Tag Archives: parenting

Another Artist in the Family

I don’t know what it is about kids’ drawings. There are times I feel like I’ve been shown the answer to something terribly important, and I just have to remember the question.

Drawing by Gwen, 2.5 years old

My eyes try to make out the image, like a distant shape through the fog of my muddled brain. Like a muffled call through the chaos of my preconceptions. There’s definitely something there.

Live For This

A Kiss Amidst the Chaos

Two Beauties, No Beast

Cooler Than Thou, But Still My Baby

Night Nursing = Cavities?

Baby Girl has two cavities. Of all my five kids, only one other kid has ever had a cavity (knock wood!) and she got it when she was about 6 years old. And this is counting a 19 year old, a 15 year old, a 9 year old, a 4 year old and Baby Girl at 2 and a half years old. So, that’s a lot of years of potential cavities.

When I was about 4 months pregnant with Baby Girl I broke my wrist. I’d also been breastfeeding Hank, who was almost 2 at the time, so I was wondering if maybe Baby Girl didn’t get a whole lot of calcium with that kind of situation.

And like a moron, I asked the dentist his opinion. Nice guy. Friendly, young, approachable, listens intently.

“Oh no,” he assured me. “That wouldn’t have anything to do with it.”

Then he raised an eyebrow. “Did you breastfeed?” After I confirmed this and added, “Still am,” he nodded knowingly.

“It’s those night nursings. I see it all the time in breastfed kids. Very common.”

“Didn’t happen with the other four,” I pointed out.

“They got lucky,” he said.

So, if night nursing causing cavities was a COMMON thing, then wouldn’t FOUR of them have suffered from it, and just the ONE have gotten lucky???

Sounds to me like the others experienced a normal eating/tooth health situation, and poor baby girl got unlucky.

But what the hell do I know.

Geologic Time

I don’t know a better way to put things in perspective, for oneself or one’s children, than to think of things in geologic time.

To show them the landscape that looks so huge and eternal, and to let them know that in reality, it is moving and changing as surely as the wildflowers make their fleeting appearance and then die. Change is the law, and anything that is before you, whether it seems pleasant or painful, will soon be gone.

The fantastic amounts of time involved in geologic processes also helps us concentrate on the present moment, and put our  human time frame in perspective. That special event next week that you are so desperate for you feel like you will explode? That’s not even a couple seconds away in geologic time.

The most amazing things in life cannot simply be bought at the store ready made. They take time, effort, sometimes tools of a paradoxical nature, such as water to wear away stone… or build it up. We learn that success requires perseverance, that it is a process, not a final destination.

When we see the rocks and even attempt to understand the length of time involved, it clears our mind of all the tiny little limits we tend to operate within. It opens us up to infinity.

Dark Days of the Soul

I’m passing through the shadows. It’s really damn dark and lonely in here.

This isn’t how my life was supposed to be. If I’d known, when I decided to throw myself body and soul into mothering five children, that I would fail so often and so profoundly to help them find joy in life, that they would all be so frequently miserable, full of conflict, anger, disgust, resistance to any good thing, would I have carried on?

Nothing else I’ve ever done has even come close to being as rewarding as being a Mama. So if that vocation is such a pit of misery for everyone involved, then nothing else would be worth it either.

The only logical alternative is oblivion.

I open the book The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh. In it he writes:

Even if we are in pain, if we can see meaning in our life, we will have energy and joy. Energy is not the result of good health alone or the wish to achieve some goal — material or spiritual. It is a result of feeling some meaning to our life.

But what does it all mean?

I’ve always identified too well with the existentialists. I’ve always been able to see much too clearly how none of this has any rhyme or reason. All the explanations of some jealous, angry higher power torturing us into being so afraid that we will do anything to avoid even more torment in hell’s eternity… I’m certainly not going with that brilliant philosophy.

What does it mean?

Does it mean we prove how tough we are to just plod along, even when everyone around us hates everything and wishes we were dead, out loud, several times a day?

Is it worth all the misery for those couple of minutes a day when the kids get along and share a giggle?

Cuz here’s what it seems to boil down to: It sucks being alive. It’s hard, frustrating, at times agonizing, frightening, a constant, relentless struggle with someone or something. Even the richest, most spoiled brats in the world are still heavy with misery over some kind of drama, lacking, addiction, pain, sorrow. None of us escapes it.

