Friday, May 14, 2010

Gosh, I Love That Kid.

This year is the first year Drake is old enough for Tee Ball. Tee Ball, in case you're of a non-athletic persuasion (like me), is an intro to baseball for little kids. They get to hit the ball off a tee instead of having someone pitch to them. In our town, the kids have to be 5 before they can begin playing. I know this because my Dad and brother are very into Little League, have been for years (my brother is a coach and my Dad is the freakin' President of Little League), and they have been counting the years until Drake is old enough to play.

Unfortunately for them, neither my husband and I are very sports-oriented... I can't really speak for my husband's athletic ability since, you know, we don't really play sports, but I can tell you that when athleticism was handed out, I was one of the last in line. I'm somewhat uncoordinated, I'm slow, I'm not all that great with hand-eye coordination or with learning to move my body in new and interesting ways. I'm much more suited to cerebral tasks (like writing, or sitting at a desk and dicking around on facebook).

Case in point: I was out the other night with my friends Red and Sarah. We had dinner and then we decided it was such a beautiful night, we were going to go to the beach. The Chicago police, however, generally frown upon nighttime strolls on the public beaches, and as such we had to be sneaky about it. Stealth-like. We park near the beach and head out on foot, keeping an eye peeled for the po-po. Down the beach a stretch, we see a van that may or may not be an Official Vehicle. "Let's run!" one of them whispers, and they take off towards the nearest bit of shadow. The two of them bound effortlessly across the sand like nimble gazelles, their lithe bodies and long legs made for the task. I heave myself into action but quickly fall to the back of the pack, the sickly one, sides heaving, body jiggling with effort, sand sucking at my feet, trying to drag me to the ground. They wait for me in the shadows. "It's the shoes," I gasp out as I join them, thinking my sandals are hindering my progress. "OK! Let's run to the next one!" they say. They take off; sandals now in hand, barefoot, I follow. The sand sucks ever more insistently at my feet and I wobble around, faltering, the beached manatee. I haven't made it two steps and they're halfway down the beach, making it Look Easy. Eventually I join them and we stand on the glorious shore, under the full moon, taking in the night. After a few minutes Red asks, somewhat dreamily, "have you guys ever successfully run away from someone that's chasing you?"
Did you not even SEE me back there?? (Luckily, I've never been SERIOUSLY chased.)

Watching my son play baseball is like watching me run on the beach. It's painfully obvious that he inherited my athletic 'ability'. The difference between me and my son is that he operates under a blissful delusion, one in which he is The Best At Everything. It's kind of awesome to have a totally confident kid, and I know that one day the world will knock him off his pedestal so I'm certainly in no hurry to do it. Let him keep thinking he is Totally Awesome for as long as humanly possible.

What I DON'T like is that he doesn't take it seriously at all. I DO want him to have fun, but I want him to listen to his coaches and at least pay attention and be a little disciplined about it, and he's terrible at that part. He doesn't follow directions, he plays around, he wanders off, he bothers the other kids... THAT is the part that is cringe-worthy to me. I don't care if he's athletically talented or not; what matters is that he goes out, has a good time, tries new things. He's got a LOT of talents; baseball doesn't have to be one of them. But listening skills and teamwork and obeying when you should be obeying, those ARE important.

When their team shirts came in, his coach offered him a choice. "Which one do you want, Drake? 2, 8, or 11?" "Two!" Drake shouted. Later in the car, he starts telling me "I'm number two because I'm the SECOND BEST PLAYER on our team!"
"No, Drake, that's not what it means. Your number isn't a ranking of who is the best and who is the worst; your number is just an identifier. That's why your coach let you PICK. If they were going to order you by who is best, they would have tested you guys at running, and throwing, and batting, and stuff like that. They didn't do that."
"Besides, if they DID rank you, you wouldn't be number two. Do you know why? Because teamwork and listening are VERY important out there, and you haven't been doing a very good job of either. In order to play your best game, you have to listen to your coaches, you have to pay attention to the game and to your teammates, you have to follow the rules of the game, and you have to PRACTICE, and STOP bothering the other kids on your team. You'll never be the best if you can't do those things. And you know what? You may never BE the best, and that's OK because there can only be one person who is the BEST at anything; being the BEST isn't what's important. What's important is that you do YOUR best, and that's all anyone can ask of you. But you can't do your best if you don't listen."
"OK. But I'm still the second best on the team!"
I shake my head.
"Drake, what do you think Uncle Matt and Grandpa would say if they saw you at practice, goofing off and bothering the other kids and not listening the way you do?"
Drake considers this question for a moment, thoughtfully. He answers, "They'd say, 'GOSH, I love that kid!'"

