Sunday, May 06, 2012

And it keeps coming, and it keeps coming, and it keeps coming, 'til the day it stops

I had a vision of my grandfather the other morning.  The bottom of his feet, actually.  His skin was so tan and leathery, but the bottoms of his feet were a pale yellow...

This vision arrived during meditation time at the end of my yoga class.  I was lying flat on my back in shavasana, a cold lavender-soaked towel folded over my eyes, feeling relaxed and groovy.  It's a lovely time; you're all sweaty and wrung out from being strong and bendy and focused for an hour, and then you finally get to relax and lay there, trying to empty your mind and just BE.

So I was thinking about my breath, or trying not to think about my breath and just breathe (I'm never sure which), thinking about how my breath just comes and goes without my having to expend any effort to make it happen.  You never have to say, "I'm going to breathe now - here I go!"  Your breath just happens, in and out, like the ocean.  So then I started thinking about the ocean, and how the waves feel on your body, pushing against you indifferently - you know the waves will come and go whether you're there to feel them or not, and you know your breath will come whether you think about it or not.  I remember how as a kid after my parents were divorced and we'd spend our custody-agreement-mandated eight weeks with my dad in Delaware for the summer, he would rent a beach house in Rehobeth for a week.  I remember how if you spent all day in the water, the waves pushing at you, when you came home and got in bed at the end of the day, you could still feel the waves on your body.  Lying flat on your back in your scratchy-sheet rental house bed, you could almost believe you were still in the water, feeling the surging and receding of the tide on your prone body.

And then I remember my grandfather.  Pop-pop.  My dad's dad, a retired engineer (the train kind) and WWII veteran.  When my grandparents came with us to the beach, my grandfather, who went by Pete even though his given name was Stewart, would always float on his back while we played in the shallows.  You could look out to the deeper water and see him there, bobbing up and down with the rise and fall of the waves.  I say "floated on his back," but it was more akin to sitting in a recliner.  His head was almost upright and his feet stuck up out of the water, their pale yellow bottoms a shocking contrast to the rest of his brown skin.  He would rise up on the swell of a wave, grinning and paddling his hands at his sides, and then sink down and disappear in the trough between that wave and the next one coming in, only to re-appear on the crest a moment later.  So strong, so vital - it seemed effortless, how he floated, and no matter how he tried to teach me I could never quite match his ability to ride the waves, relaxed and happy.

That's almost 30 years ago now.  Pop-pop was in his 60s then, an active, interactive grandfather, the kind who talked to babies in gibberish they seemed to understand and made up stories about the golf-ball-sized lipomas on his arms - "I got so mad when I missed that birdie shot that I swallowed the ball and that's where it ended up!"  He ran five miles every morning and every time he would take a sip from his glass of Laird's Applejack, he'd wince, then smile, and then say, "One hundred proof."  He grew his own vegetables in a garden behind the house, worked on his vast model train display in the basement, and told us edited-for-kids stories about his scars and tattoos from WWII.

Pop-pop is in his 90's now.  He's had Alzheimer's disease for about 15 years, as near as we can tell, and his wiry, tanned body has become a pale, whiskery, shapeless mass.  The last time I saw him in the assisted-living home Mom-mom finally moved him to after caring for him at home for too many years, he was in a wheelchair, mute, his sweatshirt stained with food.  He doesn't recognize anyone anymore, not even his wife, and he can't use the bathroom on his own or sleep in a bed without rails to prevent him from falling out.  He is, in essence, an infant again, helpless and frail.  His blue eyes are vacant.  There's no Pete in there anymore.

So.  Yoga.   I lie on my back, in corpse pose, thinking about my grandfather, about his long slow decay and how difficult it is to mourn someone who's still biologically alive but mentally and emotionally not in existence anymore.  Mom-mom sends birthday cards whose postscript reads, "Sweetie, pray for your grandfather to die." 

I see the bottoms of his feet bobbing up and disappearing, bobbing up and disappearing.

