New Season

Something fantastic is happening within the walls of my everyday life. Though the weather says Summer and the calendar says Autumn, our life is accepting the contradictions and melding into a strange, wonderful trifle of peach-raspberry-pumpkin-spice pie.

Yesterday morning a small, precious creature rose from his bed, used the bathroom, changed his clothes, and tromped downstairs to find his brother, who had engaged in a similarly self-directed ritual half an hour before. There was no struggling to climb into my bed, no sweet cuddling and twirling my hair, no early-morning screaming, no nursing, no heart-piercing dread of him falling down the stairs, no mid-night panic that he might have died in his sleep.

My youngest stands at the doorway between baby and child. And it’s amazing. Incredible to watch, intense to fathom, and lovely to experience. The steady flood of adrenaline that has colored my life for almost seven years has slowed. Anxiety pumps through me infrequently now. I pause. I breathe. I blink.

I didn’t remember what blinking felt like. Doesn’t that sound twisted? I had forgotten to blink, or couldn’t blink, or wouldn’t allow myself. To blink.

It’s quite nice, I must say, to stop the visual input, lubricate my eyes, and rest my brain. For a whole second every now and again. Quite delightful.

Last week the two boys and I walked into a restaurant and I asked them to sit down. They did. And I dropped my shoulders. I ordered burritos, paid, got water and salsa. During that two full minutes, I didn’t panic that they were falling down and cracking their heads, that they would fight, that they were bugging the other customers, or that they would run out the door and I’d lose them forever. I looked over once or twice, and they were sitting. And talking.

As though they were real, live humans.

Life is more like life now and less like a muscle-clenching jolt through incessant struggle and fear and joy and crying. Mothers with tiny new babies and precocious toddlers know the unblinking cycle of love and panic and love and panic and love and panic and frustration and love and panic. But elementary school and preschool have a different rhythm. The pace still daunts, but there are breaks for air. Time to drink water, enjoy hugs, breathe through frustration, and hold conversations.

This world is foreign, but I no longer feel as though I’m a human forced to live amongst bats.

My life is increasingly mine: a three-dimensional structure to layer and paint and plan. And inhabit. Time no longer flies by with me hanging on for dear life. I am in my skin, I own my voice, and I’m creeping toward a time when I will again make powerful decisions about who I am and what I want.

I’m not saying my children stole my power, though the sensation I’m finally shaking would make more sense if I were a vampire and they had mirrors strapped to their heads. And bottoms. And feet. I’m saying that I chose to parent in a particular way, and that I won the Lottery of Intense Children, the result of which is that my ability to exist in my own life has simply been missing for seven-and-a-half years.

And now that I’m coming back from life in a distant, alien land studying in a  foreign language to be someone I’ve never actually intended to be,  I have choices about how I’ll put the pieces of my life together. This is decision time. I’m debating returning to full-time corporate work. I’m contemplating law school. I’m even thinking of going back to teaching. I’m finishing my novel (yes, still). I’m both taking and turning down freelance work.

So why continue the blog? I began this blog five years ago because I felt lonely and frustrated as an intensely driven, full-time parent of a highly sensitive toddler. In moments of solitude I used this space to process my thoughts and feelings. I wrote my frustrations and my triumphs. I found ways to make going crazy sound funny. I vented online to keep from spiraling deeper into depression.

And the blog found an audience. As my son grew and changed and turned our family upside down in all the ways a small child can, I wrote and was heard. I helped readers and they helped me. We became a community and it felt nice to talk with the kind of people I never found in person while we lived in Southern California. The blogosphere kept me sane, so I did my best to write well for them.

When we moved to Northern California and when Butter was born readers were loyal and kindly listened while I stumbled about, trying my best, failing, and trying again. I wasn’t as funny as I had been with only one child, but I tried. And it was enough. Because with two small children and a nighttime freelance career, all you can do is try.

Or drink.

But the heart of this blog—loving my children and clawing toward an unseen buoy while fighting the upheaval to my sense of self—might not be my truth any more. I’ve accepted the major sacrifices and changes that parenthood on my terms has wrought, and I’m beginning to see a richly warm light at the end of a long, dirty, dark, wonderful but claustrophobic tunnel.

So is aging out of a major phase a reason to kill the blog? Nobody here naps any more. I’m not writing at naptime. I’m writing and researching and parenting and cooking and avoiding and volunteering and striving and observing when I can, without marking time based on what tiny creatures do. That which now feels more relaxed and less frantic might be less interesting.

Is that enough reason to stop blogging?

I hope not.

Because this new feeling? This sense that I might actually make it and that my children might actually make it and together we might actually make something we’re proud of? This is an experience I’d really like to share.

I hope you’ll stick around to hear what happens.

Keep Your Hands Inside the Ride at All Times

This morning, Butterbean came padding into our room and climbed wordlessly into bed between us. I moved the covers so he could snuggle down, and I promptly ignored him.

I’ve trained him to expect to be ignored in the early morning. If he wakes up and it’s light out, I tell him, he’s welcome to come to cuddle. But if Spouse and I are sleeping, he needs to settle down with us and try to sleep, too.

The “trying to sleep” is always in vain, of course. The kid, like his brother, just began sleeping through the night at age 3.25 years. And when he wakes up at 6 a.m., he’s completely done sleeping. Done. Revved, raring, rambunctious. Usually he wakes his brother with knock-knock jokes or wakes me screaming about covers he can’t adjust. Or sings to himself for a few minutes.

So a quiet ten minutes or so is the best I can get from him, and I gleefully take every second.

This morning he waited only two minutes before he whispered to me.

“Mommy?”
“Mmmm.”
“When the sun goes down at night, do the clouds go away, too?”
[wide grin inside that exhausted exterior failed to show]
“Nope. The clouds float above us in the air and they stay in the night and in the day. If there are no clouds, the sky stays clear. And if there are clouds, they drift along with the wind just as they do in the day. Because the sky is still there at night. We just don’t see as much because we’ve turned away from the sun.”
“Oh.”

And before I fell back to sleep for another two minutes, I died of the cuteness.

This morning was like the moment you’re next in line at the roller coaster. The boring part of the waiting is done, you’re the special one who gets in next, these delicious moments are all about “any second now”. Just before your turn the whole ride seems exciting and new and full of promise. Not jerky and nauseating and whiplash-y and quick and emotionally draining.

Three is a challenging age. Three is screaming and fits and rage and no impulse control and crazy and “can I listen to that song for the 1,095th time?” Three is an exhausting roller coaster that lasts two years or so, pausing infrequently to allow gulps of air before continuing on, terrifyingly quickly and without seat belts.

But at least once a day, Three is so intensely cute it makes my brain think we’re on vacation on a tropical island with nothing but clear warm water and bright blue skies. Every few hours, amidst the crazy and the angry and the are you kidding me, we have a moment of recalling how freaking edible children can be when they are little balls of wonder and exploration and joy.

Mmmmmm. Waking up to silently padding feet and a cuddle and a science question?

That is the pure bliss that Three occasionally brings. And oh me, oh my it’s tasty.

Delicious little pat of Butter.

You’re not terrible.

Tonight during our interminable bedtime ritual, the rollercoaster of “I love you…when will this nonsense end…I love you…I can’t take this one more stinking minute…I love you…good god what is it now,” Spouse did something silly. And Three found it horrible. And I told the little guy, to stave off the raging insanity that is a three-year-old Butter freakfest, that Daddy was only trying to be silly, and that it didn’t turn out the way he’d hoped.

And somehow in there, I said, in my best silly voice, “because Daddy is Terrible.”

Immediately, Seven said in just the right voice, “He’s not terrible.” And my sweet Peanut wrapped his arms around my neck and sat in my lap and whispered, “He’s not terrible and you’re not terrible. Everyone makes mistakes. You make mistakes. He makes mistakes. Everyone alive makes at least one mistake in their life. Probably more.”

And I kissed his head and told him he was right and brilliant.

And I waited until later to cry.

Because what I’ve waited for, in my pathetic, childish, needy way, has been for my children to show me the kindness I never show myself. To hear a thank you, to be told to ease up a bit. To be told I’m not as terrible as I think I am.

And my almost-second-grader whispered kindly in my ear that I should cut myself and my husband some slack.

I’m not an expert at anything. But I’m pretty sure that’s as close to perfection as life gets.

Equality

Last week over breakfast, our foreign exchange student announced that, on BART, she saw her first gay person.

I snickered a bit privately, since she’s seen way, way, way more than that. But I wanted to hear her story.

She said that, in her country, being gay is bad. That two women kissing on the train is not okay.

I braced myself for what came next and held my breath because the kids were listening. We have a friend who is transgendered and my children think such humans are just another kind of friend to have. In fact, the youngest doesn’t know and assumes, as he should, that our friend is a man because he’s a man. Of course, Butter’s three and thinks most of the trucks on Bob the Builder are female. So he’s clearly not attuned to conventional gender clues yet. But I didn’t know for the first few months of my friendship, either, and learned about Adam’s apples the interesting way.

We haven’t talked to our kids about what it means to be gay or lesbian, in part because gender is something children notice early, but discussing homosexuality involves ideas about attraction and marriage and being more than friends, which are by nature more mature than my children are. They know every family is different, and that some families have kids but some don’t; some have two adults in the family, some don’t; and that the families with two parents might consist of a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. They know that we really like that different types of people bring different ideas and the more ideas you hear, the better you can choose what you believe.

So when Rosí announced that in her country bring gay is bad, I was prepared to stop her so we could continue later. Her opinions and experiences are valid, but they’re not always appropriate for small children.

“Yes,” she continued. “In my country this is very bad. But I think killing is bad. This? Kiss? Do you say ‘kiss’ in this way? [Yes, but you can say ‘kissing’, too.] This is love, right? And love is good. So I don’t like what they do, and I don’t think it’s right. But it’s not wrong.”

I have to say, I was impressed. I asked my eldest if he understood what we were talking about.

“Do you know the word ‘gay’?” I asked. “You know the families we know with two dads or two moms? The word for having a partner who is the same gender as you is ‘gay’.”

He nodded. “I know.”

“So she’s saying that, in her country, people believe wanting to be a family with someone who’s the same is bad. But she thinks hurting is bad, and that loving is good. What do you think?”

“Well, yeah,” he said. “Kissing is only bad if the other person says ‘stop’.”

Well, damn, readers. He just covered equality and respect in one answer.

These are good, open-minded kids I have. The two I raised and the one who just arrived three weeks ago. May they always kiss people who say “yes.”

[I haven’t talked with our guest yet about the Supreme Court decisions of last week. But when the boys and I heard on the radio, on the way to school, that the justices said the federal government can’t invalidate a legal marriage by withholding spousal benefits, and that the people in California who don’t like gay marriage have no legal standing on which to contest it, I sobbed as I explained to my children how important it is for a country to say that all people are legally the same. Of course we’re not the same. But legally, all people have the same rights. I told them how important it is to know that not liking something is not the same as being hurt by it. And that not understanding something is a reason to find out more, not to pass laws. It’s never too early to train the next generation of legislators, executives, and justices.]

My baby again

 

Some parenting moments are bliss. Some include intense pain. Most are drudgery and frustration tinted with laughter. There’s sometimes just the teeniest bit of yelling. Occasionally.

But some moments make you stop.

I didn’t see my son fall and break his arm. I didn’t get a terrifying phone call. I just picked him up from school and talked with him about the best and worst of the day just like we did any other day. The seventeenth or eighteenth thing he told me on the walk home was that his arm hurt.

Easy, as broken arms go. And so we didn’t handle any of it like a trauma. Time didn’t stop. The day didn’t really seem different (except the long wait for an x-ray), the school year finished without further incident, and summer began pretty much as usual.

But today the cast came off. And my eldest baby’s tiny little arm emerged from the green fiberglass weak and vulnerable. He said the air hurt and he was scared to touch anything. So I tried to hold his hand. But that hurt, he said. So I kept a respectable distance even though it killed me.

We were escorted toward the examining room, but he seemed hesitant. So I told the nurse we were going to wash his arm before we saw the doctor. We slipped into the orthopedic department’s bathroom.

I have not, since my boys were babies, been so careful with the water temperature as I was with this peeling, pasty, dirt-bracketed arm. And not since he was brand new have I so gently washed him. I wanted to scrub off three weeks’ of unshed skin cells, rub off the grime that had accumulated around his little thumb.

Instead, I carefully removed his elementary-school filth and restored, for one moment, a time in which he completely trusted me. Without making him feel scrubbed. Or small. I got to remember how much time dissolves into genuine care. And he got pure nurturing without feeling little.

Today’s arm-rebirth was sweeter than the quiet Scrabble sessions we have while his brother is at preschool. It was calmer than his lethargic fever days when he sleeps fitfully until he rests on my shoulder and is then out for hours cuddled against me.

Today time stopped so at least one limb of my seven-year-old could be a newborn again.

But this time we already knew and understood each other, so the moment seemed even more sweet and tender.

Maybe because I know now that we might not have more episodes of naked vulnerability.

With a newborn, you expect them to need you for a while.

Seven years later, I’m not sure if I’ll get any more moments like this.

IMAG3475-1

 

 

Respite

I know it’s wrong to enjoy sick kids’ sweet snuggling fevers. I know it’s wrong to hope, once in a while, that the whirling tornadoes in the house get the flu just so they’ll stop running for a few minutes.

And it’s beyond despicable to enjoy a child’s broken limb.

But dang, the peace that has swirled through our house since Peanut broke his arm is significantly changing my life. I feel hope and vigor and joy, y’all. I feel this might actually be why people make it through the day and still like their children.

See, a wounded child in pain avoids things that cause him pain. He might, for instance, avoid a younger brother and talk sweetly to him to ensure that roughness is kept at bay. He might stay nestled in bed to play with LEGOs already built instead of screaming in rage that things won’t work or running like a cheetah through the house from project to project. He might even, perhaps, ask to be read to, and put a head on the shoulder he’s so long said he is too old for.

I would never want my child hurt. I’m sad for him that he’s hobbled. But the silver lining is about 90% of the cloud for me, and I’m really enjoying the seachange that has come from this week.

I praise thee, bringer of peace and breathing room

I praise thee, bringer of peace and breathing room

Art. And whatnot.

A dear friend asked me to accompany her to the Museum of Modern Art this week. I quickly agreed because I don’t get to see her nearly enough.

And luckily for me, she happens to have a PhD in art from Cal, so she knows her way around a museum. I mean, I do, too. You pretty much start at the door and walk through the rooms looking at stuff. But I have to read the identifying plaques and puzzle out meaning from the piece exclusive of its real historical context. She just…knows. Who, what, when, where, why, what critics said, how history has changed what critics say. I’m awfully happy to know her, and it’s a delight to see her in action in an artistic setting. Her students are wicked lucky.

97.524_01_b02

(I always wondered about Rothko, had my own opinions. Now I know more and the opinions still hold but are informed by historical, artistic, and critical context. Education is super cool.)

We went to the SFMOMA primarily to see Christian Marclay’s The Clock.

theclock2

Holy. Guacamole.

It took him three years, but Marclay put together a 24-hour film montage of clips from thousands of movies, all of which reference a specific time (often with a visual of a clock or watch). And he spliced them such that the time announced by the actors or shown on the screen is the correct time of day for the viewer. So the whole film references time, tells time, and keeps time.

It’s outrageously cool.

Mind-bogglingly, unsettlingly, jaw-droppingly cool.

But here’s the thing I noticed after exactly three minutes: in an overwhelming percentage of instances where a film references the precise time, something incredibly important is about to happen. Someone will die in a few minutes or someone is expected in a few minutes or an explosion is coming in a few minutes or something intense makes characters check the clock every few minutes.

It’s an exhausting film to watch because the filmmakers whose works are combined together to produce the effect of an accurate-time experience actively choreographed those clock-referencing moments to be adrenaline-provoking. So after 20 minutes of Marclay’s work, I was quite anxious. Jumping out of my chair “let’s go we have to go we only have a few minutes” kind of anxious. The only relief in those 20 minutes of watching watches was a brief interlude in which The Breakfast Club’s characters whistle the Colonel Bogey march that evokes Bridge on the River Kwai and anti-Hitler sentiment. And even that moment is tense, because we all know Principal Vernon is coming in in a few seconds. At eleven-thirty, in fact, as I’m now keenly aware.

marclay_clock_02
The importance of the word “momentous” became strikingly clear: we note that something is so intensely significant that it requires we pause and pay attention to that particular moment. Then five or ten or twenty groups of people pay rapt attention to one moment. Then the next. The accumulation of the momentous moments makes real life seem slow and insignificant, and simultaneously make the moments the film marks and marks and marks into a river of exclamations. Imagine hearing and seeing, “Pay attention to this precise moment!” shouted dozens of times every minute.

We didn’t have long at the museum, but it was amazing. I learned bits about artists and contemporary art reviews that I never would have. I saw The Clock. I saw disturbing images that made me think about our role in society, art’s need to disturb the afflicted and afflict the disturbed. I made lame observations that will haunt me for a while.

So other than being a long-winded artsy equivalent of Instagraming what I had for lunch, I want to urge you to go experience some art. We often forget how important it can be to see how someone processed the thoughts they had about the time in which they lived.

See The Clock at SFMOMA if you can. The museum closes June 2 for renovations, so go soon. And early, because the line is daunting.

Or perhaps just watch The Breakfast Club again and keep your eye on the big clock on the back wall.

And think about how long a minute can really be.

theclock200
All images: Christian Marclay, video still from The Clock, 2010; courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

Stop to think

I had forgotten This Is Water.

Not forgotten, really, as forgotten to remind myself. And this forgetting, in itself, is problematic since one theme of the speech’s text (and the book rendered from that speech) is choosing to be aware enough to remind yourself about the many intersecting realities informing what is otherwise boring, frustrating, or irritating in our lives.

Thanks to AdWeek for catching the video created by The Glossary.

Watch this. Please. This is not just water. This is humanity, this is life, this is truth. This is the answer to my question, posted here all too often, about how to make it through.

This is living rather than surviving.

And this is one of a dozen reasons I so adore David Foster Wallace’s art, writing, perspective, and contribution to our generation’s struggle with what it means to be alive.

Win. Seriously.

A few weeks ago I read Carinn Jade’s post about gratitude. She has lovely things to say about teaching children to think about their lives in perspective, to teach ourselves to find the bright side by living in thoughtful meditations on gratitude.

After reading it, I decided I’m a terrible parent appreciated the reminder that I should be focusing the family on gratitude. We have always, every night, talked about what each person’s favorite and most challenging parts of the day were. We’ve used it as a way to learn evaluative skills and to hear how other people address challenges.

But other than Thanksgiving, we don’t spend a lot of time using the words grateful and thankful. I’m rather embarrassed about that, because I know full well that reflecting upon that which makes life wonderful creates a cycle in which gratitude makes us see events and people in a better light, which makes us more grateful. I’ve been reading Secrets of Successful Families and Raising Happiness, and both point me in the same direction Jade’s post did: get everyone in the family thinking about life’s gifts, and appreciate them together. It helps.

So we started. I intended to circle the gratitude wagons at dinner, but meals are a reasonably raucous time of “please don’t call each other buttface,” and “please don’t call each other poopface, either,” and “please eat the food or leave it on the plate; food is not a toy,” and “yes, you can have more, but please finish what you have first,” and “did you say that to make him feel good?”, “dear gawd am I ever going to eat more than two bites without someone asking me for something?” moments.

But I finally remembered to ask what the boys are grateful for as we walked to school.

I told them I am grateful I have three wonderful guys in my house to see every day.

Peanut, who is seven, said he is grateful for friends.

Butter, the three-year-old, said he is grateful for cake. If I’d thought of it, I might have started there, too.

I said I am grateful for the way Spring smells and feels and shines.

Peanut said he is grateful that we have enough money to live in a house.

Butter said he doesn’t want to do this any more.

I said I’m grateful we have so much wonderful family to visit and play with.

Peanut said he’s grateful for tigers and leopards and he wants to try to save them.

I judge myself pretty harshly, readers, about the job I’m doing parenting because my kids fight a lot and Spouse and I are not patient enough. But it seems to me that if my seven year old is grateful for friends, his home, and his place in the world, I’m doing an okay job. A genuinely okay job.

And I’m grateful for that.

Internet goddesses

Does your god answer your prayers? Do your children do what you ask? Do you feel heard at all?

This morning I explored my new zen happy place: I played with one of the boys’ remote control robots. Because…get this…it does whatever I tell it to do. I push the forward button and it goes forward. I push the backward button and…I swear…it goes backwards.

I love the thing. I fawn all over it. It listens.

And then something even more miraculous happened.

First, I asked. All I wanted was some Easter candy.

Then, an answer. From the goddesses of the blogosphere.

IMAG2916

Not one, but two bloggers sent me bags of black jelly beans. Big, hefty bags full of jelly beans.

Seriously? I asked for something outlandishly weird and people took the time find, organize, and mail? I can’t even get my kids to put on their shoes when I ask nicely.

That, right there, is why people use social media.

Finally. Someone listens.

(Seriously, if nobody hears you today, get yourself a remote control robot and a Twitter account.)

Battery status: fully charged

I wanted this all year: time by myself. Not an hour. Days. Gratuitous, excessive amounts of time by myself. Peace, quiet, and being directed by only my needs.

Spouse combined birthday, Solstice, Christmas, and Hanukkah presents and sent me to a cabin by myself.

I almost didn’t go. I had an intensely difficult time saying goodbye to my boys, the wonderful, funny, loving little creatures whose needs and moods dictate my every single second. The amazing humans whose care is more important to me than my career. My tiny little gobs of love, running around all day and waking me all night.

How could I leave them? For three whole days?

Part of that resistance was Newtownian. We’re all still rocked, and as I said before, I’m not going to talk about it. I can’t. Part of my resistance was Puritanical. And part of it was the chorus of critics in my head, telling me I wasn’t worth a special thing. A just-me thing. I shouldn’t because it’s unseemly. It’s gratuitous. I have a job to do, every day for 24 hours a day and how dare I shirk that responsibility?

“”Who needs a whole weekend alone,” my chorus berated. “There are people without homes, without food, without basic security. There are people cold without respite and people sick and dying.

I know that. I really, really, really do.

I tried several times to cancel. Spouse wouldn’t let me. He knows I’m fed by solitude, by quiet, and by following my own rhythms. He knows I need, desperately, to create. To write, to read, to hike, to eat. And he knows that for seven years I’ve subsumed those needs to other people. Lovely people whose well-being I take incredibly seriously. Too seriously, maybe.

Since having children I have experienced more frequent and intense joy than ever before. I’ve also been haunted by a daily thought that I’m really meant to live alone and am living the wrong life.

I know that sounds awful, but it’s true. Or it was true. Since I hadn’t had solitude for more than a couple of hours at a time in almost a year, I was running on empty. I needed my own personal fuel. I can’t do my multiple jobs without energy, and I had absolutely none left. Before this trip I couldn’t figure out why I was resistant to write, to read, to exercise, to explore, to try new things.

The simple answer is that I wasn’t myself. I was a shell.

Being a shell isn’t good for anyone. It isn’t good for our families, it isn’t good for our art, it isn’t good for our individual and collective moods, and it isn’t good for our brains.

This is my seventh trip away since my first darling boy was born. Most have been short: a day or two. A conference here, a loved one’s new babies there. Two visits to a treasured friend to talk and watch movies and read books. And two solitary, see-nobody-and-speak-to-nobody-and-do-whatever-I-choose trips including this one.

A farmyard cabin. Clear air, lowing cows, croaking frogs. Nighttime fears of the sinister things that movies and novels make seem normal but are really intensely rare, ridiculous wastes of my worry energy.

I haven’t slept much. I haven’t exercised much. But I’ve worked almost non-stop on my book and on a client project that’s bringing me intellectual joy. I’ve eaten only healthful food because that’s all I brought. Despite my cravings for candy and wine, I’ve had salads and tea and barbeque field roast sandwiches. In fact, everything I brought was good for me. Two awesome books (and a chapter of a book that I’ve been meaning to read, found in the cabin’s library). A computer on which to create and learn.

I’m intensely lucky. I know that.

Good heavens, I cannot articulate how good I feel. There are now in front of me, beyond the enclosed porch on which I now sit typing, nine different tree species. Clear skies, sunshine, picturesque fluffy clouds. A chilling breeze kept somewhat at bay by a wool throw and a rumbling wood stove. Sunshine.

There’s copious sunshine at home. And blue skies and fluffy clouds and trees. But here nobody asks me for anything. No fights. No stress, no frustrations. No ups and downs. Just being. Centered, listening to my own body and brain existing.

I have to go now. I have to make the most of this time. But I wanted to say this: I wish you this. I hope you find your version of this.

When you’re making New Year’s Resolutions, if you do such things, find what makes you tick. What centers you to who you are and what you need and what makes you the most you can be. Writing down the things most important to how you fuel yourself to make it through the days and weeks is immeasurably useful.

Because I hope you find a way in 2013 to get what you need. Not every day, not in a way that overwhelms your responsibilities or finances. But push just a little beyond what you think you should do or get and bring yourself back to center. Take time off work or away from family, visit family or sleep or paint. Take a class or explore new movies and music. Once you take care of yourself you will have more to offer others. Play with your children, invest in your employer, build your company. Volunteer until you feel you’ve made more than a difference—you’ve made a mark. Write letters to your elected representatives until your hand cramps. Give others what they need.

Whatever you most value, invest in it. More than you otherwise would. Do a little too much so that you can push past the limits you’ve hit. To restore the core of who you are and what you want. This weekend cost me too much time from my family and too much money. And I know that for most people anything that costs money will be too much. But whatever “that’s all we can afford is,” do a little more. Because this weekend hasn’t cost too much, really. Throwing the money in the trash would have cost too much. Buying solitude on my own terms has been so immeasurably good for me that it exceeds the monetary and absent-mother cost by about one-thousand-fold.

I’m glad I was led outside what I felt was too much. I will not forget how this feels. I will bring to my every endeavor for the next few months the energy and passion that had dwindled as I pushed through each day, driving on fumes.

I have more to give because I was given. Because I gave myself what I actually, really needed. Tired isn’t just about sleep. Sad isn’t just about sorrow. Hungry isn’t just about food. Angry isn’t just about being wronged. All needs are about not getting enough.

It’s not enough until the little battery indicator on your soul blinks full that you’ve had enough.

I’m getting there. And soon I will share my recharged self with two little guys and a big guy and a community and a nation and a planet who all really deserve the best I can give. Something I can now offer.

I wish you more than enough now, next year, and always.

Glory be.

Oh, gentle readers, winds of change are blowing through Chez Naptime. The chaos and the panic and the frustrations are lately vacillating toward harmony.

Not quite sure when it started. This summer was an intense sibling phase of aggression, retaliation, and nastiness. Neither child seemed to have simultaneous good moods, and without fail the grouchy one would turn the other into a screaming jackass within a few minutes of waking. I cannot articulate the stress caused when one child intentionally hurts his brother just to stop morning cheerfulness that he did not share. My days began at least six days a week with children screaming and crying by 6:30. Screaming the rage of being injured for being happy. Sobbing with the broken heart of being thwarted. And the other guy crying because his brother dared enter his Lair of Grump. Beginning before 6:30 and continuing for 13 hours.

I often wondered if it would ever change. If I was doing something wrong. If my readers lied to me that the boys would eventually play together. Heaven knows they mostly fester and erupt together. Blech.

A few days of early Fall showed promise. Their good moods coincided and they treated each other with care and gentleness. They talked, they negotiated. They acted as though they were on the same team.

But those days were still rare. Once a week, perhaps, mornings started well and the boys sided with rather than against each other. For a few hours in some cases.

And lately it happens more often than not. Good moods all around. Or, even better, a cheerful brother persuades a grump to his side of happiness and play.

Yesterday, walking home from school, the little one wanted to roll his softball down the sidewalk. I balked, saying that rolling into the street was going to be too frequent.

But Peanut, my increasingly personable six-year-old, offered a solution: he would run ahead and block the ball from going into the street. A lovely offer. I figured, based on two years of experience with their dynamics, that he was going to use the opportunity to take the ball for himself. But he didn’t. He didn’t take the ball or play keep away or tease or race the little guy. He played shepherd. He played backup, helper, and understudy instead of domineering and impatient first string.

So for a mile, the two-year-old rolled the ball down the sidewalk and his brother helped him. When the little guy screamed in desperation because his brother had picked the ball up, Peanut explained when he was doing and offered to hand the ball over or to roll it to Butter. The older guy was cheerful. He was patient. Butter quickly caught on that he was getting to play with the best side of Peanut, the side that only six- and seven-year-olds get to see.

It was an absolute joy to be with them. To watch them play, to help navigate only rarely. To see how kind they were and how much fun they could have together. To watch the beaming faces of passersby who caught the boys’ infectious laughs.

I want to cry at how lovely it is when they get along, and I know the tears stem from released tension at not having my shoulders up around my ears for 13 hours a day. What a relief to see them both at their happiest. To observe them bringing each other to higher levels instead of trying (often in vain) to gently interrupt their knocking each other down.

Sleeplessness seems less painful. Messes seem less important. Frustrations seem less debilitating. Anger seems a distant memory.

Because they’re being kind. My children are being kind. To each other. Consistently. For the first time in two years.

Thank you, Universe, for this interlude. I know it will shift and change. I know there will be setbacks. I know Age Three will nigh on kill us all.

And now I know how good things can be.

I had no idea. Parents who aren’t stabby by breakfast every single day, I now see that you’re not crazy.

I’m even rebranding our annual Holiday Apathy Gathering as an annual Low Expectations Holiday Party. (Crud, I have to get on planning that and inviting people…) Because I have no meh left. My inner Eeyore is on vacation and my heretofore secret Tigger is on the prowl.

So watch out. I might just pounce holiday joy and effervescence on ya. I have to. I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.

Where?