12/4/08

Rock Bottom Reflections on Cashmere

My Father-In-Law spent the weekend with us after Thanksgiving. This gift was like Haley's Comet, it hasn't happened before(since I can remember), and we probably won't live to see a repeat. He runs his own business, which in turn runs his life. He rarely indulges in free time, and when he does, it doesn't involve constructing his grand daughters' playhouse with his son in our yard. Correction: It Didn't.
When he agreed to help John, we all exchanged a "We'll believe it when we see it" look and held our breath until the morning of his scheduled arrival. I even mentioned that I would take the girls off premise so they wouldn't witness the violent outbursts for which Papa's family is famous. We'll just say that short fuses, adult tantrums and loud voices are a family trait that usually result in something broken (a two by four, a window, occasionally a hand).

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon when we all gathered around to admire the newly constructed playhouse and wave goodbye to a new grandfather, in hopes he would return again soon. Not one tantrum, not one strained neck moment, not one broken stick of wood. Just a beautiful new playhouse and two days of father-son time, with an interlude of Papa time at the park with the girls. A dream come true...

When the kids grew tired of the playhouse that Sunday afternoon, we loaded them up on the bikes for a long ride towards town. I gathered a few cozy items to keep warm on our return in case we found ourselves racing the sunset. A few beanies, and the biggest scarf I owned-a camel colored cashmere pashmina that was a bridesmaid gift in the last wedding I was in (not only the nicest wrap I owned, but one with sentimental value to boot).

Our bike ride found us traversing creeks and dodging boulders until we landed on the sandy shores of the harbor. We snacked on goldfish and chased the girls in and out of the tides, keeping our eyes on the wild surfers paddling about in stormy, barreling waves. A pirate seagull stole our bag of goldfish booty and precariously made his way toward the water. He made several attempts at lift-off while a tearful Shelby pointed and wailed, "Mommy, he's stealing our fish!!!!" After two days of uninterrupted parenting (while daddy spent the weekend hammering away in the childless backyard), her crying sent me racing down the beach. I tackled that seagull, unloosing our precious golden gemfish and unleashing my own frustrations pent up after 36 hours alone with two crying kids. No seagull this side of Cuesta will ever dare to steal human food again after my violent display on the beach. I was an animal in the kingdom, and this was just the beginning.

We mounted our bikes and turned towards home, Shelby gripping her goldfish bag with both hands. The sun was setting and Ana was wailing the tired-hungry-cold baby theme song. When Shelby joined in as her back up singer, I mercifully gathered up my pashmina and crammed it into her lap. "Please do NOT let the scarf drag on the ground. HOLD ON TO IT!" I managed to say through gritted teeth. Our leisurely family afternoon bike ride had gone, and what was left in its place was a strained mission of survival set to a miserable orchestra of whining and crying. After the boulders, but before the creek, my bike suddenly came to a halt. I looked back at my wide eyed passenger and then down at the camel pashmina, wound tightly around the back wheel.

"Auugghh!!!" I shrieked, at which point my sea dampened hair !POOFED! into something reminiscent of Medusa, my skin evoked a shade of green and my teeth grew long and yellowed. "I asked you to hold on to that scarf!!!!" And then I traded my "Mom" title for something far more rare and ugly, I channeled my Father-In-Law. I yelled, I tugged, I tantrumed right there in the public beach parking lot.

At this point, John threatened to get the pashmina out for me and I wildly waved him away. He gathered both children and pushed his bike in the direction farthest from me and my cloud of flailing dust.

"Ugghhhh!! I CANNOT believe this!!!!" I spluttered with my neck muscles strained.

An old Mercury pulled up behind me with a white haired couple peering over the dash (no doubt in disbelief at the crazed sea monster doing battle with a bike in the parking lot). I didn't care who saw me, I didn't care what they thought, or that my tired, cold family witnessed it all from their muddy perch across the creek. I did not care that it was past dinner time, that they'd missed their bath, that my youngest was rotting in a poopy diaper.

MY CASHMERE PASHMINA WAS TRAPPED IN A GREASY MESS OF GEARS AND SPOKES. CASHMERE!!!!!
"May I help?" offered a scratchy old man voice with an Italian accent.

He held a pocket knife and had fixed his face in a friendly offering with a hint of pity across his brow. His hunched wife approached me from my left.

I explained the situation, making sure to place the blame on my 4 year old and point out SEVERAL times that this scarf is cashmere. Cashmere. WHAT KIND OF HORRIBLE MOTHER AM I?????

He casually flicked open his knife and sawed-SAWED-through my pashmina. Then he gathered the remnant in his aged old fingers and yanked the bike up and down until it came loose.

"Um, uh how a far do you haf to ago?" he inquired. I stared down at the chain, now hanging loosely from my bike, the gears and some other hoops of metal dangled around the axle.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched him continually wipe his greasy hands on that which was my pashmina.

