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The Bad Babysitter

The teenager laughed at Bunny and called it babyish and hurled the toy telephone across the room. She was babysitting me and I didn’t like her in the least. I don’t remember every disliking anybody before, but I knew that she was not a kind person and I did not want her anywhere near my room.

But I was a six year old kid and she was the teenager in charge so I just stood quietly while she made fun of my most favorite stuffed animal and threw – threw! – my plastic phone.

I told my parents I didn’t like her and they respected that, though I vaguely remember that she almost babysat again another time when my parents couldn’t find anybody else. I know her name came up and I voiced my objection and I know I never played in my room with her again, but maybe she hung out in front of the TV while I slept.

I had another babysitter that I did like – I adored her. When I went to bed she’d tell me a story about “coming to get you” and I’d say I’d hide somewhere and she’d say she’d go there and I’d name another place and she’d get there too. Not so imaginative in retrospect, but I was entranced and in giggles and loved every second of the game of trying to stay up as late as I could with this never ending story.

I also loved that babysitter nights meant I got to eat a TV dinner with those cool gross little cranberry crumble deserts and fried chicken with odd pieces of something not quite chicken hanging out in the gristly parts of the joints. They were delicious.

The other night we had a babysitter over to watch our kids and it was great. We generally just take our kids out with us, but on this particular night we each wanted to attend a different community event and needed to be kid free. Our sitter came over and we took off and it was fantastic. It was freeing to be able to go out and it was even more freeing to hear how much the kids liked this teenage girl.

She was respectful and kind and she smiled and read them books and played with them and picked up the toys as they played. Picking up toys is not a requirement, but I think it sent the message to the kids that she somehow knew the secret adult safe world of doing the right thing and taking care of kids.

The kids think she is terrific and I have a feeling she likes the extra cash, so we might find ourselves going out just a little bit more.

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Attack of the Ants

I plastered my body across my bedroom door so my friend couldn’t leave. She’d threatened to go home. I have no idea why, but I knew I didn’t want her to leave. There might have been some possibility of getting in trouble if the adults asked what happened, but really, I have no memory of what happened.

I know that we loved to play in our imaginations and I think on that particular day we had piled every single possession I owned on my bed and with our backs pressed against the wall, standing on the bed, we threw the items as hard as we could at the monster ants invading the room. They were coming in through the bottom of the door morphing into creatures quite large; larger than Italian Wolfhounds.

I have no idea what my mom thought. She was somewhere downstairs.

In my memory we were in the throes of battle and surely the noise level must have been as well. Yet, my mom never came up. In retrospect, I realize that most of my possessions were stuffed animals and I didn’t have a very good throwing arm so perhaps we didn’t make much noise at all quietly lofting fuzzy bunnies two feet off the bed.

Karen and I were definitely best friends. I don’t remember any arguments or problems getting along. I don’t recall feeling upset because she didn’t share or hurt feelings because she told a lie. I just remember playing in a world that we could both see as vividly and clearly as if it were really there. Except for this one occasion where she used her taller ways to command me to move away from the door.

I didn’t want her to leave, but I moved away.

We moved away in third grade and our parents set up play dates here and there, but it was never the same and we quietly grew apart.

Writing Prompt from BlogHer.com
Who did you play with as a child?

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Stomach Bug or The Flu – A preference?

We were hit with the notorious stomach bug last night. WE isn’t really correct, because so far only little boy has been sick, but these things seem to be hard to contain to just one person.

The night began marvelously well.  Little boy and girl went on their first real “play date” with a three year old.  Dad and I went out to dinner and picked the kids up at 8:30.  They’d had a great time and little boy told me about the evening.

“What did you do?”

“Played.”

“What did you play?”

“With toys.”

Knowing my boy’s ability to talk with details, I was reminded of conversations with teenagers (myself being one of them at one point in time):

“How was your day?”

“Good.”

“How was school?”

