"Long was I hugged close -- long and long.
Immense have been the preparations for me,
Faithful and friendly the arms that have helped me.
Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful boatmen,
For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings,
They sent influences to look after what was to hold me.
Before I was born out of my mother generations guided me,
My embryo has never been torpid, nothing could overlay it." ~ Walt Whitman
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There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed
After some consideration I felt that the name of this blog, (which was selected some years ago for a different purpose) simply does not match up with the content that I am writing. And so…I have decided to pick up my entire site and move it 3 feet to the left.
I have accepted my official status as the Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe. Denial is bad for the soul. I hope all 17 of you will keep reading my posts and tell your friend about them too!
Time for another edition of “Let’s Criticize the Hell Out of My Amateur Photographs!” In this update, I fail to capture the industrial feel of IKEA (I know, how could you manage to fail at that, right?). So if you’ve got time, you can help me, another human being, in her hour of need, develop her technical expertise and get better at capturing the world around her. Enjoy!
It’s Jog-a-thon time again folks! School jog-a-thons are great! (Run, Forrest! Run!). Forget about raising money for the schools and building in a life full of healthy exercise habits for the children, because nothing beats these school-wide events for the fabulous experiments in childhood personality testing that they are. They are simply designed to reveal the psychological make up of these future citizens of the world. Today marked my 7th annual jog-a-thon. Since I have six kids that means there are only 26 more to go! (I said run dammit! Don’t stop. Don’t ever stop.)
I am happy to report that today’s event had all the usual cast of characters: there’s the kids that totally buy into the process and give it their all, competition etched fierce and intense on their faces as they compete against their own personal best. There’s the one’s who try and game the system cutting around the inside of cones to shave the distance until some authority figure steps in with a lesson in accountability. The are the one’s who treat the whole things as a social event, chatting and waylaying anyone who crosses their path as they check their hair and clothing, and there are the one’s who try to minimize their enforced participation in the whole event by loafing at the water station until they are flushed out by an observant teacher to run another lap.
Some of them live totally in the moment, the Forrest Gumps, god love them. You say “Run!” and they do…backwards, the wrong way, across fields, swarming around teachers, off they go, startled into action, never once asking questions about why they are being made to run in endless circles. And then there are my personal favorites, the ones who pass you on each lap, giving you that look that says they’re going to give up every state secret they know. They’re not sure how it’s happened to them, but they know they have somehow stumbled into some school-sponsored program whose design was first conceived at Guantanamo.
I’m always late to volunteer for these events and that places me at the water station (I guess the thinking here goes, “if you can’t get organized enough to volunteer on time, how will you ever be organized enough to mark laps on the back of their bibs?”). But whatever, I’m just glad to help out. And it’s always the same at the water station. After approximately a lap and a half the entire grade level hits that water station all at once, panting like little Olympians. Kids are great the way they can run a ¼ mile and still look as if they were in the final 100 meters of the New York Marathon. From there on out, they will collectively stop for water on every single lap, and manage to look progressively worse every time you see them until you are finally forced to ask if they’d like the paramedics to be brought onto the field. All this takes place to the high-energy sounds of Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas. The dissonance is thick by the end of it, I can assure you.
And when they’re done they get…a Popsicle. I wouldn’t take that deal any day of the week, so you’ve got to admire their willingness to get behind a call to action, and I’m a big fan of randomly tormenting the children. It gets them ready for life in the rat race glorious world ahead of them. When the music finally dies down and the Popsicle sticks have been collected, they round up these sweaty, sticky, over-stimulated little people and return them to their classes for the rest of the days education. I’ve often wondered what that looks like, but I’ve never had the courage to stay and find out.
