Sunday, August 8, 2010

puppets, drums, ridin' and cryin'

We arrived home from vacation at roughly 2am. The kids didn’t go to sleep in the car until well after midnight. Emma Jean tried. She has this habit of sleep bitching. It’s kind of like sleep terrors…except it’s bitching. So while Lucy Maye and Squirrel are plotting a world take over with the DS, occasionally EJ would wake up in a terrible bitch session. It would already be in play in her dream cycle. This would lead the older kids to criticize her and then she’d really get going. At some point it would turn truly sad and the littlest kid (Emma Jean) would be left holding her arms out and crying “Mommy”. Mommy, that’s me, sat shotgun and two seats forward trying to console her and tell her to please be quiet and go back to sleep at the same time. At some point, Squirrel (the next to littlest) got a headache that was like a hole in his head. The oldest kid Liam, Squirrel’s brother, was trying to keep it together by staring at everyone. The center of the group, Lucy Maye, who now has a nickname of 20 Questions, would just make definitive statements about how things were driving her crazy. I finally declared that next one to talk had to give me five dollars. That worked for a while. I turned to Preston with the immortal question, “How did the Brady Bunch do this?” He said that they never went on any road trips except Hawaii. Now, granted, we aren’t a blended family. But we are good friends and tend to tribe up on occasion. I have a fantasy about this art colony where these very eclectic adults (including Preston and hopefully me) with these very eclectic kids get together for months at a time to do their thing and the kids all work it out and have a great time and the parents are productive and artistically brilliant and we all work all day and then make great dinners and catch fireflies and get written up in the New Yorker for be cool Southern. The trip to the beach was sort of that. At least we kept the condo clean. No art was made but there was some computer work, sketch work and discussions about future projects and so forth. Shannon and her nephew (who’s a teenager – wow) were there for the first part of the week and we were all getting our groove on with a staircase of an age range. Waking up to a marsh of Cape Fear was quite extraordinary. I could also stare at the ocean for hours or, truth be told, days. The girls were more interested in the pool. Lucy Maye’s breaststroke improved and Emma Jean gained some much needed confidence. There was some fishing and some shopping and some unrequited turtle hatching watching. We had fun. We had experiences.

The drive home was mostly uneventful except for navigating the young’uns. Honestly, at that age, I can’t imagine making an eight-hour drive like that. They were really pretty darn good. We stopped a little after midnight and switched positions. I traded with Liam and moved Emma Jean into that seat with me. She still had night bitching. She woke up with a start asking where her eye patch was. She had received it at Scalawag Camp where she got certified as a Pirate. I told her it was in the luggage. She then frantically began looking around. It was somewhat birdlike. I asked her what was up and she said she was looking for the dang luggage. I told her it was in the back. She essentially told me off and then I coaxed her back to sleep. Only 71 more miles to go….

Today, we all still woke up early. It’s a curse. I started cleaning out the basement and cussing the growing grass. The girls lazed around in their own rooms, content with movies and our grateful animals all around. Our youngest dog keeps staring at us with a big panting grin. It was all good. Later in the day, their dad came by to fetch them. He’s been away from them for 10 days and I think that’s the longest that they haven’t seen each other. He brought Lucy Maye’s drum kit and a puppet theatre from the house that he’s selling. I’ve mentioned this house before because I lived there for over 10 years and really love this house. Having these things here is good but there’s just not room for them. I rearranged the basement, moved a full sized bed down there, moved a twin bed into EJ’s room and am still trying to fit it all in. I’ve had somewhat of a collapse today. I’ve been away from my nest for about 2 ½ weeks now. It would have been good to watch Pride and Prejudice on a continual loop today, while drinking bourbon and sleeping. But, alas, it is not to be. I’m trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and produce some reorganization magic. I ended up crying for about 2 hours straight while conjuring this impossible magic. I’m still staring at the puppet theatre. I’m also staring at about 60 stuffed animals that need to go to Goodwill. My problem is that I still have all of my childhood stuffed animals at my Grannie’s house in her attic. I refused to give them away. I’m having a hard time mentally prying all the cuties out of my house because of guilt. I guess I’ll just bag them and put them in the basement. John also brought a bunch of pictures that he thinks the girls will want when they are older. He’s right. I think they will want them. Trouble is that a lot of them are photos that I had framed for him as presents. It’s kind of weird to have these given back to me. I know it would be difficult for him to be moving pictures of he and his ex-wife to his new house with his new wife, but I’m not sure what to do with them. It’s just weird to have these things from my past sitting in my living room and they have no place where they go. There’s a wedding picture. There’s a picture of John and I when I was about 9 months pregnant with Lucy Maye on our front porch. There’s birth photo’s of Emma Jean that I already have copies of. Where do these things go? Where am I going to put that puppet theatre? Howie came by to help me move the bed. He made me feel better. He said that if all of this was in his living room, he’d cry too. I was openly crying at some point while he was here. I still don’t know what corner to tuck it all in to but at least I know I’m not ridiculous for being overwhelmed by it.

