Playground Love: Part II

Well, Love Bird mastered the challenge of drawing a heart. Can you tell?

Who are those other two spider-people next to the smiling-holding-hands-surrounded-by-hearts-couple? That's Lily's mom and me, who apparently also get to be present at their rendezvous. Good boy; chaperons are a good thing. But why do we look so angry?

Oh, and I *might* have encouraged the word "friends" instead of "love" inside that big heart. I didn't want to freak Lily's parents out too much. Plus the whole this isn't real love thing....


Playground Love

“There’s this girl. She had a white dress on yesterday and today she had on a red dress. When I see her, it just makes me think that girls are pretty,” said my son the second week of kindergarten.

What?! I guess that is starting now.

Luck was on my little Love Bird's side that week because we ran into said-girl at the park. “That’s the girl I told you about,” he whispered to me, pointing discretly to an adorable brunette running in circles around a tree-trunk. He bravely walked right over and introduced himself. (Is it brave? Does he realize there's anything to be afraid of?) The two proceeded to spend a few hours running around together, with a small pack of their siblings and other playground-instant-friends, in the Sunday afternoon sunshine.  It was pretty easy to pick-up on Love Bird's admiration of this girl, we now know is named Emma, as he followed her around and somersaulted next to her.

We heard a lot about Emma that week.

The following week, Love Bird came home talking about Lily. Who's Lily?
Lily sits next to him at Rug Time in his classroom and they had drawn pictures together that afternoon. Sorry Emma, that is pretty tough to compete with. Love Bird and Lily had exchanged drawings at the end of class, so my son came home with a random splay of lines on a paper, with her name across the top, and a small, somewhat discrete heart in the bottom corner.

Love Bird definitely noticed the heart.

We spent the next half hour with him trying to learn how to draw a heart. I must admit, this unfurled into him whining and crying that it was too hard and me yelling at him that he wasn’t listening to me. (Mommy-fail-moment.) When we both calmed down, he said, “I want to do it the easier way; can you show me how to write ‘love?’”

That would be when I realized he didn't just want to learn to draw a heart like her; he wanted to learn to draw one for her. That's inspiration.

Well, instead, he ended up taking the easy way out and reciprocating the love letter to his classmate in a way he knew how: a little tiny her and a little tiny him with the word “love” written above it was quickly produced.

Nothing says love like extra-long arms, missing torsos, and crazy-big eyes.
But then my little Love Bird asked to change his drawing to instead say “I love you” and that, for some unexplainable reason, had crossed a line for me. No. I want him to understand the significance of what love means – not to squander the word on whichever girl draws him a picture that day or wears a pretty dress. (What is pretty to a 5-year old boy, I am not sure.)

I proceed to launch into an entire lecture on the meaning of love and how the word is appropriate for those we know well and care deeply about. (Meanwhile, my attention-monger of a daughter is sitting next to us in my spinning office chair demanding that someone spin her. I am trying to stay focused on this serious conversation with Love Bird and ignore the increasingly indigent shouts of, “Turn! Turn!”) Why don’t I just let him tell her he loves her? That certainly would be easier.

But it would also be a lie. Love is deep and meaningful. It is bigger than a crush. I guess I just want that to be clear from the beginning – and this is very truly the beginning.

I encourage Love Bird to instead compliment what he likes about Lily or how he enjoys her friendship.

“Do you understand?” I ask him.

“Yes, I understand,” he replies. And then, “Can I write ‘I love you’ now?”
Oh well. He'll probably forget to take it to school with him tomorrow anyway.



Please Pass the Milk

In honor of World Milksharing Week

My story is part of the Blog carnival organised by World Milksharing Week, to celebrate World Milksharing Week 2013. Click here to read more stories about milksharing. If you’d like to participate too, please visit this page.

I need a deep freezer and a lot of glass storage containers.

Actually, “a lot” may be an understatement; I need a Smucker’s factory of glass jars.

The life of stored breast milk can be safely extended with the use of glass receptacles and deep freezer storage. So, in my endeavor to store up donated breast milk for my unborn child, I start collecting glass containers. I buy mason jars by the case and put out a call to everyone I know to start saving them for me. Dozens of empty pickle, jelly, spaghetti, and all manner of food product-jars begin to manifest.

