22 November 2008

Lost and Found

The other evening, we all walked down to the local park to watch Dad play a little soccer. The park is only two blocks away. Out the front door, one block down to the corner, a left turn, and one short block to the park.

Everyone had some mode of transportation. Cenzo had his bike, Lola hers (which she can't actually ride -- that was interesting), Elizabeth a tricycle, and Tallulah one of those little toddler-push-car-things. I brought the stroller, for tired babies on the way home. Rick and Sam were already there.

Cenzo wanted to ride ahead of us, and knowing that his dad was already at the park, and that it was two short blocks away, I agreed. He headed off down the street, made the turn just fine, and arrived safely.

An hour later, it was time to go home. It was getting dark. Dad and Sam hopped in the truck to drive home, and I made Vincenzo wait until they were on their way before letting him take off on his bike. I made my way home with the three girls and the various wheels we were all using. When I got home, it was a bustle of activity, wheels being put away, soccer gear everywhere, hungry people clamoring for food. I did not notice one important detail:

Vincenzo was not home.

Rick, not aware that I had sent Cenzo home on his bike, didn't know either. As it turns out, the poor kid had forgotten to turn at our street, and had gotten lost. We discovered this when Samuel came in the house (he had been out in front helping unload the truck) to say that some teenagers had brought Vincenzo home.

In one instant, terror and relief gushed through my body, leaving me all at once exhausted. I thanked the boys -- three nice kids -- and brought my son inside. He was clearly shaken to the core. I asked him what happened, and he managed to say, before bursting into tears, that he had forgotten to turn, and then just got too confused to figure out where to go. When the boys came along, they asked him if he was lost. He knew his address, so they were able bring him home.

That's all he was able to say before he refused to talk about it anymore, and wouldn't let me hug him, touch him, or even look at him.

My child is home. He is safe, he is whole, he is himself. The floor is still solidly underneath my feet and time has continued to march along. But oh my -- for the briefest of minutes, things could have been so different. He was missing for probably no more than 20 minutes, but those 20 minutes upset him very much. He had experienced terror for the first time in his life, and it took a toll. He spent the rest of the evening looking stunned and disturbed, like he had been whacked in the head.

When I think of him out there by himself, not knowing how to get back to us, scared, vulnerable, alone, darkness descending, the hairs on my arm stand up and a chill runs down my spine. When I think about how I didn't even realize he wasn't home, I feel truly awful.

After tucking him in bed that night, I sat down next time him and talked quietly about what had happened. I didn't want to make him cry, but I knew I had to help him think about it. He did start to cry, but I told him that I was proud of him for telling the boys where he lived. I told him that if those boys had not come along, we would have come out and found him, we would not have left him out there. I told him he was safe and home and with his family. He asked me if I had ever gotten lost when I was a kid. I had not, I told him, but his dad had. So we went downstairs to talk to dad about it.

He recovered fully, of course. But I am left with a little less enthusiasm for Free Range Kids, and little more awareness of how we need to prepare them to negotiate the world, even when that world is only two small blocks long.

We can't protect them from everything, from fearful experiences, from tragedies that almost happen. I wish he never had to experience those 20 minutes. I wish I had that evening back, so I could stop and go over the route with him before watching him ride off into the twilight. But he is where he belongs; and I haven't stopped being grateful for that since pulling him back into the house. And I haven't stopped being grateful for the three young men who brought him home.

19 November 2008

Morning Glories

13 years ago, I wouldn't have known a Morning Glory if it climbed up my leg.

But then, we planned a wedding reception in my mom and dad's back forty. The wedding was in June, and during the winter months leading to the big day, we of course were busy with plans and ideas for making the day wonderful. In the back yard, there stood an old broken down shed, one side of which faced the area we wanted to use as a dance floor. It wasn't such an attractive look for a wedding reception, so we decided to plant something to grow up the side of the wall.

We chose Morning Glories. One cool morning in March, my mom and I went out and planted the tiny seeds at the base of the shed wall. What an act of faith. I didn't believe that something so simple and small would work, that the vine would grow, the flowers bloom. I wasn't then, nor am I now, much of a gardener; that job is reserved for my dear spouse, who was, I think, born with his hands in the earth. But for me, planting those seeds was a rather foriegn thing.

You mean, that's it? That's all I do? Stick these tiny little specs in the ground and...wait?

Because it was spring, we didn't even have to water the little seeds. Mother Nature took care of that.

By June 18, 1996, the wall of the shed was covered with thick vines and glorious purply-blue flowers. They were bold and wild and absolutely perfect.

