Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kids and the outdoors

      Let me preface this by saying, we live in a small village.  There is very little car traffic, except maybe when church gets out on Sunday mornings.  We do have a lot of foot traffic, which I view as a good thing, as it's all neighborhood people. I have a fenced yard. We have a dog, who is great with the kids but does a good job of barking if anyone else comes near the yard.       
        As the weather warms, my kids are outside more and more.  And then they are in, and then out and in again.  The 3 of them never all seem to be in the same location at the same time.  Plus, they tend to want me to play for them.  I end up pushing swings, steering bikes, blowing bubbles, while they are little more than by-standards.  I'd love to just sit on a lawn chair with a book but this almost never happens.
     I've been reading a bit on free range parenting, and it was a revelation. I could let my kids go out to play ALL BY THEMSELVES?! Here I was feeling guilty that I couldn't be in 3 places at once.  Suddenly I was able to grant myself permission to let them be.  Don't get me wrong, I hover in the kitchen and watch through the window.  My kitchen has never been so clean.
     The village I live in is a lot like where I grew up, and I love my little village for that.  When Alicia and I were kids, we were outside constantly, with very little direct adult supervision, and we didn't want any. "Mom, can you come out and play with us?"  was not something we would have ever said.  We played for hours pretending that the grove of trees that bordered the neighbor's garage was a play house.  Now I can barely get my kids to use their actual playhouse. Maybe imaginary playhouses are superior?
     One winter had 60" of snow in one week.  That didn't deter us.  In fact, I remember it as the best week ever.  We spent hours designing an elaborate system of tunnels and igloos in the snow.  We asked if we could take my youngest sister out to play.  My mother's response was we had to make sure all our tunnels were well packed down so we wouldn't lose the baby in the snow.
     In the summers, my mother sent us to a babysitter during the day.  I use the term babysitter loosely.  The sitter was there to feed us occasionally and for emergencies. Believe me band aids were quite regularly doled out. She had a farm and we took full advantage of all the great things a farm has to offer young kids.  We rode horses, went exploring her acres of land, and jumped into hay stacks from the second floor.   We loved it there,  it was better than any day camp you can imagine.
     I want my kids to have some fun childhood experiences like I had growing up. Somehow I think me sitting on a lawn chair might put a damper on their fun. So if you see my kids outside alone, I'm not ignoring them.  I'm giving them the freedom to be kids on their own term. I'm thinking there is a great grove of trees by our own garage that would make a wonderful play house.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Emily Rose: A Pregnancy Story, Part 1: Conception

Dear Emily Rose,
I was never convinced our family was complete. Although caring for two children  was more than enough to manage, someone was missing, an essential person, someone we can’t live “happily ever after” without. Now I know that someone is you. So deciding to have a third child wasn’t a question of why but of when.
I won’t lie to you. I really wanted you to be a girl, so I went to the internet to see what I could come up with. Many websites mocked my audacity to believe that I could, through careful planning, “choose” your gender. I ignored their narrow-mindedness. I did eventually come across a website that had a helpful calendar. It highlighted three early days in my cycle where I would have a better chance of conceiving a girl. I’ve always heard, in science classes and otherwise, that male sperm are faster but female sperm survive longer. So this calendar didn’t seem bogus to me. At last, we had a plan!
Around mid-November, the moment seemed right, as right as it could be in the creepy house we lived in. Our prickly cold bedroom wasn’t exactly romantic thanks to the lime-green paint and the water stain on the wall that looked like a three-breasted woman. It was at least quiet and dark. For two busy parents, this was the best we could do in terms of ambiance. 
About a week and a half later, my lower abdomen seemed busier than usual. I didn’t exactly need to take a pregnancy test because I knew you were already there. I did, just in case, to rule out the possibility I was imagining things. 
Since I was testing before my period was expected, there was a decent chance for a false-negative result. Luckily there were two pregnancy tests in the box. The three minutes waiting for the outcome felt longer than ordinary minutes. I dismissed your father from the room (I wanted to know first) and started cleaning the bathroom to help pass the time. When that loaded word “pregnant” showed up, I went to your father and said, “I guess we’re not going to need that extra test after all!”
So, Emily Rose, it looks like you will never be a fall baby like I had planned. I apologize for that. Autumn in New England should be picture perfect, but let me assure you the dry heat of August is nice too. Until then, grow, eat all my food, and enjoy your time in utero while it lasts. I’ll see you on the other side. 

