident.

I forget to plan, to consider, to organize, and I just be. I forget what I look like, how others perceive me. I just sing along, and I be. I sing along, and I am.

To live more and plan less? I only dream.

Maybe in the next decade.

For in this one?

Perhaps the realization is more than enough.

Perhaps the knowing and the being take years to get to know each other.

Perhaps I can plan to be what I think I should be sometime in the future, sometime that is not now, sometime that is yet to be.

May there be more being as I drive along.

May I remember to forget to plan...

May I forget what I am trying to be and just be what I am...

And may I always feel free to sing along.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Boy One is My Husband, Just Smaller

Boy One is being an uncooperative punk, and my husband is mad.

Boy One is five, and my husband is an adult, but at the moment, it is hard to tell the difference.

Both of them need a time-out, but instead they yell at each other, locked in conflict, for longer than I would wish, neither willing to back down or retire.

After far too long, they are calm, and I venture to speak.

"Why don't you call your mom and ask her what you were like when you were five?" I suggest.

"Why don't you call your mom?" he throws back.

"She said I didn't listen until I was thirty," I replied, "and with that, she's being generous."

"I'm not calling my mom," he declared.

"Have it your way," I respond, grinning.

(I bet he was exactly the same.)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Poems from Germany

My skin's as smooth as a baby's now,
No longer scratched
By unshaven whiskers.

I always have enough blankets,
And I don't have to share when I sleep.

Billy never starts playing
When I want to hear Elliott,
And I never have to worry
About when you're coming home from work.

Instead I wonder
How long my phone card will last,
How much I can communicate
With three Euros' worth of time.

I wake up to the wrong person snoring,
And I fall asleep to the Jimmy CD
That you made for me...

While I wait as patiently
As possible,
To come back to you....

May I always come back to you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Things I Never Thought I'd Say

This evening, Boy One would not stop stealing Boy Two's pacifier. He pestered, proded, harassed and teased despite everything I did to try and stop him. Then, the problem solved itself, when Boy Two smacked him, hard, in the ear with a block.

Boy One cried. He cried a lot. He cried the cry of the innocent victim despite his obvious guilt. And I was glad. Vengefully glad. The bully got his comeuppance and Baby Dude stood up for himself the only way he knew how: with a blunt weapon against a tyrant. Nice going, David. Goliath has fallen.

So, facing a sobbing five-year-old, I kiss his face and ask him what he learned.

"Nothing!" he yells back at me, angry and clearly beatten.

"Well, I suggest you leave your brother's pacifier in his mouth next time." I reply.

(Three cheers for the underdog.)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

How do I Feel?

In the tiny compartment
Between the top and bottom bunk
I can see clearly all that I have:

A safe place to live.
A pair of healthy boys.
A husband who loves and adores me.

I have all that one could ever desire,
Yet I lack.

What I lack can't be counted
On a survey
Or a worksheet

Because on paper,
I have everything.

Everything.

So how...

How do I feel

What my brain knows is real?
What others can see?
What is right before my eyes?

Rather than feeling the empty,
The spaces...

How can I focus on the all that I have,
And ignore the not...

Because my all is complete.

What is missing is within me.
And that I cannot fill,
Despite my grandest efforts,
No matter my contribution.

May the world grant me peace.

Peace and fulfillment.

As I wait, and I long...

To see myself as others do...
To accept the beauty that is my life...
To be beyond the feeling of nothing...

May the everything overwhelm the nothing.

May the nothing simply cease to be.

May I see my world as it is: full of love and possibly.

May the nothing melt away...

Away into the abyss.

And may the real conquer all.

May the real destroy the not
For the real is real,
And the missing is not.

What is not is not, nor can it wish to be.

May I see the is,
And live without the is not.

May it always be so.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The End of the Summer Movie Season

At the Huntington Harbour Mall, the management company has decided to show movies on designated Friday nights throughout the summer. Tonight, they are ending this year's run with a showing of Cinderella.

At least two dozen little girls have arrived in the open space between the Athletic Club and Noah's Ark Pet Grooming, donning their finest rendition of the famous Disney princess. They are a rainbow of tiny humanity, mostly frocked in frilly blue dresses. Some break the mold, like the little girl with a pink and gold gown. My favorite is the one with a blue tule skirt and a Leonardo sweatshirt from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

A few boys people the audience as well, outnumbered and underdressed. My boys stare at the girls, confused and entranced. Some things may never change.

With blankets and wagons, beach chairs and snacks, we all gather together to say goodbye to the summer. We gather in hope of entertaining our children while we attempt to relax, sipping wine from plastic cups. Together, we celebrate the dreams of childhood, always with a happy ending, never a funeral but always a wedding.

Now, the movie begins. May everyone find joy in the dream.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Short On the Entry

I wish I had more to say this evening, but between small children and getting ramped up for the school year, there is little of me left to compose beautiful prose to dazzle and amaze you with the difficulties and trials that are my day-to-day existence. Suffice it to say that while today was good for some of my family, it was a struggle for others, and although I wish it averaged out to fine, the difficulties of one brought down the whole more than one would wish or expect. Please feel free to keep me in your thoughts, prayers, or whatever else it is you keep when you know someone who isn't having the best of times. Do not fret, however, that my blog will remain vacant, as when things settle down a bit I am sure I will get back to writing.
Be well and stay well,
RL

Thursday, August 13, 2015

May I Be Old

I have experience with angry parents.

Parents who wished for another life.
Parents who wanted something more, something different.
Parents whose dream for their children was something other than what occurred.

But angry children are a new breed.

He wants more.
More than I can offer.
More than what I can allow.
More than I am willing to give.

How can I requisition one and refuse another?
How can I excuse the former and subdue the later?
How can I pretend that my wishes supersede those of another?
How can I prioritize?

He is small, but he is real.
I am large, and I am real as well.
He is young, and he is growing,

May I not be stagnant.

May all be well and kind.
May all be well and kind.