I run my collection through the dishwasher and then stand over the stove, dropping each one into a huge steel pot of boiling water. Each gets a 10 minute bath to complete the sanitation process. I'm pretty sure my baby, tucked in-utero underneath my tong-clad-hands, grows accustomed to this soundtrack of my pregnancy: the rolling boil that clanks the glass against the metal.

I order a deep freezer, and I divvy out the collected, sanitized jars to my small army of girlfriends who are ready to pump for my daughter.

After having undergone a bilateral mastectomy last year, I no longer possess milk ducts. Breastfeeding is not an option for me.

I’m coming off a harried path of altered plans and broken hearts, of the coping and improvisation of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. I will accept my friends’ milk with open arms and a grateful heart. And when those stores of cloudy, yellowish-white life force dwindle under the demands of my daughter’s voracious little appetite, I will branch into the world of public milk sharing.

In the end, other women’s breast milk will sustain my daughter for the first 9 months of her life:
17 different women. 4 counties. 89 days straight before formula was introduced. Some 270 days with breast milk in her diet – of which I did not provide a drop.

Ideally, of course I would never have chosen to do it this way. And frankly, it sounds a little scary in retrospect. But, like so many choices in life, it was not plucked from the ideal; this was a path born of improvisation.

And also so often like life, the process of managing the imperfect became itself beautiful.

Hungry to fill my daughter’s belly with the best odds I could, I drove across the southern part of the state collecting milk for her - and along the way got to witness the self-sacrificing love of friends and the goodwill and generosity of strangers. I found women on milk sharing forums, met them and talked with them, came home with bags of their milk, which I flash-heated and happily fed to my healthy infant, with her peditricians' blessing (and praise.)

So today, here is my great praise and deep gratitude to those women, to the women willing to give their time, efforts, and precious milk for the benefit of others. Here is to improvisation, to making the best out of what we’re given.

Here’s to milk sharing.



Joy + a Cup of Coffee

It's Friday, coffee day.

For my husband, every morning he awakens to find himself still breathing on God's Good Earth, it’s coffee day - in the morning and the afternoon. I prefer to keep coffee at an arm’s length, grabbing at it when I feel the need to artificially stimulate my tired mind or when I simply want to feel like it’s a special occasion. Like Fridays.
It’s nearing the end of the work week and both my husband and I work from home on Fridays. Those are reasons enough to celebrate the day, in my book.

The java itself might be French press, it might be espresso with steamed milk. It probably won’t be regular drip coffee, as my husband is kind of a coffee snob. I will reheat mine at least twice (did I mention I have two small kids?) and I will most likely leave about ¼ of the cup to sit in the mug until I get to it as a nice mid-afternoon treat, which tends to nullify the premium quality of it (and disgust my husband.) But regardless of the type or time of day, it will be warm  -err, or room temperature - and a little bit sweet and something to enjoy.

Admittedly, I might even have fallen asleep last night thinking about having coffee with my husband in the morning. Pathetic? Well, here I must admit that I also often lie in bed at night and ponder what I will eat for breakfast in the morning, or lunch, or dinner.
When my life is calm enough that planning meals or looking forward to a cup of coffee is customary, then I am in a place of overarching peace. Worry, fear, and stress are so quiet that small and regular joys can fill the forefront of my mind. Yes, today I am blessed.

May we all be filled with the ability to take something as small as the day of the week or a cup of coffee and find joy in it.


Yard Art: A Story Without a Point

Sometimes nature is just not on an animal's side.

Am I now going to launch into a tyrade against my defective genes/my inhereted (BRCA) gene mutation responsible for the massive tumor that grew across my chest throughout my 20's?

No. I'm going to talk about bunnies. Again.

How I wish I had a picture to share with you.
I nearly recreated everything just to show you;
except we now live 2200 miles from that yard.
But you can imagine something akin to this.
It has been my experience that mother bunnies don’t canvas an area very well before stowing their babies. We once found a little burrow of baby bunnies right smack in the middle of our lawn. No trees around, no logs, no rocks, just right there in the open - in the middle of a grassy yard. Oh, and a yard that housed two rambunctious, large dogs.

