I continue to have the honor of joining a few other mamas in a blog circle. Each month we write letters to our kiddos. When you’re finished reading mine, click here to read Kaylon’s letter. Keep reading the letters and following the links, and you’ll eventually come full circle, back here. 

Hi Kids,

This month marks the first time you kids saw Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. (Kitten, you fell asleep hard during TESB, so don’t panic that you don’t remember the story line.)  Puppy, you’ve been talking about the flicks non-stop since your first viewing and I am eating it up. I love talking Star Wars almost as much as I love talking camera gear. Though I didn’t expect we’d have to devote an entire evening to exploring what it means to be a scoundrel, and where scoundrels fit on a seven-year-old’s good-guy/bad-guy continuum.

And we stayed up late another night, coming to grips with how Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker are the same person, and whether Obi-Wan’s description of them as separate is technically a lie. Honestly, it was easier to grasp the Holy Trinity in Catholic School.

Oh, spoiler alert, by the way. ^^

I had always planned to capture on film the moment my kids learn of Luke Skywalker’s ancestry, but the preschool playground spoiled that plan for me years ago. I wish I had had the foresight to film you watching your first kissy-face scene, thought, Puppy. Remember, in TESB, when Han moves up on Leia during a secluded moment on the Millennium Falcon while they’re hiding out on a meteor*? The sexual tension so rattled you, Puppy! Daddy and I glanced over to find you with your hands smashed against your face, your mouth spasming in a kind of rictus of anguish. Were you enticed by the kissy-kissy, or grossed out? Probably both.

Though we took several weekend trips this month (camping in Deception Pass, family reunion of sorts in Aberdeen, Memorial Day weekend at Hood Canal), the highlight of the month, for me, was our afternoon canoe along the Mercer Slough. That canoe has taken us to such beautiful places; I’m grateful to your Daddy for building it each time we take it out. Plus, have you kids noted how many compliments we get on the canoe? It’s gorgeous.

There was a moment, on our most recent paddle, that sticks with me: You two were your usual bundle of chaos in the middle of the canoe. You’re always shifting and tilting, fishing and pointing, begging and quarreling… Then there was a moment of stillness. You both were munching on popcorn when Puppy observed that the scenery passing was “like watching a movie.”

Whatever it takes to get you in content in nature.

One day, during day-care pick-up, your teacher approached me with a most grave aspect, Kitten, and pulled me aside for a discrete conversation. Naturally, I thought she was going to tell me you’d been lighting other kids’ hair on fire, her demeanor was so grim. But no—you’d simply announced, on the playground earlier that day, that you didn’t want to have any babies. “It hurts,” you explained, quite reasonably.

Now, this news does sadden me. I look forward to watching you lose your shit with babies loving on my grandbabies, but it’s not like you Heil Hitler’d your teacher. I’d say she’s overreacting.

I don’t dare tell your teacher that, every night since your announcement, you’ve been quizzing me on how to not have babies. You’re not satisfied with my assurances that your concern is premature; you want to know specifics, dammit. So I told you about “medicines” that prevent you from having babies until you want them.** And now you ask me, daily, where to get the medicine, and whether I have the medicine, and can you take the medicine now.

I want to be matter-of-fact in my answers, but I nevertheless slipped in a plug for having babies. “You know what I would do with your babies? I would love on them just like I love on you. I’d just swaddle ‘em up and gobble ‘em down!” And you oh so thoughtfully agreed that you would have babies, so long as I carry them in my tummy.

Deal.

 

I don’t know why the things that stick with me stick with me. There was an episode of The Jetsons about a hundred years ago, wherein the teenage daughter has a crush on a rock star, and she submits song lyrics to a contest to win a date with the star. Only, her father replaces her lyrics submission with a page ripped out of his son’s secret cipher. Naturally, the rock star loves the cipher, and he writes a song with it: Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah, That Means I Love You. The lyrics to the song stay with me, and I taught them to you two. And now, on occasion, when we’re saying good bye or good night, you’ll tell me, with a wry smile, “Eep opp ork ah ah.”

Maybe that will become our abduction-prevention code word.

