Hush Little Baby

Today is the last official nap.

I KNOW.

Not the last one forever, I hope, I assume, it had better not be. But, it will be the last school nap. After today, RR will officially be an almost-kindergartener and as one of those vaunted souls, she has to ditch the nap. Summer camp won’t include naps for her and next year she’ll be expected to keep her eyes open all day.

All day.

I’m pretty sure every kid comes standard with at least one amazing perk. Our particular model comes with the sleep function. And believe me when I say that I have never, will ever, take that for granted. It makes up for all the urine-soaked underwear I have had to wash. No, really.

A year and a half ago, RR flirted with giving up naps. She tells us that at school she “rests” mostly as opposed to actually sleeping. But we know that, given a dark room and time to herself, she sleeps for two hours or more. Sure, some days (and we’re talking weekend days) she hangs out in her room crafting elaborate dioramas, composing songs, fashioning capes and forts from towels but most days we assume that she’ll lay down at 1:30 and we won’t hear another peep until after 3:30. You guys, I don’t know what I’m going to do when this stops.

And it will stop. Now that she’s not napping at school, how much longer will it be til she’s not napping at home? I predict our quiet afternoons are numbered. On the other hand, maybe we’ll get an upgrade in the form of bladder control. What? Wishful thinking?

Right Now

bob-ross

Tell me you’ve seen Bob Ross. Tell me you’ve watched his show. Ok, stop. Just hang on right there and go reacquaint yourself with the tone of his voice, his pacing, his whole deal (by the way, autoplay). He’s a mellow dude, soothing, and not very dynamic. I mean, he’s a dynamic painter in that…holy shit I could not do that. But he isn’t dynamic in the way that a four-year-old would stop to watch. And then keep watching. RR has been drawing happy little clouds and happy little trees ever since.

trees

Debra said today at soccer, rather, watch-RR-spin-and-grin-in-the-middle-of-the-field, that at least the social time with her teammates is valuable. And it is. But that pretty much sums up what RR is getting out of it right now. Well, and handfuls of mini muffins and oranges slices brought by the other parents. I say without judgement that RR loves everything that she does and does exactly what she wants to do, which is not flipping over the bar in gymnastics, moving her arms in the water, or kicking the ball in soccer. Sports, maybe, are not her thing right now*.

orange

Which leaves us wondering whether it’s time to return to music and try dance. But what she loves to do right now* is to color and draw and paint and dream on paper (and walls, and floors, and today on our quilt). It seems strange to let her try everything else in a formal-ish setting except art. I mean, are there even art classes for the almost five set? I feel weird thinking about sending my kid to art lessons, like it’s somehow pushing her. But how is it different than soccer, or swim lessons, or piano? I don’t want to make a mistake.

cool-Bob-Ross-birds-painting

Mostly, I just want her to have fun instead of focusing on planning for the future (and I mean I’m the one focusing, not her). Because that’s what everything is. Swimming so she doesn’t drown. Or can get a job as a lifeguard. Or can be on the swim team. Gymnastics so she can run fast and jump high. So she learns practice, perseverance, and a tolerance for risk. So that she feels part of something. Music so she can keep a tune when she sings to her own children or can belt out Bob Marley with her arms wrapped around her friends at a beach bonfire. So she can join a band. Or read music. But what she wants to do right now* is art. Nothing but art.

stream

Of course, I don’t mind leaving stacks of blank paper everywhere and endlessly replenishing her colors. But when I think about it, it’s not really different than kicking the soccer ball with her in the yard while also letting her play on a semi-organized team. And so I think it’s worth considering. Art. If only to save my walls. And really, if she’s happiest painting, so why not.

happy

* all things subject to change at a moments notice and thank goodness for that

Thin Skin

Are we Facebook friends? We should be. I’ve long since given up on anonymity – though it does make me wonder if I’m talking to people in my life and I’m telling them the same story they’ve already read…awkward – and so we can totally be friends if you want.

