Archive for October, 2010

Halloween is fast upon us. A while back, K decided what our family would be: I would be a cat, she would be a mouse, and Baby S would be, you guessed it, a piece of cheese. (Dad seems to be lacking in the season’s spirit, and has not succumbed to family pressure, so he will be accompanying us trick-or-treating as himself.) Since I value the creativity of putting together a costume myself, rather than simply buying one from a store (because really, where’s the fun in that? Besides, how many prêt-à-porter piece-of-cheese costumes have you seen for five month olds?) I started casting about for the various pieces a few weeks ago. The one thing I knew I had was a pair of grey velour pants for K, which would work famously as part of a mouse costume. I knew it was in K’s drawer that houses her pants. So that was one thing off the list.

I ordered mouse ears and a tail. (I know, I know, I could have made them. But life is hectic these days, so I cut myself some slack.) I found a grey fleece jacket. I ordered a yellow outfit for S. I ordered a baby-sized cheesehead from a Wisconsin supplier. (Oh yes I did.) I thought I had everything figured out. Oh, and I’ll be doing some face-painting for K and me.

Last night, I went into K’s room at the end of the bedtime routine in order to retrieve the pants, so that she could bring her costume pieces to school for their costume parade. And… disaster. No grey pants. The pair I could have sworn I’d seen several times in the past few weeks had vanished. I started pulling everything out of the drawer.

“Mom, what are you doing?” K asked, sitting in her pajamas on her bed, watching me.

“I have to find the grey pants! They’re part of your costume!”

“Oh.” She continued playing with her stuffed animals.

I shoved all the clothing back into the drawer, muttering to myself, then attacked the bottom drawer where here dress up clothes live. No grey pants. I sat on K’s bed and bit my lip.

“I don’t know what to do, sweetie.”

K shrugged. “I guess I can wear something else, then.”

But, but, but! Something else? We don’t have something else that will work! This is what I was telling myself as I wracked my brain for an idea. Meanwhile, another little voice in my head was saying something to the effect of: Jeez, Anjali, don’t worry about it. Clearly K doesn’t care. Why are you getting so agitated?

I glanced at the clock. It was 8:45. Getting late for bedtime. Reluctantly, I gave up, tucked K in and gave her a kiss. I shlumped down the stairs feeling dejected. My husband said out loud what that voice was saying in my head, but nevertheless, I went down to the basement to see if somehow the pants had ended up there. But of course they hadn’t.

In the morning, I went into K’s room to wake her.

“Grey pants?” were the first sleepy words she uttered.

“No, I’m sorry, I don’t know where they are.”

“It’s ok. Why don’t I wear the brown ones? They’re a bit fuzzy, like a mouse.”

Good grief. Why is my six year old more reasonable about this than I am?! I gave her a hug and sent her off to school with her mouse items, and a cheese stick in her lunch box.

Now let’s see if the reasonableness extends to the candy.

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K doesn’t like tags in clothing. (Who does?) They scratch her, and she always wants them taken out. (Why haven’t more clothing makers adopted the tagless system of printing the relevant information on the inside of the neckline?) A few days ago, we went clothing shopping, and she picked out a few items, including a long sleeved shirt with some kind of shiny design on the front. Yesterday morning, she came downstairs for breakfast, dressed, clutching the side of the shirt, looking contrite and teary-eyed.

“Mommy… something happened,” she said, coming up to me.

I understood immediately, but I asked anyway.

“What?”

“There was a tag and I tried to cut it off… sniff… and now look!” She erupted in wails as she moved her hands to unveil a ragged, jagged hole in the side of her shirt.

“Oh, I’m sorry sweetie. Tags are hard to cut off. That’s why you need to ask an adult to do it.”

“But Mommy! This is my favorite shirt!”

“Well, I’m not sure what to tell you. You can still wear it, if you’d like.”

“But nooooo! Can you sew it up?

Well, I suppose I could have, but I wasn’t going to.

“No, I’m sorry. Next time, just ask me or Papa, ok?”

“Wahhh!”

She tromped upstairs, crying. A few minutes later, she shuffled back downstairs, wearing a different shirt. She lifted her head and said: “You made me feel like I had to make the hole bigger!”

That was a good one.

“No, I really didn’t. If you made the hole bigger, that was entirely your decision.”

“No! You made me do it.”

Sigh. “Would you like a blueberry bagel for breakfast?”

