Nothing more obvious

sunflower

“There would seem to be nothing

more obvious, more tangible and palpable than the present moment. 

And yet, it eludes us completely. 

All of the sadness of life lies in that fact.”  

~Milan Kundera  

 

 

The Resistance

The boys go to daycare twice a week. They get to socialize, pick up new germs, and begin to learn how to conform in a play society of pre-schoolers and toddlers which is ruled by 18 year-old girls/classroom teachers. Most, if not all, of my piddly paycheck goes to pay for this opportunity which also gives me a break, even if the break is spent working.  

I do not ask much out of the staff, aside from how was the boys’ day and do they need another set of play clothes or diapers/wipes? In return, the staff only shares the essentials, such as, “Yes they had a good day. They had a nap and a bowel movement.” Or “No, they did not have a good day. There was an incident and….” Fill in the blank with any number of ways that a toddler can fall off a table or collide with another child that results in blood shed and head injuries.

I did not complain when the front office staff changed over seven times in the past ten months, or when the teachers mysteriously disappeared to be replaced by the latest female crew from America’s Most Wanted. When the center shut down for two weeks due to Covid, and then for another two weeks, I patiently waited for things to return to normal. As the boys have been sick every other week from what I suspect is a lack of sanitizing, again, I expressed understanding for the Daycare Experience and let it go.

However, when I received a group email from the director that parents were spending too much time talking to staff, my head exploded in a puff of electric purple. Effective immediately, all concerns and communication needed to be routed through the front desk to be relayed to the classroom teachers to reduce the distractions for the teachers and the delay in drop off and pick-ups.

Regardless of my anger, I decided to respect their request and dropped the boys off without the usual few words to check-in about the weekend, changes in health or having the right weather-related clothes. Baby Brother was greeted by his usual sweet, smiling teacher who took him into the room in her arms. The problem was the fresh set of adult faces in Little Legs’ classroom who appeared already exhausted and overrun by the whirling dervishes.

One woman approached Little Legs and said, “What’s your name?”

Little Legs shook his head and backed up towards the door, refusing to give up his identity.

“Come on little boy, show me where your cubicle is,” she requested.

I popped back in and said, “This is Little Legs,” struggling to control the tight pulling of irritation in my face and chest.

From there I marched down the hall to the front desk where I would like to say I eloquently expressed my concerns and desire for change. Instead, it is no exaggeration to write that I lost my sh*t about the dangers in limiting communication between parents and classroom teachers in addition to constantly changing staff.

The director stepped out of her office and apologized for the misunderstanding and that the email was meant for the parents who were spending half an hour talking to the classroom teachers.   

“You can talk to them for 15 minutes if you want,” she said graciously.  

“Thanks, but no thanks, I just need a few minutes.”

I left feeling drained and surprised at the power of my own emotions. I am ready for the next daycare showdown. My voice is my weapon, even though my throat is starting to get suspiciously sore.

I am Mama, hear me roar. Sort of.

Savage Life

The boys are in the kitchen eating cereal and toast. Carbs with carbs, just the way I was raised. Baby Brother is standing on a two-tier stool to reach the counter and Little Legs is perched dangerously on a backless bar stool.

Usually, we eat at the table, but the Wildings surrounded me and demanded breakfast before I could think straight enough to get them to properly sit and patiently wait. The thought of the boys being proper and/or patient is a bit of a joke. I had to throw gummy fruit snacks down the hallway to distract them long enough to make a dash for the toaster.    

Little Legs hops down from his stool to retrieve a Matchbox car that is essential to his breakfast process. And during his brief absence, the dog takes the opportunity to grab the unguarded toast in her mouth and swallows it with one gulp.  

There is no hesitation, chewing or remorse involved. Carpe Diem, Seize the Toast.

Little Legs turns around as the slightly burned, mostly uneaten bread disappears whole, like a mouse down the throat of a snake. Little Legs throws his hands up in the air and screams the worst insult he can muster with the limited vocabulary of a three-year-old.

“You a toast eater! You a bad dog, you toast eater!”

It is a dog-eat-toast life here in Tennessee.

Savages, all around.

Old Shoes

Little Legs raced out into the snow, his shoes disappearing into white with each step. Baby Brother followed closely behind. Neither able to travel very quickly with the winter version of quicksand pulling at their feet.

It took no fewer than twenty minutes and a near mental breakdown to assemble the coats and hats, socks and pants, sweats and sweatshirts, wrestle each boy down, and pull the layers onto their various appendages. At one point, Baby Brother pulled his socks and shoes back off, while I fasted the Velcro straps of Little Legs’ shoes.

I stood up and said, “Fine, I will leave without both of you.”

