Thursday, January 31, 2008

Put Words In My Mouth Day!


By Monday morning I have to develop and be ready to lead a three day retreat for the senior leadership of a nonprofit organization that employs me as a contractor.

[Gulp.]

Oh, the busy!

I'm trying to make sure it turns out that I do facilitation and not facili-tay-SHUN.

[Wherein I am shunned.]

Since I'm too filled with anxiety hard at work to write a real blog post, I hereby declare this day...

Speak for Oh, The Joys Day!

[Four out of five blog readers declare it more exciting than household chores! Yay!]

Be my voice, okay?

What idiocy shall spew from my mouth today?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bus Zen


When K and I were backpacking in India we took these incredibly long bus trips.

On some days these endless, bumpy journeys were intolerable, but on others we found what we came to call “bus Zen.”

I remember one day in particular when we rode from Jodhpur to Pushkar (or was it Jaisalmer…)

Though the ride was more than twelve hours long, K and I spent the entire trip staring out the windows at the landscape of Rajasthan.


Camels draped in beautiful fabric, women in elaborate jewelry and men in colorful turbans brightened the desert landscape at every turn.

We were so content in our watching that we hardly spoke to each other that day. We just took it all in, silently, contentedly, happily.

Days when we achieved bus Zen were so much better than our weary, irritable travel days and somewhere along the way we figured out that the secret to finding peace with the ride ahead wasn’t random, but rather, it was a choice.

In retrospect, I’d say that achieving bus Zen was about eighty percent dependent upon our attitude.

On days when we woke up choosing to enjoy the jostling and the dust, we did.

Both K and I feel like we’ve been losing patience with the children much too often and we finally talked about it.

“Why are we in such a hurry?” we wondered.

“Why do we rush them along so much?”

K and I are both incredibly anal task oriented, the type of people who live to cross things off of our “to do” lists.

In our mad rush to finish, we have lost our ability to enjoy the way.

“Come ON!"

"Hurry UP!"

"Let’s GO!”


[Yuck.]

K and I admitted that we have both been feeling flat and sort of … I don’t know… vaguely disinterested lately.

Semi-detached.

With one exception -- we don't feel / haven't felt disconnected from each other.

So we’ve got that going for us.

[Which is nice.]


Otherwise, with regard to our spiritual life, physical fitness, personal development, and professional development we’ve been all…

"W.H.A.T.E.V.E.R."


We’ve had bad attitudes.

Worse than that, we’ve been taking it out on The Mayor & The Rooster.

[Yuck.]

We made a pact with each other to try to slow down.

What does it matter if it takes forty minutes to choose a book or get ready for a walk?

We agreed that we would both try to be more patient and, in particular, stop re-acting to the toddler testing and tantrums.

We agreed that when The Mayor (or The Rooster) GO OFF (as they do) we would try to enforce all our regular consequences, but without “losing our cool.”

[Oh, how we have been losing our cool.]

There was something really powerful and cathartic in recognizing the way things have been going lately, acknowledging it, and talking though it together.

Miraculously, for the past few days, because we have chosen to, we’ve been more patient.

We let The Mayor and Rooster help us do all kinds of things even if that meant that the task at hand took twice or four times as long.

And they?

Were good as gold.

Why has it been so hard for me to understand this simple thing?

[-Sigh-]

I promise I'm going to achieve Zen motherhood. I will, I will!

[Even if I have to ride the short bus to parenting class.]


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I Say Pantie So Much

Over the weekend The Rooster re-discovered our secret stash of Elmo panties.

[Look, I can wear whatever I want, okay?!]

[Okay, so it was HER secret stash of Elmo panties.]

She was eager to give the whole panty thing a whirl so into the panties she went.

This was a WET experience for us all.


When I dropped Rooster off at daycare on Monday her teacher asked me to bring panties for her.

[How many times can I use the word pantie in a post?]

[Pantie! Pantie! Pantie!]

I told the teacher about The Great Pantie Debacle of 2008 and got the pshaw treatment.

Apparently Sister Rooster Girl goes on her own at school.

All the time.

Without being asked.


At home?

Not. So. Much.

[Random muttered swear words go here.]

Because I do whatever the teacher tells me to do, we loaded up a bag full of panties…

[Giant Bag-O-Pantie!!!]

[Pantie! Pantie! Pantie!]

…and took them to school.

“Why do they call them ‘panties’ when they are for girls and underwear when they are for boys?” The Mayor asked me.

[So now I need a PhD in pantie speak?]

“I don’t know, Mayor… because they are more dainty?”

[Wheeeee! Now I have used dainty and pantie together.]

[Dainty Pantie! Dainty Pantie!]

Rooster showed Ms. Lisa her assorted panties – - the Elmo ones and Winnie too.

They selected Winnie and headed towards the bathroom to put them on.

“Winnie doesn’t like to get wet. Did you know that?” Ms. Lisa asked the Rooster.

The Mayor and I walked towards the exit.

“Wait for Rooster to do two hugs and two kisses, Mom.” He said.