Drake's first official game was last Saturday. And of course after about two weeks of sunny days in the seventies, the day of his first game is grey and in the forties. My dad said he would have cancelled the games if it wasn't opening day, and if all the kids weren't looking forward to them so much; he was afraid he'd get lynched if he did. And indeed, the kids WERE excited. Running around without a care in the world, thrilled to be out there for their first games. The parents and siblings, less excited. Those of us that actually showed UP huddled together for warmth in our portable chairs, inadequately dressed, cramming on all the extra outerwear we could find in our cars (good thing the kids' costume box was still in my car from when we shot that movie!), huddling under blankets.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a mixup on the times; we were told to be there at 9AM for practice, and that the game would start at 10AM. We show up at 9AM and there's no one there. We sit in the car for a while. Eventually about 9:30 we see some people on the other side of the park so we drive over there. A few kids and the coach are there. The kids run around while the coaches set up the 'fields' and get things together. Eventually it's determined that practice actually starts at 10, and the game starts at 10:30. By the time they figured this out, it's 9:45; we've already set our chairs and everything up outside by the field, we're all freezing, the kids have been running around for a good twenty minutes and are now starting to get chilly. And it's 15 minutes until practice even starts, and another 45 until the game starts. Off to a great start!

By the time the game starts, the kids are good and cold. The sun breaks out of the clouds for a little while, and it helps a bit, but if it ever got over 50 degrees that day, I'm a monkey's uncle.

Grandma putting Drake's jersey on over both jacket AND sweatshirt.

Our team is up to bat first, and since my son is number two, he goes second. Most of the kids, even with several weeks of practice under their belts, are still deep in the throes of "I have NO idea how to play this damn game". My son is no exception.

But batting, and running the bases (watching them all run in was a real treat; at some point we ended up with three kids on third base at the same time, and watching them all run pell-mell towards home base, arms and legs akimbo, was hilarious), that's a thrill. Sitting on the side waiting your turn, NOT so much.

Especially when it's freezing and windy. Eventually the teams switch and Drake's team takes the field. Where do they send Drake? Left field.

My son, ever so dedicated to his craft (as I'm sure you gathered from the earlier section of this post), is cold.



He's been outside for a LOOOOONG time and ...

aw, fuck this. Just fuck it.

He's cold, he's tired, he's miserable, and he is DONE WITH THIS NOISE.

Grandma attempts to give him a pep talk.

And by 'pep talk', I mean, snuggle him in a blanket. Then it's Auntie Denise's turn.

You can't hear it over the sounds of Uncle Matt's outrage (especially when some other kid actually HITS the ball INTO left field, the very position Drake just abandoned, lol), but Aunt Denise's pep talk involved bribery. $5 if he stuck out the entire game.

Unfortunately, it was around this time that OJ and I had to leave. We had scheduled a counseling session that morning and because of all the time mixups earlier with the game's start time, we couldn't stay for the whole thing. The kids went home with my parents, and I am told that Drake DID finish out the game... though at one point he brought a blanket out there with him and was rolling around on the ground in it.

My son has a great career in baseball ahead of him, I can feel it. GOSH, I love that kid.

Why, What God Do YOU Worship?