This month was a little tough for me. I think I slipped into a depression. I’m not sure, though, as my depressions are usually marked with paranoia (that I’m a burden, that everyone would be better off without me, that the words you’re saying don’t reflect what you’re thinking [about me]), whereas this time the predominant emotion was anger—anger that I, alone, have to carry the weight of the world. I’m still trying to figure out what’s my deal, and how to deal with my deal. I’ve got a lot of internal conflicts raging – I’m terrified of losing my job, but I resent being at my job; I need routines to keep me moored, but the obligation of keeping routines pisses me off. See? How do I live with myself?

Which of course begs the question: How does anyone live with myself?

Something’s got to change, or your Daddy is going to become a miserable person, and you’re both going to reflect back on my mothering as a shroud you couldn’t wait to lift. The problem is… I’m pretty sure the thing that has to change is the time that I spend on photography, and that scares me. Because I can’t help feeling sure that the less I do or think about photography, the less interested I’ll feel in living life. But I also have to acknowledge that the photography, at this moment, has become another of the obligations that’s wearing me down.

Anyway, if, by the time you’re reading this, your memory of my mothering is that of storming around, muttering angrily and occasionally snapping, just know that I don’t like it either, and I’m trying to put Mean Mommy back in her box.

The neighbors had a playdate at their house recently. The kid they had over is in your grade at your school, Puppy, but not in your class—remember? I think his name is Arlen. Arlen, incidentally, is African-American.

I regret that Arlen’s race is noteworthy—by which I mean, I regret that our community is so homogenous.

While the kids were playing in our backyard, Kitten – you observed (out loud) that Arlen’s skin is “so dark.” A ripple of fear coursed through me and I screamed (at myself, silently) DON’T FUCK UP THIS TEACHABLE MOMENT!! Your Daddy skipped over the mental fumbling and simply replied, “Yep. And what color is your skin, Kitten?” Again, the ripple of fear as I expected you’d answer “White” and confirm for me that you’re already aware of racial divides and, thus, burdened by inadvertent racist thought. But you studied your forearm and answered matter-of-factly, “Light brown.” Then you described Daddy’s skin as peach, and mine as pink. Et voila! We’re all homo sapiens and we come in a variety of colors. Phew.

But I wonder if and when we should discuss the historical antecedents for racism in our country. Other than knowing not to broach it as my mother did for me, “The slaveholders didn’t know any better,”*** I’m not sure how to navigate the topic without fucking up the teachable moment. But I better get on it before whoever spoiled Luke Skywalker’s ancestry for you does. I shudder to imagine the school-playground view of race relations.

There were enough gems this month for an installment of:

Babes, Out Of The Mouths Of

  • I only like Dora the Explorer when she stays home. –Kitten, observations from the backseat.
  • Oh look! A hummingbird. (Seconds pass…) Oh never mind; it’s just a mosquito. –Puppy, while canoeing.
  • Callepitter for “caterpillar.” – Kitten, during Insect Month at school.
  • Scub Scouts for “Cub Scouts.” – Kitten, each time Puppy has a Cub Scouts meeting.
  • Glassful for “fragile.” – Kitten, explaining that one should take care not to rip her skin, as it’s delicate. To which Puppy observed, astutely, that “rip” should not be used in conjunction with “skin,” as it’s disquieting. I concur.

 

* Han’s behavior is deplorable and assaultive. He was undoubtedly demoted for it when they got back to base. Just FYI.

**Also, don’t vote Republican.

***Yes they did, Mom.

 

 

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I continue to have the honor of joining a few other mamas in a blog circle. Each month we write letters to our kiddos. When you’re finished reading mine, click here to read Kaylon’s letter. Keep reading the letters and following the links, and you’ll eventually come full circle, back here. 

Hey Kiddos,

Mama’s barely dragging herself to the April finish line. I’m 3000 photos in editing debt and wrestling a Mack-truck-esque cold (it’s winning). So please excuse me if, instead of the exceptionally well-crafted letters of previous months, I instead transcribe the astute and terrible clever notes from our month that I logged in my journal. (Yes, that’s what I’m always scribbling in the little teal book I carry everywhere. No, you can’t scribble in it, yourselves; get your own journals.*)

My letter to you this month is a bulleted transcription. If that disappoints you, just reflect back to April 28, 2017, when I’m writing this. It’s the date you saw Star Wars Episode IV for the first time. We fed you a TON of candy.

So, I’m absolved.