“It’s O.K., Mayor. Rooster decided to go with Ms. Lisa.”

We knelt on the floor and started our parting routine when I heard a great wailing…

“Mooooooommmmmyyyyyyy,” The Rooster cried as she ran back to me.

Apparently, even big girls who wear dainty panties need their two kisses and two hugs goodbye.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

What I Say vs. What They Hear



...and because I've been keeping it strictly HIGH BROW this weekend...


I've been grappling with a deep, intellectual mind bender for days now, but I just can't work it out.

So please help...

If angst-ridden, teen drama re-runs could enter the boxing ring, would My So Called Life knock out Dawson's Creek or would it be the other way around?


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Little Sal, The Sequel


Here at The House of Joy we enjoy reading children's books by Robert McCloskey and we particularly like "Blueberries for Sal."

We like the sound her berries make as they hit the empty bottom of her tin pail.

So it was quite the LITERARY MOMENT tonight when The Rooster, hearing the sound of her own tiny, pellets of poo hitting the toilet water, shouted,

"Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!!"



Poop on the potty, people.

Poop. On. The. Potty.

Kuplink, indeed!


****************************

... and since I'm publishing a post in the butt and poo category anyway....

****************************

The Mayor held the microphone attachment to his tape player and said,

"I'm going to be singing some new songs tonight everyone, so stick around..."


I stood behind him enjoying the show and, without warning, The Mighty Wind escaped!

"Mommy, you made a bad smell!" The Mayor shouted into his microphone.


[Yeah, yeah, yeah.]

"Do you like the smell of your own farts, Mom?"

"Uh... do you like the smell of your farts?" I countered.

"That's the thing, mom. My farts don't really smell."

That's my boy!



Thursday, January 24, 2008

Experienced

K was out of town last night so I invited myself over to my friend Elke's house so that she could make dinner and entertain my children.

[Is she SUPER LUCKY to have me for a friend or what?!!]

Her husband wasn't home either, so I hung out in the kitchen while she cooked and helped myself to her stash of snacks.

"We went to the zoo last weekend," Elke told me.

"Yeah?"

"When I was herding my boys from the warthog pen to the rhino enclosure I noticed this sweet, little old lady smiling at me."

(I pictured this...)


"Was she wistfully remembering her own days as a mother of young children?" I asked.

"Well that's what I assumed, but then I smiled at her and, you know, kind of gave her an opening to talk to me."


"And?"


"She leaned in close to me and said, If my children were that age again I would just have to KILL MYSELF!!!"

My eyebrows flew up to my hairline.

"She said THAT?" I asked, incredulous.

"She did."

And because we could hear our children
screaming and torturing each other in the next room...

We fell over laughing.




Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hey, She's Crafty

So... I mentioned that I started a knitting class.

I finished my first project...





But it kind of makes me feel like this...






Good thing I need a tea cozy, eh?!!




Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One Step at a Time

An African-American girl who looked about six years old unlocked the secret mystery of key chains for The Mayor.

He stood transfixed as she showed him each of the things she carried on it.

He marvelled at the idea that she had her very own... oh, to have one's own key chain...

"My mommy works for the county library," the little girl told me.

"How wonderful," I said. "You must get to read a lot of great stories!"

She nodded and said,

"I used to have my own bedroom, but then my Uncle had to move in with us so now I sleep with my mommy and it's really fun because we read stories and talk and laugh."

Her name was Maya, she was delightful and The Mayor was deeply enamored.

Since her mother was the project coordinator for the day and busy with all the details, I told her Maya could hang out with us if that would make things easier.

Earlier in the week I had searched through our local Martin Luther King Day event listings to find a volunteer project that might work for us as The Mayor and The Rooster finally seemed old enough for us to volunteer together as a family.

Since children of any age were welcome, I signed us up to help take down holiday decorations at one of our city parks.

When I woke up yesterday and realized how cold it was I thought about the magnitude of the human need in my city in contrast against our planned activity.

Viewed in that light, taking down holiday lights seemed a bit... I don't know...

I wondered if we ought to be doing something more meaningful.


When we arrived, The Mayor made fast friends Maya (and later, undeterred by her being nearly twice his age, announced that she would be his future bride.)

Maya and The Mayor worked together to pull holiday lights out of the park’s trees and bushes.

I wound the strands into bundles and put them into The Rooster’s outstretched arms.

Loaded down with lights, Rooster toddled over to the volunteer that was bagging them up until next year and struggled to help get them packed up.


Working along side about seventy other volunteers we slowly progressed across the park and packed up the seasonal lights.

The Mayor and The Rooster truly helped get the job done.

They were beaming, so proud of themselves.

In the end, I think the simple truth of their pride made me recognize that I had, in fact, chosen well.

The other volunteers at the project, despite being strangers, were incredibly patient with The Mayor and The Rooster and generously took the time to make sure they understood that they were contributing and that their contributions were valued.

While we didn't shelter the cold or feed the hungry, my children took their first step on a path I hope they will follow for the rest of their lives... and it was good.

