Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Not quite a Christmas miracle

It wasn't quite a Christmas miracle.

IMG 1401

We spent last Saturday early evening at the Santa Cruz Bible Church Santa Cruz'n Christmas, a fun Christmas event that included oxen and lamb keeping time (kind of -- a donkey and lamb actually), an old school Jerusalem village complete with Roman soldiers and a real baby Jesus, carriage rides, cider and hot chocolate, arts and crafts for the kids, baby Jesus black-light puppet show and Santa.

Yes, Santa. They know how to wrangle in the infidels, don't they.

We were having a grand old time until we lost Beatrice. We had finished in one of the crafts rooms and headed out a side door of the building that read "emergency exit only."

Click. There's Daddy, the Mama and baby Bryce -- but where's Bea?

I checked the door but it was locked. I looked through the window and didn't see her among the throngs of people.

"Where's Bea?" I called to the Mama.

She glanced around quickly, shrugged and I panicked. I ran around the building, one of many on this expansive church property, and shot back inside frantically (but cooly) searching out our elder B.

And there she was, a little rattled but intact, holding the hand of a nice lady who said she saw us walk away from Bea and out the side door, leaving her inside by herself.

A proud moment indeed. I kicked myself mentally as I held Bea's hand and guided her back outside to the Mama and Bryce.

Back together again we headed through Old Jerusalem on the way to our car to go home. When we loaded everyone in the car, one of Bryce's shoes was missing. Night had fallen but the Mama was determined to find it, reminding me how nice the shoes were and how she didn't want to have to get new ones. I'm really glad I didn't say, "Leave it. Let's go. We can get more baby shoes." Thankfully she found it.

But neither of these were the "not quite" Christmas miracle I'm referring to. No, that happened on the way home from the event.

I slowed our Saturn VUE as the light turned green, about 30 feet from the intersection. I proceeded across, the Mama turning back to give Beatrice her water cup, and then the pickup turned left and hit us head on.

Surreal. Unreal. Quick.

I braked. The pickup braked. The impact was slow but -- smack -- we all felt it.

I didn't hear anything. I didn't hear the Mama yelling at me. I didn't hear Bryce crying.

I just couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that the truck hit us. At this point I could see that it was a young woman driving the truck, in her early twenties maybe.

And she looked as if she were crying hysterically --

"KEVIN, GET OUT OF THE INTERSECTION! PULL OVER! GET OUT OF THE STREET!"

The Mama's voice rocked me back to life, as if the kinetic energy from the impact had a delayed effect and only now did I absorb it.

I pulled over, we calmed the young woman down, Mama gave her a big hug and we exchanged insurance information. The impact seemed minimal to both vehicles. Mama finally quieted Bryce. Beatrice seemed giddy, even a little maniacal.

But the shaky image of the young woman crying and apologizing to us, telling us she was from out of the area, that her cell phone was dead, that her pickup was now leaking some kind of fluid -- that image became a future glimpse one of my daughters accidentally running into a family of four coming back from a church Christmas event, and that we wouldn't be there to help her.

It wasn't quite a Christmas miracle, but it sure put life's fast-forward view-finder in perspective.

Merry Christmas. Hold your kids close. Amen.

DSCN1749

DSCN1756

 

 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

So this holiday be a warm light to those who have little

Snow Candle

"A very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Let's hope it's a good one without any fear." --John Lennon

 

We do our best to not map disturbing statistics onto ourselves, especially during the holidays. Instead we wish them back to the page or the mouths that spoke them, trying to forget them like speeding past dead things on icy dark roads.

But there are 4 women who live with me -- two adults and two girls (Mama, Nonna and the B-hive) -- and according to the CDC's National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), 1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.

1 in 4.

In fact, on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, according to new findings released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Over the course of a year, that equals more than 12 million women and men. Those numbers only tell part of the story – more than 1 million women are raped in a year, and over 6 million women and men are victims of stalking. These findings emphasize that sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence are major public health problems in the United States. In addition, they underscore the heavy toll that violence takes on Americans, particularly women.

This violence affects women much more disproportionately than men, but is still equal opportunity. 1 in 7 men experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner.

