Corey was scheduled to work today from 5pm to 11pm, leaving us a little confused as to how we should celebrate this day. I didn't want it to be a hectic day of cooking, eating, and cleaning up, just to have Corey leave me alone. We turned down invitations to dinner because.....I don't know...it just stressed me out. I will not go into detail about how and when Thanksgiving transformed itself from a warm childhood memory of soccer, basketball, and laughing around a table full of full of food and cousins to a nightmarish scene of burned pie crusts, cold food that should be warm, warm food that should be cold, and a sore sore back. I guess it has something to do with growing up and realizing that someone is doing a lot of work for this holiday. And I didn't want it to be me.
I want to express a formal apology to my mother.
I am so so so deeply sorry for all the years, after I was an adult, when I would wake up, go for a refreshing bike ride up to Bridal Veil Falls, full of bursting gratitude for my abundant life, only to show up at home 5 minutes before the Thanksgiving meal was served. I should have been shot.
So, in reality, I suppose that Corey having to work, was a glorious excuse for me not to spend my day cooking. I made reservations at a nearby hotel for a Thanksgiving Day Buffet, spending far less than I would have if I had attempted the meal myself.
We spent the morning reading Fantastic Mr. Fox and hiking along the Little Spokane River.
These Native American Painted Rocks were at the beginning of our hike. A fitting reminder of those who originally did most of the cooking .. and dying for this day.
Emmy got to climb
Who cares about a wishbone?
Ansel is thrilled because Corey spots a bald eagle in a tree and bald eagles, leopards, and cheetahs are his three favorite animals...."I like them all the same, but I probably won't see a cheetah or a leopard out here"
The kids race to get closer
Corey isn't even thinking about the football game he is missing
I know it is hard to see, but the eagle takes flight when we get too close. This experience was worth 1000 missed touchdowns.
Savanna is happy that it isn't too hot or too cold or too up or too down. A just right hike.
BEFORE..."Ansel. Be careful with that stick"
Our dinner included Winter Squash soup, Cougar Gold Salad with Honey Lavender Vinaigrette, Artisan Baked Breads, Huckleberry Field Greens, Slow Roasted Tom Turkey with Thyme Giblet Gravy, Smoked Pit Ham with Spiced "Coca Cola" Glaze, Andoullie Sausage and Apple Stuffing with Sage Essence, Wild Rice and Dried Cranberry Pilaf, Parmesan Crusted Garlic Herb Mashed Potatoe, Cauliflower and Gorgonzola Au Gratin, Pecan whipped Sweet Potato, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Huckleberry Creme Brulee, and more....
I couldn't have asked for a better day. (Unless, of course, Corey didn't have to get up from his nap and go to work. Sorry, honey. You are one FANTASTIC FOX. Thanks for digging all those tunnels to the chicken house. We would starve without you)
Ansel is a phenomenal 'helper' when I am shopping and with his 'help' I can usually get in and out of the store in double or even triple the time it would have taken me if I was on my own. I usually don't mind the extra time because I am just so thrilled that he is still excited about mundane, day to day errands. The girls, on the other hand, are zombies walking down the aisles, pestering me every 1.3 seconds about how much longer this is going to take because they are close to death and I am a cruel and unusual mother because I subject them to shopperboarding.
Ansel and I have a game that we played once and he loved it
so much that it is now a staple in our shopping experience. It is
called "I spy". Maybe you have heard of it. While walking down the aisles, we play 'I spy' until he can figure out what it is we need to put in the cart.
"I spy with my little eye..... something red." I say
"Is it strawberries?" he asks.
"Not this time."
"Is it apples?"
"Yep. I need five. Can you get me five?"
He gets 5 in the bag and 10 on the floor. Then it is his turn to be the spy.
"I spy with my little eye......something white."
"Is it milk?"
"Not this time."
I know exactly what it is he wants, but am hoping to suggest some better alternatives.
"Is it eggs?
"No, it is white and has a hole in the middle and starts with Do and ends with Nut."
He is too cute to resist. The donuts go in the cart.
