Monday, March 24, 2014

grief: three years

I found myself weeping unexpectedly a lot, in the months leading up to the third anniversary of her death. At my desk at work, while crossing the street, in the middle of chopping vegetables. I couldn't control it, because I didn't know it was coming. It had been a long time since I was like this, and I didn't understand what was going on. Was I anxious because I'd asked my mother to spend the anniversary with me instead of with the rest of family in Israel, for the first time?

I should have known. I should have remembered, because I know the last time I regularly burst into tears on the subway, years and years ago. This only happens when there's a grief I haven't voiced, a loss I haven't acknowledged, to others or to myself. After I say it, it gets easier.

So, here is my best guess.

There is nothing like having a sibling in some ways. No one else was there, watching from almost the same vantage point as you, while the experiences that shaped you were happening. There is no one else with whom you can re-examine the formative assumptions of your life, years later: was that really what our parents did? Am I remembering it right? Did I even perceive it right, while it was happening?

And there's no one else who can shoulder certain burdens with you. When tragedy strikes your family, there is nothing like knowing you are not alone.

I knew all that - because all that had already happened to me. It shaped my determination to have at least two kids, because I knew hard things would lie ahead for them, as they do for everyone. I knew I couldn't guarantee they would be there for each other, or even that they'd get along. But I knew I would do everything I could to give them the chance.

What I didn't know was how much my siblings were part of my identity, until one of them was gone. I don't mean part of my life, or even part of my heart; I mean part of my self. The self I think of unconsciously, fundamentally, as me.

She was the baby, so little for the first part of my life, I barely knew her. And yet the fact of who we were - that we were four sisters - was something I was so proud of. Always. As we both got older, the individual point on the diamond that she played became more and more important to me. She shaped me, there is no question. As much as I could ever have possibly shaped her. I know exactly how I am different, because I grew up with her.

In the first months after she died, when someone asked how many sisters I have, I didn't know how to answer. I couldn't bring myself to say two. Not because it was painful - because it was a lie. Now I just say, I'm one of four. That will always be the truth. The truth of us.

A piece of my self is missing, you see. I don't know where it is. I will never get it back.

I've been crying a lot less, since I said that to myself. So I think that was probably it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

who before his time

I've been angry this time of year for...a long time, it seems like. Irrationally so; I don't believe what happens to people, in this world, bears any relationship to what they deserve. I don't believe anymore that we could have prayed harder, or done more good deeds, or been more repentant of heart, and 'averted the evil decree.' I just don't believe Gd intervenes in the natural course of events in one person's life on that level.

I don't believe U'netaneh Tokef means what I was taught it means. And even if it does, I don't believe it's the be-all and end-all of theology.

But I've been angry at Gd, nonetheless. Because I don't believe the people I love deserve what happened to them - and, apparently, I hold that against Him.

It occurred to me recently that if I'm going to blame Him for the bad stuff, I really have to give Him credit for the good stuff, too.

This year has been undeniably good to the four of us. I found a job just when we needed it most - and just when, for the first time in four years, I felt my children were in safe enough hands at school that I could work. Bet had such a restorative experience at his new school, people can't believe he's the same child. More often than not, now, he comes across as happy and secure. He has real friends. He will still have social cognitive challenges, but I have hope he will meet them with puzzlement or curiosity, not anger or fear. Aleph made friends for the first time without adult help, this year. And lived through another year with only minor allergic reactions.

My relationship with Lance is its own blessing.

I am grateful for all this - and for the chance not to go through this season with anger foremost in my heart.

Wishing you all a peaceful, restorative year.

Love,
Persephone

Friday, May 31, 2013

and now, ladies and gentlemen: the year in quotes.

BET: can you guess who i am? 
PERSEPHONE: [notes light saber] luke skywalker? 
BET: please! call me luke. 

ALEPH: you know, if you did the dishes a little more *often*, i wouldn't have to wait so long for you to play with me. 

[yeah, you kind of made your own bed there, kid]
BET: eema, SAVE ME! abba's going to tickle me just because i [innocent eyes] patted his tush!

ALEPH: [reading box] "the game where anything can happen." [excited] is that really true, eema??? 

ALEPH: oh, BOTHERDASH 

BET: [pointing at TV] hey, isn't that Spark? 
PERSEPHONE: ...who? 
BET: you know! Spark! from Star Trek?

BET: will you let me win? 
LANCE: yes. 
BET: are you sure? 
LANCE: bet, have i ever said i would let you win, and not done it? 
BET: no. 
LANCE: so then why are you worried? 
BET: because. this is the FUTURE. 

BET: i don't want my grapes on those holders. 
PERSEPHONE: stems? just take them off. 
BET: but i don't want to. it's... it's terribly upsetting.

[overheard from kids' room]
ALEPH: [moaning] 
BET: [shouting] are you okay, scientist???

[overheard from kids' room] 
ALEPH: [sobbing] bet, if you want i'll tell eema on both of us, okay?

BET: aleph, i can't be a brave knight anymore. i hurt my toe.

BET: you're supposed to say copy that! 
ALEPH: copy that! 
BET: [pause] ...right! ...good! ...i'm glad you copy that!
#WeDon'tHaveThisScriptDownYet  

ALEPH: any ideas for a bill? 
PERSEPHONE: hm. how about if you can't pay for school, you go for free?
ALEPH: well...maybe not free. how about half.
PERSEPHONE: okay.
ALEPH: okay bet, now you think of a bill.
BET: how about...no witches!