Another especially good example of this kind of behavior-revealing activity can be found in the science class. Want to get to know your child and his friends at their deepest level? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Frog Dissection! In our district this year, the 5th graders were broken up into groups of four, given sharp implements and this guy…
Let the mayhem begin! Here’s what I saw during that exercise; some kids excused themselves to step outside in discomfort about 38 times, and though many of them just seemed to use it as an excuse to wander aimlessly around, a couple of them stayed out there for the entire class due to a true inability to embrace the spirit of animal autopsy. A few of the kids were very scientific as they went about the business of cataloging frog parts and a small number were unable to complete the dissection due to the gross out factor. And at least one table, made up entirely of girls, never even began the dissection because the group kept breaking down over leadership issues and personality conflicts. And lastly, there were a few boys at work in that house of horrors who did things to those frogs that made me think of a scene from the movie “Con Air” where Steve Buscemi’s character Garland Greene says “One girl… I drove through three states wearing her head as a hat.” Those are the one’s who will probably become doctors one day.
Think back…which one were you? In the mean time, volunteer, you can’t beat it for the opportunity to learn and be horrified. Plus, it helps out the schools.
My daughter is a born mother. I am (in my own opinion) decidedly not, despite my long desire to have children and be at home to raise them. I would argue that mothering is more science than nature in my case. But I have watched her in fascination for some time now, all the while struggling with the faint discomfort of someone raised by a 70’s era mother who, like most of her sisterhood, ran from the kitchen and child-rearing as a sole occupation. Our mothers sought to have a bigger life than the one that was offered to them and there has been a burden on us, their daughters, ever since – to expect the same. Some wear it more lightly than others to be sure, but there can be a guilt at work for wanting to stay home. Perhaps it is connected to the lack of a paycheck associated with it, but being just a mother is only given lip-service as an occupation. And yet, here is this girl who is two generations away from Gloria Steinem, obsessed with baking, asking for cross-stitch lessons and mothering her brothers and sister, and sometimes me, and I think, aren’t we supposed to be pushing her out of the kitchen?
She was born an adult, and at all of 11 years of age she acts with perfect comfort embracing the responsibilities of the business of our home. There have been moments where it has been hard to tell which one of us was leading in this mother-daughter dance we do. She has been my equal in certain subtle ways since she first weighed in at 3 tiny pounds of certainty, and her imitations of me, which have not always been flattering, began at a profoundly early age. The most curious part about it was how really clear it was that it wasn’t a recreation of me personally that drew her. It was the role of motherhood that she aspired to.
It didn’t start out this way. If you went by our earliest conversations about “How you get a baby” you would never have suspected that she would be who she is now. I can still recall the frantic, panicked conversation she had with her frantic, panicked mother who was trying to merge onto the Southern California freeway system (I am always trying to get on the freeway it seems) with no sleep and the equivalent of the new Starbuck’s Trenti in her system.
“I don’t want to have a baby!”
“Well, you don’t have to.”
“Well how do stop it from happening?!” she asks, starting to cry
“They have medicine you can take so you don’t have one.” I say, wondering why we were having this insane conversation anyway.
“Well, I want the medicine!”
OMG. “You don’t need it yet! You don’t have to worry about this right now. Can we just let mommy get on the freeway and worry about this later for the love of all that’s holy?”
She was 5 at the time…
And yet, despite this, in her tiny heart resided the sensibilities of a born mother, which despite the aforementioned conversation were clearly evidenced by the arrival of her younger brother when she was 3 years old. She found him irresistible in every way, announcing to all and sundry, “This is MY baby” and showing him off. She watched carefully the pattern of his care and at the slightest cry from him, little hands would appear out of nowhere and begin pulling at my clothes, undressing me as she announced, “he’s hungry.” And more amazing still to me was when I would lie down to nurse him, she would lie on the other side, putting him in the middle, and stretching her tiny arms as far as they would go, around us both, making herself part of the tableau.
I admit, I am sensitive to the idea that I am unfairly making her care for the children that I had or agreed to take on, but she really did sign onto this with me during one of our early conversations about whether or not we were the best place for her two young cousins. Could we give them what they needed if there were 6 kids? She asked what would happen to them if we didn’t do it and I told her about foster care. And she told me that it wasn’t happening. That no matter what I decided, she wasn’t going let that happen. She wasn’t being defiant, she was being who she was. She just knew the answer deep in her own heart and wasn’t afraid of stating it.