They knew I meant business as Little Legs hurried to pull on his coat and Baby Brother held his head against my legs and said, “Shoes?”

“This is your last chance to cooperate.”

“What is cooperate?” Little Legs asked.

“It means we work together.”

“Ok, we work together,” he said.

Suddenly, I realized we were not working together. I was just cramming their heads into hats and fingers into gloves. I was not giving them a chance to help. Going outside to play in the snow was on my agenda, not theirs. They would much rather prefer to stay in the warm house and race dinosaur cars. Me too, for that matter, but we needed fresh air, and I, as their fearless leader, would show them the way.  

“Let’s do this again, together.”

“Together,” Little Legs said with a hug around my shoulders. (Like seriously, how sweet?)

“Shoes,” Baby Brother said in agreement.

The Painter

“Brother, what happened in here?” Little Legs asked.

I heard the concern in his tinny voice as I let the dog outside. An urgent need to lay eyes on the scene and the siblings overwhelmed my senses.   

Forget about the dog, I thought, as I ran through the house. I made it to the room just in time for Little Legs to repeat his question, mirroring my thoughts as I surveyed the situation.  

“What happened in here?”

An artist had clearly been at work. He used just one color and painted everything, including himself, with it. Baby Brother was now a brown boy living in a brown world.

He looked up at me with big, wide, innocent eyes and said, “Poop.”

“I see,” I said.

To further emphasize, he reached around and placed a hand in his diaper.

“Poop,” he said.

“Yes, now I really see.”

I struggled to hold down the creeping vomit long enough to remove the boy from his crib for a handoff to Daddy Longlegs in the shower. Baby Brother splashed in the water and knocked over bottles of shampoo and conditioner while the clear water turned brown and then clear, again.

Mama Said

As soon as the boys woke up and peeked out the window, they wanted to go outside. Overnight, their Tennessee world of greens and browns transformed into a brilliant white that demanded exploration.  

“Wow,” the boys said in unison with their mouths and noses pressed against the glass.  

It was the exact thing that I said when I woke up, minus the drooling at the window. Clearly, the novelty of the first winter snow does not wear off, whether one has seen it three or thirty-five times.  

Little Legs raced around, gathering things to take outside.  

Within a few minutes, he was prepared. There were three Matchbox cars, all of which he was to later lose in the snow, two mismatched shoes and one bright-green fisherman’s hat.

He said, “Let’s go outside. Ready, set, go.”

As though turning a trip outside into a race has ever worked to speed up a slow-poke, I thought. Then I realized he used my let’s-turn-things-we-don’t-want-to-do-into-a-game technique against me. The boy-sponge was absorbing too much.

I stared at him for a minute trying to remember when he changed from a toddler into a boy, a real boy. Someone who likes to stand up when he pees and eats cereal out the box and hugs his brother when he cries.  

Meanwhile, Baby Brother plopped down in front of the door, requested a “baabaanan” (banana, obviously) and waited to be clothed for the outing.

“Wait just a minute, little boys. We need to eat breakfast,” I said.

It was 7:30am. I glanced at the outdoor thermometer and shivered, 32 degrees was cold, even for someone with Hoosier blood.

“After breakfast, we can bundle up and go outside.”

They accepted the plan, perhaps encouraged by the early morning rumblings of their tumblies. Baby Brother grabbed his toast, smashed it into a ball and returned to wait by the door. Little Legs chugged a glass of milk, took one bite of oatmeal and declared, “We ready.”

“It’s going to be cold. You both need to wear layers, coats and gloves,” I said.

“What’s layers?” Little Legs asked.

“Wait and see,” I said.

I pulled shirt over shirt onto both boys and zipped them up into sweatshirts and double sweatpants and socks. I separated out the coats, gloves and hats into big and little and the pirates decided that they had waited long enough. They mutinied.

“We want out. We want out,” the ambassador for all small boys in the house shouted.  

Baby Brother cried and pulled at his sweatshirt.  

“We don’t want gloves or coats, we want out,” Little Legs said.

They took to pounding on the door and screaming like they had lost their minds, one feeding off the other. I tried to grab Baby Brother to put a glove on his hand and he turned into a jellyfish in my arms and squirmed away. Little Legs kicked and twisted when I tried to work his arm into the sleeve of his coat.

“Fine, let’s try it your way and see what happens,” I said.  

They laughed in delight at their victory and ran outside and after the second armful scoop of snow started to melt in his hands, Baby Brother cried as it stung his skin.

“It is too cold for us. We want back in. We need coats and gloves.” Little Legs said.

“Interesting,” I said.

Well-Nourished

As I waited the standard two hours to be seen by the doctor for five minutes, I perused the office note from last year’s visit.

