Monday, October 31, 2011

I love the smell of paranoia in the morning...

Paranoia comes with the territory. It's part of the welcoming package we get when we give birth: Here's your tote bag with formula samples (which will be thrust into the back of the cupboard "in case I die"), a tiny little hat knitted by generous old ladies (that will never fit the watermelon-sized head you just passed but they will have fun putting it on their dolls later), a booger sucker, a medicine dropper, 37 pamphlets about diseases (to keep you awake at night in case your baby doesn't), and oh yeah... a great big jug of Paranoia Mist - it's so effective it will linger around the edges of your consciousness for at least the next 18 years. Enjoy!

A friend and I were watching our kids play on the playground before school. I had to take a moment out from our conversation to scream at my 4-year-old: "Don't throw the wood chips! You'll get a corneal abrasion!" This is, for me, a completely reasonable reaction. Not so much for other people, I discovered. First, apparently, you aren't supposed to yell instructions to your children across the playground. You're supposed to ask them how they feel about it and what a better course of action would be, keeping a calm voice and a big smile even while said 4-year-old continues to not only throw wood chips, but now to throw them into your big smile. OK, not gonna do that. I've made my peace with the fact that I startle other parents by suddenly yelling instructions at my monkeys. What was more surprising to me was that not everyone worries about corneal abrasion. WHY NOT?! My brother had to wear an eye patch for a month when he was 7 from that exact thing! It happens! The same mom who laughed at my "oddly specific" fear of corneal abrasion is terrified that one day one of her kids will inhale something and get it lodged in their left bronchial tube. Crazy lady.

Paranoia, to a degree, is necessary in raising kids. A healthy dose of fear is what helps us keep our kids safe. The metallic twang of adrenalin and the fight or flight reaction are what send us running to save precious heads from the sudden effects of gravity. It's what wakes us up in the middle of the night when the cough from the other room doesn't sound quite right. It's what makes us hold hands crossing the street. It's why we don't send a 7-year-old to the grocery store by herself to buy a gallon of milk even though she insists she's perfectly capable. Some fear is good, but by it's very nature, fear is irrational. Our guts kick in before our brains have a chance to catch up. And sometimes our guts kick in with bizarre, oddly specific scenarios.

We all have our own custom flavor of Paranoia Mist. It is an enchanting cocktail of our worst fears, past experiences, bad advice, books we've read (sometimes confusing the fiction with the non-fiction in our addled states) and that documentary we watched about the guy who had a botched circumcision as a baby so his parents decided to raise him as a girl and the rest of his life was a torturous hell.  Even the most "laid back" among us have it. In fact, I secretly believe that parents who are generally seen as "laid back" are either A.) heavily medicated or B.) are just better at keeping that big, boiling ball of neurosis inside and out of sight. But it's there, with its distinct, and highly personal scent. My Paranoia Mist is vomit scented.

I recently read a blog post by Lindsay Maddox on her blog, Silly Mom Thoughts about trying to talk herself out of her sudden and irrational fear of a suspicious acting stranger at church. With her usual humor and aptness, she describes how her gut reaction kicked in and her imagination was flooded with images of being gunned down in church. She describes that heart-thumping, I can't sit still and concentrate, I must do something NOW reaction that we've all felt in different situations. I caught myself feeling all superior and self-satisfied as I was reading because "I would never..." Crazy lady. I'm a far more put-together mom because I have let go of those fears of violence or kidnapping. I'm way cooler because I am open-minded. I don't have a fear of strangers. Oops. Except if they look like they might throw up.

Living in the city, we spend a lot of time on public transportation. I spend a lot of that time on public transportation carefully scrutinizing the other passengers for signs of illness. That fellow there is adjusting his necktie, is it because he's nauseated and finds it a bit constricting? She has cleared her throat 4 times now, is she about to chuck? You there! You look a little green around the gills. Don't make eye contact! Don't make eye contact! Argh! That person just put her head between her knees! THIS IS IT! Oh, wait, she's just getting something out of her bag. The embarrassing fact is, someone could be holding up the bus driver with an automatic weapon and I might not notice unless they also looked a little peaked. More than anything in this world, I am terrified of vomit. I generally try to keep this terror to myself, being totally irrational and all. I mean, sometimes I do suddenly snap at my kids to "Turn around and don't touch anything!" for fear that someone may have, at some point in the history of the bus, vomited in that very spot. I have been known to change seats a few times to better locate us away from possible hurlers. But that's just being prudent, right? OK, so maybe that one time few times when we jumped off the bus 3 stops early and I made my tired kids walk the remaining 12 blocks home was a little crazy, but exercise is good for you.

