Monday, March 31, 2008

Loaded, but Unlocked

I remember being a kid, really I do. I especially remember being a middle schooler, which is convenient when I need to access the absolute lack of logic that rules in the 'tween years.

I remember, for example, when I was in 6th grade and it became clear to me that someone was stealing from me during P.E. class while we were out on the field or court. I recall money going missing from the front pocket of my backpack in the locker room. And I remember the novelty of trying to determine what was once there by virtue of what was now not. I was pretty sure, for example, that I had a lot more pens before. And now someone was stealing my money, and probably some pens. Of course it took a couple of times of No Lunch Money before I recognized the pattern as Theft versus Loss.

And of course, none of these occurrences or missing items resulted in me discontinuing my practice of Not Locking My Locker. We had a locker room, and we each had a locker. And I put my stuff in that locker, and I put a combination lock on the locker.

But I Did Not Lock the Lock.

Because, you see, Unlocking a Locked Lock took up precious time at the end of P.E. class when I could have been brushing my hair so as to look hot for math class. (Of course I didn't take a shower. I never saw our middle school locker room showers wet, in fact).

Not even money missing from my backpack made me experiment with, say, LOCKING MY LOCKER. But I did talk my P.E. teacher into letting me stake out my locker while the rest of the class went out to play Capture the Flag, which is how I caught the girl who was a Non-Suit Grit* stealing from my locker. Never had I been so freaked out in my short life, catching a peer-turned-thief, red-handed, taking my stuff. And never before have I felt more like a Goody-Two-Shoe Narc as when I turned her in.

And though I could ask myself again why the heck I didn't lock my locker (DUH!), I see our students at my high school drop their backpacks IN THE MIDDLE OF THE QUAD, in piles by trash cans, and leave them there as they walk off campus to go get lunch. I suppose they take their wallets with them, as they need their money for food. But I know they leave iPods in backpacks, because we've had some stolen right there in front of all of us. I even had a student indignantly report a theft from his abandoned backpack to me one day, only to see him attempt to leave his backpack there again the next day. When I made him wear it on his four-block walk to lunch, you would have thought I was Zeus, handing the rock back to Sisyphus for yet another trip up the hill.

And then there are the unlocked lockers. I'm not the only middle school graduate who doesn't lock her locker. There are plenty more where I came from.

I was following up on a theft from an unlocked P.E. locker today with one of our gym teachers and he said, "Well, you know what we tell these kids about protecting their stuff: A LOCKER without a LOCK is just an -ER."

*Likely to be seen smoking cigarettes at the park behind the library, across from school.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Drum Circle

I am not a lover of Sunday nights, when the weekend wanes and the week waxes. When family time transitions into work time.

Tonight is the last night of Spring Break. And at the end of a nice break, I tend to pout. But I also have some pretty terrific times with my kids to think about as I set the coffee maker, pack lunches, and set out clothes for the next day.

For example:

My eldest daughter and I had an afternoon with her new baby cousin and aunt and uncle after her VCUG. She was exhausted and so was baby boy, and they napped together on the couch while my little sister and I enjoyed being moms together--a new dimension to our shared experiences.

I had a wonderful morning at Sea World with my two-year-old and her younger cousin, reminding me of the value of spending individual time with each of my daughters. At some point I wondered what we would see there besides Clydesdales (we always head first to the HORSES, ironically, at SEA World), since she was afraid of some key exhibits:

"How about penguins, kiddo? Want to go in there?"
Daughter pokes head around corner to peer inside Penguin Encounter entrance. Shakes head:
"Nope. I scared, Mama."
"What about Polar Bear Arctic Adventure?"
Daughter hears sounds coming from Polar Enclave, stops in tracks:
"Scary, Mama. I scared!"

I somehow talked her into seeing the sharks (really folks, it's PENGUINS we should fear) and into watching the Seal and Otter Show.

She chattered with me as we roamed the park, like my little toddler friend who'd come to town for the day. Her cousin was a smiling, rather silent accessory--sleepy and willing to go wherever we strolled him. As she ate a bowl of ice cream in a Commemorative Shamu Cup before we left the park, my daughter sighed and licked her spoon and said, "Thank you, Mommy..."

On Friday my girls and I checked out a Drum Circle I saw advertised at my youngest daughter's school, a preschool/intervention program where "typically developing" children are integrated with peers who have been diagnosed with autism. A man named Sundiata runs a weekly music program there, and I learned that he was the link to the Drum Circle. This guy has built a career out of drumming with kids, particularly kids with struggles. How amazing is that?

