Saturday, November 27, 2010

Reading, Writing & Time Travel

As a kid, the most looked-forward-to event in my young world was always our next trip to the library.  I devoured books.  The feeling of walking into the warm, well-lit library from a dark & cold Alaskan winter day was nearly a religious experience for me.  The hushed tones, reverence for the written word & ability to be uplifted, as some people find in their churches, I found at the local public library.  I loved exploring the neatly organized aisles, in search of new & undiscovered adventures.  Nancy Drew, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Edward Eager, anything by Judy Blume... I even sampled a few more advanced tomes at a young age... reading The Great Gatsby at age eleven & Catcher in the Rye around twelve.  (I may have missed some of the finer nuances of course, but totally "got" the concept of outsiders wanting "in" in their own ways.)  Returning home with a stack of yet-to-be-read books, I was like a young lion on the Savannah coming upon a herd of sleeping elk... um, or whatever it is that lions eat... circling my prey... deciding which should be digested first.  That is the voracity of my appetite for books & the written word.  Setting off to unexplored worlds of magic & truth & possibility, as necessary as taking in breath.

Even now, with the advent blogs & online journals, I find I have a similar appetite for reading.  Though it is now done between loads of laundry & refereeing squabbles between two little boys.  Writers online send out these messages, lovingly placed in their little bottles & set adrift in the sea of technology.  Not knowing for sure who will receive our words.  I see this personal writing as messages to our future selves, a bit of time travel in a way.  I once spent an entire afternoon at my Aunt's house reading letters that my Great Grandfather had written over the years to my Great Grandmother.  Letters from near (they lived in the same town) and far (when he was away during WWI)... his beautiful script often hard to decipher.  How better can one learn about who our ancestors really were?  Relying on the memories of others gives only a fraction of the whole person.  Reading their own words & thoughts & perspectives is such an amazing gift.  How else could I ever have known that my Great Grandma had very small & cute ears?  Or that my Great Grandpa loved her long before she would ever give him the time of day?  Though I suppose one could argue that our own accounts make us the least reliable narrators... taking it all with a big grain of salt... knowing that what we choose to write is not always the full story.

My own personal inspiration for a return to writing has come from a re-discovery of Natalie Goldberg, along with blogs by Kelle Hampton & Nici Holt Cline, showing me the beauty & importance of putting down the words & documenting this incredible thing called life.  I find myself simultaneously nostalgic for an era of "real" letter-writing, and grateful for the convenience and immediacy of Facebook & email.  The Luddite side of me wishing these words were a bit less disposable, leaving breadcrumbs for future generations.  These days I have far less time for personal reading or writing, but I take it where I can find it.  Usually in short snippets of thought - both reading & writing blog entries is about the same length of time my two monkeys can play alone, or watch an episode of Caillou or Dora, before losing interest & turning to mischief or violence.  I have a stack of "can't wait to read" books next to my bed... "The Help" is at the top of the pile, followed closely by the latest from Jeannette Walls & the manual for my Canon 50d.  They call out to me nightly as I tumble into bed, exhausted from the day.

This love of the written word for both pleasure & purpose is something I hope to pass along to my two boys.  We have books everywhere in our house, literally everywhere thanks to Quinn's love of moving large stacks of them from room to room.  We make our weekly treks to the local library - checking out books at random - wandering aisles, judging by covers & finding treasures along the way.  As for writing, am hoping my own little bottle-clad messages eventually wash up upon welcoming shores.  That future generations will know who we were.  That I have small, cute ears & loved my husband before he even knew my name.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Home Sweet Warehouse

Although we dream of far open spaces & hope to have a little piece of earth to call our own someday, where we live now is pretty freakin' cool.  Most often described as "funky", our cozy little warehouse is a minimalist's worst nightmare.  Call it an occupational hazard, but falling in love with cool old stuff is a weakness both husband & I share.  The few times we have contemplated moving to a regular house, the reality of "but where in the world would we put all our stuff?" sets in & we once again appreciate all of the interior space we occupy. 

Historically an old military base, now inhabited mostly with artists, we are surrounded by industry of all kinds.  For our business, the artisanal talents our neighborhood provides is incredible.  From upholstery to metal-smithing, wood-work, glass, painters... there is pretty much someone in our hood who expertly knows how to fix whatever we need.

What we lack in yard & green-spaces, the town makes up for in the number of different parks to choose from.  We make almost daily treks to run & climb & play whenever the weather cooperates.

 Around the hood... I love finding bits of color & green alive amongst the industrial...

An added benefit of living among artists?  Even the graffiti is top-notch.

