Friday, December 21, 2012

Magic

I swear that I didn’t make this up. This was how the conversation started, seemingly out of nowhere, as I drove the kids to school this morning.

Dylan:  “Hey Mom – do you know where all the magic in the world comes from?”

Me: “No, where?”

Dylan: “It comes from Heaven. All the magic in the world comes from Heaven.”

Can you imagine? How brilliant, how genius, how perceptive and amazing and simple of a statement from a 5 year old thinking only about pajama day at school and pancakes for lunch and knowing nothing about the chaos and darkness that me and everyone else has been feeling and hiding from him for the past week since we first learned about Sandy Hook.
I haven’t written about what happened there yet. I haven’t wanted to nor have I been able to. But if this blog is anything at all, it is to be an accurate reflection and extension of me and where I’m at. And if I’m anywhere, truthfully I’m still stuck there. I’m drowning in this juxtaposition of Christmas time and everything on the radio isn’t just regular happy, it’s hyper-jolly music and twinkling lights and gleeful children and a group of adults who I see, much like me, are almost characters in a play. We laugh and dance and smile for our excited, blissfully ignorant children who are counting down to winter vacation, but our eyes and our body language tell a different story. So many of us I think are still stuck there too.

And I hear so many around me rallying for gun control and petitions and mental health platforms, and for some reason the liberal nut inside of me is quiet, still. I know at some point I will rise up and join them but I’m not ready. I’m still stuck on the names, the place. This wasn’t a movie I’d never seen in a place I’d never been to in Colorado, or a town I’d never heard of in Oregon. This was here – in my home. In Connecticut.  And while my pain or grief for anyone who dies from these senseless acts of violence should be no less acute whether I can relate or not, truthfully it does feel different. I don’t want it to but it does. Because I’ve been to Newtown. I know this place. I know these people. It wasn’t my Dylan but it was someone’s Dylan – my G-d someone’s Dylan. It is the thought I can’t get out of my head.
And that’s where I’m stuck. I’m stuck in their pain. I’m stuck in the terror that they could never have calculated this as a possibility, that this kind of pain would find them and their families. But if it found them, their Dylan, then it could find mine too. I feel like Phil and I have an entirely new set of worries for our children that our own parents never even considered. Not just the idea of what kinds of mistakes and pitfalls they will stumble upon as they make increasingly independent choices and grow up, but just wonder if in a society of seemingly endless random chaos, they will ever get the chance to even make those mistakes, at all.

If I think too much about it all, it honestly overwhelms me and I feel like I can’t breathe. So I look to my kids. They are amazing. And they are helping me breathe. We eat cookie dough out of the bowl and grab the hot cookies fresh off the pan when they are still warm and gooey. I even let them eat in the playroom. Ruby grinds her chocolate chip into the fibers of the carpet. We feel wild and naughty. I feel myself breathing again.  There is total silence, nothing but the munching of cookies and the sound of the pounding rain falling outside. I see that through them, because of them, there is still goodness and innocence, kindness and hope and life and gratitude around me. I feel it, I wrap it around me – like magic from Heaven.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dinner

5:22: Everyone is screaming. Dylan throws a plastic bug at Ruby and it bounces off her bulbous head.

5:23: Ruby screaming very loudy.

5:24: I frantically chop vegetables no one will eat in the hope that their dazzling color and the dubious Mayan predictions will somehow combine to make them try them tonight.

5:25: Timer goes off on the nuggets. Fish is almost done. Phil will not eat nuggets. Ruby will not eat fish. Dylan will eat everything. I prepare as many different meals as possible. I’d like to see Rachel Ray do that in 30 minutes or less.

5:28: Hand-washing. Ruby and Dylan fight over who will wash their hands first. I stare at them blankly for some reason forgetting to remind them that we have something like 4 sinks in the house. I set the table with our finest rainbow colored plastic cutlery. Also, for another reason I can’t quite explain, I forget the napkins.

5:29: I open the wine.

5:30: We sit down to dinner sans Phil. Though intellectually I know this dinner will be over in 4 minutes, the more fantastical side of me tells myself he will join us at 6pm when this dinner somehow proves to miraculously still be in progress 30 minutes from now.

5:32: I serve Dylan his fish and turn back to get Ruby her nuggets. I serve Ruby her nuggets.

5:33: Ruby announces she does not like chicken nuggets. Dylan is already done with his first helping. I am still trying to serve myself.

5:34: I sit down and force Dylan to suck on a carrot. If he won’t chew on it, maybe his saliva will inadvertently pick up some vitamins while I stall and try to shove a bit of food into my mouth and negotiate with Ruby on dinner.

5:35: I cover Ruby’s plate in ketchup hoping this will entice her to eat nuggets.

5:36: I can no longer put Dylan off. I am back up serving seconds.

5:37: I sit back down.

5:37 and approximately 12 seconds: Ruby reminds me I forgot the napkins – again. Did I mention Ruby hoards napkins? She goes through something like 10 per meal. Also, she is eating ketchup with a spoon making her napkin request have a greater sense of urgency.

5:38: I get the napkins and sit back down.