Your Mother

Monday, May 14, 2012

Scouting and the Culture Wars

     I had known of the issues surrounding the boy scouts.  This is a conversation that started when I was in college.  I remember sitting in the dining hall with recently graduated Eagle Scouts having a conversation about it.  A few years later a young Boy Scout came to my door, and asking me to buy popcorn. I told him no, though I had bought Girl Scout cookies from his sister.  Now there may be those of you that think, cookies versus popcorn, no contest, but there was a political statement underlying.
     Now that I'm a parent of both boys and girls, I'm faced with this dilemma in a more magnified fashion.  I happily enrolled my eldest girl in Daisies this year.  We made pies, went caroling in nursing homes, sold over a 100 boxes of cookies, and plan to march in our little town's Memorial Day parade, all very radical socialist feminist activities, I tell you what.  'Radical' Girl Scouts out to destroy 'American family values'
    This year I also got to see up close and personal what the Boy Scouts in our town do.  The Eagle scouts built a pavilion and picnic tables for our newly reconstructed playground. The Cub Scouts were among the biggest showings at the Science Fair that I put on for the school's PTO. I dealt one on one with one of the den fathers over the use of a catapult.  He's a great guy, has his scouts very engaged, and learning about science.
    I began to realize how silly the attacks on the Girl Scouts were, and was thinking, maybe I could allow my son to be a part of the Cub Scouts locally.  Then I saw the article about Jennifer Tyrell. Boy Scouts Dismiss Gay Den Mother.  This troubled me a great deal.  I could kind of understand not wanting to send your sons out alone in the woods with a gay man (no offense to my gay friends, you know I would send Antonio out with you in a heartbeat!) but to fire a lesbian, and one who works at a hardware store no less!  All kidding aside, this makes no sense whatsoever.  From the sounds of things she was the best Cub Scout leader ever.  People from the gay community are criticizing her for being involved with the Boy Scouts in the first place.  But I get it.  Our kids come first.  You aren't seeing this big bad overlord of an organization.  You are seeing the face of your kid and several of their classmates.  She was up front, and told the parents of her troop who she was and where she stood. They all seemed to love her.  Maybe on a face to face basis, it is harder to be hateful.
     So I wonder, are we putting too much social and political "stuff" on our kids.  What we teach them at home and in church is going to go a longer way than stuff learned in scout meetings.  But at the same time, can I allow my son to be a part of an organization that teaches hate?  Or or those claims as ridiculous as the claims that we are teaching our Girl Scouts to have abortions?  Thankfully I have a couple of years before Antonio is ready for Cub Scouts.  In the meantime, I'll happily much away on my Thin Mints.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fallen Away Catholic

