Learning to be Away

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Our ears are always busy, us mother bees, us women.

We mothers who also step out for work–

slinky foxes who actually get a date

daring your child to not need you for two minutes or more.

Preoccupy, throw a dart of distraction clumsy as a tin can

while all the while,

he smells you, knows your milk. post3

 

For us, stepping out is disharmony on reverb.

See, it’s like this:

He is crying five blocks over

Three intersections from your padding pulling steps,

whole blocks and maybe zip codes away but intense.

 

You hear his voice.

Oh, why is no one else grabbing at their forehead, wincing?

 

Walkers stride by,

aloof,  because he is not their boy.

He is not their heartstrings, tendons, main veins

being grabbed

by their very most primal emotions.

 

(This is all very much invisible work, except to us

ladies in the same boat.

I am the spectacle at this stage.

I am the getting-back-in-the-groove-woman-in-heels, pushing daughter

in the stroller, tilting back that condensed-sweet-milk coffee

as we push on).

 

Imagine teeth cutting over sidewalks

Eyes hungry over buildings

and impeding branches, the way they impair infant & toddler vision.

This is me seeing with his vision, putting myself in his baby

moccasins…

Our ears ring out.

 

We are ever expecting, hungering for hugs,

poems from even

the most lilting, tilting of days.

 

It’s our birth story,

mom & babies growing apart and together.

Both of us working and coming back.

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He’s Doing Just Grand…but I have a confession

Here is an essay I wrote fairly recently for an amazing online course, Motherhood & Words, by Kate Hopper. 

Just being vulnerable, putting it on my open hand, & letting it breathe. xoxo, thanks

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“I’m so relieved you were but a baby but O, your innocent skin scorched, made to know searing pain. I wanted to just disappear in my disgust, melt down in one slick puddle of oil. I burned you quite badly, baby, my buddy.

 

In one moment I wanted to feel quite helpful, in control, successful, not needy, not recovering, not dealing with any post-partum malarkey. In a gust of new energy, I offered to make my visiting mother tea.

 

And wasn’t it great to be strong to hold you, baby, and do nearly everything? I could breastfeed anywhere—whilst walking dogs, up in the whipping air on a Ferris wheel. Wherever. So I became accustomed to holding you. It was easier than crying. I held you as the metal French provincial blue teapot passed over your right calf, forged and fired your feather delicate skin. I branded you “disaster to new mother”, and when you didn’t cry, I hoped all might be well. Maybe I imagined the graze. Maybe it was like the poof of powder; just wipe it off.

 

But no. You did cry, must have been shock at first over being branded for the sake of tea. On Mother’s Day when I decided I better send back every card. I can be no mother. This lousy wretch was ashamed and altogether inconsolable. “Don’t even call me a mom”, I thought, moving ashen, room to room.

 

I called our English-speaking paediatrician. “What do I do?”…I was under a chair, tail tucked; talk me down from the bridge. I hid behind the idea that I was simply overtired, exhausted. Things were harder now that I had two. You can’t just nap. Yes, burning my child must mean I need time for me, time to sleep properly. Something had to give. Something beautiful broke.

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It was good my mom was there. It would have been hard not to lie.

I never told my sister in law. I would have omitted it from anyone but the wrapped leg was telling. The principal and nurse of my daughter’s school asked about it. I cheerfully brushed it off while my cheeks felt hot like sunburn. I was more than vague when cornered. “He hurt himself,” as if he were a cowboy, a bandit renegade barreling shotgun of a toddler at reckless speeds. Really, he was barely filling my arms, tush sitting in the smallest diapers. I celebrated my first Mother’s Day to him wrapped in liniment and sterile gauze. I gave him a second-degree burn. His worried sister looked on. I had let her down, too, in hurting her baby, as she called him. “How did it happen?” She wanted to know everything.

 

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Deflated and raw, I took him to the dermatologist the next day. His leg was dressed in those peculiar hard plastic Band-Aids to protect the slow drip of skin healing, a hidden kneeling down in church when it’s really time to sing. Moss mixed with mold growing up a wall. I damaged my boy. This “do not disturb” Band-Aid was not supposed to come off until a sign from God, until all oozy woozy sadness had passed.

I go on to describe the doctor visit, how the band-aid came off and the blister popped. How we had to go every morning for almost three weeks so the doctor could check and undress his burn. Baby skin heals quite quickly. There is no mark. I am responsible for treating my own wounds, the ones that burned each of my layers of skin and heart. I get to muster the courage to be a great mother even through this. 

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Our guy is healthy & very well, now just over 1 year old.

He has been out in the real world for two Mother’s Days now. The first one (the episode I write about above) thankfully didn’t dictate how I viewed myself as a mother (too much) this past Mother’s Day. I can tell you shame is a powerful emotion. Fortunately, love & forgiveness are stronger. Shine light on that deep, painful thing, & all the power of shame flees. 

