Friday, May 31, 2013

Things Lyra has said to me this morning

"You look beauuuuutiful today, Mama." (Any time I wear a dress.)

"Wipe my bottom, and then you can get ready for the ball. You are so lucky."

"But I wanted Dr. Natalie to brush my teeth!"  (How is she even my child?) (Parenting gold star for getting the oral assessment form signed and turned in to school on the last possible day even though I've known about it all year?)

"I like animals. And I like meatballs. So I like alive animals AND dead animals."

"I'm going to eat lots of food and grow up so tall and then when dad dies I can ride in the front seat of the car."

"I love boys." (I know she means it totally innocently, but it certainly does make me feel like I'm going to have my work cut out for me in ten years or so.)

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Book Review: Everything Was Goodbye

Sometimes I wonder if I just keep reading novels because I’m searching for exactly the right story that I want to read, and I read a lot of good books, but it’s never quite what I was hoping for. And then I read one like Everything Was Goodbye that is exactly right. It’s beautifully written, with imperfect characters and an achingly tragic love story. I got to cry all through the last few chapters--sometimes with happiness, sometimes with despair, sometimes with both at the same time.

Meena is the youngest of six daughters. Her parents immigrated from India to Canada when she was young, her father dying not long after so she has no memory of him. Everything Was Goodbye follows her from the time she is a teenager as she struggles with the conflict between what is expected of her by her family and the larger Indian immigrant community, to the time she is an independent adult, still struggling but having grown. She’s a character that truly matures over the course of the novel, sympathetic but imperfect.

I am fascinated by Indian culture, and stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, Anuradha Roy, and now Gurjinder Basran give me a peek inside a world that is just so beautiful, with customs and intricacies that I find mesmerizing. Everything Was Goodbye captures the uniqueness of the Indian culture blending into (and in some cases being unable to blend into) a western culture, and also what seem like universal emotions and desires. This story is the best kind of love story, with conflict and tragedy and romance.

I’m not saying the entire book is perfect. The language and descriptions are gorgeous, but sometimes I wonder if Basran overdoes it a bit. “The first snowfall held the city in its breath, casting a tinsel chill across the sky, a silvery glaze on windows, and a rosy glow on children’s cheeks.” It’s a fantastic description, colorful and rich, but also almost distracting. But then on the next page she writes, “He’d smiled, that smile that always made me feel two steps behind,” and I’m distracted again, but this time by how exquisite that description is, capturing something so simply yet stunningly. She describes a person as “illiterate in two languages,” another as “a shadow made real” and “more than a memory and less than a dream.” The descriptions of love are never trite, just emotionally true: “It seemed that the longer I knew him, the less I knew of him, yet the closer I felt to him.” I read these descriptions and the truth of them quite literally took my breath away.

It’s so hard not to say more, but to say more might ruin the story which is so beautiful and unpredictable and complex.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

They finally decided on indoor soccer. Because that's going to end well.

Scene: Adriana is reading a book on the couch, sulking because I don’t have the craft supplies she wants, while Lyra jumps off the armchair repeatedly, trying to get her sister to play with her.

Lyra: Let’s play tackle!
Adriana: No, I don’t like tackle games.
Lyra: Let’s play princesses!
Adriana: Okay, you be the princess.
Lyra: Yay! I’m a princess!
Adriana: I’m the wicked queen. Go clean my room.
Lyra: I’m a wicked queen too!
Adriana: I’m an evil wizard. Poof! You’re a bumble bee! Go live in a hive.
Lyra: I’m a magic wizard bumble bee.
Adriana: Your magic is only pretend. Mine is real.
Lyra: Then I am a real bumble bee and I will sting you!
Adriana: Mama, Lyra’s being mean! (bursts into tears)

Saturday, May 04, 2013

I don’t travel at the speed of anything, but it’s because of children, not tessering

I needed bike tubes, and REI was right there. It was just going to be a quick trip in. I unloaded the kids from the car and headed for the store.

But before we could go in they both had to jump off each of the big rocks in the landscaping out front. And then they stopped to squabble over who would push the button to make the store’s door open. Inside they argued over whether we should take the stairs or the elevator upstairs until I reminded them that the cycling gear was downstairs.

On our way to the cycling stuff in the back corner, they stopped to consider the tents and kayaks. And then the kids’ bikes. And then to whine for new streamers/bells/baskets for their bikes.

