Saturday, April 25, 2015

"Momma, I love to to the North Pole and back home and down to Florida and back home. That's how much I love you." That's a lot.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Momma mantra

Sink, fridge, table, sink, utensil drawer, bathroom, sink, dish rack, cabinet, utensil drawer, sink, sink, fridge, bread drawer, utensil drawer, table, sink, couch, dish rack, sink, table, utensil drawer, bread drawer.

Didn't I just wash this, didn't I just put a plastic bag away, didn't I just sweep, didn't I just put a pair of shoes away, why are there so many towels out in the bathroom, why is the utensil drawer empty again, why can't I find a flat surface to put anything down on, why can't I access the sink to fill a cup of water again?

I ask the same questions when whether we are well or sick, but it's all so much harder when we're sick.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Siblings, boy and cat


Yep, that's the cat's head in the crook a Beren's arm. And no, that Lululemon bag is not mine.

Life's gotten in the way of writing lately. I've just been waiting for spring. Finally, spring has the plants jumping out of the ground. It started a couple days ago and is now very real.

I'll go easy on myself and not go for craft, but for a little quantity. Here we go...

Beren and Mountain Kitten are like siblings. Beren totes Mountain around like a sack. Mountain tolerates, if not enjoys it, I think. Then, they'll tussle.

It can go a few ways:

Beren might kick Mountain, unprovoked. Parents: "Gentle!"

Beren wants to cuddle Mountain. Mountain wants to play "Catch and Scratch". Parents: "Put him down, Mountain will scratch you."

Beren puts the cat in a box. Choose your own adventure. It can go anywhere from here.

Beren gets scratched. Blame can go either direction. "HE SCRATCHED ME!" or "HE'S NOT DOING ANYTHING. HE DIDN'T SCRATCH ME!"


Mountain happily explores. Beren intercedes to administer totings and cuddlings, or Beren says, "Let's just let Mountain do his thing. We're gonna let Mountain do his thing." It's nice to hear your saner self reflected.

Mountain jumps on the counter (no-no). Beren shrieks, "NO, MOUNTAIN! GET DOWN!" It's less nice to hear your other self reflected.

Once after a child-cat scratch out, I took this approach, "You and Mountain are friends..." "MOUNTAIN IS NOT MY FRIEND!" Alright. Got it. I smiled to myself. Beren's an only child, kind of.

After a day of being toted, boxed, unfriended, and cuddled, Mountain trots upstairs to visit Beren. Sometimes during story time, Beren will be treated to licks on the face (giggles), which devolve into "Catch and Scratch" (cries).

Sometimes after Beren is asleep, Mountain will slip upstairs and climb into Beren's bunk. Usually, we won't notice until we hear a thunk, or a cry from a still sleeping child (lucky cat). Either way, Mountain is deported.

Mountain is inherently social, or a glutton for punishment, or really misses his cat mom. He follows us, especially Beren (The Toter) through the house. He joins us in the bathroom while we take baths. He licks the water from the edge of the tub. He climbs on the tub. Once he went into the tub, courtesy of The Toter. Mountain Kitten joined us again at the next bath time.


The Toter and The Scratcher. I may need to find a copy of Siblings Without Rivalry.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Four tiny blanket sized

December 14, 2010, 3:38 PM. Cuddling in the native animal blanket.

Our down quilts have made sleeping a sweaty matter. Jared and I wake from discomfort. Worse, Beren could kick his blanket off, and then get cold and wake up. Being that sleeping through the night is now status quo, by any means necessary shall it remain status quo.

"Light weight blanket for Beren" went on the shopping list. In the meantime, we've piled our beds with thin blankets and procrastinated on shopping.

Local box stores or the internet are our options. Neither seemed a good way to spend a sunny afternoon. "You can find anything you want..." except you can't. And, it costs time and money. Double time even - the time to shop and the time to earn the money to shop.

Then, Beren came down with the stomach bug that's going around. Of that, Jared asked, "Isn't something always going around?" True, but it's more true when it's true. It started with a runny nose, then puking (once with Jared, and then once on himself, me, his bed, and his sandbox bucket - thanks, Jared, for the bucket). He seemed to recover quickly the next day.

A night or so later, Beren woke, and he whimpered and cried. I crept into his room. "Beren? Are you thirsty? Do you have to pee? Are you cold?" "No, no." He cried on. I struggled with Beren's three layers of tangled blankets - a queen sized sheet, a threadbare blanket from my childhood, and a hand-me-down flannel sheet. I was getting cold myself. The queen sized sheet was the most frustrating. I could tell by it's cool feeling on my flailing legs and arms.