“Fine.”

“You do anything in school today?”

“No.”

There’s definitely an art to asking questions that get people talking.  From my son’s response, I think husband and I need to work on these skills.  We didn’t say anything more and then little boy began telling us more about what he played with, who got a time out, how sharing went and what his sister did.  A good night!

Then my husband left on the late night plane for some work meetings.

I figured I’d go to bed early(ish) and went to bed with kids sound asleep, but foolishly, I drank a LOT of water before bed.  A LOT.  And so I couldn’t fall asleep.  And even if I hadn’t had to keep going downstairs, my mind just kept moving and twirling.

I’ve always been a fairly good sleeper and so it was really rather a drag that on the night where the kids were sound asleep and I had an entire bed to stretch out in, that I couldn’t sleep.  Around one, I think I finally really started dozing off into something that counted as slumber.

Around three, news of the stomach bug woke me.

“Mama, I’m wet.”

He was more than wet.  The next hour was spent cleaning him up, getting him settled in my bed, getting the bedding, stuffed animals and mattress covers cleaned up.  When I did join little boy in my bed, he snuggled right into me and fell sound asleep while I read the very important news on yahoo.

I think I looked at the clock at 4:30 before finally falling asleep.  I managed to stay in bed till 8:30 with boy snuggled up next to me wide awake since 7:30 and girl wedged between us since 8:00.  It was nice sweet morning time except that I was TIRED.

And somehow or other, our house felt messier than normal so when we did trudge downstairs to make my coffee, I was hit with that realization.  And then the stomach bug made it’s appearance again as little boy walked into the living room.

The absurdity of the stomach bug works for me in some strange way.  As long as I can keep the house picked up so that the clean up is less painful, then I far prefer this nasty stinky 24 hour thing to The Flu with its congestion and fever and neverending cough and resulting bronchitis.

Indeed, I felt a bit like some decorated war nurse ready for battle.

“Oh, yes.  We’ve seen this before.  We can handle it.  Gloves.  Clorox.  Let’s go!”

It turned out that the battle was more of a skirmish than anything really to write home about.  I started off full force (pre-coffee) attending to the immediate crisis and our home that needed some quick picking up, but once the initial attack was over, the red alert quickly dropped down to amber or orange or some other color.

I appreciated our washer and dryer, our cleaning supplies on hand, our very recently picked up living room and the ability to just stay in and care for little boy (aside from a walk with the stroller to run a few errands).  Can I say just how much I appreciate our washing machine and dryer?!!!  More than anything else, this modern creation is the one thing I would not want to do without (don’t hold me to that).

I suspect little girl will be next.  Or myself.  But maybe not.   But if we are hit, I will go into battle with my head up and a bit of, “Bring it On” (Think Braveheart) because we can handle this – far better than The Flu.

 

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“I use protection. I’m on the Pill.”

“Oh friend, the Pill isn’t protection.  It prevents pregnancy, but not STD’s.”

“Look, I’m taking the Pill.  I’m protected.  Stop being in my face!”

I remember this conversation from college and I remember being absolutely floored that my friend, a bright articulate young woman, didn’t “get it” that the Pill wasn’t going to stop her from getting herpes or genital warts or, heaven forbid, AIDS.  She just didn’t get it.  And many more don’t either.

Of course, HIV/AIDS seems like such a way out there idea.  Teenagers and young adults are fairly invicible and it takes some pretty hard knock close to home events for them to question their mortality.  On my college campus, in my sphere of friends, nobody knew that they knew anyone with HIV or AIDS.  It wasn’t really part of our world and all the media hype telling us to practice safe sex didn’t really jive with our experiences.

What did jive – at least for me – was the number of people with herpes.  THAT was a sexually transmitted disease that I could wrap my head around.  And in fact, my friend who was on the Pill, but refused to use condoms, ended up acquiring a nasty case of herpes. A few of my friends did.

