The Thing With Feathers

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Hurt Man

When my daughters were baptized into the Episcopal church, their grandmother gave them a Bible for kids. While it has (from my perspective) some disturbingly evangelical spins on things, they like the pictures and go on binges where that is all they want to read before bed. We've been reading the story of the Good Samaritan (or, according to Sarah, "The Story of the Hurt Man") for the last few nights.

Sarah is very sensitive. While watching the Super Bowl with her dad last year, she saw a commercial for a heart drug. The heart, a guy in a rubber heart suit, was walking down the street and was subsequently mugged by thugs representing cholesterol, lack of exercise, and smoking. He is left by an burnt-out building, while the narrator intones about how this tragedy could have been prevented with the drug. Sarah started to cry and to this day asks "what happened to the valentine Mama?"

I explain that his Mama came and he went home and had a hot bath and a story, but almost a year later she is still asking about it.

There is a boy at their preschool who is acting out some of the domestic violence he sees at home. He is a pariah of sorts with the other kids and a trial for the teachers.

The girls have spent the last few weeks collating bad behavior with this boy. When I get after them for something they apologize and say that behavior of that sort is his behavior, not what good kids do.

After several readings of "The Hurt Man" last week, Sarah said "Mama, X (the boy) is like the hurt man. Everyone ignores him and nobody plays with him." We talked about how the girls don't have to play with him if he is mean, but they do have to be kind to him and everyone else.

When I dropped them off this morning, the boy ran right up to them and said "Am I still your friend today?" It broke my heart. Apparently, they have decided that he needs a friend just like the hurt man.

Note to self. They are listening.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ready . . Aim

Every morning, when I drop the kids off at pre-school, we visit the tiny little pre-school potties. As I was helping Hannah with her pants, I turned to look at Sarah and she was perched above the toilet on her toes, standing almost vertically, peeing in the toilet. When I asked her what she was doing, she said she had decided to pee standing up like her friend Jason. When I mentioned that her anatomy might present a problem, she said "Yeah, I know. It's taking me longer to learn it than he did."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Things to remember

  1. The weight of a tired child in your lap.
  2. Hannah likes "belinda" ice cream best.
  3. Sarah wants to be called "Rogfras" from now on.
  4. They slept in big girl pants and were dry in the morning for the first time last night.
  5. Their different mom lives in pink Disneyland.
  6. Noodles are a better bribe than candy.
  7. At the end of the Christmas pageant, they sang "Glory Had a Luna" and "in chilled things day-o".
  8. They were babies a minute ago.
  9. The warm comma of a sleeping child is a dear thing.
  10. I'm only going to be a rock star to them for a little while longer.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Washcloth Cotton

I recently took an online poll in which you answered a lot of questions about friends and foods and colors, and then it told you what kind of fiber you were. Cute. The members of my former knitting group were mohair (warm and fuzzy) or camel (resilient and unyielding), I was dishcloth cotton. Dependable, hardworking, homebody. Hmmm.

10 Things

10 Things to do.

  1. Make friends with fear.
  2. Take the kids back to China.
  3. Learn to swim elegant laps.
  4. Stop comparing myself to other people and their opinions.
  5. Learn to cook really good Indian food.
  6. Get to the mountains more often.
  7. Get to the ocean more often.
  8. Sit under the grape arbor and knit.
  9. Write more poems.
  10. Be still.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Bloggus Interruptus

I haven't posted in nine months. The glib reason is that I have three-quarters of an acre of garden, a peri-menopausal metabolism requiring frequent exercise, twin almost three year olds, and a full-time job. The real reason is that I lost my nerve. I looked back at the posts just now and, while I'm never going to attract strangers and advertisers with my with and knack with a quirky story, the writing isn't all bad. I just don't know that I'm sold on the whole concept of the blog. When I teach writing to my college students, I tell them that their essays need to answer the "so what" question. If nobody but your mother would care, why mount an argument or a thesis. But there are millions of blogs out there and I think I am going to decide that the answer to "who cares" is that it doesn't matter. The three people including my husband and my best friend who might read this are less the point than the fact that I like to write and I feel good when I write. Enough reason for me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bad Breath

My daughters have sinus infections. They have greenish slugs of mucus migrating out of their noses at all times. Kleenex and Sudafed are no match. Everything sticks to this stuff: their hair, my hair, dog hair, Cheerios. This means two things. They are feverish and irritable and they cry a lot. Especially at night. And they smell bad. They breath through their mouths at night adding sulfurous oral bacteria to the foetid goo going down the backs of their throats.

