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    dental touches

    Dear Zelda,

    Tonight while nursing you, before you signaled that you were ready to sleep by unlatching and looking for Papa (who slings you to dreamland as he does the dishes), I was finger-combing your hair. It's getting longer. Long enough to "do." This makes me very happy. Anyway, I was finger-combing your hair while you nursed, and when I stopped, and rested my hand on your little belly, you reached down. You grabbed my hand and brought it back to your head, making me pet you with your fat fingers tight around mine, puppeteering. Looking at me, satisfied, you stopped nursing to say, with a sleepy smile, "den-tal." Gentle. Yes.



    thrifty sunday: be happy

    The past couple of weeks have been especially fruitful, thriftwise. I've replenished George's dwindling shirt supply (his torso is lengthening at an alarming rate!) and Zelda's dwindling leggings supply (her thighs are expanding at an adorable rate!), and even found a dress for myself, pleasantly reminiscent of a suzani and good for spring which is when you might see it. Right now I need sleeves. But the best thing I found while perusing the Goodwill was a renewed faith in humanity. Aww, gross! But seriously.

    As I stood in line to pay, I watched a tall man in ill-fitting, worn clothes wheel around a child I guessed to be two in a tiny, tattered umbrella stroller. The boy was asleep: slumped over as far as one could slump -- head nearly resting in his own lap -- and unbuckled, as I'm sure the straps were too small to fit around his body let alone the bulky winter coat he wore. The dad went outside to look at the strollers on display next to the rack of bikes for sale, and an employee rushed out to ask accusatorily, "Can I help you??" as though the guy could realistically take off with two strollers, one of which barely held his sleeping child. The father shook his head and came back inside where he poked around for another few minutes. A woman in line at another register left her place to retrieve the stroller the dad had been looking at -- reclining, with a large sun shade, a cup holder and nicely padded seat -- and she and I walked out with our purchases a few yards behind the father, who left empty handed. 

    She jogged over to him with the stroller and called out, "Excuse me!" As I put my bags in my car, I heard her say, "I've seen you guys waiting for the bus. It's so hard to afford everything." 

    "Holy shit!" the man said. "Are you serious?" She walked off quickly to her car, giving a wave, and, grinning, he wheeled both strollers to the curb for transfer. As he picked his son up out of the old stroller, he began crying, yelling "Thank you!" and waving to the woman as she drove away. He left the old stroller in the place where the new one had sat, for sale, and he and the still-sleeping boy headed for the bus stop. 

    Only one thing seems fitting to post after that. A sign for the entry way, $2.99.



    I am not an astronaut and other failings

    A question I heard on the radio today struck me: would your six year old self like you? I hope that in my case the answer is yes, but what I really got to thinking about was if my adult self would live up to the expectations of my childhood. And that answer is, unequivocally, no.

    Many girls, whether because of social constructs or through their own choosing, dream of and plan to have children when they're still kids, themselves, but I wasn't one of those. I didn't fashion wedding gowns from my mom's cast-off dresses and I didn't imagine myself caring for babies. Once, while walking to my mom's car with her after a school function, she remarked to one of my ten year-old classmates that the baby on the girl's hip -- her own little sister -- was positioned just right, and I remember the eye roll of annoyed pity I shot in her direction. I just won the science fair, but have fun with that baby. 

    You could attribute my disdain for motherhood (because, let's be honest, that's what it was) to any number of things: the fact that the feminism of the time wasn't particularly supportive of mothers (and my exposure to it WHICH I DO NOT REGRET FOR ONE MOMENT through my own mom), my disappointment in the way women were pigeonholed into the role whether they wanted to be or not. But the biggest reason was probably the fact that I had little faith in my own ability to rise above my family of origin and the world around me to turn out happy, functional people of my own making. 

    Now, that sounds really depressing, especially coming from a then-ten year old, I know. It was depressing. I was a depressed kid, situationally, chemically, but my line of thinking also felt plainly realistic. I believed what others told me -- that everyone was just doing his or her best -- and I assumed that anger, cruelty, addiction, apathy and all the other trappings of dysfunctional families were just some people's natural states, and the matter couldn't be helped. The best I could do was take the phone off at the root, so to speak. If others just did the same, I thought, we'd certainly have less unhappiness to deal with.

    In my late teens and early twenties I adopted as reasons for childlessness the issues of overpopulation and environmental responsibility. Having kids was just irresponsible, I railed. I've heard it over and over and over since then, said by young women not (in any substantial ways) unlike I was at twenty to my face while I held a baby in my womb, in my arms, as my only child turned into two. They don't mean harm, and I don't take offense. I've thought the same thing, and don't totally disagree with them, in any case. 