Nobody wants to live in fear; both men and women who experience this violence report­ more health problems. Female victims, in particular, have significantly higher rates of irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, frequent headaches and difficulty sleeping.

So this holiday be a warm light to those who have little and help generate awareness and prevention, donate money or gifts/toys to your local domestic violence shelters and women's centers, or volunteer your time.

16days square1b

Or, pamper yourself and your friends and loved ones while doing some good this holiday season without breaking the bank.

Spa Fundraiser has teamed up with The Pixel Project to bring you the Purple Pamper Package annual holiday-gift program. Each Purple Pamper Package spa certificate buys you a mini face-and-hand spa pampering session worth $150.00 for just $25.00 per certificate.

You can even double the charitable impact of the Purple Pamper Package spa certificate by donating a certificate to any of the thirty (30) women's shelters across the country so they can get pampered.

That's a warm light deal just in time for the holidays.

The Pixel Project is an innovative virtual volunteer-led non profit organization using social media and online strategies to turbo-charge global awareness about violence against women while raising funds and volunteer power for the cause.

 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We hold fast our whole lives

It was then I imagined us as them now. My voice broke, tears streamed.

Mom could barely speak. Dad more scared than he's ever been in his life. Both have battled back from diseases and surgeries before. Both of them always holding each other close and praying.

This time it's different. This time the choices of doing nothing with the melanoma-filled lymph nodes in his neck or removing them to be followed up with radiation treatments are like when my grandfather used to hold up his fists in a boxer stance and say:

"Six months in the hospital or sudden death?"

But now it's no joke. It's different and more real than it's ever been for them and for all of us.

Because it was then I knew as I've always known, that moment on the phone with my parents a little earlier today, why I love my wife as much as I do, and why we've always wanted to spend my entire life together.

And why we love our children so. Regardless of anything that's come to pass or has yet to.

From the ring my wife surprising me with on our wedding day all those years ago, the 15th-century French phrase "A Ma Vie De Coer Entier" etched along the surface.

You have my whole heart for my whole life.

To sharing the stomach bug with the B-hive this week, me a world away on a business trip unable to help the Mama.

The world is connected with tenuous tethers that snap with the slightest change in pressure, but for those of us who have the other, we hold fast our whole lives.

Every moment tomorrow will be a prayer for my mom and dad and the timeless love they share.

Mom and dad anniv 2005

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Puddles, Phantoms and Peanuts

They wouldn't touch any of it. Not the turkey, the stuffing, the carrot casserole, the scalloped corn, the mashed potatoes or gravy. None of it.

Except Nonna's amazingly yummy pumpkin desert. Of course. It's desert.

It wasn't surprising that Beatrice wouldn't eat the Thanksgiving food; she's quite the picky eater these 3-year-old days. But Bryce, who usually eats a little bit of almost everything wouldn't touch any of it either (although the day after she did eat two bites of turkey).

IMG 1357
Nope, they were more interested in splashing in the rain puddles earlier in the day. A puddle is like the fun black holes of kid world -- no child escapes its gravity. Oh it's wetness, which is a bummer when you don't bring clothes for your kids to change into after they're wet.

IMG 1358
All afternoon while the girls napped, the turkey that this daddy proudly prepped roasted in the oven while Nonna made some side dishes and then I added a couple at the end. The delicious smells of our cooking and the many phantom family meals of Thanksgivings past mingled together in the warm air, causing a mild tryptophan-laced melancholia.

What was, that will never be again, to what is now, that becomes tomorrow, that will never be again.

Hey, there were a lot of phantoms in the air.

Then, while the Mama, Nonna and I sat playing Scrabble, we dug into our Thankful Box. Inspired by another daddy blogger last year, we started own box that gets filled with "what we're thankful for" notes throughout the year to then be read on the following Thanksgiving.

That perked me up; I'm so thankful for the lovely B-hive!

But they still wouldn't touch any of our Thanksgiving meal. Only watermelon, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pumpkin desert.

We might as well have served toast, popcorn, pretzel sticks and jelly beans.

Queue the music.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

This first night away

The Mama was more worried than me about missing them.