But back to the point, if we were, you’d have learned this week that I have both thin skin and a thick sense of rightness. As in doing what’s right. There’s a word for that, right? I removed a sign taped to a co-workers monitor that said “LOSER.” I had so many mixed feelings as I peeled it back and dropped it in the recycling. Not least among them: should I keep this and hand it to him in person? Answer: in retrospect, yes. When I was new to offices, my boss (who was in all respects horrible) came to my desk while I was on vacation and removed several memos and notes from my bulletin board. Some were recently out of date, some were just inoffensive mementos (like a smiley face on a sticky note) but when my staff mentioned it to me in hushed voices, it had a huge sense of wrongness. It was my space, even though it really isn’t, you know?

And so I felt badly for taking down the sign. I was erring on the side of caution. It was probably a joke but what if it was meant to be hurtful? I work at a University with regular training and full webpages devoted to respect. It’s a company policy that’s taken seriously. The sign was disrespectful. More than that, had the Provost come walking through, my boss, etc., it would have been embarrassing for all of us. I decided to take the risk. I don’t know if that was right. If I came to work to find the word loser scrawled on my computer, even by a friend, it would have dented in my whole day. I have a thin skin. My co-worker does not, as he was somewhat put out.

As you can imagine, I haven’t taken it well when my daughter has, very occasionally, mentioned a hurtful comment made by a friend. I can’t embrace the expression “mama bear”, mostly because the ones I know seem to take it a little too far (though given what I know of bears, that’s probably apt) but that’s certainly the way I feel even though I swallow it down and make some (hopefully measured) neutral comment. I guess I tell you all that to tell you this: I wish I had a thicker skin. If you have suggestions on how to fix that, by all means, go ahead – keeping in mind, of course, that I have a thin skin and can and do delete anything that doesn’t meet my own personal TOS  ;)

‘Things are Rough’ is an Understatement

You know, I left the State Department for a lot of reasons. There are the ones I name when I’m talking to strangers (tired of traveling, wanted to raise my family) and the ones I name when I’m making a statement (objectionable foreign policies, an era of gay officers being less than) and the ones I don’t name if I can help it. But I don’t usually name the mundane reasons: I wanted to go home before dark. I wanted to use any email I liked. I wanted the freedom to work from home. I wanted to work less.

I think we’re not supposed to admit that, really. That we want to work less. I’m sure I could dig up some brave new world, bootstraps, Americana reason for that. But even though it wasn’t THE reason, it’s still A reason and I am very happy to have moved to a place where life moves more slowly. Or it used to feel like it did.

Seven years into this new life and I’m suddenly having to remind myself daily, hourly, that I am not writing foreign policy, saving babies, or fighting fires. I work in a library. I teach students how to do research. I don’t even regularly check out books, talk to cranky patrons, or pick up the horrible detritus of finals week in the stacks. But things change (as they should) and I have more responsibility than before and, more importantly, Debra has more responsibility than before and together our work has bled into every inch of our lives.

It feels like bleeding. I feel scratched and rubbed raw by the day to day negotiations, planning, and thinking. The thinking. It never stops. And my wife is my sounding board. And I am hers. And so our joint problem solving, solo thinking, and quiet evenings talking just drip and seep and soak the floors. Every morning we wrap fresh bandages and head off for more and every evening we come home with a new sore spot somewhere. If we didn’t care. If it didn’t matter. Maybe it wouldn’t feel like sandpaper on fingertips.

I tell her and she tells me it will get better. And we both mean it. But, in the meantime, it is so fucking painful and it shouldn’t be. Because it isn’t babies or fires or foreign policy. It’s just newness. And that will wear off. Wear down. Get smoother, softer, better.

Because it has to.

Live Pets

Maybe you had a hamster. Or was it a guinea pig? Fat and furry and brown and white and a little smelly but you didn’t care because he was yours and that nose. So cute. Maybe you had a puppy. Lucky bastard. Me, I have sisters.

