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September 20, 2006

Mother Talk Blog Tour - We Are All Fine Here

Three Kid Circus is today's stop on the Mother Talk Blog Tour for Mary Guterson's We are all fine here.

I dropped the kids off at school and curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee and my copy of We are all fine here. I planned to read it over the course of a couple of days, stealing an hour here and there from my schedule. Guess what? I couldn't put it down. I read the whole book cover to cover, almost missing school pickup.

From the opening pages, I was completely wrapped up. From the back cover:

Julia has been married to Jim for fifteen years, and admittedly, the thrill is mostly gone. It doesn't help that Jim flirts outrageously with his pretty young coworker and flosses naked in front of the TV. So it's no big surprise that she finds herself thinking about Ray.

The truth is, she hasn't stopped thinking about Ray since she first saw him shirtless, leaping for a Frisbee on the college lawn. And as their recent reunion has proved, he's as good in bed as ever. Well, technically, as good up against the bathroom sink as ever.

But now she has tricky news to share - with her hypochondriac mother, her obsessive-compulsive sister, her inscrutable therapist, her jilted neighbor, and both the men in her life. She's pregnant. And she has no inkling whether the father is Jim or Ray...

It is as much fun as it sounds. I enjoyed Guterson's dry wit and sympathetic, yet not sentimental portraits of her characters. These people are all deeply flawed, in a very recognizable, real-world way. Guterson vividly paints a portrait of her cast of characters, and as I chuckled my way through scene after scene, I recognized people from my own life in these portrayals.

What really tickled me were Julia's proclamations on motherhood. Scattered throughout the book, Julia offers pithy suggestions and observations on everything from proper parenting techniques:

...allow me to summarize: Sleeping with your baby is good. Sleeping with your baby is bad. Schedules, yes. Schedules, no. Lay them on their stomachs. Lay them on their backs. Bottle. Breast. Wean. Don't wean. Toilet train. Don't toilet train. Pick them up when they cry. Never pick up a crying baby. Public school. Home school. Montessori. Competitve sports are good. Competitive sports are bad. Fluoride. No fluoride. Vaccines. No vaccines.

You're welcome.

to a stark summary on the joys of mothering:

Mothering is everything it's cracked up to be, which is to say, a complete and total nightmare. Anyone who tells you differently is not to be trusted.

I found myself moved to hilarity and tears as I plowed through the pages. We are all fine here is an irreverent, ultimately revealing look at the way the choices we make affect our lives.

September 5, 2006

Ten Minutes to Midnight

Six years ago, I was a week over due, swigging juice and trying to calm my heart as I lay with my hands pressed to my giant belly. My baby was quiet, and I was beginning to panic. After calling the hospital and calling home my husband, I waited to feel any movements. The moment my mother arrived to care for my 17 month old daughter, the baby started kicking and flailing again. I was relieved, but determined to go ahead with the well-check at the hospital.

My son arrived at ten minutes to midnight, six years ago. He immediately revealed his powerful, earsplitting cry, and I looked at my husband in shock. Where did this cheetah-sounding baby come from? I ordered a serene baby. This child was peeling the paint off the walls.

He's always been a mellow child, except when he isn't. He has two settings - peaceful and SONIC DEATH RAY OF DOOM. He balances between two fiery sisters, holding his own with a combination of fortitude and humor.

He likes what he likes, and is generous in his praise and admiration. Just this morning, as I tried to make my hair lay down outside the grocery store, he beamed at me. I muttered "I look like a refugee," and he gently touched my arm and said "even if you look like a refugee, you are still the most beautiful mommy to me."

At the age of six, I think I can safely say that this son of mine has been silent for a total of 6 hours in his entire life. He talks. And explains. And tells people about things. He speaks in continuous, run-on sentences, often changing subjects without taking a breath. From the moment his eyes pop open in the morning, he begins to talk. The sound of his Elmer Fudd accent breaking down the differences in the stegosaurid family of dinosaurs is the soundtrack of my day.

He's still all about dinosaurs. There is nothing else that holds a candle to the repilian giants in his world. He's almost apologetic about it. My parents and sister tried to interest him in new toys in four different toy shops, and all he could decide on were plastic dinosaurs. He loves them with the fire of a thousand suns.

We had a tough time last year. He's always been emotional and it seemed to hit a frenzied pitch as he adapted to kindergarten. We struggled to help him - he wears his heart on his sleeve, and he is a perfectionist in a family of chaotic thinkers. His frustration with his learning curve caused him to erupt in anger many times. He would sob in my arms, ranting about the fact that his drawing didn't look the way he imagined when he started, or the tower he was building collapsed after the tenth block was added, and I would murmur cliches and stroke his hair, over and over.

For all his utter boy-ness, he is my sweetest child. He loves to snuggle and melts if you rub his head. He adores his sisters. Although they squabble, it is still common to find all three of them sitting on one couch cushion, peacefully. His patience with his younger sister is remarkable - long after I've lost patience with her need to cling like a monkey, I'll find him sitting close enough so that she can rub his ear while she sucks her thumb. They are close in a way that brings tears to my eyes.

As we turn the corner into his sixth year, I'm aware of a new sense of confidence, a strength of purpose that he didn't display before. He is enjoying school, and is enjoying spending time with his peers. He's moving away from little boy land, and becoming a big boy before my eyes. It is wonderful.

Yet, every night, as we curl up and read one of his many dinosaur stories, he lays his cheek against my cool upper arm, and he melts into me. We breathe in tandem, and I can sense that moment when his need to sleep overrides his will to stay awake. At that moment, he is my baby, and I'm transported back to that moment when I first held him in my arms, six years ago, at ten minutes to midnight.

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