I remember feeling a bit like the center of a bicycle tire and all the spokes were my friends and all of them were coming to me in tears, distraught and hurting and embarrassed and ashamed and lost.  It was alarming to me just how few knew anything about what had happened, why it had happened and what to do.

I can’t tell you how appreciative I was during that time for Planned Parenthood which took people in, talked to them respectfully, gave them factual information and provided needed services.  I can’t even remember how many friends I dragged down to Planned Parenthood to get their first exams or to get tested before starting off on a new relationship.

I was not a goody too-shoes, but I do have a bit of a cautious streak and somewhere along the way of my own growing up, the realization that there are serious things out there that can impact your life, kinda snuck into my consciousness.  I think I was lucky.

Now, when I work with teens or talk to kids who are on the verge of being sexually active, I talk about HIV and AIDS, but I know that it doesn’t connect so I also stress all the other diseases that spread and the ways to prevent them and the ways to get checked.  Herpes still seems to be the one that people react to the most.  It’s not an end-of-the-world disease, but it’s certainly not a pleasant one and it’s able to be understood on a more tangible level.

I try to convey to the girls that they should be indignant and annoyed if a guy says he doesn’t want to use a condom.  They should use that disdain for such an idea to dump him for someone better.  I know a few young adults who pull this off very well and I think they share that same tone of voice with their friends – hopefully passing along the message that serious protection should be used all the time.  But I also know a great many young adults who are having unprotected sex and getting pregnant.  And I know a great many who are having “protected” sex because they have an implant to prevent getting pregnant.  That’s NOT protection from STD’s and still people don’t get it.

I also know of a great many young adults who are moving on from one partner to the next.  It’s scary and it speaks of how little we understand about how easily viruses spread – or how much control we have in our lives to prevent the spread of viruses.

In the month of January, 2011, nine new cases of HIV/AIDS were identified in the Fairbanks region of Alaska.  Nine is a huge spike for a community in Alaska. The people infected were younger, four under the age of 20.  Eight were male and one was female.  Seven were in the US Army stationed in Fairbanks or had sexual partners in the military.  When I read this, I couldn’t believe it was happening.

We do need to talk, talk, and talk some more with our friends and our partners and our teenagers and our pre-teens so that condoms are the norm for those engaged in sexual activity outside of a monogomous long term relationship where both partners have already been tested and cleared.  It’s our bodies and possibly our lives or the possibility of creating new lives that are impacted.

There are a number of young adults that check in with me on occasion.  I ask about their lives, jobs, kids, partners.  I haven’t been having conversations about safe sex so today I Facebooked a few to ask.  The conversation helps build the norm and wonderfully, they all were pretty dang on top of things.  It kinda makes me teary because they’re such wonderful people in their own crazy testing limits young ways, and they all could remember where they learned about practicing safe sex – either in school, from a clinician, from a respected adult or even from a respected person on Facebook.

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Hats Off to the Universe

When I was twenty-two years old, I took my dog for a night time walk to the park and lost my bracelet.  I hate losing things and the feeling of trying to get my brain to remember where it might have happened.  To deal with that, I decided to make the claim that the Universe was just telling me it was time to let it go.

This has been an effective strategy when I’ve broken pottery, torn favorite clothing, lost earrings.  I like to see myself just tossing my hair in the wind and embracing the freedom that fewer possessions brings.  Of course, my hair is short these days and I’m constantly bringing new things home and so there is a bit of a discrepancy between what I like to see and what really is – particularly when it came to the hats.

Now before I talk about the hats, I also have to share that I’ve got a bit of a stubborn streak and believe that most things can be solved with some good problem solving, effort and tenaciousness.

But when it comes to lost items, I’ve generally just said my good-bye’s and moved on.

I tried to do this with the hats, but tonight I am sitting and typing with a hat exactly like my old one snugly seated over my head.  How did this happen?