If you've never had the Bus Panics, or the Church Panics, or the Sitting in My Living Room on a Tuesday Afternoon Panics, then you are either A.) not a parent or B.) heavily medicated. We all do it. It's easy enough to look at someone else's crazy and feel all special because it's not the same as ours. But the next time you feel that nothing but buzzing in your head, heart palpitating, hot-sicky fear, take a whiff of your own special blend of Paranoia Mist. Chances are, some other mom is thinking you're insane. And you are. We all are. So how 'bout some hugs. But not if you're feeling queasy.

*** Special thanks to Lindsay Maddox whom I've only recently discovered and I've never met in the flesh but I'm pretty sure we would get along.  Read her blog. Thanks, Lindsay, for your courage and your humor and your boundless energy.

*** Bus Panics are totally justified, by the way. 2 weeks ago, the Chief Lou came home from work and left his shoes on the back porch. You know why? Someone threw up on the bus. Right in front of him. He stepped in it. I will never touch those shoes again.

Friday, October 28, 2011

In this economy...

"In this economy..." is rapidly climbing my chart of Top 10 Social Disclaimers that Should Be Stricken From the English Language for Overuse and Abuse. Seriously, it's about to replace "Now more than ever..." and that's saying a lot. These phrases get bandied about willy nilly, and generally get attached to the front of any sentence that you want to excuse in advance for being obnoxious or selfish or xenophobic or just about anything involving duct tape and bottled water. Any sentence begun with this phrase will automatically send me to a place in my head that plays my favorite songs on repeat. Your lips are moving, but I can't hear what you're saying. It just looks like you're lip-syncing to "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and that amuses me. That's why I'm smiling and nodding along. I have a serious problem with cliché to begin with, and I find social disclaimers to be among the most despicable forms. If you have something obnoxious to say, say it. Don't hide behind a mindlessly repeated talking point or try to excuse it or make it seem somehow all right under the circumstances. So, "in this economy..." is about to be stricken from my lexicon forever. But first! Some advice from my mother:

My mom is one of the best teachers I know. With a career spanning 40 years, she has seen every trend in education come and go and come around again. One time she told me her trick to classroom management: "Your classroom is like a government. The teacher, as the leader, gets to determine the 'currency of the kingdom'. If you trade in positive reinforcement and excitement for learning, the students will learn to do the same." This advice has also saved me from many temper tantrums (my own) over the last several years of parenting. What is the currency of my household? Do we trade in mutual respect and kind words? Do we give these things to each other without reservation? What is the currency of your household?

And what is the currency of our country right now? We can continue to focus collectively on the distribution of wealth and material goods and see where that gets us. Or, we can devise a new economy. The good news is that we don't have to wait for new people or the right people to get elected to get it started. There's no joint resolution that needs to be passed, there's no spending to cut, no disenfranchisement, no endless bickering over dollars and cents. The other good news is that I'm going trot this tired phrase around the barnyard before I put it out of its misery.

In this economy... I will choose to give liberally and without regret to those who need it without judging their circumstances.

In this economy... I will also choose to give liberally and without regret even to those who I don't think need it.

In this economy... I will spend my energy developing relationships and experiences; not accumulating possessions.

In this economy... I will get to know my neighbors and my community. I will not be isolated by fear or apathy.

In this economy... I will not adopt positions or ideas just because they are oft-repeated or popular. I will choose to think for myself.

In this economy... I will not participate in gossip or slander of anyone, whether they are a public figure or a private individual, because that only divides and hurts.

In this economy... I will plant flowers and bake bread because they smell good and because they remind me of things like delayed gratification, growth, and getting my hands dirty.

In this economy... I will tell people the nice things I think about them, whether I think they need it or not.

In this economy... I will continue to enter (and lose) local contests and events because it forces me to expose myself and get to know new people in ways I wouldn't otherwise.

In this economy... I will listen carefully to the stories of others. I will not judge based on appearance, my pre-ordained pigeonholes or stereotypes. I will constantly be surprised.

In this economy... I will turn off the "news" and turn up the music.

In this economy... I will express gratitude, both loudly and inwardly, for the goodness that surrounds me: in nature, in other people, in the things I have, in the lessons I've learned, in the challenges I face, in the silliness of life.