During the two weeks leading up to our first night away, she was especially worried about the little one Bryce, although the entire B-hive would be in the capable hands of her mother (and our babysitter was on call just in case Grandma "Nonna" needed help). Plus, we had FaceTime all set up on our iPads and iPhone and double-checked before we left to ensure we could see and talk to our girls while away.

IMG 1344

As we sat across from one another in the bistro in the early afternoon of our first night away from the girls, I looked lovingly at the Mama and asked:

"So, do you miss them?"

She smiled and shook her head. "No, not really."

"I know," I said.

IMG 1349

Then we toasted our time alone together. Time needed to reconnect as lovers and friends, to relive the time before the B-hive.

Of course we love our girls, but we're not the first parents to embrace precious alone time, and certainly won't be the last.

Obviously they did fine without us, because all went well with them on their own with Nonna for one whole night.

And so it went, this first night away in the City by the Bay, experiencing another evolutionary step of parenting and children growing up.

What we didn't realize, at least until we got home the next morning, was how much we really did miss them.

And how much they missed us.

Amen. We are thankful for family.

DSCN1720

 

 

 

 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Stop! Or Mama and Daddy will mop the floor with you

Mop

When you're broken, all you want is to believe.

To believe that there are adults in your life who are trustworthy and will take care of, protect you and not harm you.

That's what we believed when my sister and I were children, what our mom believed. Shame, resentment and anger years later that almost led to a vengeful incident.

Almost.

And then the most recent sad news: The charges against ex-Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky include:

40 charges of sexual abuse involving at least eight alleged victims and spanning 15 years, beginning in 1994.

This from supposedly helping kids from The Second Mile organization, many from single-parent homes and in need of another adult in their lives.

When you're broken, all you want is to believe you can be safe.

Sure, the charges are alleged until proven, but we've seen similar stories over the years, all involving men and women in positions of power and beloved trust, sometimes even in the name of God, supposedly helping the broken young ones (and those who aren't even broken, yet), but then abusing that power while abusing the children.

A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds. And that's only what's reported. Statistically speaking, child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.

IMG 1291

Tragic. It hurts my heart when I hear these things. I've been there and we'll do whatever it takes to protect our girls.

The Mama's been teaching Beatrice what's appropriate and what's not with other older kids and adults -- language, touching, etc.

And then just last week, we thought Bea might have a urinary tract infection and the Mama took her our doctor. Of course the doctor had to check out her private parts, and Bea was very quiet, watching Mama the whole time.

The eye-lock trust reassured Beatrice that this was appropriate and the doctor was only seeing if she sick.

So there you go, girl:

"What do you do if someone is doing something to you they shouldn't be?"

"Stop!"

Or Mama and Daddy will mop the floor with you and other colorful expressions you'd rather not experience first hand.

Nobody messes with the B-hive, baby. Nobody.

 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The guy in the clock tower

Clock

It's like random sniper fire from a clock tower. At least, that's how it feels.

The rapid-fire bullets hit me all over: the news of my dad, my mother's health, the fear of what we do wrong, global financial uncertainty, political extremism, civil unrest and incivility, domestic violence, the sudden weather change, unexpected business, unexpected bills, family colds, family cries, Daylight Savings time, choices and lack thereof --

As I lay there bleeding out hope (metaphorically mind you), I drift in and out about what to do, what to do, what to do. It's only matter of moments, an imaginary one-hour shift, but time is relative when you're riddled with emotional holes clean through.

My pulse slows and I close my eyes.

blip

blip

blip

[flatline]

I say a prayer for us all. Tiny hands push on my chest.

"Daddy sleeping!"

I hear giggles and snickers. A snotty hot nose sideswipes my cheek. More tiny hands on my chest, then giggles.

[clear - zap]

blip

blip

blip

I open my eyes. Smiling B-hive angels lay hands on me. Mama angel bends down and kisses me.

"I love you," she says.

I pull her closer and whisper in her ear:

"I'm taking out the guy in the clock tower."

 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Displaced and mad as hell

Once it spreads to other parts of the body beyond the skin, it is difficult to treat.

Without even knowing his complete diagnosis yet, I can't get the "once it spreads -- it's difficult to treat" out of my head.

My father has melanoma, a very serious kind of cancer, and it's metastasized into his lymphatic system. How far beyond that we don't know yet. But he's mad as hell and he's beat the devil more than once (so's my mom for that matter).

