Monthly Archives

January 2016

Health & Fitness & Oreos

Sick of Sick Kids

Henry threw up in his bed last night.

Over the monitor, I heard him talk to his T-rex. Then there was the unmistakable sound of yacking. I trudged down the hall, and found his blanket warm and slimy. Gross, but not surprising. My kids, and most of their friends, have been passing around a bug this week. Henry was simply the last to fall.

In the beginning, we navigated the crud pretty well. My husband was away, so I became Nurse Mommy. I found a working thermometer in Lizzie’s marker bin, and a jug of Gatorade in the garage. Armed with a sleeve of Saltines and a blue bucket, I set up a sickbay in the living room. I fluffed pillows, rubbed tummies, and sponged fevered brows. I spoon fed the sickos ice chips laced with Ginger Ale.

When Katie, my champion vomiter, completely missed the basin by her side, I forgave. “Poor love,” I clucked, and sopped up the sludge with a cloth.

We cuddled and drowsed, and only half-watched Harry Potter in front of the fire. I held their smelly bodies and remembered the tiny heft of them as infants, how each one could fit in the crook of my arm.

“I love you, Mom,” said Lizzie. “You take good care of us.”

“I love you, too,” I replied. I did take good care of them.

Mostly.

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They call it a “24-hour bug” because that is how long the children suffer the worst of it. Except my kids stagger their starts. A single virus takes a week to tear through our family. Which is unfortunate, since, as it turns out, I only possess 24 hours of hospital-grade patience.

On day two, I started to dislike my invalids. I began to doubt symptoms. “Ninety-nine degrees is hardly a fever. Drink some ice water. You are going to school.” I took issue with their nausea. “And you? You threw up an hour ago. Stop it. There is nothing left to toss.”

My transformation from Florence Nightingale to Nurse Ratched wasn’t entirely my fault. If the children would have stayed cuddly and bilious, I could have endured a week of quarantine. Instead, things got ugly.

Gratitude gave way to entitlement. They demanded more movies, and a better soft drink selection. I made smoothies that no one drank, and applesauce that ended up in the dog. I cooked homemade soup, and they plead for Top Ramen.

When the pink eye arrived, I lost my cool. It struck Katie first. Her stomach was on the mend, but school refused to take her back looking like an addict. So she stayed home for the fifth day in a row. I plunked everyone in the bath to disinfect, and Lizzie promptly had a gusher of a nosebleed. While I staunched it, little Henry, fascinated by pink bathwater, began slurping. “Stop drinking your sister’s blood!” I yelled.

On any given day, I navigate plenty of crazy. Their lips hurt, so they can’t eat broccoli. Someone’s “teeth feel funny” when she tries to sleep. Last year, Katie missed the school bus because of itchy pants. I bandage phantom “owies” and kiss invisible wounds. And it is okay. I want my kids to turn to me for comfort, to believe Mommy takes good care of us.

But I also want them to suck it up. To rally. I know of no miracle formula for building resilience in a child, but I think it probably starts with dragging your arse off the couch when you don’t feel 100%. Just ask any boss. Ask any parent.

Most days, I can be the mom who nurses sick tummies. But after too many crud buckets, the other mom emerges. The kids call her mean. But she knows something they don’t—suffering is not the end of the world. Indeed, the ability to overcome discomfort is part of growing up, as is the capacity to nourish a healthy body in the first place. It takes that other mom—the one peddling kale chips and a brisk walk to school—to teach this. Sometimes the mom who makes them feel worse is the mom who helps them get better.

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Brokenheartedness

Alan

I first fell in love with Alan Rickman in Die Hard. I know Bruce Willis was the one we were supposed to like. With those yippee-ki-yay lines and beefy muscles, it was hard not to be charmed. But it was Rickman’s portrayal of villain Hans Gruber that floored me. I never knew the bad guy could be so… good – so droll, so unpredictable, so smart. Rickman played a similar role as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. And even though we were treated to a glimpse of Kevin Costner’s naked tush, it was Rickman who became the object of my affection.

So, of course, I was not surprised when he turned up in Sense and Sensibility, as a behind-the-scenes, waiting-in-the-wings, older suitor. We were expected to be distracted and all a-flutter in the face of Hugh Grant’s Edward and that bad-boy Willoughby, but I found myself delighted whenever the camera panned back to Rickman’s Colonel Brandon who was desperate to serve the ladies who’d been wronged.

Yes, we loathed him, and then loved him as Professor Severus Snape in all of those Harry Potters. Though I confess, I grew a bit tired of the way they usurped him all those years. Especially now, I feel cheated of films that might have been. Only Love Actually fell short. In his other villainous roles, Rickman had a loyalty, a self-possession, a delivery of lines that left one breathless. In Love Actually, his marital infidelity was simultaneously matter-of-fact and so very shocking that it completely ruined the movie for me. I imagine it was someone’s idea of irony — in a film full of romance, the only happily married man turns out to be a cheat. But I found it difficult to forgive Alan Rickman for the plain meanness of that role.

But then there was always Truly, Madly, Deeply tugging me back. I watched it on video one college winter break, and was floored.  There was this long-haired Alan Rickman — a lover, a cellist, a ghost – and I understood the sacredness of love. Some people simply cannot be gotten over. We may will ourselves to go on, to trudge along, but only because we must. Some people are irreplaceable.