May I remember that I was once small.

May I remember that I may soon be old.

May we all be as we are.

May we all be well together.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

On The Brink of Something

I feel as though I am on the brink of something. The brink of what, I can't tell you, but I hope it is something good, something rewarding. I could use something rewarding.

Maybe it's the usual excitement of the new school year. As one who longs for routine, the comfort of established daily expectations, I certainly picked the wrong profession. Months of unstructured summers tear me apart, and the despite my constant vigilance, there is too much variation for my liking. I spend more time thinking about what I should do than actually doing it, and the stress builds more than it is relieved. I feel like the only person on the planet who gets stressed out by having too much time off. Maybe it's the promise of finally going back to work.

Maybe it's the culmination of the steps I managed to take during my time off to put myself in a better position in my body. I got glasses, so now I don't have to squint and strain to read or write an email. I started going to the chiropractor, who very nicely, in the most professional wording ever, basically told me I was messed up. Now, she gets to beat me up twice a week for several weeks, then, hopefully, my neck will go back to its intended shape, or at least one can hope. Maybe it's the hope of physical comfort.

Maybe it's the growth of independence. My husband's car needs some work, which will (please to the powers-that-be) finally get fixed this weekend, but for the last several months, we have been car-sharing, and I made it through most of the summer without having my own vehicle. This left me at home, sometimes with boys and sometimes without, for days at a time, dependent on entertainment within walking distance and many, many trips to get samples at Trader Joe's. But somehow, this seemingly unbearable inconvenience was strangely liberating. I figured out how far I could walk with the boys. I got myself a bike and found out how far I can ride. I managed to save a bunch of money by not going out to eat for lunch all of the time, and when I did, I spent my money on local pizza, investing in the community instead of a corporation. I discovered the joy of living where I live instead of longing to be elsewhere. I found freedom in my unintentional confinement. Maybe it's the joy of home.

Maybe it's all about Boy One. This summer, he learned how to ride his own bike, swim alone in the deep end, and play video games. Perhaps the third things doesn't sound that impressive, but going from randomly pushing buttons while staring at the controller to watching the screen and having his thumbs know what to do demonstrates marked improvement in hand-eye coordination and the understanding of cause-and-effect. Plus, video games can teach many of the skills I want him to develop, including persistence, thinking flexibly, and taking responsible risks. Yes, he can also learn this skills on his bike, but he can't ride his bike while I wash the dishes or cook diner. Anyway, I think the point is that he took several significant strides into independence, and he is about to start kindergarten to boot. My little boy is a boy of the first order, and there is no turning back. Maybe it's overflowing pride and hope for his future.

Maybe it's that I'm done with babies. Maybe it's that I am a professional in my field, and for the first time, I see a career path that goes beyond the next nine months of the school year. Maybe it's that my husband is finally going to get the car fixed, and I can take myself to Target without having to ask anyone for a ride. Maybe it's that I upgraded to Windows 10 and my digital life will never be the same. Maybe it is just the joy of writing and sharing my world with others after years of pushing it down inside myself. Maybe it's all of this: all of the changes of a summer and a lifetime rolled up into a neat little package that I can actually see clearly for the first time in years now that have glasses to look through. Maybe it's me. Maybe it's everything.

Whatever it is, I am ready.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Anger Burns

Anger burns.

Sometimes like a match,
Quickly scratched then quickly extinguished.
But that is the best kind,
The best because it is gone
Almost as quickly as it comes upon itself.

Anger burns.

Sometimes like a lighter,
Held as long as one wants to hold it.
And that kind causes little harm,
Because the owner is in control
And can put it out at any time.

Anger burns.

Sometimes like an ember,
Hot and smoldering for ages.
And that is the worst kind,
The worst because it lingers
Longer than anyone would expect.

Be cautious always for embers,
For they can ignight at any time.
There is no looking back.

Anger burns.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Is This a Purse or a Diaper Bag?

Unfortunately, it is my purse, and in my efforts to make it more like an elegant woman's satchel and less like a grumpy toddler's carry-all, I came across the following items:

- a baby blanket
- two diapers, both unused
- the book, The White Queen, of which I have read three pages
- my wallet (One point for me!)
- a batman hat
- a pair of (clean) underwear (Bless my luck!)
- a apple sauce pouch lid
- a white handkerchief (One point)
- lipstick (Bonus points! This counts as two, bringing my total up to four.)
- a receipt for Boy One's glasses
- the paper cover for a pair of disposable chopsticks
- baby sunscreen (I'm counting this for me, because I use it, too.)
- a pack of silica gel
- Boy One's glasses, in their case
- car keys (another point for me!)
- a pen
- part of a tissue
- an empty medicine bottle

So, in total, I have six points, if and only if I count lipstick as two and the kids' sun screen as one. They, on the other hand, are responsible for the vast majority of the items I have been lugging around all week. Thanks, guys. I love you, too.

Now, who is going to pay for my chiropractor?

Friday, August 7, 2015

"The Good Wife" is Awesome

The Good Wife is good. I love my husband good. Balancing children and work is hard good. Living in an apartment after living in a house sucks good. I am loving this show good.

The levels of awesome are deep and gooey: the main character addresses racism in the courts, sexism in general, and the seeming impossibly of achieving anything that resembles a work-life balance. Then, on top of all that, she kicks some major butt in court prosecuting pharmaceutical companies and defending  the poor and defenseless. Excellence spreads itself all around.

Anyway, please forgive the shameless promotion. It is rare that I fall in love with non-historical fiction, so I thought I would share my most recent addiction. Please feel free to share some of your favorites in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Walking Angry Around the Block

This is me trying to remember that they're not small forever. This is me trying to remember to stay focused on success. This is me trying not to get angry that I am awake and that they are awake and that every single person in my house is still awake.

This is me trying to see the beauty in the world rather than the disaster. This is me trying to avoid the "if onlys:" if only Boy One would go to bed; if only Boy Two were already asleep.