What does that mean? What significance could it possibly have for people to carry on, slashing and smashing as best they can through the jungle of every day life?

I feel like if I could just get the point, I could be a better person, and relieve the suffering of those around me just a bit.

But instead of relieving suffering, I have actually created five new people with the infinite capacity to experience horrific misery.

I remember when my first was born, the thought occurred to me, I’ve given birth, and I’ve given death. I’ve just condemned an innocent soul to death. Hopefully not soon, hopefully not painful, hopefully in her sleep after many years of blissful existence. But nevertheless, however it happens, it was because of my choices.

No wonder people want to put off the responsibility on some higher power, who has the “Plan,” and they are just hopeless pawns in “his” game, trying desperately to follow “his” rules in order to escape punishment for the terrible shortcomings that “he” bestowed upon them.

Is that what it means? I have demonstrated my awesome ability to confer life and death, and now what? I’ve tried to be an example of enjoying good food, nature, books, ideas, enjoying the company of loving, creative people, and it works for a little while. But then they get bigger and their attitude becomes, screw you old lady, and the horse you rode in on. Get your lameness and cluelessness the hell away from me!

Ah, good times.

I want to be a beacon of light. My name, “Elena,” is a form of “Helen,” which means “torch.” The whole purpose of a torch is to be a tool to light the way. You don’t lead someone, and I don’t feel like a leader, you just keep burning and allow them to use you to lead themselves, shining your light as best you can.

But in this dark time, when all the air has been sucked out of my atmosphere, my little flame struggles and flickers and gasps for some kind of fuel to consume. Some kind of meaning to allow me to burn on.


It’s one of those days where I wake up desperate to actually get something done. I want to dig in, work hard, and at the end, feel as though I’ve done something that matters.

Ain’t gonna happen. I can’t even finish a sentence around here, much less an entire project.

I couldn’t even get a shower yet today.

I couldn’t even get up on time, because my husband had, Oops! reset the time. So the kids missed their buses.

Writing a blog post is one tiny thing I do every day to feel like I’ve done something. So far, during this little amount I’ve written, I’ve had to get up FOUR TIMES to attend to Baby Girl hollering “Mama!” from the other room. Even though I set her up with chocolate milk and gave her carte blanche to scribble on my new phone book. Or rip it, or eat it, but for god’s sake just let me get through one sentence!

So you can see why I am less than hopeful about getting anything at all done, yet again.

But when you see that face… I suppose that makes me feel accomplished. I made that unfathomably absurd cuteness!

Don’t know how many years I can ride on the coattails of that particular accomplishment, but maybe it will get me through one more day.


Diaper Guilt

As someone who considers herself a natural, alternative, bordering on the hippie kind of Mama and homemaker, my guilt over using disposable diapers has been excruciating, but, hey, since my last child is showing signs of potty training, it’s almost over.

On Ghost Mountain, Lompico, California, circa 1990 -- Back in my seriously hippie days

I lodge no complaint against the holier-than-thou attitude of the cloth diaperers. I know they are in the right, fulfilling yet another of the requirements of the “Natural Living” standards that gets you in the club. I completely ignore the ECers (“elimination communication,” where apparently you follow your barebutt, legwarmer-wearing child around with a bucket all day) since who even wants to reach that kind of saintliness. I’m only human, after all.

But how many of them have gone totally carless for nine years, like I did? Relying solely on a bike with bike trailer or buses, whether rain, shine, gale force winds… no matter what? (And yes, this was with two, then three kids, not as a single childless person!)

Yeah, I thought so. They toted their righteous poop catchers  home in some kind of earth-polluting monstrosity. (And hey, even the electric cars are tied to resource depletion, so don’t even start with me!) My near-decade of pedal power has to count for something.

