Monday, May 28, 2012

Shall we dance?

A quick post this morning. Our family is settling in to that lazy schedule of a long, summer weekend. Too bad it's the last day of said weekend. Regardless, the next nine hours will be a slow dance between us and summer - a prelude for the weeks to come. So, with the sound of our neighborhood dogs barking their arguments, let the screeching from the pool, ice melting in the wide-mouth Ball jar, Popsicles dripping down elbows, music floating out from the house, hazy, lazy days of summer begin.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lest we run into stormy weather

My kids had a great day today; they got to play with their cousin. Their 22 yr old, recent college graduate cousin, Chelsea! Chelsea joined us for the day, arriving 7 seconds after the last bite of breakfast was taken. She got to see the ebb and flow of our day. The good, the bad, the crying. It's how we roll over here. You gotta go with the flow, or you are going to drown. A walk down to our duckpond and the arrival of a flying little beauty helped give me the reinforcement I was desperately needing to hear. Let me begin...

I love taking note of my surroundings. I love when a cloud is alone in the ocean-blue sky, or when a troop of flowers is dancing in the breeze. I am especially fascinated by the symbolic meanings of animals and insects. Symbolic meanings? Huh? Ok, here's my take on creature symbolism...a cricket. You're not supposed to kill a cricket for fear of bad luck. Most people have heard this. Most creatures are symbolic, in one culture or another. These meanings intrigue me and I love the chance to relate a meaning back to my moments.

A dragonfly followed us home from the duckpond today. We took a walk down to the pond to see how it looked after last night's crazy storms. We saw the newly emerged lilypads, green in their splendor. I reminded the kids to walk quietly around the pond so we could hear all the frogs escaping from their sunbathing on the bank. We saved a tadpole that wandered to far from the safety of its wet habitat. We examined half eaten tadpoles and talked about the ecosystem and the food chain of the pond. And then Calum spotted it - the first dragonfly of the season. I'm not sure why this excites us but it does, and we're ok with our weirdness. We remembered last year when our front yard was swarmed by them. For a week straight and at dusk, our front yard would come alive with these beauties. Hundreds of them. It was glorious, and I was fascinated. I get excited just thinking about it!

Today's single dragonfly was an exciting sight and we left the duckpond talking about all the creatures that come and go, as the cycle of the seasons goes on and on. Imagine our surprise when we got home to find a solo dragonfly hanging out on our back porch. Now, who knows if it was the same dragonfly...the odds that it wasn't are just as good as the odds that it was. The mere fact in seeing two, looking pretty darn identical, was enough for me to take note. What was this dragonfly trying to tell me? There's always a lesson. A meaning. And this dragonfly carried a good one.

Today was an exceptionally good day. We enjoyed our time with Chelsea. The kids stayed in motion most of the day. We ate good eats. We played good play. I was trying hard to anticipate activities for the kids. I didn't want them to spend this precious time with their cousin watching tv. So we painted. And beaded. And playdough'd. And fairy house'd. And ate snack straight off the vine. We floated from one activity to the next. I just tried to say 'yes' as much as I could, today. Yes, we can paint! Yes, we can go for a walk! Yes, let's go harvest the snap peas (even though they are barely of size...) Yes, let's capture that massive hornet and watch what it does in a plastic Tupperware container - lid on tight of course! --- note to self....research symbolic meaning for bees.---- I've learned over the years, it's truly better to just say yes. And, honestly, much easier. And I don't mean saying yes to the ridiculous, and by ridiculous I mean riding the bike without a helmet or allowing the kids to poke small metal objects into the electrical sockets in the name of science. Saying YES to their creative needs - paint, playdough, sewing, mud, sand, mud AND sand AND water - saying yes to these things, regardless of how I feel about the cleanup, makes for a smoother ride. And the kids feel nurtured and fulfilled. Just follow the spirit and interest of the children, and one can usually get through the day without any major squalls. Mind you, there is always a time of day when everything comes crashing down in a fiery mess of emotions and low blood sugar, or high blood sugar for that matter. My measurement of success is how the kids feel as they cuddle down into bed. If they feel peaceful, and free, and loved, well then, I've done my job.

