Sunday, July 25, 2010

The world looks different at five a.m.

The house is sleeping, however I am awake.

I extract myself from the blankets, which have tangled during the night with the unconscious acrobatics of every living thing that inhabits our home. As if I were removing a shawl, I lift The Champ's legs from my arm and unfurl the cat from around my shoulders. I only vaguely remember when they became part of my sleepwear during the night.

I slide out of bed with the stiffness of a cardboard cutout but feel more like myself as I move around the room trying to dress without opening drawers or making noise. I avoid the third floorboard from the doorway as I walk through it, holding my shoes in my hands as I tiptoe down the stairs. I forget the second step down creaks, however, and freeze the moment the silence is broken by its protest of my stepping there.

Silence — or what there is of it amid the whirring of fans and other mechanical sleep soothers — mends itself and I continue to creep down the staircase to the porch.

It is a perfect morning for a walk. The sun is still low and covered in clouds. It is humid but there is a breeze a few gusts beyond gentle that, if you close your eyes, could trick a person into believing they were by the seashore.

The traffic is light and no one else is in sight as I close the door and set off toward the street. Though my destination is to return to where I started, how long it will take me to get back home will determine the route. A half hour? An hour? Shall I be efficient, direct … or shall I meander?

I walk a few blocks toward the center of town with neither hesitation nor contemplation. The cardboard cutout, now in need of caffeine, has returned to be my navigator. There are people waiting for the Surly Drip to open, and I momentarily think about stopping for a to-go cup.

Shrugging my shoulders and smiling to myself, I continue walking as I remember all the modern necessities in life - including cash and cell phone - are at home with my snoring family.

I think of the last time I did this — just go for a walk. It has been quite a while. The boy was a baby, still small enough to schlep around in a sling. He was a silent, sleeping, partner. Walks since then have seemed more like Stops … Many, many, stops: Tantrums, stop; Farmers' Market, stop; stick on the sidewalk, stop.

Mostly, I've not bothered to start.

I shake off the stiffness and change direction, taking a left when I usually take a right. As I walk I see things I've never noticed before: two houses in the same shade of pink; chickens running around a farmyard, chasing each other in a playful way I've never imagined chickens could display; a dog's footprints are sealed in the cement sidewalk and a name, in a child's handwriting, appears a few blocks farther. Hammocks, almost identical in appearance, mirror each other in two postage stamp-sized front yards. I wonder whether the neighbors are head to head or feet to feet when they are reclining there.

"Such odd things to notice," I think to myself as I keep walking. I am Alice. This morning is Wonderland.

Lights are starting to blaze in houses, now. The clang of pots and pans ring out from the open kitchen windows. Breakfast will soon be ready.

In another mile I'll be back to where I began.

It is six a.m. when I return.

The house is awake now and struggling to find acceptance in my absence. The smells of coffee and bacon - maybe even blueberry waffles - greet me, along with the tear-stained face of my son, as I open the door and kick off my shoes.

"See, I told you she'd be home soon. She just went for a walk."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Having too much fun? You may be over joyed

"Not another red light! That's the third one in a row. It will take six hundred years to get there," she smiles, adding a dramatic fainting droop for effect.

I'm looking at her face, a reflection in the rearview mirror, as she's asking me a variation of: "When we get there can I …?" for the sixteenth-thousand time. She is a gushing stream of non-stop talk.

Sometimes she finishes her sentence with "get popcorn AND candy?" Other times it’s "pick the seats?" or "buy … hold … hand over the tickets?"

All I want is a moment's silence as I drive to the theater, lest I wind up in a place far from our destination. These days it doesn't take much to drive me to distraction.

Instead, she's dancing around like a whirling dervish. Hair flying, dress flouncing, body hopping like a baby chick. She stops just long enough to flash a beamish grin and bat her eyes.

Even bound to a car seat she's an uncommon force of nature.

I squint a little, thinking about how her expression might change if I were to suddenly thrust my forehead toward the steering column and commence banging.

"Better not," I tell myself, as if beating one's head against a dashboard were a valid response to kinetic excitement. Not to mention that the horn still works even if the air conditioning doesn't. With my luck, it's bound to stick and be cause for even more excitement.

More questions fire toward the front seat as she sets off twirling again. This time, however, she pairs her questions to a classic melody she's heard on Nickelodeon's Wonder Pets.

"Later … Will there be fireworks?

Can we make s'mores?

Can we go swimming? Remember that bowling place? Can we go there sometime?

How about

‘More Flags More Fun’?

I've. never.


She takes a breath and starts another chorus:

"Have the blueberries bloomed? Do you think the birds have eaten all the


Am I going to go to summer camp? When can I have a sleepover? Did you bring any water? … When will we get there? When. Will. We. Get. There?

Which is when her brother takes his hands from his ears (he despises singing even more than I do) and joins in the cacophony: "Are we there yet?"

I am too old for this. We're only going to the movies, but we may as well be going on vacation for all the excitement bouncing around in the car. I need a nap.

The Champ is losing the plot. "MAAAA! Maybe I said 'Are we THERE yet'?" he yells using THE BIG VOICE. "Maybe I don't want to know are we THERE YET!"

I laugh. He's so contrary these days he contradicts himself.

"We are very nearly almost red hot, but not quite there yet," I answer, thinking if I can't really join them maybe I can beat them at their own game.

"This is See-wee-us," he chastises me using the voice of the Wonder Pets duck.

"I know," I say, reinforcing the educational TV speech impediment with a smattering of Spanish, "I am muy, muy see-wee-us!