Metastasis means "displacement" in Greek and that's how he feels, to be moved out of the proper place. When you're sick, there's a palatable disconnect from the rhythm of everyday life.

About 160,000 people are diagnosed each year with melanoma, more frequently in women than men.
How many of those become displaced from family, friends, co-workers and communities? Conversely as well?

Beyond displacement, nearly 50,000 people tragically die from melanoma every year, leaving hole-ridden hearts behind.

Sure it's all in the caring now, but this morning as Oakland and the rest of the world burns, I'm displaced and mad as hell.

All I want to do is dig a shallow grave in the backyard for all the world ills and my father's cancer and bury them.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

To Tomorrow and Beyond

IMG 1296

It didn't come in the mail all week, even though we told her about it all week.

It's no one's fault, other than the perpetual business-bleeding and delivery inconsistencies of United States Postal Service. We've had package fails before from family outside of California.

True, there's still one more day for it to arrive tomorrow on Halloween itself, the homemade Toy Story Buzz Lightyear costume for Beatrice made with loving detail by Auntie Jill, the Mama's sister.

The plan was for Bea to dress up as Buzz, Daddy to dress up as Woody, Bryce to dress up as Ham (actually a Piglet costume, but don't tell her that), and Mama we're still figuring out (hey, we're on a budget).

We had to have a contingency plan, though. When it didn't come last Thursday, Mama and me began to pitch other costumes to Beatrice.

Fairy? No!

Pooh bear? No!

Princess? No!

Jessie? No!

Buzz Lightyear! Buzz Lightyear! Buzz Lightyear!

*sigh*

So what to do? No Buzz costumes in stock anywhere locally. And for even those available online, shipping was too tight and costly.

I found some homemade Buzz costume instructions online yesterday, and we thought, what the hell -- let's give it a try.

I went to Ace Hardware and bought some paint and colored tape, came home and gathered a box and other pieces of cardboard, and then went to work. I finished the cutting and painting yesterday and then finished the detail today. She hasn't tried the entire costume on yet, but the head, chest and wing pieces were the critical components and they seem to fit and work just fine.

This after a sporadically sleepless night last night with poor Bryce and her new snotty cold and me worrying about the entire future state of the B-hive, the country and the world.

I awoke groggily to this quote:

"When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened." -- Winston Churchill

Thank you, Mr. Churchill (and the Mama thanks you too -- she's always telling me the same thing). The Buzz Lightyear costume got pulled off. Back to the mindful presence of today.

To tomorrow and beyond, my sweet B-hive. Infinity will have to wait.

IMG 1300

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The fear of what we do wrong

IMG 1247

Many of us think our own babies are the smartest babies in the world. But when anything developmentally falls behind with them, we worry that something's gone wrong.

What exactly "wrong" is we can speculate until we overcompensate and convince ourselves nothing's wrong at all, or until we're tossing and turning at night wondering what we did wrong to skew their growth progress.

Beatrice started walking at around 11 months, but she didn't crawl until 17 months. Bryce crawled between 7-8 months and walked at around 11 months. When my mother reminded me that my sister and I walked before we crawled, I didn't feel so out of sorts about Bea not crawling sooner.

Now that Bea has started preschool, which she loves, there's a real deficit that's been called to our attention, one that we already knew was there but now it stands out more amongst her toddler peers and her teachers have pointed it out as well.

She has a speech delay. What specifically that means, a maturation delay or expressive language disorder or whatever, we just don't know yet. Six months ago our pediatrician told us she was fine and already had the right pronunciation skills for her age, but she hasn't progressed much since.

Now, she has normal intelligence and comprehension (if not above normal -- she is the smartest toddler in the world you know), normal hearing, good emotional relationships and normal articulation skills. In fact, even the speech therapist she saw this week concurred on all those points. And when we talk about Bea in front of her about not talking enough, her level of communication kicks up a notch.

However, Bea just doesn't string as many words together into three-word+ sentences as other children do at three years old. Bea still has to have a comprehensive evaluation with the speech therapist next month and will more than likely be going to her for the next few months.

