moving too fast

today, driving to pick up jonas after school
my danish friend called
"how's the breastfeeding going?"
a considerate, compassionate question
because she knows it's been a horrible struggle with this baby
so we talked about it
she suggested this and that
normal things
but then she said that i was too stressed
that i think of my baby as a problem
that she'll grow up feeling like my problem

but i haven't been stressed lately
i've been trouble-shooting with the same persistance as i always have
and i adore my baby and think of her as easiest of all
but there's no point in defending myself
when somebody is coming at me as strongly as that
i couldn't let go of the offense

and then i drove to get jonas
and traffic was bad
i was late to pick up the kid
so i took a page out of 'lessons from taiwan taxi drivers'
and drove a shortcut down a one-way alley to the school
a woman on a scooter coming my way blocked my car
wouldn't let me pass
i tried to drive around and she blocked me again
she faked a phone call to the police
and said she didn't care about where i was going
she wouldn't budge
so i quietly backed all the way down the alley
because she's right, it's a one-way alley,
but she was mean and i'd been wrong-way down that one-way alley
many times in taxis before
and i couldn't let go of the anger

tonight, jonas just didn't like any of the right ways to do things
didn't want to take a bath
didn't want to say hello or thank you to our dinner hosts
didn't want to try the yummy dessert that we knew he'd love
it was like he was trying to go the wrong-way down a one-way alley
and i still feel frustrated at all the head-butting

this is why i want to attend to my practice again
i couldn't see where i was in the midst of it all
it happened too fast
and now i'm left with the emotional artifacts of the day
and if i were truly paying attention
it would all happen at a pace slow enough for me to rise to the occasion
and respond 
with some sense of kindness


on my mind today

i need to go to the grocery store and buy milk, butter, bread and dishwashing soap

why did the baby wake up so much last night? is she hungry? is my milk supply low again? am i going to end up weaning her early?

i've started my evening yoga practice again.
which i did in holland, and i see now is partly what made life so good there.
i still get angry and impatient, but at least now i'm noticing it.
and now i don't feel like such a bad person.
it's magical how some sort of practice actually helps in ways i didn't intend.
but in ways i need.

i'm also running again after a few months of rebuilding my stamina.
i've decided to make it into a training experience.
so it feels good to be building up to something.
currently that something is a 10k run.

i am also skype-ing with the teacher regularly now, too.
i told him about jonas' new behavior calendar
(because his behavior is making our family completely dysfunctional)
where he gets a star for every kind day he has.

the teacher suggested i make one for myself and put it next to jonas' calendar.
because i am always talking about how angry and impatient i get
and how i shout and how our family just feels like a mess right now.

the ol' strike the log from your own eye trick.

funny how i hadn't even thought about how to deal with my own behavior
whenever i got frustrated with jonas'.

i told the teacher i spend my days impatiently herding kids in and out
'shoes on, please!' and 'please hurry!' and 'please don't make me ask again!'
and he said, 'have you ever stopped to think why you are like that?
a shepherd spends his day herding, too'
i imagined a shepherd standing by while his sheep slowly made their way through a gate
understanding that this is how sheep move, understanding sheep
and i realized that i really don't have to shout and rush in order for us to get somewhere on time
i just need to understand our speed and adjust my smile accordingly


I went to high school with Mary Graham and the following poem makes me think of my Loudoun County from a long time ago, back when it was mostly grasses, dirt roads and wooden fences....

Daily Madonna

Don't forget to do your daily Madonna.
Wake up and pat your womb before the light
gets in your window; you don't know what
the day will have in store.

You could be sweeping the stairwell, unaware
all this time that discipline was discipline.
You didn't know that using turnips
would win you favor, that saving rainwater
in the barrel would make anyone happy.

Someone likes it when you take the wilted stems to the heap
and churn them in. Someone likes it when you're patient
with bumblebee-weed, when you know that purslane is purslane,
and good to eat, and even when you let the grass
grow longer than it should.

Someone saw you carry the feathers of the jay the cat killed
and lay them on the fencepost, in hopes
another bird would use them for a nest, saw you smile
before you threw the gathered walnut hulls
into the woods, instead of weeping.
in our new house, i can now sit in our office up in the trees
and gaze at the city lights through palm fronds
it's not the stinky place i used to know and love
it's so much better now, so much more light
and it smells cleaner

but i can still hear the singing garbage trucks down the alley
stray dogs calling their final words for the day

i am reading my high school friend's poetry
and also looking at photos of a place where you can go in college
and close yourself up in a cabin to read and write all semester
i went there when i was 21
both remind me of another life, the one
when there were autumns of turning leaves and compost heaps,
tea mugs warming my hands as i comfort myself with nose in books
hearing nothing but wind in trees for hours and hours
falling in love with people for a brief time,
but they were so very needed and special during that time

i always wonder...what is it that will make me remember Taiwan,
what smells, images, poetry?