I had two hats that I found in a little shop in Anchorage.  They were beanies made of possum fur and merino wool from New Zealand.  They were fantastic.  They were light weight and amazingly warm given their light weightedness.  They fit well under my heavy winter hat and they were perfect all season hats.  I loved them, and my husband soon fell for their wonderfulness as well, and began wearing one.

And then he traveled to one of the local villages for work and somewhere over the course of the week camping out by the river, he lost my hat.  I handled it.  Obviously it was time for it to be called back to the Universe.  And I also still had my other hat – until the Big Blizzard.

The morning after the Big Blizzard, I went outside to walk around and explore and my sole remaining favorite hat was swept off my head and far away before I even realized it was gone.  (It was still a bit blizzardy)  I looked for it, but knew that it was a pretty impossible endeavor.  And so I mourned.

And then I began to wonder if this should be one of those things I just “let go” or one of those things I solved.  Well, obviously I just had to solve it.  But, alas, the small store in Anchorage had closed down and the owner was no longer selling the hats from her home business.  But there was the internet.  So I searched, but couldn’t quite find the exact same hat and so I called it a week and moved on to embrace new hats.

This winter has been trying.

I have my beaver hat which is perfect when it’s really cold, but a bit heavy when it’s only zero or so.  As well, my beaver hat fits best with a light weight hat underneath, preferably a possum fur and merino wool hat.   I missed my hats.  I wore a cotton knit hat with a fleece lining, but it was bulky and didn’t fit in my pocket nor did it keep my head as warm outside or as comfortable inside.  I tried a bunny fur hat which is okay, but also much too warm for inside.  But I persevered in accepting the changes that life sometimes brings.  (Except that I continued to look for the hats and ultimately found them on a New Zealand website which I told my husband about.)

And then today, I received a package from New Zealand.  And in it, were two perfect hats just like my old ones ordered by my in-laws.  My husband and I put them on our heads.  The kids took them off and put them on their heads.  We took photos on PhotoBooth.  My husband and I reclaimed our hats, put the kids to bed and are still wearing them.

A sigh of contented happiness.  Sometimes it’s good to make things happen and just not leave it up to the Universe.

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The Place Where The Porcupine Was

My husband proposed to me the day before I flew back to Alaska. My first stop was in Juneau where I was attending a week long symposium. The first couple days when the session was over, I went to a local coffee shop and sat on the wooden benches Googling wedding locations and wedding things.

Some people know about weddings and what they want. I did not. I’d never thought about it and the more I learned, the less appealing was the idea of planning and executing a wedding. It was downright overwhelming. We did not have a clue where we would stage a wedding, nor what a wedding would entail. We knew nothing and the process was not fun.

And then my fiance said, “Let’s just have a party with our friends and family to celebrate our marriage.” There was a simplicity and beauty to that that resonated and from that comment was born a vision of something festive and friendly and simple and enjoyable. We decided we wanted a location that would appeal to friends traveling from afar.

Such as Juneau!

Juneau is a gorgeous little place with lush greens and smoky cloudy grays. It has woods and glaciers and water and mountains. The downtown is clustered with great little shops and cozy houses. Everything about the place is entrancing and magical – a great place for family to visit and spend some time.

With that vision in place, my husband and I began exploring. I took photos and emailed them to him . I took video clips and emailed those. I took him (the computer really) downtown to hear live music and nestled him (the laptop) into my elbow and balancing on my forearm to listen and see the band over Skype. It was an exciting time.

After the symposium, my friend and I hopped into our rental car and went driving out of town to explore places recommended by locals. One was a camp site with cabins (too rustic we decided) and the other was a beautiful house on the water, surrounded by grass and trees and accompanied by cabins. It seemed the perfect place in so many ways – rooms in the house for our parents. Cabins for friends. Tent space for others.