For a while I felt a bit guilty. Maybe I shouldn’t have let her have pointy scissors in her desk. Maybe I should have been more understanding. Maybe I should have agreed to try to sew up the hole. She was just trying to be independent.

A couple of days later, I sat in my dance class discussing with a few of the senior dancers the auditions they had just held for a new kathak youth ensemble. Six students showed up, between the ages of ten and fourteen. Five of them did well enough to form the first youth ensemble group. One of them was not prepared enough, and a decision was necessary. Accept her anyway, to give her the motivation to practice more and so as to avoid her disappointment? Not accept her, in order to send a clear message that showing up for an audition does not guarantee success? Accept her on a trial basis? But then, would that drag down practice sessions with the others? If she was not accepted, would she simply give up? Or at ten would she be mature enough to view this as an opportunity to improve?

We opted for the second option, of not accepting her, albeit being very supportive of her and her dance. The conclusion: children will learn from disappointment. It’s ok if they are upset and cry. I thought of K and her scissors, and felt vindicated.

Later that day, K came to me with her scissors, holding them the way she knows to do, by the blades, and handed them to me, asking me to cut out a tag from her dress. I smiled to myself and thought of all the rejections I have received from agents on my manuscript, and all the times I’ve cried in anger and exploded in expletives at the sight of “I regret to tell you…” and all the times I’ve wanted to tear up the pages (“you made me feel like I had to make the hole bigger!”) and all the times I’ve then pulled myself together to begin revisions anew. And I snipped off the tag.

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It’s 4:48 pm on a Wednesday. I find myself with an unexpectedly quiet house. Baby is asleep, after 45 minutes of my efforts to coax her into slumber, aided by some Orajel for her gums which will soon, I’m assuming, sprout a tooth. Of course, now that I’ve written this, she’s likely to wake up. I purposely did not make myself the cup of tea that I’m craving, because I have discovered it is a law of nature: mother sits down with hot cup of tea, baby wakes up. We have these lovely china cups with a thin silver rim that cannot be microwaved, and I don’t use them when there is no other adult around, because the chances of my having to re-heat the tea at least twice before being able to drink the whole thing are sky high.

Anyway. Six year old K is next doors (more on our life-saving, commune-like arrangement with our neighbors at some later date) playing “kid Monopoly” which seems to involve landing on pony rides and paying $3 for a house. Next door neighbor, who is currently hosting K, is making dinner for both households, so I am absolved of having to think about the evening meal. Hallelujah. And it will be a delicious, Vietnamese chicken and rice soup. Double Hallelujah.

And so. What to do with this found time, which could be two minutes or two hours? (Well, this time it couldn’t be two hours, as we’re feeding the kids early in order to go to their school’s Book Fair and classroom Open House.) There are so many possibilities jumping around in my head that I can barely formulate a single one to write down. Write down. That’s it. I’ve told myself recently that Found Time = Time to Write. Because when else am I supposed to do it? And yet, I have a manuscript to revise, a couple of short stories to redraft, a blog to resurrect. One hour a day, I tell myself. One hour a day. I think I can, I think I can. If it’s an hour over which I have control, i.e. I decide when to end it, as opposed to it ending suddenly because of a baby needing attention, a six year old wanting to chat, a meal needing cooking, a husband returning from work, the start of my own work-day, or any other interruption, then I’ll work on one of my pieces of fiction. Because being yanked out of the creative process at random is like being rudely awakened in the middle of a sleep cycle. You end up grouchy and foggy until you can get back in. Those times, when interruptions loom large, will be for short, bloggish writing.

In fact, here comes a curly headed interruption as I write.

(… insert game of Blockus, then arrival of next door kid, L. Now they’re both thudding around upstairs in K’s room, after my usual admonishments to be quiet and not wake the baby, and their usual rolling of eyes accompanied by we know, mom!)

I struggle with what to focus on in this blog. It’s not for lack of ideas. But my ideas, like my activities and the entries on my resume, are a motley bunch. I don’t like to narrow down my thoughts to a single topic. Just as I don’t want to choose from the list of entrées at a restaurant, but prefer to go for several appetizers. Tapas and mezze plates are my friends. There’s just too much out there to limit oneself to one thing at a time. My writing group says, just write what you want. If it’s good, people will come. Hmm. I’ll do my best. As K says, it’s ok as long as you do your best work, Mom.

And now the cute, fuzzy-headed interruption wakes.

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