Sunset from our front stoop... these are the original photos... no editing or enhancements.

And on those rainy days... puddle walks provide the fun...

 Someday we will have our own bit of land...

The truth is, I think I could call a cardboard box in Zimbabwe home as long as these three guys were with me.

 Feeling Thank-full...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Some Days

Getting out the door with two kids in the morning often feels like I am wading upstream in chest deep water as a band of wild monkeys pelt me with random objects, attempting to thwart my forward progress.

Some days no matter how early I get up, or how organized I think I am, there is some unforeseen treat around the corner, waiting to spring until my keys are in hand & the herding attempts have begun.  Usually it is something minor... a potty request, a missing shoe or my own procrastinating nature rearing it's ugly head.

But some days...

... some days it seems everything conspires to keep us from being on time for our destination.

On a recent school-day morning, after successfully wrestling dressing Quinn, I rounded the corner with clothes in hand, looking for Remy.  And this is what I found...

The little stinker found our previous night's art activity, these cool large-handled stamps & ink-pads in blue & green, which I mistakenly thought were safely stowed high up & out of reach, and decided he didn't need no stinkin' paper.... his body would be a marvelous canvas.
On the time-out bench... wondering why Mommy is laughing & crying at the same time...
Proud of his beautiful art project...
Time out is no fun.

This is what happens when I try to unload the dishwasher...

Or do a load of laundry...
For those of you who have been to my house & know that the living room often looks like this, you need to know that just 5 minutes before it was all put-away, the floor ready for vacuuming.

I am never bored.

Emergency baths & shake-down pickup sessions before company comes are regular events around here.  At least most everything in my life is washable.

But if I am ever late to meet you... please know it was not out of disrespect or poor planning... it was probably those little wild monkeys up to no good.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chemistry & Connection

I have never been a great student of actual science.  With the exception of one teacher in high school, who did things like bring in video clips of David Letterman in an alka-seltzer suit to explain the chemical reactions, or gave us mystery compounds to mix & heat up on our pint-size Bunsen burners that ended up being cake (thank you Ms. Stephens, that is my kind of learning!), for the most part I have never really "gotten" physical science.  But, oh, the not-so-scientific world of human chemistry... of connection... now that, I get.

In my dating years I knew it well... that feeling of instant connection, of familiarity.  How conversation would just flow & there was that unexplainable spark of recognition.  You couldn't force it, or expect it... it had to take you by surprise.  The rules of chemistry apply to new friends or colleagues as well... those times where you fall into an easy groove right off the bat.  Even over this crazy world wide web there are some people I just seem to click with... without ever meeting face to face you just "get" each other.  How does that work?  When you don't have the physical, animal, clues to rely on?  This one I can't explain, but I know it to be true.

And as I write this I realize that, for me, it works the same with places & objects too... walking into an apartment or house & just "knowing" that it is right.  Or how in our line of work there are occasionally pieces that speak to us... objects we know are meant to pass though our hands.  (I often joke that the reason I am an antiques dealer is that I am really just trying to get all my stuff back from past lives.)  So many areas of my life are guided by gut reactions, by intuition.

On the flip side of course are the times when you might really like  someone, but just don't seem to ever mesh.  Where no matter how much you try, you just can't seem to get in-sync, like bicycle gears that keep slipping out of whack, preventing forward movement. 

I used to feel this way about motherhood as well.  The "loving-my-kids" part was easy... for me the struggle was learning to adjust to a new identity, a new community.  Somewhere between the contractions starting & walking out of the hospital with a new human, my internal intuitive compass abandoned me.  I thought that somehow everyone else just "got" motherhood instantly, but I was an outsider, like a bleary-eyed-milk-producing Margaret Mead thrust into a new culture.  Finding myself in a place where I felt like I was always two steps behind in a dance that everyone else seemed to know by heart.

The truth is, of course, that everyone feels like that at some point... when you start a new job, move to a new place or have any kind of life change... you feel lost until you find your tribe, your peeps, your place in a larger whole.  Feeling that connection to something outside your own self is what makes being alive exciting.  Whether it is friends & family, the earth, god, community, or heck, in a pinch, even facebook... it is that need for connection that drives us, the sense of belonging that fulfills us.

In the interest of connections to a larger community, one of the groups we belong to with Quinn is called Buddy Play.   Their goal is, "to promote natural interaction and learning between kids with special needs and their typical peers."  They host different activities & playgroups twice a month and we try to make it whenever we can.  Recently Quinn & I visited a small neighborhood farm and made some new friends.