I had never been to a Drum Circle, though I have taken my daughters to an African drumming class at our city's multicultural center from time to time. This drumming event (held at a residential school/treatment center for troubled youth) was a kick-off to a study being conducted on the effects of drumming on children's stress.

Concentric circles of chairs were set up for 150-200 people, each chair equipped with a drum, maraca, cowbell, or shaker. The founder of Remo drums, Remo himself! was there--and the different kinds of drums available for everyone, anyone, to use were SO COOL.

So, it's pretty hard not to become a Drum Circle Disciple. Like the grey-haired lady with funky braids who was up and dancing, uninhibited, from the start. I don't have a lot of rhythm, but I could feel myself Getting It the more I drummed and grooved.

The great thing about kids? They are born without inhibition and with a natural rhythm that seems to diminish over time, until you're 40 and stuck in your chair wondering who's watching you bang on your drum like a happy fool. I loved it when my little two-year-old's hips swayed to the beat and when my eldest daughter joined the conga line. I loved watching the kids from the center breakdance in the middle of the circle, do the Worm, and cheer each other on.

I can't wait for our Summer Concert in the Park Series, when neighbors of all ages dance barefoot to jazz, bluegrass, and funk.

But summer break is Not Here Yet.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I Say Discord; You Say Harmony

During an eensy weensy venting coven of wives on a friend's front lawn, a few of us talked about the Lists we'd like (or have threatened) to make, including:

1. List of All The Things I Have to Nag You To Do (aka List of All The Things You CLAIM You Do Around Here, Husband)
2. List of All The Things I Will Now Take On Because I Can't Listen To You Complain About Them Anymore
3. List of All The Things YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW I DO
4. List of All The Things I Remember To Do, Thank Goodness, Because They Would Never Even Occur To You to Consider (and everything would soon go to hell in a handbasket, by the way, Buster, if it weren't for me gluing it all together)

When we were out of lists, and somewhat tired of ranting, one of the married women offered this synopsis of her last marital feud:

So we fought, and we argued, and we went to bed too tired to fight anymore. In the morning I woke up, fairly defeated, and said, "Husband, do you kind of get where I was coming from last night?"

And he said, "I do, honey, I do! And do you kind of understand where I'm coming from, too?"

And I patted him on the arm and said, smiling, even lovingly, "No. No, honey, I don't."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

This Is Her Brain on Nitrous

Yesterday was the VCUG to determine if our daughter's second STING procedure worked to correct her kidney reflux.

There are at least two yucky aspects of the VCUG, according to my daughter: "Tube in My Bum" and "Peeing on the Bed."

She, not unlike myself, has an uncanny ability to overly anxiously anticipate events, so that when they turn out to be only slightly less awful than imagined, a giddy celebration is in order. I guess that's an upside of being Really Worried About Everything, All the Time.

But the VCUG on Nitrous Oxide was better than without, though it took more time.

Nitrous oxide. That's the same as a "whip-it," right? Like the whipped-cream can thing? That's what, a 30-second high, max? And we talk kids out of it by telling them it kills brain cells?

Well, my daughter was on a non-stop whip-it for 30 minutes. They told me that they would give it to her for 5-10 minutes and then take her off...and put her back on if necessary.


My daughter can worry right through the 100% nitrous dose, apparently. She did get a little silly at some points, singing Little Mermaid songs and offering lopsided smiles. And then pointing out, definitively, "I AM NOT PEEING ON THE BED."

Nature took over, alas, as they pumped her bladder beyond believable proportions, and she Let Go, at which point I looked at the screen and saw the tell-tale dark line of urine heading right back up to her kidney. Which means, STING? No dice. Not on the right side.

We will learn more at her "Talking Only, Right, Mommy?" consultation appointment tomorrow.

Meanwhile, she is busy giddily celebrating that peeing, on a bed or elsewhere, is not as bad as it seemed YESTERDAY.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Moment of Beauty

Captured on camera, not so skillfully by Fer: Rainbow of eggshells awaiting compost.

The innards? Deviled.


Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

To Have and To Hold

Two high school girlfriends and I created a reunion of sorts when one of our dear friends from the Class of '89 married a lovely man last weekend and we converged on Maryland for the event. One of us was a hip New Yorker, the other a pregnant mother of a preschooler, and then there was I, pretty psyched to be childless-for-weekend woman WITH a Pregnant Friend (aka Designated Driver). Add a rental car, several maps to various destinations, and two nights in different cities and different beds, and you have one exciting weekend for three broads with normally mundane lives (well, okay, Hip New Yorker is heading to Paris next week).

