The wonder-filled life of a single older-ish mom.

Archive for the tag “motherhood”

Snow Days Flashback

Nina had no school last week due to ice and snow. We weathered it without incident — snuggling, reading, and roasting marshmallows the first few days. By Thursday cabin fever had set in and we seemed to have a primal squaring off —bickering with one another and stooping to cheating at board games. The week’s mix of sweet and sour days brought flashbacks of our first two snow days together, in 2010. Nina was three and in preschool.

Early December, 2010 — Snow Day #1

Today was Nina’s first experience with “no school because of snow.” We had such a sweet and magical day — marveling at the peaceful beauty of winter and the good fortune to be together each second. We baked cookies, and decorated the Christmas tree while singing carols. I laughed when Nina put on her goofy sunglasses because she thought the strands of lights were so bright. We snuggled on the couch with the napping cats and talked about how silent snowfall was.

I love snow days. I love being a mother. I’m going to savor and document every minute of it.

Snow Day #2.

Nina just demanded that I take photos of her, snarling, “Like you did yesterday! Do it!”

Yesterday had a Norman Rockwellish glow. I gazed upon my child adoringly, we savored life. I patiently read the same book 12 or 22 times (once backwards). I generously gave cookies, and we sipped hot chocolate after making snow angels in the crystal-white whopping two-inches of snow.

Snow day #2 carries a different reality…

After falling asleep way too late last night, Nina woke equally way too early — before the sun came up (which I suggested should really be a pretty easy guide to follow … No bright thing in sky, no getting out of bed.) She also woke with a bossy attitude way beyond her age allotment.

She insisted all the stamps on the Christmas cards I’ve been trying to finish for five freaking days now were stickers that she really, really needed, and I was the meanest mommy ever for not letting her continue to rip them off and tear open the envelopes.

The house is a disaster. Nina spilled the tray of open paints that I’d set up at an idealistic “Christmas project craft station” in the kitchen. Before I could get the spreading blobs cleaned up the cats chased one another through the mess, leaving a trail of red and green paw prints on the white carpet in the sunroom. Nina then screamed and kicked on the floor when I told her she could not follow suit with handprints.

The cats have been banished to the basement while they lick their paws and think about their assumption that the Christmas tree was their new scratching post to climb and topple, and that the lights on the tree were … well, whatever it is that idiot cats think glow and are therefore necessary to chew.

The day drug on with the same grit. Nina, naturally, refused to nap and by late afternoon we were both exhausted. By then the roads had cleared and, craving a reprieve, I bundled her up and we headed to the gym for a regularly scheduled yoga class.

“No class today,” the perky young girl at the front desk sang out, swinging her bouncy ponytail and smiling like she was ready to break into a cheer. I stared at her blankly, then asked to sign in for childcare so I could at least walk on the treadmill.

“Whoopsie! No childcare either!” she chirped, “It’s because the schools are closed today. Sorr-eeee!”

Huh? What childless genius decided not to at least have childcare at a place of wellness on snow day #2?!

On the way home, I made a quick stop at Target, where Nina immediately threw a fit because apparently I sat her in the wrong cart.

I persevered. And so did she, making peace with our perfectly-normal cart by suddenly pretending it was a bucking bull and she was the rider in this rodeo. She grabbed a tube of wrapping paper from the cart and swung it, nearly swiping an elderly lady who spun around and scampered away from us, looking back once with wide-eyed horror.

“Give me that!” I hissed, snatching the tube from Nina’s grip and mumbling, “Now it’s squished.”

I decided to ditch the rest of the shopping list, and made a dash for checkout to pay for the crumpled tube of wrapping paper.

As we left the store — marveling that the other customers were refraining from applause — Nina calmly asked, “Mommy, are kids hard to squish?”

Here’s my question.

Does it make me a bad mom if — rather than rushing to assure her that “Oh no, darling! Children are nothing like wrapping paper!” — I had to stop myself from saying, “Only one way to find out.”

— by Amy Rawe


Some Thoughts On Faith

I was raised in the Presbyterian church and thought I had God and religion under my belt until I went to college at a Southern Baptist university. A particularly hypocritical religion professor and the pervasive belief that all is God’s will — be it a bad grade or a friend’s horrific car accident — eroded my footing. Eastern religions became more appealing, but mostly I just backed away from the whole God-question, which was easy to do during the fifteen years I lived in a small liberal town on the coast of Maine. Although there were the requisite churches for those who wanted to attend, I  didn’t know anyone who did and religion was considered to be a private matter.

