Inquiring Minds.

27 Aug

I am now over here & here.

Quietude.

29 Jul

AB's Dream Garden

There has been a sense of quiet that has settled in my life since I last posted. My anxieties over school, work and raising Annabelle simply settled. There was a bit of a chaos that descended on us at the end of last year.  But once it was gone, everything just suddenly seemed so simple.  I used to crave complexity. I wanted things to be messy and involved. I wanted to feel. I now find that to be quite naive.  Now, I just want to keep it simple.  Simply for AB.

Our twosome is quite lovely. We are happy. Down the road, we might be open to an addition, but for right now it’s just me and the kid. And that is okay. It is actually kind of perfect.

Just a few of the simple AB-related things that bring me joy:

  • She randomly kisses my wrist as we walk down shady tree-lined streets holding hands.
  • She is plotting out the garden that she will one day plant for her grandmother.
  • She respects my skills enough to allow me to be her assistant for said garden.
  • She has decided that Frida Kahlo is her favorite artist.
  • She thinks that Tom Hanks name is Joe Fox.
  • She calls Jeep Wranglers “Gilmore Girl cars” and insists that is the only car for us.
  • She loves Harry Potter almost as much as I do.

Yesterday she told me, “You are my favorite person in the whole world.” I was relieved to find the feeling was mutual.

Schooling While Mothering.

13 Nov

I never dreaded returning to school. I never longed for the summer to be eternal. I was always very excited. New clothes, new supplies, new classes. The sweetness of the promise that this could be The Year.

AB was promoted to the next level of classes and she has been over the moon because now she is with the Big Kids. I’m jealous of her eagerness. The eagerness to learn, to do something new, to play. Her inquisitive nature has grown exponentially. She wants to know why things are they way they are. Why leaves are on the ground, why the moon is in the sky, why there is a fence around the grass, why that woman’s hair is pink…why, why, why? I do pretty well at first, but there is always another “why” waiting for me, so I eventually I must concede, “Well, I’m not really sure.” I have yet to reach the point of exasperation with all these whys because I find it fascinating.

All this leads me caused me to reevaluate my approach to law school as this past year was quite haphazard. I fluctuated between approaching it like a job then trying to be like the other students and it just plain did not work. I was left exhausted and frustrated. However, I did learn some valuable lessons that I’ve been able to implement this year which have made for a much smoother ride on this road called Schooling While Mothering.

1. Plan as if your life depended on it (because frankly, it does). Others may see you as anal or foolish, but your sanity depends on your life running like a well-oiled machine. Plus, if you have a routine down, then life’s hiccups (i.e. sick kid) will be much more manageable.

2. Carve out quality time for you just and the kiddo. I find that dinnertime and bedtime are the easiest ones during the week. While the weekend is precious study time make sure to set aside a few hours on Saturday and Sunday to take kiddo to the park, zoo or library. I mean, how often does kiddo get to hang out with you while the sun it out? It’s more quality time and it gets them tuckered out enough for their naps which gives you more productive study time…or procrastination time in which you veg out because you have managed to tucker yourself out as well.

3. Get up early and go to bed late. Acknowledge that coffee is your drug of choice and forever will be until you kids are at least 30 years old. I have come to believe that as long as there is a being in the world who calls you “Mom” or any variation of it, you will never get any rest.

4. Incorporate kiddo into study time at least once a week. There will be times when you just have to get some work down around the kiddo. To prevent pulling one’s hair out from all the interruptions, set up kiddo with some sort of activity and impress upon them the importance of that activity (i.e. ask them to draw the best dinosaur then can or fill the paper with as many squares as they can.) This will get you at least a good 10 to 15 minutes of uninterrupted studying.

5. Make time for you and take one night off a week. Turn off your brain. Watch or read something that requires as little thought as possible. Guilty pleasure it up to your heart’s content. Yes, that means go ahead and read/watch Twilight (even though you know you are to daggone old and the writing/acting is far from impressive) and eat that entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream (even though it way too expensive and totally unhealthy).

