Showing posts with label babycenter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label babycenter. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

On a runaway train to join the global motherhood movement

I'm on my way, via Amtrak,  to New York City. The trees are whizzing past and every once in a while I can look out and see the wide, slow moving Hudson River on my right. Each time the train whistle blows I find myself swooning with some strange primal sense of nostalgia mixed with the pure excitement, anticipation, of moving through time and space from one place to another.

To travel.
I like it.

But I like even more that I'm going to the Mom+Social global motherhood summit to take part in a collective pow wow about how to make the state of the world's mothers as safe and healthy and filled with hope for the future of their children as can possibly be.

The thought of people taking the time to put their heads together to figure out how to better spread the word of the importance of mothers around the world inspires and encourages me beyond words.

One day and a lot of walking later:

Now that I'm here, I don't know where to begin to describe what I've seen and heard.

I've seen Christy Turlington, 80s supermodel turned women and children's health advocate. Her youthful beauty was distracting only in that it made me insanely curious how old she was. She's 44, apparently. I was hoping I'd find out she's at least ten years younger than I am though I knew that was impossible.

I saw Robbie Parker, the father of Emilie Parker, one of the six-year olds shot dead in the Newtown school shooting, cry several times onstage as he explained just how much his daughter changed his life and made him a better person.

I heard Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children, speak of the fierce determination of all mothers to ensure our children the best future possible future. I also learned how she came to devote her life to non-profit work. She described the day she locked eyes with a mother in the Phillipines and became profoundly aware that that woman's baby, just like Carolyn's baby at the time, had no less right than did her child to the very best future he could possibly have.

I listened to Fortunata Kasege talk about the sorrow of learning she had HIV and the joy of learning, a few months later, her newborn baby tested negative for the virus. 

I heard Jennifer Lopez and her sister, Lynda Lopez, banter on stage about being pregnant together and the importance of sisterhood, be it blood sisters or simply a tribe of supportive women around you. I experienced another superficial moment, ala Christy Turlington, when I could not take my eyes off sister Lynda's legs, which I described as leaving the stage five minutes after the rest of her body did. They were that long.

I was moved by a woman, a Latina blogger, named Jeannette Kaplun, when she said
"The fear of losing your kids can paralyze you no matter where you live, no matter what kinds of luxuries you can afford."

I learned about a United Nations campaign called Girl Up that inspires American girls to become global leaders and channel their passions to global issues.

We were presented at the beginning of the forum, with the question "What one thing, as part of the global community,  can we do to support the world's mothers?"

Can you answer that question?

Monday, March 26, 2012

All the maple syrup that we can eat

I came home from picking the girls up from school last Friday to find this on my porch. The local  farmer, one of the last remaining ones in our village, tapped some of the sugar maple trees on my father's land that surrounds our house.

I remember the farmer asking, way back when, if we would prefer to be compensated with cash or syrup. I think I made the right decision.

Five gallons of Grade-A Medium Vermont Pure Maple Syrup. It's like getting five free tanks of gas.
But much, much sweeter.

And it reminds me of one of my favorite childhood picture books, Little Runner of the Long House, about a little native American boy who tricks his mother into giving him things which he can "trade for wampum to trade for all the maple sugar he can eat."

This will be our wampum, and we won't trade it for anything.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Good dream, bad dream

I dreamed I got out of bed in the middle of the night and went into the bathroom to put water on my face.

As I looked up, groping for a towel to wipe my face, there, standing at the sink right next to me, we don’t have two sinks in our bathroom, was Ian, looking just like himself in one of the plaid flannel shirts
I bought him, stretched tautly over his deliciously- broad shoulders, and blue jeans and his blue eyes.

He was just standing there, casually looking into the mirror, as if he had been there all his life. 

I screamed and threw myself at him.

“What are you doing here,” I shrieked. “How did you get here?”

“I wanted to surprise you,” he said, as calmly and evenly as he says just about everything.

I should have known right there that this was a dream because surprising people, or planning anything ahead of time, is not Ian’s style, but I wanted so much for this dream to be true I ignored all of that.

And I held him, just held him, until I woke up and he was not here.


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Till the cows come home

We are still waiting for Ian.

