Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Happy New Year

It feels like a brand-new year. I'm so relieved be on the other side of the past one. Last week was heavy on emotions and ruminations about time passing, children, our life together and gratitude for good health.

First, on Tuesday, as mentioned in the previous post, Lily had her Preschool Graduation. I know it's just preschool, and there'll be so many other major milestones on her road, but still, this felt big. An end to being a preschooler, a little kid, and the start of being an Official Big Kid, of having so many expectations placed upon you, by your peers, your teachers, your parents. Sometimes, it's hard to remember that 5 years old is just...
5 years old. So little, still. So open and innocent and so full of questions and wonder. Let's not change that part anytime soon.
And then, on Wednesday, was our much-planned family picnic, to celebrate life and love and the good health of our sweet boy. Because Wednesday, June 13, was the one-year anniversary of Tucker's admission into the pediatric ICU at Children's Hospital Orange County. A year ago that day, we'd hurried up the freeway and driven an hour away, on the advice of our pediatrician, who'd taken one look at his overall condition and one listen to his lungs and told us to get him to an ER. (There is a closer ER, but not a better one.) You can read more about it here. I don't want to go into those details again.
June 13, 2007 was a much, much better day. Sunshine and the smell of the scrubby oak trees, homemade brownies and fizzy orange sodas. Forget that I couldn't set out my pretty new picnic blanket, because there was no grass and the park's ground was all dirt and leaves. Forget that Tucker was being a 2-and-a-half year old pain in the ass earlier that morning, practicing his Toddler Tyrant moves on us all. It was just good to be out, together, and blessed with good health and the good fortune to all be together in the middle of a busy weekday.
If I take into account all that has transpired in the last year, from June to June, I can only say that it's been one hell of a year. Sickness and death and way too much time spent in hospitals seeing my dearest loved ones hooked up to scary, beeping machines. Not that it was all bad. But then, it never really is, is it? Even during the worst of times, there is humor, and the grace of family and friends who care, and the solace of the wide blue yonder, the starry night skies.

Sometimes when I look back upon the year, and all the scary, heart-clenching moments, I think about that ubiquitous and cheesy religious poem, "Footprints." You know, the one about how there are 2 sets of footprints in the sand, representing how during the course of your life (the metaphor is the long walk along the beach) you have God (or is it Jesus?) walking beside you all the way. Except for the times when there are only one set of prints, and that -- as the final line of the poems reveals -- that shows how God carried you through your toughest times.

Huh. Well, when I think of that poem, I think that on my beach, there's one set of footprints, and then 2 long, deep furrows behind them -- representing how I was dragged, kicking and squirming and protesting the whole time, behind God (or is it Jesus?) and His plan for me this year. I'm not a Christian, in the strict sense of the word, but I'm not a non-believer, either. I realize my rather wimpy wavering on this is immature and exasperating to both camps, whether full-bore Christian or atheist. I have plenty of doubts, and on the worst days, and even on some so-so days, it would be easy to topple over into non-belief, yet I can't do that. I've prayed plenty in the last year. I've always prayed, since I was a teenager and infused with a real desire to experience the holy. There was something very specific that I prayed hard for in my dad's last days, and it was answered. But during Tucker's illness, there was no room for prayer, no possibility of asking for something to happen. Not when the stakes were so high. I couldn't ask. I think any parent who's been in a situation where your child is gravely ill knows the feeling. There can be no prayer, when every breath and every step you take is already begging please. Please, please, please.

And Tucker got better. Whether through fate or divine intervention or the care of his great doctors, or all of the above, he recovered and has been quite healthy during the last year, save for a few colds. (Furious knocking of wood, at that line.) And all year long, I've felt gratitude, the kind you feel when you've been to the brink and peeked into the other side, and felt that chill, that fear. I think I spent the first few months out of the hospital overcome with all of it -- gratitude, fear, worry -- the kind that made me bolt awake at the slightest cough or noise coming from his room late at night.

Now that the year is over, I'm feeling more of the flip-side of that gratitude and relief, and for me, the flip-side is anger. Anger and resentment. I catch myself lately, on bad days when Tucker is being a screaming, naughty beast of a 2-year-old, feeling guilty for my anger and frustration. My gratitude has turned into a nagging voice, that doesn't let me feel anything BUT gratitude, 24/7. But to be honest? I'm not cherishing every moment. I'm not living for today. I'm really not loving every minute of it. I'm a stay-at-home mom with two very bright, active, intense children, and Gratitude won't let me give myself a break.

So for the record, Gratitude, or God, or anyone else who can pull strings and might be listening: Look, I'm so, so thankful for my beautiful children and my good life, for being blessed to spend my days watching them grow and change. But Gratitude? I could really use a break right about now. It's time to let me off the hook, to stop dragging me behind you in the sand. I want to get up from this past year, and walk all by myself on that beach, and if you want to come along, that's cool, as long as there are also two other very small sets of footprints in the sand beside mine the whole way, along with my husband's big size 11 1/2 boats, even though every time we go to the coast, he swears I'm really just trying to kill him with all of that damp, cold ocean air.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Another Ending, So Soon

The title of this post sounds rather ominous, but really I'm just feeling a bit overwhelmed and emotional over the fact that Lily is graduating from preschool tomorrow, at noon. Before I was a parent, it was hard to see and gauge the effects of time speeding past. Three years was just....3 years. A little hard to measure, except perhaps by what job I had, or what haircut, or where we went for vacation that year. (Vegas, probably. Back when we lived like adults and could do things like go to Vegas.)