This is the me trying not to scratch the eyeballs out of old, old women who tell me that these are the years I should treasure, these are the days I should hold close to my heart.

This is also Boy Two giggling about how funny it is that mommy is angry. This is also Boy One, overtired and unable to manage his emotions. This is also my husband, desperate for time with his woman, fully unable to successfully manage the small people in his care.

This is Sunday night, and my anger burns.

On my walk around the neighborhood, pulling Boy Two in the wonder wagon, I heard a familiar tune coming from one of the apartments. As I looked up, there was a young man in a black shirt and a black hat and khaki pants. He was poking at his phone, as we all do, and I looked at him for a moment as I tried to place the song.

"That's Korn, huh?" I asked, once I already knew the answer.

"Yeah, man," he replied. 

"Do you mind if I listen for awhile?"

"No, way, man. Listen all you eant. Not too many people appreciate Korn nowadays."

"Not too many people appreciate most of what they should," I said. 

We shared a moment there, listening to the sound of angry adolescence peal out of into the evening. I listened, knowing all of the words, yet strangely divorced from the meaning, slowly detaching from the world from which I and the music had come. 

When the song ended, the man took his last drag from his cigarette, then smashed it down on the edge of his balcony. The remains burst into a fire-show of glorious, burning ash, and as I watched, I thanked the goodness of the Earth that I had given up that habit long ago, allowing the warm thoughts of motherhood to overwhelm me.  It was like saying goodbye to myself as I slowly walked away, goodbye to life already lived, for when I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became grown, I put away childish things.

The breeze blew, and my anger cooled.

Farther down the block, I walked right through what appeared to be the end of a family reunion. On one side of the sidewalk was a man in his late thirty's and his beautiful wife, looking across the sidewalk at a line of similar looking family members. Children were running around everywhere, and one little girl was crying. Several people were speaking at once, talking about the South, about the heat and humidity, about how southern California is so much better than southern Arkansas.

"I agree that this is far better than Arkansas," I added, unasked. Everyone laughed, I smiled, and I kept walking.

Then, the darkness began to overcome the light, as the flags advertising my apartment complex began to rustle in the wind. I continued to walk: me, my wagon, and Boy Two, away from the noise of Boy One and his fumbling attempts to live in the world of my husband. I wished them both luck, as both of them will need it. Both of them will struggle to find and embrace their best selves when dealing with one another. When two humans are so much the same, it is hard to imagine how they will learn to get along in this life. I have yet to find a match so close to myself that when I look at her she reeks of me. As I was blessed with boys, perhaps I never will. May I now thank the universe for sparing me that particular challenge in this life. As far as I can see, I already have enough on my plate.

But as the sprinklers stopped and the Sun set I found myself back at the door of my apartment. Although I longed to remain outside, quiet and at home with the calm beauty that comes with the sunset, I know that my place is inside, inside with the man and the boys who are my family. May I find peace with them, and leave what remains of my anger outside, away from where I sleep, away from where I love. Made peace and calm pervade our home, and may it always be so.

Building Community with a Non-binding Vote

As my little blog has now earned its first pennies, I thought it time to spend more than 3,000% of my earnings on business cards while simultaneously keeping my day job.
However, here is where you, dear reader, can contribute and show your love for my continued reflections and rantings. Here, you can take a moment of your precious life to vote on which style of card from the "Elegent" list on Vistaprint best embodies the style, mood, and tone of my illustrious blog. 
Yes, I know what you're thinking. How could one tiny rectangle of heavyweight cardstock possibly do justice to all that my blog contains? Well, obviously, or at least hopefully, it can't, but at least you can have some input as to which example does the least crappy job.
I will take all votes into consideration, then do whatever I want to do anyway. Artists and writers are fickle and capricious like that.
And with all seriousness, thank you for reading my blog. It brings me great joy to know that the articulation of my crazy, privileged life makes you, and others like you, feel something beautiful.
Now go out and vote in the comments!
1. Grey and kind of Celtic
2. Sun burst with gray rays
3. Light blue with plant
4. Dark teal with leaves and flowers
5. Blue fade with plant and flowers
6. White with gold spirals
7. Light blue with white explosion, kind of looks like a wedding planner
8. White with green branches

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Yet Another Vote in Favor of Netflix

A bedtime dialog between me and my five-year-old.

[Boy Two], what was the best thing that happened today?

Sleeping.

Sleeping?

Uh huh. Seeping.

How could sleeping be the best thing that happened today?

I mean lunch. Lunch! Lunch was the greatest thing that happened today. Do you agree? Was lunch the best thing that happened today?

What do you mean, lunch? Where did we go for lunch?

The pizza place and the veggie place.

Actually, yeah, I did like lunch. What did you like about it?

I liked everything about it.

That's pretty awesome, dude. It's not often that I like everything about anything. How do you think that I could like more about the stuff that I have to do?

You will never like the stuff that you have to do.

You mean there's no hope? Is there nothing I can do to be happier when I'm doing things that are kind of boring or annoying or that cause me to be anxious? Isn't there anything I can do to make my life better?

You could watch Netflix everyday.

What about if we have dirty dishes in the sink? What about if I need to vacuum?

You should just watch Netflix anyway.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Anniversaries for Mothers of Small Children


The most amazing things that happened today, in order.

Number 1: Massages from my man, but better.


Number 2: Dust buster from Amazon. I had no idea how many cheez-its had been crushed into the fabric of the recliner. Maybe I didn't want to know. That brings me directly to number three...

 


Number 3: Wine juice box from Target. Enough said.


P.S. Although tempted, I did not drink wine directly from a box with a straw. I used a wine glass (like a grown-up).

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Living Lives in the Laundry Room

As I waited for the elevator with my wagon, B2, and a pile of empty blue Ikea bags, I cursed myself for thinking it wouldn't be so bad having to share a laundry room with a hundred other people.

It was 10:25 and I had washed six loads of laundry.

