Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And Whispered I Love You

I fly home today. And leave my babies behind. This tears at me and feels so unbelievably foreign. They are staying with their grandmother for a month, which is good for them, but feels terrible to me. Most of the time. I watch my son sleep, breathing in and out, mouth open, wrapped in a blue comforter. Fernanda is making muffins in the kitchen.

Joey cried again last night at the prospect of me being gone. It’s the lullaby. Sigh. It started when Aubrey was a baby and I’d sing her to sleep. Some days she’d not fall asleep until I’d dregged the pool of songs I knew way, way back when. It was on such a night – or naptime, I forget which – that I stumbled upon the Beatles’ song “All My Lovin’.” I’ve kept it handy ever since, because I like it and, really, how many times can you sing “Hush Little Baby”? This last year Aubrey’s revived it and at nine years old, asks me to sing it to her most nights.

So I had this brilliant idea to record a cassette tape for each of them with my voice doing lullabys and child meditations, dubbed “dreaming stories” by Aubrey when she was two. I even found a recording of The Beatles singing “All My Lovin’” and recorded it – just so they know what they’re missing when I sing it.

I thought it would bring comfort at bedtime and soft smiles before slumber. Nope.
Everytime Joey hears it – he cries. Now, as I watch him roll over in his makeshift bed, I’m contemplating confenscating it. But that seems underhanded and likely to cause more grief. Even trauma perhaps. Like a well-meaning relative that sends all your husband’s clothes to Goodwill right after he dies so you won’t cry when you see them. Snort. As if. (This didn’t happen to me, by the way, but could you imagine?!)

So I leave the tape and walkman in the chair above his little head – if only so he can find a morose bit of comfort from it.

I woke early this morning, 5:30, and rested with my eye mask against the Eastern sun already shining through my window. For the prior three nights, either Aubrey or Joey or both slept with me in Fernanda’s bed. Last days of sleepovers before I go. A special treat because we don’t do this at home. But last night Joey wanted to sleep in the living room and Aubrey wanted to be alone.

So I was in the bed by my lonesome this morning at 5:30 thinking about Joey alone in the living room. About Joey waking up alone in the living room. About Joey feeling alone this whole month without me. After an hour of thinking what a horrible mother I was for traumatizing my children in this way, I pulled a blanket and pillow off my bed, drug them down the hall, and snuggled up next to him.

I laid there soaking up his baby-ness, even though he’s really seven. I moved my hand several times over the minutes making sure I wasn’t crushing him with my seventeen pound arm. Chest, then waist, now hip and leg. When he rolled over to his back, I nestled my hand on his shoulder and happily closed my eyes, content to be in the same bed with my little love – though my butt and left leg were off the futon pad.

I was reminded of some of Catherine Newman’s writings. She writes of the physical pain of being in love with her children and that’s what I was feeling. Bits of love pain slicing around inside my veins like miniature razor blades. All my insecurities of being Joey’s mom surfaced and dunked below the freezing, murky depths of my consciousness, and then surfaced again.

Joey turned his head towards me and puffed little morning breaths at me. I averted my own face just slightly. Fairly soon he rolled completely over onto his stomach and slid off the futon pad, his left forearm and left foot remaining. His aching freshness was both a delight and something that took the breath from my body.

Should I move him? No. He’d wake. He looked comfortable but I was no longer lying next to him. He was on one side of the twin-sized pad and I was on the other. I could crawl onto it, and my screaming hip would prefer that, but what if he woke up and saw me snoozing on his bed and him off? Like I’d pushed him over in the night, hogging the softness to myself.

But I didn’t want to keep lying here if I wasn’t snuggling with Joey this last ime. I could go and snuggle up to Aubrey the next room. My goodbye to her. But look at this elbow! Pale, with two faint bruises near the bony prominence. How can I leave this elbow? How can I walk out of this room and leave this elbow for three weeks? Even if it’s to walk into another room down the hall where another precious elbow with my same blood and DNA pulsing through it awaits my last snuggles? How can I leave this elbow? I’m distruaght. It looks so fragile lying there, bereft.

And then I remember that I am the one that is bereft, not this contentedly sleeping elbow attached to this contentedly sleeping boy.

He opened his eyes, sat up and saw me. I smiled and he climbed back on the bed and was asleep so fast again, I wonder if he really did see me.

I covered him, kissed his hair and whispered, “I love you.”

I always say it out loud whenever I check on the kids in the middle of the night. Like a talisman of sorts. A motherly shield, a token of love that I believe can be heard through their dreams. Can cure nightmares if they’ve begun and soften any stresses that they’ve carried into sleep.

I tiptoed out the room with my pillow and tucked in with Aubrey. She was more substantial, at nine, to spoon around and I didn’t worry about crushing her as much. When standing she already reaches my shoulders, almost.