Of course, we drank wine (two of us at least), shared mascara, and appraised one another's outfits. We also spent a fair amount of time on Maryland roads, walking down memory lane and smirking at signs on tackle shops ("Looking for Bait? Here 'tis!") and churches ("Satan only suggests; you choose").

But our best moments were mugging for photos in the stockades at the wedding's historic site, and on the dance floor, boogieing down and requesting songs on the couple's Do Not Play List (I understand the "Hokey Pokey," but the "Electric Slide"? Yeah, we were shot down. We did manage to get the hapless deejay to play "Tootsie Roll").

We drove back to the airport/train station with the newly-marrieds' party-favor CD as soundtrack, featuring tunes from Psychedelic Furs, The Proclaimers, and Modern English, which made us feel like not much had happened to our bride friend in the music department in the 19 years since we graduated.

The wedding ceremony was absolutely lovely, and I include some wonderful quotes here:

  • From Yeats, "When You Are Old": "One man loved the pilgrim soul in you,/And loved the sorrows of your changing face."

  • "So Much Happiness" by Naomi Shihab Nye: "Since there is no place large enough/To contain so much happiness,/You shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you/Into everything you touch. You are not responsible./You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit/For the moon, but continues to hold it, and to share it,/And in that way, be known."

  • From "Epithalamion: A Blessing for the Newlyweds" by Michael Glaser (Maryland's Poet Laureate): "...may you return each evening/to a home of joy and peace/where you are free to choose/the place of your own kneeling,/where you worship at the edge of each other's open door."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Superman that...WHOAH!

Tonight our school district's nonprofit fundraising foundation is holding its live telethon. This operation has evolved into an event of complicated proportions for one small-town school district, with live acts performing on stage interspersed with taped spots of various grade levels and campus personalities singing and dancing.

While students are the obvious stars of the show, employees aren't safe either, with security guards, teachers, and custodians showing up in skits, music videos and district bands. The administrators were cajoled into organizing into a live act/dance, which was meant to resemble something from Stomp! and serve as the finale for the telethon. But when we showed up for the first rehearsal under the tutelage of our high school's dance teacher, the act had transformed into a Dance Melange, featuring songs from three decades, including the "Electric Slide," the "Tootsie Roll," and "Crank That (Soulja Boy)." Which is where the trouble started.

Now, it's important to understand that I spend a fair amount of time at high school functions, especially dances, where the soundtrack is Nasty Lyrics and the dancing is Freaky. OF COURSE, I am concerned about the misogyny and subjugation of women inherent in rap songs. Of course I am shocked by suggestive music videos.

I am a Visual Learner, though, which means, if all I hear is the music, and it's Hard to Understand, I may not appreciate that I am unwittingly nodding my head to something that means Unprintable.

This leads me back to "Crank That (Soulja Boy)." The first time I heard this song, at a dance in our Multi-Purpose Room, I was cracking up at my students doing the "superman" move in this song--like Grover the furry blue monster stretching his arms out in front of him in hopes of flying. The song seemed silly to me, but was clearly catchy to my clientele.

Which is why THEY (high school students) advised our dance teacher to incorporate this song into the Administration Dance. And we learned it, yes we did, and I rehearsed it over the weekend in preparation for our performance. I pretty much enjoyed this dance move. The "song" started growing on me. It helped that there is a tutorial video on YouTube (It's going worldwide, FYI).

I even advertised the fact that the principal and vice principal would be dancing to this song at the telethon and our students better donate money.

I should have listened more carefully. Verbs like "cranking" could possibly suggest something, well, sexual...and I didn't know that "superman" was a verb. And you heard it here: Most of the references to "ho"s sounded like "whoah"s to me. And anyway, if you decide to research what "superman"ning a "ho" is, you, like me, might ask yourself, seriously? Is that real? Because that is Just Ridiculous.

FYI, based on my research, there is some internet debate on whether or not there is deeper, skankier meaning to Crank That (Soulja Boy), or whether Soulja Boy is just a dance move.

Bottom Line: our admin dance ensemble was cancelled, unceremoniously, the day before our big debut, on the basis of Inappropriate Lyrics.

I will admit to being slightly disappointed.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bye Bye Birdies

In Avian News today, we have one Scared Little Bird, and Five Birds Who Have Flown the Coop.

We'll start with Scared Little Bird. Today was Daughter #1's VCUG to determine if the STING procedure worked to fix the functioning of her kidney/ureter. The diagnostic VCUG, which involves a catheter, some dye, and being made to "pee on a bed" while technicians/doctor watch where her urine goes (hopefully out, not back up to the kidneys) is definitely my daughter's vote for the Least Desirable of the Procedures. As this was her third time, she came to the hospital armed with anxiety. The Freaking Out began shortly after she changed into the tiger-print gown. I knew we were in for trouble when the x-ray tech appraised my little puddle of tears and left, saying, "I'm just going to go make sure we have TWO radiologists available for this one." And it was not much longer before we were being offered the option of rescheduling, with an order of nitrous oxide to smooth things along. The helpful tech offered, "She's a Prime Candidate for Sedation."

