Friday, September 24, 2010

They're Killing Him

I remember kindergarten.

It was sort of magical. Like a bottomless toy box. School intrigued me. For a bit. My teacher's name was Ms. Cunningham. She had a broken kneecap on the first day of school. My memory says it was due to a skiing accident...would have to be water skiing I guess. That was quite the deal to me. My best school friend's name was Angela. We used to hunt aliens on the playground. Not kidding. That's exactly what the world needs, right? More proof that I'm stark raving nuts and have been since birth. Add that to the ever-growing pile of nut-farm fodder. School was mostly like playing the whole time and I already knew the things we were supposed to be "learning" so there was no real work. They taught us letters using things like Mr. M and his "munching mouth"...come on now!!! I hate to say this, but with the exception of one history teacher in fourth grade (Mrs. Corn was her name)...yeah that's really pretty much continued that way with maybe one or two exceptions in high school. You can blame all that on my parents and their obsession with the library. Ok, MY obsession with the library.

The downside to kindergarten (and school in general) was that I learned that my rainbows were, in fact, NOT rainbows because--while they did include every color I had in my box--they were not in the proper order nor were they limited to the standard ROY G. BIV color scheme that apparently every young girl was trained to make their rainbows out of before they showed up. AAAACK! What an insult to my artistic temperament! Between this lesson and Mrs. Thomas in third grade, who told me my drawing wasn't very good because I hadn't outlined everything in black like everyone else, I learned two things very, very quickly. One: I don't really like being like everyone else which is good 'cause I kinda stink at it for some obvious reasons. Two: There was clearly going to be a lot of "art" (and other things) made simply for the purpose of making teachers happy and it was going to have to be burnt later or signed with a name other than mine. And it was. That is basically the story of me and school. And pretty much is to this day.

The exception being my history in the orchestra/band program which was altogether different from my otherwise school experience. Completely.

As you know, Squib started school this fall. For some reason, though I'm not sure what that reason was because they are so different, I think I expected him to react more like Beanstalk. Excitement, enthusiasm, joy, exuberance, etc. Yay, school! Like he had begun a glorious new adventure. But it doesn't seem that way for Squib at all. It seems like a daily marathon. Or triathlon. Before it all started, I admit, I was, in the back of my mind, a little worried about that. How was he going to make it through the entire day? Every day? All week? He was still taking daily three hour naps, after all. No, I'm not joking. And, no, I wasn't forcing him. He simply trouped off after lunch every day like it was just the next thing to do. He's never argued about sleeping a day in his life. He takes after his mother in this way. He's always been a little guy as well. I've attributed this to his heart condition which has been resolved, but he is, after all five years old and really just now wearing clothes sized for three and four-year-olds. So...

So, how does he make it through the day? Answer? He doesn't.

This constitutes our quality time together of late:

The sum total of our conversation from 3:45 pm-6:00 pm today was, "Mom I want a snack," delivered through a rain-streaked face and water-plastered hair. He could barely keep his eyes open and there was really no arguing with him. He's very close to irrational at that time of day. So, we got a snack, he took a drink, and not thirty seconds later I snapped this picture before we were even three blocks from the convenience store. I would say that Barbara at the store was slipping him something other than a sucker, but she just wouldn't do that, I don't think. She makes a killing off all us Friday afternoon snackers.

He did surface briefly when I was on the phone to turn his head to the right and repeat a word after me..."but"...and then he didn't even move except to snore until we made it out to the house two hours later.

When we arrived, all he said was, "carry me." He was still soaking wet from the downpour we were in when I carried him to the car, but he didn't even want me to change his clothes. He flat-out refused.

I carried him in, stuffed him full of corndogs (gross!), drew a couple of pictures for him on demand, and he lasted all of one-and-one-half total hours out of bed (what with dinner and a shower crammed in there) and is now snoring (again) in his bed where he will, no doubt, be until I wake him up tomorrow. Last weekend he'd have slept through lunch if I'd let him. And why didn't I? Really? Mean ogre mother.

I do, on occasion, attempt to ask him about school. So far, all he does is shake his head back and forth in a most bewildered manner and say, "I don't know." Or, my personal favorites, "I can't talk about it."--and--"I can't tell you."--which still comes out--"I can't teww yew." (So cute). Like he works for the CIA and really can't talk about it. Those answers make me giggle because he's so damn serious when he uses them. Really. School is a state secret around here. So, I have to turn my head or put my hand on my mouth because he hates it when I look like I'm laughing even just a little bit. Not even a smirk. And with my sense of humor, this can be impossible.

