Friday, April 29, 2011

Maybe It's Just a Little Pee?

I remember the day she was born.  It was a Tuesday.  I drove to work and sat at my desk.  I put a pink slash across the block on my pregnancy calendar, committing myself fully to the final seven days that lay between me and my due date.

I sat at my desk 400 months pregnant and did some paper work, preparing a few final lesson plans before turning over the reigns to the pre-pubescent long-term sub who was coming to replace me.

On my way to the bathroom, which is where I was perpetually going, I found myself answering the question that all women in the late stages of pregnancy HATE to answer.  "Didn't you have that baby yet?" 

"No, not yet."  I replied for the seven millionth time.  "I'm not due until next week and I never go early."

Famous last words.
I walked into the classroom and greeted my youthful blonde substitute with a warm hello.  She smiled back but her grinned slowly faded as she glanced down towards my crotch. 
"Umm," she started nervously, "I think you might looks like you have some.... umm....your pants are wet." 

Startled, I looked down and sure enough my khaki pants were in fact, wet. 

"Oh My God!" I exclaimed and darted to the lav before the students started flooding into the classroom.  I stared at my wet underwear in disbelief.  My water had never broken before.  In fact, my first two children would still be in utero were it not for overaggressive cervix checks. 

I called my OB office and after asking a few background questions the nurse said the following, "Well, if it's only a little water, it's more likely that you just peed." 

No.  No way.  I can NOT be that girl.

I can not be the teacher who peed her pants. 

To understand why, I would have to take you back further in time and tell you a story of a girl who was taken out of school on a stretcher.  With an oxygen mask.  In front of hundreds of on-looking high school students. 

This girl was transported to the hospital.  With lights and sirens. 

This girl waited for eight hours and underwent many tests only to have a doctor slightly older than her fetus tell her that she simply had "gas."

And that is why when the nice nurse said to me that it might just be "a little pee."  I explained  that I could NOT be THAT girl.

So it turns out that I didn't pee my pants that day.  And my water really did break one week early. 

And on that day three years ago, my beautiful daughter was born. My life was forever changed. 

I knew the magic of having a child but I could never have guessed the joy that having a daughter would bring. 

Her curls come from Aunt Jenny, her face is her Daddy's, her personality takes a page from both Aunt Kimmie and Aunt Kadie, but her heart....well, that belongs to me. 

Happy Birthday Mini-Monkey. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Making Contact

After three point five children and nine years together, my love has finally gotten the message. 

I need to be touched. Hugged.  Loved.

I need affection to come in the form of physical contact.  From him.  Everyday.

It was during the preparations for our Easter Dinner that he finally got it.  I don't know what it was that I said but the message arrived loud an clear.  Somewhere between mashing the potatoes and icing the cupcakes, it clicked. 

He folded me into his arms and held me close.  He rubbed my back and kissed my forehead.  And he hasn't stopped. 

He makes a point to put his hand on my back when we pass in the kitchen.  He holds my hand as we lay on the couch covered in children.  He wraps his arms around me from behind while I scrub the lasagna pan. 

And for this affection, what is his reward?  For this affection I will give him clean bathrooms, and de-cluttered closets.  I will give him emptied dishwashers and folded clothing.  I will give him streak-free windows and a smile when I come home. 

I am happy and he is happy.  We are two shiny, happy people. 

All becuase of a little contact. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Love, Laughter, and Lights Out

Two exhausted parents lay sprawled on the couch children climbing on them, navigating them like a mountain range.

The clock reads 8:07 PM and the pooped pair of parents can barely muster the energy to begin herding their brood upstairs towards  bed. 

Three sprouts begin to spout cries of protest.  "Please!" they plead, "Don't make us go to bed!" 

The drained Daddy, in his depleted state says something quite unusual.  "Fine, stay up and watch TV.  Mommy & I are going to bed.  Just tuck yourselves in tonight." 

With these words he turns and takes his tuckered-out tail to bed. 

The bambinos take the bait and start to scramble up the steps behind him.  They scurry to assure that Mommy will still snuggle them to sleep.  All but one. 

The Middle Monkey meanders up the steps, making a list of the shows he intends to watch after Mommy & Daddy have gone to bed.  It appears that Middle Monkey saw Daddy's words as more of an opportunity than a threat. 

Sitting on the steps of his bunk, pulling on his Pull-Up, he asks sweetly, "Mommy, can you help me turn on a Diego?" 

Mommy chuckles softly as she delivers snuggles to the Monster Monkey, "No way, Jose.  If you are big enough to stay up by yourself then you have to be big enough to work the TV by yourself." 

"But Mommy!" he cries, "I don't know how to find my shows!  I'm too little to read!" 

Swollen tears slide down his soft cheeks, falling from his big, beautiful eyes.  His look is so earnest that she can't help but laugh out loud.   She comes around the bed and kisses his teary eyes.

"Okay," she bargains, "if you are still awake in 30 minutes then I'll come help you turn on the TV."  Satisfied with this arrangement he scoots into his bunk and sets about the business of keeping his eyes wide open to ensure that he'll be awake for TV time. 

With two of three Monkey's tucked snug in their beds, Mommy  is off to Monkey to the Mini-Monkey

"Mommy, will you read a book?"  The Mini-Monkey asks in her angelic little voice.  Who could say no? 

Mini-Monkey holds up Dora's Easter book.  Mommy knows this book all too well.  LOTS of pages, tiny print. Many, many words. 

"Umm... let's lets pick another book."  Mommy says softly. 