I certainly plan on suppressing that medical observation when she's of an age where sedatives are readily available without prescription.

Honestly, I pretty much wanted to be the mom who made her daughter get up there and be brave, even if it took restraints. Today's ordeal wasn't even a treatment! It was diagnostic, and we were looking at delaying the discovery of whether or not we need to redo something called the STING. Let's get it over with, already!

Plus, I took the afternoon off work. And another thing: I like Foley Catheters! A frequent urinator, I appreciated my 24-hours-plus with a Foley after both of my c-sections, when I could lie happily on a bed and pee without getting up or Even Knowing I Was Relieving Myself.

But my daughter was having none of it, and Those People who were faced with dealing with her today or meeting her later, under goofier, more narcotics-alleviated circumstances, were all too happy to reschedule us. So off we went to McDonald's, because it's ironically RIGHT INSIDE Children's Hospital, where I rewarded my daughter for being, as the Tech described her, "Verifiably Fearful," versus Downright Ornery.

Meanwhile, tonight was our goodbye to our five little chicks (whose feet now resemble those of full-grown chickens, the first frontier, apparently of chicks becoming Not So Cute). No more "Cheerios wif Duckies," which our 2-year-old looked forward to each morning. We grew pretty attached to those little peckers, particularly when we thought we were going to lose one last week (it looked like it had "dropsy"...?). Despite the belated realization that we had no idea what we were doing, and probably had no business bringing chickens into our kitchen, I think we turned out to be pretty good Chick Sitters. Thank you to my daughters' Godmother, who manages to come up with the coolest things for us to do and experience.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

10,000 Miles

Just about one year ago I finally replaced my first car. A reluctant driver, I waited to commit to car ownership until I was 27, with the plan to buy a reliable, used car of the Toyota Corolla variety with under 50,000 miles. Geo made Prizms with a Corolla engine and a Chevy body for less moola. And in really unique colors.

I and others described the hue of my auto variously as "scarab beetle," "emerald," and "Sprite bottle" green. A conspicuous color, my car and I were often spotted by students driving by on the freeway. Friends would ask me what I was doing at this-and-such store or place after spotting my Geo in the parking lot, and there were awesome "Car Twin" moments on the road when I would find another kindred soul willing to drive a crazy-colored vehicle: Peace, brother! Sweet Wheels! friends give me crap about my car, too...

I even wrote a poem to my car when my creative writing class was working on odes:

Ode to Geo Prizm

Unlike the white “L” series model
with a cigarette burn on the front passenger seat,
You had no flaws
except your color,
which gleamed in the sun like a Japanese beetle
unwittingly caught on the surface of a swimming pool
in a Southern California suburban backyard.
I tried Mazda Proteges, even a four-door cherry red
Toyota Tercel souped up by a sailor and for sale for more
than I could afford.
So I came back to you,
abandoned on the lot
among earth-tones and unoffensive metallics,
an emerald in an agate setting.
Even your mileage was right.
I drove you home that day and now you
and your creative color
are part of me.

P.S. I am sorry I hurt you that one day pulling out of the driveway…

I really loved my car. I hung on to it against the urgings of my brothers to buy something better, cooler. But last year, I finally determined that my little Geo was not the safest ride for my kiddoes, and it might be nice to have some airbags, some automatic windows, even. I sold my car to the daughter of a friend, who lives near another friend, who sees my car parked outside her house often enough to tell me that it appears to be doing very well in its new home.

And now it's time for the 10,000 mile service for my one-year-old, red 2007 Honda Civic. Alas, it has no cassette player, so I've had to give up the mixed tapes from the 80s which comprised my soundtrack in Green Geo. And it's harder to find my new car in the parking lot, where it's just another Honda sedan in the sea of SUVs.

I feel a little like I went back to natural hair color after dying mine purple all these years. I miss you Green Geo...

Monday, March 3, 2008

peeps in the 'hood

This morning was pretty standard: pour coffee, take shower, get dressed, pack lunches, let the dog out, feed the chickens...

That's right, we are the proud Foster Family of five chicks--exotic hens, even. One is garden-variety yellow, but we have Araucanas (also known as "Easter Egg chickens"--they lay colored eggs!), a Rhode Island Red, and a Barred Rock Bantam. My friend knows a Bird Guy, and he is allowing us to babysit these chickens, just for kicks (and pecks, and scratches...).

