Aug 31 2011

And then there were none.

montikOh wait! That’s not true. Thank god for Foxy Brown. My Devil Baby went to kindergarten today and as you can see, sister was ready. She was more than ready. It was hard to boohoo this because she was just so very excited. Plus I happen to think kindergarten is pure magic, so what’s not to like about your baby finally being able to put on a cute jumper and her new kicks and walk through the front door of school, ready to play and learn and make new friends? The world cracks open like a juicy melon for kindergartners.

And I really was believing my own hype. My lady buddies, Crackerjack and Nanook, reached out to see what I needed/wanted on my first day as a mother of all grade-school children a.k.a. a freebird. My response: hip hop and lunchy, please. In my email I also said that I was so excited for Devil Baby, I wasn’t going to be feeling like a freak-a-deak. Well.

I set aside extra time to help Devil Baby get dressed and braided her hair. We took tons of pictures and did a quick stop by Red Vogue’s house so she could see her all dressed up. By the time we got to school, Devil Baby was ready to fly. We took one last picture with her teacher (who I requested because she’s wonderful, totally old-school, loved and ‘got’ Supergirl and is just the kind of tough but loving lady who should be escorting children into their school lives) and as I hugged Devil Baby one last time, I could feel her little body straining to get away. You see, there was this whole bright sunny classroom! FULL of kids! FULL of intriguing objects and toys! She really had to go.

So I put on my sunglasses and walked out the door, turning around for one last look. I was fine. I forwent the back to school coffee because I was dressed for hip hop and I didn’t feel like meeting any bright and shiny young mothers with toddlers hanging around their hips. Done.

I got in my car and I drove away. I was fine.

Really.

And then at the corner of Upton and 50th, it hit me like a wave. Slowly, slowly, the feeling washed over me.

All of my little people, my children – in school. Me – alone.

The wave. It pressed on my chest, so heavy, I gasped. And the next exhalation, a wail. And I cried all the way home. The silly tears of the woman with the shortest memory in history. Was I not JUST bitching about how ready I was for my children to be in school? Weren’t they JUST driving me bananas, like two days ago?

Waiting for me at the back gate was the wriggly, panting Foxy Brown. Wagging with her whole body, squirming so hard to get closer, she kept sliding through my legs as I tried to walk. Thank god for Foxy Brown. Did I do this on purpose? Because this was a really well-timed pet, people. My savior and side-kick and I went for a brisk walk and then it was time for hip hop, which, as Crackerjack would say – makes me happy in my heart. And then lunch with my girls, a little wine and a lot of laughs and a couple hours later I’m feeling almost normal. Better than normal.

Really.montik2


Aug 29 2011

And so it is

treetopsthat I find myself typing in a dark sunroom in the wee hours of the first day of school. I can’t sleep. In a few hours this house will spring to life and I will have little choice but to put on a pot of coffee and spring with it. It’s not typical for me to be up so much earlier than the rest, but after Devil Baby bashed into a door on her way back from the bathroom at 4 a.m., there was no getting back to sleep. And why not just get up, tuck the laptop under my arm and tip toe to the downstairs sunroom? Quietly. Quietly. Don’t wake the dog.

I feel like I spent all summer trying to wrap my head around summer. It was so odd, starting out cold and then getting unbearably hot, and then, just now it seems, falling into perfection. August was a gift this year. We rode our bikes, licked melty ice cream cones, scooped up countless outdoor concerts, lingered at farmers markets, swam in lakes, walked the dog in clusters of twos, threes and fives under streaky darkening skies. We packed up the minivan and spent a week on beautiful Spider Lake, just us, no phone, no internet. My family fished, I swam and read and cooked. Foxy morphed into a proper wild country dog, flying through the woods and into the lake.

It seems a pity, to have to put everything in a box just as things are getting good. Which is to say, I am sorry that my kids have to go to school today. Which is also to say, they are ready. I am ready. But I still feel a sharp pang at the thought that many many hours will go by without my seeing them. I will go about my day, my thoughts straying to one or the other of them, pretty certain (and honestly, glad) that they won’t be thinking about me.