Aubrey doesn’t move as much as Joey does when they’re sleeping. I might’ve been able to fall asleep again if I wanted to. Being in an actual bed helped, but I didn’t want to succumb. I breathed in “Aubrey Angel-ness” and thought about her elbows, too. Though I couldn’t see her’s because when I first walked in she was hunched over, fetal-position, under only a sheet and had pulled up the comforter to her chin.

It’s so precious when you do this and your child just melts into warmth – like her muscles were held rigid from the cold before and now can relax.

I thought of the huge burden I put on her last night. She came to my bed to say a last goodnight and I asked her to look out for her brother while I was gone. That he was really going to miss me, and she interjected,

“I am too,” and looked sad.

“I know, but he’s really taking it hard. Please just try to understand that when he’s bugging you and not leaving you alone and just doing little brother things, that he’s really just sad and scared and lonely.

“You don’t have to do anything about it. I’m not asking you to change it or fix it. Just know that that’s what’s happening for him inside and try not to be so angry with him. And be more patient with him. OK?”

She nodded and hugged me. And now I felt like an ass for having dumped something so huge on her. Like a father going off to war and telling his ten year old son, “You’re the man of the house now. Look after your mother for me.”

God, what pressure! And responsibility that is so clearly not their’s to take!

I’m sorry, Aubrey. I felt like crying. Familiar pressure in my head, a holding of my breath and a squeeze in my lungs. Sorry for asking too much.

I slid out of bed, kissed her hair and whispered, “I love you.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Morning Moment

Before my yoga class this morning, I started up the stairs to wake my children before I left. Paul prefers having them more awake when he gets them up. :) But not more than four steps up I stopped. I wanted to take their pictures while they slept. I hadn't done that since they were infants, save once on a road trip when all three kids were sleping in the van with their mouths open.

I doubled back to grab the camera and tiptoed across the tan shag carpet to Joey's bed. I fixed the frame on him and clicked. Blurry. I tried again. Nice and clear but off center. I tried a couple more times and by the time I'd clicked about five or six, Joey moves for the first time.
"Maawwm!" he says with his eyes closed. "I said I didn't want my picture taken while I'm sleeping!" His eyes are still closed.
I turn off the camera and clamber on the soft bed. "Oh. I'm sorry. I thought you said you wanted me to." I tucked the covers around him more and snuggle-kissed his cheek and head and forehead. He smiles and giggles. His eyes flutter open, one delayed with morning stickiness.

"I said if I was half on the bed and half off."

We'd had a conversation the day before about this very thing because yesterdays morning wake up showed their special warm snuggliness peeping out from above the tangled covers. And oh how I wanted a picture then. I remembered a previous wake up when my son re-situated himself under the warmth after having put on his clean shirt.

"I love blankets, Mom," he sighed.

Today I touch his wild hair and the dog flops down on Joey's feet. On the bed. She is hard to scold because she is love and part of our pack. Joey also loves her in his bed because he is lonely at night. At seven years old, I consider buying a king size bed so we can institute the family bed. Even at this late age.

In Aubrey's room I change her soothing sleep CD to a quasi-rock band she likes and I snap a picture. No movement. I get closer and center the shot right on her beautiful angelic face. Angel Baby. At nine. I snap again.
Dead pan. "I was a wake after the first one." She rolls over and stretches at the ceiling. "The flash woke me," she yawned.

And so my morning starts. I love my children. They are inspiring reincarnations of souls I've loved over and over. What bliss. I breathe in gratitude.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Quilts and Kids

"Aubreeey!"  Joey's voice squeals higher than necessary as he stomps up the stairs to bed.  Minutes later I hear voices raised and giggles with clumping feet above my ceiling.  Someone is humming loudly.  There.  Someone jumps on the bed.  Then ... thud thud thud ... I don't know what that sound is.  Another loud voice and more mysterious noises.  They are not doing as I told them:  to get into bed.

It is 8:11 p.m. and I am not "inspecting what I expect," as my husband always reminds me to do.  Instead I am leaning back in my bed with a cup of decaf chai tea, a sploosh of organic half-n-half and a squirt of agave nectar.  My children and I just finished our nighttime reading of Harry Potter.  And instead of going upstairs to tuck my kids in bed, I am distracted by my crazy quilt.

My crazy quilt is every color imaginable with a churning disarray of patterns.  Yellow blocks with lighter yellow squiggles encased in a thin black line; multi-colored stars in a glittering heaven of blues; violas; paisleys; burgundy and white leaves; green and gold wildflowers; ink and blue calico; country blue with white hearts; building blocks and polka dots.

One square sports a beehive and flowers; one a cat in a pink bow, waving at me with yarn tangled in her paw.  I see geese and apples, swirls, stripes, reeds, ice--skating snowmen and an autumn harvest.  One square is of a pumpkin patch with an artichoke in the middle.

Do artichokes grow in the Fall? In the middle of pumpkin patches?

I used to hate this quilt.  Paul bought it off eBay.  It has a neat story though.