"People all over the world share washers and dryers with others," I'd said. "It will be convenient to have four washers at a time," I'd convinced myself. I was an optimistic idiot. Two kids and two flights of stairs and too little time have robbed me of my best self. I want my own washing machine.

B2 clapped his hands as the elevator dinged, and we rolled in to go downstairs to pick up the last two loads. But as I stepped inside, I inhaled an image of Papaw, my mother's father, standing in a kitchen in Dothan, Alabama. It was an image of menthols and humidity and sweat, and there he was, with a blue hat and a half-empty green packet sticking out of his breast pocket. In that moment, I was six years old again, hoping against hope that I would get to go play in the boat sitting on a trailer in the backyard. The noise of the elevator transformed into the hum of the air-conditioning.

The ding of level G brought me back, back to 2015 and Huntington Beach and the constant oppression of dirty clothes. I woke up and rolled myself into the laundry room.

Inside the room was an older man, around sixty, sorting his enviably tiny pile of men's clothes into two small loads. He had a hearing aid and socks with stripes at the tops. His head nodded gently as he worked.

B2 stared at him as I collected my bags and moped over to the wall of dryers, but my son's interest piqued my own, and I turned again to stare at the gentleman as well. He looked my way, and I smiled.

"Having fun yet?" I asked.
"Oh, yes..." he said with a voice that was familiar, distant, and a little too loud. "How about yourself?"

I was instantly struck by the realization that he must have been the person in the elevator immediately before me, that he was the cause of the vision I'd had.

"Where are you from?" I asked, bluntly ignoring his question.

"What do you mean by that?" he replied slowly.

"What do I mean? I mean where did you grow up? Where are you from?" I spoke fifteen words in less time then he had said six.

"Well," he began, slowly, "I grew up in Fresno. Do you know where that is?"

I stiffed my inner Angeleno and the sarcasm that comes with her.

"Yes, I do. My father-in-law grew up near there." I gave him the name of the town.

The man was amazed, and asked if he still lived there. I said no, that he had moved to the coast, a tremendous improvement from the heat and emptiness of the middle of the state. The man's eyes lit up.

"That is were I moved when I was in high school. I lived there for years before moving down this way."

It ends up he had attended the school where my husband's aunt had eventually taught, and his younger brother had attended the same high school as my husband.

"Why did your brother go to a different high school?" I questioned.

"He was much younger than I am. When I went to school, it was the only high school in town."

The world is small and full of the amazing.

We talked and talked while I unloaded the dryers. I had done more laundry that day than he had done in the preceding three weeks, and he correctly commented that B2 is adorable. As he spoke, his long, country drawl relaxed me. Talking to him felt, not like home, but like something better than home. Like the dream of home. Of grits and long grass and summers, of Papaw on the back porch with my Uncle Bud, smoking and taking about who earned more points in Canasta.

Once he had started his machine, he said goodbye, and moved towards the door. Just before it closed, I blurted out, loudly, "It was nice to meet you, sir. My name is Raychel."

He turned and held the door. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Raychel. My name is Bud."

Of course it was. Of course it was.

Monday, July 27, 2015

From Emails to Fist Bumps

I went to work today for the first time in a few weeks. B1 was hanging out with me until his camp started, and while he colored on the white board, I began by opening my email...

Me: I have over one hundred new emails!
B1: Ohhhh uhhhhh. That is a lot of emails.
Me: I know! What should I do?
B1: You should erase all of them.
Me: I don't think I can do that. Some of them may be important.
B1: So read all of them, then delete them if they are not important.
Me: Thanks, dude. That sounds like a plan.
B1: How about a fist bump?
Me: Only if it gets to explode.

I love that kid.




Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Day in Review

I got home from my lovely vacation Friday afternoon and slept in my own bed that night for the first time in almost a week, only to be woken up on Saturday morning by the fact that July is almost over and I have accomplished less than one percent of the tasks I had planned for the summer. (Insert expletive of your choice here.) What on earth have I been doing for the last two months?  (Spending time with my children, packing, and cleaning my apartment are not legitimate answers.) Time to get with the program.

My frantic attempt to accomplish tasks is pretty much my husband's worst nightmare. While I endeavor to clean, vacuum, reorganize, wash, and de-own, he longs for two uninterrupted days of sleep and playing Xbox. I feel you, my lovely spouse, but this weekend, things will probably go better for everyone if you stay the (reuse expletive from above) out of my way.

I started with beans: almost six cups of Sprout's dehydrated pinto beans. On Friday, I made the mistake of reading my suggested posts on Pinterest, and thus came across a blog,  "100 Days of Real Food,"  written by woman who basically swears that homemade refried beans are approximately ten-thousand times better than any beans from a can. So, in my obviously underutilized time, I spent 20 hours soaking and cooking beans. Yes, they were delicious. Amazing, in fact. However, I think my time would have been better spent if I had shelled out a few extra bucks, called Super Mex, and ordered their delicious pinto beans instead. The dishes alone were more than I wanted to bear.

However, somehow, without causing my own death or serious injury to anyone around me, as I wrestled with my pintos, I also managed to...

- post several children's items to sell online.

- instruct my husband as to how to make me a cup of coffee, only to have him fail, completely, twice. Points were awarded for effort.

- spend 30 minutes attempting to fix the coffee machine (see above)

- receive a message from the site where I was trying to sell my old baby stuff reporting that Bumbo chairs have been recalled and can no longer be sold without a "repair kit."

- Google how to get two of these "repair kits" and find out that Target will take the ridiculous seats back for store credit. (Boo-ya.)

- drag both of the boys to Target and unload them into my new ridiculous wagon.



-  drag said boys and wagon through the parking lot, the customer service line, and the epic battle the service professional had on the phone before refunding me the full purchase price for each of my ridiculous chairs.

- fill my wagon with stuff and watch helplessly as my children ate the food almost as quickly as I could pile it up.

