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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Innocence & Purity

So I thought I had whittled my insomnia down to where I may be able to get some rest before Kat inevitably woke up for her dead-of-night feeding, but alas.....

Innocence & Purity- those words came to mind as I mulled over my day with my children. While I frequently find myself with fists clenching and temple veins throbbing in an attempt to rein in my frustration at yet another temper tantrum or display of willful disobiedience from Henry, I also deeply cherish this stage because he still has that tenuous wholly-innocent and pure aura about him only found in small children. I read somewhere mothers' auras cover their children too under they are three. Not sure why that stuck with me, but now that Henry has turned three, I do sense that subtle shift away from me.

Henry's world, now between toddler & preschool, seems to be largely a selfish world with the overarching theme of "What's in it for me?" The merest suggestion of doing something he's the least bit opposed to sets off nuclear-powerworthy tantrums. Even everyday things like getting dressed, eating breakfast (I gave up on enforcing structured naptimes), brushing teeth, combing hair, washing hands, going potty.... It's a constant stream of encouraging, cajoling, pleading & threatening.

Yet I see touching displays of childish innocence like when he gently strokes his baby sister's cheek with one finger, softly cups her face to look into her wide blue eyes and laughs for no apparent reason, his delight mirrored in her face as well. Or when he wraps his arms around our enormous dog's neck to hug her tight. He finds simple joy in this world that as adults, we seldom even see anymore.

Henry's not in a rush to get to an appointment or submit that paper on time. He's not consumed with thoughts of paying bills and job-searching. He has not developed that bitter disillusionment we acquire through the realization that life is not fair and working hard does not guarantee success.

I try to step back when in the midst of those frustrating moments and remember what veteran-mothers have told me. It's only for a minute. They grow up so fast. Treasure each stage. Pretty soon he won't be needing you anymore. You cannot get this time with your children back. No one said on their deathbed that they wished they had spent more time at work.

I thought of that tonight while hammering out a rough draft for a paper due tomorrow. My husband was putting Henry to bed to give me a precious few minutes of writing-time. Henry was crying for Mama to rock him to sleep and I felt that overwhelming maternal response. Nothing else matters, my child needs me, as in get-in-my-way-and-I-WILL-knock-you-over. We wrapped up in cosy fleece blankets and tucked in together in the  rocking chair. As I sat there rocking in the dim nursery, his breathing slowed and he sank into sleep in my arms, and I realized just how numbered those nights are. Before I know it, he will be too grown up to be rocked to sleep by Mama.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Dish is Cracked

I said this to my Mom the other day in reference to the mild insanity present in every sleep-deprived parent and since then thought about how appropriate that phrase is right now. First a little context: I used Grandma's bowls when I served homemade ham & corn chowder for dinner tonight.

Growing up next door to my Italian/Albanian grandmother meant that I had constant exposure to a way of cooking we seldom appreciate anymore. I realize I'm generalizing here so all you foodies can calm down. I know this is not the all-encompassing attitude of our society but it prevails enough for me to generalize about it. Our culture has mainstreamed cooking to fit within our busy schedules with minimum amount of effort. Not so in Grandma Helen's kitchen.

Helen Virginia was the youngest of 12 born to Delia and Dennis in Clyde, NY. She recalled her earliest memories of when she learned about WWI while standing on a fence next to her sister, watching their neighbor come home in a flag-covered casket. Her sister explained to her that there was a War on and that was why there was no more sugar.

Grandma learned to cook from memory and not recipe books, using a coal stove. She had to practice and practice before she got her piecrust recipe right and they ate the mistakes anyway so as not to waste food. The family would splurge on cupcakes from the local bakery for the men's lunches when they went off to work.

Grandma worked as a housekeeper & nanny to wealthy families in Tonawanda before she got married in 1946. She worked the night shift cleaning dorms at SUNY Brockport while caring for her only son during the day, making meals and doing the housework while my grandfather maintained the family farm. No pizza nights or Chinese takeout for them. She put a home-cooked meal on the table every night, cooking during her days off and stocking up meals for the rest of the week.

I have so many cherished memories of her cooking and would dearly love to be back in her kitchen as she kneaded out the dough for her 3000th apple pie or stirred her umpteenth pot of homemade soup, the prettily painted china bowls neatly set out around the table.

I won't do full justice to my memories of Grandma Helen's cooking here so that will wait for another post. Whenever we did the dishes after lunch, she would tell me what the various obscure kitchen implements were for (for example: a handheld chopper for eggs & apples that looked like a lethal cookie-cutter). She would tell me that all her kitchen things would be mine someday and not to sell her iron skillets. Apparently a visitor wanted to buy them once and she refused to sell. I would roll my teenager eyes and sigh at the morbidity of bequething dishes to granddaughters.