When Nina and I and my then-husband moved to Knoxville, religion pounced on us like a large hyped-up dog. As we unloaded boxes from the moving truck into our new house during a sweltering July afternoon, two men in sweat-soaked white shirts walked down the street, stopping at each house. As they approached our driveway, my husband and a friend who was helping us scampered inside. I was left, red-faced and dripping with sweat, carrying a box down the ramp of the truck.

“How’s it going?” one asked cheerily, as if I happened to be sitting under a ceiling fan on a verandah doing nothing more than eating bon-bon’s. I put the box down and wiped my sleeve across my brow. They introduced themselves as pastors at a Baptist church up the road, and asked me if I’d been born again. I wanted to say, “I was a believer until I became a skeptic,” but instead I picked up the box, moved past them, and said, “We’re not looking for a new church, thank you. And we’re busy moving in, as you can see. You’re welcome to help unload, if you like.” They walked on to the next house.

Just days later, a proper Southern woman asked if we had found a “church home, for our precious child of God.” And so we decided we needed to find a church, not out of our convictions, but so we had a robe to hide behind — kind of an armor to hold up and say, “See! We go here.” We also figured that if we were living in a place where the topic of religion was on the tip of tongues, then Nina would need have an understanding of it all, too.

We searched for the most liberal options — including the Unitarian church where a gunman had opened fire — killing two — just a year earlier because of the church’s “free-thinking.” Ultimately, we felt at home at the Presbyterian church my parents have attended for more than twenty years. Before we officially joined the church after a year of attending, my husband I met with the pastor, who is a young razor-sharp man with an outrageously irreverent sense of humor. I told him that I wasn’t sure I was qualified to be a member, since I don’t think Christianity is the only path to faith. He said, “Well, welcome to the craziest congregation of druids, Buddhists, Jews, skeptics, and some Presbyterians. You’ll fit right in. We have a labyrinth in the woods just beyond the parking lot, for pete’s sake. At one point, the youth hung Tibetan prayer flags out there.”

Yet on the day we officially joined our new church in Knoxville, my left ear was so clogged that I had a hard time hearing. Surely there’s a sign there, words of welcome falling on deaf ears and all.

After Sunday school with the “super-cool” Miss Mary, Nina said, “I don’t like church. They just talk about God and I don’t like God.” I asked her to tell me more.

“I guess it’s not that I don’t like God, but that I don’t know about God,” she said, “I don’t understand what God is, or where he is. Miss Mary tells me he is a he, like a daddy or something, and he is everywhere but I’ve never seen the guy.”

I tell her that I’m confused about God, too, but that there are a lot of different ways to think about God and no one way is the only right way. I tell her that often when I hear the name “God” I substitute the word “Love.”

“I think that ultimately God is about loving each other and trying to take care of ourselves, other people, and the earth,” I offered tentatively. This is from the mother who feels like a hypocrite even going to church — that I go not to worship a God I believe is my Lord and Savior but because it’s an open-minded, safe place to question faith in general. And because I love many of the people who also choose to be there. They ask Nina about the super-hero cape she often wears and agree with her that God doesn’t care if she doesn’t wear fancy clothes to church. And everyone in the pew doubled over with laughter one Sunday when she attempted to slide a smuggled-in whoopie cushion in my dad’s place as he sat down. As much as I know I should’ve chastised her for such improper behavior, I’ve got to figure that God doesn’t mind laughter, either.

I bought What Is God? for Nina and me to read. It’s a beautiful all-inclusive children’s book, acknowledging that God is a mystery. The colorful pages cover all the versions of God, from the old bearded man in the sky to Mohammed and Buddha, and emphasizes the interconnectedness of us all.

Nina leaned into me on the couch and we’d just turned the page about how people of one religion sometimes fight with people of another religion because they don’t understand that all religions come down to the same thing. God is everything, we read, from the hot wind in the desert to the freezing snow in the winter to the big, yellow moon.

“Are we about done?” Nina asked, “All this God talk hurts my brain.” I skim ahead to the last few pages on prayer and global interconnectedness and said, “Yeah. We’ll finish another time.”