I'm trying very hard not to cry.  I'm trying very hard to acknowledge my thoughts and then let them pass by like clouds in the sky.  It's not working, and I'm silently shaking with sobs, tears rolling out from under the lavender-scented washcloth.  There are of course other people in the room, other yogis and yoginis trying to relax and clear their minds, and I'm desperate not to disturb their meditation.  I get a hold of myself for a bit, and then I see his feet again, feel the waves crashing on my prone body, and the shaking sobs return.  I become convinced that my grandfather has in fact died, that I am having some kind of hippie woo-woo psychic connection to my Pop-pop as his tired spirit finally leaves his body, his strong healthy body that has lingered on so long after his mind has gone.

So I get up and leave the yoga studio.  My teacher's eyes look at me questioningly, but I give him a feeble wave and sprint as silently as I can for the door.  I run into the hall and into the bathroom, turn on the fan, and let the sobs come.  The release is what I need, and it doesn't take long for the tears to run their course.  I splash water on my face, pat it dry with paper towels, and rejoin my class.

When I get home I call Mom-mom.  She sounds tired but happy to hear from me, and I mentally vow to call more often.  Pop-pop is fine, of course, or as fine as he can be.  Mom-mom confesses that she doesn't go to visit him every day because it's too depressing. 

He's already gone.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I feel the earth move under my feet



Or not. Although it is unusual to experience a magnitude 5.9 earthquake in Richmond, Virginia, it is apparently not unheard of, since that's what just happened.

I was sitting at my desk when the shaking started, and my first thought was that the kids were horsing around in the playroom next door. I was about to yell, "What's going on in there?" when I remembered that they were playing outside. Then I thought it was the spin cycle on the washer, because it had that rhythmic sort of chugga-chugga-CHUGGA quality to it, and I was trying to remember if I had put anything heavy (like a comforter) in that last load. THEN, finally, it dawned on me that it was an earthquake and I was like, 'Holy shit!' and ran outside to see if the kids were okay.

And they were. They are. We're all fine.

This was, by my count, my fifth earthquake. Or fifth that was big enough to really count for something, I guess. I lived in Southern California for seven years, and during that time there were countless little ones, little trembles that made you sort of cock your head like a dog listening for a whistle and go, "Was that...?" before you moved on with your day.

But the ones that I distinctly remember as Events are as follows:

1) Rawlins, Wyoming - I was in fifth grade, so it would have been 1984 or so. My reading group and I are all sitting around the half-moon shaped table, with our teacher sitting in the little cut-out on the flat side. She accuses us all, in turn, of being the naughty kid who is kicking the table hard enough to make it shake. This is tough for us, because in my reading group we are the nerds, the well-behaved Lisa Simpsons of our day, and to be accused of acting out is highly unusual for us. And then we all realize that it's actually an earthquake. (Which is highly unusual for Wyoming.) One of the walls of the school cracked, I remember, making a neat zig-zag right along the fault lines of the mortar between the bricks. Other seismic events that year include my parents' divorce, which I found out about from one of my teachers, when she asked me if I was okay, and I was like, "Yeah. Why?" and she told me. Gotta love a small town. (Or not.)

2) Los Angeles, California - The first of my three L.A. quakes (1999?) comes in the middle of the night, approximately 2 a.m. I wake up disoriented, wondering why my bed is moving one direction and I am moving the other. A couple pictures on my desk fall over and I realize what is going on. I rush out into the hallway where my grad-school roommate has just emerged from her bedroom. We smile goofily at each other and she yells, "Earthquake!" like a soccer announcer yelling, "Goal!" We are strangely giddy, as it's the first one for both of us since moving to Southern California, and it somehow doesn't seem like it's serious enough to warrant panic. A couple small aftershocks keep us awake the rest of the night, but other than that, nothing else really happened.