Then Grandma died in 2006 and I found myself unable to go into her hauntingly empty kitchen. All her things were as she left them but they seemed to have lost their purpose, like they were merely faint echoes now.

Now I have the majority of her kitchenware crammed into my tiny apartment kitchen.
As much as I could fit in the cupboards. Every single time I dish something into one of her serving bowls or ladle soup or even mac & cheese into the cracked &chipped china bowls, I feel her presence next to me.

The older I get, the more I realize what truly matters. It's certainly not the pursuit of capitalist gain to make your mark in this world. How you treat others- your compassion, empathy, courage and conviction are what's going to matter at the end of the day.
It's also taken me until I was 30 to realize the importance of having confidence in yourself and not caring about what others think. I have yet to master this skill but I have a glimmer of realization which is a start.

Maybe it's the sleep deprivation, maybe the constant hovering just above the poverty-line that's pushed me to this point - my dish is cracked, but it is not broken.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The most commonly heard word around here, so I thought it fitting for the title of this post.

We woke up late yesterday (8am) and instead of scrambling to get Henry to preschool in time for the 8:30 breakfast, I thought why bother? So I called & said he would be late and we had breakfast here. Henry found the leftover pizza from Jim's football night and helped himself. Really must discourage him from going in the fridge alone. One of these times he might help himself to my stale wine or peppermint mocha coffee creamer. Don't know which would upset me more.

So we had a nice leisurely breakfast and watched "Curious George" while I gathered supplies for taking Kathryn on my errands run after dropping Henry off. Funny how I try now to consolidate trips so I have to wrangle kids into carseats as little as possible. Before kids, I thought nothing of doing things in bits and pieces, but not anymore. If we're going out, it usually entails mentally mapping out our route and stopping wherever we might need something along the way. Maybe it's more fuel-efficient now. Yeah, that's what I'll tell myself.

Henry is getting so independant- insists on buckling himself in every time, which while I applaude the move toward self-sufficiency, is frequently frustrating when we are constantly late going somewhere. "Sorry we're late. Henry HAD to buckle himself in." I know what some of you are thinking. "You're the parent. Say NO." Unless you have a willful 3yr old of your own, this seems like the obvious solution. Those of you who feel my pain know that response is guaranteed to propel your child into a bucking, writhing, screaming ball of fury. But I digress.

Dropped Henry off at school, proudly wearing his Bills jersey with a triangular cat's nose & whiskers painted on his face with my new black eyeliner. The sacrifices we make for our children. He has a lion costume but no way am I going to subject his teachers to a potty-training preschooler in a cumbersome costume. Stopped to pick up Grammy, Jim's suit and a refill on Mama's coffee and away we went, off on a whirlwind of adventure.

Dropped off Jim's suit to be pressed, went to Michael's for Grammy and I stayed in the car to change & nurse the ravenous infant. Off to treat Grammy to lunch with an Applebee's giftcard I unexpectedly unearthed from the office papers. Sweet. Kat turned heads wearing her little puppydog jacket, complete with floppy ears. Had to change her again. And rock her in her carseat to keep her amused during lunch. She nicely timed her meltdown as we were finishing up, so overall, a good meal.

Sleepy after a nice lunch of grilled shrimp & spinach salad, French onion soup and a brownie sundae. Again, sweet. But no time for naps. Off to 2 stores for grocery shopping and to nurse & change Kat again in the van. Debated over getting a petite cheesecake sampler on sale (24 bite-sized bits for $5) and decided this might very well be a sanity saver this week. Just hope I don't have a REALLY bad day and polish off the whole box in one sitting. Not too concerned about calories-it says "petite" after all and I'm taking advantage if one of the great benefits of nursing. Reminds me of an episode of "Desperate Housewives" where a woman working with Lynette nursed her son until he was 5 because it was like having treadmill strapped to her chest. But again, I digress.

Time to go home- depleted my stock of diapers. I thought the 3 diapers already in there  would be enough for 2 hours but I should have known better. If I pack 6, she won't go for hours but if my stock is low, she's a peeing machine.

Home to unload the groceries and baby, say goodbye to Grammy and put everything away. Change baby again. I'm sure there was another nursing episode in there somewhere too. Then a frenzy of cleaning and tidying before Henry gets home @ 4:30. Tackled his toyboxes in the living room. Yes, that's toyBOXES. Whittled away his collection to 1 toybox with a box filled with things for the MOMS Club giftaway. 2 Aldi's bags full of crumpled construction paper, broken crayons and random bits of 3 yr old toybox junk destined for the trash. So glad I'm not trying to do that with him hovering over my shoulder.

To be continued.....Jim & Henry on their way home from THEIR adventure. I kept trying to think of errands to do to keep them out longer. Mean Mama.