Rarely, he'll come up with something like, "We had chicken nuggets." -or- "We ate pancakes." That gives me hope because at least I know he's not lost touch with his favorite thing--food. But it isn't at all satisfying from an academic or investigative perspective. At this point, I whole-heartedly admit to being a wee bit jealous that the school folk are now getting the best conscious hours of my baby's time! Grrr.

I miss the days when he used to speak to me in full sentences instead of grunts and whimpers. And I'm a wee bit concerned that they're gonna wipe the poor kid out before he gets to Thanksgiving or Christmas and has some time to recover. I suppose my only real hope is that by the time he gets out of all this in, say, 2024...OMG!...and somewhere in there goes to college or whatever kids are doing by that time (Starfleet Academy, knowing my luck) perhaps we can have a lucid conversation about how he's doing, what he likes, what he wants to do, how he feels, and what's important to him before he ships off for gamma quadrant for the rest of his known life.

Gosh I miss that kid sometimes...even when he's right here in the house.


Thursday, September 16, 2010


Last night, as Squib was stepping out of the bath, he dumped his wet toys out all over the bath mat and said, "Squib, that's a big fucking mess."

I stared at him, a little agape, wondering if I really heard that word come out in his still little-toddler voice. Maybe I didn't? Maybe he didn't hear the word right from wherever he'd heard it and doesn't really know what he's saying and he's saying "bucking" which is a much better word to get to explain?

Then, he said plain as day, "Momma, what is fucking?"

He stared at me without blinking. Innocent. I blinked, like, seventy-three and one-half billion times, got lost in some not-so-random thoughts, came back, and asked a very dumb question.

"Uh. Are you asking what it is or what the word means?" Both of those questions are the same thing. I know. He gave me the same look that you, no doubt, have on your face right now. The "what is wrong with her?!" look.

"I don't understand." He said.

"OK. Let's back up. Where did you hear that word?" I asked him.

"Squib you've made a big fucking mess!" he did an excellent impression of Squid. It was shocking.

So I explained that it was a curse word or slang term that did describe something real, but was most often used when swearing, etc,. etc,. blah, blah, blah. His eyes glazed over and rolled back in his head. And he had one more legitimate question (I think).

"Why is it you're never going to tell me what it means?" And he took it one step further, "You explained 'shit' and 'bitch' and 'god damn.' Not this. Why?" More innocent blue-eyed gazing.

The reason I gave him was that the explanation of the word had to do with something I didn't know if he was ready to discuss and understand. He caught the vibe that this topic was off-limits at the moment and we were going no further. I'm not sure I like my answer. And what I don't like even more is the idea that topics such as these should be avoided. This is officially the third time that the topic of sex has come up and been deferred in one way or another. The last time, I did, actually, talk about it pretty openly--not excessively, mind you--but I didn't avoid it. Last night I avoided it. I don't know why. Tired? Who can say. The one thing that concerns me, though, is that my sons not grow up thinking the topic is strictly verbotten and off-limits. Heck, if we lived as most families around the world do--in a single-room mud hud of sorts--they'd already have had a front row seat, right? It would be normal. Us sophisticated first worlders have civilized ourselves out of so much humanity that our kids might as well have been raised each inside their own ziploc baggie. Where's the fun, the life, the love, or the pleasure in that?

Why do parents live in fear of discussing sex with their children? Really?! Shouldn't it be a wonderful, exciting thing they get to help their children prepare for and discover? Don't you hope in you heart of hearts that your kids discover great love in their lives and that love brings with it a fabulous physical relationship, too? Gosh I hope so! And how are my kids going to do that if they aren't prepared? What if they never see it or know what to look for or at the very least have no one to ask questions of?

That would break my heart.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Something Runneth Over

When I was pregnant with Beanstalk in 2001/2002, I had a house.

I know! It's so shocking!