I murmured comforting words and inquired more of him, but he just cried. He didn't want to be touched. Finally, I said, "Beren, I really want to help you, but I really want to go to sleep, too. Can you tell me what is going on?"

Either enough time had passed, or I said the right thing..."My belly hurts. What will make it go away?" I had no answer. I searched my memory for what my mother had said to me when I had a bellyache as a child. I couldn't remember. "It really hurts, huh?" We drifted back to sleep. In the morning I woke in my own bed.

The day was cold, rainy. Wednesday. Jared's 'work' day. My day to care for Beren who was a sick, but spirited kid. I was slightly under rested mother, determined to make the day pass smoothly. Activities, meaningful activities are essential.

A set of Beren's receiving blankets were bound for a clothing give-away bin. [Why are there so many?] I'd always wanted to make a big blanket from them. A sick day at home would be the day. Beren choose the thread colors and helped me wind the bobbin. He giggled as he held the sewing machine's clutch, which spun under his little hand.

Four tiny blankets became one big one. Because the individual blankets had curving corners, they didn't meet in the very center. I cut a bear face from an infant sized onesie, and used it as a patch. Jared exclaimed as I held it up, "Nice!" It smelled like our damp, old house, so I washed it. I folded the queen sized sheet on Beren's bed and put it away.

"I'm putting your new blanket on your bed, Beren," I said. "No, it's a carpet, Momma," he answered.We hung it from his bunk bed like a curtain.

After Jared put Beren to sleep that night, I covered Beren with his carpet blanket.

December 14, 2010, 4:49 PM. One hour later. Another blanket for Beren, another shirt for me. Mysterious. Soggy diaper? Hardly looks like we moved, and we really didn't for quite some time, maybe 3 months. In the four years that have passed since Jared took this picture, Beren went from  one tiny blanket sized to four tiny blankets all sewn together sized.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Momma, what is the moon made out of?

What are stars made out of?

Why does the moon go away?

Some of last night's bedtime inquiries. Something about being in bed brings these thing on.

Today, we spent the morning and into the afternoon with my parents and a good friend putting up the second hoophouse. I asked them questions. Not about the moon, but about how to build things.

Did you know there's a drill bit that is cone shaped and enlarges holes in metal pipe? I didn't. Now I do. I don't know what to call it, but I know it exists. 

And now, I'll have to hit the books on what stars are made of. Better yet, how does one explain "gases floating in space" to a child? It's easier to show him how to safely use a folding razor knife to cut apart the hoop house's wiggle wire track...  and then again, I'm startled at how quickly he can unsheathe the razor. I suppose he'll need both...earthly and celestial knowledge.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Meow meow meow meow meow meow



Song was a large part of early childhood education when I worked at a private school several years back. "Follow, follow..." The teachers would chirp to children my son's age and older. I liked that idea, and it seemed to work.

I sang lullabies to Beren, and Jared would often play music when trying to lull our resistant child into the day's final transition, from waking to sleeping. It seemed more the duration of our efforts than our efforts themselves that finally brought sleep. 

Once, and only once, were we able to gently send Beren back to sleep with song alone. I remember it well: Jared and I slept in our bed, and Beren slept in his crib (the crib part is mysterious as he rarely slept in his crib, but more so in our bed). He woke and whimpered. 

We were finely tuned to his nighttime waking so through his infancy. "Hum Allah, hum Allah, hum Allah, hum Allah. Prince of peace, won't you hear our plea? Prince of peace... Hum Allah, hum Allah..." He fell back asleep, and likely woke again two hours later but the deep lyrics of Pharoah Sanders and our imitation of his soulful jazz allowed a couple hours sleep for all.

But overall, it has seemed Beren's not one for song. Sing-a-longs at libraries were busts, with Beren headed for the door or my armpit. Jared had the same experience. When he was eight or more months old, I sang my best country blues solo for him in the kitchen one afternoon while I tried to wash dishes. He smiled from the high chair, but not much more.

Whenever Jared played music, Beren would demand that Jared stop. "Too noisy," he seemed to say. Twice, I sang Maybelle Carter's version of Cannonball Blues, slightly edited, and Beren burst into tears at the sadness of a "baby" going away on a train. 