    I don't mean that they're necessarily going to see the folly in their thinking; plenty of people choose not to have kids for exactly those reasons, justifiably, and stick contentedly to their choice. But I don't guess I'm the only one who looked for more socially acceptable, more enlightened, less pathetic-sounding reasons for childlessness than I'm afraid of myself and the world around me. 

    Obviously, at some point, I changed my tune, since I have two children. I never stopped questioning my own desire to have kids (and this is the reason why I try to limit our consumption and live consciously), but I did stop questioning my own ability to grow. Because I don't consider myself a naturally nurturing person, I researched. I researched my ass off, and continue to. I read a lot about child development so I know how to adjust my expectations. So I can forgive myself the time I embarrassed my dad in a restaurant and received a spanking despite my behavior being normal, expected, and incidentally out of character for a child like I was, who had been manipulated into "behaving" because I believed my parents' love to be contingent on my doing so. I contracted with my kids that I would learn everything I could so that I could be the mama they deserve.
    I also stopped telling myself I was doing the best I could. My therapist argued about this for years, literally, but I think this practice can serve as one big crutch to lean on when our pasts loom so large that we feel bent under their weight. Even though I knew that I would fuck up, I birthed these little creatures, and despite fucking up all the time, I keep trying. Yelling is not my best. Manipulation is not my best. Bribing is not my best. I will own up to feeling the tsk-tsk of my conscience when I resort to bad mothering, and ignoring it. I admit that I think, sometimes, I just want you to ___! What will it take? And it's in those moments that I am willfully not doing my best. It pains me to say so; one of the traits I adopted when my family made it obvious that my brain mattered more than my feelings was precision. Correctness. I hate being wrong, and yet. I am, many, many times a day, because I'm a parent. Because I'm human, and we're wrong. A lot. This is not something that ever was presented to me as a possibility, let alone a universal truth. 
    Even though I'm wrong like a million times an hour, I'd like to think that the six year old me, and the ten year old me would be impressed that I've taken the initiative to learn. They'd look at my empirical data, they'd look at my bookshelf and be satisfied that I may not be an astronaut but I am using my brain. In fact, I might be using my brain in a way more beneficial than they teach at space camp. They might like to hang out with me. They might think I was a loser, but guaranteed they'd think I was a nice, respectful one. 




    It was George's birthday, it was Zelda's birthday. We had parties. I was going to write things about them, but everything I started to say was uninteresting. My kids had birthday parties like pretty much every other kid has at some point in their lives. 

    (I love this picture for many reasons but one of those is that Autumn is just cruisin' the internet)

    And the bowler:

    (his favors)


    thrifty sunday: hot fudge

    Winter means extra expenses around here. Wood for the fire. Early sunset, early lamplight. Space heaters. Old houses have some great aspects (character, nice floors, weird nooks and crannies, history) and some truly terrible ones (drafty windows, knob and tube wiring, secret fuse boxes we have yet to find). We pile on the blankets and put on socks (though I am loathe to do so -- socks are the worst punishment for living in the cold North, by my estimation) but it still costs money to keep warm and illuminated through the 14+ hour long nights, these months. That means no or very little fun money, and whatever, really, because the holidays have just passed and we are generally unfit for public consumption, anyway. The visibly ill make others so uncomfortable despite all the well rehearsed wing-coughing-into, even when conventional wisdom and WedMD say we aren't contagious. 

    Two things from the other day, when I got ambitious. 

    Clothing brands, especially kids' clothes, from the 70s and 80s are so funny sometimes. Hot Fudge? Okay, sure. Mister Persnickety liked the aprés ski vibe and I did too, so we bought it for $2.99

    There he is posing with the bottle of Elderberry syrup that has done us no good, because this cold is apparently karmic retribution for everything we've ever done wrong in our lives and homeopathic medicine is not the traditional cure for that, I guess.

    Ikea doll bed, $4.99. Zelda, baby enthusiast that she is, immediately put her babies, Donna, Gob and Huzzah, to bed and then tried to get in with them. There is very little in this world funnier or cuter than a one year-old trying to cram herself between the head and footboards of a doll bed so that she may lie with her babies. For Valentine's Day I made her a blanket, but I also kind of like the glamping aspect of the bare wood/play silk situation. 

    Value Village is having their yearly Presidents' Day sale tomorrow, so maybe there are some bargains in store (literally)! Have you scored recently?