5:39: Dylan spills his milk.

5:40: Towelling off the table and floor.

5:41: Ruby tells me in a remarkably off-handed way given the severity of the situation that she is starting to pee a little bit.

5:42: In the bathroom with Ruby.

5:43: Looking for the Clorox spray so that I can hose down the kitchen chair.

5:44: I remember I forgot to eat.

5:45: Phil arrives. He is greeted with a hero’s welcome while the children eye me suspiciously like an evil, disorganized war-lord trying to coerce them with poorly prepared fish and condiments.

5:46: Phil reminds me he doesn’t like salmon.

5:47: There are dishes and food and uneaten nuggets and some of Dylan’s milk scattered throughout the kitchen as though our house has been “tossed” by the neighborhood thugs looking for a real meal and reacting in anger when all they found was this.

5:48: The kids spell words with letter cookies. I nurse my wine and tell myself that dinner tomorrow will be different. I will be different. We will be civilized. I realize we look more like the Klumps than the Cleavers.

5:49: I smile, reflecting on how my family is doing its small part to keep the concept of family dinner alive and well. Or at least alive. Or mostly not dead.

5:50: I declare the concept of family dinners a farce made up by television shows from the 50s and people who never actually had small children.

5:51: Ruby finds some pirates booty on the floor and eats it. And voila. Just like that – dinner is served.  I realize I should throw nuggets on the floor more often and wonder if the thrill of her finding them would somehow make her more likely to try them.

5:52: Dinner is over.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Labor Day

It is so hard to believe another year has nearly gone by and soon, Dylan and Ruby’s birthdays will be upon us. Though they technically share different birth dates, I went into labor with each of them on the same date, exactly two years apart. For that reason, December 14th will forever by my official labor day. I know their birthdays are technically about them but now as a parent I literally feel a near uncontrollable urge to scream and shout every year at this time: “Where is my cake? My balloon? Why is no one clapping and cheering for me?! Do you know what my body accomplished on this date 5 and 3 years ago respectively?!” Reluctantly, I let the children have their days while I silently reflect on how this day literally marks the anniversary of the last day it was ever all about me.

It was December 14, 2007. I had been in labor and delivery for two days while the hospital tried everything they medically could think of to start my labor. It was a Friday and I had been on an all liquid diet since Wednesday when I had first checked in for my induction. The nursing staff had started taking bets on whether or not I’d ever actually go into labor. I’m certain that Phil was running the action behind the scenes. I had met every nurse and doctor on every shift and I felt as though I was recreating that episode of Friends where Jennifer Anniston goes into labor and it takes forever and she watches all the other ladies have their babies while she just waits. I had hoped when all was said and done it would end similarly to the episode: me with a healthy baby, and of course looking as Jennifer Anniston did after a pretend birth.
I got the healthy baby part. I suppose that’s all that matters.

As I look back on those first few pictures, I look green, I look scared. I look like I am searching his face trying to figure out who he is, who I am. There is a picture of my mother showing me how to hold him. I appear to not know how to hold my own baby. I see me learning on the job from her. I see Phil meeting his son. It was all so new to us and for that reason alone it was amazing. Some parents say they knew their baby before he was born but I didn’t feel that way. Not with Dylan. I had spent so much of my pregnancy obsessing over silly and ultimately useless details – nipple sizes, baby registries – I never took a moment to think about who that tiny person was that was actually growing in there. But none of it mattered when they handed him to me. All I wanted to do was study him, learn him, learn who I was with him. I love thinking about that first labor day.
Exactly two years later on December 14, 2009 I was in labor again with Ruby. I seemed to always know Ruby. Even before I was pregnant with her and when Dylan was still a baby, I started thinking that if I ever had another baby I would want to name it after my mom, Ronni Joyce. Seemingly out of nowhere, I turned to Phil and said, “If we have another baby we should name it Ruby Joy.” Dylan was five months old. I was definitely not pregnant nor planning on being so anytime soon. A sleep deprived Phil looked at me and nodded blankly in agreement – “OK.”

When I eventually did become pregnant we decided to find out the sex. The ultrasound technician just confirmed to us what we had always seemed to know: it was Ruby. For some reason, we always knew that, always knew her. I spent much of my pregnancy again worrying about silly things like how I would take care of Dylan and her at the same time. How would I split my love up between them? But of course I shouldn’t have worried so much. When Ruby was born I didn’t have to learn her. I knew her. The pictures show me less green, less scared. I am holding her more confidently like I have done this before. And although on my first day alone with both of them Dylan literally ate a magnet off the fridge and it wasn’t the most picturesque mothering moment, we made it through, without poison control. I was a multi-tasking maven. I was a proud mother of two.
So happy almost birthday to the little man I came to know and fall in love with. You are remarkably funny and sensitive and kind. You are an old soul. And happy almost birthday to my little girl I seemed to always know. You are my beautiful little firecracker. You make everything more fun because we do it with fairy wings, which if you’ve never tried it, seriously does make everything more fun.

And while it’s never about me anymore, in some way these days will also always be about the evolution of me through the journey of having and raising both of you. So happy labor day to me too… J