“Patient is well-appearing and nourished,” he wrote.

At first, my brain turned the words into vegetable soup and I thought he wrote that I appeared well-nourished as in too much flesh on my bones. Instantly, I felt offended. I keep my weight under a much tighter control than he maintains the wait in his office.

Then I read it again and my blood pressure dropped a few points. The words rearranged themselves and I became thoughtful about what it means to be nourished beyond the dictionary limitation of food and other substances necessary for growth, health and good condition.

Eating the right foods and drinking the right liquids are just a part of being nourished. Too much red meat and my stomach seizes up, too much booze and I can’t sleep through the night, but in the right quantities, life is rich and satisfying.

Likewise, reading fills me up and writing empties me out, sometimes vice versa, However it works, maintaining balance is key to remaining mentally and emotionally healthy. Yet, even with the most careful rationing of my time and energy, I still find myself pulled into a book, right now it is Half of a Yellow Sun, or obsessed with writing a story and temporarily check out. Thank God for my husband who picks up my slack, among the many other things he does, like making a birthday cake for Little Legs complete with a tractor with chocolate mud tracks in a field of green grass.

Expressing gratitude, exercising, spending time in nature and of course, as any reader of this blog is aware, watching my boys grow fills my heart and nourishes my soul.

I guess the doctor’s assessment was right, I am well-nourished, in mind, body and soul and its by more than food or things. I have a great life with an amazing spouse and the best little boys. For 2022, I want to be present for all of it, to live and love more deeply, worry less and let go of old hang-ups.

Wishing everyone out there a happy and healthy New Year and encouraging your reflection on nourishment.

Nice to meet you, Neighbor.

Two blonde heads bobbed up and down in a cherry red, Power-Wheels Jeep. The driver was Little Legs and his passenger was Baby Brother, who appeared quite content at being driven through the yard, happily bouncing next to his best friend.

A black dog orbited around them, her range getting wider and wider with each pass, until she appeared next to the beehive. Her nose led her along the ground. She sniffed each side of the box and was in the process of sniffing the small opening when I waved my arms to get her attention and yelled.

“Get back, Coco!”  

The warning came a second too late. One of the guard bees found her and gave her warning sting on her rump. She raced off with the fur raised along her spine, she yipped and rolled in the leaves and yipped more.

Then she went straight for the road, temporarily insane from the sting and pulled forward as though by a powerful magnet.

“Stay here, boys. Do not come any closer.”

The jeep boys stood up to do their part.

In unison, they chanted, “Come back, Coco. Come back.”

She did not listen. Rather, she ran faster.

Meanwhile, a big, white truck barreled down the narrow, country road.

I screamed for Coco to stop and to come to sit and stay and every other command she might have picked up over the past year to no avail.

I clomped after her in a pair of slip-on clogs that were one size too big and threatened to roll with each little rock and twig.

Over the road and through the neighbor’s yard and back over the road she ran blindly.

A woman walking her two, well-behaved dogs pulled off to the side of the road to watch with anticipatory horror of what was about to happen.

When much to my surprise, the truck slowed to a crawl and pulled off the road. The door opened and a man in jeans and a ball cap that seemed like a halo stepped out.

He crouched down and the dog ran right into his outstretched arms.   

“Thank you,” I said closing in on the wild animal.

I gushed about the bee sting and the failure of the invisible fence and the boys in their jeep. He patted the dog on the head and shrugged his shoulders in a no-big-deal kind of way like he didn’t just save the day.

“No problem. Nice to meet you, Neighbor.”  

11 Cents

Little Legs sat on the couch in full cartoon-zombieboy-mode. His eyes were transfixed on a big, red dog that galloped across the screen. And although Little Legs didn’t have any Goldfish or animal crackers, he flipped something back and forth with his tongue. A flash of silver caught my eye.

“What is in your mouth, Little Legs?”

He extended his tongue to reveal a shiny dime which he then retracted like a lizard that had just caught a fly.  

“Show me again,” I said.

At first, he shook his head.

“Please,” I asked.

He grinned and stuck his red tongue out with the dime still perfectly balanced at the end of it. With the lightening bolt speed of maternal reflex, I grabbed the dime before he swallowed it, accidentally or not.

“My dime,” he said with a whine.

He held his hand out expecting the return of his treasure.

This time, I shook my head in refusal.

“Do you have any more change?” I asked.

“What’s change?” Little Legs asked.  

“Change is what you just had in your mouth. Do you have any other coins?”

I had to work fast to find out if we needed a metal detector or a trip to the ER.

“Just a penny,” he said with a laugh.

“Where is it now?”

“I swallowed it,” he said.  

“Did you really?”

