Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Attention K-Mart Shoppers

I am so glad you made it here. Now, can I prevail upon you to visit

  • Iowadrift's new site?

  • Please come to the new site, and please, please, if I'm on your blogroll, could you change the link? Both of you? Thank you! Thank you!

    Looking forward to seeing you in other, and even more excitingly designed, pastures.

    I Think It All Makes Sense In Rabbitworld

    Rabbit: What are you doing, Mama?
    Me: Checking my email
    Rabbit: Sucking a reno? Why would you do that?

    Rabbit: Who are you talking to?
    Me (on phone): West Virginia Mama
    Rabbit: (nodding head knowledgeably): Oh, West Virginia Mama. She lives in a library in Spain.
    [Note; she lives in a house in, you guessed it, West Virginia]

    Rabbit: I want a bottlemilk!
    Me: OK, do you want soy milk or cow milk?
    Rabbit: I want a bottle WINE!

    Sunday, January 08, 2006

    Maybe Not So Much With The Hallmark

    I was rereading my post of Friday the 6th, and discovered, to my horror, that I actually used the word "wonder" both with a straight face and in conjunction with my children. The horror! The horror! Next thing you know I'll be descanting on how fast the boys' babyhoods have gone, and linking to sites which sell small, noseless china figurines with hydrocephalus. "Wonder," indeed. Hmph.

    Now don't get me wrong; I have nothing against wonder itself, and there are definitely times when I do in fact find my children wonderful (often in the context of, "The mess in the diaper was wonderful to behold,"). But one of the reasons I started this blog--aside from being too lazy to write in a journal where no one would read my words, because where's the fun in THAT?--was to chronicle my own, actual experience of motherhood, separate from the often oddly rosy and/or domesticated vision of motherhood which seems to float around out there, or at least which floated around in my head before I had kids. I wanted--I still want--to write about the dailiness, the moment-to-moment, so that when I'm eighty and misty eyed with senility and gin I can conk myself over the head with my collected writings and knock some sense into myself before I start saying things like, "Oh, enjoy it while they're young, because [all together please] it goes so fast!" And, conversely, so that when I'm eighty I will be able to peruse my thoughts from fifty years ago and recognize that there WAS some good stuff going on amid the exhaustion and in-your-face of having tiny boys, good stuff that I could hardly see at the time (the time, you understand, being now; am I making this confusing enough?) because I was (am) so swamped with the intensity of both the boys' needs and my own reactions to them.

    Ah, the good stuff. That's the thing. It's there, but it's different from what I'd expected it would be, and that's where my mea culpa for the wonder-writing comes in. I read and heard an awful lot about the wonder of it all before I had kids--the moment of bonding when you look into the bright eyes of your firstborn, the incredible love which [again, all together now] makes it all worthwhile no matter how tired you are, the rejuvenation of your jaded adult spirit thanks to contact with these little beings who see the world new, etc. But that's not how it's been for me, and I am willing to be that's not how it is for a lot of mothers.

    How HAS it been, then? Well, ontologically overwhelming. There's so much BEING involved with small children, and what I'm good at is thinking, which is not the same thing at all. I'm not even that great at emoting; I'd much rather recollect it in tranquillity. So the quality of the love I have for my children has unsettled and even frightened me, because it's so animal, so straight-from-the-umbilicus, like a reflex which never gets above the cerebellum. It's a love which can give me great joy and great distress, but which is too primal and while the kids are tiny, too demanding, to engender thinner, more parse-able states of being like "happiness," and "wonder," and "enthusiasm." It's a love which has drawn me farther out of myself than I ever thought I could go, and one which has stripped me down to ugly truth. Oh, how ugly. There's nothing like love for absolutely epochal humiliation and facade ripping-away and show me where it warns you about THAT in What to Expect When You're Expecting.

    So yeah, not so much with the "oh, my children make me tired, but they bring wonder back into my life, and every time they smile I forget all about the hardships," blah blah blah. That's the kind of drivel and cant which, I'm convinced, plays a part in mothers deciding to lock themselves away behind their public smiles, and act un-desperate when they cross paths with other mothers at music class or Toddler Storytime or the supermarket. So you can imagine how annoyed I was to find myself perpetuating this. As I said before, mea culpa.

    Not, as I also said before, that there isn't some Good Stuff going on too. It's just that said Stuff feels to me to be something like grace--distressing, soul-making, embedded in the quotidian, really fucking slow--and while Flannery O'Connor could write about that with brio and nerve, I cannot. The best I can do is refuse to trivialize it, and as we've seen, often I can't even pull that off.

    I can, however, change a diaper.

    Friday, January 06, 2006

    The Three Year Old's Essential Library

    The Tall Doctor and I actually went on a date Monday afternoon, for the first time since I really don't know whe, and there was much rejoicing. We saw the Narnia movie (hey, I have already confessed to nerdiness), and to my pleasure it looked pretty much as I'd always imagined Narnia to look, ever since my English professor father read me the books when I was, oh, small. It didn't look the way TTD had thought it would look because he had no thoughts: he's never read the books.

