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We did it

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It took five years and nearly cost us our marriage, but my husband has finished his B.A. degree. He starts his new job as an internal auditor next month. And in the meantime…we’re doing a lot of day drinking and lazing around in our pj’s all day.

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The kids and I attended the graduation ceremony together, just the three of us, and I couldn’t get over it…it was exactly the way I’d hoped it would be. They were both so excited to see their daddy dressed up in his cap and gown and loved all the streamers and music. It was such a proud moment for all of us. I can’t believe we really made this happen.

Written by GRSeim

June 13, 2012 at 6:13 am

Big thoughts

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“Mom,” little blue eyes full of concern gaze trustingly into mine as I wipe sticky hands and cheeks with a warm washcloth. “My butterfly is asleep and it’s not moving anymore. I think it needs more flower juice to wake it up.”

“Let’s look at him together,” I reply calmly, but my mind is racing. I intended to let the butterfly loose before this happened; I dearly wanted to avoid having this conversation with my three year old. What do I do, what do I say? What if I get it wrong?

My own introduction to death came at the same age, but at my grandfather’s passing. I was told that he was resting, that we wouldn’t see him again for a long time but that he would be resurrected into his heavenly body on judgment day and then we’d all be together forever, as if he’d been cryogenically frozen rather than the victim of a deadly stroke.

These are not messages I want to share with my son. I no longer feel any confidence in my knowledge of the future and I am okay with that. I want him to experience that humility in me, to understand that the unknown is not necessarily terrifying.

But…how?

We approach the butterfly’s cheery, flower-filled cage together. The butterfly is crumpled on the floor, its wings wrapped downward around its body. I brush it gently with my finger, but it remains motionless and brittle.

“Is my butterfly okay, Mom?” my son asks uncertainly, his voice quavering with worry.

“Yes,” I reply automatically. Wait, no…um…

“He is okay,” I continue slowly, feeling out each word as I go along. “He is just done being a butterfly now.”

“Oh!” my little son’s face lit up with excitement and relief. “Is he going to go back into his chrysalis again now?”

“Not this time,” I reply, gaining confidence as I go. “This butterfly has been an egg, and a caterpillar, and a chrysalis and a butterfly, and it has already done its flying and drank its flower juice and laid its eggs. This butterfly is all done being a butterfly. It has died now so that it can recycle its parts to make something new.”

“Like…another butterfly?” D follows uncertainly.

“Well, we need to have a little funeral for his butterfly so that we can send it back into the planet. The Earth has lots of special bugs who help take old pieces apart and recycle them into great new things like plant food.”

“So the bugs will feed my butterfly to a flower?”

“Something like that,” I have to chuckle at his bewildered expression. I’m not sure how we’re doing here at all, but I keep talking. “The butterfly parts will get recycled into flower parts and they will be part of the flower. And if a hungry baby caterpillar is crawling on that flower-”

“Then the flower parts will be baby caterpillar parts!”

“Right! And if a chicken eats the caterpillar-”

“Then the caterpillar will recycle into chicken parts!”

“Yes! And if a boy eats the chicken-”

“The chicken parts will turn into little pieces of kids!”

“You’ve got it, kiddo!” I’m grinning now. “What do you think about all of that?”

He pauses to think for a moment, and then- “Do any things eat kid parts?” he asks.

“Not really,” I reply. “Sometimes way out in the wild a creature wants to eat a person. But mostly we are the luckiest creatures of all. We live very, very long lives and use our parts all up, and when we are done with our parts the people we love give us back to the planet.”

“And then out parts turn into flower food?”

“Yep.”

“I see,” he murmurs, squinting his eyes a bit as he contemplates this new information.

“But mom,” he continues at last, “Where do all the parts come from?”

“Well,” I answer slowly, “We don’t know the whole story. But a very long time ago, a star died. And when it recycled its parts, it turned into Earth parts.”

“Was it a supernova when that star died, Mom?”

“Well, it was big. It was a big explosion. I’m not sure if it was exactly a supernova or not but it was enormous.”

“And all of our parts are recycled star parts?”

“Yes. We are all made out of tiny pieces of stars. We are star creatures.”

“So what happens when the Earth dies, Mom?” D forges ahead of me, intrigued. “Will the Earth pieces recycle into a new star?”

“You know what, buddy? I really don’t know. The universe is too big for me to know all about it. I think that is a what we call a mystery. No person on the whole planet knows the answer to that question. We can only make guesses.”

D returns his gaze to the dead butterfly and seems lost in thought for awhile.

“What are you thinking about, dude?” I ask at last.

“I was just thinking,” he sighs, shaking his head as if to clear his thoughts. “I’m going to figure out the Earth mystery, Mom, but later. We need to recycle this little butterfly right now.”