Yet I am caught up in some sort of blurry twister, the kind that blows across the field, sucking up red golden leaves  and swinging them round and round in its super swirling vortex before dropping dropping them, breathless and dizzy, and moving on.

I feel as if I have tipped the scales towards overload somehow and I can't remember at what exact point I lost control. I've got a nasty cold. I feel tired all the time. Getting myself up and the kids out each morning feels Herculean. And the kids and the horses and the dog and the firewood and my blogging committments..... I never seem to be done or satisfied or finished, or ahead. I can't remember the last time the girls bathed. They don't smell too bad. And I never remember to badger Esther to practice her violin or do her homework. She is getting it done, not the violin part, but not as eagerly as she was before Christmas. She's flagging as well, I think.

And Isla, always begging me to read to her just at that witching hour when the fire needs to be started and the horses and dogs need to be fed and the dinner needs to be cooked, but first I have to clean the kitchen to find the sink and stove because I've been sitting at my computer most of the day. And I am so happy she is finally, finally into books and sooo guilty when I have to tell her, again, no I cannot read to you right now because if I read to you right now there will be no dinner to eat. There is no one here to fix our dinner aside from me. I'm all you got and if I knew how to read and cook dinner at the same time,  I would, but I don't so I can't.

I'm not exactly Demi Moore, yet, but sometimes I feel as if I can totally understand how easy it would be to just snap like that. To feel as if you are so far in over your head, or have climbed way too high and only just now, after all this time, bothered to look down and what you saw, how small everything looked down there, and how vulnerable you felt swaying up there in the wind, terrified you.

And the temptation to just let go and free fall, yield to the currents, is real and everpresent.

To let the dishes pile so high in the sink and the clothes so high on the laundry table and the bills so high on the kitchen table and to just say "screw it, come on kids, let's take the credit card and go out to eat and then go to New York City and see some Broadway shows, then let's not go to school for a week and go skiing every day instead. That last idea is kind of a joke considering the pathetic and extremely depressing lack of snow. Unless, of course, we went to the French alps....

And isn't it funny how my fantasy includes, rather than threatens to run away from, my children, so well trained am I at being their only hope at survival. But the fact is, I need them. They keep me from getting lonely, from feeling too sorry for myself. To think that Ian isn't even getting cuddles from a child is to realize that I have the better deal here. I don't care how much sleep he is getting, I would die if I had to be away from these kids that long. Die.

This place is drier than a popcorn fart. The land is crusty. Parched. Brittle, like my patience lately. The poor horses have sore feet from walking on their own frozen hoofprints. There is symbolism there, I know it.

Every snowfall we get is just this teasing, non-committal  one to two inches that always leaves the pointy ends of the grass poking through as if to say, na na na na na na, you can't smother me.

How did I get back to snow again?

Anyway, I realize, looking back to my last three weeks of Momformation blogs, that I've written about lice, what a mess my house is, and the confession that we are habitually late for school. You might be wondering if my confession that I'm downing two bottles of Fat Bastard pinot noir or, possibly, doing whippets, every night is coming next. But, remarkably, it isn't. I've never been into drinking alone. A tidy night cap now and then while I'm doing some late- night blogging, maybe, but really, I find no joy, or escape, in alcohol. I'm too concerned about how fat I'm already getting from all this sitting and no ice hockey, no cross country skiing, no nothing much of anything, really, other than bouncing up and down on my ball/chair and squeezing my glutes. That and dancing with the girls and the painfully sporadic, yet fulfilling, 8 a.m. walks with my neighbor.

Oh yes. I started this post to say I mailed Ian's completed Immigrant visa application yesterday. It only took us a month to get it all complete, included the translation of his French criminal record which was all of one sentence. If I knew how to say "nothing to report" in French, I would tell you that is what it said.

So now, all we can do is wait and hope and dream of one day being reunited as a family again. Esther has gotten really antsy. She keeps asking me every day when Daddy is coming home.

"In a week?" she asks.
"No," I say, irritated. 
"But you said..."
"All I said, was, maybe the visa center will review the application this week and then Daddy will get his interview appointment in Paris and he can finally come home. I did not say he was coming home in a week and I'm sorry if that is what you were hoping but it's just not true."

One day later:
"Tell me again when you think Daddy will come home."

