Friday, June 27, 2014

A Big Deal

Jared and Beren on Sunset Hill

This evening we took a noisy stroll with Beren in his wagon. We waddled down the steep slope on our road to what I like to call "Sunset Hill". Jared and I walked side by side sometimes, sometimes holding hands. Sometimes I stared at Beren's long, thin legs. His tight fitting tee shirt with orange sleeves showed how big he'd gotten. He munched on corn chips.

He's so big.

Remember when I had to hide in closets to nurse and not even that worked because he'd grab everything in the dark? Remember when Jared had to cral across the room below Beren's eye level so he'd remain focused on nursing? I thought I'd never rejoin society.

Remember when started to walk? I don't exactly remember his first steps. I hope Jared does. Early walking days were great days.

Remember when Beren gave up his afternoon nap? In frustration, Jared tossed Beren's stroller. It broke. That happened when I was at work. It seemed like such a big deal. Beren didn't like being in a stroller anyway.

Remember when he first linked one wooden train track to the next? I do. I remember helping him. I remember trying to assemble them incorrectly so he could help me. I remember repeating, "Tab goes into the notch."

Remember when all he said was "MMM mmm Mmm!" and then "Mouse!" It seemed like such a big deal. Now he says, "I had a bad day." Why? "Because I coughed. And when I spat out water."

Remember when we would go to bed until 10:30 pm? I do. Because he often still does. Remember when it seemed like something was wrong? It was - we lived in a moldy house. Every minor cold spun out into the croup. Now we don't - we live in a high and dry house. Now a cold is a cold, just the common cold. And yet, bedtime is often much later than I'd like. Instead I now get a cheerful child, our night owl who sleeps well at night because he can breathe well. It's 10:32 p.m. and Beren's making  vehicle with "machine parts" from a shell and modeling clay.

Remember when something seemed like a big deal? Why? Because it was. Those early days. They're real, they're rough, but where did they go?  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Independence Training

"From eighteen months to about age three is really rough, and then at three and a half... It's such a great age. It's so fun. You can reason with them," she told me as we stood in an elementary school cafeteria. We were both there to watch a play put on by my sister-in-law's students.

"You're almost there," she continued. She must have misheard how old Beren was.

"We're there. He's three and a half, and yes, things are good," I said.

Beren uses big, expressive words. He lounges on the couch, or curls up in the big, blue chair to rest. "You're not a chickadee anymore, you're a big boy. You can sit in one place for a moment," Jared tells Beren. He's right.

His independence is beautiful. Jared and I have a bit more time (not for each other - Beren will wedge himself between us if we sit close on the couch, or he'll start talking loudly when Jared and I converse. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, but I catch myself now and again: "I'm talking to Papa right now, and I will tell you where the scissor are when I'm finished.")

"I'm thinking," he says, if I repeat a question that he's not answered. I want to fall off my chair. I'm amazed.

"Papa seems a little sad today. Why do you think that is?" I ask. "He's tired," Beren says. I'm fascinated. I wish I knew what "tired" means to Beren because I can tell that he means something more than sleepy every time he uses the word.

I've been unwittingly waiting for three and a half for three and a half years. I've been advised that I'm too protective, that I might want to wean, that I should do a variety of "independence" training activities. And look, he did it all on his own, with a lot of help.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I Dropped two f*cks

My loves on a ridgetop walk.

"The Duke!" Beren squeals. "Take the Duke to work with you, Papa!"

The Duke is a piece of black irrigation pipe with a 3/4" connector embedded in it. On Monday, while I was at work, Jared and Beren worked on our irrigation system. From what I have gathered, the connector would not come free from the pipe, and Jared said, "C'mon, Duke!"

Pre-Beren "Duke" was a light curse in our household. It was shortened from "Maraduke", the goofy dog of Sunday comic fame. Jared would call bad drivers, "Duke". "Duke" was nearly always prefaced with "C'mon".

"C'mon, Duke. I'm trying to merge here." I have no idea where Jared came up with this, but it lodged in our shared language. Now, it delights Beren.

"The Duke" is highly preferred to come of the other gems that have graced Beren's tongue.

"I dropped two f**ks on the ground," he said casually and to himself in recent months.

"Hhmm?" I inquired mildly. I pressed all judgment, alarm, and laughter from my voice.

"Is that what people [Momma] say when they [Momma] are upset that they [Momma] dropped something?"


"OK, well if you hear someone [Momma] say that, you can tell them [Momma], it's not really a nice thing to say."

I related the story to Jared with much rubbing of my temples and laughter.

In recent weeks, Beren observed my father (Grandpa) repairing our outdoor electrically outlet. He loves watching my father repair things. Beren could sit patiently for hours as Grandpa climbed ladders, set concrete, or installed Bilco doors.

"Sh*t!" my father exclaimed. Though I couldn't see my mother who was also outside, she winced. She possibly hissed quieting words. I considered calling Beren inside, but decided that I'd not interfere and make a big calamity out of my father's minor calamity. This was life, words are words, and in no time he'd be pre-adolescent and experimenting with curses.