to be reminded of this evening, 
i'd need the palm fronds and city lights of course,
also a clear blue sky over a mountain silhouette
whispering songs and a guitar
an itchy mosquito-bite shoulder
a painful reminder that we are made of so much more than what we show each other
the relief and loneliness of sleeping children
and nostalgia


and me, too

whenever jonas says he's going to do something, or he wants something, ada says,
"and ada, too!"

tonight i realize that i need this blog
inside me there is someone needing to speak again
tonight she is saying,
"and me, too"

so i'm back
with another baby keeping me up at night again
trying to regain my sense of calm and joy

i often think back to life in holland in 2006
with an almost disturbing frequency
and too much nostalgia

i didn't have any time back then to think or worry or complain
i just woke up, walked the dog in the forest,
dressed the kids, biked them to school, cleaned the house,
put the kids to bed, did my yoga practice, then went to sleep

but i was truly satisfied with life for the first time since my first one was born
and here i am now back in the hectic craziness of driving kids around
not seeing any of them enough
worrying about their developmental issues
worrying about the baby feeding enough or feeding right

so stressed by it all that i get this strange numbness across my forehead
at least i can be happy that the visions have stopped,
the visions of women in literature (the awakening, yaya sisterhood, and others...)
who have run away

it's time i came up for air
take a breath
feel my forehead again



Today I woke up before either kid was up. This has only happened one other time in the last three years.
What a great opportunity!
Shall I meditate? Do yoga? Edit the article I just finished writing? Squeeze some fresh grapefruit juice? Write morning pages, which I haven't done in 4 years and 3 months?

Too many options. Somebody would wake up soon and demand food anyways.

I laid down on the couch and watched my husband pack his suitcase. I kissed him good-bye and closed my eyes. That was when the littlest one woke up, smiling when she saw me walk in. She is so silly and goofy first thing in the morning, hair all floppy in her face.

Then the big one woke up, came half way down the stairs and sat down. When I discovered him, did he say, "good morning" or even "hello"? Possibly a report on his dreams? No. This is what he said: "Mom, some Mercedes have trunks and some don't." Because that's what matters.

The baby and I picked him up from school this afternoon and we bought a whole roasted chicken chopped up into odd pieces for dinner. It is sitting on the dining room table in a bag because nobody wanted it.

My boy wanted some bread so he picked out a roll with pork fluff at the bakery. Little did I know that the roll was actually angel food cake with none other than sickly sweet white frosting inside. And Pork Fluff On Top. Ick. But my little blond boy who speaks Mandarin fluently and hates pizza ate it up. Well, he ate the third one up. The first one fell on the floor of the bakery. The second fell in the alley behind the store where we were walking.

Lesson 1: don't let a 4 year old carry his own pork fluff frosting cake thing.
Lesson 2: if you see something at the bakery with pork fluff on it, don't necessarily assume that it is savory.
Lesson 3 (according to my son): pork fluff Rocks!


women's wisdom

Tonight I was rocking the toddler to sleep, holding her bottle of goat's milk, gazing out at the mountain
Finally catching my breath after ten days of taking care of both kids by myself while my husband was away on business
Reeling from how overwhelming, stressful, altogether whacky I feel from dealing with rudeness, poor eating habits and such
Trying to raise my children well, make the right decisions and not make others feel badly along the way
But the four year old can be so nasty, he can really make other children feel very bad and I can't help it, I feel like his behavior reflects on me, as in:
I'm a good person and care so deeply about being gentle with others, so how could I have created somebody so insensitive and cruel?

Rocking my child to sleep, these feelings swirling about
But I was thinking about the goat's milk in the bottle and wondered what my grandmother fed her babies
I heard she was pro-breastfeeding, this was in 1941, when formula feeding was just beginning to go on the rise, and women who didn't breastfeed were giving their babies condensed milk with corn syrup (I just looked this up), so it's hard for me to say whether she would have breastfed for very long or not

And with all the parenting stress still heavy on my mind, I began to wish for my grandmother's wisdom and stories
I tried to envision her as a young mother, with her '40's hair rolls and dark-dyed hair, completely overwhelmed and stressed by her crazy three and four year olds running around the house, utterly disobedient and horribly rude
This was hard to imagine, though, because I knew her as a self-assured, calm, positive woman in her later years.
I wish she was still here so she could assure me that it was crazy for her, too, that she, too, felt like she would lose her mind one of these days.

Sure, my mother can give me this affirmation, too, indeed she still has this old '60's plaque on her kitchen wall that says, As soon as I finish my work, I am going to have myself a nervous breakdown. I earned it, I worked hard for it, and I deserve it.
But to get her take on this is not satisfying to me. Grandma had reached her pinnacle of wisdom in her old age, and her assurance feels more valuable to me at this point.

I began to cry. I miss my Grandma and I need her tonight.