It’s kind of lonely to be a mom on the first day back to school.kidsheads


Aug 19 2011

Happy Birthday Saint James. Eleven.

santibroodingWoah. Eleven! When I look at him, I can totally believe he’s eleven. He looks eleven. What I can’t believe is my eyes, when I look at him. I also can’t believe my hand when he holds it. His hand is suddenly bigger, almost as big as mine. How many times do I have to let go for a moment to measure his fingers up against my own, clasping it again with a sigh. Not bigger than mine. Yet.

This big boy of mine – joyous, independent, curious, complicated and sweet – just keeps getting better. I failed to consider that this would happen. As certain things are lost to the past (wobbly first steps, chubby legs, toothless smiles, baby voices) other things, better things if that’s even possible, are taking their place. A sense of humor, an increasingly complex inner life, a point of view, his own personal taste. There is nothing better on earth than sharing a laugh – a true laugh – with your kid. He’s beyond only laughing at what’s HA HA funny and has a quick eye for the absurd, for the things are funny, but not in an obvious way.

On the threshold of middle school, Saint James is becoming a person with depth and ideas and a way of looking at things that is uniquely his. He’s getting moody and broody, like there’s much more going on than meets the eye. He’s quietly confident, rarely rattled by anything or anyone. What does he know that I don’t? As much as I thought I’d be panicking about this headlong jump in to big boyhood, I have to say that I am fascinated by the way he’s changing on the inside. And hey, I like this kid. Not just love, like. Here’s the litmus test: if we were the same age in college, say, would we have been friends? You tell me. A smart cutie with an easy laugh, a big heart and the confidence to pull off (and he does pull them off) hot pink shades? We would have been thick as thieves.

Happy Birthday, Saint James! I love you, sweetness. But you know that.shades


Aug 12 2011

You feeling it?

MontistripesI’m feeling it. Best part of summer, baby. Right here. Right now. But it’s flying faster than a newly minted five year old bike rider veering wildly down a hill. Yikes! Feeling slightly out of control, but luh uh uh ving the ride.montibike


Aug 11 2011

Art Camp

tiedye

Thanks to art camp this week, I won’t be able to pick Devil Baby out of a crowd at the State Fair. Wow. Is that ever a look. Girlfriend is feeling it, though. Sheesh.


Aug 10 2011

Lake Harriet Love

tubesYou all know how much I love the little lake down the street. We’ve been in, around and on this lake virtually every day this week. Saint James and Supergirl fish almost daily, wiling away hours at a time, coming home with tall tales and triumphant grins. The other day Supergirl hooked a two and a half foot muskie with dark spotted green skin and “shark eyes”. She said her arms were shaking and her knees were knocking before the beast snapped the line and got away. Needless to say, my scared little fishergirl came home more than a little pumped. The two of them don’t even keep count of the sunnies and pumpkin seeds anymore. They’re in it for the big ones now.

We’ve taken dips in the morning, at sunset and in the night. Every time I do, I can’t help myself from swimming out past the bouys and flipping on my back – a watery heart opener to the sky. The water feels so silky compared to pool water – sorry, even with a occasional caress from a fresh water weed, I so prefer lakes.

We’ve listened to music at the Bandshell twice, plopping down on the grass next to our bikes while the kids run around in the dusky night. Saint James practices juggling a soccer ball and last time he ended up in a little juggle session with a very tan hippy boy and a portly dude – both obviously soccer players in a former (or maybe not so former) life. He’s up to 127, in case you’re wondering.

But best of all this week was Supergirl’s idea that we take our meager two hour window while Devil Baby was at art camp and rent a canoe. It was sheer joy to be out in the middle of Lake Harriet with my middle child. We paddled, we idled, we chatted, we sighed. It’s just so pretty, she kept saying. Indeed. This has been a hot, fast, sometimes frustrating, sometimes wonderful summer. Out of all my moments, this is the one I will always remember. I hope she does too.loucanoe


Aug 4 2011

How to Talk to Little Girls

loufedoraIn this article over at the Huffington Post, author Lisa Bloom points out that complimenting a little girl on her looks or dress or shoes or hair is “our culture’s standard talking-to-little-girls icebreaker.” Bloom argues that this teaches a girl that the first thing you notice is her appearance and therefor that her looks are the most important thing. We are supposed to try a new approach with the girls we meet: ask, what book are you reading? What sports do you play? What do you think about global warming?