Puppy’s ever-growing Amazon wish list

You nurture your wish list like it’s an avocado plant you started from a pit. It seems you equate adding things to the list to actually buying them: “Today I got a Lego castle with a working drawbridge!” Occasionally, you’ll find something that you think Kitten might like—this happens maybe once out of every 34 toys you find for yourself. You’ll add it to her wish list, then tell her, “Kitten! I got you a giant, pink stuffy that you’re going to LOVE.” And then you’ll look at Daddy and me expectantly, waiting for us to praise your generosity.

I figure the act of adding toys to your wish list stimulates the regions of your brain associated with acquisition and pleasure—probably the same as receiving those toys for real. And if that logic holds, then perhaps those few stray seconds you give to thinking of others’ desires neurochemically replicates true generosity? Maybe it’s not a colossal waste of time?

No, sorry—I can’t spin it, Puppy. Building your wish list still counts as vacuous screen time.

Kitten’s obsession with swimming pools

A kiddo in your class had a swimming-pool birthday party this month, Kitten. You got the invitation back in March, and you’d been talking about it almost daily ever since. “Is Ishan’s party this weekend? How about this weekend? Now?”

The Sunday finally arrived and you put your swimsuit on first thing in the morning. When I saw you come downstairs in your suit, I checked my calendar to confirm the party started later in the day– which it did; at 3:00. The following week. Evidently, your persistent, effusive anticipation for the pool party eroded our internal calendars; your joy overwhelmed our senses.

Neither Daddy nor I wanted to be the one to tell you there was no pool party that day. So, we decided to chuck the teachable moment out the window and take you and Puppy to the pool.

And it was so fun! I don’t usually enjoy our time at pools. I’m always chilly, my bladder always feels uncomfortably full, and I’m always on alert for your impending deaths by drowning. This time, though, was different. We just played – all four of us together. I only checked the clock maybe twice. Good stuff.

Ishan’s party the following week was the same-old, same-old. But you had fun.

Chirping smoke detector in the middle of the night

…and my hysterical laughter as I imagined Husband’s kitchen demolition to silence it.

The offending detector was in your room, Puppy, and you slept through it while Daddy hovered over your bed, on a step stool, stabbing the detector with a screwdriver. He even dug out fresh batteries to replace the old. Most people would leave the carnage on the floor and go back to bed, but not on Daddy’s watch! He must love you.

What kills me is, you — you who won’t let a trivial hiccup go unexamined (“What did you say? Why did you hiccup? What’s does it mean?!”)– walked past the evidence of Daddy’s nocturnal demolition in your room without comment. Like it’s routine to find an upended stepstool, scattered tools, and torn battery packaging on your bedroom floor in the morning that weren’t there when you went to bed the night before. Ho-hum, my life was probably threatened last night, but WHAT IS THE MEANING OF MY LEGO BATMOBILE HAVING MOVED TWO INCHES TO THE RIGHT SINCE I LAST TOUCHED IT?!

Kitten’s obsession with her birthday

I worry you go through every moment of your day, Kitten, thinking there’s a surprise birthday party for you just around the corner. It’s not an unreasonable concern; it’s how I spent my formative years.

When you get ticked off at other kids, especially your brother, you threaten not to invite them to your birthday party. Which is in eight months.

I have no doubt you’re keeping track of the disinvited.

Days of the week underwear

Kitten, you insist that you always wear the day-of-the-week panties that correspond to the day. Sometimes, I can’t find a clean pair of today’s panties, so I lie. You’ll probably outgrow the panties before you learn to read, but I worry you’ll memorize the day-to-color combinations before then. And then I’ll have to memorize whatever false pattern I last presented to you. And it’s complicated by the fact that we have two unique sets of days-of-the-week panties.

This. This is why parenting is so damned hard.

Disneyland

We did it! We survived 13 hours at Disneyland. It was your mama’s first time there, and I was pretty anxious about the whole thing. As it turns out, that anxiety was well-founded. The second ride we went on scared the pants off Kitten, and it set the tone for all subsequent rides and attractions.