- hold myself together as B1 spent almost 35 minutes selecting the Legos he wanted to buy with his allowance.

- have a lengthy discussion with a woman I meet waiting for the elevator who said I was a genius for carting my people around in my ridiculous wagon.

- contemplate the idea that I should get a percent of the purchase price if she, or anyone else, should buy a wagon at my recommendation.

- pay for and pack away all of our food in the car. 

- successfully transfer the sleeping B2  to my wonder wagon after he fell asleep in the car on the drive home.

- go upstairs, let B1 put together his Legos, eat a bagel sandwich, remind myself that avocados are awesome, and allow B1 to cash in some of his stars to watch a show on the tablet.



- make a successful call to get a discount on the copay of one of the half dozen medications my family uses on a daily basis. 

- make a failed call to Samsung to have my stylus, aka "the S-pen" and broken charger replaced because the person with whom I spoke transferred me to a department which is closed on Saturday. (Feel free to repeat that chosen expletive again here.)

- take the boys to the Hawaiian luau offered by my apartment complex as a resident appreciation event, during which I survived a very loud showing of the movie Lilo and Stitch.

- fight with my husband about my near constant desire to discuss finances at every opportunity. (He would prefer I find other topics of discussion.)

- bring everyone home alive, with their assorted balloons, leis, and plastic beach-related toys.


- eat a stunningly delicious broccoli, goat-cheese, tomato, avocado, and homemade pinto bean burrito. 

- finish emptying the car.

- brush two of the three mouths of teeth I needed to brush.

- fall asleep, exhausted, with my adorable small people. (They are so cute when they are asleep.)

Just reading all that makes me tired. May your days be much, much more peaceful than mine.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Vacation is Where You Go To Die

Apparently vacations are where you go to die. I am tired, very tired, after spending almost a month organizing, packing, and mentally preparing myself for going away from my home for most of a week. Now, at my destination, I am surrounded by well-meaning, yet somewhat unfamiliar, extended relatives, relatives who leave my children confused and feeling uneasy, despite my repeated reminders that we are related to them, that they are good people. But at 18 months, a stranger is still a stranger. I wish my sister-in-law was not seen as a stranger.

Away from home, every door in our living space is at the mercy of B1's game of open and close, open and close, open and, hopefully, not close on anyone's fingers. There have been no reported damages (as of yet). Get back to me tomorrow to see if our lucky streak continues.

There is no escape from the constant barrage of questions, tears, and request that come along with a life spent side by side small children. They are beautiful; they are terrible. So, in the face of this terrible idea, may we survive the first day after departure, may we find something good and substantial in spending time away.

May the befits of the destination outweigh the difficulty of the arrival.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

I'd Almost Rather Stay Home

I am a chronic over-paker. I can easily take a week's worth of clothing on a weekend trip to visit the boys' grandparents, so packing for a four day sojourn on an island is basically like planning to survive for three months in the Amazon. Additionally, if I make the smallest error in my preparations, such as miscalculating the proper diaper per day ratio or forgetting my eye-makeup remover, I will clearly be struck down by the packing gods and publicly humiliated for the rest of my mortal life. Obviously.
I started preparing weeks ago, ordering items that have no place in my everyday life: a microfiber travel towel, a swimshirt, and (gasp) even a pair of shorts. For the boys, I bought matching Superman rashguards, tiny sunglasses, and hats. B1 got a new backpack, and as official concession to my status as an Orange County suburbanite, I even caved and got one of those collapsible wagons, the ones I used to look down my nose at while in line at the farmers' market. At least I don't have to drive a minivan.
So, now, at T minus 18 hours, I have crossed off most of the items on my three-page list and highlighted the items I still need to pack tomorrow. I have washed the vast majority of the dishes and put at lest the boys' room in a condition that will not bring me to tears when we return. B2 is asleep, B1 is in the shower, and perhaps, if every single one of my Ts are crossed and my Is are dotted, then maybe, just maybe, I will get on the boat tomorrow without having a panic attack.
If life really begins at the end of my comfort zone, then maybe I need to rethink the entire plan.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

From the ER to Children's Hospital Orange County

Once the EMTs from CHOC finally arrived around 8:00, things started clicking into place. Three of them arrived with a gurney complete with a car seat strapped within a row of machine after beeping machine. I carried B2 from the room to the gurney, gently clicked him in, then kissed his tiny forehead as he continued to struggle to breathe.

The female EMT smiled and handed me a stuffed bear with an IV wrap which matched my son's. I nestled it between B2 and the side of the carseat, and he snuggled up to it and grabbed it with his non-IVed hand. He looked so fragile juxtaposed with all of the technology intended to monitor his signs of life that I almost cried, but with great effort, I managed to reach out and hold his hand instead, and he seemed to relax, at least a tiny bit.

Soon, we had all of his paperwork and a disk with his chest X-rays as we rolled into the second ambulance of the evening. I rode in front with B2 in the back while my husband took my car to fetch B1 from my friend's house.

(May I here thank the universe for friends who don't ask questions, who gladly house and feed and care for a child when his parents are frantically trying to care for another. Women who are friends with women deserve more praise then I am here able to give.)

Back in the ambulence, it seemed as though B2 screamed breathless screams the entire time I was trying to call grandparents, trying to make logistical choices about carpools and daycare and camp. Every decision which had previously been put into place had to be reviewed, revisited in the light of the ambulance headlights as we drove slowly up the five. His obvious fear and discomfort did not make the process any easier, I can assure you. It is almost impossible for me to think rationally when my offspring are in distress.

As we drove, the female EMT was talking to B2, telling him to stay calm and that his mommy was nearby. Over the beep of the machines and the noise of the traffic, I began to sign a hymn I usually sing to him at night, and I sang as loudly as I could to make sure he could hear me and know I was with him:

Breathe in; breathe out.
Breathe in; breathe out.
When I breathe in, I breathe in peace; when I breathe out, I breathe out love.
When I breathe in, I breathe in peace; when I breathe out, I breathe out love.

