Sunday, November 25, 2012


'Tis the season to remember all there is for which to be thankful...

I just returned from 10 days in the Chicago area, babysitting nephews for a week (they are now 5 and almost 2 and 1/2) and then staying a few extra days for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I do not quite see how parents everywhere manage to juggle full-time jobs and parenting.  While both boys were at school all day (the older one is in kindergarten, the younger one was at preschool) - from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. - I just was unable to be very productive during work hours.... Well, I did get to the "have to" work - things that had to get done regardless of the disjointedness of my time.  And I could have let them stay at school longer than 3 p.m.... but that just didn't seem fair to the lads. So I let go, and instead marveled at the strength and organization of everyday people all around the world who seem to have figured out how to raise children and money all at the same time.

My mother is now in Chicago too, near my sister and her family, so she was a great help in keeping things organized. You'd think she had raised four kids herself, back in the day, so creative she is in coming up with activities for these little ones. (Oh, that's right - she did.)  Each day we'd head to the park after school - the weather was unseasonably warm - and each day the boys would hang from monkey bars and swings and make friends with the children who happened to appear at the same time as they did.  It is like a hidden pact: we have both arrived at this destination (the kids seem to say to each other) so it is time for us to become temporary friends and entertain each other here, now - before dinner. It is not that this pact is stated, or written - instead, it is understood.

One day when we arrived, my older nephew chose to try to play with two boys a couple years older than he is. He followed them around as they ditched him - kindly, never shunning him directly, simply moving away from him whenever he followed them to a new location.  At one point he gave up, and went to play with some girls instead (who accepted him immediately, and let him laugh).  But then there he was, back among the older boys.  They had taken their basketball and were throwing it into the tree (this I saw as I was coming back from changing the younger nephew's diaper).  This time the older boys were happy with my nephew, because he had a lighter ball and could help them with their tree endeavor. My nephew started throwing his ball into the tree and yes, it did go higher. I looked up to see what was in the tree. It was a squirrel. My sweet nephew was attempting to torpedo a squirrel from the tree.  I said his name loudly - he knew he was caught out.  He immediately ducked away, immediately stopped the task. The mother of the two older boys came over and, in a sing-songy voice, said how that wasn't nice to the squirrel, to try to hit him like that. What the heck - no wonder they were a little out of control, if her manner of discipline was to sweetly reason with them rather than just say "no." My nephew needed no such coaxing. It was clear to him that he should stop.

We talked about it later. I gave it zero tolerance treatment. But I also told him I was proud of him for reacting immediately when I said his name, and recognizing that it wasn't a good thing to be going after the squirrel like that. Ah, the lessons that come upon these little ones every day.  He lives in a household that keeps those kinds of boundaries clear, so he doesn't have to wonder too much about them.

Speaking of accepting responsibility for actions.. The little one is very - clear. He wants what he wants, when he wants it. This results in opportunities for ... disagreement, and a time out for him, now and then.  I admire his tenacity. And he is a big, strong boy. I am, however, taller and (so far) stronger. And I'm the one who rules the house when his parents are gone.... After a time out (he only had three during the week I was there - not too bad), I would ask him to say he was sorry. This he was not so interested in saying. It would come out in a whisper - no, not even a whisper - he would mouth it: "Sor-ry." I'd have to guess if that soft breath of air included the word which I requested to hear.  Getting the hug and kiss from him was easier, and I didn't really mind settling for that, as long as he also breathed the "sorry" word. But I had to laugh at his recalcitrance. This ability to refuse to give in at all costs likely will guide him well over the years. To the stubborn comes the outcome - as long as it is done with a certain amount of gradation. I felt honored to be a part of his learning process in that regard.Exhausted, but honored.

And then there was the joy, and the laughter.  We did really have a good time, even if I spent a lot of it in discipline mode. We played with the map that I gave my older nephew for his birthday.  (At one point he said that he wasn't very good with big puzzles. I told him he did pretty well with the map, including naming capitals. He said, "Well, I know a lot of it already," as if I were just humoring him, trying to find a silver lining in the black cloud that is his big-puzzle dilemma. Seriously, this just-five-year-old does know most of the states and a lot of the capitals already. He also reads - whole books - then laments that he's a "slow reader" because he doesn't read out loud as quickly as an adult yet - though almost.  "You're just careful," I told him. Truly, he amazes me.) I happen to have a somewhat decent Donald Duck imitation that I used a couple times, with great results. I'm best at the pretend Donald Duck sneeze... It's very messy, and loud. The last night I was there, the little one started to imitate my imitation. He did a good job! Very cute...

For Thanksgiving, my mom had the boys create turkey centerpieces (using apples as the base and Fruity Cheerios on shish kabob sticks for the tails), and make placemats for everyone, using cutouts of the outline of their hands to look like turkeys and then sprinkling the rest of the placemat with leaf stickers. Getting the little one to keep his hand spread out while we traced it was hysterical - he'd flatten it correctly but then the minute the tracing started, his hand would close up. "No, no - keep it spread - like this," I'd say, and show him. He'd nod, studious - spread out his hand - and then, right as I started tracing, shut it down again...

Here are some photos of the beauteous table that we set:


Yes, it was a grand day - and a great week. I'm sleeping now....

Friday, November 9, 2012

Four More Years

I am so happy. Content. People who know me know how much I believe in our president, and how hard I worked to help get him elected in 2008. I was in eight states over 11 months in 2008 - starting in Idaho in January, ending up in Colorado in November. 

This year, I did not do so much - though I followed it all intensely, and did take time to make some phone calls - so I knew that I had done something, at least. Free time was not aplenty this year - and so I had to cheer from the sidelines, knowing that another was the standard bearer this time.  This time, too, that work was rewarded.  Thank you for doing it.

I watched the video today, of President Obama tearing up when talking to his campaign volunteers after he had won.  The emotion came when he spoke of how proud he was of them.  That is what choked him up.

I remember four years ago, the day after the election, walking in to the campaign office in Colorado where I was stationed, just in time to be gathered over by staff to a corner of the room. My timing had been perfect - the president-elect (at that time) was getting ready to be on a conference call with staff across the country, to say thank you.  We gathered and listened on speaker phone as David Axelrod spoke and (I think) David Plouffe. Vice President-elect Biden said some words too.

And then it was time for Barack Obama. We all were so happy but exhausted - spent - having left all we had in the days leading up to election day. And then President-elect Obama told us thank you - how he could not have done it without us - each one. I know I teared up, when he said that. I was so tired - and grateful - and moved, as if he spoke directly to me. 

So when I saw my president emotional this time - as he thanked his staff four years later - I was not surprised. I knew from where it came.  I was glad to see it, in a way - his emotion - that it moved him, to look out upon the youth of today, and see in them the promise of tomorrow.

Yes, the result of the election makes me very happy. And now we move into the next four years.