Tuesday, October 19, 2010

tales of a second-grade hamster

puffed up and rocking back and forth: that’s how chippy the class hamster spent most of his weekend with us. i kept thinking he was going to split in two and multiply any second, like a gremlin.

we have never had a hamster: we are dog people. but the look on our middle son’s face (“ace” for purposes of this blog) when he asked if we could care for him one weekend was so earnest, so full of hope, that i just couldn’t say no. i immediately thought, oh my gosh, what will we do with him? will the dog try to eat him? how much care will he require?

turns out all he wanted to do was climb up into his spaceship (the highest point of his cage, where he also seemed to do all of his bathroom reading) and look out, unless of course he heard us coming, at which point he would scramble back and forth and then quickly into one of the tubes where he would hang upside down and peek out at us from inside, as if the plastic accordion would protect him from whatever was inevitably coming.

there was one thing that seemed to make him happy: ace. anytime he came into the room and called “chippy” softly (and if you know ace you know this is quite a feat in itself, to call out softly to something), the hamster immediately responded by coming out of the tube and digging a little hole to settle into for some one-on-one time with his friend.

i found myself wanting to sneak into ace’s room for some chippy therapy when no one else was looking. i wanted to talk to him through the metal bars, where he sat like a tiny prisoner, scratching himself, and tell him that there are times i feel just like that: trapped in my own house. there are times when all i want to do is crawl under some sawdust and rock back and forth, puffed up and bloated. or i get in the wheel and run, spinning and spinning, going nowhere. or i pack it with my own version of wood chips, where it’s too heavy to even move.

what i don’t want to admit about this weekend experience is how happy it made ace. he was almost in tears by the time monday morning came and he had to return him to school. he couldn’t get to sleep sunday night because he was so anxious about having to take him back. it made me feel like maybe i am not providing something for him, or maybe it’s just that middle children really need their own something special to love on and talk to that’s just theirs.

please tell me it doesn’t have to be a hamster.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


out of nowhere, there they were again, rearing their ugly head. those two small words, so powerful i thought i would wreck the car: laid off. maybe i should pull over, get out, breathe in some fresh air. maybe i should scream. no, that would scare the little one. in my head, i was cursing like a person with turret’s. at no one in particular, though in these types of situations it is easier to handle the pain, the grief, the overwhelmingness if there is someone to direct anger toward.

we had been through this before, so i knew better this time. i knew it was no one’s fault. maybe it was everyone’s fault. maybe it is our fault. (no, that is faulty logic, taught to me by my parents and scrambling every day to creep into the upper regions of my brain to taunt me.)

it happened on friday, so we could play house, pretend for the weekend that everything was normal. i even thought, maybe let’s not tell the kids. let’s just say, “oh, daddy’s working from home for the next couple of months.” let them jump up and down with excitement, imagining all the newfound opportunities for wrestling, baseball throwing, youtube surfing.

maybe i could join this fantasy world. imagine that suddenly i had a helper around the house, an extra set of hands with our increasingly difficult-to-deal (but still ridiculously lovable and charming) 3 year old. that maybe i could steal away to coffee shops and work on my laptop like i have been dreaming of doing since school ended last june.

i had immediately decided i wasn’t telling anyone. probably part of my scheme to pretend it wasn’t happening. suddenly i was getting comments on fb, e-mails, g-chats from people i know--some friends, some acquaintances. they even started chiming in with condolences, advice, offers to “let me know what i can do.”

i do not know why, but all of these voices of concern rubbed me like sandpaper until i was raw. each kind word made me feel less adequate, more out of control. if you are reading, and you are one of these people, then i am sorry if i have not responded to you with the reciprocity i should have.