“What do you think about recycling your butterfly?” I ask. I’m still not quite sure how D is taking this.

But D smiles.

“I think it’s the coolest of all.”

Written by GRSeim

May 24, 2012 at 4:02 am

10 things about D, age 3 and 8 months

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1. “I had a dream last night, Mom,” you commented this morning, nonchalantly dipping your pistachios in your apple juice, as one is wont to do.

“I dreamed that there was an earthquake at our house, and all the light bulbs started exploding and the sirens were going off like this WAAAAAAOOOOO-WAAAAAOOOOO! And I was crying and looking for my mommy and I couldn’t find you anywhere!”

You’ve had a lot of nightmares lately, but this one really killed me. I. Never. Leave. I am literally, ALWAYS here, no more than ten feet away from you, EVER. Where is this coming from?And…no, really, where is this coming from? I skip the scary parts of “Kipper the Dog” for you! I don’t let you watch the intro to “The Big Bang Theory” because I worry that all those flashy images will give you nightmares (or seizures…I hate that intro). The scariest thing that has ever happened to you was getting yelled at (by me!) for trying to run out in front of a car. You made it about six steps before I caught you; you were still well away from the street and had no chance of getting hurt.

Why all these nightmares and stresses and worries? Where is it all coming from? I feel so helpless here.

2. I played my first video game ever when I was 19 and I never really developed any interest in gaming at all, on any level, like, even a little…it’s not my thing, at all. And your favorite game right now is Rescue on Cocoa Farm. You want me to *participate* here. I have to watch, and comment, and offer helpful tips and play the hardest levels for you. I try to think of this as bonding time, but honestly I can’t think of a way that this game could be made any stupider and it drives me crazy having to sit there and melt chocolate blocks with you during the one semi-break I get each day. This is not my favorite.

3. It takes forty years to brush your teeth, and I always end up covered in tooth paste and spit. And you spray water all over my mirror, too, every time. I’m always just a little queasy by the time you’ve galloped off to your next activity, leaving me to clear up the wreckage left behind. How can one small child make such an enormous mess?!

4. You kicked me out of the house today the second your daddy walked through the door because apparently I “ruin all the parties.” I am more than ok with getting some time to myself, but still. Don’t bite the hand that has planned, prepped for and cleaned up after every single party you’ve ever experienced! Punk.

5. Waking me up in the morning by blowing raspberries on my armpit: noooooot coooooool!

6. We were having a rough afternoon the other day and, in a moment of desperation, I taught you how to do that trick where you pretend to pop your eyeball out, swish it around in your mouth and then pop it back into its socket. Cool, I know. But you have taken it to the next level: you’ll pretend to pop both eyeballs out, spit them out of your mouth and then stumble around with your eyes squeezed shut, blindly searching for your missing eyeballs. Your Nana screamed with laughter when you did that trick for her, and she’s convinced I taught you the whole bit…but no, you really did come up with that on your own. You’re just that funny. 🙂

7. You’ve added an adorable new twist to our morning routine lately: while I prepare breakfast, you grab an enormous play silk and make a clubhouse for yourself and your sister. You two will stay in there for ages, whispering to one another: “I wuv you, Muweeah. Muweeah says “I wuv you, too, Dawen!” Melts my heart.

8. You’re writing now, like a little copy machine. You mimic every scrap of writing you find, filling up reams of paper with your adorable, wobbly child scrawl.

9. You’ve started singing lately, too, wildly off key and with no respect for rhythm or rhyme. It’s just pure, unadulterated joy at the top of your lungs. These are the moments when I most want to swoop you up into my arms and gobble you up the way I would when you were a baby. I can’t believe how grown up you are now.

10. You have become my little right-hand man over the last few months. You pick out M’s outfit every morning, fetch diapers and wipes for me when she needs a change, empty the dishwasher and always remember to clear your mess up after meals. Sometimes I just sit back and stare at you because this time last year I was wondering if you’d ever be potty trained, worrying that you’d never outgrow the need for a binky, all but puréeing your meals for you and carting you around the city in a stroller. Now I watch you carrying bags of groceries up four flights of stairs for me and I wonder where my baby went. How did you grow up so quickly? Where did you learn all these incredible things you know now? It must be happening while I’m asleep; you’re always a quarter inch taller in the morning than you were when I put you to bed. Some night I’m going to stay awake all night to see if I can actually watch you grow…and that won’t be creepy at all, right? 🙂

Written by GRSeim

May 8, 2012 at 4:21 am

Waste Not

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We were walking out of a restaurant downtown one day when a middle aged woman stepped into our path and boldly demanded, “Are you going to eat those leftovers?”