What throws people who meet her for the first time is that she's tall for her age; she's mistaken for upwards of four years old. But when she talks, it's more baby-like than clear and simple phrases others her age speak. We've been told more than once that she most likely regressed when Bryce was born and this speech delay has slowed potty training too. Ack.

When Bea was only a few months old our pediatrician requested we get an ultrasound of her head because it was in the very high percentile of size for her young age. The results showed that her brain ventricles were enlarged but there was no other action taken by the doctors. The traumatic birth her and Mama went through included the vacuum on Bea's head that popped off two times before we got her out the third time (a Caesarean was next), so who knows if that had something to do with it early on, but at this point we may never know if any permanent damage was done.

We've always talked with Beatrice and read her stories and told her stories. She even learned sign language early on and still signs please when we ask her to say please. Yes, she watches TV and plays games, watches videos and reads stories on our, I mean her iPod and iPad, but we're also very active and engaging outside as well, always verbal, always loving.

For me and a past that occasionally haunts, there's always the fear of what we do wrong with our children, when all we ever want is for them is to be all right.

DSCN1676

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ready to reduce the 3%

IMG 0031

When the purple band snapped, I knew it was my last one. Since then a couple of weeks have gone by and I felt as if my call-to-action powers have dimmed.

Of course I know that a bracelet with the words "Hope, Faith, Courage, and Strength" don't really generate superpowers of any kind beyond awareness.

And it won't protect my girls from harm's way.

However, I read recently about a new book by Steven Pinker called The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

In tribal societies, hunter-gatherers and hunter-horticulturalists, an average of about 15 percent of people met their ends through violence. In the 20th century, if you try to come up with the highest estimate you can, combining all the wars, all the genocides, all the man-made famines, you get to about 3 percent.

Three percent. That's an amazing decline when you consider the dramatic population growth in the past 100 years.

But in that 3% there is still violence where 3 out of 4 murdered know their murderer and 60% of those raped know their rapists.

As a father of two girls, these stats haunt me. Intimate partner violence is alive and well and it's up to us to generate awareness and prevention programs at work and at home, because domestic violence doesn't discriminate. We do, but it doesn't.

I'll continue to do my part. And now that it's Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I've ordered a new batch of purple superhero bracelets, I'm ready to reduce the 3%.

Domestic violence wristbands normal

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The night before the rest of my life

Lighthouse 2

There's always a night before the moment that changes your life.

It was a Friday night, October 10, 1997. I don't remember exactly what I was doing, but I'm sure I was just hanging out in my apartment alone watching a little TV, maybe writing a little as well. My life was only then at the beginning of a major transition that I had barely begun to understand.

Maybe that's why the late summer swell of El NiƱo had warmed the waters of the Pacific, to draw me to the sea below the lighthouse, to be there on that very day at that very moment...

But it was only the night before and I do remember there was an offshore flow warming the air outside on the balcony. One of the most beautiful times of the year in Santa Cruz is the month of October, at least during the years I've lived here, and especially the first one.

I had noticed her for weeks on the beach. Always alone, as was I. She was usually reading, always wearing a baseball cap, and always looking, well, quite lovely in whatever bathing suit she wore on any particular day.

But it was only the night before and I wasn't thinking of her. I was thinking of the wreck my life had become, how I had rammed myself against the rocky shore and then crawled onto the beach fearful, yet smiling.

OldschoolK A

Then it was the next day, October 11, 1997, on the beach, when we finally met.

I usually get the words wrong, but our lover lore recounts the fact that the Mama walked up to me and asked:

"So, do you always come here alone?"

And like a fool, I almost didn't answer her; I wanted to be alone actually.

But then, "Yes, I do. And you?"

Six years later we were married, on the same date. Five years after that we started a family.

On the night before the rest of my life, I never imagined how happy I'd B.

Happy Anniversary, Mama. I love you.

DSCN1483

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Your lovely children in motion

It's not the same. Not when you're gone for any length of time. And a week away is a long, long time in Daddy-away-from-B-hive time.

IMG 1210

Even when you look goofy while away.

I mean, seeing and talking with my girls and the Mama on Skype or FaceTime video calls is great. I can't even imagine what it would've been like without, only being able to hear them on the phone.