     Once upon a time, way back in the 1970's, there was a young couple that wanted to get married in the Catholic church.  The young woman was the oldest of 7 from a nice, big, Irish Catholic family.  The young man came from a mixed marriage, his mother was Jewish and his father was raised Catholic.  His parents exposed him to aspects of both, but never forced it down his throat.  He grew up to become a scientist, so the tenets of the church did not necessarily line up with his beliefs.  He wanted to make his young bride happy however, so in order to get married in the Catholic church, he signed his children away.  They were among the first mixed faith couple to be married on a Catholic altar.
     They quickly had children.  This was hard because they were away from their family, as the young man was working on his PhD and his post-doctorate fellowship. They found a surrogate family in the members of their church.  They lived in a part of Texas that did not have its own Catholic church, but had a growing number of Catholics. These Catholics met every Sunday in a senior center for their mass.  They decided one day that they were tired of the drab senior center. They started to fund raise. They wanted a church of their own.  One member of the congregation had a farm, and she donated a small corner of her land.  There was also a contractor in the congregation.  He laid the foundation at cost.  Then the real fun began.  Every evening, the members of the congregation would gather and  work communally to build this church.  The ladies all brought crock-pots and casseroles.  The children all played together at their feet.  It was a wonderful time.
     After working diligently all summer, and doing the finishing work through the fall, they surprised their priest on Christmas.  He traveled a far distance to come say mass at the senior center.  He went in and out of town in the opposite direction, so he had no idea what had been going on all year.  On Christmas Eve, they told him that they had lost the senior center as a space because they didn't pay the rent, but not to worry, they found a new place to celebrate mass together.  They drove him to the brand new church. He broke down into tears.  It was such a magical Christmas mass, the first ever said in that little church that was hand built by its members.
     God soon called the young family back to New York.  The young woman was as strong as ever in her faith, and sent her 3 girls to Catholic school.  They participated in youth ministry, and were very involved in aspects of their churches over the years. Most visibly they were all in the church's contemporary choir.  The eldest daughter was a wonderful flutist and they called her "angelflute".  The 2 younger girls were dubbed "the angel voices".
     The couple's eldest daughter met her husband at church in that very contemporary choir.  He was quite a bit older than she, but because they had known each other so long and shared their faith, they decided to get married after just a few short months of dating. The night of their wedding, there was a blizzard (they should have taken it as a sign).  Unfortunately, their reception hall called to tell them they could not get their staff together, and didn't want to be responsible for possibles injuries in their guests. The young bride was crest fallen.  She had put so much into planning this special Christmas time wedding.  However, the members of their church miraculously pulled together to give them a reception.  The priest let them use the gym of the school where the bride once went to school.  A member of the parish owned a restaurant, and got together a feast for them at a moment's notice.  Her bridesmaids went to the grocery store and picked up supplies.  All of the guests emptied out their liquor cabinets. Their DJ made it to the school, and said he had never seen a more fun wedding.  It was all the more special because all these people pulled together to make it happen. There was a line in one of the hymns the choir sang during the ceremony "No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that rock I'm clinging, since love is Lord of Heaven and Earth, how can I keep from singing?"
     Unfortunately the couple did not live happily ever after.  The young bride should have taken the blizzard as a sign to cancel her wedding.  Just one month after their wedding, the groom put his hands on the bride for the first time. She stayed longer than she should have.  It took her whole other year to finally leave him for good. She tried to leave several times, but each time she went back.  The strength of her faith was part of the her problem. Being such a good Catholic how could she get divorced?  
     After she left, she still wanted to attend Church.  Church became a scary place though.  You see the groom knew when mass was, too.  She was afraid to admit to her priest and nun friends what had happened, and ashamed she was divorcing him.  It was not as if they could exclude him from coming to mass even if they wanted to.
     Eventually the young divorcee met a nice young man.  This new guy also was Catholic.  They soon talked of getting married.  He knew of her situation and encouraged her to seek an annulment so she could get right with God.  So she went to the tribunal to start the process.    They wanted a $500 fee.  That was slightly painful but she was willing to come up with the money.  They also informed her they would need to notify her ex husband.  He had to be present for the process.  She was worried about this part.  She didn't necessarily trust them to keep her address confidential. The other part that troubled her is that they would require witnesses, police reports and emergency room records were not enough evidence for them.  She would have to drag her friends and family in to testify.  He had isolated her from her friends and family over the course of their marriage, as many abusers do.  No one really knew what she went through.  Also the ex had a way of twisting things in his warped mind to make it seem like things were her fault.
     She gave up on the idea of an annulment, and had a great little wedding in Las Vegas.  Three beautiful children quickly came within 3 years.  While she knows that this was in God's plan for her, the Church she loved for so much of her life doesn't seem to agree.
     Meanwhile pedophile priests have been exposed, a new Pope with a radically conservative agenda was chosen.  She stood up for gay friends in a commitment ceremony, and was troubled by the fact that society said they shouldn't be married.  Both Catholic Schools she attended during her life have since closed, and the all girls Catholic high school she was to attend on scholarship closed the year she was to start. So many other schools and parishes in her area have closed as well. She began to see she was not the only one who had fallen away, many others had as well for their own lists of reasons.
    This young mother still occasionally goes to Church, but her heart is not in it as it once was.  As it comes time for her to put her own children in religious education, she finds herself at a crossroads.  This church sees their existence as illegitimate.  Should she subject them to this religion that would turn them away?  Should she turn to a new church, perhaps a more tolerant version of Christianity?

     Obviously this young mother is me.  My hope is that the church will come around on many issues, including women as priests, birth control,  divorce, IVF, gay marriage and a host of others.  I'm not so sure that will happen in my lifetime though.  Or maybe its time for another Great Schism.  We could have an American Catholic church separate from the antiquated idealists in Rome.  I truly believe the people are the church, and I have known so many wonderful people, some of whom are still like family.  I long to be a part of it again, but I refuse to ask for forgiveness as I know in my heart that God and I are okay.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dancey Dance Dilemas