I sang the song over and over again, ignoring the EMTs and the cars and the beeping, releasing my stress and pain for my baby, a piece of my very soul, with every repetition. And as I sang, he listened, and his cries subsided; I imagined that he inhailed strength from my song, exhaled more slowly and found at least the smallest bit of confort in the words of his mother, singing a familiar song in an unfamiliar place. At long last, the male EMT in the back said B2 had fallen asleep, and I stared silently at the tail lights of so many cars through the windshield, full of love and utterly devoid of peace.

Friday, July 17, 2015

In the ER, Part Four


When I finally realized my husband had walked in the door, it was like heaven had ripped open and poured rain on the drought-stricken desert. I had been helping hold B2 down again while two nurses with matching reading glasses poked at him with their IV needle. They looked kind of adorable moving their glasses up and down together, chatting about veins as if they were skeins of yarn. In times of crisis, the smallest details seem to carry the greatest significance.

Once they finally found success, I turned away to breathe and found my man standing behind me.

"[Husband], I am so glad you're here! How long have you been waiting? No, wait, please don't move: I'll be right back."

I realized, all at once, that I hadn't been to the bathroom for many, many hours. After weaving through the throngs of humanity that peopled the hallway, I managed to quickly rectify that unfortunate situation. Then, I ran to return to my men.

When I came back to the room, my giant husband was crouched down next to my tiny child curled up on the gurney.

"It's going to be alright, pal. Just hang tight until your mom gets back."

Sometimes I am blown away by how much I can love another person.

"Better?" he asked as he slowly stood before me.

"Much," I replied. "You have no idea."

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Boy One "Gets" His Mommy

A passing conversation in the hall at school went something like the dialouge as follows.

School Professional: I was over in the preschool today and I got to spy on [Boy One] a little.

Me: I hope you didn't see anything wrong with him that I don't already know about.

SP: No, no. It was really interesting. He seems to be the only one who really "gets" [a little girl from his class].

Me: Yes, he really likes her. He talks about her all the time. Is there something different about her? Why did you notice that he "gets" her?

SP: No, no, not like that. She is just completely no-nonsense, time to get down to business. [Boy One] seems to really get that.

Me: You have met his mother, right?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

In the ER, Part Three

The ER doctor was rugged, handsome, sharp. He looked tan like the rich get tan, not tan like those who work the land or sell their wares on the sidewalk. He was Greek god tan, I spent last weekend on my yacht tan. I bet he made the softball team swoon. I found it hard to focus when he was talking.

"...going to push fluids and get him on some steroids. That should put him in better shape while we wait for the ambulance."

"The ambulance? We just came in the ambulance."

"No, the CHOC ambulance. They send their own people for transfers. We are just waiting for them to call us back."

"A chalk ambulance?" I felt like an idiot and a moron.

"We don't have a pediatric wing, so we can't keep children overnight. CHOC specializes in children, so you will be in good hands there. I'll have the nurse come in to get that IV started."

I must have been staring as he spoke. Perhaps I didn't even blink.

"Do you need some water?" he asked.

"That would be nice," I said. I sat back down on the bed as he disappeared into the hall.

I turned to Boy Two, who continued to wheeze on top of the scratchy hospital blanket. I ran my fingers through his recently cropped hair, and he smiled. My heart smiled back, and I held him close as we continued to wait. The endless, endless wait.

---

Getting my husband to the hospital was a logistical nightmare. We had been getting along (reasonably well) sharing my Prius for several weeks, but in times of crisis, Orange Country was not constructed with single car families in mind.

I had first called my co-worker with my hands-free as I followed the ambulance on the way to HOAG.

It seemed like the phone rang forever.

"Hello?" he answered. He sounded like he'd been taking a nap. I tried to stifle my anger as I remembered I had chosen to have children. I had chosen to trade lazy Sunday afternoons for the joys of parenthood.

"Good afternoon. How are you doing?" I stumbled for words, well aware that he was getting an unannounced call from him boss in the middle of his nap. I had no idea how to ask for something that I needed so much, for him to bring my husband to me and our tiny ailing human.

I think he said he was fine, but the exact words escape me.

"Um, well, hum. Are you busy? Do you have any plans for this evening?"

Again, I can't remember what he said, but it was clear to me at the time that he was preparing himself for a laundry list of laborious tasks, several hours of lesson planning and possibly reading a test novel for next year in the following 24 hours.

"I need a humongous favor. I'm on my way to the hospital in Irvine. [Boy Two] is in an ambulance and I need [my husband]. Can you please pick him up and bring him here? Could you please go get [my husband] and bring him to the hospital?"

Sounding significantly more awake, he asked for details such as an address and phone number as I tried to park.

"Thank you. A hundred times, thank you. I will text you with the information. Thank you. I have to go. Thank you."

I scrambled from the car and ran to the emergency bay. Boy Two was unloaded, and I followed, petrified, into the ER.

In the ER, Part Two

One of the first orders of business once we were set in our room was placement of the IV in my tiny baby's arm. This entire enterprise was an unqualified disaster. On the first effort, a forty-something bleach-blond nurse with a ponytail and bright red reading glasses on a chain tried three different times, twice on one arm and once again on the other. I held B2 as he screamed. After the third attempt, she lifted her glasses and smacked her mint gum. "He must be dehydrated," she said. "I'm going to get someone to help you hold him down."

"I'll get someone to hold you down," I thought.

My better self responded instead. "Could we get him something to drink first?" I asked.

"Sure, honey," she replied.