"Three more miles with two kids," I squeaked out as I gestured to my family huddled on the dunes across the creek.

John raised his hand in a neutral wave-an offering of condolence with a hint of understanding. He'd seen this erratic behavior many times before, just not from his wife and the mother of his children.

Suddenly, the old man yanked a pair of needle nosed pliers out of his back pocket and set to work reconfiguring the gears of my injured bike. !VOILA! Good as new.

I waved goodbye to my Italian saviors and shuffled across the creek with the remains of my crumpled, greasy pashmina in hand.

My brow was furrowed, my mood was dark and so was the horizon. "C'mon, let's go," I grumbled as I approached John and the kids. He didn't even chastise me, he just strapped the girls into their bike seats and rode quietly alongside.

My internal stream of consciousness ran wild, "Who am I what kind of mother am I you cannot blame these things on your daughter she's going to need therapy if you keep this up-she yelled at me for ruining her cashmere pashmina-the therapist will know I'm a crazy person this is not the way you build up your daughters self confidence its a pashmina big deal let it go it can be replaced quit freaking out i can't believe he wiped the grease from his hands on it cashmere cashmere why did i bring it on the bike ride you knew better it wasn't her fault pull yourself together.
"Shelby, I am so sorry I yelled at you. It wasn't your fault. I am not mad at you. It was my fault for bringing the (cashmere) scarf."
And as soon as those words came out of my mouth I felt my hair calm, the crease along my forehead smooth and the green drain from my cheeks. I was again myself, a mom, a loving wife who can control her temper and does not freak out in public.
Needless to say, when we arrived home I locked up medusa and put myself to bed. I vowed to leave the tantrums to my toddlers and my Father-In-Law, and my cashmere at home.

12/1/08

One Room, Two Kids Revisited

The growing trend in this country appears to be larger homes, smaller families and more video games and television. A few more years and the American family may gather at their kitchen counter to have a conversation via text, omg r u lvn the chkn 2nt?
When John and I returned from living in Australia, we had a grudge against the American government. We were expecting a child, and we were analyzing our country with the scrutiny of a foreigner. In a Utopian society (aka Australia), television includes commercials publicizing the use of sunscreen, bedtime for children at 7:30 with a giant stuffed teddy bear, a song, and a dance, public parks and restrooms devoid of filth, reverse taxes for couples giving birth to a child in the form of thousands of dollars in your pocket. Families live sparsely, with a concentration on simple living, a zest for travel and a deep respect for nature.
With this experience under our belts, we returned to the states and cancelled our cable television. Completely. It's been four and a half years since we pumped commercialized American television into our home, since we fed on consumerism and devoured sensationalized news caps. We moved to a 2 bedroom home, we ride bikes and walk to the beach to watch the sunset after dinner. When we visit Grandparents, and watch television, Shelby cries at every commercial break because she thinks the show is all over already.
When we learned we were pregnant with a second baby, we dismissed the concern of our friends and neighbors and responded with, "Our kids will share a room. We did, didn't you?"
This was all well and good until the baby arrived and we discovered that babies cry. Babies make noise at all hours of the night. And toddler sleep is nothing to mess with. So we spent the first few weeks nervous. But once I got out of the fog of post pregnancy, I took some baby steps toward reclaiming my bedroom. On the days when Shelby was in preschool, I began putting Ana down for her morning nap in her crib in the girls' bedroom. After a few weeks, I added her afternoon nap to the agenda while Shelby went down for her nap. We all found this to be exciting that Shelby and Ana could lie down in their room for a nap together. And on a "Jackpot Day" they both actually fell asleep in their room, at the same time!!!!
After a few weeks, I set a goal: Ana will begin the evening in her crib and if possible, will end up in her crib in the morning. What happens in between doesn't matter. By the time Ana was 8 months, we were all set. Shelby, thank God, is a fairly sound sleeper, so any ambient noise made by her baby sister goes unnoticed. The only times we separate them is during bedtime routine and if one is sick.
Ana goes to bed around 7 and Shelby gets her story time at 7:15. So we do bedtime routine in our bed and then promptly move Shelby to her bed once she's fallen asleep. This may bode poorly for us in the future. But for now, it works just fine. Shelby like her bed and doesn't ask to get in ours during the night.
In the first year of Ana's life, if one got sick, we would put them into bed with us. But now that they are older, they just suffer through the other one's coughing, harking or crying. I'd like to think that they are used to sharing a room with each other. Getting used to sharing toys is another story.

11/30/08

As Promised

I mentioned my Thanksgiving celebration included guns and drag queens. When we attended our second Thanksgiving on my husband's side, Shelby asked, "Mommy, is there going to be shooting there?"

Augh, so many great traditions.

I will surely be punished for the following photo, nonetheless, the rest of the world should know just how my family celebrates their holidays.