           'As a creature of wind and water, the dragonfly represents change. It's iridescent wings are incredibly sensitive to the slightest breeze, and so we are reminded to heed where the proverbial 'wind' blows - lest we run into stormy weather.'

Our little visitor from the pond came to our home midday. I quickly read the above symbolic description of the dragonfly and noted to myself how much I felt like that creature...getting blown from one activity to the next, and trying to avoid that 'stormy weather.' But I then took great comfort in recognizing that this is exactly how it should be. My proverbial 'wind' is the attention and interest, and needs, of my children. And it's my deepest, deepest desire that these four creatures grow from a place of confidence, trust, love, and joy. Peace and harmony are two words that are attached to the symbolic definitions of the dragonfly - being at peace with ones work/life and in harmony with nature. We are trying very hard over here to be these very two things. In a world that doesn't always respect these desires.

What a wonderful little gift this little winged-spirit brought forth today. And how lucky for me that I could receive it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


My boys. These boys. Calum & Oliver. What can I say, they are my boys. They can live here until I die. They can dig as many holes in the yard as they want. They can eat as many Goldfish and cheese sticks as their child-sized bellies can hold. They can burp. They can smell like sweat. I don't care. And I won't care, especially if they continue to quietly support, encourage, and love their sisters as they did so honestly today. Let me explain.

Today was full of excitement and motion, as most days are around here. Tuesdays are Pizza Day at school and this means I have an extra half-hour or so to give the kids some latitude and space. With Mommy's calm mood and extra shot of patience, Ella usually prepares breakfast on Tuesdays. Today was oatmeal. I've made oatmeal once every week for the last two years. Ella makes it today and both boys stand as audience, offering their encouragement and accolades. Once said oatmeal is cooled (by ten minutes of constant blowing and one lightheaded mother,) the boys 'mmmm-mmmm' and 'so good' their way through their bowls, with a 'Thank you' at the end. They were spot on....having little to do with the oatmeal and much to do with their oldest sister needed a few extra strokes today, Calum & Oliver delivered the sweet. Nothing was ever said. No one had a meltdown to which the boys were responding. Nope. It was just the unspoken connection between siblings. When one needs a lift, the others are there. Next example...

The twins and I had plans for a play date after school drop-off. I admit, these youngest two have it good. WAY way good. Did Ella get Popsicles at three? No. Were Ella and Calum ever allowed to stay up past 830? Hell no. Number three and number four get the best of us. We are calm parents after four. Calm or brain-dead (we often try to define the difference), either way, I love the parent I've become after these years...mostly. One thing to improve is getting these youngest kids out of our house. Today we were headed out for a play date. It was the best kind of play date - just my two and one other; the kids all familiar with one another. My peer, a close close friend. I even had the kitchen cleaned before leaving. It was unfolding to be the perfect morning. And then they crept in. Nerves. Anxiety. Fear. We know these mates well here in the Levy family. Anxiety runs as thick as blood. But this morning it caught me off guard, for the one that was anxious was NOT the nervous kind.

Drew started to hedge. She was nervous. Most days, she takes no prisoners and has little use for fools, but she is her father's daughter - a creature of habit. And she was leaving her domain, her kingdom, her fortress, for another. Thankfully, her prince was beside her. As they both shuffled down the back steps, Oliver popped his fingers out of his mouth, did the obligatory slobber wipe-off on his shorts, and took her hand, saying 'Don't worry Drew-Drew. You 'wuv' Sydney [the friend we were headed to see] and I am coming too.' And with that, her confidence returned and we were off. It was a great morning and yet, the best was yet to come.

Fast forward several hours and you find my four surrounding a large bucket that has been made into a makeshift hospital bed. We found an injured bird in our driveway. I noticed the bird around lunchtime. No one else noticed the bird until we got home from school. Ella spotted the injured avian before turning into the drive. This child, my oldest, has this innate ability to sense trauma and can easily channel the EMTs from across her extended family as she micro-manages a rescue scene. It wasn't long before the injured dove had a safe and comfortable resting area - safe from our neighborhood predators (cats, hawks, and Mr. McGregor and his hoe, ie BB Gun.) She secured birdseed and water, and sat with that bird trying to anticipate its very next move. And by 'move' I mean sad flapping and falling over. I have no idea what happened to that poor bird but it was broken, and I needed to figure out a way to fix it. This being said, I am well-aware of my limits and veterinarian far surpasses my expertise. I quickly made some calls and had a name and address for a wildlife rehab person.

