Friday, December 28, 2007

Mom and Dad can hardly wait

You know that line in "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" about Mom and Dad waiting for school to start. I never understood it as a child. I was one small child who kept herself amused, nose in a book. Argh! I understand now. We are so bored. Bored, bored, bored. I know there are things I could do, things I should do, but I can't seem to keep anyone entertained for very long to do it. I let Baby D play with Colin's GameBoy. That can't be good! That can't be right! We should be making bread dough ornaments as thank you gifts for all of Colin's teachers. We should be reading aloud from the The Book of Virtures. Instead, we are sitting by the doors -- all three of us -- with our noses pressed against the window waiting for Brent, sick of each other.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Postcard

I became Jeremy's step mom when I was 24 years old. He was eight. One night I was rockin' the downtown Minneapolis bar scene, the next I had married Brent and was living in rural Minnesota with two small children and a house that required housekeeping. Having grown up the older sibling of one sister nine years younger than I, I knew nothing of small boys. Jeremy would run screaming through the house . . . naked. He would only eat chicken. He and Seth, the neighbor boy, started things on fire. He saw no need for clean underwear. I wasn't sure I was going to make it. Then he became a teenager and things got worse. When he was about 12 or 13, I (almost) literally thought I was going to kill him. I remember one time sending him to his room until his father came home from work. It was just after lunch. It was many hours before we saw Brent. I could not even speak I was so mad. I just stood there shaking -- my voice so calm and low, I was truly scared for everyone.

I take not one iota of credit for the fine young man and outstanding older brother that typical little boy has become. This Christmas Jeremy's gift to Colin was a piano composition he had written for him. I burst into tears. It was laminated and spiral bound -- the perfect gift for a somewhat hard to please little brother who runs through the house naked and only eats chicken. Later that day they went sledding. I watched them from Grandma's window going up and down the hill, rolling down in the snow, laughing. Sometimes Jeremy would pull both sleds and Colin up the hill. I wanted to take pictures but I was afraid to move, afraid they would stop or that they would start hamming for the camera instead of enjoying each other and the moment. It doesn't matter anyway. It's a picture carved in my heart.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Heart of the Matter

I've been thinking on Isaiah 23. It may not be the most cheerful part of the Christmas message, but it's the center of the season and it sure is beautiful to me. Here's part:

1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Small town life

There is an old joke about living in a small town where if you get a wrong phone number, you end up talking for half an hour anyway. This has happened to me several times.

My sister lives near the elementary school Colin attends and Baby D and I go there to wait for him after school. Yesterday as we were leaving a mailman I did not recognize came to the door to deliver Sarah's mail.

"I won't take that from you," I said. "And commit a felony."

"Oh," He said. "I know you. You're 30 . . ." and repeated my address.

Why, yes, I am.

Monday, December 17, 2007

"My life is perfect."

I can't decide how I feel about the Christmas letter. Most of our friends and loved ones write very nice informative letters, but every now and again we get one a little over the top. I didn't write one this year because every time I started it sounded something like this:

Our lives are amazing! The baby is exceptionally gifted! He says "Aye" which as you may know is a most ancient form of agreement! I think he may have a career in foreign politics! Shelby STARRED in her first college production! Her fellow chorus members said they didn't know how they would have done it without her Jeremy is composing his own music! His variations on "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" brought the house down! Brent and I travelled, travelled, travelled all the way to the next county and back! Can't wait to see it all again!

Instead I had everyone fill out a short questionnaire. That way each family member was responsible for his and her own stupid answers.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mixed bag of sympathy

Remember how I was worried about Colin getting sympathy applause after singing his Thanksgiving song? Some of this has played out. Many people have spoken about how wonderful Colin was "considering . . ."

It's all right. Most everyone has been kind and supportive. I know they mean well. I have been very honest about Colin and autism. I have felt it's only fair to him and the people he interacts with to understand that what they get when communicating with him may not be what they expect.

It's a little hard, though. Why couldn't he be good just for having been good?

Than I talked to someone at a holiday party last night who does not know about Colin. He greeted me with this opener:

"Whoever started the standing ovation for Colin should not have done that. It made it difficult for the others."

What -- as Colin's mother -- should my response be to this?

(A) Oh! It was me! (It was not me.) I just can't help standing for my children!

(B) Wasn't that awful?! I am having Colin write a letter of apology to each and every participant!

(C) What an excellent point! Why don't you come over and explain that to him. You'll need to start from the beginning because he neither noticed or cared, really.

I'm not sure. I said," Uh-huh. Excuse me."

Friday, December 14, 2007

She's in a Winter Wonderland

Who else is not entirely put into the Yuletide spirit by Macy Gray Christmas carols?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Deep Sadness

Perhaps you are not as familiar with the epic classic movie Elmo in Grouchland as I am. There is a point when things seem very sad and discouraging for Elmo and Bert stops the movie. He says something to the effect that he cannot continue to watch the movie; it is too sad. Ernie suggests that it will be all right -- no one would want to watch a sad movie and Bert replies, "Titanic."

"What?" Ernie responds.

"Titanic. Titanic is a sad movie."

Then Bert goes on to list a variety of sad movies -- Doctor Zhivago and I can't remember what all.

You see, I'm with Bert. Sixth Sense sent me to bed for three days. Was I afraid of ghosts? No. Was I afraid I was talking to dead people? No. I was intensely sad that Haley Joel Osmet had not found the friend and adult mentor he needed but was, indeed, seeing a dead person in Bruce Willis. I was shocked and betrayed.