Only on the phone. Like it's the late 19th century and we're writing letters that take weeks to get to one another.

But that's okay, because we live in a world of real-time connectedness and mindful virtuality, and thank goodness for that.

However, there's nothing like mindful reality, the moment you walk in the door and see your lovely children in motion, watching you walk in the door.

Nothing.

IMG 1226

They're not clear mental snapshots you retrieve on demand, or even those real ones from your computer or mobile device of choice.

DSCN1611

No, these begin in periphery, a distant grainy motion, the curvature of smiles that then grow rapidly filling the space around them with light and the room with love.

I can't imagine what it's like for those serving abroad, working abroad, or being forced apart because of war or other global disasters for months at a time, even years, without the comfort of holding their families close with any frequency.

I am thankful for short trips. My fortune abounds.

 

 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

B-hives are faster than the speed of light

Scientists claim they're discovered particles that travel faster than the speed of light, potentially upending Einstein's theory of relativity.

DSCN1611

They never studied the emotional cores of three-year-old preschooler and her one-year-old sister.

IMG 1197

The rapid incremental changes our girls have gone through in their little lifespans is mind boggling.

One life-change "particular" in a vacuum doesn't attract much attention, but in combination with a gazillion more zooming B-trinos, it's pretty astounding.

IMG 1194

Beatrice just turned three this week, and in the past two weeks alone of going to preschool her language has exploded and her ability to understand direction and structure is coming along nicely. Wish we could say that about her potty training, but at least potty time at school is helping. Hey, we embrace the child-centered method. Back off.

DSCN1603

However, her emotional outbursts and meltdowns have erupted like the thorns of a beautiful buganvilla. Terrible 2's? How about the thorny 3's?

DSCN1616

Yes, I just made that up. No need to shake your head and sigh.

So Mama and I have a hypothesis, that the B-hive is faster than the speed of light. We're early in our testing, but if our preliminary results have shown anything, they've shed the slower, more reflective light on our girls and girl power.

And speaking of the slower light, you'd think a three-year-old isn't capable of reflecting on her own young life to date, but then again, we wonder...

Happy Birthday Beatrice. It's only just begun.

DSCN1597

Saturday, September 17, 2011

From tiny Toddlerville to the big Childhood City

"Daddy, I'm running so fast!"

Zoom.

No, you're growing so fast, Bea. Too fast. But isn't that the way it always is?

Zoom.

DSCN1590

Our elder B started preschool this last week, and although she's been more social and seemingly excited for it to start, we just weren't sure how she's respond to more kids, more adults that weren't us, and more structure, at least as much as circle time and potty time create.

We just never know until we get there, but we don't really want to hurry up to get there. At least we don't. You may think your kid is the "bestest" kid of all, but when they run across that great suspension bridge from tiny Toddlerville to the big Childhood City, that space within the span catches in your throat like the first brisk winds of fall (yes, we do get those in Santa Cruz, sometimes).

The most wonderful time of the year!

Beaapple

Not because of school like in the Staples commercial, but because it's time of reflecting change, of reviewing the year falling away, and because now we go from Bryce's birthday, to Bea's birthday next week, to my birthday in October (don't forget now, you hear?), to our anniversary a week later (love you, Mama!), to Thanksgiving (thank you), to Christmas, to New Year's!

The most wonderful time of the year!

Back to school -- Beatrice really had a great time. Mama will be volunteering once a week in the class, so day one wasn't Mama-less, but day two was (it's only two times per week for starters), and Bea rocked the house.

And she made an apple. Right on.

"Beatrice, what's your favorite part of school?"

"Playing!"

As it should be. And what was funny and quite telling is that when Mama picked up Bea on day two, Bryce wanted to stay and play, and play, and play. Beatrice never would've done that at age one. She would've clung to Mama like a Rhesus monkey.

Oh, how the B-hive buzzes differ, but how we love the sounds of same.

The most wonderful time of the year!

DSCN1566

 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Oh, how the cartoon Bea swells

IMG 1145
"You know, you guys are doing a great job," the grocery store checker said to me.

"Thanks," I said. "This is all new to us and we're figuring out as we go along."

He nodded, helping me bag the last of the produce. "I see a lot of parents with their kids in here, and trust me, you're doing a great job at setting limitations."