There is a national movement to make the King holiday a day of service as a way to honor Dr. King's contributions to our nation.

I'm totally on board.

I believe in his dream.



Monday, January 21, 2008

Escape from Sodorville




Mayberry Mom, Motherhood Uncensored, & motherbumper are hosting a virtual Baby Shower for MotherGooseMouse and asked us to "write a post about raising, rearing, chasing, or enjoying little boys."

I was planning to write about keeping THE BIG, STAND-UP PENIS covered at all times, but Mayberry Mom has that covered.

You really do have to take that penis advice seriously because you never know what those sneaky boy-nozzles will get up to when you're not looking!

I remember being only half awake and fumbling around for the diaper creme when SPLAT!

The Mayor looked up at me in all his innocence as if to say,

"Here's pee in yer eye, Suckah!"

Since the weenis coverage thing has been explained, I had to come up with something else...

You probably already know that boys manage to push out of the hoo hoo already obsessed with modes of transportation like cars, trucks, airplanes and trains.

The transportation fixation inevitably leads to... Thomas the Tank Engine.

While I am a fan of the train set, I feel it is my duty to warn you that Thomas the Tank Engine books are the equivalent of do-it-yourself, full-frontal lobotomy kits.

Avoid Thomas books at all costs or you will be begging for an icepick to the forehead faster than you can say,

"Sodorville."

[Can I get an Amen here, people?]

Never to be accused of not bringing a solution to the problem party--

Here's a short list of books that get the Oh, The Joys Seal of Approval AND satisfy the little boy need for books about transportation.

Freight Train
by Donald Crews

Choo Choo and Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel
by Virginia Lee Burton

Amazing Airplanes
(and all the other vehicle books)
by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker

The Little Train
by Lois Lenski
(who is a Goddess among children's authors!)

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go
by Richard Scary

Feel free to leave additional ideas for Julie in the comments!

Congratulations, Julie!

He will be a lucky little boy to have you for a mama!

Best,
OTJ



Saturday, January 19, 2008

More of The Same


Yesterday was a metaphor for all my days.

It started out with patience and love, met a bomb threat in the middle and ended in a death wish.

In the morning The Mayor wanted more milk, didn’t get it and lost his mind as we headed out the door for school.

He cried so hard that he forgot to pay attention when his father gave him his standard two hugs and two kisses goodbye.

As soon as he saw K moving away from the car and towards the train station he began to wail much harder lamenting the missed experience.

He cried so hard all the way to school that by the time we got there getting a grip on himself was far beyond his faculties.

I knelt on the floor near the door for my two kisses and two hugs only to have The Mayor collapse into my lap, throw his arms around me and snuggle face first into my chest.

I had just enough time to get a swim before I had to start work, but I decided to fit it in later and settled in to rock and quiet The Mayor.

I tried to think of soothing things to say to my still sobbing boy.

“Do you know what, Mayor? My love is filling you up --can you feel it?"


"It’s filling you up to your knees… and now it is up to your waist… Hey, it’s all the way up to your shoulders now!!!"


"Mayor! My love has filled you up all the way to the top of your head!”


The teachers all offered to take him. I could have left earlier.

The thing is, The Mayor so rarely wants affection from me. I try to make time for it when he does.

It’s a relief, in some ways, to finally be able to hold him.

I kissed his hair and continued rocking him.

Thirty minutes later he finally pulled himself together and I went to work.

That afternoon, half an hour before I planned to leave early for the pool, one of the teacher’s called me.

“There’s been a bomb threat at the school,” she said. “The children are safe. They think they are on a field trip. We need you to come and pick them up.”


She gave me directions to the community center building in the public housing project across the street from the school.

What is most striking to me about the news of the bomb threat is how little it fazed me.

I didn’t even flinch.

When I told my neighbor about it she said,

“Ugh! Today must be a test day. Teen-agers!


Later, when we were gathered for dinner, The Mayor suddenly said,

“Mom, if you were to go away or die and left just Rooster, Daddy and I, that would be okay. I don’t really need a mom.”


I wanted to fling my dinner plate at him.

Could he not have told me this before I spent thirty minutes of Me Time cuddling and rocking him until he stopped crying in the morning?

How about before I bought him the powdered sugar donuts he asked for on the way home from the bomb threat pick up?

Perhaps before I cooked a meal for him?

GAH!

[I’m sure my mom and dad are chuckling and thinking, "Mwaaa ha ha ha! Karmic vengeance finally achieved!!!"]

One of the hardest things for me about parenting is that way that I am tested and manipulated all day long.

No one apologizes.

No one says,

“Sorry I was such a manipulative turd today.”

Or

“How could we have worked out our conflict better today, mom?”


[Ha ha ha! To dream the impossible DREAM!!]

Still.

There are many nights when I go to bed with a tangled knot of anger, frustration, guilt and sorrow filling my chest.

I know I am supposed to take a deep breath and remind myself,

“He’s only three…"


[giant nostril inhalation]


"HE. IS ONLY. THREE.”

But look, I know how old he is.

It's just...
his interpersonal relationship skills?