We have them in a glass aquarium in our breakfast nook, on top of a heating pad and with a lamp to keep them cozy. The trick is to warm them enough so they don't huddle together pathetically, but not too much, because then they'll run around the aquarium peeping and pecking and freaking out, like hens in a hothouse. We haven't overheated them yet, but I do wonder if it's normal for a chick to lie down like a dog, flat on its tummy with its chin on the floor?

I wake up in the middle of the night worried about freezing our peeps. Turns out we can't bring any creatures into our home without adding them to the Keeps Me Up At Night list (except ants, OF COURSE).

Daughter #1 is in the process of naming them (so far we have "Morning," "Sunshine," "Night," "Star," and "River"), and Daughter #2 wants to hold them in her chubby hands, maybe a little too tightly (when the peeping gets shrill, it's a good hint she's putting on the squeeze).

Our poor dog: she spent the first evening with chicks running back and forth between rooms and Freaking Out, what with the responsibility of keeping us and our cat and five chicks Safe and Monitored. And then it was the one night in a blue moon when a Gnarly Cat Fight took place right outside our back door. The kind of cat fight that started with a sound that made us sit up in bed and ask each other if it was Daughter #2 who was caterwauling...or if an infant had been abandoned on our doorstep. When husband let our dog out to Make It Stop, For Crying Out Loud, she shot through the open door at 50MPH, a nice release for pent-up Chick Anxiety. And that was the end of caterwauling, if not peeping.

In a matter of days, the little chicks are getting taller, growing longer necks, and becoming more and more of a Flight Risk, as a matter of fact...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Oh, Baby!

I love babies. I seriously do. I held my sister's newborn son today, and as I snuggled him on my shoulder, slouched comfortably in the armchair by his bassinette in the NICU, I murmured to my sister, This is what it's all about. This is it. I could do this forever.

Not everyone loves the infant stage. But I do. And it passed quickly enough with my first child, especially because I had a tinge of the Baby Blues and I felt Worried, Irrationally Worried about Everything, and I was a working mom and before I knew it my time of staying at home, baby on chest, rocking interminably, was OVER.

When the second baby came, somehow I was saner, more grounded, but I was also distracted. Distracted by the first, and by Life In General. So infancy, again, was woefully short.

So the rational part of me knows that to long for an infant, for another child, is to long for something unattainable. It is to wish for the sanctity of that firstborn experience, without the pain of confusion and insecurity. My life is too busy and complex to expect that I would have very many of those quiet rocking moments, without needing to drive somewhere to pick up an elder child, or prepare to feed them. After all, with a firstborn, it's excusable to starve the parents. After that, it's hard to sacrifice everyone at the Altar of Baby.

And then there's the Planet Earth Argument. We have two children. We have, so-called, Replaced Ourselves, which is somewhat environmentally okay, according to...Popular Opinion? But to create More Consumers than I and my partner represent is a different story, and begs, somehow, for my justification. My parents rationalized having five children by arguing that they would raise offspring who would better the world. Quite a gamble. Though I will assert that my siblings and I appear to be Good Characters.

Which leads me, as always, to examine, Why In Hell Exactly I Have Any Urge to Procreate ANYMORE.

Help me here, anyone. Because I know perfectly well that the environmentally sound decision is to create fewer people in general (all birth/death rate arguments aside). And I even know that from a financial standpoint, our two mostly-charming daughters are Quite Enough, Thank You.

And then there are the Stress and Logistical Factors, i.e., how much (or how many) am I and my husband personally equipped to handle, and can we, as Working Persons, arrange to take more than two children to lessons, practices, etc.?

Not to mention that while I generally love being pregnant, during my last daughter's gestation I broke a rib, which kind of cast a pall on my third trimester. And my uterus opened at my former C-section site during labor. So I don't go into pregnancy and delivery lightly.

We've thought about adopting a third child, an option which excuses us from a) environmental concerns, b) pregnancy concerns, c) ticking biological clock concerns. But it still leaves financial and logistical concerns, as well as unknown factors--which come from agreeing to be parents of any child, biologically yours or not.

So I can't explain why, from time to time, I have these strong urges to catalyze the wonder of translating our genes into a new human. I'll be bold enough to suggest that they are probably largely biological, but likely narcissistic on some level as well.

I just want another baby. It's not logical.

And when I have these feelings, I know to appreciate that my husband and I are, in fact, capable of having children naturally. And to appreciate that that fact is not reason enough to keep having them.