In this economy... I will take responsibility for my choices, my actions and my words. I will also give myself and others the grace to make mistakes.

In this economy... I will play nicely and share.

In this economy... my kids' inheritance will be love for themselves and others, an appreciation for hard work, thankful hearts, faith, and a sense of their many-splendored gifts and how they can use them to change their worlds.

What is our country, if not a conglomeration of all sorts of households? Join the revolution! What's your new economy?

*Photos courtesy of the inimitable Thomas Poarch. The figures are of part of an installation by Tom Otterness in the 14th St subway at 8th Ave in NYC. Should you ever be in the Big Apple, you should check both Toms out. Also, am I allowed to say "Big Apple"? I'm not sure about this.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Believe It or Not, It's Just ME!

Today's my birthday. It's very hard for me to simply state that because I always want to say it like this: TODAY'S MY BIRTHDAY! I love my birthday. I've only had 2 birthdays that I can remember that I didn't love to pieces. Not a bad record when this is number 37.

I have chosen this as my birthday theme song this year:

Undeniably adult now. No one is mistaking me for the nanny when I'm out with the kids. No one checks my ID for anything - except that one guy at 7-11 who checks it every time I buy gas but that's a whole other thing. College was more than a decade ago, I'm coming up on my 20th high school reunion. I've been around long enough now to see the high fashion of Junior High come back in vogue as "retro". People of a certain age look uncomfortable and a little sad when I reference pop culture in conversation. And I'm OK with that. We live in a culture that values youth and beauty above substance; where growing older (or at least looking like you are) is to be avoided at all costs, and where actual good health takes a backseat to an unrealistic ideal. It's hard to resist the gravitational pull of popular opinion sometimes, even with the best of intentions. The hair dyes are purchased, the creams, the outfits, the depilatories,  the "special" undergarments. But over the last couple of years, along with those attempts at staving off the inevitable, what I really was purchasing was a whole boatload of guilt and self-loathing.

Flower pot hat.
As a mother of a daughter, I am ever-vigilant about teaching her to be proud of the person she is. To accept her uniqueness and celebrate it. She's 7 now, so it's not much of an issue for her. You wanna wear a hat that looks like a flower pot? Awesome. You wanna build a time machine that will transport you to colonial times at recess instead of letting the boys chase you? Go for it. You wanna wear a shirt with a picture of a monkey wearing glasses to school for picture day? Rock on. Right now my wee girl is in her own orbit. She's got this whole world that she inhabits that is all her own. She's friendly and outgoing, she gets along with people in a way that I find almost enviable, she's relatively unscathed by the politics of being a little girl in a society that's in a rush to grow them all up. But I know in a few short years, her orbit will start to feel that gravitational pull. She'll start to notice that she's different at a time when that's about the last thing anyone wants to be. And then what? I want to be able to say, without hypocrisy, "Just be yourself. Your self is fabulous."

These are our actual faces. Deal with it.
I quit wearing makeup on a regular basis when one time, in my 20s, I was especially late for work and didn't put any on. All day, people kept asking me if I was sick. It was so disturbing to me that when I didn't have my warpaint on, people thought there was something wrong with me. Thus began my campaign: "This is my actual face! Deal with it!"  Now that face has crows feet and little parentheses around my mouth. I'll be honest, sometimes those little footprints and punctuation startle me when I look in the mirror or see a recent picture of myself. But they are also a happy reminder of all the years I've thus far been able to laugh and smile and etch those little lines a little bit deeper. I've been OK with the makeup thing for years. But on this, my 37th birthday, I am chucking the hair dye: the makeup I've been applying to my steadily whitening hair. It wasn't fooling anyone, least of all me. I started to go gray when I was 22, I'm now reaching that point where there's a little more salt than pepper. I've spent years and thousands highlighting, low lighting, and desperately coating those amazingly resilient diamond strands. This is the year I say "Enough." This is the year I look in the mirror and see my ever-changing mane of crazy hair and say "You are part of me and I love you." It seems a small and silly thing, but it's a huge leap for me to banish the mental images of Barbara Bush from my mind when I brush. "This is my actual hair! Deal with it!"  I'm doing it for me, and I'm doing it for my daughter.