I did have a string of pets though:

dwarfhamsterlizard snakes

I even went so far as to get a job in a pet store when I was 15 and was fired, unceremoniously, a few days before I turned 16. I suspect it had more to do with the ability to pay a 15 year old under the table than it had to do with “hair in the cat’s water bowl.” Working Saturday mornings in a pet store gave me access to every variety of small furred creature, a fleet of parakeets, and a stack of box turtles. The wall of fishtanks always smelled vaguely salty and dank, the big goldfish casting baleful glares from bulging eyes. Nothing exotic though, nothing satisfying. Not when what I really wanted was:

skunk

My parents held firm and I settled for one aging black Lab after another and a kitten that couldn’t outlast the coyotes. Arizona is still the wild west, at least if you’re soft and slow.

Someone has given RR a Caterpillar. It lives in a tiny plastic cup, has its own Caterpillar Cake to munch and appears to be building a Caterpillar Chrysalis before our very eyes. This birthday party favor came with assurances that it was an ethical Caterpillar Company and that the charming fellow would become a Butterfly Native to the Area. In fact, it came with an entire Caterpillar Information Sheet. In a recent conversation with the other Caterpillar Mothers, the ringleader admitted she hadn’t considered what might happen if all of our new friends died unceremoniously before fulfilling their fate. Furthermore, no one has considered what exactly to do when there’s an actual Butterfly to release. It’s not a big cup.

caterpillar

there is only one in our cup thank goodness.

I figure, we’ll cross that particular invertebrate bridge when we come to it. I told you all that to get to this: RR and all of her friends say CALA-PITTER instead of CATER-PILLAR. You guys. Calapitter. Just imagine a huddle of four-year-olds giggling and waving plastic cups shouting LOOK AT MY CALAPITTER MAMA!

I may not dig having our very own pet insect but I very much love hearing this particular kid-ism. So if you walk past some woman on the street muttering calapittercalapittercalapitter then you should ask me out for coffee. Lord knows I need it lately.

Calapitter. Love.

It’s Art, Baby

RR draws. She’s prolific and focused and, well, our entire home is covered in sheets of colorful people parading across paper edges, stretching to fill the borders, and tiptoeing out onto tables and walls. After the first set of markers ran dry, we bought a new set (washable this time), and then another set. She doesn’t fuss when it’s time for new ones, just switches to her battered, broken crayons or dull colored pencils. The people march again, no matter the media.

elsa

Flipping through her notebooks, there are Elsas upon Elsas, one after another. They clearly explain why the blue markers, blue pencils, and blue crayons are flattened and shriveled. On the walls, we catch her drawing us, a family of 3, in many multiples. On a good day she doesn’t use ballpoint. I’ve tried to hide them, but I love to do the crossword in ink and, well, there you have it.

Lately there are fairies showing up everywhere. Sprouting like mushrooms from the cracks of the sofa and under the bed. I slip fairy wings out of her nap bag at school and find pixie dust stars shining around the heads and hands of happy, smiling characters. Because they nearly always are. Happy. Smiling.

fairies

Sometimes I find a touching drawing of my wife and I sleeping, RR tucked next to us, the dog sleeping on the floor nearby. Other times I wonder what exactly was going through her mind. I mean, we are nearly buried under a heaving mountain of cheery art and then there will be a little…gem…a glimpse into RR’s other side. So here you are, from my home to yours, a teeny bit of our daughter:

RR

Gay and More Gay


Dancing in heels after a black tie dinner?

Add that to the list of things I didn’t expect to happen after the age of 25. On the other hand, maybe that’s only the sort of thing that happens after the age of 25. Our local Pride organization invited Debra and I to the Commonwealth Dinner that Equality Virginia holds. After a couple of years of being publicly gay in the press, it was an awesome thing to be publicly gay in an enormous ballroom full of other people being publicly gay.

I mean, not that we aren’t publicly ourselves all the time, it’s just…when was the last time you were surrounded by people who were gay? Not recently, right? I felt like we were actually in the majority, true or not, and it was an amazing thing. I’m always craving that particular sort of community.

Also, we got to dress up. And go dancing. And collapse in a gorgeous hotel. And have brunch (brunch!) with friends who are ALSO gay with kids. And stroll through a gorgeous part of Richmond on a perfect Sunday morning. We had an amazing time.

wives

 

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