Scene: We're in the car, heading towards Drake's school, passing a local church.
Drake: "First Baptist Church... what's a Baptist?"
Me: "Baptist is a type of religion."
Drake: "What's a religion?"
Me: "A religion is a group of people that come together because they have the same beliefs... the same faith. They share a set of beliefs and values and come together to worship, to pray."
Silence from the backseat.
Me: "You know how we've talked about God? Most religions center around God. There are a lot of religions, and each of them has their own 'rules' about God, they all believe in a slightly different version of God."
Drake: "I believe! I believe in an angel type of God!"
Me: "Oh?"
Drake: "And he has a lion's head. And the tail of an eagle."
Me: o.0 "Uh. OK. Cool!"
Drake skips off into school.
End scene.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Perfect Storm

We are having the loveliest thunderstorm right now; the first really GOOD one I think we've had down here this year. Or at least, the first one I've been awake for. Pattering rain, near-constant thunder, frequent splashes of bright lightning. Right smack in the middle of the storm. I love it. I love listening to rain and thunder, curling up in my bed and staring out the window and daydreaming. It's soothing and oh so mellow. I wish I could stay up all night and listen, but I've been battling a painful sinus infection the last couple days and though I'm not feeling tired right now (the storm is soothing yet invigorating), I KNOW it's going to be tough to get up in the morning if I stay up much longer. Especially with being sick. And tomorrow's a school day for Drake, so I really ought to be the responsible mom and get him up and out to school, shouldn't I?

The worst thing about being a parent, so far, is that no one told me that when my kids went back to school. *I* would have to relive school too, heh. Specifically, the getting up and getting TO school on time in the mornings part. I was NEVER a big fan of that. Oy. I take a very cavalier approach to schooling, I'm afraid. Not to LEARNING, mind you, but to schooling. That's a totally different post though.

These grey and rainy days of spring sure make me want to cuddle up in bed with my kids and listen to the sounds of the world outside and not leave the warmth of the blankets though.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


I know it's Mother's Day, and I apologize in advance, because I'm about to talk about and share something that no parent - no human being - really wants to think about. I was catching up on a friend's blog last night (Hope Springs Eternal) and she talked about this article. The article is... devastating, and yet it's something I feel compelled to share. I thought about posting it to Facebook last night, but my thoughts on it were longer than a simple Facebook status message would allow, and somehow sharing it on Facebook just didn't feel SERIOUS enough. So I'm sharing my thoughts here.

The Washington Post article, Fatal Distraction, can be found here. I urge you to read it before you continue reading my post. It's about parents who forget their children in the backseats of their cars, leaving them to die in the heat, and whether or not these terrible tragedies should be crimes. I warn you, the article is graphic. It's lengthy. At times I felt like it might tear me apart to read it. But it is incredibly well written, compelling, and thought provoking.


Before reading this article, I had heard news stories like this from time to time. I reacted to them much like you probably have. "How terrible." "What is WRONG with those people?" "How is that POSSIBLE?" "Those people should be locked in a car to DIE just like their children."

One of my biggest goals in life is to remain, above all else, understanding of other people. To seek to understand, and to be compassionate. This article helped me to realize that I was rushing to judgment without seeking to first be compassionate, to understand. It's hard to understand a tragedy like this; it is still difficult for me to think about this scenario and really believe I COULD forget my baby in the backseat of my car. It is difficult for me to understand how someone DOES that. You forget cell phones, wallets, sunglasses; you don't forget BABIES.
Yet the parts of the article where memory experts talk about the science behind remembering; the parts where they earnestly express that it's not even a matter of FORGETTING their children, really, but of FALSE memory - these people really and truly believe they have dropped their children off with the sitter, or at day care - send chills down my spine. Haven't you ever been utterly convinced that you did something, or said something, that it turns out later you hadn't? Have you ever left the house utterly convinced you shut the garage door, only to come home from work and find it's been open all day? Have you ever been totally sure you put your house keys in your pocket, only to find yourself locked out of the house? These things happen to us all, albeit likely on a much smaller scale.

That's as close to understanding as I am able to get, really. It's nothing like leaving a baby in the backseat of the car, and while I may not be the most religious woman on the planet, I pray to god I never, EVER get to a point in my life where I NEED to understand this. There but for the grace of god go I. I am still convinced that 'this could NEVER happen to me', if only because the alternative is too terrible to contemplate.