"Soon, Esther," I say. "Soon."

It's like asking when it's going to snow.
Someday soon.
I just know it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A whole lotta horse shit

Saying goodbye to Ian, again, in England has left me feeling flat. As flat as a human can be and still be breathing.

I am a piece of cardboard. A cereal box, empty and folded. Ready for recycling. A newspaper, read, handled, folded in half and shoved under the bed.

I feel it most upon waking. Deflated. All my air, inspiration, hope has leaked out of some invisible hole overnight.

My sleep is fitful, hot, unsatisfying. I am seething with something. I miss Ian. I don’t want to be here without him any longer. I’m angry. Yet, I feel nothing.

It’s hard to parent when you are flat. Hard to find my arms to hold my children with. Hard to feel my heart beating. Hard for them to cuddle me without bumping into sharp edges. They crawl into my bed and lie quietly next to me. My heart says, reach out, enfold them in your arms. my brain, my stupid brain, won’t let me. It’s almost as if I’m too weary. Or as if I don’t want to let them in. Don’t want them to catch it, whatever it is I have. This melancholy.

I spent three blissful weeks with Ian, not once bothering to discuss the status of his immigrant visa beyond the most passing of comments. We were together, it was nice, let's not ruin our reunion with annoying, maddening bureaucratic talk.  Anyway there was nothing to talk about, we were in a holding pattern. Just waiting. Or so I thought.

Just days after I got back from England, I got an e-mail from Ian regarding a letter from the National Visa Center that had been waiting in the mailbox in France, for  three weeks. It was the hardcopy of a letter I received, and we had discussed, back at the end of November just before I went to Guatemala.

There was an attachment, as always, and forms to fill out. They were waiting for him to officially name me as his "agent." We had discussed this. Somehow, this discussion had failed. Ian thought I was meant to fill the form out. I knew he was supposed to fill the form out. I believed, the whole time we were in England together, that he had filled the form out and e-mailed it back to them.

I was wrong. Nothing had been done. The NVC was waiting for this form. No further progress was being made without this signed form. We had messed up, once again.

Our argument started via e-mail. Then we took it to Skype. I got so angry, and upset, over Skype I had to hang up on him. I went across the room and opened my mouth to let out the wounded animal sounds I hadn't wanted him to hear.  Then I swore, and cried, and swore some more. Five minutes later, feeling more under control, I called him back and we resumed our stupid conversation.

I hate being angry at Ian, or anyone I love. What I hate more is being angry at something bigger, the world, the system, myself, and taking it out on my loved ones. That makes me feel like a monster and a coward. Ian is sorry for having let this ridiculous oops happen. I know he is. There is no need for me to rub it in, to shame him for it. But sometimes I need someone to blame. Someone to be angry with. Someone to pass off my frustration to. Anyway, he signed a contract to be my husband and I'm sure somewhere in the small print there was some part about taking the blame for each and every thing just so your spouse can feel better. Isn't there?

Thankfully, this got cleared up quickly and two days later, how did that happen, I got another e-mail saying I had been named as agent and could now pay the immigrant visa processing fee of $404. Lucky me.

I struggled with that online payment form for several days, yes days, and finally called a toll free number, was put on hold for approximately 25 minutes, and learned that I needed to use Internet Explorer in order for the form to work. Does Internet Explorer even exist anymore?
I spent a morning trying to download a compatible version of that to my macbook and gave up when the graphics were all wonky. I tried Safari instead and had success. You have paid!

This is boring, I know. I apologize for that.

Short story is, we wait, we wait, we wait.

Ian now has to navigate all this Affidavit of Support crap, proving he has been earning enough money over the years and won't be a financial burden to the U.S., blah, blah, blah.

He's degraded and deflated and not so elated about being back in France without us. I want so much to go back there and be with him but know it doesn't make sense financially, or family wise, or in any way.

As much as I like being home, I miss France. I miss helping Essie do her homework, spelling words for her in French, reading books in French, complaining about the French. It's getting more and more dreamlike. But having Ian there isn't helping us hang on to our time in France.

It's only sucking the romance out of the memories. What price, this little adventure of ours? What price?