We visited the location several times over the course of the next few days, taking more videos to email and just spending time walking around tasting it in our mouths and feeling it in our imaginations. Each time we were in the car exploring the outer edges of Juneau and the possibilities it held, we were in wonderfully high spirits.

It was exhilarating to be on the open road with a new future unfolding in front of us. All was right with the world and on top of that, the world we were visiting was beautiful and filled with great moments – like a porcupine crossing the street. We pulled the car over and I took a photo. I missed the porcupine, but this photo is where it had been.

And it seems to me that much of life is like that – the moments that are so special are so hard to capture, but the memory is easily kept alive through goofy little things like a photo of some leaves.

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Month of Love

When I was a kid, I’d wake up and go downstairs on February 14th and there at my seat at the table would be a little red and white stuffed animal or a little puzzle or a mug. One St. Patrick’s day, my mom made my milk green. On Easter, I searched for chocolate eggs with the dogs by my side. I grew up enjoying the special days that are sprinkled throughout the year and, in retrospect, I think that was a truly wonderful gift.

I think it’s fun to have a cause to celebrate or make a day a bit more special. It’s fun to get something new or something made just for you. And it’s fun to grow up and want to do the same for others. It’s fun to have an excuse to decorate or make waxed crayon hearts for the windows and I think the stirring up of creative energy can only be a good thing for it brings some play and humor and light into our lives.

A bit ago, I read avflox’s Defense of Valentine’s Day! She quoted the poet and writer, Catherynne Valente and I am going to do the same thing because I really like the sentiment:

This world is a beautiful place, but it is also often dark, and cold, and unfeeling, and life slips by, not because it is short, but because it is so difficult to hold onto. Holidays, rituals, these things demarcate the time. They remind us of the sharpness of pleasure and the nearness of death. They tell us when the sun leaves, and when it comes back.
This world needs more holidays, not less. More ritual, the gorgeous, flexible, non-dogmatic kind that isn’t about religion but about ecstasy in the sheer humanness of our bodies and souls. More chances to reach out, to sing, to love, to bedeck ourselves in ritual colors and become splendid as the year turns around.
And no, I’m sorry. It doesn’t work to say “make every day special.” First of all, most of you know damn well that you don’t shower your partner with gifts and adoration and that most precious of things: dedicated, mindful time every day of the year. Even the best relationship is not a 24/7 orgiastic festival of plenty and perfect moments. No human can sustain it. If every day is special, none of them are. If every day is special, specialness becomes monotony. What makes days special is the time between, the anticipation of a the day, the planning, the surprises, coming together, cooking, playing, reveling in sheer time, watching the dedicated colors and rituals that wire our brain for pleasure spring up in the world to remind us that we live in it. The entire purpose of holidays is that they are a kind of otherworld we step into, full of special symbols, that informs and shapes everyday life–and some of life, no matter how some bloggers would like to deny it in their Grinchitude, is always everyday.
Life slips by, so very fast. Spend it in the practice of joy, not the destruction of it.

Yesterday the kids and I put some hearts up on our windows. Little girl was SO Intensely Pleased and kept pointing and smiling at the colorful works that she helped create. Today we went out walking and visiting friends. Tomorrow we plan to make some more decorations and I plan to try out a new brownie recipe that, once baked, we can deliver to random people (the delivering is the most fun part I think).

Fitting things in to our day is hard and it takes effort, and I’m a bit alarmed at the fact that we are already eight days into this wonderful month that brings longer days, but I love the effort and I love even more that I’m showing my kids how to celebrate and care for others.

And I find I don’t like to make just ONE day the focal point so I figure we can celebrate Valentine’s Day all month (it also gives us some leeway in case the days sneak up too quickly)

And maybe, just maybe my husband and I will seek out a friend to watch our kids so we can go off and enjoy some time together as well.

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The Movie I Should Have Walked Out On (Writing Prompt NaBloPoMo)

I remember my mom coming into my room and sitting on my bed after she and my dad went out to a movie. My mom would tell me the story and I’d listen intently. As I grew up, I discovered that my mom and I shared the same taste in films. If she liked it, I was sure to.