She left, and B2 and I together both cried and struggled to breathe.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What Boy One Ate While I Was At The Hospital

- macaroni and cheese from a box
- snack bars
- hot lunch from camp
- pepperoni pizza and bread sticks from Taco Bell
- more snack bars
- several juice boxes
- hot lunch from camp
- cheese sticks
- a happy meal
- tortilla chips
- ice cream

In the ER

At the hospital, the same giant men rolled my little baby out of the ambulance and into the crowded chaos of Sunday afternoon at the ER. Thankfully, we were wheeled directly into an empty room, a by-product of a call from the beautifully haired nurse practicioner from the urgent care who had called ahead to let them know we were coming. A pleasant seeming woman with a blond ponytail asked us to wait inside, then quietly argued with the EMTs as B2 sat quietly on the bed, struggling for breath. I held him and tried to stay calm.

The rest of the ER was like a crooked slice of humanity sprawled out for view at its least attractive. In the waiting room, half of a softball team was waiting loudly for their teammate who had started throwing up after being hit in the head while at bat. In the entryway, an woman of a certain age in ridiculous shoes sat in a wheelchair with an ice pack on her knee, a likely victim of a fall. In the hall, an ancient man in a hospital gown stared blankly at the wall, waiting  patiently for attendance who could soothe him in his path to whatever comes after this life. Everywhere, people waited.

(To be continued.)

Ambulance Chaser

I never saw myself as an ambulance chaser, one of those poor souls whose livelihood relies on catching an injured individual in the hospital loading dock, but yet, there I was, running a red light behind a shiny emergency vehicle as it barreled down Barannca Parkway, as though my life depended on it. Despite the radio on and the traffic outside, the only thing I could hear was my baby, crying as the EMTs had shut the steel doors in the parking lot at urgent care, B2 on the inside, me on the out. In my mind, he was louder than the sirins. There was no red light in Orange County that was going to stop me from getting back to him.

He had woken at two that morning, coughing as he tried to breathe. I gave him his inhailer, then we'd gone back to sleep, only to repeat the program at six, ten and two again. By then, he just wasn't himself, fussy and quiet instead of rampuncous, refusing to walk even the few steps from our car to the play structre when we arrived at the park. I decided to take him in for some help.

At urgent care, the flawlessly beautiful N.P. on call, with lock after lock of curly black hair, had told me that his vitals were bad, that he needed to go to the hospital, that she was calling 911. Within moments, the tiny room was full of giant men carrying giant bags, all arrived to whisk away my tiny, wheezing baby.

Once he was strapped and masked, short of breath and yet still screaming, the EMTs drove away, and I followed, terrified I would lose sight of the ambulance, assured I would lose myself in the suburban maze that is central Irvine. In slow motion, time passed, as did trees, a lake, and many cars, and somehow, magically, we saftely arrived at the emergency room entrance bay.

(To be continued.)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

May the Struggle be Short and Quickly Overcome

The past few days, the toil of small people has worn me down. I have everything, absolutely everything, one could hope for in this life, yet my mind complicates and obliterates the good in favor of the empty, focuses on the lack in place of the bounty.

I work to bring my mind in line with the light, to see all I have and live in and the beauty that it has to offer, to disallow the view that there is smallness in tending, and to see instead the greatness in it.

May I find my way clearly, swiftly, and cease to suffer from an endless summer. May I impose the structure of work and progress on my struggle and benefit from it. May my anxiety find strength in production and my restless drive to produce find those who need an able ally.

In accomplishment, may I find space to be, and may my children benefit directly.

May the goodness overwhelm us all.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

What I Need is Wind

What I have is Focus.
Details. Assignments.
Tiny compartments, neatly filled.
Straight lines,
Black words,
Controlled, contained,
Allotted.

What I need is Wind:
Blowing, dancing,
Bursting from the seams;
Endlessly curving
Vibrant colors
Exploding down the pavement
Unabashed and unafraid...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Blood on the Carpet, or, Fun With Brothers Begins Again

Today, for the first time, Boy Two drew blood from Boy One. B1 was on the floor looking at one of his coloring books, when, BAM, out of nowhere, he was hit smack in the face with a flying flashlight. B2 was the only other person home, and I can promise you, I am not in the habit of throwing camping gear in the apartment. The guilty party is clear.

At first, B1 didn't breathe, but his face made that square-mouth shape he used to make when he was little, when the injustices of the world were just too much to bear. Then, he took a breath, and then he screamed, a long, anguished scream, as the blood began to seep out of the new red line below his eye.

I looked at B2. He was smiling from behind his pacifier, reaching out his tiny hands to be picked up.

"Look, Mommy! I can throw!" he seemed to say. "Come and congratulate me for successfully passing the light stick to my brother!"

"Baby, you hurt [B1]. He is sad because you hit him in the face."

Confused and feeling abandoned, he began to cry as well. It took everything I had not to join them, to have all three of us sitting on the floor in the hallway, tears streaming every which-way.

B1 had blood dripping onto the carpet.

"Hold on. Stay there. Let me get an ice pack." I scrambled to the freezer and back, then carefully, gently, pressed the ice pack to his face.

"I'm going to get blood on it!" he sobbed.

"Better on this than on the carpet," I replied.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Widgets from a Comparison Machine

I once read that families are comparison machines. In the story, it was argued that the close proximity of one sibling to another drives innumerable comparisons to the surface, often with life-long implications for those compared. For years, during the formidable childhood years, kids are told they are this one or that one: this sister is the smart one; this one the outgoing one. This brother is the funny one; this one is good at math. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter if both sisters are outgoing and smart in comparison to the rest of the human beings on the planet. It only matters that this one seems smarter than that one, that this one seems more outgoing than the other. In this way, brothers and sisters learn to carry these beliefs like widgets, widgets of judgement and self-limitation. Widgets that help define who they are and how they see themselves in the world.

So, of course, I compare my boys. Boy One was an articulate speaker almost  immediately upon arrival. By 18 months, he could string several words together and ask to nurse with most of a sentence. Boy Two, on the other hand, just says "Alk!" and pulls on my shirt, clear communication, unquestionably, but not likely to foreshadow grand success on his SAT. Obviously these things are fully predetermined at birth, the result of my consumption of non-organic spinach and coffee while pregnant. Now, he is destined to a life of mediocrity and decades of hitting his older brother up for cash. (Boy One must be the smart one.)