In spite of Mother Bunny’s stupidity (we probably would have been doing Mother Nature a favor by letting this creatures’ offspring die), we felt the need to protect these innocent, furry little lives.

We were afraid to move them, in case this fantastic specimen of a parent would then either abandon or not be able to find them. But we couldn't keep our dogs inside the house for the next however long until the bunnies grew up and left the nest. What to do?

Well, we took near bouts everything we had in the yard and garage and built a sort of cage around the burrow. Lawn chairs, bistro tables, rakes, all manner of yard fare was piled in an encapsulating circle of fantastic yard art. It was a tottering tower of protection. A staggering statue of ingenuity. A fanciful fortress of fortification… Okay I’m done. It was cool. In a hillbilly sort of outlandishly strange creation.

We thought it would keep the dogs away during the day, and then at night when they were in the house, Mother Bunny could make her way in to her babies. Our poor dogs spent hours pacing around that pile, sniffing, barking, digging. Actually, it was probably good for them – added some excitement to their meaningless, uneventful day. 

Eventually though, in spite of our best efforts, the dogs made a way in and killed all of the fuzzy little babies. Our lawn was a mortuary of tiny, dead rabbit carcasses splayed across it. Our efforts toward protecting them were for naught.

Sometimes nature is just on an animal's side (i.e. the dogs').

If this was a sermon or a story with any kind of larger point, this would be where I make it. Maybe something about the truimph in persistance, go dogs, or the futility of failed efforts, no matter how grand. Because yes, our mound was grand. 

But it’s not. (A story with a point, that is.) I just wanted to tell you something I recalled the other day that makes me laugh - not the part where the bunnies die, of course, the part where our furniture and tools are piled in a mound on our lawn.

Plus, well, I thought I could use some animal redemption points given that I recently wrote about the pointlessness of bunny ownership. I mean, we did try to save them and all. I can’t help it that every last one of them was ferociously killed by my dogs.

This story really didn’t really help my animal cred, did it?


Let's Party

Your chevron invitation with the bright 5 on it will lead you to our house. A massive cardboard 5 to match it is taped to the garage door and balloons are hanging from our Christmas light hooks, so you’re sure to know you’re in the right place.

Come on through the open front door and a bustle of activity and bright colors will be the first to greet you. Next, my little boy, whom we have thrown this soiree for, will step over and greet you with a rehearsed handshake or hug. “I’m glad you’re here,” he will say in a barely audible reception.
Pop up tents, balloons, and foam pool noodles, aka light sabers, litter the floor. Our furniture has been pushed back against the walls or moved into the garage. Fabric pennant flags soar across the ceiling like the sails of a fantastically festive pirate ship.

We pin the head on the Lego man; we pass the hot potato; and then we head to the kitchen, where trays of hot macaroni and cheese are coming out of the oven to feed our 16 little guests and 9 big ones. After the paper plates are passed, juice boxes are drunk, and popcorn and chips are smashed into the floor under little sneakers, we head outside to burn energy from this predominantly male, completely wild crowd.
After compulsory trips to the bathroom for every willing little body, small hands grab onto ropes as we make the two block trek together to a grassy park. Out comes the sit-and-bounce balls, jumping sacks, stomp rocket, hidden chocolate coins, and one massive parachute loaded with lots of tiny waffle balls.

The sun is shinning and the breeze is blowing a cool coastal air through our hair. Smiles are everywhere and the sweet laughter of little ones is bouncing in every direction. A few cries and pouts are intermittent, as to be expected, but even those quickly disappear back into giggles.

Before there is time to tire of these activities, our single-file march takes us back to the house for chocolate oreo birthday cake with blue frosting, chevrons, and gumballs that roll off paper plates and bounce across the floor.

Stick on mustaches, pirate tattoos, bags of candy, and Star Wars coloring books are passed out. Friends start to leave.

There is blue frosting on the walls, the tents are broken, the floor is sticky, and there’s something bright green on the toilet seat.

The party was a success. Pure and simple fun.

My little boy is 5.