Aaaaahhhhh.

I'd better get back to that meditation thing.


What?

What did I do?
I didn't do anything.
It wasn't me.




Friday, January 18, 2008

Beloved


I was reading a blog called It's Not Easy Being Queen the other day when I came across a post about the writer’s experiences of racism.

It reminded me of a night I spent in Bradford, England in 1988.

I was doing my final year of college at Leeds University and one winter night I went out clubbing with three guys who were friends of a friend.

At the end of the night, one of them, a guy called Simon, was making racist jokes that were incredibly offensive.

I asked him to stop and told him that what he was saying was upsetting me.

I’ll never forget the way that all three of their heads tilted sideways simultaneously as if they were canine synchronized swimmers possessed by a mad curiosity.

After a long silence one of them finally said,

“Why is it so upsetting to YOU?”

Another followed up with,


“Are YOU part black?"




As if I would have to be black to be offended by racist jokes.

As MLK Day approaches, I'm reminded of Dr. King's idea of the beloved community.

How far we’ve come, how far we still have to go...


I hope that all these years later Simon has found enough peace with himself to ease his need to take down others.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ripaldi


My husband's former girlfriend Emily sent me a quote today as she is known to do.

Emily forwards great things and I do appreciate it.

The quote she sent was this one:

"When we adults think of children there is a simple truth which we ignore: childhood is not preparation for life, childhood is life...

The child is constantly confronted with the nagging question, 'What are you going to be?' Courageous would be the youngster who, looking the adult squarely in the face, would say, 'I'm not going to be anything; I already am.'

We adults would be shocked by such an insolent
remark for we have forgotten, if indeed we ever knew, that a child is an active participating and contributing member of society from the time he is born.

Childhood isn't a time when he is molded into a
human who will then live life; he is a human who is living life.

No child will miss the zest and joy of
living unless these are denied him by adults who have convinced themselves that childhood is a period of preparation.

How much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognize the child as a partner with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing him as an apprentice.

How much we would teach each other, adults
with the experience and children with the freshness.

How full both our
lives could be.

A little child may not lead us, but at least we ought to
discuss the trip with him for, after all, life is his and her journey, too."


- Professor T. Ripaldi


I pause.

I consider.

I write...

***************************************

January 17, 2008

The House of Joy
1234 Park Ranger Lane
Windy, GA 78521

Dr. T. Ripaldi
College of Parental Knowledge
867-5309 Jenny Street
Baloney, OH 98765

Dear Professor T. Ripaldi:

Thank you so much for your thoughts on the ways in which I might enrich my life by
partnering with my children in the process of living!

Golly, I can hardly wait to begin, but first
I have a few questions.

First of all, why is it that whenever I try to "
discuss the trip with him," my son repeatedly screams "NO" and tries to kick me in the knee?

Secondly why does he refuse to wear a jacket (or any item of clothing with buttons) on his journey?

Finally, when you ask me to imagine how "full both our lives could be" I wonder if you have seen my schedule. I'm not sure I have the capacity to achieve a higher level of fullness.

[Unless we are talking about whether or not I have room for dessert.]

I anxiously await your answers because I know you must be a true genius. I mean that part about "
children with the freshness"?... TELL ME ABOUT IT!!!!

Sincerely yours,

OTJ



(Forgive me, Emily! It was just too fun.)





Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Making the Tough Choices


I have a little time on my hands this afternoon, time I didn't expect to have.


So I had to ask myself,


"Do you want to go to the gym?"


Hmmmmmm.


"...or do you want to stuff handfulls of popcorn in yer piehole and mess about on the internet?"



Husband from The East

"Buddhists must really like balloons," K said.

[Oh, here we go! Right?]

My friend Elke let us in on the secret Tuesday night, kids eat free restaurant complete with face painting, balloon twisting clown.

We could not resist the allure.

[We're The Family Joy! We'll take your bait! Can we give you our bank account number too! Yay!]

I must admit, the face painting, balloon twisting clown brought the talent.

See The Rooster... how she frightens me, the tigress!




The Mayor's Secret Municipal Realm is Revealed!... Gotham City!



[Okay, so The Mayor's face isn't that exciting but he asked for something boring.]

Anyway, the kids
had their faces painted, got their twisty balloon things, ate almost nothing from the excitement and ran gleefully all the way to the car.

Then...The Rooster fell on her balloon princess wand.

It popped and the great wailing commenced.

Enter my husband, the Rinpoche.



As one might imagine, the wisdom of the great Rinpoche did nothing to calm the wee girl.

Impermanence and non-attachment mean nothing to her.

Go figure?!

However, once she meditated calmed down and went to bed, the great holy man of The House of Joy performed acupuncture on the couch.



And all was right and good (and Zen) in the land.


[K wants everyone to know that he didn't really ask The Rooster to meditate on impermanence. His comment about balloons and Buddhists was to me. For the record and all. ]

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cooking with Gas


I was on the couch clutching my belly when K walked into the living room.


"Ugh!" I groaned. "Chick peas are not my friends."