Untrue and unjust, this is the battle I fight: to allow each to be who he is in the tiny Venn Diagram which is our family. They can both be smart; they can both be kind; they can both be caring, generous, and thoughtful. They can both, God willing, even be good at math. May we overflow with widgets labeled “Good at Math.”

So, universe, please help me find what is good in each of my people and hold it up for praise without pushing anyone else down in the process. Help me to help them work together to be their best selves without endlessly competing against one another. Help me to build a cooperation machine, one that makes widgets of compassion to be handed out on every corner to everyone who passes by. And may those widgets be precisely engineered by my sons who are also good at math.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Haircuts Are More Than Just Shorter Hair

I cut the baby's hair yesterday. It wasn't the first time, but it was the most significant. Previously, I had simply trimmed, shortened his baby curls in a formation that allowed for at least cursory containment. But now, I have done the irreversible. His baby curls are gone, likely to never return, and with this unique action, with the use of a simple machine to trim and cut and shape, he has irrevocably left the baby world for the world of an older sort. He has become, with no reservations, a toddler.





In the conservative Jewish tradition, a boy's hair is not cut until he is three year's old. Once he has arrived at this ripe old age, there is a ceremony called an upshernish, an event in which members of the religious community ceremoniously cut the child's hair, a symbolic cutting away of  infancy as the small human enters into childhood and the beginning of his formal education. It is at this point that the boy begins to wear the traditional symbols of male Judaism, the yamaka, or kippa, and the tzitzis, a highly symbolic and specially knotted ritual fringe. To the uninitiated, these symbols seem strange and foreign at the very least, objects that set a group apart. But, just maybe, these symbols serve a purpose that is missing from the lives of the American gentile masses.


In the Korean tradition, a child's first birthday is celebrated with great pomp and circumstance. As part of the fĂȘte, there are prayers, and later the child is given a choice of several items, each symbolic of a different life-path or occupation. For example, a coin could symbolize wealth, a book a life of scholarship, or a long thread a long life.


In traditional American culture, a child's first birthday seems to be an opportunity for conspicuous consumption, complete with goody-bags painstakingly crafted from Pintrest and several dozen three-dollar cupcakes,
 at least for the first child. Second and third children? Well, they are still alive, right?

But the point, I think, is that these traditions, these rituals, even the ones involving an inflatable castle, give shape and meaning to the existential nightmare of middle-class parenting, where, as a story I heard yesterday put it, children are "economically worthless and emotionally priceless," the capstones of a "successful" adult life. For after the years of school, the toil of work and career, and the struggles of even the best and most loving partnerships, it is our children who will serve as our references in the world once we have passed; the ultimate measures of our own successes and failures. 

So, now, Boy Two, with your new hair cut and handsome look, you have transformed me from the mother of a baby into the mother of boys. My my failures be few and my successes beyond measure. And my you, and that brother of yours, find your places in the world more easily than I found mine.



Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Birthday, America

Standing on the side of Yorba Linda Boulevard, holding Boy Two while Boy One wrapped himself in a blanket, I leaned into my man and watched the fireworks. Next to me, a father held his young son on his shoulders, quietly singing, "Happy Birthday, America."

They have part of a conversation in another language, then switch back to English.

"How old is America?" the father asks.

"239!" the boy replies.

"That's right!" exclaims his father, then they stop, and continue to watch the burning elements explode across the sky.

This, to me, is the beauty of America. Here, on the side of the road, my fourth or more generation, WASPy boys standing side-by-side with the children of imigrants, celebrating the nation's birthday.

May we all continue to stand together.

Happy birthday, America. Happy birthday.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Two Followers? Really?

Dearest Reader,

Today, I bought a fancy new purse and wallet to celebrate my 4,000th page view on this very blog. 4,000 page views? I mean, come on! That means, on average, that more than 60 people read each of my posts. Now, there are (at least) two possible explanations for this documented phenomenon: either sixty random people show up to read each of my posts and never return, only to have 60 more random people show up for my next post and get board out of their minds, or, and I find this second option far more likely, around 50 people are reading my musings on a regular basis, with a small number of transitory visitors who stop by, then move along their merry way. For each and every one of these readers, I am thankful. I like to believe that I bring a small sprig of joy to people as I write myself a path to sanity. Thank you, everyone, who takes the time to read what I have to say.

But now, I beg. According to Google, I have two subscribers. Two. One of those it probably my mom, and the other is an email address I made up for my husband to see how the whole following thing works. So, basically, according to Google, two people have read my blog 2,000 times each. I guess my mom has been really busy.

But you, fair reader, can significantly improve my standing in the Google universe, and, let's be clear, Google controls more than a fair chunk of the universe, simply by allowing the big G to send my blog to your email. Easy, right? Just think, you can add to my subscriber list by 33% by simply adding one more email to your day. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is simple, and this small effort on your part will likely earn you more karma points than your next self will even know what to do with.

So, please, if you enjoy reading my blog, please sign up to be a subscriber by typing your email into the box that says "Email address..." above this post and replying to the test email that is sent to your inbox. It will mean the world to me and help to ensure that I keep writing well into the future. Because for my mom and my husband's fake email? Well, they're fine without my blog. But, hopefully, you find some small piece of beauty in what I write, and, hopefully, that beauty is worth an extra daily email.

With thanks,

RL


Maybe He'll Be Good at Math?

Not A Cat
Boy Two has decided that everything on four legs is a cat.

"Cat! Cat!" he squeals, pointing excitingly at an overweight golden retriever.

"Dog? Do you see the dog? What a nice dog," I reply. (Note proper use of target noun used in context. )

"Cat!"

Fine. Sure. I give up. Your ability to identify a large, four-legged, hairy creature walking around the apartment complex as similar to the small, four-legged, hairy creature that roams our apartment has been proven. Good job, dude. Mozel tov.

Good luck getting into college.