Bottom line: It’s only mothering…it’s not like your running a country or anything. (At least that’s what I keep telling myself.)

Do Not Eat.

15 Jul

Yesterday, I had settled into my seat on the train with my book prepared for a good 40 minute ride. At the next stop a pleasant yet dishelved looking woman got on and sat down beside me. Once the train started moving again, she squirted various fruity smelling santizers and lotions into her hand which she slathered on herself. I was slightly annoyed by the overpowering smell, but I got over it.

But then…

She pulled out a crinkly Starbucks bag, plunged her hand into its depths and pulled out a large bulbous muffin of some variety.  She then proceeded to consume said muffin, chomping noisly as crumbs tumbled down the front of her dress into her voluminous bag.  This was repeated over and over and over until finally the muffin had disappeared and she noisly crumpled the bag  and stuffed it into her bag.  Then she decided that she needed something from the bottomless pit of a bag. Objects and papers were pulled out and put back in only for a different set of objects and papers to be removed and then placed back in the bag. Finally she pulled out her iPhone and a water bottle. This whole rigmarole took a good 30 minutes. Basically the majority of my ride.

We have all done annoying things on the train at one point or another. If you travel on the train frequently enough, it is bound to happen. However, there are just certain rules of train etiquette that should not be broken. Eating on the train is one of them. I believe that this rule should be enforced not because people inevitably spill things or fail to pick up after themselves. It should be enforced simply because it is an affront to the senses. Either the person is incredibly noisy (whether it be the paper bag, wrapper or just noisy chewing), or the smell of the food fills the entire car (even if the food smells good, there is a reason that no one has successfully marketed the fragrance of burger) or the person is a disgusting eater (food should be chewed in closed mouths, people, and don’t bite off more than you can chew).

I mean, I get it. You’re a busy person and your hungry. You’re a multitasker. Why not travel and eat at the same time? I understand. However, understanding this practice does not mean that I have to like it or accept it.  But, alas there is nothing that I can do about it. Am I about to give up my seat because my seatmate is chowing down? Um, no. But I will give the occasional dirty look. Who knows, perhaps this stealth mission of shaming each offender  that crosses my path one dirty look at a time will bring down the Train Eaters.

Good Cop + Bad Cop = Me.

13 Jul

The kid sure knows how to pull at the heart strings.

“I love you! I want you! I want yooooou!”

Granted these nuggets of undying devotion only come out with such passion when she is on a time out. When she sees that I am unswayed and not returning to her room, she turns on me.

There is a period of time where all I hear from her room are sorrow-filled ululations which quickly turn into cries for family members who cannot hear her. I am sure that if she had a clear concept of God and the heavens she would be appealing to them as well.

“I don’t like you! I want Grandma! Grandmaaaaaaa! Grandpaaaaa! I want Uncle Briiiiiii! Aunt TTTTTTTTTT!”

But alas no one come to her rescue. Her cries simmer down to whimpers and sniffles which then settle into silence. A few moments later she will either emerge with tear-streaked cheeks, shuffle over to me and fling herself headfirst into my lap whispering a muffled “Sorry…” or I will peek my head into her room and find her asleep in bed surrounded by her stuffed animals with her blanket pulled up to her chin.

Whatever the outcome, I always feel a sense of triumph. “Haha, I win! You cannot beat me, little one. I am the adult here. Ha and ha!”

But here is the problem. I feel this every single time my discipline works. I can talk a mean game and I can carry it out too, but I am always surprised when it works. Perhaps it is because there is always the moment when in the midst of it, I want to give up. Thrown in the towel. Say, “Fine, have the daggone piece of candy!” or “Fine, wear your swimsuit and rainboots and nothing else to school. Who cares that it’s snowing outside!” But I don’t and that is usually when she turns the corner.

Multiple times a week I feel like we are acting out this scene from Kramer v. Kramer.