Also, the boys, when asked to meet the same mark, well, they are just ever so slightly more lame in some incomprehensible, DNA-related fashion. I’m sorry guys (Mommy totally loves you), but they’re just different. I can give you evidence of this genetic difference. When the triplets were born and we had absolute teams of people coming in to help care for them, not one of the men ever knew which one they were holding. They visually could not tell them apart. They were not identical. 3 different eggs. None of the women had this problem. I found that fascinating. Our brains are built differently, thank god, and I value them as well, but we’ve stopped pretending by now that the male and female brains are similarly structured, right?
So, through all this, my daughter has been the blessing I never knew I was going to get. She forgives me for all my many mistakes as a parent. She has been my hero and my partner in holding our family together, and it must be said, she is amazing. I miss her terribly on the weekends (especially now that she has become my chief ally in the current war against the 2 year old). I didn’t expect it to happen this way, but my gratitude for who she is as a person knows no bounds. I could even begin to do this without her.
To say that I rest uneasy at times in our partnership wouldn’t be overstating it. I am not looking to produce a resentful young adult who felt that I had kids and made her look after them, but so far, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I have held onto the words of a young cousin, the oldest of six herself, and her observation about the younger sister who just always seemed to know she wanted to be a mother. It reminded me that it was alright to have motherhood be one’s highest aspiration. After all, feminism was about being valued for our choices as woman equally, no matter where they took us, not just being free to choose from the “Man Menu”. I wish for my daughter whatever she most wishes for herself. She is one of the best people I know.
I have this idea for a new project where we criticize the hell out of my photographic efforts. I mean really, if you don’t criticize someone how can you possibly expect them to learn? (keep in mind I’m just a girl with a desire and a humble point and shoot camera. I’m working within my limitations because all the the photographers I know keep saying it’s not the camera it’s the photographer blah blah blah…)
For instance, I took these shots during the week at the local Anthropologie store (and also learned a valuable lesson about charging the camera more often) and I don’t feel like I got the shot I was looking for, but I’m not sure I know what to try differently…
So, I like the door framing and texture of number 1, but somehow the shot seems to lack a focal point.
Number 2 captures the whole of the elements, but lacks depth.
Number 3 & 4 show better the way the plants spiral around, but there’s something off with the angle.
Anyone care to offer a suggestion before I go back for another try at this shot? I love that I learn something with every shot I take, so go ahead, take a shot at the shot…Help a girl out
So I haven’t written for about a week or more…at least not on the computer. I have found that I’ve been writing longhand in the notebooks a fair bit, but as far as the blog…well, it’s about filtering. I’ve been doing a lot of it. How personal am I willing to be? I’m not of much use when it comes to chatting about insignificancies like weather and the like. So I have had to really grapple with how revealing I am willing to be and need to be to be able to write anything at all, especially since I have come to know some of the people that read my blog – all 13 of you. Losing your sense of anonymity is always a challenge to how or if you put filters in place. I leave a lot out of my blog, but there has been a lot going on and I want to write about it, but do I?…So, I am really working that over right now.
Additionally, I have had a pretty major dental issue going on and it turns out that my ability to organize sentences is hampered by antibiotics and pain pills. I still don’t feel even remotely well, but in time I’ll get there.
So, more to come. I’m finally feeling like I could string 3 words together here. In the meantime, here’s a little eye candy for y’all.
Do yourself a visual solid and go visit Brian Matiash Photography for more wonderfulness like this. It’s beyond amazing.
So, a busy week is likely to get busier since baseball is here again. I always dread the start of baseball and I’m always happy once I get in the swing of it. It heals. At least it will after I solve the mystery of the two jerseys that their father swears are at my house. I could not convince The Kid to play. He never did get over being hit last season, but he is as excited as any human can be about spring training. It’s a quandary. What he needs is a camp for future announcers, because he can call a game like nobody’s business.