Mini-Monkey is armed, almost as if she'd done this before.  She hands over another seasonal favorite, Peter Cottontail

Sure, sure, its all fun and games until you are suckered into reading the 20 page, tiny print book six times. 

No no, Mini-Monkey, not this Mommy, not this night. 

Mommy suggests sleepily, "Let's pick a different book?  How about this one?"  Mommy holds up an Easter Bunny board book.  Perfect for bedtime reading, a gift from a BRILLIANT Aunt who has been there, done that.  Six pages, huge font, LOTS of pictures.

Mini-Monkey is dejected.  Her bottom lip quivers as she looks up at Mommy and wails, "Why doesn't anyone want to read my books?" 

Again, the laughter could not be contained.  Apparently Daddy had already been in to read the book and had already worked his way out of reading the long books.   

Someday she'll understand when she has Monkeys' of her own.  Someday when she is weary, worn and weak she will know. 

But today, well, today she is two and today she will get her way because...Mommy loves you.

An hour later Mommy finally crawls out of Mini-Monkey's bed, careful not to waking the sleeping sweet pea.   Both Mommy & Monkey had fallen sound asleep somewhere in the middle of Dora's Easter.  On her way to her bedroom, she stopped in just to check on Middle & Monster.  Both were zonked, the whispers of their soft breathing filling the room.  Mommy gives each a gentle kiss on the forehead and creeps out of the room.

And so Mommy makes her way to her room where Daddy is snoring softly.  She climbs in bed beside him and snuggles against him.  As she drifts off to sleep she thinks, does life get better than this?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Gentle Cycle

Hot tears sting my eyes and steam my sunglasses making it difficult to see as I drive myself home.  "What is wrong with me?" I sob into the phone, my words distorted by my choking cries.  "Why am I like this?" 

The guilt surrounds me like a fog, thick and muggy, "close" my Grandmother would say.  It makes it hard to see, hard to breathe. 

Why do I feel this guilt, you might ask?  Where is it that I am returning from that warrants such contrition?  A two-day drinking bender? A mani/pedi/ facial appointment? A shopping spree funded by money meant for my children's college fund? 

No, no....

I was happily bouncing from store to store doing "The Bunny's" bidding.  Purchasing assorted and sundry items that make a child's Easter Basket something worth finding. 

I enjoyed going shopping.  Especially without the children.  And therein lies the problem. 

That forever feeling, my constant companion. My perpetual guilt. 

If I enjoy myself, then I must be doing something "wrong."  I don't know where it comes from, but it seems to be the theme of my life. 

As a young child of 8 or 9, I remember waking in the morning and inquiring of my family members if anyone was "mad at me?"  As if a child could do something to disappoint & disgruntle in her sleep. 

The guilt strikes again as I am faced with making the terrible choice between going out front to watch the kids play  or staying inside and making dinner.  Both activities I enjoy.  Both require similar levels of interaction and effort, and yet the choice is agonizing.   Damned if I do, damned if I don't.  Just damned.

In my rational head I understand that THIS is specifically why parenting is designed as a "Partner Event" but I can't seem to get past the idea that I should be doing everything.  I should be supervising the play and I should be cooking the dinner.  My love says cheerfully, "I'll do whatever you want, supervise or make dinner."  And then the tears come. 

He stands before me, puzzled, as always.  Baffled and bested, beaten down.

The guilt thing is NOT new.  In fact, it is as old as I am. 

This cycle has continued into our married life and I want desperately to break it.

I search his face for answers, but there are none.  Just a man, a wonderful, patient man who has spent years trying to understand why he too is damned.  Damned to perpetuate the gentle cycle of insanity.

He envelopes me in a hug, wrapping his strong arms around me. 

I know the control is mine.  I know that the power belongs to me to break the cycle.  But I'll be damned if I know how. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dancing with Myself

In the absence of my writing and my photos, I have found myself truly living my life.  Up to my ears in the sounds, the smells, the flavors of my life.  I haven't been thinking or even feeling, just living. 

It is an odd experience for me.  I have never been here before.

I have always distanced myself from others.  I give the illusion of being open, but really I am far away, an unknown, almost unreachable.

On a crowded dance floor a million years ago while on Spring Break in Jamaica, I found my way to the top of a stone table.  A sturdy table with room for only one to dance comfortably.  All around me in the open air dance club, built into the side a mountain, bodies writhed and gyrated to the music moving in unison.  Skin on skin, fueled by alcohol and the inhibitions that come from being 22 and on Spring Break.  The stone table was on the edge of the dance floor and while it was likely assumed that this was a ploy for attention, I knew then, as I know now, what I truly wanted was my own space. 

I love to dance.  I love the freedom of movement that I feel when dancing but in an open air dance club in Jamaica, nobody dances alone.  Except me, on top of my table.  Using my the toe of my sandled shoe to guide away any who dared to climb up to join me. 

I think about that stone table so often now.  About the freedom that I felt on that table.  Free to really let go, to express myself in the movement of the music without the danger of anyone coming close.  I loved that table.  I loved that moment. 

I have traded my dancing shoes for much more practical black flats and the table I have traded for my camera, but the premise is the same.  I am present.  I am fueled by the energy around me but free from the fear of having to interact with others. 

Behind the lens of the camera, the relationship is between me and the light.  How far I zoom, where I focus, the decisions are mine.  No one else to consult with, just my own feeling, my own idea. 

I have found safety, security, serenity behind the lens of a camera, behind the keyboard of a laptop.  I didn't do this knowingly but I did it nonetheless. 

And so it is with my camera down, my laptop tucked away in my work bag that I am here in the thick of my life. 

And I love it.