Ted Kramer: [while Billy brings ice cream to the table] You go right back and put that right back until you finish your dinner… I’m warning you, you take one bite out of that and you are in big trouble. Don’t… Hey! Don’t you dare… Don’t you DARE do that. You hear me? Hold it right there! You put that ice cream in your mouth and you are in very, very, VERY big trouble. Don’t you dare go anywhere beyond that… Put it down right now. I am not going to say it again. I am NOT going to say it AGAIN.
[Billy eats ice cream]
Billy Kramer: [Ted picks him up] Ow! You’re hurting me!
Ted Kramer: OW! Don’t you kick me!
Billy Kramer: I hate you!
Ted Kramer: You’re no bargain either, pal! You are a spoiled, rotten little brat and I’ll tell you right now…
Billy Kramer: I hate you!
Ted Kramer: And I hate you back, you little shit!
Billy Kramer: I want my mommy!
Ted Kramer: I’m all you got.

And I feel horribly. How can you feel that way about your own child? But I do. Well, I don’t hate her. But I very strongly disliker her during those moments. Those are the moments when I wish I could just drop her on her father’s doorstep and say, “Here you deal with her because I can’t.” And I imagine that you can probably do that in a marriage. Leave that kid with the other parent and drive off into the sunset for a little while and return when a cooler head has prevailed. But I can’t do that.

So sometimes, I give myself a time out. I lock myself in the bathroom, turn on the shower as hot as it will go and give myself a stern talking to or say all the things that I wish I could say, but cannot because she’s only three and a half for gosh sakes. Once the mirror has steamed up, I have usually deflated all my own hot air and am okay enought to open the door.

Where is AB during my time out, you ask? On the other side of the door vacillating between crying for me to come out and asking if I’m okay and if I accidently locked myself in the bathroom. When I emerge she is always quite happy to see me and willing to talk about what went wrong. She will give me a run through of the prior ten minutes, “Annabelle threw the books and Froggie and Mommy said to pick them up and Annabelle said NO! and was put on time out and then Mommy locked herself in the bathroom by axident.”

Suffice it to say, while I have gotten much better at discipline over the past year, I am by no means a master. While it is clear that AB does not hold a grudge (with me anyway), I know that she is in no way being scarred by me being a consistent disciplinarian or, dare I say, a mean mom at times. I just wish that I didn’t feel like such a baby about it myself. Hurt feelings have no place in motherhood, right? Kids are always going to say things that they don’t mean. Heck, I constantly say things that I don’t mean in my bathroom time-out rants. I feel like I am on an emotional roller coaster though. I go from sadness that she is so upset, then frustration that she thought she could get away with it, then anger that she thinks that I am so horrible that she requires some sort of stealth rescue mission, then relief when it is over which is quickly followed by the dread that it is inevitably going to happen again.

I need to grow a thicker skin. Pronto.

The Name Game.

30 Jun

I took AB to the Taste of Chicago this past Sunday. We ate overpriced cheesecake and “Chicago-style” hot dogs, but had a good time nonetheless. I realized as we were walking were about to walk into the mass of Taste of Chicagoers that this excursion could be disastrous. A friend had told me of her son getting lost in Target and then I thought of when I got lost in a Home Depot and wound up holding the hand of a stranger who I thought was my father. (My dad has conveniently forgotten this event, suggesting that I dreamed it. Incredible jedi mind tricks is what I call that. I am not ashamed to say that I use it on AB as well. I learned from the best.)

What if AB got lost?! So, we stepped to the side and I did a quick Safety101, which I realize in hindsight would not have worked at all, but I needed the assurance.

“You need to hold hands with Mommy at all times, okay? But just in case, what’s your name?”

“Annabelle R____!”

“Awesome. And what is my name?”

“Mommy.”

“Riiiight. But Mommy also has another name. Mommy’s name is Tiffany Hayes.”

“You’re not Stephanie Hanes. You’re Mommy, silly.”