When she looks at me, I want my little girl to see a woman who has enjoyed her life, appreciated herself and loved her person. I want her to see a woman who didn't spend a lot of time, money and energy trying to deny and defy nature. These bodies we've been given can do some amazing things and I believe we should take care of them. But ultimately, they are disposable. They were made to wear out. When our jeans reach that pinnacle of just-right comfort and ease, we rejoice. We wear them every day we can get away with it. We are sad when they're in the laundry. Why don't we do that with our bodies? I'm not quite old enough yet for unsalvageable and unsightly holes. I'd like to think I'm at that "favorite jeans" phase of life. A little bit faded, worn in, comfortable and still highly functional.

It's a new year for me. Another year of being undeniably adult. I want it to be a year of being undeniably fabulous. I think there should be a secret meeting for all preteen girls to explain to them this wonderful secret: regardless of your structure, your clothes, your hair, your face, the hottest woman in the room is the most confident woman in the room. Embrace your hotness!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole into Roses

This month's recommended reading list from within the Rabbit Hole. How to move from the inevitability of death to heirloom roses in five easy steps. 

Rabbit Hole.
I read like tumbling down stairs.
I've been casting about for the last several weeks for something to read while I'm waiting for my stab at A Dance With Dragons from the library (as of this writing, there are 137 people in front of me on the hold list, so it may be a while). I was reading The Inevitable, a collection of essays about the inevitability of death, primarily because (I'll be honest here) David Shields co-wrote the introduction to the collection and it is my personal mission to read every scrap of everything he has ever written and meet him to discuss writing (without enrolling in one of his classes at UW) over coffee one day. It was an excellent collection, for the most part, and I was inspired by the mechanics of it all. Death, like love, friendship and motherhood, is one of those subjects that it's nigh unto impossible to address directly without resorting to cliché. The essays were fascinating in their massively different approaches to the same topic. They were also informative, moving, funny, and appalling. Unfortunately, I had to lay the book aside because my reading of it coincided with the third anniversary of my dad's death and it was all too much right then.

But, as these rabbit holes of reading can go, I needed to pick up some David Foster Wallace because there was an essay by Jonathan Foer in The Inevitable that I found both brilliant and disappointing at the same time and it made me think of brilliant disappointment (or perhaps, disappointed brilliance) and well, obviously Wallace is the next curve in that particular spiral. So, I was noodling through Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and feeling, as I always do when I read his work, rather dilettantish in the face of such staggering insight and wordsmithery. I was enjoying this in much the same way I enjoy poking my bruises, but alas, I eventually had to  put him aside for three distinct and particular reasons. First, like the lobster I no longer eat because of him, it's delicious and somewhat addictive, but also very rich and too much in one sitting can wreak havoc on the digestive system. Second, some of his "Brief Interviews" were men who closely resembled people I may have, at one time, known rather well and it was giving me nightmares. And lastly, because my reading happened to coincide with seeing Justin Townes Earle, both in concert and in the act of reducing the lead singer of his opening act to tears on the sidewalk, and the whole tortured genius thing just got to be all too much.

I was thisclose to picking up a book my mom recommended because she said the author reminded her of me when I'm not thinking about being polite and I wondered what that meant, when in the alchemy of the public library hold system, a book I reserved months ago came available. [I will pause here to explain that I don't buy books very often anymore. I don't have room. Besides the overflowing bookshelves in three rooms of our four room house, I also use teetering stacks of them as "decorations" or "end tables". I call it my version of shabby chic. Other people call it a gigantic mess. Po-tah-to. Also, we have an amazing public library system and I like to think I do my part keeping it afloat with my late fees. I also like the idea of sharing books with the whole city. There are many other reasons, but for now, suffice it to say that a lot of my reading and entertainment revolves around when my number comes up on the hold list.] So, this gentle and lovely book landed in my lap at exactly the right time because the Magic Hold Fairy at the library decided that it was my turn.

Eudora Welty in the 30s.
How fabulous is her hat?!
What There is to Say, We Have Said is a collection of letters between Eudora Welty and her friend, colleague and editor William Maxwell that span nearly 60 years. I want Eudora Welty to be my friend. I want to write to her of roses and traveling and the weather. I want her to come and visit me and read rough drafts of her stories aloud to me. I want William Maxwell to be my editor. I want him to send me galleys with gentle suggestions. I want him to protect me from "stupid reviews". I want him to write and ask me to ask my mother for recipes. In all honesty, I've read very little Eudora Welty for one reason or another and I've never read any William Maxwell. I'm not sure now that I want to. This intimate glimpse of them through their correspondence with each other is far more interesting to me than fictitious short stories. The personality, the wit, the mundane details of life and the genuine regard they have for one another fascinate me. I am sure these elements show up in their fiction, because even in fiction, you can't really hide who you are; but oddly, I'd rather read their writing about their writing. Especially in the frank, unguarded conversation between old friends.