Gosh, Mom. These horses must have been poopin' all day while I was at school.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Perspective, and then some

I just read an Op-Ed piece in the N.Y. Times written by a Nigerian man, Lakhdar Boumediene,  who was detained in military custody, without explanation,  at Guantanamo Bay for SEVEN, yes 7, years.

His children grew up while he was inside being tortured, interrogated and treated like a terrorist despite the lack of any evidence against him.

Seven years.

They were not allowed to talk to him.

Seven years.

Letters they wrote to him were sent back.

When he was finally released, the only explanation was that the government had made a mistake.  Oops.

It breaks my heart. Incenses my every fiber. Shocks my soul. Seven years. You can not give a man the experience of being with his wife and watching his children grow back to him once you have stolen it. It's gone, forever.

And it makes me feel just a wee bit guilty about my ongoing pity party regarding not being able to get my husband, father of my children, back home where he belongs after just five months of trying. I'm still angry, more so than ever, but I'm also humbled somehow, in the face of just how bad it could be.

The world is filled with broken families. To see families broken up unnecessarily, and children losing their fathers for no good reason other than the heartless churning wheels of bureaucracy, is painful.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Be here now

The year is winding to a close.
It's as if I can hear the clock ticking the seconds away.
But it's not really the seconds left until the New Year that concern me so much as the seconds left until we have to leave Ian again.

"It's weird. I want to go home, but I don't want to go home," Esther said yesterday.

"I know exactly how you feel," I said. "Exactly." 

We are all stuck somewhere in between, so grateful for our little life boat, as we bob along the waves, but also keenly aware that a life boat isn't sea worthy for the long term.

"I want you to be my husband all the time," I said as I put my head in that place on his chest saved for me, the place I have been longing to rest in.

"I am," he said, so confidently I lost the desire to whine anymore and instead locked my attention in the here and now. Here and now. The feel of my cheek against his shirt. The warmth coming from underneath his shirt. The smell of him.  Here and now. Otherwise I will have regrets.

 "Daddy," I heard Isla's voice say as she cuddled up to Ian in bed this morning. "Isla," Ian answered.

"Daddy," she said again. "Isla," he answered again. 

"I don't care if you're scratchy anymore, Daddy," she said.

It seems even Isla is recognizing the importance of enjoying Ian while we can, whiskers or no whiskers.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Together again, for now

Poor Ian.

I tried to leave the house yesterday morning, bright and early, before the kids woke up, to walk to Thames path to Marlow and get some work done at the Starbuck’s there.

The only internet I get here, my life story, is standing in the picture window of Granny’s sewing room, the only room in the house without heat. It’s not conducive to working.
So Starbuck’s is my office.

So there I was,  babbling on and on as I got dressed, about what the girls might like for breakfast, what clothes they miight be looking for, what they might like to do:

Don’t forget to give Isla her nose spray so she doesn’t get allergic, and a spoonful of antihistamine in her juice, not too much juice, but not too little, she doesn’t like to taste the medicine.... , do you have my phone number, will you call me, what are you guys going to do for fun, maybe they would like to go swimming...

Ian said nothing, just looked at me, as if to say, What do I look like, the babysitter?

After 8 months without him, I am having trouble handing over the reins. I worry he has forgotten how to be their father. And I’ve forgotten how to be a wife...

I had not considered how hard it would be to get alone with him, to find time for us, not even realizing how much I need and want that. I was only focusing on the reunion of us as a family, of father and daughters, not husband and wife.

Being parents is hard. We love our children, we love each other. But the madness that is the fullness of their occupation of our every waking hour, is real. And people say it is but a blink of an eye, but I can’t help but dwell on the fact that Ian and I are older than usual, he especially, and ... do we really have all the time in the world? Now that we have been forced apart, time feels all the more precious.

 My commute route:

More TMI over at Momformation...

Friday, December 02, 2011

Secret agent wife

Back in France, ah France, I used to insert lots of descriptive setting info into my posts: The sun is melting, golden and syrupy, into the distant hillside, the leaves are dancing, like twirling acrobats, on the balmy breeze, the air smells of Pixie Stix. Remember that? I don’t either.

 Life is in overdrive today. I'm leaving for Guatemala tomorrow for my Save the Children trip. I would be totally excited if I could see past my nose, or past the huge pile of recycling I need to take to Fort Dumpster before I leave. Loose ends.