As he drew nearer his nose wrinkled up as it encountered The Mighty Wind.

He backed away to keep his hair from melting, regained his composure and said,

"Well... if they aren't YOUR friends then I KNOW they are no friends of mine."

[So much for that sweet, little Moroccan chicken recipe...]

What to cook now?

Yesterday Amy asked for easy, delicious, crock-pot recipes on her blog and if you click right here you'll see all the yummy looking ideas people left for her.

Oh, the jealous!!!

Who will leave delicious recipe ideas in my comments?

******************************************

{{{{You are getting sleepy...}}}}


{{{{You are being HYPNOTIZED...}}}}




{{{{You are completely under my power...}}}}


{{{{You are leaving a recipe for a delicious main dish in my comments....}}}}


******************************************


Lying on the couch suffering The Revenge of The Chick Pea, I thought about my recipes and it occurred to me that I have the world's best recipe for Posole, the traditional southwestern soup of soups.

Every time I see a published recipe for Posole I read it and think,

"Puh-lease. Are you serious?! That is but a poor imitation of Posole."

That the people should be given an inferior recipe... THE INJUSTICE!!

I raised my fist in the air and shouted,

"THE PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE THE GOOD POSOLE RECIPE!!!"





So here it is...

Pork Posole

Ingredients
4 pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded (you can also use Ancho, but Pasilla is better)
2 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin, trimmed and cut into (1/2-inch) pieces
(Chicken is also good)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 (15.5-ounce) cans yellow hominy, undrained (in the canned veggie aisle)
6 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
6 lime slices
6 tablespoons sliced radishes (optional)
6 tablespoons chopped green onions (optional)


Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat.

Place chiles in pan; flatten with a spatula.

Cook 10 seconds on each side or until blackened.

Combine toasted chiles and 2 cups boiling water in a bowl; let stand 10 minutes or until soft.

Place chile mixture in a blender or food processor; process until smooth.

Cook cumin seeds in a large Dutch oven over medium heat for 1 minute or until toasted and fragrant.

Place toasted cumin seeds in a spice or coffee grinder; process until finely ground.

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Add pork; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides.

Remove pork from pan.

Reduce heat to medium.

Add onion and garlic to pan; cook 8 minutes or until onion is browned, stirring frequently.

Stir in pork, pureed chiles, toasted ground cumin, broth, sugar, salt, and hominy; bring to a simmer.

Cook 30 minutes or until pork is tender.

Spoon 1 2/3 cups posole into each of 6 bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon cilantro and squeeze a lime wedge into it.

Garnish with radish and green onion if you wish.

Yield: 6 servings

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Woman from Zimbabwe


For more than two years the woman from Zimbabwe has been confined to her small, ninth floor room in the local charity hospital without any where else to go.


The morning paper said that she was involved in a car accident that left her alive, but unable to move anything other than a finger. Slowly, painfully she points at a letter board to spell out what she wants to say.

Though her home is in Zimbabwe, she was in the states visiting her two grown children when she was involved in a terrible car accident.

Her current hospital bill exceeds a million dollars, but she doesn’t have insurance to cover the cost of returning to Zimbabwe and her round-the-clock care is more intense and complicated than either of her children can manage, so she is confined to her single, small, sterile hospital room.

Interviewed for the article, her children described the way their mother talks about wishing she were dead. She hates her confinement, the endless monotony her life has become and feeling like a burden to others.

Her son lamented how hard it was to have a parent who, more than anything, wants to die.

I imagined this woman, this mother, from Zimbabwe lying there with an itch on her face. How long would it take to spell out a request for someone to scratch it? How maddening!

I thought about her wish to be dead.

I imagined what it might be like to be so completely reliant on others all day, every day.

I thought about her children’s lives since the accident, forever changed by the new routine of hospital room visits, medical administration, worry, guilt …

For the first time since my grandmother’s death I understood its gift.

My grandmother suffered through a violent car accident too, but she passed away quickly and, most likely, painlessly.

She was lucky in her death.

I’ve known this all along, but somehow the details from the story in the paper made it more real.

I understood what it truly would have meant for my grandmother to survive her car accident.

My granny would have hated living the way the woman from Zimbabwe is forced to live.

In a very strange way, I felt glad for my granny.

I felt grateful that she didn’t suffer and that she went quickly.

Then I stopped and smiled.

Gladness and gratitude?

Those are new, eh?

Maybe I’m making a little progress with this whole grief thing.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Meditations On Burbling


My friend Libby told me I should try meditating.


She recommended The Harvard Relaxation Response.

"It's not a spiritual practice," she said. "Just a relaxation method."

[Oh, what? Does everyone know I'm a heathen?]


I decided to give it a try.

First,
while K managed the children in the tub, I followed [exactly none of] the directions and fell face first onto my bed .

I cleared my mind.

[Ha ha haha... and there is this great bridge in the Bay Area that I’d like to sell you.]

I tried listening to my mind say the word “one” each time I exhaled.

The first thing I heard was...

"Listen to the force, Luke!"