“No, I was just joking,” he said.

“That’s not a very funny joke. I thought you swallowed a penny.”

“I did,” he said.

“Did you really?”  

“No,” he said.

“Where did you get the penny from?”

“From Da-da,” he said.  

Of course, I thought. The coins came from the same place as his sense of humor, his father.

Daddy Longlegs.

Trying to Leave

“See you tomorrow,” the boy yelled and ran out the door to meet his father. The boy wore sweats, a long sleeve tee-shirt and a florescent green fisherman’s hat that he was rarely seen without due to its dual powers of providing invisibility and being waterproof.

The guys were headed off on an adventure and Baby Brother was already loaded up in the car. Little did the boys know, the “adventure” was only a trip to the grocery store and a pass through the car wash.

The boy’s mother yelled after him, “I’ll see you later today.”

Her word crystalized in the air and disappeared like snowflakes on a warm nose; she was heard only by the dog who wiggled and wagged her tail, delighted at the attention. The animal was a black lab mixed with an Australian shepherd, a perfect blend of intelligence and energy… for another family… the woman always said when describing the dog.

“I’ll be back in just a few hours,” the woman muttered to herself.

The dog sat next to her and looked up with big, hungry eyes that begged for a snack.

“Let’s go to your kennel and I will be back to get you out in a bit.”

The dog sighed as the woman dragged and pushed and pulled her to the kennel; her furry legs locked in passive resistance as she stubbornly refused to cooperate with her imprisonment.

Winded and a little sore, the woman stood up and stretched.

Spying an upturned dump-truck, a rubbery blue popper and a wooden ball, she gathered up the toys and delivered them to the toy room or the-room-formerly-known-as-the-living-room. A bottle of water and a discarded pair of socks on the ground caught her eye, and she swooped in on them with a hawklike speed precision. They were her prey, destined to escape and return to the wild of the house in a short matter of time.

The ticking of the clock reminded the woman, she had to leave; the dishes, the laundry, the trash, the catbox, it all would have to wait. And it would wait.

 Mama had places to go.

Tell me another story

“Tell me another story,” Little Legs said.

Grandpa yawned in a way that could have been mistaken for a growl.

“Ok, just one more,” Grandpa agreed, “And that’s it.”

Little Legs laughed, neither agreeing nor disagreeing to the terms.

“When I was a little boy, my brother and I were playing in the woods,” he began.

“Like me and Baby Brother,” Little Legs interjected.

Grandpa nodded, “Yes, just like you and your brother.”

“We were playing when we noticed that we weren’t alone. Something white was watching us from a pile of leaves. It twitched its nose and sniffed at the ground to see if we smelled safe.”

“Like this?” Little Legs wiggled his nose back and forth.

“Just like that,” he continued with a nod.

“At first, we thought it was a rat and then we decided it was a new type of cat. The woods-cat had shiny black eyes and a pink nose and sharp, white teeth. We noticed the teeth right away because it hissed at us.”

“Like this?” Little Legs gave his best hiss as observed from his temperamental cat at home.

“Exactly,” Grandpa said.

“We thought maybe the woods-cat was hungry, so we pooled our snacks together and found we had a piece of cheese, two carrot sticks, three pieces of celery and a handful of crackers.”

“You had cheese in your pocket?” Little Legs asked. “Do you have any cheese now?”

“Do you want to hear this story or not?” Grandpa asked.

Little Legs nodded and snuggled down with his pillow, ready to listen.

“We broke off pieces of carrot and tossed it to the cat and that’s when we saw it didn’t have paws, it had fingers. Well, we were mighty curious about this critter and decided to bring it home with us. Slowly but surely, we brought her along, every few steps throwing a piece of celery or a carrot to keep her right behind us. By the time we could see the front porch, that little critter was practically at our heels.

My brother ran ahead and opened the door and I pulled out the last cracker to get the woods-cat up the steps when your great-granny, my momma, ran out.

She screamed with a broom in her hands, “Watch out, there’s a possum behind you.”

She was ready to go to battle for us with the creature from the woods.

I said, ‘Don’t worry, Momma, that’s not a possum. It’s our pet.’ And we brought it right inside.”  

Little Legs blinked hard, fighting sleep, and said, “What’s a possum? One more story?”

“It was our pet. That’s it, now go to bed.”

Grandpa flicked off the light with a snap like the closing of a heavy book and walked into the living room.

“Did you really have a pet possum? And Granny let it inside? How long did you have it? What did Grandpa have to say about it?” I asked, wondering how much more I didn’t know about this man.

Grandpa laughed, “No dummy, it’s just a story.”

“Ok, how about one more,” I picked up where Little Legs left off.

“Please?”