I popped outside with excitement and told the children our dinner, load the kids and this dove - the symbol for peace, as Ella discovered in her encyclopedia while trying to learn 'everything I can about this special bird, Mommy!' - and deliver the injured animal to the rehab person. It seemed perfect, and full of learning potential.

Enter heartbreak. Enter that life-lesson of giving something up in order to take care of it. Enter the drama of a six year old. The tears flow. The wailing ensues. 'My bird.. My bird.... What ever will happen with my bird...' I'm used to this, and so are the kids. We all just take deep breaths and roll with the emotional waves. It's fine. It's cool. It's Ella. We know her well. We also love her very, very much. The patter never clearer than tonight when her brother, Calum, commended her bed-building - 'you made a really good bed, Ei' (pronounced 'eye'...I don't know why. He's called her this since he started making sounds) and commended her nurturing, 'Look, Ei, the bird isn't flapping around. I think you made it feel safe.' And as he patiently waited for her to catch her breath and regain some emotional control, and when she did saying, 'You really do know how to fix things, Ella, just like doc mcstuffins. You are so cool and you're not even a cartoon. You are real.' As he said all these wise things, giving her the very words she needed to mend her little heart, he gave her the exact gift exchanged just hours earlier by the youngest two. He gave her the gift of presence, and unconditional love. She could be scared, and sad, and freely feel this way because it was ok. He was with her. He was her wingman. And isn't that ALL a girl really wants, in any boy. We all just want an emotional wingman.

Fear not, father of two teenage girls. There will be two teenage boys keeping things in check. And at present, they are both doing a fine, fine job.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Proof positive

Here's a short little list of things I've been present for, since leaving the Facebook. And four examples of how a may have been the worst parent in the world, but I'm improving...

1. Eating breakfast outside two mornings in a row....and being 'present' for the goofy conversations that occur during my kids' breakfasts. Yesterday we named a new mammal - poopopotamus. Kin to the hippopotamus but with less hip, and more poop.

2. Spontaneously playing late into the evening with the kids - they weren't too sure what was going on and didn't trust my imagination. 'Why aren't you making us go to bed now?....' I was given a plastic dog to play with but soon graduated to the plastic people and was accepted into the whole, wonderful plastic community. Our family of plastic people explored far off planets and acquired many vehicles. When I asked how we paid for these vehicles, and space travel, Ella told me that no one worked in our family, but instead inherited all our good fortune from others. interesting take on things, but I went with the plot.

3. Scooping up a tired and emotional 3-yr old and reading a book to her. Then getting lost in her imagination as we lay on her bed, looking at the ceiling.

Lastly, 4. Hearing that I'm a princess from the youngest male. (swoon.)

It's not that I was missing these sweet moments because I was sitting in front of the computer all day, with these moments happening around me. Nah...these moments unfolded because I was more present to the kids, and wasn't as worried about all the other details in the house (laundry, dishes, bed sheets) because I had plenty of time to do everything I needed to do.

It may sound ridiculous to all of you - shit, it sounds ridiculous to me. But it's true. Breaking away from the constant stream of information, status updates, bejeweled scores, 'likes', music selections, etc etc. feels really, really good.

And lookie here, I have two little people needing some juice....and perhaps a bath. Gotta scoot :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Breakup

I've been thinking about it for awhile but always went back. It was mostly a one-sided relationship. I spent hours trying to please. Checking in. Communicating. Sharing my life. But when I finally looked in the mirror and saw what was going on, I just had to go. I'm breaking up with Facebook. Facebook.

Look at that, 'Facebook', as a word, is completely recognizable by our computer dictionaries. Facebook. It's big-time. It's our social structure in the year 2012. It puts families back together - 'locality' distant. It brings classmates together from years ago. It brings special-interest groups together, in a matter of .0427 seconds. Facebook. It's a powerhouse. I can put all my cool photographs up there. I can put my 'status' up there for all to see. I can get instant gratification on my day, my dinner, my parenting skills, my garden. I can even get opinions on paint color for the bathroom. Just the other day I scored a used swing for a friend of mine...she'd been thinking about it for two weeks. I got her one in less than ten minutes. I. Am. That. Powerful....with Facebook.