Last week I introduced myself to an absolutely cool concept called BlogCrush. It’s an association to help Orange County bloggers get connected with each other, and I met some really awesome people there. BlogCrush was created by Suzanne Broughton, who among many, many things has a blog called Alive in Wonderland for OC Family. and Marcy Massura, who was hilarious and seems to have about a thousand irons in the fire, many of which can be checked out at her site, The Glamorous Life Association. I am hooked on the idea of such a supportive group of writers/bloggers/photographers. I came away feeling very good about it all. The event was held at Zov’s, which was wonderful, as you can see here…
Favorite among things I found last week was this photoblog, which absolutely brings joy to the heart of this little shut-in. Any other mom out there who loves the beauty of seeing somewhere completely different on earth, try out moderndaygilligan.com and you’ll see things like this:
Sea Owl by Joshua Yetman at moderndaygilligan.com
I could look at his stuff all day long…
Also found through Facebook was a site that seems just made for parenting kids with attachment disorder issues, called Teach Through Love. And no, I have not transformed my parenting, but I think they are on the right track and their status updates on Facebook always stop and make me think more. I think they have also started offering parenting classes online. The more information the better in my book. They’re definitely worth a ‘Like’ on Facebook.
I found a few new sites to explore through the 11th Annual Bloggies. The winners get decided tomorrow. I’m not sure I agree with all of their finalists (while I adore The Pioneer Woman, I might not have put her in the Best Writing category, but I understand the affection her site inspires). It’s always fun to see what appeals. Oh, and great site design, btw.
Cruising the web I became aware of a new program currently still in Beta that looks like it could have something interesting to offer. Pinterest, created in Palo Alto and styling itself as a “virtual pinboard”, is looking to go both social and business useful through image sharing. Right off the bat, I can think of a couple of nieces with an interest in fashion and lots of friends who would be likely to adopt it’s use. I signed up for the invite list and I’m really looking forward to seeing the product in action. You can see some pinboard examples here. Let me know what you think…
My Bestie, The Dragon Lady, and I decided to end the week in worship…
Gin & Tonic Done Right
It’s my one true calling. I make, hands down, the best gin and tonic anywhere! I will convert you. The Dragon Lady has promised to have it written on paper and placed under a rock on my unmarked grave chiseled on my headstone. Oh, and the Hendrick’s website, cute and fun! And on that note…
What do you write about when nothing seems to interest you? So just out of respect for the discipline (sounds like more fun than it is) of writing I’m putting up this post.
2 Days Ago…
I woke up at 5am after 3 hours sleep and my brain felt like it was crashing into my skull every time I turned my head from lack of sleep. Melancholy chased around the edges of the day all day, and I tried my best to ignore it. I wished I could ignore going back to Edelman’s Children’s Court once more. For those of you who didn’t know, Los Angeles county has it’s own special children’s court located in Monterey Park…and it’s packed. All the time. My daughter is part of an incredibly large population who requires the intervention of social services. She has had her own lawyer since she was 18 months old, and if she really understood what that meant she would be on the phone to him daily registering her displeasure with the condition of her life. “I don’t like this cereal. Get me my lawyer!”
I have been going to this building with some regularity for about three years now and it has always left me feeling like I’ve had a backstage pass to the Jerry Springer show. Again, the recurrent theme of my life: Irony. I have always been someone with an almost pathological need to avoid officers of the court and their kind. In my universe, being in court tends to mean I have screwed up somewhere (it might be noted that I view the Supreme Court very differently, but I don’t expect us to make any ground breaking points of law here. It’s all so soul-killingly mundane). But here I am, dancing through the court systems of two different counties. That definitely deserves a #FML, doesn’t it? All together now…
I try and remind myself that good things happen there as well. Families are made there through finalized adoptions. Children are saved, that sort of thing. But it’s hard, because I don’t want to be there at all. The whole process went better than I expected. In the end, my niece wanted reassurance that we would have a post-adoption contract in place and seemed willing to go forward if it was. So I will spend the next month getting educated about such an instrument and it’s scope and we will go into mediation to try and structure something that addresses both our needs before taking the final few steps. It seems I am destined for a complicated life, but who didn’t know that already, right?