The woman who quilted it was buying a trailer from Paul at the RV lot he manages and she and her husband wanted to trade in five of her handmade quilts as part of their down payment on the trailer.  Paul couldn't take them in trade, but liked them and later found she was auctioning them off on eBay and bought them.

I gave one to my niece when she was born -- it had dear Holly Hobbie appliques on it.  Three others rotate around the house:  on the couch for snuggling, on the massage table for clients, or on a child's bed for dreaming under.

"Mom, I love blankets," sighed my son one morning under on of those quilts.

But the crazy quilt always stays on our bed because it is the biggest of them.  The quilt, not hte bed, though that is true, too.

And so it has grown on me.  I imagine the stories the fabric swatches held before they were quilted into her blanket.  Were they once her children's clothes?  Or from a pillow -- long since fallen apart -- given to her on her wedding day?  Or maybe they were just swatches the dollar bin at the local fabric store.

But someone else's joy, love, frustrations and intentions went into this blanket and I snuggle under it every night.

In the winter months we add a fluffy down comforter to our bed, obscuring the craziness.  Both my husband and I are allergic to dust mites -- which coincidentally love feather blankets. So we encase the fluffy feathers in a crispy allergy cover, and then cover the whole thing in an ecru duvet; though it seems the zany colors would shed more warmth than the lighter hue.

I've tried putting the crazy quilt on top of the feather blanket instead of hiding it, but sometimes it's too hot and if we end up kicking off both blankets, we are only left with the sheet.

The way I've managed to savor the colors and stories and glee peering from the squares during the winter is to make my bed with feather comforter folded at the foot of the bed.  It's there when needed at bedtime, but during the day when I pass by, I can hear the giggles from the quilter's children float on the breeze as I pass to my next task.

My children have clumped downstairs, obviously not in bed, to show me their Mad-Eye Moody disguise.  Once again, after an appreciative laugh and a hug, I send them upstairs and this time I follow them.

Waiting at the Tae Kwon Do Class

Joey's refusing to participate again.  It seems to happen at least 50% of the time.  TKD is an expensive hobby and I'm really just wondering about Joey.  I'm constantly worried for or irritated at him.

I don't know why he's oppositional -- other than he doesn't like being told what to do.

But this is something he asked for!  I know people have the right to change their minds but it is highly inconvenient and costly for me for him to change his mind this late in the game.

It's like him deciding he doesn't want to be a Power Ranger for Halloween after I've already bought the costume.  Although this can at least be used later for dress-up.  Not going to TKD after I've already paid for three months pisses me off.  Not to mention confuses me.

He wants to take the yellow belt test; he wants sparring pads.  But he won't participate in class.

Hmm.  Now he's participating.  He's doing something he's never done before.  Jumping side kicks on the floor pads.  But when the class was taught Pume Se Tae Kwon Do, he refused.  ???
No rhyme or reason.

I asked him in the van on the way home and he answered that Pume Se Tae Kwon Do was too hard.  I don't know how he knows this.  He didn't even try.

Hmpf.  I'm irritated and frazzled.  Not to mention feeling a bit manipulated.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I feel in a wretched predicament.

My wonderful beautiful little boy is behaving so terrible that I'm embarrassed and shamed to be him mom today.  And how can a mother -- any mother -- say that?

Today at Tae Kwon Do class I witnessed, within ten minutes, him cutting repeatedly in the running line, everytime he'd get close to another student he'd grab onto their shirt and pull, he'd try and drag them down or butt into them.  Right now he's sitting down on the middle of the floor, not participating in the warm up but did the dodgeball before class and the games after the warm-up.

He's highly competitive but doesn't care about teamwork.  He's untruthful.  he's manipulated his way into going about four times before all the rest of the class took a turn in the game and when the teacher told him no more, Joey picked up a teaching prop an threw it!

What a brat!  He has no social skills.  How do I teach this?  He's totally oppositional and defiant when he doesn't get his way.

I'm at the end of patience.

Though truthfully, I think that precious attribute left me when he was two.

Rio thinks I should have him do the test for yellow belt, that he would develop self control with his self confidence.  I can see that, but when I question Joey, he says he'll take the test but doesn't want to do the class.

I don't understand this and when I question him again, he says things like:  he can't get to know anybody in the class because they are all working.  He says this last word disdainfully and with exasperation.

He also says he wants sparring pads -- but I tell him that if he's not going to stay in the class I won't buy them.  I also tell him I won't pay for the test if he's going to drop the class.

Side note:  Joey didn't get into the private Montessori school because of his behavior skills.  Sigh.  What next?  Leave him in the public school that he dislikes and wait until he gets into the lottery Montessori school?  Or homeschool until his gets in?  Maybe I could be good at it if I know it is only temporary.  

While the children are in Massachusetts with their Vavo, maybe I could get the house ready for some homeschooling and give it a try for a month before September.  If it is a disaster, he can go straight into public school again.

Maybe I should talk to my homeschooling friends.