I'm thinking of signing my son up for dance.  My eldest daughter has danced for 3 years now, and mostly she loves it.  The twins have come with me for nearly all of her weekly classes.  They both stand pressed to the window and watch the class with longing to join in the fun. There has been the occasional melt down at not being allowed in.  Now that the twins are 3, they will be able to start classes in the fall.  I've had this plan all along, but as registration day approaches the detractors are coming out. Let me explain my reasoning just for the record:

1.  All of them will be going to one place.  I'm hoping to get lesson times adjacent to one another.
2.  All things being equal, all 3 of them should have the same opportunities.
3.  There is very little else in this one stoplight town as activities for kids go (at least at age 3).
     a.There is a karate place, but I think teaching him karate may just result in him beating on his sisters with increased efficiency.
     b.There is also the opportunity to do horseback riding.  However my son will not go near horses.
     c. Opportunities increase as you drive nearer to the city, but time is limited and gas is expensive.
4. Dance is good exercise.
5. There is an artistic component which I love. They learn the art of dance, and also music appreciation.
6. The dance studio does have a terrific program for boys.  He will have to sit through Kinderdance for a couple of years though. After their 3rd year they get to specialize in different styles of dance.
7. Anyone who says dance is just for girls is narrow minded.
8. I have this fantasy of my twins doing a pas de deux together.
9. He will be the cool kid at the school dances.
10.  To his future wife: YOU'RE WELCOME!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Some Weeks Are Just That Way

     I decided it would be a good idea to take a short term, evening temp job.  We were hurting a bit after a payroll hiccup courtesy of my husband's employer. This job was near to his so I could drop the kids to him in true baton parenting style and get my groove on.  To actually be a contributing member of the work force again felt good.  I kept getting compliments on how great I was doing, especially considering I was new.  The work was interesting too and not too stressful.  But as any working mom knows, the pull of home started.
     By the end of the week, my 6 year old called me the worst mom ever as I was trying to hurry them along to eat so we could leave.  After 2 weeks the laundry piles were insane and the house was a wreck.  It was also finals week for me.  I wasn't too worried.  I only had 2 oral Spanish exams.  Thankfully I got a text from a classmate reminding me that our final was on Friday, or I may not have shown up.  Both cars have been in the shop.  Normally with me as a SAHM that would be somewhat doable, but with 2 of us working it was insane.   The newer of the 2 was covered under warranty (thank you!).  My 7 year old minivan was not however.  Buh bye money from my 2 week temp job.
     It all culminated this morning.  I was trying to find clothes for the kids to wear.  I had just bought my twins coordinated Mickey and Minnie shirts.  Since we were attending an event for my twins club, I wanted them to wear them.  Did I mention my laundry piles?  I quickly found Minnie.  I thought Mickey would be close at hand, but no.  I went through 7 loads of yet to be folded laundry looking for Mickey.  I finally gave up.  Toy Story will have to do.  Then my 3 year old son has a fit.  He wanted the Mickey. Put him in the car naked I tell my husband.  Thankfully my husband got him dressed.  Then the lovely car seat shuffle ensued.  My minivan was still being fixed, so we had to take my husband's smaller car.  It had 2 carseats, but not the 3rd.  Getting all 3 car seats in is a minor feat of geometry and gymnastics.  Back seat gymnastics should be a whole lot more fun.
     We were on our way.  I call the host of our event to them know we are coming, but we are just a wee bit behind schedule.  Then the mechanic calls.  Car is all set and ready to pick up.  I should also know that he closes at noon and is not open on Sunday or Monday.  We cannot survive another 3 days on one car, so we turn off in the direction of the mechanic's shop.  We bend over, I mean pay the mechanic and switch the kids back to the beloved minivan (after all it does have a DVD player).  Then we got caught in traffic. Lately it seems there is construction on every egress in our area.  Tax dollars at work and job creation is fine and dandy, until it impedes my ability to get out of my one stoplight town.  I am usually more likely to get stuck behind a tractor than get stuck in traffic.
     We finally got to our event, just shy of an hour late.  Thankfully another mom arrived just before we did.  I love my twins moms.  They are all wonderful people, and we all have the same affliction.  The kids proceeded to have a wonderful time and they played so nicely together.  We even went out and had a nice lunch with little to no incident.  It did turn out to be a very nice day overall.
     I just wonder if the little bit (and I do mean little) of extra money was worth the hassle.  My house, my kids, my husband and my sanity have all suffered this week.  We gave the entirety of my 2, (yes not one but 2!) paychecks to the mechanic.  Gas is down this week, but still ridiculous, and take out isn't cheap either.  I guess my struggle to find balance continues.