My Elegant Thunder

Last night, under foreboding skies, we walked. Umbrellas almost poked passer-by eyes; feet slogged slowly and stomped. We were a rainy bunch journeying from hoikuen, my daughter’s preschool.

I didn’t want to cook. I needed some point B before home, before washing hands for dinner. The soba shop’s light beckoned, flashing to us goofy ships at sea. My girl’s hair was wet where her hat didn’t cover. She was, I decided, a cute, pink n punky version of that captain on the throat lozenge commercial. Ahoy, soba. Ahoy, through dark, sloshy sidewalks and intersections. Boom crack. I showed her how to step under the awning & prep our umbrellas for going inside, which is a very adult thing. Boom crack. Our smiles guided us in.

We were the only guests inside. The fake goldfish swam in the fountain. We stashed our umbrellas, took off shoes, and entered our private tatami room to suck up noodles. “This is so wonderful”, she said, uncovering small lids from small bowls of rice, pickled cucumber, daikon, and ginger. I remembered the joy that is mugi-cha, as I threw back my first iced barley tea of the season.

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She dished out soba for her little brother without me asking. She brought those buckwheat noodles to her lips, and after chewing, smiled. She pushed her drying hair off of her brow and announced, “I feel like a real princess, Mom!” What elegance! What a darling I’ve raised! Boy, I can take this young lady anywhere, I mused.

“POOOOOOOP!” She called out, throwing down her kiddie fork. I quickly touched her arm and squashed any next shouts with a look that must have been horror.

“Oh sorry”, she apologized playfully, putting back on her shoes. “I should say, “I have to go to the bathroom, right?”

That was more like it. I snapped her brother in the carrier and slid my own shoes on. She slid open the track door.

“ONARA SHITAAAA!” Her voice rang out loud and pleased. O, gosh. Somehow she makes,”I farted” sound cute and esteemed, like a little bell. Sigh. She is unfazed joy and crinkles of laughter. “My young lady, what can you say instead?” I can make my voice so stern. “Yes, excuse me.” We moved through the restaurant, clumsy from just standing up, away from our zabutan and tatami.

The teenage son to the cook and hostess shared a snicker with me. Good thing it was just him. Good thing he’s a boy. They love this pooping and farting stuff.

“Sumi-masen” to the hostess-owner. “Sumi-masen” to the boy.

We went back to our soba and tempura eggplant, kabocha, & mushroom without incident, while the rain and thunder cracked and winds whooshed. The fake little fish gurgled in their pot. Thunder can be quite elegant. In fact, my little pearl of a girl taught me the word for “thunder” just last night, on our walk home.

Kaminari 雷 is thunder. It is a boom, a pow, a gorgeous peal of rolling sound. It wakes sleeping moms. It is loud. My three -and-a-half year-old sends messages to heaven. Her words can piece my chest and invite me to sing at the top of my shower singing lungs. Her prayers are good ones. She signals light and stomps around. It all clicks– she is my elegant thunder, a princess in heavy boots. slurp1

Raising Writers: Use Preposterous What-ifs

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Here’s the second in my new series, Raising Writers.

Exercise: Using Fortunately, by Remy Charlip, as a guide, start a family brainstorm/story that starts with something good, or fortunate.

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“FORTUNATELY, I found seven eggs in the Easter Egg Hunt”.

(Now the bad event moves in).

“UNFORTUNATELY, they were rotten eggs that my baby brother burried.

FORTUNATELY, my cousin gave me two chocolate eggs.

UNFORTUNATELY, they were a bit hard. My tooth came out..

FORTUNATELY, the tooth fairy has been known to visit our house.

UNFORTUNATELY, my tooth was accidentally vacuumed.

This can launch an entire drawing & a full page o “what if” storytelling!

Then, together, write! Enjoy.This should not be a time to worry over text, but a time to enjoy brainstorming events. This is also a skill in itself, cause and effect (causal relationships), sequence, and forming and adding vocabulary (fortunately, unfortunately). You are helping them to communicate ideas.

See what sounds they can supply as you collaboratively make a word bank. See what words and sounds they can figure out as you help in dictation, copying their ideas  down.

Specific Goal: Create four statements together, or if your child is able, independently after your discussion, creation of a word bank. 

1. Fortunately,…

2. Unfortunately,…

3. Fortunately,…

4. Unfortunately,…

This is the big, positive leap from ideas (the creative, verbal realm) to representing thoughts using written language. This is how idea are recorded—so they are not lost or forgotten! Those funny and wildly interesting ideas can be shared and enjoyed! We are keeping it fun.

There may be an intrinsic reward of completion as you finish the one verbal to written sentence/idea/box and then another. There may also need to be a physical reward to reinforce their work and completion. Perhaps they may do the thing they’ve been itching to do, like take a run to the park, crack open the juicy melon, open a new puzzle.

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Fortunately, I am reminded of a fabulous series that also deals with unfortunate events.

