Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Musings On Motherhood

Motherhood is an experience that is virtually impossible (especially for me) to capture through the written word, as the experience is much too powerful and all-encompassing. The days I birthed each of my children, it just blew my mind (and still does) that I had taken part in something so incredibly extraordinary, yet so ordinary that it had been happening since the dawn of time, across so many species. I felt like I had tapped into this ancient universal force.

Now, don't get me wrong--I don't float effortlessly through each day in a flowing white gown and a flower in my hair, showering my children with nothing but patience, love and kindness. Just as Superman periodically became disabled by kryptonite, my flow of motherly love gets clogged by toys strewn about the living room, whiny voices, unfolded laundry, husbandy husbandness...the list goes on. And on.

But--I do have an innate, powerful appreciation for life and all the good that I have that I can only genetically attribute to Harold, my late grandfather. At any and every family gathering, Harold would weep out of joy for all of his family. All the women on that side of the family are the same way. When I was younger I would scoff at the teary-eyedness of my family, but that gene surfaced strongly somewhere in my early adulthood.

There are many children's books that I can't get through without my voice cracking, pausing in an attempt to keep my tears up in my eyes as my children patiently wait in my lap for the next page. I absolutely refuse to read I Love You Forever. Can't do it. Dog Heaven, which the wonderful veterinary oncologists sent us in the mail after we had to put my beloved 4-year old weimaraner to sleep is a definite, emphatic no. Yesterday during morning reading time in Jackson's 1st grade class, Jackson brought over a book for me to read him called Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, about a young boy and his relationship with a woman who has experienced memory loss. I made it 2/3 of the way through before I was discreetly wiping away tears.

Songs? I've got a ton that do me in: 100 Years to Live by Five For Fighting, Elton John's Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters, James Taylor's Carolina in My Mind, Linda Ronstadt's Goodbye My Friend...

Life in general, but particularly motherhood, is so precious, and difficult, and life-changing. I have a hard time when I think my boys are growing up faster than I'd like, but then I remind myself that my job as a mother is not to have cute little children, but to raise strong, intelligent, productive members of society. Only then does my heart feel a little less tight.

This past weekend as I made the 4 minute drive to the grocery store, I tuned into my favorite radio show, This American Life. The week's theme was The Parent Trap, about parents who unwittingly set traps for their children. I caught the show mid-way through, but sat in my car, riveted, in the Safeway parking lot for twenty minutes as I listened to the story of Lucy, a chimp that a psychologist and his wife had raised from infancy as if she were their human child. As an experiment. This was the '70s, clearly before humans had the decency to introduce ethics into experimentation. The story of this poor child that was caught between two species was heartwrenching. You can listen to the show in its entirety here.

My friend Kami at The Fence wrote a post today about struggling to be the mother she wants to be, and it really resonated with me. She recently had a few wake-up calls that are helping to put things in perspective. I get a quick, slap-in-the-face back to appreciation anytime I think of the Bingham family. In late fall of 2006, I was a mother of 3-year old and a 2-year old. The Binghams had a four-year old daughter and a 2-year old son, and went out downtown for a cup of hot cocoa to celebrate fall one evening. As they crossed the street at the crosswalk, a drunk driver plowed them over, killing the mother and her two children. The unbelieveably terrible details can be read about through my link. The father had a few injuries, but his entire life was gone. In an instant. A nice young family, with their son wearing his superhero cape, out for cocoa? They were US; that could have been us so easily. For whatever reason, I, the mother of three little boys, get to be here now, and Rebecca Bingham and her two beautiful children are not. Dammit, I'm going to appreciate it, because my life can change in an instant and I would hate to look back and think, "Man, I had it so, so good and I wasted all those years bitching and complaining."

In her blog, Kami linked to a Mom-101 video that sums up the motherhood experience so wonderfully, I wanted to share it. I don't know how any mother could watch this with a dry eye.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Table for Two

Poor Valentine's Day.  It kind of got the shaft as far as holidays go, being relegated to chalky conversation hearts and lame packages of Disney-themed cards awkwardly passed out in elementary school classrooms around the country.

Its only saving grace is its association with the second-best Simpsons episode--the one where Ralph Wiggum declares his love for Lisa with a card that says 'I choo-choo choose you'.  This episode is a very close second, behind the one where Homer is prescribed medical marijuana (I don't know how to attach sound clips, but you can find some great ones from this episode here if you are looking to procrastinate working on your taxes). 

 Eight years ago today, I had a dinner date at Sam's apartment (the one with the living room that featured the two non-matching lawn chairs and trusty cardboard box as furniture, where we spent our evenings playing Scrabble).  One of his many talents is making homemade pizza--none of that store-bought crust stuff, but real, thrown-in-the-air crust perfected from his days working at Pizza My Heart in Santa Cruz.  He made two really delicious gourmet pizzas, set everything on the table, and then ran next door to borrow a corkscrew (I know, it's surprising he wouldn't have a corkscrew considering his furniture...).  He came back in to join me at the table and knelt down on the floor.  I thought he dropped his napkin, but instead he asked me to marry him.

Fast forward eight years, and we've got that much love plus three as we sit at the table.  Time is what we don't have, and after a snowy morning spent at the after-hours clinic and pharmacy to treat Kenyon's ear infection, a romantic meal for two (plus an earlier dinner for three) wasn't going to happen.  Late this afternoon, Sam took the boys sledding--I hate to have missed the fun, especially after hearing how Alex laid down on the sled with Kenyon (ear infection and all) riding on top of him, and Sam and Jackson holding hands and standing up while riding down the slope.  We didn't give the kids candy or presents this morning, but I rallied and wanted to mark what this holiday means in our little family unit.

I made a mess in the kitchen and in the hour that my family was gone, I whipped up beef tenderloin medallions with potato risotto and salad, lit candles, set the table with placemats and cloth napkins, and opened a special bottle of wine.  I also made bittersweet molten lava chocolate cakes and homemade cinnamon-coffee ice cream.  Epicurious, I owe you big-time for your fool-proof recipes.

It wasn't a romantic dinner for two, but I am so incredibly thankful that I have these boys in my life to love every day, and told them so (after sending Alex away from the table twice before dinner even started, and threatened that if there was a next time he'd be eating dinner alone upstairs).  After dinner, Jackson told me that he had wanted to do something special for me, so he had folded down our comforter and turned on our heated mattress pad for us.  How cute is that?  Kenyon kept saying Happy Birthday because of the candles, but once in a while threw in a Happy Valentine's Day for good measure.

After the boys went to bed, Sam and I sat at the table and played a game much like we did eight years ago when we were first dating.  Sure, this table is a little more sturdy than Sam's old cardboard box, and I'd like to think our path together is as well.  Valentine's Day, I will never buy into your forced Hallmark card/boxed chocolate/flowers shtick, but you have become a special holiday for me as a reminder of this path that I've chosen with my Sam, and for that I will always look forward to February 14.