Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Goalposts and Milestones

Our two beautiful children give us constant blessings—laughter, love, delight, deepening of emotion, growth of our souls…we are so lucky.

I’ve written a lot lately about wanting to slow down. I’ve reposted the article about the Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports elsewhere. I’m constantly—daily—looking for ways to streamline our lives so we have free time. In other words, I DO NOT want to be so busy we’re chasing our tails all day.

What DO I want? That’s the real question. I need to answer that one to make any effective changes.

I’m starting to get glimpses of it now, though.

One glimpse…
We have the best times at dinner—our family jokes and debates and flights of imaginations are so precious to me. I think of them as my paychecks. I want this for my family.

And then this glimpse…
Recently, S. has fallen in love with shopping at her school store, buying a vast assortment of mechanical pencils, novelty erasers, and other miscellanea that only grade school kids appreciate. Every once in a while, her brother will get big eyes when she displays her goods. And then, in the next day or two, she’ll come home with another one of the admired item, just for him.

Even more recently, Little A. discovered he could buy sports drinks at tae kwon do. The first day, he carefully counted out some money from his allowance. I watched him do it all by himself, smiling at his independence. Then, as I helped him make the purchase after class, I realized he had brought enough money for two drinks—he let his sister pick her favorite flavor and then bought it for her.

I want this for my family.

They did this all on their own. No one hinted or suggested or nudged them. I’ve always said that my most important parenting skill is staying out of their way so they can do their thing. And look what they do in that space.

And especially this glimpse…
S., like all of us here in our house, struggles with perfectionism. She’s always gotten a little down when she, in her mind, makes a mistake. And absolute tasks, like playing piano, have black and white results—you play the right note or you don’t. So difficult piano lessons have always been…difficult for her.

S. had tackled her piano practice last week with gusto, working on complex new pieces (including a duet) and learning an extra piece by ear. So I listened in a bit when she had her lesson last night. And I heard lots of corrections but also lots of laughter.

This morning, when her dad asked how it went, she made my heart sing. She said, “It was great! Ms. Debbie showed me lots of things I was doing wrong and it sounds so much better!”

I want that for my family.

Meals full of shared words, ideas, and laughter. Spontaneous, joyful giving and receiving. Delight in learning and creating. Resilience.

I’m starting to learn what I do want for my family. And with my eyes on that prize, giving up the race to nowhere suddenly feels ridiculously easy.

Scents, Sense, and (In)Sanity

The other day I dropped Little A. off at tae kwon do as usual, then headed to the bus stop to pick up S. I checked email as I waited in my car, content with my five-minute break in a busy afternoon. All was well.

The bus pulled up; the students piled out. Judging by the look on her face, S. had a decent day. All was still well.

She opened the door, plopped in the car, and started talking—because she never stops. She probably talked all the way from the bus to the car, I just couldn’t hear her. My brain started the familiar, “Oh, sweet powers that be, I can’t follow this—the speed, the randomness. I. Just. Can’t.” Following quickly behind came the equally familiar, “Don’t tune out! Ask relevant questions. She’s your kid, for Pete’s sake!”

All of this came to a screeching halt when a palpable wave of scent hit me. Hard.

It smelled like every fruit flavor Bubbalicious ever made had been sprayed in my car via a high pressure air hose. Through my rising nausea, I finally found a relevant question. I attempted to stop the runaway train of words.

“Sarah, did you eat something on the bus?”
“…blah blah blah. Did I eat something? No. Why?”
“Did someone spray—?”
“Wait. Um…. I did—I mean, I ate, like, I ate my pretzels.” 

At that point I could tell she was starting to worry because the number of verbal pauses in her sentences increased exponentially. So I tried to reassure her WHILE cross-examining her.

“It’s okay, sweetie. There’s just a very strong artificial fruit flavor smell in the car now. I was wondering if you ate any candy or gum…? I’m just curious.”
“No, definitely not.”
“Did someone spray hair spray near you?”
“Body spray?”
“Did the bus smell funny?”
“No. What do you mean? I don’t smell anything.”