I had a house and it was mine. Well, not exactly. Technically, it was a tax shelter for Buddy. Whole other story. But it was my domain--all three bedrooms , etc. I also slept in a real king sized bed. Mostly. There were a few very overburdened moments there when I slept in a recliner. Meh. I painted the walls, hung up my art, had my very own furniture and dishes and such, and ran around in various states of undress. Beanstalk had a nursery. Not even kidding. (Someone out there is wheezing with laughter). And only my husband at the time lived there--that's a marked decrease in population compared to my average situation now, huh? But he traveled My kingdom...or was it a queendom?

Attrition and Mystery lived only a couple blocks away in a monstrosity of a house. When they moved in, they put in a gorgeous pool. After I "retired" for the first time, it was the highlight of my day to put on my ugly polka-dot swim suit with the patronizing bow tie between the boobs (such is the state of most maternity swimsuits) and go clean the pool and get in my work out. I also had a pretty killer tan. It was my reward for giving up caffeine. Or something.

One day, it had rained heavily, and after sweeping and skimming the pool, I finally got in. My first thought was a rather incoherent, "Oh criminy, I've finally gained enough weight with this kid to overflow the pool." and then a split second later I realized that rain actually fell in the pool. I was slow. Hormones, right? Something.

I remember bobbing there as the water lapped over the edge of the pool and enjoying what a cool effect that made. Less like a bathtub and more like a mountain lake with a shore. Full to the brim. It was a very fitting metaphor for what I felt was happening in my life at the time, too.

About three or four months later--when Beanstalk was born and diagnosed--a war of attrition began for my life, all that I loved, and even my soul. I only started coming out of it a little over a year ago in some ways. After it started, life was like watching a setup of dominoes after the first domino has been knocked over. Almost fascinating in a horrifying way. Inevitable. Bit by bit everything that filled me up was ripped apart, taken away, broken, injured, or spilled out. I felt gutted and wasn't even sure I could get up any more. So I fought sitting down. Until all I could do was throw rocks while curled up in the fetal position of my mind. Beaten. Perhaps I had run out of luck? Maybe that God I thought had been helping me out all that time really wasn't? Well, hell. That would suck. I couldn't even follow that thought through. The possibility was abysmally terrifying. How did I get here from there? I'm the same person! I did what I was supposed to do, right? Followed all the rules. Whatever those are. I know I made bad decisions. Sometimes I just had to make a decision. Any decision. And the options weren't always that great. What exactly were my options? I wasn't sure at all anymore.

But about two years ago, I decided to renew the fight for myself. It was an uphill battle entirely. All the way. I discovered a unique opinion about how I was supposed to live my life for every person on earth. Some people developed a new unique opinion about how I should do things every third day (conservative estimate). They had free-flowing opinions about many other things as well. "Ooooh. You're going to try that again. That didn't go so well for you before. Maybe you should give up." That's the short version. Pick a topic. I "should" probably not try it.

The understood portion of that statement is: "YOU SHOULD NOT TRY THAT BECAUSE YOU'LL JUST FAIL."

I would even go so far as to say there is an additional sentence to tag onto that: "AGAIN."

Hogwash. Who falls in a mud puddle and doesn't get out of it because they might fall into another mud puddle again if they were to get back up? Um, no one. So, I would look like a dumb shit to cozy up in my mud puddle for life. I just would.

And since when did six years of, well, very dark and difficult times mean that the rest of my life is going to reek as well? You know what? I've pretty much figured out that no single day is necessarily a precedent for any other day. The same goes for weeks, months, and years.

Do you know how I know that?

'Cause lately? I find I'm full to the brim again. Life is not perfect by any means. Who would expect that? But it's good enough for me to open my arms wide in the car and scream "woo hoo!" for joy or even spin around in circles on the lawn until I fall over dizzy (I take a five-year-old with me as an excuse--they are convenient that way). Sometimes I even blow bubbles in my milk with a straw (bendy straws work best as does chocolate milk, really). Other times I sing really loudly along with the music. Or I dance however I want to dance. I write in this blog. I send random texts to friends. Even stay in the bathtub until the water is ice cold. Or I strut my bizarre t-shirt collection. And more. Really.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Crazy Days

It wasn't until a few moments ago that I passed the natural gas company in town and saw their flags at half mast and remembered where I was nine years ago today at just about this time. Not September 11th, but the 12th at around 1:30 a.m. In particular, I was face down on the floor of the living room in my parents' house in a "name witheld" city in Texas absolutely dry of tears and staring at the phone. You see, my husband at the time was stranded in Phoenix at the airport and trying to find a car to drive home. That was not a big deal.