Which was followed by what sounded like teeny, tiny tub farts.

[*burble*burble*burble*burble*]

I started to giggle.

[I couldn't find "giggle" in any part of the directions.]

The burbler burbled on.


“The mind wanders by nature,” my friend told me. “The important thing is to return your focus to the single word, one.”

I attempted to banish the sound of tiny tub farts from my thoughts.

[As if.]


[*burble*snort*burble*chuckle*]

“One,” my mind hummed.


Then I heard the world’s loudest toddler yell,


“I HAVE A BIG, STAND-UP PENIS!!”

My contemplative mind imagined a giant penis wielding a microphone and telling jokes between variety show acts of the highest quality.


[*burble*giggle*burble*stand*up*penis*burble*giggle*]


Oh, the serenity!

Are you feeling my HUGE, stand up peacefulness?

I’m so relaxed now.

Just call me Guru Babba Joy Joy from now on.




***********************************
Photobucket

Best comment of the day goes to... William.
[Snort.]


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Star Charting


Yesterday at lunch time I called my friend Elke to check on the status of her son's sprained ankle and to beg her to adopt The Mayor see if she wanted to have lunch.

She couldn't meet, but did talk with me about my poor mothering skills The Mayor and his tantrums.

Elke suggested that K and I separate The Mayor's time out punishments (given when rules are broken) from the breaks he might need for calming down.

Time outs then become specifically punitive, and "breaks" become something esle... something more positive... taking time for oneself to find composure.

Elke suggested we
use The Mayor's tantrums as a skill building opportunity.

She thought maybe we could help him
learn what he thinks works the best for getting himself under control when he is overly upset like holding his blankie, being held or having time alone with one of us.

Whatever it is, he might begin to
develop his own arsenal of tools for self-control.

Her ideas made me think.

[Hmmm. Skill building...teambuilding. Does this endeavor come with a sexy shirt?]

Elke also talked about how much success she has had with her own son using a star chart to reward good behavior.

Admittedly, I know nothing about star chartism, but I've started working on my design...





Help!




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Photobucket

Best comment of the day goes to... Flutter.
[Totally going to try that...]


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Patchwork

After her death, we decided to keep my grandmother's home as a place for my extended family to gather.

When we closed up the house we removed things that had sentimental value to guard against their loss, theft or destruction.

I brought one of her handmade quilts home and, t
hough perhaps it was too soon, spread it out on my bed.

For weeks, every time I looked at it I burst into tears, but I didn't take it off.

When I'm in my room now I often run my hand across the quilt squares and imagine her fingers making the delicate stitches on each one.

I try not to remember that her fingers were almost all I recognized of her in the end.

The quilt is made from a riot of fabrics
reflecting a time long ago when lime, orange and brown forged a deep friendship. They are all most likely scraps from clothes Granny made for herself or the family.

The jumble of fabrics in my quilt somehow mirror my tangle of thoughts about The Mayor today, but I'm having trouble making the pieces fit together.

The Mayor seems so angry these days.

At school, he kicked his best friend in the face during story time and in defiance h
e unbuckled his car seat straps in our moving car.

The number and severity of his tantrums has escalated.

I can't figure out if he's just being three or if there is something else wrong.

If he's just being three then clearly I am at a loss about how to parent.

I find my self standing still staring in wide-eyed disbelief.

[Not much of a strategy!]


The other morning when his sister woke up earlier than expected he wailed,

"No! I wanted to spend more time alone with just you."

My heart sank.

Alas, my patience with The Mayor has run so short
.

When The Mayor was born, my Granny knit a beautiful, deep blue, throw-sized blanket for him that will cover his bed as he grows up.

She knit blankets like his for each of her great grandchildren.

As the only person interested in the craft, I inherited all of her knitting needles and carried them home with me after her funeral.

This week I started a knitting class.

The teacher was impressed with my granny's collection of supplies and said,

"How exciting that you have all of her things!"

While I realize that she didn't know what happened to my grandmother and couldn't have meant anything by her comment, it still stung.

My cheek burned as if I had been slapped.

I would trade my grandmother's knitting needles in a heartbeat to have her back in my life.

I held my tongue and learned to cast on.

I think knitting settled my grandmother's thoughts at the end of each day and I can see it serving me the same way.

The Mayor also has trouble settling down at night.

When he finally falls asleep
after the day's collection of tirades, K and I creep into his room to check on him.

I pull the blanket that Granny made over him and think again of her fingers working love into every stitch.

I can picture her sitting in her yellow wing backed chair with her feet on a low stool, her knitting in her lap and her hands and arms moving rhythmically with the yarn.

I imagine The Mayor's blanket wrapping him up in her love just as her quilt wraps me.

It is good, but somehow not enough. Not for either of us. Not today.







Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Prove It, Mr. Mom

I've been working with The Rooster on her effort to keep her pull-up dry and clean.

"Where does poop and pee go, Rooster?"

"IN THE POTTY!" she yells.

"Let's listen, Mommy," she says.

I am supposed to press my ear to hers while she sits on the throne. Together, head to head, we listen for the telltale tinkling sound.