3) Los Angeles, California - The second quake comes in 2000, during the day, while I am at work at HBO in one of the twin towers of Century City. The entire development team is sitting around the big table in the conference room having a meeting. The NYC branch of HBO has recently merged with the LA branch and all the NY execs have moved out to LA within the last couple months. When the quake hits, every single LA exec is sitting calmly at the table waiting to see how bad it will be, and every single NY exec is underneath the table, freaking out. The building is on rollers and is built to withstand quakes (the tower is triangle-shaped, which apparently helps in quakes because every wall has a stabilizing vertical beam exactly opposite it, whereas a square or rectangular building shakes more), but because we are on the 36th floor, there is a queasy sort of time-delayed swaying sensation happening. Like, the bottom of the building is moving one way, and 30 seconds later the movement ripples up to the top of the building and we sway in the opposite direction. That one went on for a LONG time, but again, it never really seemed like we were in terrible danger. After it stopped, the NY execs took the rest of the day off. The HR department instituted regular earthquake-preparedness drills after that and we all had the chance to purchase an earthquake "kit" at a special discounted price.

4) Los Angeles, California - The final big quake I experienced in L.A. was also the most severe. I had just recently found out that I was invited to the Emmys, and was in the mall shopping for a strapless bra to wear with my fancy dress. I had just come out of the dressing room in Victoria's Secret and gotten in line to buy my bra when the shaking started. There was a big fancy crystal chandelier directly above my head, and I remember staring at it and being amazed at how far horizontally it was swinging during the shaking. The suspending chain seemed to be almost parallel to the floor at one point. Bras and panties were falling off of the shelves, people were screaming, some dust started to come down from the ceiling, and I remember being like, 'Great. This is where I'm going to die? In a Victoria's Secret? Suffocated in a giant pile of lingerie?' That was the only quake strong enough to make me doubt that we would be okay. But then, the shaking subsided, everybody picked themselves up, offered each other some shaky smiles and just went on with their day. Other seismic events that year included 9/11, which postponed and then downgraded the Emmys from Black Tie to Business Casual, so I didn't end up wearing the bra, or the dress, at all. (I don't mean to be flippant or blase about September 11th, but I figure there's nothing I can tell you about that day that you don't already know.)

5) Richmond, Virginia - 2011. Ten years since my last quake, I almost don't recognize what it is. Now I kind of feel like I do when I see a couple or three highway patrolmen on the interstate in a short space of road, pulling people over for speeding. Does that make it more likely that I will see another one? Are they out in force, handing out tickets galore? Should I be extra careful to obey the speed limit so I don't get nabbed? Or is it less likely that I'll see another one, since I've just seen a few in a row? Is the probability of another one lower, because there are only so many highway patrolmen out there? Hard to say. Should I be relieved that my family has safely experienced a "major" quake here in VA and from here on out it will be even more unlikely that we'll get another one? I mean, this one happening at all was pretty fucking unlikely, right? Or does having one big one mean another one is now more likely to occur? (I mean, aside from aftershocks and all that.) Hard to say.

Maybe I'll dig out that old earthquake-preparedness kit.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Everybody's working for the weekend

I, through the gracious consent of my husband and the superior knowledge of my friend Elena, was able to go on a two-day writing retreat this past weekend. E and I drove two hours and checked in to a lovely old Southern home overlooking the James River with grand porches running the length of the first and second floors. We brought our own food, our computers, and the essentials for clothes, etc. and then we did nothing but write, eat, pee and sleep for the next 48 hours. It was heavenly. (I also, with the assistance of Jim the Songwriter who was also there on retreat, retrieved a five-foot-long black snake skin from a tree outside my window and brought it home for Nolan. You know, like you do.)

I worked on my screenplay for Night Tour, which I had previously, I don't know, not abandoned, but stopped working on in any meaningful way about a year ago. And taking it out again and really trying to buckle down and FINISH THE FUCKER reminded me of why I quit on it before. It's a mess. There's a lot of good stuff, if I do say so myself, but there's also a ton of chaff, and it needs more than just a weekend writer's retreat to fix, sad to say.

I was thinking about it again because I recently sent it to a friend-of-a-friend (who I hope will now consider me also a friend) whose opinion I respect, and he really enjoyed it. He thought there was something worthwhile there, and it got me excited to work on it again and really try to make it work this time. So I dove back in, and spent a goodly amount of time re-acquainting myself with the world and the characters. I only wanted to write an ending, which it didn't (and still doesn't) have, during this retreat. I figured that was reasonable. Just finish it, however you can, and then go back and try to fix all the other problems.