After about 5 minutes she got it and we went on our way. I pointed out what the policemen looked like and that she should find one of them if she got lost. She nodded like she got it, but I know she didn’t. Thankfully, she held my hand the entire time. I think that the crowd scared her into behaving.

Last night we were having our quiet reading time on the couch, (me- Lincoln by Gore Vidal, her- a stack of Arthur books from the series by Marc Brown). Apropos of nothing, she looked over at me and said, “What’s your name again?”

Ruh-roh.

“Mommy.”

“No, your other name.”

“Um, Tiffany Hayes.”

“Tiffany Hayes, can I please have some milk?”

Egad. After an incredibly inept explanation that she only needs to use my other name if she cannot find me when we are out, she seemed satisfied and reverted back to her various forms of “Mom” depending on her wants, needs and moods.

But my name resurfaced right before she fell asleep. We were into our third bedtime book when she closed it and said, “I’m going to take a nap.”

Alrighty, then. Rarely, does “night-night” happen so smoothly. I was about to celebrate with some ice cream and more SVU, when she stopped me.

“Hey! Lay down.” Damn. It turns out that this “I’m going to take a nap” was code for, “I’m going to turn my back on you and close my eyes but you still have to lay next to me because it is your motherly duty.” So, I laid down.

She turned to face me and pressed her nose against mine. “We are best friends. Tiffany Hayes and Annabelle are best friends.”

Tiffany Hayes’ heart in that moment = completely melted.

In the Absence of Kinks.

18 Jun
AB’s  hair is chestnut brown with streaks of auburn that only show up when in the right amount of light. Her curls are loose yet defined. They are the curls that the kinks of my hair long to be. Her hair can be brushed into subtle waves. When wet it will spring back into its natural curl but longer.  Thankfully, she will never experience the burn of the hot comb, curling iron or relaxer. I live vicariously through her and let it lie as she flips it back out of her face with a grown up flair that it is apparently inherent in those with blessed with long hair. My mother worries that AB will become vain about her hair, while I worry that I will become (have already become) vain about her hair.
While pregnant, I wondered incessantly about what she would look like. What would her coloring be? Would she have her father’s blue eyes and my kinky ‘fro? Would she be a beautiful mix of the two of us, or would the concoction of the two of us come out all wrong, uneven, a sign of our failed relationship?
I gave birth to white baby with straight hair and big brown eyes. I deconstructed her parts into mine and his until she was no longer a baby but simply another belonging to be divided. I got the eyes, the nose, the smile. He got the ears, the eyelashes, the feet, the build. We split the hair – the curls from me, the texture (or lack thereof) from him. Her complexion has darkened thanks to sun and age; however she is still, and forever shall remain, darker than him but lighter than me.
Despite finding these elements of me in her, I still fail to see the resemblance. But then, I think about how I don’t think that I really look like either of my parents. There are no “spitting images” in my family. There are glimpses and fragments that  appear and disappear. Wispy ghosts of resemblances.
This hair gives her anonymity. I like that she can slide through cultures with an ease that I cannot. She has been mistaken for a Latina (Dominican, Spanish, Mexican, you name it), an Indian (her surname, apparently, is quite common in India), and a Native American (“Oh, she’s got that Cherokee blood, right?”).
This mixture of African, Irish and Italian has given her a worldwide hue. I imagine her with her long multiracial hair tied up in a knot at the nape of her neck, backpack filled to the brim, notebook and pen in one hand and a camera in the other, traveling the world. I imagine that I have presented her with a key that will allow her to traverse this globe and be accepted by all. I picture her slipping in and out of cultural identities as she currently slips in and out of imaginary worlds from Sesame Street with Bert and Ernie to Priscilla’s Pink Planet.
She is the physical manifestion of what I wanted to experience in my youth. There is no pressure upon her to be black. There is no pressure on her to be white. She can be a chameleon and choose whatever she wants to be. This is my unintentional gift to her. This freedom that stems from the absence of kinks.