Percy the pig...
And a funny little goat that LOVED having her picture taken.
Quinn and his favorite boots.  Previously known as fireman boots, they are now called his "farm boots"

He passed right by the chickens, turkeys & ducks... familiar fare from Camp Grandma... and made a beeline for the larger animals.

Feeding the sheep & goats was a highlight... he was a bit scared at first, but soon got the hang of it.
Norman the cow, king of his domain.

Another favorite for Quinn was the wheel-barrow.  Forget expensive toys, this kid loves gardening tools.

When it was time to go, little mister got some big attitude...something we are seeing more these days.

As a mother I still have absolutely no idea what I am doing most of the time, but time & practice sure do help.  If there were a merit badge for motherhood I think it comes after years of late night wakings, wiping noses, eyes, bottoms, being barfed on, or reading Goodnight Moon for the 5,049th time, plus a million other things I haven't even gotten to yet.  These days when I bump up against unfamiliar ground, I turn to other moms, the internet & my own, newly-rediscovered instincts to figure out what to do (or not do).  At this rate I should be a practically perfect mother by the time my boys reach adulthood & no longer need me in the same ways.  Living & learning...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Art of Play

When we first decided to become parents I had a whole list of things in my mind that I worried about.  Things I needed to learn, or buy, or figure out what I believed so I could teach another human. The act of "play", or learning how to play, was never on that list. Since I had once been a kid I assumed it would just come naturally.  But here we are 4-1/2 years into this adventure and the concept of playtime is very much at the top of that list. Whether it is teaching how to play with other kids, at the park or at school, or refereeing play between the two boys, or just figuring out how to balance all that needs to get done each day with making sure my two monkeys get enough playtime.... play is a big deal around here.

I will never forget our first meeting with Quinn's Early Interventionist.  We had done our paperwork, met with the supervisor, and were so anxious to get to the "work" of helping Quinn be the best Quinn he could be.  It had taken what felt like a very long time before we were assigned our person & even longer before schedules could be sorted out to make that meeting happen.  We were so eager to be able to do something for Quinn, not realizing that the helplessness we felt had less to do with his Down Syndrome and more to do with the overwhelming responsibility of being new parents.

So on our first meeting, armed with our lists of questions & filled with expectations, we learned that our EI was there to teach us how to play with our son.  Just play.  And enjoy.  And get to know him.  In hindsight, with a few more notches on my parental belt, it all makes perfect sense.  But at the time, we kept thinking we should be doing more... even though our little guy was only a few weeks(!) old.  Looking back now I can see how those early days helped to lay out our foundation of balancing our own expectations and hopes with what is best for our son.  Yep, really not all that different than parenting any kid.

One of the things I am really enjoying with Remy right now is watching his huge imagination blossom.  Whether it is the wild animals in the living room, eating his morning toast into the shape of a monster, or his creative answers when asked, "what did you do today?"... the kid has mad skills in this department.  I can already see how this is helping bring Quinn along as well.  A couple months ago when I was taking Quinn to school he started walking with a big stomp stomp stomp to his step.  I asked him what he was doing & he roared at me.  Ah, I thought, he is being a dinosaur!  We had been reading How Dinosaurs Go to School with the boys & he, obviously, had taken it to heart!  Had to wipe away some happy tears as I deposited him with the teachers that day.

This was the first year that both boys were excited about Halloween.  Remy couldn't decide between being a cowboy, a monkey or a pirate... I had visions of having to graft all three into some kind of pirate-monkey-rodeo rider hybrid... but in the end he was a cowboy for his school parade & a monkey the next day for trick or treating.  Quinn chose his fire-fighter outfit & I think his favorite part of the whole deal was getting to wear his rain boots inside.

An eager cowboy, ready for school.

 Quinn & I waited outside school for Remy's class parade...
Looking like such a big boy these days...

Remy, the very-excited-cowboy, leads the class parade.

The very next day...
Quinn the fire-fighter.  (Thank you Aubrey for one of the only shots with him wearing his hat!!)
Little brother, the monkey, waits for big brother's class parade...
 And gets very excited to see him!

Singing "Five Little Pumpkins" with his classmates... he knew all the moves.

And of course, Remy didn't want to miss out on the action.
 Halloween night was a balmy, starry, gorgeous evening... we decided spur-of-the-moment to go up the street to trick-or-treat.

I think this was Remy's favorite part... the kid loves him some candy.  Quinn's favorite part was when the people answered the door, he went inside.  Couldn't quite figure out why we didn't go in as well... since we rang the bell, they answered & going inside was what usually came next.
Silly kid.
But we did get to see inside some beautiful houses.
Keepin' it play-full...

We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.--George Bernard Shaw