But what I took from this article, most of all, is that there are still times in life when I am lacking in compassion. And I believe that one of the failings of my beloved Internet is that it too often allows us to lurk in anonymity, to encounter bits of news and stories from all over the world, and to sit behind our computer screens in judgment of others. Without ever knowing the true stories. Without ever having to face these people that are in terrible pain. The internet is a great dehumanizer, and I don't believe we are the better for it in that respect.

It is rare that a story comes along that gives a true human face to tragedy. It is a rare article that serves to remind us of the necessity for compassion for our fellow human beings. These people have suffered huge, terrible losses. These people will punish themselves for the rest of their lives. Nothing any of us can do or say could possibly make things any worse; the punishments they will inflict on themselves will be more terrible than most of us can imagine.
But our attitudes, our thoughts, and our mercies MIGHT be able to make things a little better. I believe we would all be better off if we took the time to remember that the people behind these kinds of stories are people just like us, with real lives and real traumas; that but for a few slightly differing sets of circumstances, WE could be the people in these stories one day. I believe we would all be better off if we just took the time to show a little compassion, even if we cannot truly understand.

Reading this article changed me, and I believe it was for the better. On this Mother's Day, I am sending out a simple hug to all of the parents that are enduring the unendurable.

When Dreams Die

I've been avoiding writing here a lot lately because, frankly, I don't know what to say. I have a sort of diarrhea of the mouth, you see; I open it, and things come out that I never intended. This is true in my writing too (what is that, diarrhea of the fingers?). Due to the somewhat delicate nature of things in my life right now, I've been trying to avoid saying anything at all.

But writing is my life. Avoiding it feels unnatural to me. Moreover, I feel STIFLED when I don't write; things feel more and more wrong, until one day I'm crawling out of my skin for lack of expressing myself.

Writing is also a form of therapy for me. It helps me work things out, work out feelings and thoughts so I can move on with my life. Blogging helps me feel less alone. And I've not felt this alone in quite a long time. I'm at a loss. I've written five mostly-private entries in my livejournal in the last 24 hours, and yet this feeling still grows. I think my small group of friends there is largely at a loss as to what to say to me anymore. So I write here, in the hopes that maybe someone out there will understand, and maybe have some words of comfort. Or maybe in days or weeks or months to come, my words will touch one of you who is going through this, and you will feel less alone. No one should have to feel this way.

This is a blog about my life, and more than anything, a blog about my dreams. I've been married for six years; I'd always wanted to find a partner and fall in love and get married. A large number of my dreams have been built around the belief that I would have a partner in life; many of them were built after I met my husband, with a vision of us doing these things together.

When you're a dreamer, one thing you inevitably have to come to terms with is the knowledge that not all of your dreams come true. Sometimes they fall by the wayside in lieu of other, bigger, better dreams. Sometimes your priorities in life change. Sometimes they aren't as timely as they once were. And sometimes, sometimes they die in a fiery, burning, painful crash, and you are left to pick up the pieces of your life and start all over again.

My husband and I are going through a rough patch in our lives together right now. We're separating. I don't know much beyond that at this point. I can't do much but deal with the day to day right now, or it feels like I'm going insane. As this is a public forum, I don't really want to get into the details here; it's not fair to either of us, and it's not likely to be helpful. Though most of the people in our lives already know it, admitting it in public is still painful. But I'm reaching a point where NOT talking about it feels worse, and I don't want to go on avoiding my blogs, my writing, my lifelines anymore.

I am, possibly understandably, having a lot of trouble sleeping lately. I toss and I turn, I'm plagued by nightmares. I feel like I'm sleepwalking a lot while I'm awake. We're still living in the same house, just sleeping apart; we're trying to get the house packed up and fixed up to rent so we can get separate apartments in the city. I am praying this all works out, that this house will rent and rent for the amount we need, because we can't afford to sell it and neither of us can afford to stay here either. Furthermore, I WANT to get into the city, where I have a good support network and feel like I have a much better chance of moving on with my life. I try to focus on the work I need to do, and tuck the emotions away, and just tackle one task at a time.