His assistance is by no means completed when we reach the check out counter. He races to the grocery dividers and slams one on the conveyor belt. Scrambling to get the most fragile items, I simultaneously maneuver my weight to counter-balance the impending toppling of the cart due to the unstable acrobatics of a five year old with big ideas on small arms. Ansel tip-toes on the bottom rung, inserting the rest of his body into the interior, insisting on being the one to reach the yogurt in the far corner. Once the items are on the conveyor belt, Ansel further assists by thrusting what items he can grab, into the face of the checker. Admittedly, I am not always amused, especially when I can feel the burning displeasure in the hurried looks of the shoppers behind us in line. But many times we are greeted with chuckles and kind souls who tell me, with a hint of sadness, that Ansel reminds them of their own son who is now grown.
Ansel's latest obsession is with the credit card machines. He now always wants to be the one to swipe the credit card, sometimes requiring two or three takes. And if the clerk ever wants to see my driver's license, Ansel insists on being the one to flash the identification. But on a particular day last week , in the midst of handing over the ID, he paused and stared.
"Why is there a red heart on your driver's license?" he asked. It wasn't the time or place for me to answer this properly. Honestly, I didn't expect any devastating effects. "Oh, it just means that if I die, the doctors can use my healthy body parts to help people who need them." "Like your fingernails?" "No, like my heart or my eyeballs."
Conversation Done. Conversation Forgotten. At least for me.
Ansel's thoughts were marinating in my words. Several Days later, we found ourselves at the post office. Again, I needed to reveal my identification. We were leaving the post office when Ansel lost it. His legs stopped. His lips quivered. His eyes became full.
"I don't want them to take your eyeballs!" he wailed.
It took me a minute to mentally catch up.
"I'm sorry that made you sad. I love you and I can't promise that nothing will ever happen to me, but I can promise that my eyeballs will play 'I spy ' for as long as you still think it's cool." Which may only be until next week.
Long ago, before my children were actual human beings, I envisaged afternoons of collecting my imaginary kids from school, escorting them home amidst unsolicited chatter spilling effortlessly from their lips, leaving me to wade deliciously in a puddle of their thoughts. Years passed and my kids have materialized with personalities that are in no way influenced by my earlier visions. My real kids do NOT want to talk about school. In fact, there are very few subjects in which they are particularly verbose. For a while, I was a bit frustrated with this drought of loquaciousness. I tried not to take it personally, but I NEEDED to know what was happening to them between 9 am and 3pm. Unaware of anyone in the entire universe who is even remotely grappling with this issue (not that I know anyone outside of the universe, but it sounds more dramatic when I say universe), I was feeling a little isolated and NOT NORMAL. My darker side was tempted to drive around in narrow circles until they either threw up the details of their day, or the contents of their lunch.
I knew there was a sane solution that didn't involve vomit.
In the midst of this particular mothering dilemma, I was reading a possibly unrelated passage about contextual simplification and how the complexity of our thought processes can stifle our creativity and isolate and smother us. We find ourselves in biased ruts, reprocessing the same information, trying to find the same answers to the same problems, unwilling to view the world in any other way, round and round, until we end up making ourselves dizzy, back where we started, choking down our own self-composed theories about how things are and should be.
As convoluted as that last paragraph was, I interpreted it as this: There was a simple solution. I just needed to stop pounding on the door of pre-parental fairy tales and find an open door. I was making this too hard.
As soon as I released myself, I had the answer.
We have successfully instituted a family tradition which has broken the sound of silence. As they pile into the car, I casually ask them about their day, but don't prod them for details.
After I serve them their five course meal (you know I'm kidding, right?), they must, in turn, serve us 5 details about something that they did or learned that day at school. The first night that I crashed their world, it was a laborious process, extracting each and every one of those five one word morsels. It went kinda like this:
Emmy: "1. Math 2. Spelling "
Me: "Emmy that is only 2. We need five"
Emmy: " 3. Recess 4. Science "
Me: "One more, Please."
Emmy : "5. Ummmm. Ummmm. Ummmm. Library."
Me: "Ok, Savanna. You're next."
Fast forward 10 weeks and they are prompting us to ask them about their day, using full sentences, and interrupting each other with their individual tidbits, dramas, gossip, and upcoming classroom events. That's right. INTERRUPTING each other. It is a dream come true.