    That's right, the Tall Doctor's childhood was seriously lacking in P. Rabbit and W. Pooh. Nobody went to Narnia; nobody visited Middle Earth. The Wind never blew in the Willows, the Swan never Trumpeted, and no Stories were Just So. (Beloved, HAVE you forgotten the suspenders?) Alice didn't fall down any rabbit holes, Dorothy didn't head off to see any Wizards, and Five Children definitely never met It. In The Tall Doctor's household, there were seven children, two parents, eighty cows, a dog, some chickens, and about thirty cats, but no fantasy.

    I try to remember this sometimes when I'm talking to him, but I find it hard to imagine life without, well, imagination. I mean, not that he's short on the facility itself, but unlike me, he grew up without a huge cast of characters dancing in his head like sugarplums, or vistas of distant lands beckoning for visits. And I just can't, well, imagine that. I cannot remember a time when I didn't have the sense that alternate worlds were available for the imagining (and are the voices in my head bothering you?) I cannot understand how anyone gets through school without taking refuge in long, luxurious flights of fancy during algebra class. As long as I can remember, I've had several different scripts of ongoing adventures running in my head, and it all began with Beatrix Potter.

    So seeing Narnia was most satisfying to me--and the White Witch just rocked; what a performance! She ought to get an Oscar just for her beautiful swordwork while wearing a chain mail dress--but seeing The Tall Doctor see it was even better. I knew the ending; for me, the whole film was a series of recognitions. But for him, it was a series of discoveries, and all was new.

    I thought about this the next day as I watched my father reading The Tale of Mrs. Tiggywinkle to The Rabbit, who spent most of his Christmas tucked beneath his grandfather's arm listening to just such stories. ("Christopher Robin goes hoppity hoppity hoppity hoppity hop/Whenever I tell him politely to stop it he says he can't possibly stop"). Because sometimes (OK, usually) in the midst of all the spectacular midnight vomiting sessions, public tantrums, shrieking in the library, pooping in the tub and refusals to go to bed, I forget that for every ounce of dewy youthful freshness the Rabbit and the Urplet have sucked out of me, they have injected an ounce of remembered wonder. They have refurbished my imagination--when they haven't KO'd it by staying up all night--and when I'm in my right mind, I take great joy in this. In fact, it feels as good as watching the Pevensie children trek through a snowy landscape in their fur coats. It feels as good as opening a beloved book for the first time in a very long time.

    Sunday, January 01, 2006

    Two Nerds Make a Night

    What we did for New Year's Eve: work (me) and wrangle small boys (TTD).
    What we're doing tonight, with two days off before us: eating pizza in bed while watching Ken Burns's Civil War documentary.
    Our idea of a perfect night: see line above.

    With this much nerdiness in the gene pool, our children are doomed.

    Tuesday, December 27, 2005

    God Rest Ye

    The Twelve Lows of Christmas (in no particular order)

    1) Not getting the happy, free-range, nourished-on-organic-you-name-it turkey we'd ordered from the co-op, due to a mix-up that was pretty much entirely my fault.
    2) Misplacing all my modifiers (see above).
    3) Discovering the "fresh" Hyvee turkey we purchased at the last minute was actually just defrosted: the glaze of pink ice across its dreadfully naked haunches gave it away.
    4) Picking up the Urplet after his Christmas afternoon nap and realizing that the sticky substance covering him, and now me, was a nap's worth of runny poop.
    5) Finally getting a much-anticipated movie date with The Tall Doctor, while my family watched the kids, only to arrive at the theater and find everything we wanted to see sold out.
    6) A sudden Rabbit refusal to wear clothes of any kind, ever,
    7) or eat anything but soy milk. Which isn't even technically eating; it's drinking, so there.
    8) The storms of Rabbit sorrow precipitated by the enforced donning of clothes, say to go out in twenty degree weather.
    9) Navigating a small house in winter with five adults and two boys under three.
    10) Cedar Rapids getting fogged in the day everyone was supposed to leave, so that my brother had to take a BUS to MOLINE to get a flight to CINCINNATI, to get another flight to Boston.
    11) Also, so that my parents had to reschedule for a flight leaving at seven pm and dumping them in Boston at one am. Which is just uncivilized.
    12) My brother removing the turkey from the oven only to find that there was a hole in the bottom of the pan. A hole from which grease streamed. Sad news for the new suede Christmas shoes.