I thanked him again and we left. I don't know how right he is, because sometimes it feels so wrong.

Only 25 minutes earlier, as soon as we walked in the store, Beatrice took off giggling. We told her to stop, to come back, but she giggled some more and ran outside through the store doors.

I had just locked Bryce into the cart when Bea headed out the door. Mama came to the cart and I sprinted after Bea.

Livid. We've been dealing with this a lot lately.

She of course was laughing hysterically as she ran into the parking lot thinking it was a game. I grabbed her -- stopped myself from smacking her on the butt (which we've done) -- picked her up, carried her back in and dumped her into the shopping cart, which she didn't like one bit since she wants to walk on her own more and more. We then told her, as we've done a hundred times already in the past few weeks, that it's not okay to run away like that and not stop when we ask her to.

Yes, we know she's not even three years old yet. It makes sense that she doesn't understand the repercussions of her actions and why it's dangerous to run away. But the problem is that for the past few weeks she's been getting more and more bold in taking off away from us like it's a cartoon game of chase.

Thatsallfolks
That's the catch -- the fact that Bea wants more independence and walk around without a tether but she doesn't get boundaries yet. We're working on getting her to understand that running down the sidewalk toward a busy street is not acceptable while running around the grassy field in front of the Santa Cruz lighthouse is.

Except when cartoon Bea runs into the real brick facade of the Santa Cruz lighthouse, she doesn't bounce away cleanly like a cartoon would. She goes "smack" and oh how the cartoon Bea swells.

That's all folks! [queue the music]

video

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Learning to parent the perfect game

DSCN1536

If everything came with a warning, would we lose our playful edge?

Don't tell that to Bryce. She'd nod aggressively and take off toddling right in the brambles of mystery and intrigue. She's all over the place, squawking and talking and climbing and falling.

All. Over. The. Place. Toddle, toddle, toddle, crash.

Even Bea, the elder who is usually is more tentative, has recently been feeling her independent oats, screeching off down the sidewalk in a catch-me-you-can cackle while we scream for her to stop, or wanting her gate down on her bed so she can get right up and scare the crap out of me, which will happen a lot more once she moves to the big-girl bed.

Bryce just turned one and Beatrice is about to turn three and start preschool, but unabashed exploration and play is such a huge part of their day.

I listened to a fascinating story recently from one of my favorite internet radio shows, Radiolab. The episode is titled Games and psychology professor Alison Gopnik explains the profound tension between play and rules. Somewhere between the ages of 3-6, once toddlers become children and start school, the free-wheeling liberalism of play becomes transformed into self-management by societal rules. Dr. Gopnik is also a big sports fan and says the perfect game in life is baseball, with its rules and structure disrupted by bursts of chaotic, free play.

Maybe. And maybe my girls will play the perfect game someday, but fast-forwarding is not my forte thankfully, because otherwise I'd be doing battle with two teenage girls, or attending college graduation, or walking them down the aisle, or holding my grandchildren, and God knows I'm not looking forward to that anytime soon.

Wait, who am I kidding? Of course I'm looking forward to every minute of chaotic, free play clashing with rules and warnings, living in the moment and learning to parent the perfect game.

Play ball.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Number 1 Is Fun!

Fun, Fun, Fun!

Happy Birthday Bryce!

(OMG, why are all these people here?!? And why is my sister blowing out my candle?!? And what are presents? And why does this cake taste so good? And who are Barbie and Ken?)

DSCN1505

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSCN1493

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSCN1521

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSCN1501

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSCN1522

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSCN1531

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Space travel, matching babies and warm fuzzies

Space Travel

Family space travel can be grueling. We were in orbit twice as long as we were scheduled to be; the B-hive melted down and the Mama and me hallucinated, our bodies slick with dirty sweat.

No, space travel is sometimes not glamorous. At all. Especially when you have to deal with poor customer service. You can read about it here and here if you're interested.

Mercy, there is no better place to hold on to the why of wonder and laughter.

We did eventually reenter the earth's atmosphere and landed on the banks of Mississippi, in America's Heartland.

