We're nerds. Many people include pictures of their children with holiday cards; we include poems or essays we think are worth sharing, and our version of a holiday letter is usually more of an essay itself. Here's a slightly edited version of the essay we're sending in the New Year cards we are hoping will still be postmarked in 2005; it comes to you with best wishes from the Granola household to yours. Thanks for sharing this little part of the blogosphere with us. ( this is another long post: I'm resolving for the umpteenth time to learn to do collapsible posts! )
Wild Geese (from Mary Oliver's collection Dream Work)
Please don’t let our reading for this year-- Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem about the comforts of the natural world—make you think that there’s been despair here throughout the year. While the year has had its difficult moments, for the most part, it’s been shaped by the ebullience that only a three-year-old can muster. But that ebullience doesn’t come so naturally to working mothers, so we have spent a fair bit of time during the year learning to be gentle with ourselves and each other, reminding ourselves that no matter the problem, we all have a place in this world, and there are things around us calling us to home, if we only listen.
Listening. Aye there’s the rub. Life with a three-year old is all about listening. And not listening. Lately we’ve both been getting so frustrated with Curious Girl when she just doesn’t listen. Stop, we’ll say. Curious Girl, stop! That’s dangerous. And the odds of her listening to us then are roughly the equivalent of a coin toss. But listen she does, in her own fashion. Listen, and learn. As she’s become a better eater, we’re less likely to play the “name game” with our President placement. (Of course we have a President placemat. Don’t you have one?) Instead, CG is more likely to point to W. and say Why he make bad choices, Mommy? Our little girl is growing up and, apparently, absorbing our politics along the way.
Speaking of growing up, Curious Girl has grown increasingly independent, proving daily that stature is not measured in centimeters or inches. I big to do this now, she is fond of saying. And one of the things she is big to do is to pack her own suitcase when we travel. Just what are toddler essentials for a weekend away, you ask? One March weekend they included
• A kazoo
• Winnie the Pooh (stuffed, not real)
• A frog (ditto)
• A camel (ditto ditto)
• A small plastic dog
• Six diapers
• Her green blanky
• Two binkies
Parents have travel essentials too, of course, but ours have changed recently. Here are some of things we are not taking on “The Great East Coast Friends and Family Tour, Winter ‘05 Edition.”
• Feeding tube supplies
• Supplemental formula or high-calorie nutritional supplements
• M&Ms, oreos, or any other high-calorie snack
• Diapers and pacifiers
The best news of our year is that CG no longer has a feeding tube! (That she doesn’t need diapers either is just a bonus…) May 12 was the last day we used the tube for nutrition. July 16 (but who’s counting) was the last day we kept records of calories and ounces consumed. By November we were all ready for the feeding tube to come out. CG’s belly had its own ideas about healing and she needed surgery in early December to close up the site, but now, save for a 2 inch scar, her belly looks like anyone else’s. We’d forgotten what it looks like to see just smooth skin across a belly. It’s beautiful. (By the way, we’re still pretty good at any party game that involves calling out the number of calories in a food time. M&Ms? 4.5! Ounce of whole milk? 20! Double stuffed oreo? 70! Let us hope Sherlock Holmes was wrong and that this knowledge isn’t squeezing out vital space in our brains that could otherwise be put to more productive use…)
Since we’re on a list roll, here are some other things that aren’t coming on our trip, but we are happy to have around the house.
• A pillow that says Curious Girl in Arabic
• Molly Katzen’s Pretend Soup
• Press clippings showing Politica, professional lesbian, in action
CG's babysitter extraordinaire finished her last year of college at a university in the Middle East, and she brought back the pillow with CG's name on it. Our postcard box is full of cool postcards from Best Babysitter(BB)'s travels, and we’ve had fun tracing her travels on our map-of-the-world placemat. And we’ve had fun welcoming her back home. CG's regular writing sessions to BB have spaced out a bit, but it’s been a real pleasure to watch her get in the habit of corresponding with someone. I love to see what counts as news whenever CG starts writing a letter to BB or her cousins. CG is a social butterfly, and we love to watch her nurture her friendships with other children at school. We’ve gotten into the habit of trading childcare with other families when preschool is closed, and it’s a pleasure to have regular playdates with other kids. Three year olds can play more independently, and we love listening to the fantasy worlds they create. (note to BB, who sometimes reads this: let me know if you want a different pseudonym! I'm writing this on the fly.)
We also love helping them cook! Little hands can make yummy treats, especially with the help of a good friend and a good cookbook! Pretend Soup has written instructions for adult helpers, and pictures for little ones to follow. CG may not always listen very well, but she does a fine job following recipes. Bread and cookies have been a particular hit this fall, and the food always tastes better when it’s shared with a friend.
While CG has been channeling Emeril, Politica been out and about in the community this year, working hard with the Democrats in our city and our state legislature, successfully helping to get a human rights ordinance passed, and so far unsuccessfully attempting to head off an anti-marriage amendment. Not content with the status our state's Defense of Marriage Act, the Republican-run statehouse is determined to pass a constitutional amendment whose language is so broad that same-sex couples might lose all legal rights and responsibilities to care for each other—and to care for their children. (Similar language has already been declared unconstitutional in Ohio and Nebraska, so we’ll see what happens here). Politica is discovering a second (unpaid) career as political consultant to the would-be Democratic stars, so let’s just hope that in the New Year, they take some of her advice and manage to craft a message that candidates can actually sell.
We’ll close our letter for the year with two more lists. Think of them as hits and misses.
People we’re thankful for:
• Far-away cousins, aunts and grandparents who keep great phone and mail contact
• Friends who share regular dinners, walks, and playdates
• The best speech therapist ever, who taught us to relax and let CG learn to eat, and who gave CG a balloon at the hospital the day her feeding tube came out
• Pregnant friends who inspire sympathetic pregnancies in CG (Mama, I have a baby in my belly!)
• Those whose guest bedrooms we frequent while we’re on the road, and those who lend us medical advice whenever we need to get perspective on advice we get about CG
• The regulars at our birthday and holiday parties: what a pleasure it is to watch our children grow up together
Things we’re amazed at (and not in a good way (Scrivener was just one of many people blogging up a beautiful storm about much of sort of thing before we left (and while the New York Times doesn't have a clue about parenting these days, Nicholas Kristoff's reporting on Darfur has been amazing); we're on the road so no links from me today):
• The President of the United States needing to assert in a press conference that he’s not a dictator and that he’s opposed to torture. Gee. There’s a strong defense of civil liberties if ever we’ve heard one.
• President Clinton lied about having sex. President Bush authorized tapping the phones of American citizens without a warrant as well as the policy of extraordinary rendition—transferring suspects to other countries so they could be tortured there. Because we don’t torture (see above). Which president do you think warrants impeachment?
• The FBI has been monitoring Greenpeace and PETA. The connection to Al Qaeda is so obvious it’s not even worth discussing.
• The argument that “intelligent design” is scientific and should be taught next to evolution. Because evolution is “just a theory.”
• There’s ongoing genocide in Darfur. And the U.S. is doing precisely, well, nothing.
So we encourage all of you to use your civil liberties while you still have them. Make noise. Write your representatives. Pick a cause—any cause—and fight for it. And hey, if you’re lucky, maybe the FBI will even put together a file on you.
And then, look up at the wild geese, and take in the beauty that can still be found in this crazy world.