We are helping them to LOVE writing. It can be a very rewarding process.

Happy perhapsing & jotting down all those hilarious what ifs!

 

Raising Writers: Drawings & Dictation

With the teaching I do & the ideas I employ, I thought I’d start a record of just some of it.

I’ll also use this part of my blog to communicate with parents, I suppose.

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See? Kids are natural writers & artists. In the beginning, these two qualities are more integrated.

Ways to Get Your Child to Write

USING PICS TO LAUNCH & INSPIRE TEXT

(The ol’ graphic novel trick)

Have you read any Captain Underpants? How ’bout Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid?

How about a more cerebral read, Persepolis?

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There is a reason graphic novels are so beloved. Text accompanying pictures is a win.

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I say, if we’re after bringing out our child’s voice & raising them up as a writer, we need to get them speaking, drawing, & writing. They’re not alone. Not at first, anyway. We’re with them. We are the encouraging art teacher, the art theapist, the stenographer. Finally, we are their reader, cheerleader, editor, & coach. But the point is, we support.

Do it: Draw situations and moments with your child—it could be a glimpse into a moment when he fell on his new scooter, or how she just tried Salisbury steak or uni for the first time. It could be an illustration recounting a strange experience they just had at the grocery store. Whatever the picture, it should carry fresh experience, even perhaps, emotion.

Here is Goodreads’ marvelous list of graphic novels for kids. 

You are building a bridge from the experience to the paper, using concrete materials and conversation.

You know what? You can use drawn pictures or photographs! The point is discussion & getting ideas & words down on paper.

They may have a spectacular picture of a new shiny bike, but if the their picture is not etched with a very recent shadowing of elation, surprise, pride, or a big scare, or even a fresh scar, this may not be the prime candidate of a picture prompts to use for dictation and writing. Follow excitement and emotion, though. Translation: Jog memories & record them!

Remember together, say, the time she went to Chuck E. Cheese for the first time (if this is fresh & recent).

Think–what  are the events you might journal if you were not much a writer? It would have to be something of weight, something of value, even if seemingly negative.

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Proud rider on her 1st trip to school via scooter!

From sunny to snowy, inspire writing that spans the width of their energy & emotions. Remember gladness, remember hurting. Draw when frustrated; use writing & pictures to support one another for FULL  communication.

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It would be fun to draw a recent snowfall. This was especially memorable, as two minutes after this photo was snapped, my daughter decided she didn’t need mittens & lame plastic baggies simply would not do. (We missed out on the proper time to buy waterproof gloves). Her little hands felt positively frostbitten. There is great material there for writing.

This is your child who may be the weak, shy, or presently, a non-writer. We build this writing bridge with excitement and great energy, focusing on the ideas and words that spring us to the next image and step.

Your job is to ask the questions, i.e. How did it feel when you fell off your bike and rolled onto gravel? What was it like being new in your karate class today? How did that chili pepper taste when you accidentally bit into Aunt Meg’s picante dish?

Help them stretch out their responses with more questions, if need be.

 Ie, “Think what it will DO for your art! Or, “Think how well we will be able to look back and remember and laugh at these memories together!”

We are showing them the power and fun of writing as it engages us. Writing makes moments last. Writing helps shy kids speak and busy kids focus on one powerful thing. It gives value to our children’s experiences.

Can I be selfish? Their pictures & writing will be treasure for me, too! Their experiences make lasting marks in us, too. Save the work, especially when it marks growth.

You’ll have lots to celebrate.

 

Calling All Donkeys

“Where is my donkey toothpaste?”–KT, 3 1/2

Ummm, I guess we’ve never shown her a downloaded or streamed My Little Pony from America.

Poor thing thinks it’s a donkey. She must think donkeys are awfully cute.

Guess I assumed she knew ponies or My Little Pony.

You know what happens when we assume, right?…Yeah, I know. Couldn’t not say it.

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No Yeast Feast

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This week marks Passover, where we Jews remember the Exodus from slavery to freedom. We drinks four glasses of wine at the seder, or dinner. We tell the story and ask really good questions. We also don’t eat any yeast in our bread. This is the matzoh, a flat cracker with holes.

This year, we got fancy. We made our own matzoh. I also trecked a ways to the Jewish Community Center to buy boxes, factory made. Our version sure smelled fabulous, especially the spiced and garlic ones, wafting from the oven. It was like a heavenly everything bagel kind of smell. Yumm.

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Let me tell you, though. The store bought guys are much easier in the teeth. You could lose your crowns or braces over ours.

Well, manufactured or home made, Kariin was not happy over the prospect of eating matzoh the VERY FIRST morning of Passover. “What????” She balked. “I want my toast!”

She is getting used to the idea that our matzoh feats lasts a week. It’s all about the condiments and remembering just why we celebrate. Anything eaten in freedom surely tastes grand.

Love and matzoh pizza,

Melissa