I watched Titanic about three months after Colin was born. Remember the scene where we see the dead mother holding the frozen baby? No? I do. In fact I sat in the rocker next to Colin's crib and cried and cried and cried for this actress in white makeup floating -- very much alive -- in a tank in Hollywood or wherever it was filmed.

I am better at reading sadness than watching it movie style. Although I will have to admit, when I was getting my English degree I did have one professor who required a journal reflecting our response to the depressing readings in modern lit he assigned. This professor caught up to me on campus one day because he was a little concerned over the tenor of my writing after reading these tomes of married women who took apartments to escape their lives and just sat in the dark in them. I mean really. How is one supposed to respond to this literature?

My friends and loved ones know of my trouble with sad movies and often offer screening advice. Sylvia, my friend the actress who lives in Hollywood, has been especially helpful.

"You cannot watch (insert name of movie here). Deep sadness."

This is a friend indeed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On Dibley

My favorite show for the past ten years has been The Vicar of Dibley, a BBC show I've caught every now and again on PBS. The show had it's final airing last Christmas and I am really hoping that Santa is bringing me the complete boxed set this year. The show centers around a female vicar who has moved into a small village parish and the kooky characters who live there. Hilarious -- especially if you know their rural Minnesota counterparts.

So anyway in one of the last episodes the vicar tries to start a book club. The first book to be discussed is On Beauty by Zadie Smith. (On Beauty was on the short list for the Man Booker prize in 2005 but lost out to The Sea by John Banville. Apparently if we are going to win prestigious prizes for fiction, we need to start thinking of short titles.) No one at the Dibley book Club reads this book so they have to think of a book they have all read and end up debating whether or not Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh has made a conscious decision to remain depressed. So, funny. It would be an interesting discussion though . . .

I am now reading On Beauty and so far it's a very well written book. No deep sadness yet as is so often the case with award winning things of all kinds. More on my inability to deal with deep sadness later. . .

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Beat Box Blues

I have just watched Blake Lewis, the beat boxer from American Idol last season, on Ellen. I'm pretty sure if he and I were trapped in a time/space continuum flux somewhere together in my pemarriage days, I would have dated him. And like so many of those relationships, I guarantee it would have ended in heartache for me. I always seem to be attracted to -- not bad boys -- good boys pretending to be bad. If you think about this very long (oh, and believe me I have) it's actually worse to date a good boy pretending to be bad because, at least with an actual bad boy, what you see is what you get. With a good boy pretending to be bad, you never know what you're going to get. Perhaps today, he feels guilty and he's going to be good. Perhaps today he needs to make up for acts of goodness by being especially bad. Perhaps today he needs to dump you because he has found a bad girl pretending to be good. Oh, it's all very, very confusing.

When I started dating Brent I was really at a loss. Here was a good guy pretending to be . . . well, nothing. He was just good.

And good boys, I have found, make good husbands.

Friday, December 7, 2007

O Christmas Tree

I'm not sure how old I was, but I'm fairly sure I was pretty small when I decided we were doing our tree wrong. The branches were wrong. The tinsel was wrong. The lights were wrong. I don't think I protested too much. I think I just suffered in silence knowing that one day I would have my own tree. My sister would say I did not suffer in silence. As soon as she was old enough to be my tree decorating helper her torture began. There were hours of "tree fluffing." There was an order to the ornaments. MY angel went on top. (I'm sure she has a blog somewhere about the continuing tragedy of not having her own angel because of Baby Jesus.)

I got my first tree when I was a sophomore in college. My college boyfriend had a family tradition of drinking a lot during tree decorating. I don't think those were my tree's finest years, but as soon as I graduated from college (and that boyfriend, bless his heart) I started getting really serious about my tree. Then I got married. Have mercy, I became yoked to a colored light tree man. I can't recall if we alternated by year or something for a while . . . then I got my own tree. For a while I experimented with a prelit tree. These are fine as long as they light. When they start to go, it just breaks your heart (and really the environment because you're buying a new tree).

My tree is as tall as my ceiling will allow. (Don't think I didn't consider that when house hunting, but cathedral ceilings are hard to come by in my price range.) It displays my collection of antique ornaments, Bavarian glass, trinkets from travels, an assortment of birds, little ballerinas pirouetting down the branches -- all precious, all delicate.

And then there was Baby D. The climber. The destruct-o boy.

My beautiful tree lies in the garage this year. My ornaments are still safely packed away. A 3.5 foot prelit pine graces a table in the living room high, high above curious little fingers. Colin decorated this tree with his collection of ornaments from Sarah and Brennan. There's representative ornaments from things that are important to us.

There will be another year for my tree, but this year, it's a tree for Baby D.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Pass the saltines

We have all been dreadfully, horribly sick. I mean nasty stomach virus sick. All of us. All at once. I was, of course, most concerned about Baby D but he was smart enough to just throw up once and then he was trundled off to Grandma's where he made a full recovery and produced a tooth. Brent, Colin and I sat in turns outside the bathroom doors and waited to die. We didn't. I have the unfortunate habit of breaking out in hives whenever I have a fever so that was an added bonus to the event. It's two days later and we are still sort of sitting around nibbling on toast discussing flower arrangements for the funerals. What was all this about? I gave birth this year! Shouldn't I be let off the hook for all ailment for at least 12 months?