I was a little concerned this year when Savanna was assigned a teacher who jokes around and doesn't give homework. His method of teaching has proven to be a gift. The great wall that existed between Savanna's education and her life is coming down. She was even on the verge of brimming with excitement the other night while showing me the order of equations. Mr. B must be doing something right. My theory is that he treats them like adults and 6th graders are eager to be adults and relish in the respect. Whatever.
Emmy received perfect scores on the Washington State Aptitude Tests last spring and has been attending a more challenging school once a week. She joined the running club, ran 3 times a week, adding an extra hour to her day. She bought a small package of 8 chocolates and savored them for 2 weeks(I know that has nothing to do with school, but I just can't get over it). Her biggest struggle this year has been her assignment to memorize and then recite poems to the class. Emmy has a tendency of putting her hand in front of her mouth while talking, thus causing what little she says to be completely inaudible. The first week, I insisted that she practice her poem at home. My abhorrent torturous request resulted in an Edgar Allen Poe'ish night of dreary sobbing. It was a battle of little importance and I blew it way out of proportion. If only there was an order of equations for parenting.
Ansel, still enthralled with the wonders of Kindergarten, is currently an exception and will usually spill all of his educational beans. The problem is... his beans are a little mixed up. One day he announced that his class was going to take the Swine Flu test. Another day he told me that his substitute teacher's name was Ms. Killer. Turns out it was Ms. Hunter. If I am not the parent teacher during class to witness the beans first hand, I have to take his beans with a little grain of salt. I'm not always 100% sure of what Ansel actually did at school, but I do know that he is 100% excited about learning to read. His teacher may be giving them the Swine Flu test. I don't care. I am just happy that he is happy about words.
In Conclusion, I have been reminded that parenting, more often than not, isn't about me changing my children. It is usually about me changing me.
The latest Pew Poll on global warming shows that in the United States, more people believe that houses can be haunted by the dead than believe that the living can cause climate change. I happen to be one of those few American that believe in both. I believe in Haunted Houses because it makes life more fun. Ansel believes in Haunted Houses because we took him to one and he may be traumatized for life or at least until he figures out how ridiculous it all was.
Just as ridiculous is the recent trend of individuals to refute or uphold his or her position on Global Warming based on the results of the day's weather. I refrain from waxing political on my blog and my belief in global warming for the moment obnoxiously stems from the welcome warmth we experienced in Spokane this Halloween. It was the first year that the our fingers, toes, and noses weren't bitten by the vampire frost. Ansel was hot. I wouldn't go that far, but I wasn't the one racing from house to house begging for candy( I am the one begging it from my kids in the comfort of my own home).
I will always remember this year as the year that it didn't freeze.
Ansel will remember it as the year that he really really really wanted to be this.....
but his mother was too untalented and he was far too picky for this Pokemon to come to life. I found a beautifully crafted Charizard (above monster) on ebay for an outlandish amount of money, but I was willing to spring for it just to satisfy his costume cravings. When he pointed out that the teeth were not quite right, I knew that his Pokemon Perfectionism would never validate my efforts. I had to think of a Plan B.
I am not a talented seamstress, but I am good at tricking kids into wanting what I want them to want. It was the flag that convinced him. As long as he could run around waving and ultimately terrorizing with that flag, he was happy to be an astronaut and even insisted he try it out before the glue on his boots had dried (I told him that real astronauts always wait until the glue on their boots dries, but he didn't care)
Emmy wanted to be a witch, but a very particular sort of witch. I had to piece together several costumes in order to keep her from melting herself with her own tears. I will also remember this year as the year of Costume Discontent.
Savanna is a domino from inner city Detroit. She never could decide on a costume, so I decided for her by picking something easy and very warm.
The hat, stance, saggy pants, and hair put the inner city Detroit into the domino.
Emmy running every WITCH way. I know how roll your eyes pestiferous I am with my puns. I just can't help myself.
More than one child asked Corey what he was dressed up as. His facial hair has officially become scary.
One big step for glue guns and spray paint
This photo was taken just moments before his flag was confiscated. I do not approve of flags being used as weapons....literally or metaphorically. I will end now before politics start CREEP-ing their FREAKY way into my blog.