And I couldn't. I tried, but what I ended up doing was kind of like a logic problem from a book of puzzles. You know, the ones that are like "Five friends live on Walnut Street. Tom lives in a red house next to the house with the tire swing. Mary's house is not next to Sally's house." and blah blah blah so you have to try to figure out who lives where. Doing that with my script. Trying out different possibilities. If I do this, what happens then over here? Can I combine these two scenes? No, because then that line of dialogue that refers to the other thing that happens will come too late. How about if I move this over here? Hmmm...

No! You know what it was like? It was like building a house out of Legos. Not the big chunky Duplos but the little intricate fuckers that only come in red, yellow, blue, white, green and black, with a big green plate to build it on. My screenplay was 3/4 of a Lego house, built really tall for some reason, with ragged edges of bricks and no fourth wall (no pun intended). So, looking at it from the outside after having been away from it for a while, it was like, "This should be a snap! It just needs to have those last few pieces tacked onto the end. Maybe stick a window in that other wall. No problem!" And I got all enthusiastic and ready to tackle it, and then discovered what most 6-year-olds already know: You can't just cut a window into a Lego wall. That's not how they work. First you have to take off all the pieces that are above the ones you want to remove. Then you have to smooth out the edges by pulling off all the pieces that stick out and replacing them with ones that end where you want them to in order to form the shape of the window. Then you put the top layer of bricks back on. And sometimes when you pull one brick out, three other bricks are stuck to it and you accidentally rip out a whole section when you only meant to trim. So it ends up taking a lot longer than you thought, and you keep fucking up the parts you don't mean to by taking out other pieces, and sometimes you don't even have a brick with the right number of dots on it - you need a six-er when all you've got are fours and eights. You know what you need to put there, but you don't have it, and what you do have won't fit.


So I didn't finish it. But I'm not giving up. I will keep plugging away.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

No one to tell us no, or where to go

One thing that's been on my mind a lot recently: children.

"No duh,* " I hear you saying. "You're a stay-at-home-mom, Caroline. Of course you're thinking about children."

And you would be right. I do think about children a lot. (Although most of the time when I'm with my children I'm actually thinking of other deep, meaningful, important things, like 'When can I make an appointment to get my eyebrows waxed?' and 'I hope my UPS package comes today.' It seems I have to go away [and get away] from my children in order to have them return to the forefront of my thoughts. Which is what I did this past weekend - go away, that is - and as such I pined for my children as though they were gone forever.)

But I'm talking specifically about the NUMBER of children we have, which is two.

And that question that friends new and old (and well-meaning/pushy family members) ask you with increasing frequency:

"Are you done?"

Meaning, "Will you be having any more children?"

And I don't really have an answer for them.

KB has mentioned several times that he is quite happy with our quota of offspring. Two's good for him - we've got the heir and the spare, so to speak. I think this is a common position for the breadwinner in the family (if your family is so structured). They are worried about the bottom line, and three kids are more expensive than two kids.

Me? I am not so sure. Part of me wants very much to have another child. I am one of three, KB is one of feels like the right number, the perfect number, the magic number. (Right about now, you should have De La Soul's "Three Is The Magic Number" stuck in your're welcome.)

[Also, to be honest, I would like to have a girl. I've written about this in the past, and my want/need to have a girl has not waned. I have a good relationship with my mother, for the most part, and I'd like to have a daughter in my life. I like the idea of a built-in female friend and of having someone I can mentor. Of course, I also tell myself that maybe my very need is the reason I shouldn't have a girl child - my idea of what it's going to be like (and why I want to have one) is probably not going to line up with reality all too well. And having a child should be about wanting to bring another person into the world, whomever that person may turn out to be, not about my own personal yearnings. Right? Plus there's no guarantee a third baby would be a girl...]

I recently turned 36 years old, which, while not technically ancient, is getting up there in terms of ease of procreation. If I were to have another child now I would be dubbed a woman of Advanced Maternal Age and subjected to extra rounds of fun pre-natal testing events that weren't deemed necessary when I had Miles and was a spring chicken of 34. Amniocentesis, anyone?

So part of me feels like, if we're gonna do it, we should probably do it soon. It's not going to get any easier, both in terms of the actual conception and pregnancy, and also in terms of how tired we're going to be when the baby is a newborn. (See what I did there? I started talking as if it were already a foregone conclusion. I should have said "how tired we would be if we had another newborn.")

Another argument in favor of getting on the stick (so to speak) sooner rather than later is that I often feel now, as a Stay At Home Mom, that my life is not my own. My life is almost totally devoted to the care and feeding of two small human beings, and when that starts to change back into a more half-and-half situation (i.e., when both boys are in school part or most of the day) I'm not sure how willing I'll be to return to the land of the enslaved after having a brief taste of freedom. The real world! Adult conversation! Working on my writing more than once a week! I can...almost...touch it...

Of course, the flip side of that argument is that maybe after I've had a couple years of more regular, reliable "me time," (god how I hate that phrase) in the mornings while the boys are at school, I'll feel more relaxed and groovy and ready to handle another baby. So maybe we should wait. Who knows?

Or maybe we shouldn't have another baby at all.

My trusty brain likes to remind me of things like massive, crushing sleep deprivation, varicose veins and unwanted C-sections after 36 hours of labor. Sibling rivalry, carpooling and endless dirty diapers. Toilet training. Spit-up. Post-partum depression. Massive, crushing sleep deprivation.

Do I really want to put myself through all that again? I had Nolan a year almost to the day after KB and I got married - we didn't have a lot of together time before we had kids, and our marriage could certainly use some Us Time. Another baby will bring up all the old "Whose sleep is more important, yours or mine?" arguments that pit us against each other, instead of reminding us that we're on the same team. (Him: "I'm a doctor! People's lives depend on me! What if I'm sleep deprived and I make a mistake and someone DIES because of me?" Me: "I'm a mother! Our children's lives depend on me! What if I'm sleep deprived and crash the car and we ALL DIE?")

Essentially, I think it comes down to a war between my head and my heart (or perhaps my head and my ovaries.)

The desire for another baby is strongest when I'm doing something like putting Miles down for his nap, and Miles is doing something lovely like falling asleep on my shoulder and snoring softly. Then all the More Baby! cavewoman hormones cascade through my system and make me KNOW, for sure, that I definitely want another baby. It will happen. How can it not? Babies are lovely and I want another one.

And then, an hour later, I have to wake Miles up from that same nap even though he's not done sleeping because it's time to go pick up Nolan from school. And he's cranky. And we get in the car and drive 20 minutes and I forgot to bring milk or a toy, so he's miserable. And then we come home with Nolan and they start fighting. And I have to cook dinner while holding a 25-pound toddler in my arms who's screaming because his brother won't let him play with his Transformers car. And when KB (finally!) gets home we try to eat together and have some conversation before the boys start to fall apart and we have to split up, one parent per kid, and wrestle them into and out of the bath and into PJs so we can get them to bed before it's time for US to go to bed. There's no room for a third kid in that scenario, is there?

It's like my mom always said about having three kids versus two: You have to switch from man-to-man to zone defense.


No easy answers. I'm stopping there because Hey, Guess What? It's time to go wake up Miles and pick up Nolan from school!

Thanks for reading.

* Total linguistic tangent - why do the phrases "Duh," and "No duh" mean exactly the same thing? Shouldn't they be opposites? Am I exposing my grammatical ineptitude when I use "No duh," like people who say "irregardless" when they really mean "regardless?"

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sail on, silver girl

Oh lordy, how I do not want to write.

It is a lovely sunny day here in Berkeley, the first sunny day they've had in months, according to Ann. It is 80 degrees and I am sitting in Ann's backyard garden in the shade under the bougainvillea tree with my laptop. Kevin took the boys to the playground and I have just come from having a pedicure, where I had my toenails painted a lovely light sparkling teal blue. I had a coffee from the original Peet's and a cheddar roll from the Cheese Board for breakfast this morning. The coffee was strong and thick, and the scone had a nice lacy crust of cheese from where it melted onto the baking sheet and then cooled into a perfect salty, cheesy crunchiness. I have already read not one, not two, but three books ("The Innocent," by Ian McEwan, "Love Is A Mix Tape," by Rob Sheffield, and "City of Thieves," by David Benioff) from Ann's bookshelf in the last four days and have started on a fourth ("Lark and Termite" by Jayne Anne Phillips).