Unlike our family vacation with my folks in Oregon, this one in Illinois/Iowa was filled with lots of extended family -- Mama's mom and grandma, aunts and uncles, cousins and baby second cousins.

As I've written before, some of my fondest family memories are those when our entire extended family on my mom's side would gather for Easter, the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Second only to the holidays themselves, being a little kid snuggled safely in the family bosom was the only place I wanted to be. That didn't mean there wasn't family friction and other varying forms of family dysfunction, but the family bosom was still safe and warm.

My family is splintered everywhere now, the greatest concentrations being in the California Central Valley and Southwest Missouri. And although we've talked of getting together more over the years, to revisit the days of old, it just hasn't transpired.

But with the Mama's family, both in Illinois/Iowa and Nevada, it has, partly because there's been a greater connection between her and her family and the effort more effortless -- bidirectionally -- the bosom still safe and warm. There's a reality that the maternal bonds are stronger than paternal in extended families, at least in my experience. It doesn't mean I don't care about my family any less, it's just the reality we live.

This latest family vacation was still hard with two little girls in tow, because according to the baby regression table, after 7 days away from home, Bryce was back to waking what seemed to be every minute.

DSCN1458

However, that didn't take away from the every minute of family joy, particularly when all the cousins' babies played together in matching outfits (made my none other Auntie Jill, Mama's sister). C'mon, you know you can't get enough of matching babies. They line the family bosom with warm fuzzies and protect us during space travel.

Sadly we haven't had many warm fuzzies near us since we've birthed the B-hive, with the exception of short stints from Mama's mom and niece. Maybe it's time to change that.

Maybe...

Back to family space boot camp we go. Because space travel can be fun, too.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The why of wonder and laughter

The answer for me is easy when I look at my girls.

Although some may ask why would anyone bring children into this ever-complicated and unforgiving adult world, I would ask the converse.

Why not?

When the why of wonder and laughter is what can power our hearts, when nothing we've tried is ever in vain, and when everything we've done is forever accomplished, then why not?

But I'm not naive; I know that the world is a perpetual tinderbox one spark away from violence of every kind, and that weekly economic volatility is the new and true normal these days.

The answer for me today is still easier than it's ever been. In fact, I joked the other day that while on family vacation, I had half a mind to find the other half.

I already have. That half is the one that compels me forward to make even a chicken scratch of a difference, via wonder and laughter.

Amen.

DSCN1413

DSCN1420

 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Lost Art of Not Fast Forwarding Life

She pushed her down, then gave her a hug; the inverse relationship of a warm and cuddly contradictory B-hive.

DSCN1341

And so it goes for siblings -- brothers and sisters alike from any background. I showed some colleagues the other day pictures of Bea and Bryce roughhousing on the couch, and then we all joked about how it's the eldest sibling's responsibility to keep down the younger while protecting her at the same. Or more precisely, the alternating keep-down-protection plays that occur with regularity throughout life.

Because it is theater of sorts, the dramedy of watching your little girls become aware (and wary) of each other, the elder watching the younger with sick fascination.

Now that Bryce is only two weeks from turning one, and pretty much walking and squawking, soon she'll be able to keep up with her big sister at every turn.

DSCN1347

Push down -- hug -- push down -- hug -- push down -- hug -- pull up -- love -- hate -- love again --

If you have brothers or sisters, you've lived it out. Same if you have children of your own.

Watching them laugh and play and cry together (Bea always plugs her ears when Bryce cries), I can only hope that dramedies that play out through childhood, teenage-land and adulthood never escalate to familial excommunication.

The Mama and I keep each other in check about fast forwarding too much, to instead live in and through each moment. We'll try to instill this in the girls as well. But that doesn't mean we don't plan ahead; planning ahead today means being highly adaptable and flexible.

It's the escalation to excommunication that can never be planned for though, and where adaptability and flexibility come in mental-health handy. We grow up and out, and as parents can only hope that our children can let go, forgive and forget, regardless of what happened. Since as siblings, some of us lived through it, and the reality is we don't really ever let go, forgive or forget, we just live in relative shades of each that cast shadows on our hearts. Blood and friendship can separate with age, to never mingle again.

Rewind to now and the love and beauty of our daughters' budding relationship.

Mama, break the fast-forward button. Please.