Corey is now 37. He says he is going through a mid-life crisis of sorts. His main symptom is that he has continually been caught be surprise by sudden downpours of childhood nostalgia....his own and that of our children. Our kids are growing up too fast. He mourns the moments that he missed while he was overwhelmingly busy during his medical training and experiences preemptive lamentations envisioning the upcoming years when the kids will leave. Reflecting on his own happy childhood, he misses those days when stress was fixing a wheel on his skateboard. I know how men prefer not to be dissected emotionally and so I will put down my scalpel. But let me just say one thing.....I like this "crisis".
Corey doesn't quite fit any of the diagnostic criteria given by Carl Jung, the father of mid-life crisis. But Mr. Jung did say something that seems applicable in Corey's particular situation.
"If we can be honest about our painful and confusing feelings, mid-life can be a time for reassessment and reappraisal, a learning period providing the opportunity to change. We may become more interested in exploring parts of ourselves that we have lost touch with, develop a greater self-knowledge and sense of inner strength, and be less dependent on the approval of others. We may express hidden skills and creativity. Many people also find that their relationships become deeper and more rewarding."
Since Corey's last birthday, he has, I believe, done a bit of reassessing and reappraising of his life. He has done things that he has never done before, or at least as long as I've known him. It has been a busy year, but Corey is doing a great job of more than making up for those lost moments when the kids were smaller. I would call it more of a mid-life catharsis.
NOVEMBER: Corey agreed to a SPONTANEOUS trip to Utah for Thanksgiving. He bought his plane ticket minutes after the initial discussion and I was on the road less than 24 hours later. It was so un-adult and a bit irresponsible. I was impressed.
DECEMBER: The first time he was able to use his snow blower, Corey was as giddy as a boy with a new remote control car. 6 feet of snow later, he wasn't as excited and the snow blowing became a tedious chore keeping him from time on the slopes. JANUARY: He painted our room, assembled elaborate shelving in his office, and created a work-out room in the basement. All of his fort-building experience is paying off.
FEBRUARY: He built a fire and roasted marshmallows in the snow. I didn't have enough childhood nostalgia to join him. Many basketball games were watched while wrestling with the kids. Non-stop squealing and giggling echoed through the house.
MARCH: Corey installed a passenger seat on his self-built bike. He took the kids for rides in the snow. APRIL: He took us all to Hawaii, wore a floral lei without even a slight wilt in his masculinity, and threw a spear as effortlessly as tossing a coin...coming oh, so close to winning the Haole Spear Title. Corey and I later took a trip to Colorado Springs for some advanced Radiological training. He played hooky one day and hung out with me at an old abandoned prison. It was so James Dean of him.
MAY: Corey rolled down hills with the kids on a Sunday afternoon and didn't throw up. He swallowed his environmental objections of the game of recreational coma....I mean golf....and actually completed nine holes.
JUNE: Corey biked 400 miles from Spokane to Boise and stopped to have fun with us along the way. He bought a PYRO pack of fireworks and I think I might be developing a little crush. JULY: He really shows his soft and cuddly side by hunting down a kitten...(for the kids, ahem).
AUGUST: We went to the Oregon Coast and Corey walked barefoot down the street, let the tide trap us, believed in ghosts, and let ME give HIM a piggy back ride. ...for about 2 feet.
August also brought a slack line to our back yard where Corey could practice his slacking. Again, I am impressed by his intentions of being a slacker.
SEPTEMBER: Corey went on a bike ride with the entire bike-riding community of Spokane. He finished in time for me to do it as well. He organized our family weekend excursions, packed picnics, went on some roads that I don't think he would have gone on if he wasn't in the midst of a mid-life catharsis, and destroyed his tire. He starts growing a beard and keeps growing a beard mainly because I told him he couldn't do it (He says it is to keep his face warm for skiing, but I think he finally can't resist a dare).
OCTOBER: Corey realized that I should go to Europe before I die (a sense of mortality IS indication of mid-life crisis) and took me to Italy for Nine Days (blog coming shortly). He moon walked in St. Marks Square.....
was my willing partner in the inconspicuous craft of photographing the stereotypical Italian male...
and navigated the maps, train schedule, and tour books like a real boy scout.
Corey, you are growing up and growing down at the same time.