I did try cloth diapering for about three months with my third child. This was during the two years I didn’t have a dryer, but had to either use the clothesline in the back yard or, when the Oregon weather would piddle for days on end, I’d have to use wooden racks, shower rods, the backs of chairs, etc. (Yeah, and how many have done THAT? So see, I do have some karma in the bank…)

After the three months it just sucked unbelievably bad. Like not even worth being in your lousy club bad. Maybe if I’d had the money to invest in the fluffy-bunz-smooshy-cozy-ne’er-do-leak covers and the pre-fold-half-caf-double-back-flip-twisted inserts, it would have been a true joy. But with some old hand-me-downs and some stuff I found at the thrift store being the only diapering system within my financial reach, it was beyond craptastic.

So as I begin to wonder which will be the last pack of evil throw-away pee soppers I’ll ever buy, I can also feel myself relax into the possibility of being a real, 100% grade A certified natural human, once I’ve shed this terrible addiction to convenience.

You’ll have to excuse me, now, I think I smell something untoward that’s gonna put another black spot on my record…

Marvelous Mismatch

I took my daughter out to the store looking like this yesterday:

Yes, her shirt is on inside out and backwards. Yes, the green and white stripes clash fantastically with the pink and white polka dots.

But she dressed herself!

Sure, if we were going somewhere super fancy, I’d have suggested she pick out something else (those are jammy pants, after all) and I’d have given her some gentle direction to put it on correctly.

But to the store? I was proud that she did it herself, and that she was pleased as punch at her independence.

But first, we had to have a banana muffin snack.



Good times!

Don’t Stab Your Children!

Doesn’t this seem obvious? Does it even need to be said?

No? Then why in the name of all that’s holy do people still pierce a baby’s ears?

Is it for medical reasons? Is it a religious pact with their personal deity? Is it a superstition to ward off evil spirits that lurk around every street corner?

No, it’s so their baby will look pretty.

I honestly, seriously am NOT trying to offend anyone, but I am terribly offended when people cause children unnecessary pain.

Nor do I want to violate a parent’s sacred right to do whatever they want to their child, which is apparently the latest trend. “It’s my choice! I’m choosing!” they shout from the rooftops.

Well could you take your almighty parenting powers and choose to NOT stab your child?

They’re too little to remember! They barely cried at all! Don’t it look pur-tee!”

I am offended by the outright cruel absurdity of this practice, and I’m just done.

I try desperately to hold my tongue and let people perpetuate the asinine status quo, but really, c’mon, which part of “gratuitous torture in the name of beautification of the already perfect” do people not understand?

Would this face be more adorable with shiny bits in her ears?

Would this face melt your heart even more with a cold piece of metal stabbed through her earlobe?

Could her joy be any greater if she was sporting bling?

She’s got herself a little purse to play with, so she’s getting the idea of accessorizing, but what additional adornment could possibly complete this picture? Lipstick? Eye shadow? A fancily coiffed do with hairspray and highlights? EARRINGS???

Or are these children not absolutely perfect just as they are?

You and your choice. LET THE CHILDREN CHOOSE. There is enough pain we have to endure in this world to be accepted, to survive illness, to withstand heartbreak. Don’t add to it by stabbing your little one because she isn’t pretty enough. What a message to give to a brand new being.

“Beauty hurts!”

“People are going to force you to submit to their idea of attractiveness and you may as well get used to it now!”

“I love you but damn, you’re homely. Let’s spruce you up some with this here stabby bit.”

I’m appalled and I can’t keep it to myself anymore.

This is Dedicated to…

You know how a book dedication is all mushy and lovey, like “I dedicate this to my amazing spouse and my awesome kids who have inspired me to also be amazing and awesome, and isn’t the world just so amazing and awesome where you are too? Cuz everything is just so rosey peachy fantabulous!!!”

Well, if I ever manage to get anything published, I’m not going to have a dedication. I’m going to have an “In Spite Of.”

“In Spite Of my parents, who never seemed much interested in what I was writing, I kept writing, perhaps just to spite them back.

In Spite Of my spouse, who had time to read what other people had written but assumed mine must be a blog of very little brain, I have actually mustered the gumption to finish this book.

But most of all, In Spite Of my children, whose endless whining despite my best efforts broke my spirit, who never let me finish an entire sentence uninterrupted, whose constant chants of “You’re old!” and “You’re lame!” threatened my very will to live, I managed to somehow produce this one text you hold now in your hands.”

Perhaps honesty is NOT the best policy.

But it gives me some kind of relief to fantasize about it…