Archive for family

Overheard at the Crib

Posted in Why you should maybe rethink the whole reproducing thing with tags , , , , , on January 15, 2009 by Ms. Ex

If this stuff doesn’t make it all worth it, I don’t know what will.


Me to 4 year old E:  I love you.

E:  Why does Elise always want to MARRY me??

Me:  Hunh?

E:  She always does it and I don’t know why.  We’re just little kids!

Me (in my head):  I surely don’t know.  Why indeed.

On a less funny, more oh-my-gawd-did-she-really? note:

The 5’7″ child knocks over the 2’3″ child while storming out of the kitchen over me (ridiculously) not giving her a ride to the bf’s house because she didn’t do her chores.  When she is almost around the corner, she turns back to see if I noticed.

Her:  What?  I didn’t do it on purpose.

Me:  (giving “the look”)

Her:  He walked into ME anyway!

Me:  snicker, snicker….snort…guffaw


A More Personal Life

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 3, 2009 by Ms. Ex

This morning, I cried as I read the sad story of an army doctor who died in a mortar attack in Mosul on Christmas morning.  His wife had spoken to him every day during his deployment, and when he didn’t call she thought he must be working on a soldier, trying to patch him up  or save his life.  But that wasn’t the case.  That morning, he lay down on his bed, and was killed in the kind of explosion that happens near our men in their barracks more frequently than any loved one cares to imagine.

We personalize these stories.  We give them names, ages, the number of children they leave behind, because it connects us to them.  It makes them real.  And it makes good (read: popular) news stories.  But more often, we hear just numbers.  Americans killed.  Indians killed.  Iraqis killed.  Pakistanis killed.  It’s a stock market ticker in our collective psyche, with only the occasional real story to indicate that these bodies had lives.

I have heard so much about how each life is valuable, each baby a gift.  I hear we should not depersonalize an unborn child by saying “fetus”.  And yet, in order to remove ourselves from the actuality of war, we shy away from identifying individuals, as if our adults are somehow less precious.  Our sons, husbands and fathers are “troops;” the human beings who suffer for their ideals, or for merely being in the wrong place at the wrong moment, are “citizens” or “nationals” or “civilians.”  We hear of casualties, not of the pain of loss for one town, one village, one family.

Perhaps if we knew the whole of the truth, it would be too much to bear.  Or perhaps it might make us hesitate, just a bit, to be so sure of ourselves and our place in the world.

Although these pseudo-news stories most likely aim to attract readers and viewers, they perform a valuble service.  They allow us, however momentarily, to see a far-away person, not as a number, but as a story much like our own.

Playing House

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2008 by Ms. Ex

Autumn in Virginia has begun. The first cold morning found me shivering under too-thin blankets, and even the shine of blue sky wasn’t enough to warm me. The cold slows down my blood, my thoughts.  So I do what I always do when I get that feeling of change and a slow ending, or a slower beginning. I made a pot roast.

At nineteen, homemaking is magical and mysterious – a passage into being a real grownup, a claim that a person stakes. Squatter’s rights to adulthood. At nineteen, the Paul Revere cookware bought at a flea market fills you with something like pride, something maybe like I TOLD YOU SO. I told you I could do this. Despite leaving home without the tools for even liking myself, let alone for cooking and housekeeping, I set up the tiny apartment and made it home. Coffee will never taste as good as it did from that Salvation Army coffee maker.

On the bed lay the quilt my grandmother made from scraps of clothing from her four girls’ childhood. I know she must have taught my mother to sew, and I wonder why it never crossed my mother’s mind to pass that knowledge on to me. And then I think of their growing up, and the frugality of the parents of that era, and maybe my mother did not want to leave that legacy. Maybe she did not think I needed to sew, or cook and shop frugally. Maybe when she said it is just as easy to love a rich man as a poor man, she was thinking of herself and not me at all.

Because it was fall when we moved in to the apartment, this time of year always reminds me of new starts, and of looking at things differently.  Warm and simple, furnished with second hand things: the bed from Roger, whose story is infinitely sadder than mine, the couch from Hannah, the quilt from my mother. Every thing I touched held memory, my own or someone else’s. I felt surrounded by love, by the beginning of healing from a long, difficult time.  But I had no idea what I was doing.

In addition to not learning how to sew, I was never taught to cook. My mother lacked creativity in the kitchen, preferring prepared foods, or fast food takeout meals. She wasn’t completely bereft of skills, but she saved them for special occasions like the alcohol-soaked parties she and my dad would throw with a regularity that, now that I have my own children to care for, horrifies me.

I wanted to fit neatly into the picture of happy homemaker. I wanted to understand how women do what they do, cooking and cleaning and clipping coupons. But I didn’t know how. Then one day my boyfriend’s mother pulled me aside and asked if she could share a recipe with me. It was for pot roast. The weather was getting colder, much like it did recently. Leaves were flaming the trees; the smell of woodstoves seeped into the air. Pot roast sounded marvelous. So unlike my usual “no thanks I can figure this out on my own” self, I instead allowed her to take me under her wing. I allowed her to teach me. For the brief time I knew her, Sarah proved more of a mother than mine had ever been, at least in traditional ways. She shared her family stories with me, invited me to be a part of her clan. We talked about the mundane and practical. I found it relaxing and educational, and I began to experiment in the kitchen.

Eighteen years have passed since I got my first recipe for potroast. I have grown as a person, as a mother, as a pretty darn good cook. But pot roast made the way I learned to at nineteen is the only food I crave at the onset of fall. When my home smells of earthy root vegetables and sweet onions for hours, and I know I can look forward to something hot and filling, physically and emotionally, at the end of the day – then I can remember what simple feels like.

Not So Serious, After All

Posted in Motherhood with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2008 by Ms. Ex

For some reason, I was under the impression that I was meant to be some dark artist holed up in cafes and all-night-bring-your-own-bottle-basement-jazz joints, dreaming of Dean Moriarty and living in opioid peace.  Instead I exist as a comedy skit.

For one thing, I drive around with a coccyx on my dashboard.

Dear M,

I have your tailbone, I know you have been wondering where it was.  It fell out of the pelvis when I let little man E play with it in the car and he kept asking me, “Yes, but what KIND of ANIMAL is is from?”  Try as I might, he didn’t really get it that humans are animals.  I guess this is not surprising, since most adults don’t get it either.  Anyway, sorry I forgot to give it to you when I returned the knitted placenta, amniotic sac, baby doll and pelvis.  By the way, the ladies at the health fair thought the “unbiblical” cord was really cool.


This same M, who, thankfully, is nearly as addled as I am, was witness to my third child’s first steps.  In the psychiatrist’s waiting room.  It’s quite appropriate that this is where it should happen, as everything else about this child is normal and easy.  In fact, this often causes me to wonder if he might be, um, like – “slow” in some way, because how else would any child of mine smile so much?  I’m not exactly All Happy, All the Time. Anyway, M met me at my Psych office so I could plead my case for the kind of sleeping pill that doesn’t make you continue to sleep the entire next day, while still counteracting the antidepressants that make you stay up the entire next night.  While we sat there waiting forty minutes for my fifteen minute appointment, baby B decided he would take a couple of steps towards me.

Dear Baby B,

I always tell my friends that they will most assuredly mess up their children.  The trick is to give them interesting stories to tell their therapists when they are older.  I’m sorry your first steps were in my shrink’s waiting room, but think of the delicious irony when you share that with yours!

-Your Mama, number one fan of your gorgeous smile

Right now, I am visiting my own mother, who gave me plenty of good stories to tell,  and who is providing fodder as I write this. I can hardly wait to share.

To be continued…

City Knitter

Posted in Knitting, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2008 by Ms. Ex

This is a rerun of a blog I wrote somewhere else in April of this year:

You know, I really hate shopping.  And crowds.  And actually, people.  I kind of hate people, too.  So you might wonder – what in the world do I find appealing about NYC?  I wonder that myself.
I spent today walking fast, trying to get places, trying to make everyone happy, knowing no one was.  It’s not like it used to be, I kept thinking.  It’s not a family-of-five kind of trip.
When the teenager was little, I used to take her into the city, just the two of us.  We lived up here, and we would go almost every weekend.  We went in for brunch to the Acme Cafe (“A Pretty Good Place to Eat”), wandered the overwhelming piles of books at The Strand, sipped coffee at Le Figaro’s Cafe – a place I learned of from a friend in a long-ago postcard.  She tagged along, not understanding that this was supposed to be my life.  I was supposed to go to college here, I planned to anyway. I was supposed to be young, hip.  Not someone’s mother, not just starting college at twenty-four.
The supposed-to-be’s were stacked up behind me like dominoes and I strained to keep them from running me over. Everywhere I went was a reminder.  I wanted so much to be a part of it all, to be someone.  And maybe I never would be.
But now I go and I see – these people try too hard.  Everywhere I hear the sounds of post-modernist angst, push the limits, be different.  With all the effort to be different comes a kind of sameness, a monotony of loudness, strangeness.  It’s enough to make a person ill, maybe even crazy.
I walked around today with my camera taking pictures of doors, signs, things that made me laugh.  I knitted on the bus with a baby asleep on my lap.  I looked foolish.  I didn’t care.  Does it matter?  I create, too.  I create smiles, small people, knitted things. I’m not cool, and I think people like me anyway.  I never imagined I would be this person, but I’m glad to have the city, once in a while, anyway, to remind me that I am.

Not a Poem

Posted in Autism, Poetry with tags , , , , , on August 25, 2008 by Ms. Ex

I don’t feel poetic tonight

I feel sweaty, sticky, raw from a loud and violent day

with my four-year-old.

Atop the china cabinet is our armory:

Golf clubs, a toy fishing pole, a plastic shovel, a piece of wood splintered from a door jamb.

A plastic sword, a paddle covered with suction cups for catching the rubber ball, a bag of lifesaver

jellybeans (don’t ask me why).

It’s not that he wants to hurt me

It is the same thing in me that is in him that I got from my father like my brother:

This fury, escaping through the force of a fist.

This wall of turmoil inside, piling up behind the lump in my throat that closes it off from

the words that might rescue me, from the healing I might do, from the forgiveness I might need.

These things we choke on –

they are our doom.

And our salvation.