    The Twelve Highs of Christmas

    1) Watching the Rabbit tuck himself under his Grandfather's arm and listen to hours of Beatrix Potter.
    2) Watching the Rabbit unwrap one present at a time, then remove himself to his playroom to play with it quietly for half an hour or so before returning to unwrap another present.
    3) The Urplet deciding, for reasons of his own, to sleep through the night three nights running.
    4) Waking up to the Rabbit sitting beside me on the bed and gently patting my cheeks while whispering, "Sorry to wake you up, Mama."
    5) Singing carols in a candlelit church. OK, so it was only for five minutes, before both boys melted down, but dammit, it was a GOOD five minutes.
    6). Sitting down around the table the first night of my family's visit and realizing that a lot of the people I love in the world were right here, healthy, in the room with me.
    7) NO CALL for either the Tall Doctor or myself. Two medical professionals, one of whom does ER work, one major holiday, four straight days off. Unbelievable.
    8) A rockin' new canvas "guy bag" from Territory Ahead; it's now the coolest diaper bag in the IC
    9) My brother's face when he opened the large, really rather nice silver piggy bank I gave him. Everyone wants a Capitalist Pig.
    10) Lots and lots of pecan pie
    11) with whipped cream
    12) This moment right now, with the fire and the tree and the sleeping kids and the Tall Doctor perusing The Economist (subscription to which was a gift from my brother) and a little peace seeping into my particular corner of Earth.

    Thursday, December 22, 2005

    The Koan Of The Minivan

    I am kind of embarrassed about having left that last post up for ten days, because it looks like I'm sitting here basking like a whale in having finished the novel, when the actual truth is, I have been doing the holiday thang and have dropped into bed at the end of each day, looked at my computer, sighed, and turned it off without posting. And there's definitely a place for that sometimes; yes indeed, I am discovering that there is. The Tall Doctor says he seconds that, and since my mother reads this, I'll leave the rest to your imagination.

    However, I have noticed over the past few days that I have been composing blog entries in my head nonstop, so it's obviously time to start up again, even though TTD and I did stay up until midnight last night wrapping presents. Oh, how we wrapped! We wrapped Thomas the Tank Engine videos and track. We wrapped books. We wrapped more books. We wrapped a mysterious water toy for the Urplet's bath. We wrapped sweaters and socks and all manner of random crayons and Play-Doh. By the end of the evening we had decided everything looked better wrapped, and we'd started on the mixing bowls, the china, and the cats. Those last were kind of resistant, though.

    As was the minivan. Yes, it's hard to wrap a minivan, even if you just bought it and it's Christmas time. I am, you understand, referring to the gold Honda Odyssey we bought on Tuesday. And when I say bought, I mean we BOUGHT that sucker! We wandered onto the lot, just looking, and three hours later we drove out in it. Bye bye. It's ours.

    Of course, all the way home, as I navigated from my nice, high perch, toasted my bottom on the heated seats, and drifted in the anonymity driving a minivan in Iowa bestows, I contemplated writing scathingly ironic blog entries about the poor minivan. I was going to trumpet my own chagrin: look, here I've given in and bought the ultimate American Mamamobile! I am Iowan! I have capitulated and will soon gain fifty pounds, grow out my hair, and begin wearing hemmed jean shorts, ankle socks, sneakers, and Tshirts with Christian slogans (I can say that because I AM Christian, but the day you catch me in a Tshirt that proclaims same is the day you call for the nice men in the white coats)!

    In short, I wanted to blog away the subtext of the minivan, just to make sure that I was aware of the subtext, and that everyone was aware of my awareness. And that's not such a bad goal. Any time I conform to a stereotype, I should have a reason; when I buy something as symbol-hobbled as a minivan, I should know what I'm symbolizing.

    And I should also know enough to know when to let it go. OK, so the minivan stands for conformity, homogeneity, James Dobson, soccer, mindless consumerism (no, wait, that's SUVs), suburbia, and Kierkegaardian despair. [Oh, you laugh? Isn't it the Big K who said that to be in despair is not to know you're in despair? And TS Eliot who talked about the people searching to be, "Distracted from distraction by distraction,"?] OK, so the minivan is a cliche. OK, so I look the part anyway, which makes it worse.

    But the thing is, so what? We need the space, the price was right, I have to commute sixty miles round trip to work in the snow in the wee hours of the morning so need the Subaru for that, we want to be able to take the kids on longer trips, we refuse the SUV, ergo, minivan. I can fuss and ironize all I want, but you know? I think I'll spend my energy elsewhere. Instead of wasting time bemoaning my cliched status, I think I'll regard my minivan as my own personal sound of one hand clapping, my own private meditation maze. Its very complacency will have to keep me from becoming complacent. The minivan as instrument of spiritual mortification? Why the hell not.

    Plus, it has a Rear Entertainment System. Oh stop laughing; it means it has a DVD player the kids can watch in the back.

    I can still hear you laughing. Cut it out. I don't want to have to come back there.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    If Genius Is 90% Perspiration, I've Got It Made

    I turned in the fifth draft of my novel to my agent today. Yes, you read that right: five drafts. Five drafts, four years. You can actually deduce a great deal about me from this fact, namely:

    1) I am a slow learner
    2) I am dogged
    3) I am prolix
    4) As--was it Flannery?--said, "I don't know what I think until I see what I write."
    5) I have a very, very patient and encouraging agent
    6) who is also a very, very good editor
    7) I am the lucky recipient of a Tall Doctor Working His Ass Off At The Hospital Fellowship
    8) I have a flexible, reliable, all-around-wonderful babysitter
    9) whose presence allows me to write exactly nine hours a week
    10) I really, really like to write