Finally we made it to the boring stuff on the back wall. I took out my phone to double check the note I’d made on the side tube I needed. As I tried to recall whether I needed a presta or schrader valve and wonder why I didn’t write that down, too, Lyra yelled, “Potty!”

So up the stairs we went after all, because her voice was anxious, but apparently matters weren’t so urgent that she couldn’t stop to admire the display of kites before heading up the stairs. Or swing from the rails on the way up. Or hop like a frog from the top of the staircase to the restrooms.

Inside the restrooms she considered each stall before picking one. She washed her hands twice afterwards because impressed by the automatic soap dispenser, and made me read her the sign on the trash can about composting the paper towels. As we opened the door to leave the restrooms, Adriana realized that she needed to go too. At least she only washed her hands once.

Lyra walked slowly down the stairs, counting them as she went. When she and I reached the bottom, Adriana was in the toy aisle just beyond the kite display that had distracted her sister on the way up. They each asked for about three things as I attempted to usher them along. Then Adriana picked up a kid’s headlamp, asked how much birthday and New Year money she had left. She’d been coveting one “for so, so long,” i.e., since last week when she played with one at Lyra’s friend’s house, and was pleased to learn that she had the ten dollars she required to purchase one of her own.

We were almost out of the toy aisle when Lyra noticed the Audubon toy birds, the ones that play a little bird call when squeezed. She listened to all of them, then decided to get the emperor penguin chick (which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows her) with her own remaining birthday money.

They were quiet, examining their new toys, while I checked with the guy working in the bike section to make sure I was really getting the right kind of tubes for my bike. I grabbed four because maybe then I would never ever have to come back into the store with these two monkeys.

We went to the front of the store to pay. The kids both insisted on having their own purchases rung up separately so they could pay all by themselves. Lyra was too busy squeezing her penguin to make it chirp and jabbering back at it in her bizarre version of Spanish to remember to fight with Adriana over pushing the button to open the door, but they both still needed to climb around on the rocks out front, and then balance on the curbs on the way back to the car. I got them both buckled in, started the car and looked at the clock.

Forty-four minutes had passed since I’d turned off the car. Good thing it was just a quick stop.

Friday, May 03, 2013

My own little Peter Pan

Adriana: Can I use your keys to get my telescope out of the car?
Me: Dad took the car to a party.
Adriana: No fair!
Me: Well, you shouldn’t leave your toys in the car. You can get it tomorrow.
Lyra: Where’s dad?
Me: He went to a party.
Lyra:’s nighttime.
Me: Grown up parties are different. They are sometimes at night.
Lyra: Do you think there will be a bounce house?
Me: Probably not.
Lyra: Is it a gymnastics party?
Me: Nope.
Lyra: Will there be cake?
Me: I’m not sure. I don’t think it’s a birthday party.
Lyra: Are you sure it’s a party?
Adriana: Lyra. Grownups have boring parties. On purpose.
Lyra: I think I will stay little forever.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Sometimes motherhood make me insanely sentimental. Or sentimentally insane.

The girls both fell asleep in my arms tonight. When I realized Lyra was asleep, I held her a little while longer, then eased my body away from hers, kissing her cheeks and stroking her hair before I left her room, little on my mind except for getting dishes done and getting Adriana off to bed. A couple of hours later, though, as I felt Adriana's breathing change, I thought about the point in the future when she won't let me hold her while she falls asleep anymore. It's already pretty rare, although many nights I'm beside her reading my book. The are nights now that she kicks me out of her room so she can fall asleep on her own, or she falls asleep reading a book and I go in later to turn of the light. Lyra still falls asleep in my arms pretty much every night, but that will stop too. And those thoughts didn't bother me much, because even though it's something I'll miss, I also know that it will happen (is already happening) gradually, and that we'll be ready for it. But tonight it occurred to me, very suddenly, that with each of them it will happen for the last time but I won't know it's the last time until later. I won't be able to record it in my memory and hold onto it as it's happening. And maybe that's best. And maybe I'll still remember it clearly, the way I can still recall the last time Adriana nursed. Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just remember all the nights in a giant blur as this time when they are so small gets further and further into the past. But I wish I could somehow preserve the feeling of my little girl's warm body against mine, the way we fit together. the way she wiggles for a while before settling in, the weight of her body seeming to increase as she relaxes, and finally the change in her breathing that means she is asleep and I can slip away whenever I want, but I never want to immediately, never want to just dash away from the peace and sweetness of my sleeping girl.