i have deliberated over why this has bothered me so, and what i could come up with is that when someone is going through something, in the very midst of it, it is next to impossible to muster up enough courage or even self-knowledge and -awareness to be able to tell someone what she can do for a friend in crisis. i have thought about times when i have probably said this very thing to someone: “please let me know if i can do anything.” and i can almost guarantee that not one of those people has ever come back to me and said, “you know, what you could really do for me right now is bring me a meal. or contribute to the health insurance we are about to lose at the end of the month. or pay our electric bill if we need it down the road. or take me out for a drink because now i don’t want to spend the money to go anywhere beyond my four walls. or just love on me because i will probably be having a hard time loving on myself.”

part of this is community, where we live and breathe and cry and love and lean on one another, and we offer ourselves to one another, and we don’t have to ask those things: we just know. we know because we have spent time caring for these people already, and we do for them what we would want done for us.

actually, i think more than part of this is community. i think it’s all about community. i feel lucky that people along my life’s path have taught and modeled these things for me. and i think when the sandpaper starts to irritate, it’s not about anyone else but is more about me and what i’ve been missing. it’s that reminder of an empty space that was once filled and longs desperately to be refilled.

i am not sure how inspired i will be to share here, how open and honest i really want to be. for some reason, in the past 6 months or so i have found myself wanting to hold back from you. not be as open. maybe that connects with the community thing, with wanting to be loved as much as i love.

but i wanted you to know what is going on. thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


my child took this picture without me knowing. you can just see his hair there at the top of the frame. i was going to rotate it, but then i realized that this is how it was oriented when he took it.

this is his view, when the room isn't spinning. for me lately the room has been spinning constantly. earlier today i thought about blogging. i was taking the day "off," after all, from my work, so i thought, hey, i'll be creative, and i'll get some much needed downtime on the couch too. i mean, what woman, especially a mother, gets any downtime on the couch? mine is usually occupied, but i am sure you don't need to hear that i am rarely the  one occupying it.

i love my 3 year old. i love him to bits. he is adorable in every way. he runs around the house naked, except for a tank top my friend calls a wife beater (to her credit, it IS a white ribbed tank). this is his uniform until he learns to pee in the potty. which, slowly but surely, i think we are moving toward. as long as he is naked at least.

he falls asleep after 9 pm, no matter whether he's had a nap. he wakes up between 5:30 and 6:30,  no matter what time he falls asleep. from the moment he awakes, he is on the go, pulling out every toy he owns, wanting me to help him build this farm, find this farmer, help him get his brother's special NASA toys out (which he knows he's not supposed to have). he builds, colors (all over the walls and himself if i'm not watching), climbs, laughs, dances.

and he's incredibly suave about getting out of trouble. i know i don't have the iron will i'm supposed to have with him when it comes to discipline. please tell me this is a third-born (or last-born) thing? maybe it's my age. i feel 80 some days. maybe if i had borne all my children before i turned 24 i would be okay.

so lately, this adorable little peanut has taken to refusing to fall asleep during naptime. let me explain what naptime is to me, since of course this is all about me (i will tell you aloud that it is for him, that i know he needs his rest, that i don't want him to get sick, but inside i know it is all selfishly motivated). naptime is when i get most, if not all, of the work i need to get done during the day. i don't know how i am accomplishing this, but it seems to have been working out fine. i have lots of projects, and i get them done in the allotted 3 hours when precious peanut is asleep.

keep in mind, this doesn't include housework or laundry or anything like that. i do that while he's awake.

on the very rare day when i say to myself, you know, i have worked hard, and i'm going to lie on this couch and watch all the dumb shows i would be made fun of for watching when someone else who lives here is around (ahem, husband), i NEED my child to be asleep. for a long time.

so, i have been thinking this over lately, trying to figure out how to solve this problem. friends have suggested trying to spend some quality time with him in the morning so he will be tired out and ready to nap. or daycare. there's always that option. except not when we don't have lots of disposable income. so there's not really that option. believe me, i have checked into it.

on days like today, i am feeling squeezed. and not in a good way. my chest feels tight, and i want to go outside and scream. maybe screaming into a pillow would be a better choice. that way i don't scare the neighbors...