I knew I was their "REAL MOTHER" as the old ladies at Food King say (as opposed to their synthetic mother I suppose) when the eminating smell seemed interesting, an empirical invitation, instead of disgusting. Did the foulness result from last night's garlicky pasta carbonara. Or is there an infection? I move closer for another whiff. Hmm. Not just morning breath. Call the Dr.

My daughters and I didn't share a placenta. That level of organic goo we missed. But we are bonded at some organic level. Breathing beside them I wait to know them inside and out.

"lonely old courage teacher" Allen Ginsberg

I held a 5 day old infant recently, the surprize at 42 child of a colleague who thought after 3 missed periods, the thickening in her waist must be menopause. Gives new meaning to the phrase "fat chance".

She seemed, the baby that is, more creature than child: wrinkled, veined skin; an opaque, far-off look in her grey eyes. She was pliable and loose-limbed and utterly, unmistakenly vulnerable. When I should have been focused and cooing (although I did coo of course), I thought of my daughters, who were 4 and 5 pounds each when they were left the morning after their birth in a blanket-lined box on the steps of the orphanage. They were smaller than this baby and they were alone.

Although they were delivered to nannies with good intentions, they spent those first months in metal cribs in a building with little heat. I tried to imagine the warm skull, not yet covered in bone, fitting neatly in the palm of my hand lying with my daughters. Unable to raise their heads. Unable to roll over. The view infrequently changing.

I am deeply indebted to the nannies who cared for my daughters. I am not criticizing their work. I just wonder at how something so frail survives. Was it luck or genetics or more attention given to their adorable twinness. I am not willing to say God or fate, because where does that leave the ones who didn't survice.

I look in my daughters' eyes sometimes and see a sort of resistance, a strength of spirit that has nothing to do with me or even, I think, with genetics. Will or soul? I don't know what to call it. But I am grateful for it.

Bless your fierce little hearts.

Friday, December 09, 2005

"sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness" Galway Kinell

"sometimes it is necessary /to reteach a thing its loveliness"
"St. Francis and the Sow" by Galway Kinnell

This afternoon I went to a birthday party for the daughter of one of my friends. She was turning six and the party was held at the local children's museum. The party had a princess theme and kids were encouraged to come in whatever princess or knight regalia they possessed.

My kids are two and haven't amassed any regalia up to this point, so they wore their normal cotton rompers with their good leather Mary Jane shoes. Very cute.

The mother of the birthday girl is a good friend of mine and I don't fault her for anything I am about to say. This is my neuroses, not hers. But the party troubled me. The princesses were lovely in their various states of diaphanous pinkness. Their blond and red hair was caught up in crowns, with the occasional raven-haired, pale skinned Snow White look-a-like. The boys wore satin capes with shields and golden paper crowns like the ones you get for kids at Burger King.

The cake was magnificent. It was a chocolate buttermilk scratch cake layered up with pink icing to look like a ball gown with a real barbie torso and head on the top. Edible princess.

I know what I want to say next, but I'm not sure what tone to take. In my work, I write and teach a lot about feminism. But I am well aware of the reductive, humorless tact that some feminist arguments can take. At home, I am the mother of two Chinese born daughters. They love pretty things. They love twinkling white lights and pink dresses and I want to make them happy. I don't want their childhood to be a field upon which politics is played out.

So why did the party trouble me. The princesses represented in that princess diva, Barbie, and the princess guises of the other little girls form a matrix of physical and social ideals that aren't going to be open to my daughters. Mulan notwithstanding, my girls, whose roots are in Northern China and Mongolia, are unlikely to grow up to be long-legged, buxom Nordic or Teutonic beauties.

They are perfectly beautiful. Don't get me wrong. White babies look kind of anemic to me since I brought them home. But they aren't going to be princesses like the ones they see in books. Which begs the question, do they need to read those books? Do they need to hear about sleeping princesses awakened by the male gaze? Do they need to play with dolls whose feet are permanently arched for four inch heels? What happens when my beautiful girls or anybody's beautiful girls turn into women with normal rounded bellies and realistically sized breasts and 30 inch inseams? ( NOTE: I am six feet tall, so I have no idea what a normal inseam is. I am guessing here).

What do they do with that princess ideal they have internalized? As their mother, an over-forty, American white female, I fight with my inner Barbie ideal at least once a week. Can I protect them from the taunting of the inner Barbie? What about the taunting of the Barbie fan club that forms American advertising?

Or should I just have a stiff drink, lighten up and buy the Barbie. Maybe the one with brown hair. Maybe the Teacher Barbie.


Since I last posted, my spouse has been out of town on business for three weeks. We have had a total of four sinus infections, three pairs of infected conjunctiva, and one inner ear infection. Enough said.