When it comes, we pull our heads back and give each other a surprised and delighted look as though we've just been given an unexpected gift.

[In truth, it IS a gift to me. One less diaper to change!]

And then...

"I want to see your penis," she says.

"I don't have a penis, Roo."

"Yes, you do," she insists.

"Um, really. I don't."

She considers this.

"I want to see your naked body, Mommy."

So now I have to prove to my daughter that I am not a man?

Oh, the indignities!

I think it might be time for a wax.



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Photobucket

Best comments of the day go to... Sugarplum's Mom, Damselfly, Sarcastic Mom, and Mrs. Fussypants.
[Hee hee hee!]

Monday, January 07, 2008

Politics, Photoshop and The House of Joy Have A Three Way

For years the people of the land endured the tedious ramblings of the wicked cowboy....

And maybe it happened because (according to Kelly)
there have been storms in Oklahoma...

[or was it Nebraska?... or Kansas? ... or maybe Iowa...]

I can't say for sure.

I only know that a storm blew through The House of Joy and...

Oh, The NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOEEESSS!




A linen cabinet crushed that cowboy!

When the people of the land saw that the cowboy was dead there was a great rejoicing!

Ding Dong, The Cowboy's Dead!




The people were happy he was dead because the cowboy would drone on incessantly, saying things like,

"Howdy, Pardner!"

"There's a snake in my boot!"

"You're my favorite deputy!"
and
"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure."

The perp, who is a minor, was a bit remorseful about the whole thing.





Not to worry!

Pundit Mom said,





Adios, Wicked Witch!




Sayonara, Flying Monkey!



The House of Joy is fresh out of linen cabinets.

We'll have to rely on them...










*******DISCLAIMER*******


Hey. This is not a political blog.

This, friends, is an idiotic blog.

Last night, after The Mayor and The Rooster went to bed, K noticed Woody the Cowboy's gruesome fate and I recorded it for posterity.

Then K went to the living room to watch The Lives of Others which I had already seen.

This post is what happens when I am left alone with my blogger account, nothing to write about, my photoshop program and access to the internet.

I will say that if I had to pick a candidate tomorrow, I wouldn't be able to do it.

Perhaps a little national unity is just the thing we need... after all, there is no place like home, right?





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Photobucket

Best comment of the day goes to... Zellmer.
[Hilare!]




Friday, January 04, 2008

Born To Be Wild

Yesterday morning I announced to my colleagues that, as the mother of two toddlers, there was not a single person who was happier about being back at work than me.

Then, after three hours of conference call participation, the conversation sounded like this,

"We need a robust strategy to fuel a catalytic work stream that will galvanize the field, leverage diverse resources and enhance development for robust, strategic, catalytic leveraging."
Huh?

[Strategery!]

I know it was wrong of me, but I started to lose focus.

My mind wandered off down the open road.

Wind blew through my hair.

[Get your motor runnin'... head out on the highway.... lookin' for adventure...]

Just about the time I was thinking,

"Oh, The Joys is the new Peter Fonda!"

I heard my boss say my name.

"Well, that about covers it," he said. "We'll just have Jessica serve as the project manager on everything we've just discussed. Okay, Jessica? You've got it?"

Doh!




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Best comment of the day goes to... Avery Gray.
[Dude! I know!]


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Conditions Are Perfect

I mumbled passive aggressive statements at K all the way from our front door to the neighborhood playground in the last days of our two week holiday break.

[Because I am, like, so totally mature.]

“Look,” he said. “You’re in a really bad mood. Why don’t you take a walk, have some time alone and see if it makes you feel any better?”

[THE GALL!]

“Because you’ll be a martyr about it!” I said.


He threw up his hands, looked to the heavens, shrugged his shoulders and made that face, the one that says,

“FIFTY YEARS WITH HER, GOD? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!!”


“Alright! Alright! Give me the house key,” I demanded.


K took it off his key ring and tossed it to me.

Without another word I stormed off in a huff and marched towards home.

There were only thirty minutes of daylight left and the walk home was easily that long.

The whole way home I muttered cartoon character complaints under my breath.

“Rucka sfrana snorka blurkcka, blah, blah, blah.”


“…and another thing..."

“EVERYONE GET AWAY FROM ME!!”

I am certain that to any outside observer I appeared to be a complete, raving lunatic.

[Or talking on a blue tooth.]

I stomped as I walked.

I swore.

I furrowed my brow.

[Categorically, I would have to call it an old-school, jerk-style tantrum.]

Finally I reached the back door of our house, unlocked it and went inside only to hear our car pull into the driveway.

GAH!

I hadn’t even unzipped my coat.

I turned around and went back out to help K with the small people.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to take it out on you. It's just... I just feel… crowded.”

“I know,” he said. “You’re funny.”


Funny.

That's a nice way to put it.

Today I'm not crowded.

No!

Today, conditions are perfect.

Today is the first day of…


DAYCARE 2008!!!

Sinister Joy

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I've Got Two Strong Arms

Last night at about 7:00 The Mayor lost it.