Hours later, while she was coloring a My Little Pony picture and I was making dinner, she said, “I think it’s a force field.”

“What’s a force field?” I asked.

“God. Kind of like when I was at pony camp and learned how to stand on the saddle on Snickers. I didn’t fall because there was a force field all around me.”

“Of course,” was all I could muster to say, admiring her conviction with a tad bit of envy.

I read this poem, posted by my writing instructor, out loud to Nina:

God Says Yes To Me
by Kaylin Haught

“I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes”

After I finished, Nina looked at me with furrowed brows and I prepared myself for her question about the “she” issue. Instead, she said, “Can you be a little more like that, Mama? I mean, with your yeses?”

My friend Monique arrived from Asheville with her five-year-old daughter, Tessa, who would be staying with me and Nina while Monique attended a Biblical-Counseling workshop. I met Monique after she and her husband moved into the house four doors down from us in Maine. Because their house was on the corner of a four-way-stop sign — and because they hadn’t put up blinds or curtains in their kitchen yet — I stole glimpses of them in their kitchen as I drove by and guessed they were about our age.

Having been the new kid on the block a couple times when I was younger, I have an internal welcome-wagon setting that kicks into gear in a situation like this. On the morning of Super Bowl Sunday, I stopped at their house after running to the grocery store, knocked on the door, and invited them to join us. They did, and we’ve been friends since despite their move to Asheville and ours to Knoxville — and our differences in faith.

Monique and her family are Seventh-Day Adventists, and were somewhat of an anomaly in our small liberal town. They had a bible on the side table, for godssake, which dinner guests placed their drinks as far away from as possible. But Monique and her family persevered, and never in an obtrusive way. They would only talk about how their faith worked for them — “We prayed about how to strengthen our relationship,” for example — and never suggested to their friends that they do the same.

Now that she’s back with family and her familiar church, Monique has been studying to counsel others from a Bible-based perspective. Shortly after she left for her workshop, Nina and Tessa got re-acquainted, beginning with age and grade. Nina eagerly showed Tessa one of her addition worksheets from school.

Tessa, who attends a private Christian school, replied, “Do you pray in school?” Nina screwed up her face as if to say “are you crazy?” and said, “No. Well, we say the Pledge of Allegiance and that has God in it.”

“No,” Tessa said, “like you have church while you’re at school. We do. Everyday.”

Nina flipped her hand in the air and said, “No way. But we God-it-up on Sundays.”

“Tell me a story about God,” Nina said, sitting on the toilet in her 1960’s green-tiled bathroom while I filled the bathtub. My mind went blank. “A story about you and God,” she prodded. I didn’t say, “Once we were good friends but I didn’t like some of the zealots he was hanging out with so we haven’t been in touch for awhile.”

She answered my silence with, “Well, I know a lot about God.”

“You do?” I asked. “Where did you learn so much about God?”

“I just know,” she said. “I was born knowing. Kids come out knowing about God and all that stuff. God’s inside us.” She looked out the bathroom window at the trees that were beginning to drop their leaves and said, “And he’s in the trees and the leaves, and…” She trailed off while her eyes scanned the bathroom, landing on the bubbles in the bath. “He’s even in the bubbles, definitely in bubbles. Oh, and God’s ok with tantrums,” she added.

I can have faith in that. And for right now, that’s enough.

— Amy Rawe

New Life

Although I am not yet born,
still tumbling in the ocean
within you,
you saw me today
for the first time
through ultrasound.
You learned I am a girl
and you will name me Nina —
meaning strong and mighty.

I felt you shake as you cried
and the doctor asked
if you were disappointed by
my gender.
You were not.
But you shook with the gravity
of bringing a female into this world that
has chiseled you into a nice girl,
into this marriage that will
erode your voice
as you fail
to be the perfect wife,
the perfect anything.

But I will stir
the knowing
already within you.

For me,
you will one day
from the drowning to
gasp and sputter for air.

As I will do when I emerge from you,
you will take your
first breath,
crying out for new life.
And for me you will
re-learn your language,
as you teach me
my own first words.

You will croak guttural truth
after truth until the song of you
once again flows,
and you will sing to me
the lullaby of how to be
a strong woman,
how to swim free from
the undertow,
how to harness the tides of
fear and faith,
how to be the
moon of myself.

And once again
you will be pregnant
with possibility.

— amy rawe

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