I’m not sure what to think. Putting aside the fact that the writer is slightly annoying in a self-congratulatory way (Look at how I crouched down and asked my friend’s daughter about books with a twinkle in my eye and taught her a valuable lesson about her self worth!), it is an interesting proposition. In theory, I agree that our culture puts way too much emphasis on beauty, youth, and general hotness. But for some reason I’m finding myself trying really hard to sidestep this. I want to argue with Lisa Bloom and I don’t know why.

For starters, it’s a physical fact that we do notice someone’s looks first. The first thing you see, is what you see. Right? Perhaps, with girls, we just feel more free to say what we think. Little girls are adorable or funky or gorgeously tomboyish and I think most of us just let it fly. Not so with the boys. I can’t tell you how many times I see one of Saint James’ friends looking especially cute, but I squash the urge to say anything because I don’t want the kid to melt in embarrassment. Hell, there’s one in my backyard right now. He looks like a dark version of Saint James ¬†- handsome as all get out – they would make an unbeatable duo out in the bars in a few years. But will I tell him this? No. All bets are off with the girls, though. Red cowboy boots, feathers in the hair, tutus and Chucks, jean skirts, knobby knees, curly blond chlorine hair – I mean there has to be a limit to the cuteness I’m expected to see and ignore!

Second of all, just because a physical or sartorial complement is the first thing you might say, it’s not the only thing you’ll say – it’s not the most important thing you’ll say. A greeting is a greeting – it’s an icebreaker, a bridge to more talking. Maybe I’m the superficial one, but I think we do this with grown women too. Giving or getting a complement is disarming and a way to get closer to someone. It’s not as craven as it sounds – it’s social short-hand, taking you quickly through safe terrain, until you can settle in for a deeper conversation. And it’s not always complements – if someone looks stressed or sad, well, you aren’t going to notice her cute boots, you’re going to ask how she’s doing. Aren’t we just passing on a bit of social currency to our girls, albeit inadvertently?

Toddlers-and-Tiaras_1941Lately I’ve talked to girls about fencing, Harry Potter, babysitting, and middle school. I’m sure we talked about clothes and hair too, but I can’t remember. Maybe I can be blas√© about this because my oldest girl seems impervious to the trappings of conventionally girlie things. Oddly though, Supergirl has taken a recent liking to watching Toddlers and Tiaras. I’ve put the kibosh on it, not because I fear she’ll get sucked into the pageant culture, but because I think she’s too young to be feeling superior to and disgusted by fellow Americans on TV. And maybe I’m naive, but even if Devil Baby continues on her present trajectory of a dramatic girlie girl, I cannot imagine a situation where she’s going to end up wanting a boob job at age 20. Child may like sparkly things but child is fierce.

I’m not arguing that there isn’t an issue with girls’ self-esteem and a disproportionate value placed on the exterior package by our culture. I just think pinning even a little bit of the blame on the four or five words that come after hello is convenient, simplistic and misplaced. Bloom does admit that her idea won’t “change our multibillion dollar beauty industry, reality shows that demean women, our celebrity-manic culture.” Of course it won’t. At this point, I get the sinking feeling nothing will. So we need to focus on the girls and make sure their lives are filled with books, art, sports, current events, deep friendships, healthy food and cooking and yes, consistent conversations that are challenging, complex and colorful. Also, if they take you there, a reasonable dose of fashion and pop culture mixed with a little irony, caution, humor or whatever else we’re feeling about it, isn’t going to hurt. Call me vapid, but if I see my neighbor girl with her Tiger Beat magazine, I will sit shoulder to shoulder with her and flip through with gusto.

OMG! Did you hear Justin Bieber got pulled over in Miami because the cop thought he looked too young to be driving? LOL!


Aug 1 2011

Life in a Day

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I’m excited to see this documentary. As an experiment, people were asked to submit video footage from their day on July 24, 2010. 4,500 hours of footage in 80,000 submissions from 140 nations was received. That art or truth can be distilled from that much youtube-ness, is an interesting premise. I’m a sucker for this kind of thing and I can already tell it’s going to make me all teary and goosebumpy.

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