  • It was the Pinocchio ride that did you in, Kitten. It stands as proof-positive that Mr. Disney was a sick mother. I don’t remember the movie, but it evidently involved innocent creatures being whipped while crying out, “I want to go home!” Kitten, you gave the ride a rating of Poopy Diaper Butt, which is saying something, as I’ve only ever heard you declare an evil thing Poopy Diaper in the past. The addition of Butt is significant.
  • Puppy was especially eager to check out the Haunted Mansion. Despite our pathetic efforts to convince you, Kitten, that it’s the Happy Mansion, you were downright pissed that we took you in there.
  • Daddy and Henry wanted to check out the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. You would have none of it, Kitten, but Daddy still tried. He showed you videos others had posted of the ride: “Look, there’s just a quick moment of terrifying darkness, and then it’s fun!” You stuck out your lower lip and shook your head. Finally, after Daddy suggested pirates are just cuddly teddy bears who’ve been misunderstood, you shouted, “My brain tells me ‘No! No! No!'” So you and I waited for Daddy and Henry in the Pirates of the Caribbean gift shop.
  • We took you to meet Darth Vader. I’m not sure why we thought that was a good idea. It helped that Vader saw the terror in your eyes, and took pity on you. He focused his attentions on Puppy, who demonstrated that, in the face of absolute corruption, he will acquiesce immediately. I’ll bet you would’ve at least kicked Vader in the ankles, Kitten.
  • As fatigue settled in, your Daddy lost his mind and suggested we all go on the Star Wars ride. You were too tired to protest, Kitten, so we went– and you did fine. It was actually pretty fun, except I was so worried you were gonna puke, I didn’t really pay attention to the ride.
  • The only attraction you enjoyed, Kitten, was It’s a Small World. You asked to go on it again. I was so thrilled to hear your happy voice, I would have gone on it a hundred more times with you. I would have risked my sanity like that. Because I’m a Martyr Mom.
  • On the drive back to our rental house that evening, Daddy and I counted up the small wins: We didn’t have to buy any water bottles, and neither kid was sunburned.
  • The next day, when I told you we’re spending the day at the beach, Kitten, you asked, “Will there be any bad guys?” I’m so sorry. I’m not sure why we torture our kids like we do. Tradition? I’ll ask Grandpapa…

Other San Diego observations

  • We visited San Diego once before– two years ago– and stayed in a house along the same bay where we stayed this visit. Since we stayed in a different house this time, you’ve determined that it’s also a different San Diego we visited this time, Kitten. Now, whenever you tell stories about our recent trip, you also take a moment to clarify that THIS San Diego had such-and-such attraction, whereas the OTHER San Diego didn’t.
  • There were three beds in your San Diego bedroom, but you both elected to share the top bunk. Our first night there, you both crashed, hard. But our second night you were both so giggly. I stood outside your door, listening to you counting (the seconds until I came back to check on you) and making up new words with “butt” in them, then exploding in laughter. My favorite moment of April.
  • Daddy and I periodically contemplate moving our lives to San Diego– surely they need attorneys and librarian-business-analyst-photographer-wannabes, right? What ultimately decided it for us (against moving) was what it would do to you kids. We feared you’d end up among those feral beach kids we see down there– with sun-bleached hair knotted in dreadlocks from too much sand and saltwater, and wearing shell necklaces and anklets. It’s the shell jewelry that really sinks it for us; we just can’t be a party to that kind of upbringing.
  • It was chilly most of the evenings we were in San Diego, but it warmed up enough on our last night to really enjoy the beach right outside our door. It’s awesome how you kids take to the beach– each of you lost in sand castles and shell collecting… At one point, Puppy, you had to pee, but didn’t want to interrupt your play. Daddy said to go in the ocean, and the joy on your face was better than telling you we’re going to Disneyland. “Really?!” So you marched out into the ocean and, standing maybe knee-deep in the water, prepared to drop trou. “No, no, no!” Daddy and I shouted. I can’t begin to untangle for you why it’s okay to pee in the ocean, but it’s not okay to be obvious about it.**
  • Kitten says Juicy Fruit gum smells like throw up.

Nuthin’ to see here, folks. Just move along…

*I’m reminded of a story my dear friend and mentor, Margaret, told me about the time her son (who was maybe six or seven at the time) asked for a journal. Margaret was delighted. “A journal! Of course you can have a journal! Let’s go to the stationery store right now and pick out a journal. I’m thrilled to give you journal.” Of course, she had misunderstood, and it was actually a gerbil he wanted. I believe he got it.

**But it’s okay to write about it in a blog post?

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