Moments like yesterday still awaken the hope in me that my niece’s life will be salvaged. I desperately hope so, even while I realize that we are far from the time that I can be instrumental in such repairs. The work must hers, the journey back, hers alone. I wondered on the drive that morning whether or not I was doing what my brother would have wanted me to do. I think I am. I suspect he would have had much less patience with all this than I did. He was always quicker to action than I was. I can’t even begin to wonder what would have been different in his daughter’s life if he had lived. I’d like to think it would have been better…but it’s pure speculation. He had so many hurdles of his own, he just didn’t make it over the last one. I often wish he was here though.
My mother offered to go with me yesterday, which I was grateful for, but I said no. Their relationship is likely irretrievably broken and I felt it would only raise the stress of the whole affair for all involved. But pulling into that parking garage, what I really wanted was a guy. It’s funny how there are just moments in your life where you want a man by your side. Preferably a Navy Seal who can bring it with authority and presence. A decision-maker who has your back and exudes all that other Alpha Male goodness that makes a girl ovulate on the spot. Equally funny is how not real life that it. I never want to bring the children to that place and they end up staying home with the Golf Pro while I go and meet the demands of our family on my own. That’s just life and the real deal and all that stuff. Yes, sadly, these guys were all busy somewhere else…
Who's Got Your Back?
So anyway, that wraps up another round of the Jerry Springer Show court and I get a reprieve until April, when we might see the whole business done and this chapter closed…so another one can open after that. I gave my niece a ride back to the sober living shelter where she is living, and then a stop at my mother’s nearby. But it wasn’t until I saw this view that the beginnings of peace stirred and the weight of the day started to lift …
This is one of my favorite spots in the 405. It’s where Orange County begins and I breathe a little easier every time I see this spot on my way home. Past this point I begin to feel a little more at peace. But what really makes me breath deeply is this sight…
This means I am close to home and the children, and that my heart can mend from the day. This sight means gratitude and safety. That day it also meant I got to celebrate National Margarita Day with one of these…
Why adoption? Why now? Can I start by saying that I think remaining in guardianship would probably be the easier thing to do. Fewer uncomfortable decisions, that’s for certain. The easiest thing in the world would be to just not rock the boat. And I imagine that there exists the belief that leaving this as wide open as possible and trying to create a situation with as many options as possible would be the way to go. Before anything else, do no harm. But I’ve thought about it and thought about it, and it is not, in my opinion, the best possible way to guarantee success. Making a freaking choice is. Making a decision is. Letting the situation drift, what does that say to her? What does that tell her about her own importance?
This has not been an end that I have raced toward, but when I look at her and my other children, I can find no other reasonable option that honestly meets her needs, nothing else that gives her the absolute best chance of having a successful foundation. Those other options, they meet the needs of the people around her, not hers, and this is supposed to be about her before it is about all of us. And if you need to know the reason it won’t meet her needs, well, chief among them is the marks left on her by Attachment Disorder.
We’ve lived with those words for some time now and it all comes back to that. At it’s heart, how can I teach her to become attached if I am still in a holding pattern myself, still seeing myself as a placeholder in her life for the mother that isn’t available to her? She needs to be firmly and securely attached to someone at the beginning of her life so that she can be allowed to get on with the all the very necessary business of her life.
Over these last three years in my stewardship of her and her mother’s relationship, I have tried to be very, very careful, worked to the best of my ability not usurp her mother’s place anytime it could be helped. I have worked to the absolute best of my ability not to offer judgment of your successes or failures as you struggled with your addictions in the firm belief that the weight of it could not contribute to your success. I tried to offer you a clean slate, but there was always a time limit for how long we would all live our lives in stasis and I was clear with you about that too. Promises have to be made…and kept. No matter what.