The simplest act yielded the greatest beauty.


On our morning commute to school, if I use the freeway instead of surface streets, the offramp I take is lined with Morning Glories. While waiting there for the light to change from red to green, I look over and see the familiar purply-blue flowers, brightening up an otherwise gritty, urban space. They remind me of so many things, of my wedding day, certainly, but also of my skepticism, and then my conversion to believing in the simple act of planting seeds, to having faith in beauty, strength, and the reliability of little things.

Mother Theresa says: "Do small things with great love."

Believe that what seems too meek a thing can in fact yield exactly the results you are seeking.


When my children think the world is too scary, when I can't seem to hammer life's most important lessons into this one's head or that one's heart, when it seems like too many things that I have no control over happen to my kids: believe that small and simple make a difference.

18 November 2008


This morning I heard snippets of Bill Ayers being interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. I felt the same way I felt listening to Colin Powell describe his reasons for endorsing Barack Obama: Finally! Some intelligent political discourse!

If you live in the Bay Area, you have two more opportunities today to listen. It will be on KQED (88.5) at 1pm and on KALW (91.7) at 6pm.

If you don't live in the Bay Area, go to the Fresh Air website to locate a local station that will broadcast the show.

I really don't know yet what I think of Ayers politics, but I was so impressed with his articulate and thoughtful approach to how politics and social issues are discussed in this country. It gives me hope that the conversation really can change.


11 November 2008

Thank You Playground Monitors

Well, it's close to over. The day is almost done.

And I didn't do any permanent damage to anyone's psyche, theirs or mine.

What helped: Using a gift card to take them out to lunch. Daddy coming to the rescue and getting them out of here about an hour and a half ago. Neighbor dropping off a bottle of wine.

It was hard. But I made it. They made it. And they are bringing pizza home with them. The house is still a total mess, and I still have to do school uniform laundry, and my desk still looks like a paper factory sneezed on it, but I have the warm wine fuzzies and no one has asked me a damn thing for an hour and a half.

Thank you, playground monitors.

Calling All Playground Monitors

We behave better in public, don't we?

None of us has unleashed our loudest scream, our roughest grab, our meanest retort while standing with other moms at the playground, right? We save such behavior for those days when the walls are closing in and the only witnesses are under four feet high.

I'm facing one of those days head on right now. It's 8:30 in the morning and I've been up for two and a half hours. I've already initiated three time outs and settled a handful of fights. I've listened to the boys scream at each other and yell at their sisters. I should be doing laundry and washing dishes. I need to have the kids clean their rooms. I should unpack and make room for the new set of dishes we were given. I should clean off my desk so that I can make room for my brain to function.

But all I can really do right now is hope that I make it through the next ten minutes without exploding at my kids. Anyone who is not a mother may not understand just how literally true it is that I cannot do any single thing for more than five minutes without being interupted by one, two, three or more requests or demands. I can't move through a single room with being pulled in 10 different directions, none of them the one I had hoped to go.

So I figured: use the blog. So you, dear readers (all 6 of you), are hereby transformed into the other moms at the playground. I hereby pledge to act as if I'm mothering my children in your presence, in the hopes that you will keep a lid on my temper and my yells down to a meaningful growl.

My goal is to be able to announce tonight that the playground monitors did their job and I didn't lose my cool with the kids. It's a day when I am painfully aware that these kids will learn from my example. They will deal with adversity as they see me deal with a long holiday with everyone home when there is too much to do and no way in hell to get it all done. Here's hoping that when I post again tonight, I am able to say (without lying) that I didn't do too badly and that even if I didn't keep everyone smiling, I didn't do any real damage to their psyches.

Here's hoping.

10 November 2008


40 days.
40 nights.
40 thieves.
40 ouncers.
40 lashes.

And 40 years. That's what I got. And just in case I have any doubt about what 40 is, my son clarifies:

He actually put 40 candles on my cake in this picture! It took him forever, during which time I was not allowed in the dining room/art room. It's kinda hard to serve dinner without going into the dining room. I actually carried food in there and served his sisters with my eyes closed. Silly. But the card is priceless, no?

And turning 40 isn't so bad. My eye twitch has slowed down to only 2 or 3 per minute and I haven't heard my bones creak in a good half hour or so and if I wear the right bra, I sorta feel like I'm still 20! Well, you know, 20 but sleep deprived, battered, bruised, broken, chewed up, spit out, stomped upon, climbed over, and really really hoarse.

Bring it on world: if five kids can't send me to the looney bin, then I can handle anything.