But now I see all that the passing of 3 years (or really, two and half) can bring about. My little tiny muffin of a girl in this picture is now 5, and getting herself all grown up and graduated and ready to join a summer soccer/t-ball class. (She has a whole lot more hair now, too.) What really blows my mind is that Lily in this picture is just about the same age at that Tucker is right now, about two and a half. He still seems like my baby. And yet, with my first child, I was so ready to kick her out the door for preschool -- and granted, she started off slow, at only 2 half days a week. But look at how that backpack (filled with an extra change of clothes and some Pull-Ups, as she wasn't potty-trained yet) seems to almost dwarf the child. Well, I wisely knew that I would need just that little bit of time, even six hours a week at first, to be alone with her baby brother in the house, and to maybe, just maybe, catch a little bit of solitary down-time for myself.

Now she goes to school 3 full days a week, and I'm so thankful for the great time she's had, getting paint and frosting in her hair, tracking home enough sand to practically fill our own sandbox, and even maybe learning a thing or two.

And I almost, almost don't feel too guilty anymore, looking at this picture taken at the end of her first 3 hour day: clutching a tissue, because she was crying and missed her mommy:

Oh, who am I kidding? It tears me up, still. The mommy-guilt. It's a deep well, people, and I'm pretty sure it'll never go dry.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Heartbreak in the Aisles

The aisles of Target, that is. Back when things were just a little weird and typically crazy, before they got seriously weird and bad, I posted about my giddy love for the blue bunny Easter plates, and my fondness for trolling for interesting design at Target.

Last night I was back there again (honestly, I only go 2 or 3 times a month), in the children's book section, just randomly looking around. While I didn't feel very moody and touchy when I left the house after dinner, I found myself feeling awfully moody and weepy once I got there. I think it was because I stopped in the card aisle, looking for Father's Day cards for Myk from the kids and me. But of course, I couldn't help but see all the other Father's Day cards, the ones I'd normally be perusing for my own dad. Then there were also all the "Papa" cards, that I won't be buying for the kids to give to their great-grandpa this year, either. And then I felt rather silly, for getting upset at such a rather...obvious situation. I didn't imagine that Father's Day, or at least Father's Day cookie-cutter-sentiment greeting cards, would provoke me, but yet there I was, getting all misty under the fluorescents.

Anyway, later in the trip, after the dipes/wipes/vitamins, etc. had been checked off the list, I was in the children's book aisle, and I casually opened up a hardbound book for older kids, called, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. I didn't read the jacket to see what it was about; instead, my fingers just rifled through it and ended up on the dedication page, where there was this quote from a poem by Stanley Kunitz:
"The heart breaks and breaks and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go through the dark and deeper dark
and not to turn."

Yes. Yes. So, this time -- no surprising modern design. Just a bit of truth and poetry, at a big-box retail store on a Tuesday night in the late spring. I don't think Lily, despite her advanced reading, is quite ready for the story of Edward Tulane, yet. Evidently it's about a cold and arrogant toy bunny who finds love after being very lost. All I know is that I'm grateful for the sentiment from Mr. Kunitz ( a late poet of great renown in the literature world), and I hope to be reading more of him -- and more poetry, in general, very soon. Wild emotion, tamed and distilled into perfect words and stanzas, is exactly what is called for, these days.

*Aisle of tall trees, taken in Oregon.

Labels: ,

Monday, June 04, 2007

Back from Up North

We've been back for a while now. 2 weeks? 3? It's so hard for me to pick up the blogging ball again after I put it down. More than once, I've thought about officially quitting or deleting it all. Maybe I'm just meant to be a Constant Lurker, like Dorothy Parker's Constant Reader. It's hard for me to hone in on what to talk about. I need to remember that my favorite blogs often just focus on one small, good thing at at time. Like Alicia's pillowcases or porch blinds, or Emily's pretty bluebird teacup.

Oregon So very green. And the moisture, and change of scenery, were a really good change. And I finally got to see the very beautiful Multnomah Falls, seen above. However, it was not so much a true vacation, at least for me. My in-laws live and thrive in an atmosphere that feels very foreign to me -- one devoid of much emotion or opinion, or much joy, either, for that matter. It all felt so stiff and forced, and I felt often like such a stranger in their midst. They treated me like a very volatile stick of dynamite, even though I've never exploded or even sizzled much in their presence, ever.

Also. The cats. My mother-in-law loves her some cats. It used to be a bit of a joke, but she seemed a little more defensive about her crazy cat love, this time around. There are roughly about 10 cats living inside the house, and at least a dozen or so more on the property. And I, I am a little allergic to cats. Not instant-hives allergic, but mildly allergic, if put in a house with one or two long-hairs. But a house with 10? It was rough. At night, sleeping with my family in the cat-free guest room, I could here a very tiny but distinct wheeze coming from my lungs. And though I went up there with that cold or sinus infection, it quickly morphed into this terrible, rumbling, hacking cough. Consumption? No -- CATsumption. This week I got low on sleep and the catsumption made a reappearance. I wouldn't be surprised to find some fur balls on my pillow, really.

But the trip is over, and good God, June is off and running in full swing. I'm a bit in shock at that, staring at the calendar and watching the days fill up with places to go and people to see. One thing I could see about that rural life in Oregon, versus this busy one in exurban Temecula -- life is much slower and less frantic. It even felt that way in downtown Portland. I've been thinking a lot about how to slow things down, just a tad. I'd like to focus more on some smaller moments, and not the big, sweeping life-changing ones that have been the norm for the last year. More on that soon, I hope.

Anyway. This is why we went to Oregon -- so the kids could get to know their other set of grandparents better:
Which I think they really enjoyed doing. Even if it meant that for the course of the week, I felt like the cranky, hacking, touchy Bad Witch of the South.
(Above taken at the Enchanted Forest theme park in Salem, OR.)