It’s been happening with some regularity, this all out hysteria.

He starts crying, escalates to wailing and then reaches a place from which he can’t seem to descend.

It’s actually quite sad.

Last night his tantrum came when we decided that our napless boy was too tired for anything other than the bath, books and bed routine.

Contrarily, The Mayor had a social call in mind and was devastated to learn that no post dinner visit with his friend would occur.

A few nights ago the hysteria came when “movie night” ended.

For the first time in The Mayor and The Rooster’s lives K and I decided to pop corn and watch a movie with them.

We chose The Lion King – and I will be up front and admit that it was a dumb choice given that DISNEY GUARANTEES A PARENTAL DEATH SCENE.

[What is wrong with those freakin’ happy mouseketeer people?]

At any rate, K and I got The Mayor and The Rooster to agree that since we would be staying up late we would NOT be reading stories when the movie ended.

We agreed that we would go right to sleep after the movie.

[Oh, the broken contracts with THE WHITE MAN!]

Instead of a peaceful transition to bed when The Lion King ended there was, instead, a great wailing.

The Rooster gave up, but The Mayor blew the proverbial gasket.

I have never been The Mayor’s favorite parent. From the beginning he has been K’s child, so much so in fact, that my feelings have often been hurt by his overwhelming preference for his father.

Though K remains his alpha human, The Mayor and I seem to have finally developed our own kind of closeness.

Though he never picks me first to be his playmate, story reader or daytime pal, he sometimes seeks me out in his darker moments.

Last night I sat beside the tub giving Rooster a bath while The Mayor chased K around the house kicking him in the shins and screaming.

Eventually he made his way to the bathroom and sank into my lap sobbing with his head buried in my sweater.


“I want to go to Ella’s,” he wailed.

“I know, I know,” I rocked.

“I won’t whine! I won’t cry!” he shrieked.

“Is that why you think we’re not going to Ella’s?” I asked. “Do you think it’s your fault?”


He nodded.


“It’s just getting too late,” I soothed. “We’ve run out of time in this day.”


Mostly I just held him.

It occurred to me that being held is sometimes all I want when I am upset.

I don’t want my problems fixed or solved. I don’t want to talk. I just want two strong arms to hold and rock me.

I tried to make my arms steady and sturdy for The Mayor while he let his frustration pour out.

From my perspective, there seem to be two kinds of tantrums.

There is the tantrum where The Mayor is simply being a big, old-school jerk and then there’s the tantrum masking something deeper.

A few nights earlier when The Mayor lost it after we watched The Lion King, I felt sorry him.

To me, the movie tantrum seemed rooted in something different than our contract to go straight to sleep (at 10:00 p.m.!!!) without any stories.

I crawled into bed beside The Mayor’s shaking, rage-filled, little body.

I rubbed his back softly while he sobbed and sobbed.

Finally, when he exhausted himself, he said,


“Why did the Daddy Lion have to get dead?”

So that was what troubled him.

Of course.

We talked about Mustafa’s death for a long time.

The Mayor’s breath eventually became even, but he was still upset.


“Will you sleep in my bed?” he asked.

I said I would.


“Will you stay here all night?” he asked.


“Do you want me too?”


“Yes,” he said.


I wiggled into the tiny space his sprawled out toddler form left for me in his narrow bed and gave him a snuggle.

Though I missed my own pillow and my usual sleeping companion, I felt good.

I want to be close to The Mayor.

I love him and get jealous of K’s closeness to him sometimes.

I think The Mayor and I are finding our way to each other on our own terms.

I hope so.



Hayride


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Looking Ahead

I have heard it said that whatever you find yourself doing at midnight on New Year's Eve is a sign of what you'll be doing all year.

So, ojalá, let us hope that K and I will be sleeping all year!!

Since we are ALWAYS asleep by midnight on New Year's Eve I like to think instead that anything that happened near the close of the year could indicate how the coming year will unfold.

If that interpretation is allowable then there are a number of ways 2008 could go in The House of Joy.

My children could easily spend another year running in circles around the house without their clothes on.

Yipee! All hail the short naked people!

It could be a year of house guests...

Our last guest, my friend Laura, just left today.


It could also be a year of upheaval as I have recently learned that three couples I know are breaking up.

All three situations involve infidelity and all three couples have children.

My friends, the parents, worry about how this will impact the kids more than anything.

My fondest hope, and what I'd like to hang on to, is the idea that it could be a year filled with kindness.

I unexpectedly received a package in the mail from an address I didn't recognize.

I opened the box to find a beautifully beaded necklace with a pendant holding a picture of my grandparents, both of whom I lost this year.


Fussy Necklace


Mrs. Fussypants sent it to me in an act of incredible thoughtfulness.

When I wear it I feel like I am carrying them with me.

Her
gift reminded me that simple gestures of pure kindness make the hard stuff so much more bearable.

I hope my 2008 resolution can be to pass her thoughtfulness along.

Happy New Year!

XO,
OTJ

Fussy Necklace 2