How little do I want to write? So, so, little.

The only thing disturbing my peace right now is an alarm clock from a neighbor's apartment that seems to have been set and forgotten - it has been peep-peep-peep-ing for the last twenty minutes and shows no sign of stopping. It is very much like the voice of my conscience in my head telling me I need to write - almost ignorable; just a little annoying noise in the background of all this loveliness. But it persists. It keeps on peep-peep-peep-ing, relentlessly. It will not stop, not ever.

So, I shut my e-mail window. I close Facebook. I open Final Draft. I open my script notes in Google Docs. Ah, yes. Page 108 - Misty frees the deer and realizes what it is she has to do (or thinks she has to) to free herself.

Back to it.


Friday, July 30, 2010

We can't rewind, we've gone too far

Facebook killed my blog.

I know that sounds like a cop-out, and in some ways it is, but I think it's also very true. Today is July - let's see, what day is it? - July 30th and I have not updated this blog since March. Now, I was never the most prolific or reliable blog updater to begin with, but four months is really pretty sad.

Has nothing been going on worth blogging about? Has Miles not learned to walk and has Nolan not learned to put his face in the water in the swimming pool? Why yes, they have. Have we not gone on vacation to Washington D.C. and seen the National Zoo and the Portrait Gallery? Why yes, we have. Have I written a blog post about any of these momentous events? Why no, I have not.

And I was thinking about it and rationalizing to myself and blaming my busy busy busy life, and my kids, and my kids' busy busy busy lives. But the truth is, I have always been busy (or perceived my life as being busy) and I have always had kids (since I started this blog) so there's really nothing different there.

Any my life is actually, finally, a bit more settled now that we've been in Richmond for not-quite-two years. We've met some great people and found a neighborhood we really like. I've got membership cards in my wallet for no less than seven local museums, parks and attractions. I'm volunteering for Nolan's school, I've got most of the playgrounds in town on my radar, and K and I are even having quasi-regular "date nights" and attending actual cultural events.

So what's different?

And I was, as I said, rationalizing to myself and thinking about my big writing project that I've currently got going and how maybe all my writing "urges" are being funneled into that. And my BFF 4-evah, Erica, and I are keeping a running document that, well, uh, documents our progress on our individual projects. (She's not writing, she's more of an artiste, but we're trying to hold ourselves accountable to each other and subvert our usual procrastinatory ways.) And that document has sort of morphed into a bit of an online diary where we tell each other what's going on and bitch about our husbands and also do a bit of, you know, documenting of our progress.

So maybe all of my writing "urges" are being funneled into that.

Or maybe, just maybe, it's Facebook. What with the status updates and the long-lost friends, the cute links and the political rants, the self-censoring (my mom's on there!) and the cyber-stalking and the frequent checking, I think Facebook has sort of obviated my need to connect with the world "out there" through this blog.

And I'm not saying Facebook is a bad thing, necessarily. Do I check it too often? Yes. Do I go through days of self-imposed exile to try to combat the checking-it-too-often-ness? Yes. Do I then fall off the wagon and compulsively check it 17 times in an hour? Yes.

But it's not all bad. I get a sense of connection there. I find out how my long-lost friends are doing and feel like I'm a teeny bit more involved in their lives. I find out about things my local friends are doing and invite myself along. It serves a definite purpose in my life.

But I was thinking about it, and feeling guilty for not posting more on this blog, and then chiding myself for feeling guilty and blah blah shame spiral blah and I realized - you know what Facebook can't do?

No, not toast your cheese sandwich.

It can't provide a forum for the lengthy examination of a particular thought.

Think about it:

You're limited by the format to a certain number of characters.
You can only really post in your status update, or in comments on your friends' status updates. (Sure, there's "notes," but who the hell uses those anyway?)
People sometimes have a little back-and-forth in the comments, but then you end up using a lot of "@" symbols and scrolling up and down to see who said what and it's so fragmented that it rarely makes sense.