The puppet theatre is really freaking cool. There is that. After all.

from 180 Magazine, August

Organize Chaos

I have largely ignored this worldwide serial experiment known as summer.

I’m addicted to working. Not only do I work a day job but I’m also a compulsive theatre geek. I’ve spent my entire adult life leaving work to do evening rehearsals and performances. Sometimes I make a little money. Mostly it keeps me sane and it’s generally not been about the cash. Now that I have a couple of small people in my entourage, I make choices based on my sanity, their wellbeing and my earnings. I was determined to live the life of summer this year for all our sakes. The last two summers I got off work at 5pm and rehearsals began at 7pm. The girls enjoy going to rehearsal and they also enjoy the potpourri of friends that come over to play while I’m working on obtaining that mind-blowing performance. It’s not torture for them that I do theatre but a lot gets sacrificed. There’s a facebook group called “I can’t, I have rehearsal.” It’s a support group because theatre is all consuming. When you aren’t in rehearsal, you are rehearsing at home. When you aren’t rehearsing at rehearsal or at home, you could be building a set or worrying about rehearsal. You generally don’t see music or go to the movies. You don’t go swimming or go on vacation. Sometimes you take on the characteristics of your character. You do the show. You never clock out. It’s pretty glorious but it doesn’t leave room for anything else. This year, I’m breaking up with summer theatre for summer time. This summer is being treated like my imagination imagines summer. We have gone to the lake. We have gone to the pool. We have gone to the movies. We are going on a vacation that is not determined by my rehearsal schedule. Revolutionary.

My day job is flexible. I spend a lot of time on my computer and I can do that at 6am or 11pm. I also meet with folks and have appointments but I’m not at a desk from 8 to 5 like I was in summers’ previous. I am in the working world of contract labor. This is somewhat terrifying, but it’s where I’m at right now and I’ve decided to embrace the positive. I have flexibility. I may not have benefits but I have flexibility.

I’ve had a lot of interaction this past year with 3 other families working in the contract labor arena. None of us want to have our kids in summer daycare, either because of the cost or just because it’s summer, dang it, and the kids should sleep late. For me, it’s a combination of the two. Through some discussion, we came up with a plan to benefit the workaday needs of productivity (aka money earning) and the needs of summer. We have been passing our kids around. We plan on four days a week for four hours a day. Each of the four families takes a day. The benefit is that the adults get some time to work uninterrupted (Mommy, I need a drink! I hate this drink! She hit me!). The kids get some peer interaction, hopefully don’t strangle their siblings and don’t die of boredom watching their moms and dads work from home. We have been calling it the Summer Camp Co-op. It is our attempt to organize the chaos. So far the outlook is positive although fluid. Currently we are in the third week and we’ve only had all the kids together once and that was at the initial potluck, which, I might add, included bows and arrows. The key to the success of the fluidity is that this group is pretty clued into one another. Our types of work are compatible so when something comes up or changes, no one gets uptight about it. It just moves on to the next day or we switch days or go to the pool. Initially, I thought it would have more rigid boundaries. We would submit lesson plans and make copies of insurance cards and have a craft fee. But it’s more like a series of organized play dates. There was one day that included a downtown bike ride and some printmaking. While this madness was going on, I was at a meeting. One of my colleagues asked where the girls were and I told him about our camp and he declared he wanted to go to camp too. I think that’s been one of the hardest things. I really enjoy these other families and I dig their offspring. We came together because of similar interests and the compatibility of our kids. It’s often hard for me to drop the girls off and go do work. Every time I linger at the doorway as my kids disappear into a room unknown waiting for their adventure to begin.

This summer makes me grateful. I am taking pictures every day that I don’t lose or forget my camera. I’m calling it ‘Curating Summer’, because this summer is a choice. It’s happening just by choosing to let it go. Everyday is a surprise. Every lightning bug has been a gift, every sunset a miracle and every morning a gentle rise. We have not hurried through our days.

The school year starts soon. My youngest enters kindergarten and my oldest will be in the fourth grade. Both girls will be under the same roof and my workdays become longer as the days grow shorter. When summer started, I was panicked about how to organize these summer days. Now I dread them being organized for me. My living room will no longer be a chaotic ocean of cast off flip flops and wet bathing suits. The library becomes a requirement, not a luxury. We will wake before the sun and wear backpacks and computer bags instead of sunscreen.

We will remember this summer. I have pictures to prove it happened. It’s happening now. I hope I can find my camera.