This past year, Beren has taken up recorder, harmonica, and banging on our marching drum. The latter is sometimes for disruptive effect, but he and Jared duet frequently. He's also working on whistling. It's been fun for my very musically inclined husband.

I've also picked up a couple more shifts on the bedtime routine. As Beren's gotten older, it's gotten easier to be out at night, for all of us. And so, Jared and I have picked up a night class each, plus a little time with friends in the evening. 

Making the final departure from Beren's room can be tough. "Momma, cuddle me." "Momma, don't go." "Momma, stay a little longer." Well, sure. I'd be happy to, and I do. Prying his clinging hand from mine doesn't feel quite like saying "sweet dreams." There's a limit, though, especially since he falls asleep most quickly when he's alone. Otherwise, he'd chat until delirious. 

Jared has a funny routine that works sometimes. He kisses the pillows and blankets goodnight. Beren laughs and Jared makes an exit. It worked for me a couple times, but then I had to get creative. One night Beren asked me to sing The Mountain Kitten Song. It goes like this:

Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meowntin, meow meow meow meow meowntin...

We harmonize. Beren's grip loosens and I descend the steps of his bunk bed, fumble in the dark for my slippers, and sing all the way down the steps. Our song drifts to a close, and sometimes Beren's eyes close for the night, too.






Friday, March 6, 2015

Books in the trash

 It's not a tortoise, it's a box turtle.
 Monarch caterpillar and butterfly milkweed. Hurry and the Monarch features an adult monarch and a tortoise, so I'm 0 for 2.

I opened the book return door and slipped a few unreadable books inside the bin. Clank, the big metal maw swallowed poorly (or scarily) illustrated and stupidly (or scarily) written children's books, a couple adult ones, too.

I dropped a copy of Hurry and the Monarch in, too. We'd all enjoyed the book featuring a monarch butterfly and a tortoise. I was sorry to return it. It was just about due. I paused before putting a batch of crappy CDs (do any libraries have really great music CDs?) into the bin. It was marked BOOK RETURN, not audio visual.

"Pathological adherence to the law," an acquaintance once said of his wife. The phrase stuck with me, perhaps because it describes me, or at least part of me.

I'd already violated several small New Jersey town library taboos. I parked my big honkin' truck facing the door and in manner that blocked parking spots, including a handicapped one. I dropped books in the bin while the library was open. Then, I lied (big taboo) and also made the ultimate transgression.

I knew the returns counter was just inside the door - this is the library I went to as a kid. So, I opened the library door, said, "Here's CDs. I didn't realize you were open." Lie. The library staff glared at me.

My kid was in the car. What could I do? Leaving a child in a car is The Ultimate Taboo. Yet, my pathological adherence to the law lead me to lie and leave my kid in the car for about 5 seconds. My pathological adherence to the law was driven me to think about this event at least 4 times today and relive it in written form.

When I returned to the car, Beren face was covered in tears. Was he terrified to see me go into the library briefly? What happened?

"You put my favorite butterfly book in the trash!" he gulped. The librarian came outside in her sweater and opened the bin, retrieving our books. I considered asking if we could have Hurry and the Monarch back.

Instead, I rolled our honkin' truck to the other end of the parking lot where the librarian could shoot daggers at my back instead of my forehead.

I explained that that was a Book Return and not the garbage. I described the difference between bookstores and libraries, using a couple Hopewell hot spots as examples. "So, when we go to Bobby's bookstore, we buy a book. It's ours and we take it home forever. When we get a book from Anne at the library, we borrow it and bring it back."

"It shouldn't be!" Beren exclaimed. It took awhile to talk him down. It's ok. When I worked at Barnes & Noble in Manhattan, I was frequently asked, "Where's the photocopier?", "Which books are circulating?" and simply, "Is this the library?" If adults who can survive in the Big Apple don't get it, then I don't expect a four year old to understand.

I suggested that we write down Hurry and the Monarch and any other library book we really liked. "No!" Beren said.

We finally drove away, dissatisfied that injustice had occurred but no longer crying.

Later while Jared read bedtime stories, Beren said, "Let's keep this one forever and not bring it back." 


Post Script
Hopewell, count your blessings because the local circuit with the library (Does any other library have such incredibly friendly staff?), Boro Bean, the Bear and the Books, Sticks and Stones, and two public playgrounds (one includes a stream), is not repeated elsewhere in the universe.