Anyone else freaked out yet? Don't get me wrong. I love that damn website. I'm a social person. I'm also a people-watcher. Sit me on a beach, or at a park...I can lose hours just watching people. I love human behavior. I love offering my opinion. I love sharing joy with my friends. I love showing-off my kids. I love sharing MY joy. And I can do all of these things with Facebook. And this is where it gets sticky for me....

I CAN do all of these things with Facebook. I can also miss out on something cool with my kids because I'm reading through an intensely debated status update. I can lose hours in my day pondering a social issue that has been thrown out there, on Facebook -- race issues, abortion, religion, hunger, homosexuality, child abuse, etc. I'm an intense person. Sometimes I read something, and it makes my insides collapse. I can't get it out of my mind until I speak my truth...this happens alot with many of these social issues. And I've learned, the flat screen is really no-where to debate such emotionally-charged, thought-provoking, image-provoking, deep-seeded issues.

I 'check-in' a couple times a day. But the 30-second 'check-in' turns into ten minutes, or a half-hour, or three hours of back & forth. Meanwhile, daylight is burning. Not only are my daily to-do's not getting to-do'd, but my kids are doing funny things, saying funny words, needing kid stuff, and I'm torn. And with all this recent hub-bub about Attachment Parenting, a parenting style in which Adam & I use, it struck me like a ton of attached AM I. And to what?

Won't it be totally lame when my kids are in their teens, early twenties. They're all home, eating and laughing in the kitchen, in that place where they feel good and totally free to be honest with their goofy criticism. And they take me down with Facebook. 'You used to tell us to wait a minute, while you sat and read through your Facebook.' or something along those lines. I could give them a million reasons to hate this damn website. I'll use all the excuses...'but guys, I had four kids and I couldn't see my friends alot. Facebook was a great way to stay connected. I needed a little escape. A little downtime. It's no different than talking to a friend. It was the social media of that time! I got so many great IDEAS from Facebook!!' Blah blah blah. The kids' remarks will make me laugh, might sting a little, but they'll be funny. And true. The kids will insinuate that the Facebook was more important to me, more important to me than them. That's a crock of shit, of course, but how am I actually teaching them different?

So it's goodbye. It's not Facebook, it's me. I'm not a person that can pop in & out of my friends' lives with the click of a button. I want connection. I want to hear about the new things in my friends' lives. I want to talk to them. See their faces, in my kitchen. I'm all about getting back to basics. I've been migrating my family to a more 'basic' state of living for a year or so now. The Breakup is a natural progression. I've moved on (trying.) I've seen the light (it's blinding.) I've gone through therapy (not really, of course.) I've been 'self-discovered' (if this is possible.) Facebook is not for me.
 Add to all of this the privacy issues and media-tracking abilities that are so obviously simmering under the pretty, intoxicating, somewhat addictive, how-bad-can-it-really-be surface of Facebook....yeah, I'm done.

It struck me last night during one of the four times I was up with the kids...I started this 'mothering' thing BEFORE the Facebook craze. Was life so bad then? I took a few minutes and thought about the details of those days. Were they empty? Did I feel socially disconnected? How, exactly, did I survive? Granted, I only had one kid at the time. My need for escape/self-preservation wasn't even on the radar. But, wasn't horrible. My friends called my house. We met for walks. We grocery-shopped together. My doors opened with the sunrise and my friends came over. Or me to them. But did I get my news? These recipes? These craft ideas? I don't have an answer for those questions...but I'm smart. I'm sure I will figure it out.

Good luck, Facebook. You'll follow the path of all my other exes. Life will go on for you. Our paths will cross at some point. And I'm sure my heart will skip a beat or two, but then I'll realize, as I usually do, that life is how it should be. We broke up for many reasons. Four of those reasons are waking up now. One has a booger stuck to the side of her face, and another one is walking around in only underwear, tugging on a quilt heavier than him.

Time to go kiss my kids good morning. And walk barefoot in the grass.