I'm having trouble with that today. It's Mother's Day, and it's killing me this year. For a number of reasons. He asked me earlier this week if he could take me out somewhere. "You're still the mother of my children, no matter what happens between us, and I'd like that very much," he told me. I said it was OK. The closer it comes, the more I am dreading it. I know he has something planned, I have no idea what it is. He and the kids are both excited about it. I'm not. I want to spend my day with my children. I want to have a husband who wants to treat me like I'm special on Mother's Day. It's never happened before, really. We've had some 'ok' Mother's Days, and we've had some downright shitty ones. We've never had a really GOOD one. I don't know what he's planning this year, and I just feel like it's all overshadowed by the pain of the past. The more he tries right now, the more it hurts me, because none of these things seemed important to him before, back when it mattered to me. Now it just brings me pain. Mother's Day feels terrible to me this year. Worse than it ever has, possibly even worse than our first one together, which was AWFUL, though I won't get into that here. It feels terrible because being a mother means you are also a partner; also a wife. To me, Mother's Day and Father's Day are days to celebrate your PARTNER, the person you picked to be the other parent of your children, because they are special and beautiful and wonderful to you, because you can't imagine anyone else raising your children. Since our first year of marriage, I've never really and truly felt like he looked at me that way, exactly. For a few years I was certain he didn't. The last couple of years have been a bit better, but I've never fully regained my confidence in that arena.
And this year, well, I'll be with him... but really, I'm alone. I have no partner. I have no hope for being a mother AGAIN, to more children. Which brings me to the other reason this day is particularly hard for me this year:

I am mourning the loss of my next baby. Or babies. I had gotten to a point where I had decided that yes, I did indeed want to have a third baby. I was back to thinking that maybe, if health and money allowed, I wouldn't even mind trying for a fourth or a fifth again some day. That maybe five kids WAS what I wanted, just like I used to back in The Day. (You know those days, The Days before you ever had kids and you dreamt about what your ideal family would be like? And then reality hit and you realized you were fucking nuts? Yeah, Those Days.)

Maybe four or five was out of the question, but three had come to seem like a definite possibility. In a year or so. When the IUD was ready to come out, when I had my diabetes under better control, when we had a bigger house and hopefully a slightly better income. I have been dreaming about being able to have a much better pregnancy experience this time around, one where I am not a slave to someone else (an employer, I mean) and one where my husband is much more supportive and kind and loving, and I could get excited for the baby and maybe, MAYBE, even plan a REAL nursery. One where I could stay home with the baby afterwards and wouldn't have to stress about breastfeeding and having only six weeks to DO it before having to go back to an office for TWELVE HOURS A DAY, where I could take all the knowledge I've gained from having two babies already and apply it to baby number three for a much happier, crunchier, babywearing experience. (I don't say 'natural' because HELLO EPIDURAL YOU ARE STILL MY BEST FRIEND.) I was doing that thing I do so well... dreaming. I was allowing myself to indulge, privately, in a dream that was growing to epic proportions. Oh, I know I've made some noises here and there about considering wanting a third baby, in time, but I really haven't let on to ANYONE, not even my husband, exactly how large I'd let those dreams grow. How out of hand they'd gotten. I thought that as the circumstances towards the goal improved, I'd open up slowly with them. No sense in sharing TOO much when it's not a possibility right now, is there. But in my heart of hearts, this desire firmly took root and I began making plans. Lots and lots of plans. I began to dream. More than that, I began to HOPE. I began to hope that everything that was difficult the first two times around might be different this time. I EVEN began to hope that maybe, just MAYBE, this third time, maybe my mother would finally tell me "CONGRATULATIONS!" when I shared the news, instead of "OH NO!" (or other general sounds of dismay). That maybe THIS time we'd have enough money and a big enough house and the right, well, everything to make her finally just be HAPPY for me. And maybe that last little bit of the dream was too much to ask for, because I doubt she'll ever be the kind of person who DOESN'T find SOMETHING to worry about immediately, but I had even grown foolish enough to hope and dream for a loving reaction from my mother too.