There's no way to really, I don't know, DIG IN to a line of inquiry. There's no room for considered thought. You post, then you forget about it. Half the time when I get comments on my status update (and I can't for the life of me figure out how to get my phone to STOP SENDING THEM TO ME ALREADY) I've already forgotten what I posted and have to check my own status to make sense of the comments.

Some of it may be just a generational inability on my part to adjust to this new format. I grew up in the age of three-hour phone calls to my best friend to re-hash the day. With a corded phone, mind you, dragged all the way around the corner from the kitchen and into the bathroom so I could shut the door and have some friggin' privacy. I wrote all of my high school papers and research reports on a typewriter. When my grandfather gave me a computer to take to college, it was the size of microwave oven, and that's without the monitor.

So maybe some of it is just that I can't quite cram my thoughts down to Facebook size (don't even get me started on Twitter) because I'm Generation X and not a Millenial, or whatever they're called. Maybe I need to stretch out a bit and meander and have some virtual Tourette's in order to get my thoughts in order. I like to spell out the whole words "you" and "are" when I'm texting, God help me.

I'm not going to go cold turkey on Facebook or shut down my account completely, because I think there's definitely a place for it. What I am going to try to do is be a better blogger.

Heck, even once a month would be an improvement, right?

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 15, 2010

He ain't heavy

Miles turned one on the first of March.

We just had a little family party with my Mom and us. Cupcakes, balloons, presents and all that, but pretty low key overall.

While his presence in our lives has had effects, both joyful and not-so-much, on all of us, I think it's fair to say that the person most impacted by Miles's arrival has been Nolan.

Nolan loves his brother, of this I am certain, but I also know that a lot of the time, Nolan hates his brother. Or rather, he hates that all of my attention and love is not focused solely on him any longer.

I suppose this is quite natural and something that happens with all siblings, and indeed must have happened to my brothers and I growing up, but there are times when I am blown away by the sheer force of his rage. Thankfully, he mostly directs that rage at me, rather than Miles. There are occasional "Oops, I didn't realize that spinning him so hard in his jumper would cause his head to crash into the door frame" moments, of course, but they seem to be genuinely accidental for the most part.

It is only recently that it's dawned on me and KB that this is the reason for Nolan's rather precipitous slide into violent behavior in the last few months. (We're a bit slow on the uptake sometimes - this whole two kids thing is new to us.) Over just the last couple weeks I have been bitten, punched, kicked, pinched, screamed at and more, as Nolan seems to be saying, "Damn you, woman! Damn you for bringing that other baby into this house!" (The conflict at hand is never about Miles, of course - it's usually about why I won't let him watch more TV or how come I cleaned up his super-cool train track before he had a chance to take a picture of it. Perhaps that's why it took us so long to figure it out - he can't come right out and say he's pissed at us for having another baby, so he expresses it in other ways.) It wasn't so bad at the beginning, when Miles was just a little podling, but now that he's a full-fledged one-year-old (he hasn't quite qualified for official "toddler" status, yet) Nolan is having a very hard time.

I suppose we should have known the jig was up last fall, when Nolan wrote a play at his school. (His school, if I haven't mentioned it before, is a kick-ass Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool that really lets the kids expend their creative energies in a variety of ways. Check out the atelierista's blog. You'll get to see pics of Nolan in action at school.)
The play was basically just a cast of characters and some pictures illustrating the action (no dialogue or stage directions just yet), but the cast of characters was as follows:

The Only Baby.......................Nolan
The Mother............................Caroline
The Father.............................Kevin
The Dog..................................Miles

(There was also a special guest appearance by a boy from another classroom as Santa Claus.) Now, if that doesn't tell you that Nolan is having some adjustment issues, I don't know what would. But we just laughed about it and told our parents and friends in an "Isn't this cute?" kind of way, and I think we failed to really take seriously Nolan's deep ambivalence toward his brother.

So we'll be trying harder. I'm going to make a special effort to carve out some Nolan-and-Mommy time, and I won't make the mistake of sending him to (or, actually, picking him up and forcing him into) his room when he gets angry and violent. That just makes him more angry - probably because he doesn't want to be separated from me. Sigh. Poor Noney.

Thanks for reading.