Jared related that he heard Beren murmuring, "Sh*t sh*t sh*t sh*t sh*t sh*t sh*t" while in the bathtub in the evening.

"When I heard your Dad this morning, I knew it was the sh*t heard 'round the world," Jared said.

"Please don't tell my Mom," I said smiling.

Our ridgetop walk.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Some thoughts on a Tuesday Evening

May 30, 2014. Our house. We brought our blue flag iris with us. We thought we'd bring many plants from our former landscape, but we left far more. They were too numerous and too difficult to move, with everything else going on. Our friend, Debbie, dug many. They took to her garden so well. 

June 14, 2010. A killdeer nest at the edge of a parking lot, near the entrance of the Goose Lake Prairie visitor's center. She did the 'broken wing' display to lure us away from her nest. We gave her wide berth. I love killdeer. Our prairie trip was our summer vacation when Beren was "Bump, as our friend and prairie guide, Marion, called him. 

May 17, 2014. Bump, now Beren, among the ostrich fern along the Delaware River. Adults who have not home schooled their children, I hear how impossible and difficult and bad home schooling is. From parents who have home schooled, you hear how lovely it is. That's interesting. I haven't spoken with any children or adults who were home schooled. I'd be curious. 

May 17, 2014. Portrait of me by Beren. I have big bunny ears.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Shrill and Steady

A sophisticated lady

Last week I had to negotiate and wrangle over a business matter. Neither are something I do well. It was awful. I was distressed and slept poorly.

I made at least two phone calls per day, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, regarding the situation. I repeatedly missed return phone calls, just by chance.

Like I said, I'm not good at wrangling. I don't like confrontation. But...I'm not good at waiting. And, I like resolution. I like it swift. Last, I don't like be the loser, but I can be part loser. I can live with that. People are complicated, right?

After four days of dicey phone calls and voice mails, I turned to person in my life who doesn't mind confrontation. My husband.

I turn Jared on the screwy phone company or internet provider. He worked with our real estate lawyer on price negotiations, while I handled much of the mortgage paperwork.

Don't get me wrong, I'll crow over injustice. I'll request redress for rudeness. With the quickness, I'll belt out, "Hey! I don't like hitting!" when a bigger kid bonks my kid on the head in the library.  There's just some select situations...

So Jared helped me draft an email, which I cc'ed another party one level up. I sweat after I sent it. I wondered what everyone would think of me. The language was brief and strong. Was it too strong?

The note ultimately broke the log jam, but I still had a to wait several days.

Later, while relating the story to others, a colleague who had also helped coach me through this, who is also a colleague I really respect, one I consider something of a mastermind, quietly said as we sat around the table, "Don't mess with Rachel."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence," I said.

I had felt, all the previous week, completely lacking in confidence. I had felt like a shrill, nagging, annoying female. And, you know what, I really don't like being put in that situation. Nope, not one bit.

I was pissed off, but really had a hard time putting it all together. Men can be bold, ask for what they want. Sure, they have to be smart, craft their words, play their cards. But you know, when it's a woman who wants something done, she's shrill, a shrew.

Of course, I feel like I have to apologize to all the great men in my life, and all the men who coach me to be tough when needed, but you know what? That I'm thinking of apologizing means that I'm empathizing with you, fellas. I'm considering your feelings. Return the favor, empathize with me. It stinks to feel shrill, like a nag, like you're begging.

An old girl friend of mine would say, "You're not a 'bitch'. You're 'sophisticated'". She'd emphasize and linger on the second 's', like a hiss. Sophisssticated.

Straighten up, Mackow. You're sophisticated. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Mountain Playdate

I prepared for today's play date as I might have for an interview, a very odd interview perhaps. I cleared gloves, clippers, dirty dishes, partially eaten celery sticks, work pants, and other items from the porch. I moved the laundry basket and a pair of my sweaty underwear from the morning's labor to the bedroom. I closed the door.

I reopened the door to stash cardboard I used to protect the floor from spackle the previous evening. I closed the door. I reopened it to stash the baby gate we use to bar the steps in case Beren wanders through the house at night.

Back outside, Jared had disappeared to the nursery. "Jared, I'm not ready for you to disappear. I have to get changed. I don't even have a bra on," I had called irritably, not that I would wear one anyway. I was wearing a skirt and blouse. Too dressy I thought, and changed into a lighter, breezy blouse and a pair of linen Capri pants. I washed my grungy feet (Crocs are great, but not if you like clean feet) in the bathroom sink. I cleaned the toilet.

When our play date arrived, a three year old, accompanied by her mother, father, baby sister, and her aunt, Beren's hands were covered in red paint. He was barefoot and farmyard dirty. They played tee ball and in the sandbox. 

The whole family was sweet, lovely. The parents are just shy of half my age. Our paths can be so different. And, they never set foot in the house.