Perhaps you could argue that some kids can live day to day with only a substitute mother, but this one can’t. She’s different. She’s special. She is not a child who can be satisfied with half measures. She needs fiercely to possess and be possessed. To belong, and she has made this need clear in most every crayon stroke she’s made. This is a child who shouts with her drawings. They are, and have been, pictures of families and Mommies and homes and she has been making them since she could draw. Pictures of herself with whatever people were presented to her as available for a family. For a child who had no clear family structure to lay hands on in her experience, she has always been remarkably clear about having one. Determined about that as she is about everything else, she lives it out loud and in this, as in so very many other things, she has always been her own light. Listening to her has always allowed us to know her deepest needs. She exemplifies one of my favorite Eunice Kennedy Shriver quotes “…the love of a family, nothing else matters. If you haven’t got a family, go out and get one.”
You’re asking for more time. I suppose five years out of the life of an adult is recoverable, an undesirable, but acceptable loss when you look at the arc of your time on earth. But for her, it’s been her whole life. You can’t be a mother to her now or any time in the foreseeable future and somebody has to be. She deserves to be chosen, claimed, told she’s wanted in actions rather than words.
While I understand your need to preserve a place in her life for yourself, for 3 years now, people have been trying to tell you that the way to having that place is through actions and choices, not by gouging an empty space in her life so that you can have a place to return to when and if you manage to assemble your own life. For her sake, it has to be done in the opposite way. Go out and really find your life. Heal yourself. Build a life…and then come and earn your way back into hers. I promise she will want to have that relationship with you. I have always and will always raise her to welcome a relationship with you when you are a healthy, positive and contributing factor in her life.
So, despite the fact that I desperately did not want to be the person to make these decisions, no one else has shown up to make them, and we would be lying to ourselves, all of us, taking the cowards way out by pretending we could just not make a choice. The life of a child goes on despite the fact that the adults aren’t yet ready to show up. Why should she have to wait?
So here’s me, trying to address the idea that I’m closing the door on you, her other mother. It’s more that I can’t hold it open this way forever. You’ve put her and I in the position of having to fight for each other. Fight hard. The damage all this has done to her is the very reason for having to take this step. More than most children, she simply cannot live in ambiguity. If she had been stable when she came to us, perhaps it would have been possible, but I just don’t think it’s a viable option. I have fought harder for her than any of the other 5 and she has fought harder for herself than any 5 year old should have to, and I still can’t give her a single promise or hope regarding your presence in her life. If anything, your situation has worsened rather than improved and I cannot just hold your place forever. I don’t know how to do that anymore and believe that she, and my other children will have their best interests served.
By this method I am legally buying myself a seat at her table forever. I am promising her that I will always fight for what she needs. I am telling her that she was important enough to take this hardest of steps for. This is also my way of saying that I don’t want my life, or hers, dictated any longer by people who lack the ability to arrange their own affairs, and I certainly owe that to my family after all I have put them through by choosing to stand in for this. I am doing this to teach her and the rest of my children one day that it is desirable to take steps to be the author of your own fate. That “you must make decisions based on who somebody is, not who you think they could be.”
In a life full of hard decisions, this has been one of the hardest and most complicated and I keep circling back to the Old Testament story of the baby who was claimed by two mothers before King Solomon. That story was all about judgment in various ways, and so, finally is this moment because I have to wonder if withholding judgment has caused you to mistake my feeling about this. I love you and I hope you get well, but none of this is even close to ok anymore. You have reached the place where you have asked too much. You were expected to show up as their mother and when you didn’t you bought yourself out of her life through your choices. I’m not sure why you think it should be otherwise.
And through it all there are my other children to consider. Why should they be asked to live this way anymore? There are not words for how big an apology you owe them. Your choices have asked sacrifices of them you don’t begin to imagine. They have rights and certain expectations that must be met. I try and remember that because of your own childhood, you cannot begin to know this. But that doesn’t mean that it can still be condoned.
I hope you will remember that they will still be here for you. They will still be here to be part of your life, provided that life is really healthy. I think anyone else would have stopped this long ago. You’ve had everything that we could offer you in the way of support, whether you knew it or not. You still do, but the work is yours and no one can do it for you. And no one can pay the freight on your life anymore, even though you might deserve it. It’s time to make different choices and there is still a lifetime of good choices out there for you to make, but cutting the baby in half won’t be one of them.