Jamie and Nina, the main characters in Truly, Madly, Deeply, sing a duet, awkwardly, at first, but then with a kind of bumbling perfection:

 Sun ain’t gonna shine anymore,

Moon ain’t gonna rise in the sky,

Tears are always clouding your eyes,

When you’re without love.

That he died today, on the day the Academy Awards nominations were announced, was fitting. Alan Rickman never received one. Was never even nominated. I find this a tremendous oversight.

For those of us reeling, thinking dejectedly of the body of work we have been denied, that he will never be an elder statesman of stage and screen, Rickman left us with words to keep going. His character, Jamie, muddles through a Pablo Neruda poem, La Muerta, or The Dead Woman, about loving and letting go:

[…]perdóname.

Si tú no vives,

si tú, querida, amor mío, si tú

te has muerto,

todas las hojas caerán en mi pecho,

lloverá sobre mi alma noche y día,

la nieve quemará mi corazón,

andaré con frío y fuego

y muerte y nieve,

mis pies querrán marchar hacia donde tú duermes, pero seguiré vivo […]

***

Forgive me

If you are not living

If you, beloved, my love, if you have died.

All of the leaves will fall on my breast,

It will rain on my soul all night, all day,

the snow will burn my heart,

I shall walk with frost and fire

and death and snow,

My feet will want to march to where you are sleeping

But I shall go on living…

 

I’ve wondered today why I felt so compelled to post about Alan Rickman, an actor, on DadvMom.com, a site about parenting. And I’ve boiled it down to this: he is a man I grew up with. I snuck into rated-R Die Hard when I was in junior high, and I watched Robin Hood with my prom date. Truly, Madly, Deeply saw me through my worst college break-up, the loss of the guy I had thought I would marry. And Sense and Sensibility ushered in the era of my now husband. We first saw the Harry Potter films on date nights, and later, with our children. Like Nina from Truly, Madly, Deeply, I am simply astonished that we must go on living without him.

Rest in Peace, Alan. Your memory is already a blessing.

 

 

 

 

Awesomeness

Merry January

In the middle of cooking dinner tonight, the whole family went outside to play soccer and softball in the twilight. When we finished, Lizzie asked if we could say the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag. We all gathered on the side porch and put our hands on our hearts. We pledged.

Back inside, the girls helped get dinner on the table, where Henry promptly requested that we sing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” for grace. We agreed. Lizzie wanted us to do it with hand motions from last year’s holiday concert. We said, “sure thing.” Katie offered to accompany us on the piano. (She does not know this song.) We sang and danced “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to the tune of “Jingle Bells” on a Monday afternoon in January.

We are either doing something right or a lot of things wrong.

Probably both.

But I embrace their crazy. Because children are exuberant and wonderful, nonsensical and merry. They fill us with honor and magic, sport and delight. If only we will listen. If only we let them.

On evenings like this, I pledge my allegiance to my kids.

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Solidarity Brothers and Sisters

The Party Is Just Getting Started

 

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music from the heart.

Poem by Howard Thurman (1899-1981)

Music by Dan Forrest (b. 1978)

One of my least favorite jobs of the year is taking down our Christmas tree. For weeks, it holds a place of honor in our living room, regal and pine-scented in all its branched and baubled loveliness. Then, we undecorate it and toss it on the curb. I’m told the city recycles it, mulches it into something that will breed life again. But I can’t help but feel a little emptiness as we put the lights and angels back into their boxes, and tuck Christmas on the shelf in our garage, to sit and wait another year.

The Christmas season is like a movie trailer – all breathless anticipation and excitement. My kids and I can hardly wait for the big day to arrive. We are so utterly beside ourselves – baking, wrapping, decorating, frolicking. It is easy to wish such easy joy could last. That our friends and family would always open their homes to us so eagerly. That we would always have this much candy lying around to nosh. That we would always feel this warm and wonderful and good and golden about all of humankind.

But if I am being totally honest, the Christmas season is almost too much for me. There is so much fullness, so much chatter, so many crowds. I consume so many cookies. The gifts are torn open with such rapidity. And as much as I love a good party, I find myself limping a little around the new year, craving salad, yoga, and stillness. After so much Christmas-ing, I need to regroup.

Today, with the end of Christmas heavy in our hearts, our family visited a church on a hill in search of a new vista and maybe a new message to begin a new year.

We found it in an a cappella hymn. “The Work of Christmas Begins” burned right through this dim day, and warmed my heart. Because it turns out that the day when we place our lifeless tree on the curb, well, that’s the moment when the real ministry of Christmas starts. In these quiet days after the hullabaloo, now is when we compose ourselves and live the words that we ate, drank, and celebrated only a few days ago. With the tree gone, we have more room to feed the hungry and welcome strangers. With the travel completed, now is the time for our real Christmas journey to begin. To minister to new parents, and offer gifts to the poor. To set aside judgment of faiths and families different from our own. To offer thanks for shelter, warmth, comfort, and love. Now is the time to follow bright stars and dwell in the goodness of all that is possible.

Yes, the parties are over.
But the celebration is just beginning.
And this healing real work of Christmas lasts all year long.

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