"Now all I have to do is find the street …”

"You went past it didn't you mom?"

"I might have … Being over joyed sure is a distraction."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Unmasking the myth

It was midnight. The cat was circling my legs. And the only noise in the house beside the occasional feline roar was the whirring of my sewing machine.

Scratch that. Ittybit's sewing machine. The one I'd bought her for Christmas. Wait. What am I talking about? The sewing machine SANTA had gotten her for Christmas.

See what I mean? I don't think straight these days … It must be the heat … or the job … or worries stacked on top of stress, balancing on a thin wire of I-don’t-know-what.

Or maybe it’s just the myth of parenthood as a selfless act.

Why else would I think it would be fun to make superhero cape towels for every kid that attended The Champ's summer birthday sprinkler party?

Another lie. I knew exactly what I was thinking.

I am Super-ego Mom.

I was thinking monogrammed cape towels – half a bath towel, a few inches of ribbon, a hem, a washcloth for a shield and some letters sloppily snipped from scraps of fleece – would REALLY impress our guests.

I was thinking ours would be THE party of the summer, the stuff of legend, my ticket to popularity. People would be talking about me - more specifically the creative Supermom I always wanted to be - for years. Moms everywhere would say my name in hushed and reverent tones.


I don't really know how to sew.

Moreover, I don't know how to fix a sewing machine that all of a sudden, a mere 14 hours before The Legendary Party of the Century, decides it can't sew another stitch either.

"Honey?" (I call him "Honey" when I want him to do something unpleasant, such as cleaning up the dog yard or dragging the recycling to the curb.)

"What Dear?" (He calls me "Dear" when he plans to ask for something unpleasant in return, such as burying whatever the cat killed or dragging the recycling rejects back to the house).

"Can you take a look at my … uh, Ittybit’s … sewing machine. It stopped working completely and there's one towel left. …"

I can practically hear is left eyebrow raise. He can't really say no. He kept telling people to "just stop on by" long after the invitations had been sent. Yet he's not above trying to stay right where he planted himself after a long, hard day. He doesn't want to peel himself away from the couch and cable TV.

"But you don't have to make THEM towels … They might not even come," he says in protest.

"Fine," I say with all the inflection of the opposite. "I'm sure they won't feel left out. … ‘Everyone at the party has a super cape except for YOU little heartbroken boy and his tear-stained sister. … I'll just put some marker on a tissue and Scotch tape it to your shoulders'."

"OK. I'll get my screwdriver."

He's a good guy, my husband, for managing a smile as he trades mindless TV for a few more stitches of my insanity. In the morning he even tries to make this midnight crafting madness seem as if it were a redeeming quality.

"Your mom really is Supermom," he announces to The Champ over bagels.

"No she's not," the birthday boy answers between bites, "she's Super-ego Mom."

Reach Siobhan Connally at

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Celebrating 'Interdependence Day' instead

Independence? That's middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.

- George Bernard Shaw

I've been thinking a lot about independence recently.

I find it strange and contradicting how our society craves and covets it; we seek it for ourselves, we demand it of others, we hope to instill it in our children, we even toy with the possibility we can squeeze it out of oil.

As a group, we define Independence as freedom.

Dependency, on the otherhand, is little more than loathesome. Yet in trying to avoid it we tend to forget what it is that really makes us strong -- the fibers that weave us together.

Maybe I am focused on this line of thought because I am a mother, and as a mother my success is largely based on my ability to raise children who are capable of making their own way in the world. Without me.

From the moment they take their first steps, they are essentially walking away from us.

Maybe I'm angry at Disney for always killing the mother (or in rare instances, the dad).

Maybe I'm just jaded, thinking the real desire for independence is all about money.

We are so focused on money - acquiring wealth and accumulating stuff - we don't see what this "savings" cost us.

Maybe it's as simple as realizing one person's independence is another person's lack of purpose. Planned obsolescence engineered by progress. We are all just one modifier away from becoming a dangling participle.

It's not as if I want my children to need me to tie their shoes or balance their checkbooks when they return from college to live with me for the requisite 2.75 years until a low-wage job or ill-advised significant other takes them three states away. But I don't want them to forget they are part of something bigger.

I'm just not sure that independence has anything to do with capability or capacity for success. Ultimately, I wonder if this passion for independence has more to do with the erosion of those qualities. I wonder if in trying to set ourselves apart we are tearing ourselves asunder.

Standing on our own two feet gives us the courage and the strength to do amazing things. Yet, we fool ourselves if we think we're untethered. It has been through the strenth of groups, such as unions fighting for fair labor practices, that has made it possible for individuals to experience independence.

Yet we declare independence from the drudgery of everyday life with the same convictions. … We declared independence from agrarian society and got factory farms; we declared independence from caring for grandmother in her old age and got squalid nursing homes. We declared independence from the cost of someone else's efforts and we end up finding ourselves unable to support our way of life. We declared independence from paying a living wage and found our jobs outsourced.

We demanded automation and declared independence from thing from which we can never be free: Each other.

Freedom has a price, and it's steep.

Red states. Blues states. Me states. You states.

Maybe, on this day, it's time we celebrate our Interdependence for a change.

Because in the end, perhaps now more than ever, we are all connected. We're all in this together.

I think about all of this as I watch my kids grow into themselves. They may walk away, they may run, but I will always be a part of them. And the fact that I am in their DNA will dawn on them when they least expect it. They will have their "Oh My God, I sound like my mother" moment one day, too.

Wherever I am at that moment, you can bet I'll be taking some of the credit