Ezra Pound said: "Man reading should be intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one's hand." People who actually read, do so for many reasons: escape, information, solace, necessity, kinship, entertainment, schadenfreud, maintenance of mental accuity, bragging rights, and so on. I couldn't name just one reason I read any more than I could name just one favorite author or book, but ultimately, it's that "ball of light" that I seek. Whether that "ball" be glowing the sickly greenish cast of  fluorescence from a men's restroom or the ruddy glow of a late Mississippi summer afternoon scented with roses and fresh-baked bread, I need it there in my hands like I need the hands themselves. Even more, reading is so intensely interwoven with my very act of being alive. That ouroboros of life affecting my reading and my reading affecting my life is a constant source of amusement and fascination to me. "What There Is..." is one of those books that's intensely alive whether anyone's reading it or not, but how much more fun to share that intensity with these charming friends. Read it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Love the Fall

I love the fall. I love fall food: apple cider doughnuts, chili, warm bread from the oven, hearty soups. I love the sweaters and layers and hats of fall. I love the smell of the summer winding down and starting to decay. I love the frost in the mornings and puffs of visible breath at night. My three favorite holidays are in the fall: Halloween, Thanksgiving and my birthday. I love the word "autumn". I love a toasty warm fire in the wood stove to take the edge off the evening chill. I love the early nightfalls, made for cuddling. Fall is my "energy season". I cook more, write more, knit more, make more. Albert Camus said "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." These flower-leaves are my favorite thing about the fall. 

I grew up in northern Vermont. As a child, I always thought it was a little bit silly that people would drive from all over the country just to come and look at our trees. Once a year, my dad would load us all into the car and we'd just drive. Out through the hills and small villages. Not to anywhere in particular, just winding around getting lost in the brilliant patchwork of a New England autumn. I wish I could say honestly that it was a time of magical wonder and idyllic family bonding; but at the time I think a lot of the focus (in the back seat, anyway) was on whose legs were in the wrong foot well, whose breath smelled, who was chewing too loudly, who might get carsick and who got to sit by the window - not for the view, but for the position of power it seemed to convey. Like most children do, I took it for granted. Of course it was beautiful. What was the big deal? It happened every year.

As a somewhat larger child now, I find myself living in a city of many trees. We have a long, slow autumn. As if on a secret cue given by school buses and eraser dust, the trees begin to change their clothes. One variety at a time, each with their own signature colors. The maples begin with the reds of fire engines, lipstick, clown hair. The alders blush a faded orange. The beeches trade their leaves for pennies, winking in the sun. A tree near our house is my favorite - a lime green to yellow, almost fluorescent. Bit by bit, they all don their ball gowns and jewels for their final curtain call for the year: tourmaline, garnet, amethyst, ruby, topaz, alexandrite, tiger eye. They swish on the sidewalks to the opalescent flashes of autumn sunshine, gracefully nodding and fluttering waves. 

I go about my business. I walk the kids to school. I go to the grocery store, the library, the bank. I trip through my days, spilling coffee as I organize, make lists in my head, clean up messes, fold clothes. I pack lunches, find shoes, answer countless nonsensical questions, check homework, retrieve library books, make dinner. Somehow I still find myself concerned with whose legs are in the wrong foot well, whose breath smells, who's chewing too loudly, who might get carsick and who gets to sit by the window. 

This time of year, the easy, torpid pace of summer picks up with the breeze and we find ourselves always en route somewhere. How many days have I hurried small, dragging feet through the freshly fallen leaves, seeing nothing but the minutes ticking toward the late bell at school? How many times have I driven the same routes, staring only at the red light making us wait instead of the red leaves waving along the street? How many times have I seen only the smudge of chocolate instead of the soft cheek that held it? How many times have I only half listened to rambling, imaginative story while I balanced the checkbook in my head? How many times have I tugged, wishing they would hurry up, without savoring the feel of small hands, so trusting, so sweet in mine?