I'm in the weeds. And the way I can tell is because I can’t seem to find the time to

A: Even acknowledge the weather or my surroundings,

and B: I no longer write down all the profound things my kids say to me. I hear, practically see, these gems fall out of their mouths, I register that little heart squeeze that happens to all moms who get such surges of love, mixed with pride, mixed with the sadness that these children are not really ours to keep, and the moment passes. And I’m back to figuring out my  health care premium, and working out an installment plan for paying our 2010 taxes, and reading, with crossed eyes, the 4-page PDF document, written in incomprehensible govermentese, sent from the National Visa Center, regarding the status of my alien husband, Ian, who is still not allowed to come back to the United States even for a visit.

They want me to register an agent for him, and pay them some more money, and fill out another half dozen forms, and secure him a financial sponsor, before they will consider giving him back. I am now, officially my husband’s agent, not just his wife.

Ah bureaucracy. It's getting stale. It's starting to stink.

And C:  I know I'm in the weeds when  I forget to take pictures.

I will, however, be taking as many pictures as I can get away with in Guatemala. They are sure to be colorful and rich with grainy humanity.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is there an E-brake on this thing?

I once saw a bumper sticker on a pickup truck, I may have written about it before, that said,
"Get in, sit down, shut up and hang on."

That is exactly how life feels right now. 

This is not a complaint, but rather an explanation of sorts, as to why I cannot tell you where I have been or what I have been doing. I am, however, feeling compelled to write a list in hopes it may speak for me. Think of it as a very unpoetic poem:

A car has been purchased and it's not what I would have imagined in a million years. Suffice it to say, I remain an East Coast stereotype.

A birthday has been celebrated, someone turned six and someone has a new mermaid Barbie who wears so much eye makeup I'm wondering how she keeps her mascara from running underwater.

My sister was here over the weekend and I somehow tricked her into baking Isla's birthday cake, a sinful French chocolate cake, and cleaning the top of my kitchen cabinets, which were covered with a layer of grease and two years worth of dust. 

Ian learned a new song on his guitar and we spent a half hour on Saturday morning, with the phone on "speaker," listening to him serenade us from across the sea with deftly strummed chords.

When we put Ian on speaker phone, Isla has a habit of stealing him and hiding behind the couch in order to keep him to herself. This inevitably starts fights.

Esther wants to be with Ian on her 10th birthday, coming up on the 12th of December so we are shooting for being in England by that date.

I might be going to Guatemala as a guest blogger with the Save the Children organization: Fingers crossed, breath held, scream of excitement waiting agitatedly in the wings of my throat.

We've been enjoying/lamenting yet another Indian summer: the kind of weather that makes any honest New Englander highly suspicious of things to come. Sinfully warm and delicious, but doing nothing to reduce the tick population or promote the upcoming ski season.

I took all the pictures off my computer yet still I get a startup disk full message almost every time I turn on my computer. Help.  Could it be iTunes?

Isla told me I was a magnificent butterfly one night, then she said I was elegant and pretty the next. What is she buttering me up for? 

This morning she rushed back to the door of her classroom to kiss me on my left cheek, forehead, right cheek, nose, chin and mouth.

After months of badgering from Isla about making our house look more like a home, I got our rug out of the attic, and my big comfy chair from my parents' house, picked another chair with a "free" sign on it off of someone's front yard, and did my best to make our living room look more like a living room and less like a ballroom. I'm liking it. So are the kids.

I've been contemplating going off my antidepressants because I don't like the numb way I feel upon waking up each morning. It's as if they might also be anti joy, anti hope, anti-sorrow, anti-feeling, anti-life. I used to be a morning person. Now, it seems, I am a morning ogre.

I'm reading To Kill a Mockingbird to Esther, which has started an interesting conversation regarding the meaning of the word "rape." I realized my first attempt at explaining missed the mark when she said, "But why would anyone do that if they were married?" Help.

I've been getting special assignments to write BabyCenter articles for Yahoo's Shine blog. Like this one, and this one. I'm supposed to be writing an article right now and this little diversion has been a perfect way to procrastinate. 

I'll be back.  Leaving you with some photos: