Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Breaking the Silence

Hi again - yes, I am promises about tomorrow, though!

I'm in school, working away at my BA in English. I think both my older kids will graduate before me, I am ALMOST a junior. But, I'm totally fine with that. The following is an exercise I did for my Creative Writing class. I have Kris's permission to share.

Back in the late ‘80s, I lived in the basement half of a house split into two apartments with my son, Kristopher. He was a baby then, and we were separated from his dad, my husband, for a bunch of reasons not important to this story. The apartment was the best I could afford. It was on Henderson Avenue South in Seattle, just off Rainier Avenue, one block east of Chubby and Tubby, home of the famous $5.98 Christmas tree. The house was built around World War II, and the sunshine yellow paint job appeared to be at least that old. It had moss-tinged white trim and a sloping gray roof that was missing shingles. The yellow was a selling point for me.
A scraggly string of dusty gardenia bushes limped along the west side of the house where our kitchen window and front door looked out onto a dirt alley which was all that separated us from the open carport space under the Asian market that faced Rainier. I remember feeding my son in his high chair and looking out at dope fiends shooting each other up under the shelter of that carport, and finding abandoned, bent needles lying in our front yard.

The apartment itself was in decent shape. At least the front door closed and locked, and the air gap under it wasn’t too bad. One towel shoved under it did the trick, except on the coldest nights. The windows facing south looked out on a lumpy, overgrown, tired yard that had one tree in it. I think it was an apple, but no fruit ever grew on it - at least not during our time living there. The yard was the other selling point for me. For some reason, I thought my infant son needed a yard, way before he could even walk.
The number seven Metro bus stopped right on the corner of Henderson and Rainier, which was convenient, because I worked downtown, and Kris’s daycare was there, too. I remember the two of us, all bundled up against the cold and dark of the Northwest mornings, baby gear packed into a diaper bag, work shoes jammed into a book bag, both hanging on the handle of the stroller by plastic baby Boomerang Links in cheerful primary colors. My son, tucked in securely under a layer of blankets and wearing a puffy jacket, would ride crammed up against the crossbar of the stroller and would kick his heels in joy against the foot rests as we bumped up the dirt alley – me praying we’d miss early shift of die-hard junkies - to catch the 5:00 am bus, Mondays through Fridays.

I would drop him off at his daycare at the First United Methodist Church on the corner of Marion and 5th Avenue, then walk the five blocks north and two blocks east to my office at the old One Union Square Building, where my work day at the brokerage firm began at 6:30am. At lunch time, I’d reverse the route to go play with him and feed him, then power walk back to the office. I never needed a gym membership, back then.

One time I remember best was his first birthday. He was born two days after New Year’s, and it fell on the first work day back from the Holiday weekend, this particular year. It was traditional to bring a birthday cake into the daycare center to share with the group. But we had no money for a bakery cake. Actually, we had no money for a cake mix. I decided to bake a cake from scratch. No, two cakes: one for home and one for the daycare.

I began with a search for my one and only cookbook, the Red Betty Crocker one. There weren’t too many places to search in that small apartment, and I finally found it in an unpacked box in the storage space under my bed. My son joined the search, crawling along on the floor behind me, and climbing up on my back and hitting me in the head with a toy truck while I rummaged through the box. After I found it, I around on my stomach and opened the book right there, on the musty smelling carpet in the middle of the bedroom floor, Kristopher banging away next to me. “What’s it going to take, little man? Do we have the stuff?” On to the kitchen we went to find out.

“Eggs, flour, butter (well, Crisco should be fine), vanilla (imitation), baking powder, salt, sugar, and milk. Check. We’re on baby! Oops, what about pans?” More rummaging around turned up some old aluminum lasagna pans. “This will work,” I told him. More banging of the truck, accompanied by giggles and drool bubbles. “I’m going to mix both in one bowl, to save time.” An hour later, after much measuring and mixing – by hand, no mixer back then – the first lopsided pan went into the oven. While we waited, we played, Kris blowing bubbles and laughing while I made car sounds, stopping every so often for a tickle break.

Outside, across the alley, a group of junkies huddled together against the January cold and shared needles.

In our little house, we shared warm Bisquick-tasting birthday cake, and celebrated our first year together.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

We're having a baby. Or, "Grandmom's Night Out"?

So, the BIG news is, I am going to be a Grandmother. That is the strangest sentence I've ever written. I don't even feel like a bona-fide mom sometimes. I still have three kids at home, for cryin' out loud!!

But, indeed, it is a factoid. Or a factoid to be.

This baby is coming from Kami and Kris, of course (or thankfully!). You may remember they got married last July...yes, it's soon for a baby, but they are excited and I know they will make great parents. I've seen them both with children. Especially mine. Believe me, if someone can handle the oddness of my "special" kids with grace and fun, they will make a tremendous parent.

And these two do.

Kris has always had an accepting and loving heart towards all the kids we've had through our crazy home over the years. I started fostering when he was eight. He grew up with run away teen-aged girls (I don't think one of them stayed put), raging boys with Muscular Dystrophy (he used to ram people with his electric wheelchair), and a variety of children needing diapers, assistive devices, feeding tubes, and more.

When Kameron (then Kenny) came into our house at the age of one, on a ventilator and trached, it was fifteen year old Kris who treked up to Denver Children's Hospital with me to learn how to disassemble and reassemble the ventilator. They required this before discharging Kenny to us, even though we had 24 hour nurses lined up. Kris learned, along with me, how to suction Kenny's trach so he wouldn't choke to death on his own mucus (sorry, it's a little graphic); and the amazing thing is, Kris had no problem with this - at least he never once complained or balked.

Once we got Kenny back to our house for good, a process that took about a month, I remember Kris standing over the huge red medical crib looking down on him through all the breathing tubes. Kenny was sucking on his fingers and looking around the room - very calm and quiet, and kicking his feet. Kris said, "You know, how do people complain about things? Look at him . . . if anyone ever had a reason to complain and be mad, it's him. And he's so happy. . ."

Pretty wise for fifteen. Pretty wise for any age.

As for Kami, his beautiful bride, she lived with us before they got married. Kris was in Oregon, playing basketball and taking a few classes, and Kami was going through Gene Juarez training school (to get licensed as a stylist), so she lived in our home - right there she gets bravery points. I mean, living with your future mother-in-law and her kids?? Especially my special kids.

She was terrific. Sweet, funny, completely real, and she had no problem with my munchkins. Kami is the real deal.

If she can handle all of us - she can handle anything.

I'm sure they wanted a little more alone time as a couple - it's pretty soon - but babies are a visual, breathing token of your love. How awesome is that? A little person made from each of you - wow.

To both of you: I am so proud to be your mom and mom-in-law. For the record, I think you two will be wonderful, caring, fun parents. And I am sure that you will have the time of your lives raising your kids...

Remember, you are never alone. God has gotten all of us this far, and He won't leave you now.

Oh, and EVERYONE is excited to be aunts and uncles. Let us know how we can help.

We love!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Children Should Be Heard . . .

I was pondering childhood this morning. Just kind of wandering down memory lane (which is a little like finding your way through the scary woods in the Wizard of Oz). I thought about how my parents parented me, and about the adults in my life in general, the attitude their generation had toward children.

One of the big sayings then was, "children should be seen and not heard." Like, ever?

You mean when my big brother is "playing" with me, say, throwing darts at me, you want me to just stay meek and well-mannered? Or, say kids at school are calling me really nasty names, spitting at me, putting gum on my seat - then? Should I be "seen and not heard" then, too?

I know I'm not the only casualty of this "method" of parenting. In fact, I know that both my parents thought that was the appropriate way to raise children. Isn't that how their mother and father raised them? I'm not saying they weren't loving. And, I think my generation has swung WAY the other way in compensating. We tend to treat our children like little kings and queens, and have a real problem with young adults that have no boundaries, no discipline, and no respect for anyone. There's a difference between respecting a child and giving him or her everything they want. That's a whole 'nother discussion.

I just think that we need to treat our children - all of them - as people. To respect their individuality, try to help them discover who they were made to be - do they love art? Do they love words, music, football? All of the above?

Again, I don't mean let's haul them all over creation in clubs and all sorts of after-school junk. There's a balance here. And really, while it's important to help them uncover their talents, it's even more important to give them that sense of belonging here. To give them that sense of mattering that all of us need so desperately.

That's something anyone can give a child, by the way. That favorite teacher you remember? What is it that makes him or her so memorable? I'll tell you why I still remember Mrs. Israel, my third grade teacher (and I will NOT tell you how long ago that was). She paid attention to me. When she talked to me, it was to me, not to one of her students. She wasn't especially "nice" or "sweet", in fact, she was kind of abrupt and direct, but she so obviously thought of us little third graders as small people. As individuals with opinions and dreams and lives of our own. And we mattered to her. It was so unusual that she stands out sharply in the sea of adults that surrounded my childhood.

I've had little kids who've met me one time (like on a field trip) come up to me the following year, remember my name, and say hi. One little girl who rode my son's bus last year actually wrote me a little note:

Hey folks, all I did was say good morning to her at the bus every day and I get this awesome note! Whose little life can you impact today? It doesn't take much...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Trace Adkins performs "You're Gonna Miss This" at the Grand Ole Opry - Part ONE see below!

You're Gonna Miss This-Part Two

Back in 2007-2008, Country singer, Trace Adkins came out with a song (yes I listen to country, settle down) called, You're Gonna Miss This. The song coincided with a bunch of big changes in my/our lives: Kelsey was graduating, Kris was going down to Oregon to finish school, and was engaged. . . and I was still trying to recover from the rapid moves/losses/craziness of the years between October, 2005 (when Kameron was diagnosed) to then.

Now I find myself trying to reconcile all that stuff, all those years, and despite the extreme toughness of them, I find that I do, in fact, miss that.

I miss the Big House on Vollmer Road; the crazy Colorado weather (I mean, blizzards in October? Ice storms in July?); the space we had - antelopes and falcons and coyotes - o my! I miss the excitement of the kids and the challenge of taking care of all of them (at one point, I think we had three adults and at least twelve kids); I miss middle-school football with Kris; driving all over the state to watch Kelsey at a gymnastics meet; I miss my dog, Cody (best yellow lab EVER); I miss the quiet Colorado morning when the sun was just coming up and the huge house was still and everything seemed possible. . . I miss it.

It's funny how life can seem so crazy and hard while you're living it, but when you look back, they were some great times. Maybe the goal is to keep remembering that each day. Today is that day - the one you're gonna miss. Peace, peeps.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Here's What You've Been Missing:

I know, I know, another long silence. Like since Thanksgiving. Well, I've been busy, okay?? All the hustle and bustle around the Rainwater manse. . .things are happening! I don't have always have time to sit down in front of my computer, you know.

Take tonight for instance:

I'm sitting here watching Kameron watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. It's the only show he'll ever watch. And boy, will he watch it. He will watch it on the couch; he will watch it on the floor; he will watch it on the computer; he will watch it on the big screen; he will watch it on a house, he will watch it on a mouse, he will watch it here or there... he will watch it anywhere (apologies to Dr. Seuss).

If you aren't familiar, MMC is a show geared toward pre-schoolers. It's got fun and annoyingly perky music, all Mickey's pals (even Pete, the "villain"), some puzzles the kids help Mickey solve, and lots of other cleverly disguised learning opportunities.

Kam, at age ten, is a bit older than the demographic. But, since he's lost a few years - like five or six - and since he wasn't ever supposed to talk, read, sit up, eat on his own . . . live. . . I think his love of Mickey is just fine.

He talks back to the screen. In fact, he just said, "Oh Toodles" along with the gang.

He tells Mickey which mystery Mouseka-tool to use ("the feather") to tickle the baby elephant, and generally stays absorbed the entire 24 minutes.

He decides what character we all are. Kam is, of course, Mickey. I am Minnie some days, Daisy on others, and refuse to be Clarabell the Cow. She has the most annoying voice. Kobi is Donald (Kobi WISHES he was Donald. He wants to quack); Kelsey is whatever female I'm not - usually Daisy - and Klaryssia is Clarabell by default. Then comes Kris as Goofy (I think its the height); and finally our little yappy dog is Pluto.

Oh, we've just decided that the giraffe is short enough to fit into the clubhouse. Daisy is naming him Longfellow...

I think I need to get out more.

It could be worse. He could love that purple dinosaur -- who shall remain unnamed.