Fast forward to my late twenties…I had moved to Alaska, but had just been trekking around the road system camping out for a month. It was summer but it was a rainy cold day and I didn’t want to be in the tent and I was near Anchorage so I talked to my mom and she told me about a movie she recently saw that she really enjoyed.

It was something about a man whose wife flies out of town for a business meeting and the plane crashes and as he learns more about the crash, he discovers that she had a secret life.

Secret Life. What does that say to you? To me, it meant she was some kind of international spy. Or something very Bourne Identity, MI2 kinda stuff.

I went to the theater, bought my popcorn, snuggled into my seat and was all eyes and ears for my great action intrigue couple of hours.

I watched the woman in the film board the plane and I wondered about the man shadowing her. Was she about to be assassinated?

No no no no no. Nothing happened. Really. Nothing. It turns out the woman was having an affair and when the plane crashed, the husband discovered she was having an affair and blah di di blah blah blah. I vaguely possibly remember that the husband met the wife of her love affair and they hit it off. Snorting and rolling my eyes. GAG!

I shoulda left when I realized the movie wasn’t taking the plot turns that I had expected.

But I trusted this movie connection between my mom and myself. I really thought that it was going to change. My mom NEVER would have found such a movie interesting (so I thought). I really truly kept hoping that things would turn and secret agents would appear. But it never happened.

So now I check with my mom that movies she suggests are not like THAT movie and, true to the mother daughter connection, we are back on track with similar tastes.

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Unifinished Projects (NaBloPoMo Writing Prompt)

I dislike unfinished projects. However, there’s a lot of flexibility on the time frame for a project.

Fifteen years ago, I created a To-Do list one New Year’s that included:

Learn to cook Thai food

Hitchhike in Alaska

Learn to country dance

Play guitar

There was a bunch more on that pink scrap of paper placemat from the restaurant I dined at on December 31st along with some grease stains and crumples from being thrown into a box of important papers and miscellaneous stuff.

But when I came across the paper a bit ago, I realized I had achieved every one of those goals – just over the course of a decade or so. It felt good.

There is some room to argue on the guitar goal. I still can’t really “play” but since I didn’t define it very well, I figure “play a few chords and strum a touch” can suffice.

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Dogs in the Bed

We only have one dog so the title is a bit misleading, but sometimes it feels like there is more than one. The dog – a 45 pound short haired whippet looking mix – curls up under the blankets right where my legs should be.

I put my legs around him. I put my legs over him. I slide one leg under him and the other behind him. He doesn’t mind.

I mind, but I feel bad for him otherwise and I want him to feel like he’s part of the family.

He’s been somewhat neglected since we’ve had kids. Not neglected so much as just not the main show. And now he has to always be on the lookout for grabby hands and he has to monitor the moods of the toddlers as they approach him where he’s sleeping.

I gave him a kiss on the forehead today while he slept on the sofa and then little girl immediately wobbled over and gave him A Forehead. He licked her face. She did it again. I cooed how sweet she was and picked her up and hugged her and gave the dog another kiss (and a break from the kids).

So when we go to bed, I want the pooch to feel welcome and loved and special and warm. Thankfully, he only hangs out under the covers for twenty minutes or so (most nights) and then slides off and sleeps in his cushy dog bed.

Unless.

Unless I have to go hang with the kids in the other room. Inevitably, when I return to the room ready to get back to my sleep, my husband has rolled over leaving me enough room for the side profile of my body and the dog has moved up to where my lower half should be. If I’m in a good mood, I just somehow wedge my way in. If I’m not feeling so loving, I consider….well, I don’t know what I consider because on those nights I’m too tired and inflexible to consider anything.

So I usually speak up and my husband rolls over and the dog stays. And twenty minutes later he slides off the bed into his own.

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