Yes, there was the whole "towers" thing going on in New York...and that was a huge deal for sure, historically speaking, but not to diminish what was going on for the country and for many individuals, the real question for me was, "How big is this for me personally?"

You see, my father had been in Japan for something in excess of 160 days or so. He was supposed to catch a flight back to the states and either land in New York the morning of the 11th--to--catch a meeting with some folks at Morgan Stanley. Who just happen(ed) to be IN the towers. Yes, they do make intineraries, don't they? But the real truth is that many times a seasoned traveller used to call you from an airphone and say, "This is the flight I'm on." So really we had no idea.

I was academic dean at a private school in this same unnamed community and after the initial news hit the school, I had to deal with ferrying news back and forth to and from several students who were in the exact same predicament I was in...including a diplomatic family who came and scooped their kids up and disappeared. That was comforting. And, after a while, we were consumed with terrified kids, what to do, and closing the school, etc. After about an hour-and-a-half, a friend and the wife of our president of the board of directors showed up at my office door and very politely said, "Um, where is your dad?"

"In Japan. No. Shit!"

Using telephones at that time was about as effective as trying to throw a rock and hit someone's house two states my friend very nicely volunteered to drive to my mother's and check in with/on her and then get back to me.

And now you are caught up. We heard nothing for over twelve or so hours. It was a long ass wait. I crawled in my mother's bed with her and there was some weeping. That we did it together is saying a lot. A lot a lot. That was the night I met my friend Sharon...I have three friends "Sharon," so mentioning her here doesn't necessarily require a unique a prayer service at our church. She goes by Aunt Sharon to my oldest. She spoils him mercilessly and I love her dearly. Anyhow...the long ass wait... ended in the early hours of the morning when dad called home to say he had missed his flight (short version is he just missed it--there was much confusion during that day and gathering of American nationals, etc. in the embassy and that kind of thing always gives dad a sour stomach, so he bailed for his apartment). And, therefore, was not anywhere near Morgan Stanley. As soon as flying was once again ok'd, he hopped right on a plane for New York and met with them in a hotel where they were using post-it notes for just about everything. He said it was spooky. And they shook his hand a lot.

We would have met him at the airport, but that was just about impossible. And his car was there can you say. He's never really been accomodating with regard to welcome homes.

Several times this last week, I've wanted to kill him myself with my bare hands. We have both been under enormous amounts of pressure for...well, years now? He has a unique gift for getting under my skin--which is easy to do since I am now so conveniently located in the living room--as I'm sure I do the same for him at times. Two people so alike are bound to do so. Several things about this week--ok, one really--stank big time for me and he seemed to miss it entirely. He was torqued up about something all week (ok, the last two weeks) that went down today and I seemed to missed it entirely. Truth is, I was wound about it, too. I just had no idea what to do about it other than make sure he had a nice haircut. Really. That was my giant contribution. Short of, well, nothing, I could do no more. Killer hair, honestly, but I doubt it was noticed. Don't tell him.

In any case, "the presentation" went well today. ALL DAY. Oy. From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Like a marathon or something. Very well. Well enough to exhale a bit. Tomorrow we may even inhale. Maybe we'll splurge and inhale twice. Dare I say we are looking at having actual investors if we decide this is the final deal to take? This would be the second and final round of investing and God only knows how very long we have been working toward this. There are always details to hash out and things no one likes, but that everyone would have to get used to, etc. I think every deal is like that.

Did anyone here celebrate? No. They never do. Family motto: never let up? I don't know.

So, Attrition and myself did it for them. We met Widowmaker, his wife, and a whole cast of other characters at Baker's Street Pub, listened to "Shinola" (seriously...that was the band's name and I did not make it up) and had a great time. I drank a beer (write that down as you know I hate the stuff) and Widow introduced us to something I believe he called a "Surfer on Acid." Coconutty. As if suntan lotion had a taste...

And later this morning I must up and do my church thing...and defend Galveston from the insurgent plague. A simple day's work.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Frankly, I'm Kinda Hopin' Those Are Shorts...

Really, I am...but I had to walk behind this girl all the way from the book store in the commons by the learning center, past the biology building, and into the library. I could never really tell. And I was really looking. This must be the new fashion trend...the 80's shirt dress returns. With a vengeance.