Our house lies 1.3 miles from the bus stop and I spent the entire drive scouring my brain for possible sources of the smell, only to be shot down by firm denials and repeated questions about whether or not she actually smelled.

As we pulled into the garage, I got the sound many parents of pre-teen girls know all too well.
“What is it, sweetie?”
“Well, my friend let me use some of her hand sanitizer at lunch.”
“Wow. That’s powerful stuff! How about you wash your hands while you’re in there?”

She washed hands, dumped off her lunchbox, and decided to take her backpack with her to tae kwon do to do homework there. Meanwhile, I rolled down windows.

The smell improved a little when she got back in, but I’d really expected the alcohol-based scent to be GONE. Still, I made it through tae kwon do sitting next to my daughter while she gave off waves of scent indicating someone had farted the whole Skittles rainbow on her.

So we drive home and the puke-inducing perfume gets worse, if possible, in the car. Just as we get into the house, S. slings her backpack onto its usual resting place and looks at the net pocket on the outside.

“OH NO! My friend put the hand sanitizer IN my backpack!”
“Okay, okay. Did it spill? Is the lid open?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know. Wait—there IS no lid!!!”

So in the middle of me trying to feed the dog, answer Little A.’s questions, and start a quick dinner, I’m coaching S. to wipe up the car seat, wipe up the backpack, and wipe up the floor. Then it hit me. Why????

“So why did your friend put her hand sanitizer in your backpack?”
“Um, I don’t know. I didn’t SEE her do it!”
Okay, she’s upset. “I was just wondering why she didn’t put it in hers.”
“Well, she didn’t have a backpack at lunch.”
“What about her lunchbox?”
“She didn’t have one today.”
“So she just walked to lunch holding an open bottle of hand sanitizer???”
“NO!” She rolls her eyes. “She FOUND it.”
“What? Where?”
“On the bench at lunch.”

I took seventeen deep breaths.

“So I guess someone else left the bottle there because, oh, say, it had no lid???”
“Yeah. NO. I dunno—I didn’t SEE her put it in my backpack!”

The dog got fed, we got fed, many hugs were had all around, all ended well.

The End

It still really stinks in here.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Storm Lust

I love storms.

As I child, I went to a Girl Scout camp situated on the bluffs above the Sassafras River, where it joins the Chesapeake Bay. My unit, appropriately named Osprey, perched right on those bluffs. When storms came in the evenings, I’d slip away to wrap my arm around a pine tree and lean out over the edge of the bluff, watching the anvil-shaped clouds boil up the river. I could drink in the newborn air, feel the power of the wind swaying my tree, and hear that beautiful sound of tree tops before a storm.

The staff always found me before the storm hit. For some reason, I think I pissed them off…

In honor of last night’s thunderstorms here in Florida, here’s a poetical rendering of a stormy night.

Storm Lust

In the grainy grey
Unlight of a stormy night
I lie a knot of tension
Against my love’s soft back
Out of the house
Across sifted silver dunes
The waves pulse their call
To the thunder’s rising drums

Eyes wide, waiting
Lightening flashes outside glass
Pulling my heart from safety
Toward struggle

Reveling in release
I tiptoe the bedroom and
The wide wood floors
Catching glimpses
Of light and life beyond

Darting, turning I
Dive into the night
Every inch of my skin
Making love to the wind
My arms embracing
Flashes of passion that streak the sky

As the rumbling crescendo brings
Rain’s absolute surrender
Pushing up against the drops
Reaching out into the wind
Standing barefoot, sure-footed
On black, slippery jetty rock
I am alive

Only after
Chilled, exhilarated
Wonderfully, only me
Pure inside my skin and out
Part of nature’s arcing current

Can I enter a room
Touch a warm towel
And warm, dry, tired
At last find sleep
In warmth