And it's all a moot point now because I can't even fathom how any of this could possibly be now. My marriage is falling apart. My LIFE is falling apart. When things started to go south, so many weeks ago, this dream rolled around and around in my head for a while. When I was first thinking about whether or not we should stay together and whether or not it was right, I gave a lot of thought to finding some other man to love me, to raise my children, to have more children with. It's a thought that was difficult to fathom. I couldn't even COMPREHEND having children with another man. I don't WANT my children to have half-siblings and step-siblings. Not because it's BAD, but because I married my husband out of love, out of a desire to have children with him and only him. Because we MEANT forever when we made our vows. Because we made such beautiful, wonderful, smart, crazy-special-unique-wonderful little people already. I couldn't imagine making children like this with anyone else. My children were one of the things, early on, that gave me the strongest sense of hope for my marriage. We couldn't have made children like this together if we didn't have something good going on.

Things have obviously disintegrated over time. Some truly terrible shit has happened between us. I'm facing, now, a terrible feeling that I will never be able to trust and love this man like I did, like I wanted to, like I MEANT to. With that knowledge, and the knowledge of things that have passed between us, I am faced with a terrible grief; I can't imagine having more children with this man. I can't imagine ever getting to a point where I trust him enough to believe he will give me what I need to feel safe sharing a pregnancy with him, sharing another child with him. This feeling brings a terrible grief, more than perhaps anything else in this process has so far.

Likewise, I cannot imagine being with someone else and having children with them. My own self esteem problems prevent me from believing that I will ever find a man who really wants to be with me again; I worry that I won't be interested in the ones that might be interested in me, and I am certain that the ones I become interested in WON'T be interested in me. I literally can't fathom it, and it's largely a looks-based issue. I've let myself go terribly, and I hope that I do regain confidence as I regain a thinner, healthier body. But right now, I can't imagine being with someone else in an intimate fashion. It will take at least a year to get myself back into something resembling decent shape. Which is probably at least as long as it will take to separate and divorce, if we go that route. This is assuming I am able to keep up an exercise and healthy eating schedule on top of the stress of getting divorced and being a single mother and working who knows how many jobs to support my family.
Assuming we scale THOSE hurdles, then I have to deal with the daunting idea that not only does a future man have to be perfect for ME, he also has to be perfect for my kids. He has to be good to them and love them as a father and be a good fit for our family. I can't even... I just can't imagine this happening. I know it DOES happen, to other people, but I can't imagine it happening to us. And I won't sacrifice on this point. Anyone I date with anything resembling serious overtones MUST be an excellent fit for my children, or it isn't even a possibility in my mind.
And THEN there's the time factor... meeting someone that is a good fit for me, and THEN a good fit for my children, and dating them long enough to be sure, and getting married, and then BEING married for a while before children are even a thought, because LAST time I was pregnant before I was even married and I saw how much damage THAT did to my relationship, I am NOT doing that again; it will be years before we are anywhere near a place to have children. YEARS.

I know there is no telling what will happen in the future, and worrying about something like this might sound stupid, but it's something I am mourning nonetheless. Right now it feels like I am setting myself out on a course to grow old and die alone. I am mostly OK with that part of it, it's not what I wanted certainly, but I DO have family and friends that love me, and I DO have two beautiful children who bring me immense happiness every day. I DO have dreams that I can pursue on my own and that will bring me great fulfillment. I may never have a loving partner to truly share my life with, and that makes me sad, but I can deal with that. I AM dealing with that.

But having to give up my dream of the large family, or even the 'slightly larger' family? The dream that was slowly growing within me, every day? I am mourning that loss heavily. It's hitting me really, REALLY hard.

It feels like so many of my dreams are crumbling to dust around me, and I'm having to sift through the detritus, pull out the ones that are salvageable, and tend to them all alone.

This day is so much harder for me than I ever imagined it would be. I feel a bit like I've been sucker-punched.


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