Jon and I shifted uncomfortably, glanced at one another -because, yeah, we were going to eat them. We were still teenagers, I was pregnant, we had no car, and we were only eating out because I was too sick from hunger to walk the remaining mile and a half to the nearest grocery store. We were in a pretty bad spot ourselves at that point. But we’d also had our eyes opened to the complex reality of poverty, how easy it is to fall into destitution and how hard it is to claw your way back out.

So we handed our takeout boxes over and a tradition was born in our family.

Waste not.

A few years later I found out through my reading that this is a pretty common practice in other countries, sharing leftovers to prevent good food from going to waste. It’s a good habit, one that is surprisingly easy to embrace.

Here’s how it works at our house:

We do not leave food to rot in the refrigerator; if things are sitting around, likely to go to waste, we make a post on freecycle or Craigslist, or spend the afternoon hunting for Jimmy and Elizabeth. They always appreciate our cooking.

When we leave a restaurant with a take-out box, we do what we can to pass that box off to someone before we leave the parking lot. If that fails, my schizophrenic friend, Curtis, is easy enough to locate at his usual haunt at the corner of the highway, and he is always thrilled to get a box full of warm, good-quality food.

Now, I have to admit I do not feed people indiscriminately. The scary-looking guy who hangs out by the university and screams for help all day long? I double check that the doors are locked before I drive by. The war vet who throws things at cars and roars about the injustice of his situation as the traffic zips by? Yeah, I feel bad, but I avoid the intersection where he hangs out altogether.

You can’t just prance up to any person, homeless or not, and assume that they’re going to turn out to be nice people. You have to trust your instincts. However, it’s also important to recognize that there is no correlation between having money and being a trustworthy, decent individual.

Conversely, we’ve got to cut the “noble savage” crap that gets thrown around so much when the topic of homelessness comes up. Homelessness is rarely a lifestyle choice, and most people are not too proud to accept help, even of the half-eaten variety. I’ve only had a person refuse food I offered them once, and that’s because the guy was seriously allergic to the food I was offering him.

It boils down to having a can-do attitude. I can’t end homelessness in my community, but I can end hunger, easily and at no extra cost to anyone.

I can’t solve all of the world’s problems, but that doesn’t mean I’m helpless. Not by a long shot.

Written by GRSeim

May 4, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I hope I remember this day when I’m old and gray

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This was one of those perfect days when everything just went right. Even the weather was perfect.

Jon spent most of the day at a case competition where he and his team won second place. We’ve been giddily discussing what to do with the $500 prize.

While Jon was off making us proud, I took the kids downtown via public transit to celebrate the Space Needle’s 50th birthday. What a blast!

I decided to try to beat the crowds and had us all downtown at 7:30 AM on a Saturday morning. It worked out fantastically well, because it was really just us and the street sweepers for the first hour. We played on the escalators at Pacific Place, chased pigeons around Westlake and had Pike’s Place almost entirely to ourselves. It reminded me of when Corduroy the bear got to explore the shopping mall at night. Pure magic.

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The Blue Trees at Westlake Park at 7:30 AM

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The Market Piggy Bank

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The giant orange sculpture in front of the science center disappoints another generation of Seattle children by not being an enormous slide. Believe me, son, I share your pain.

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D’s first real experience of the mesmerizing International Fountain.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, we came home to this:

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That’s right, the best (or second best, depending on who you ask) pizza place in the city gave us dinner for free today! It just doesn’t get better than this, really, life couldn’t be any better than it is today.

Happy birthday, Space Needle!

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Written by GRSeim

April 22, 2012 at 2:43 am

Timeless

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I’ve never seen my son this excited about story time. I think he’d be completely happy if we just looked at the maps together all evening…but to actually read the story? Oh, rapturous day. He is crazy with joy, interrupting every few minutes to repeat incredulously, “The dwarves are going to win real gold? They’re going to win it from a real dragon?!”

This is a special experience for me. My father read books aloud to me every night all through my childhood, beginning with The Hobbit when I was about D’s age. I am positive that my ability to read and write grew out of those thrilling nightly adventures.

I hope that I do the story justice. I hope that my kids can get lost in the fantasy the way I did as a child. And…I hope those dwarves do win the gold from the real dragon!

I’m finding that all the best books are at least as appealing to me now as an adult as they were the first time I encountered them, twenty years ago.

Written by GRSeim

April 8, 2012 at 4:37 am

Glamping

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We spent the weekend with the wonderful guys up at Paca Pride. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by. You’ll never meet nicer folks (or alpacas).

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Written by GRSeim

March 26, 2012 at 4:09 am