I can no longer be mistaken for the child piled in the back of that station wagon. I recognize the fragile, ephemeral beauty of the autumn leaves. I understand my father's wish to just drive and soak it in; to fill the senses with the majesty of it while we still could. I know that there is no guarantee of next year. But still, like that child, I take the beauty that surrounds me for granted. Of course they're beautiful. What's the big deal? The thing is, they won't always be there next year. Not in the same way. Our seasons will change and their lives will move forward and will I have spent this time - this sparkling, colorful, fragile, ephemeral time - focused on petty squabbles and daily minutiae? Will I take this beauty for granted? Or will I take the time to really see my life around me - the bright eyes, the crooked, gap-toothed smiles, the messes that mean that there are little people alive and curious around me, the growing bellies that need to be filled with good food? All of that, like the glowing leaves, won't be around for long, but they're here today. I think today I'll leave the tussling and griping to the back seat of that station wagon all those years ago and lift my head up, out of myself, and savor the view.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Earning My Stripes

The other day at the park, there were a group of mothers with toddlers who looked to be about 15-18 months. That wonderfully dangerous age where they are suddenly mobile, but lack the sense to know exactly how to use this new-found freedom. While I was sitting on a bench, knitting a Sounders scarf for my husband and keeping my third eye on my monkeys, the toddler-moms were trying to have a conversation with each other about baby food making and the best walking shoes in between smelling bottoms, hovering near the end of the slide, and snatching wobbly little legs from the edges of things.

I caught a few sidelong glances from the moms and double checked that my own little playground monkeys were being careful around the wee ones. No problems there today. I figured I'd imagined the glances and went back to knitting. A few minutes later, as one of the moms scooped about a half a pound of sand out of her son's mouth for about the 67th time, she turned to me and said "When do we get to knit?!"

I remember all too well the hovercraft days. My wee hooligan ate so much dirt as a toddler, the doctor wanted him tested for Pica (turns out he was just suffering from an acute case of being two.) My J-Bird was born independent and out-going and would toddle off to chat with whomever was around, no matter where we went; often inviting them to our house or giving them our phone number that she had so proudly memorized. I remember not being able to finish a sentence before having to sprint over and catch one or the other of them standing at the top of the big slide, leaning their out-sized heads out over the void. One trip to the pumpkin patch a few years ago, while I was helping Jane struggle with the pumpkin cutting shears taller than she was, I heard the sweetest little voice behind me say softly: "Deee-wicious!" I turned just in time to see Joe taking a huge bite of the dirt clod he was holding. IT WAS AN ORGANIC PUMPKIN FARM! Do you know what they use to fertilize their fields?!

I remember viciously envying the moms with clean hair and jeans that fit. I remember fashioning a diaper out of public restroom paper towels.  I remember how giant and wild and solid and careening the 4-year-olds at the park looked compared to my little bowlegged adventurers. I remember unceremoniously scooping up squirming masses of legs and elbows and hoofing it out of Dodge before all three of us burst into tears of exhaustion and frustration.

And suddenly, I realized I was remembering this stuff. These things were no longer a part of my day to day existence. I have no idea now what baby food mills are the best on the market or what shoes are good for early walkers, but there was a time in the not-so-distant past when those very things occupied a great deal of my mental energy and precious free time. My monkeys and I have moved on to new preoccupations now that will eventually become irrelevant as well.

There are days that seem like they are 107 years long. Some nights, even longer. There are moments when you think you might just lie down in the sand box and kick and scream along with them. And there are definitely times when you think you will subsist the rest of your life on discarded Goldfish crackers, crusts of rejected sandwiches and 16 gallons of coffee a day; that the rest of your life you are destined to make small talk about bodily functions; that you will never again be witty or intelligent because perhaps half your brain cells exited through your birth canal. But suddenly one day, you're sitting at the park with freshly washed hair, knitting a scarf while your monkeys play nicely on their own two legs and sipping a cup of coffee for its flavor instead of gulping it for its restorative properties and taking a moment to enjoy the sunshine and the scenery.

 I'm nowhere near done parenting yet. Not even halfway. I could strangle every person who says "Oh, they grow up so fast!". But this sudden bit of perspective, provided in the plaintive question from a frazzled mom - "When do we get to knit?!"- reminded me that nothing is forever, even when it feels like it might be. We just keep trudging, skipping, catching, playing, changing, wiping, yawning, crying, laughing through these days, one after another until suddenly we find ourselves on the other side of something.

That day at the park, I changed colors on the stripes I was knitting, tried my very hardest not to look smug, and smiled as I told her "Sooner than you think."