BET [cheerful]: we're just talking about zombies. 
ALEPH [equally cheerful]: and how they're, like, headless. so they're hard to kill.  

[overheard] 
ALEPH: -so the incredible hulk TWIRLED into action, because he'd been in ballet class, and-

ALEPH: this is so strange. i had *no idea* that when i banged it that hard, it would break!

ALEPH: i really only like books about science. and science fiction. and history. wait, is there history fiction? 

BET: finders keepers! ...whippers...neapers!

ALEPH: jedis don't ask why. jedis just do it. 

BET: [pats me reassuringly] you're doing GREAT with the lego thing.

ALEPH: abba, can i ask you a question? do you think your hair looks a little crazy?

[note: this is after finishing his] 
BET: boy, your pizza sure looks good! too bad i can't have just one bite. too bad. looks good. [pause] ENJOY it, eema!

[first time watching the princess bride:]
BET: [in tears] but if he gets killed, how are they gonna get MARRIED? 
BET: does she start loving the prince instead? is THAT how there's a happy ending?

[overheard the next day]
lego man #1: you killed my king. prepare to diiiiiiie. 
lego man #2: prePARE?! i'm not PREPARED!!

BET: hallo. my name is AMIGO MONTOYA

so glad i found this kids' magnetic poetry set!
so far bet has written "my hot mommy likes pigs." 

BET: i already know what i want for chanuka. i mean, *if* i find the afikomen this year.

ALEPH [singing]: i have the haaands of deaaath

[Dispatches from Aleph's Tantrum] "i don't want to be in a room with so many people! but the other room doesn't have enough people in it!" 
[Dispatches Part 2] "i know it doesn't have to be perfect! the problem is none of these are good ENOUGH!"

PERSEPHONE: you need more than underpants.
BET: you mean i need more than THUNDERpants

BET: are you having wine or grape juice? 
PERSEPHONE: wine. 
BET: i think you're doing a little too much of that.
PERSEPHONE: but...i had like two sips. and that's the first time in about a year.
BET: well. i don't want you to make a habit of it.

ALEPH: i like to move it move it / i like to move it move it [stops singing] eema, do you like to move it?

BET [on macaroni & cheese]: this is the best meal of the YEAR! …i mean day! …i mean week! …okay, it's ONE of the best! 

ALEPH: you know what kind of pajamas would be good? ZOMBIES

ALEPH: you know why i wanted raisins for snack? because it's easier to eat them mindfully.
PERSEPHONE: can't you eat any fruit mindfully? 
ALEPH: maybe. but raisins are easier to roll around your mouth. 
#oh #mindfulness #rolling #isee 

BET: [in underpants] i'm captain underpants! 
ALEPH: [looks down at self] i'm...captain naked! 

favorite new thing bet says: HAVE AT THEE! [rushes at you with nerf sword]

PERSEPHONE: wow, bet. i was sure you were going to need help with that and you did it all by yourself! 
BET: heh. expect the unexpected, eema.

LANCE: you're not coming? 
BET: no mr. bet. 
LANCE: mr. bet? 
BET: that's what some people call me. 
LANCE: who??
BET: okay no one calls me that.

BET: you go. you go! YOU GO! 
ALEPH: WHO IS HUGO??! 

[CRASH] aleph: "that worked better in my mind."

BET: i read a calvin story where he drank so much water he turned into a liquid. is that true? 
[simultaneously] LANCE: yes. PERSEPHONE: no. 
BET: so you CAN turn into a liquid if you drink too much water? 
LANCE: yes. PERSEPHONE: no. 
ALEPH: iiiiiiii'm gonna go with eema on this one

a clean-up song by aleph: how am i supposed to do all the things? / howwww? / how am i supposed to do all the things? / howwww? ♪ 

lance offered to make mac & cheese (bet's favorite) even cheesier (bet's favorite FAVORITE) by putting in an extra slice of cheese. bet said no. no? "see abba, the thing about me is...i only like mac & cheese with an even number of slices." 

ALEPH: look eema, i took the skin off my sweet potato. so it's dead now. because someone cut off its skin. with a sword.

aleph song of the day: han solo han solo / han solo han solo / how solo ARE you / and how HAN are you

[oh. i see my reputation has preceded me]
BET: [looking at shabbat dishes] eema, can we at least have a milchig sink by TUESDAY?

PERSEPHONE: bet, why don't you try to compromise with aleph. 
BET: okay! aleph, if you don't play it this way i'll never play with you again. 

BET [on diarrhea]: you know, if there's anything worse than this? it's dying. or SPANKING

[overheard from kids' room] 
"he has the ring of power, but it's not the ring that matters." 
"it's the man." 
"you mean the creature." 
"yeah, the creature. ...or robot." 
"the man, woman, robot, or cyborg. whatEVER." 

aleph song of the day: this time i'm not dead / this time i'm not dead / this time i'm alive and not dead / yeah yeahhhhh

BET: abba, do you love me enough that you would give up your life to save mine?
LANCE: yes. 
BET: can i tell you something? i'm not sure i would. because...i like going to school too much. 

LANCE: [puts out knife & cream cheese for bet to spread himself] 
LANCE: come on, bet! breakfast! 
BET: but-! oh, right. [sadly] you're not my slave.

BET: my friend says DC comics sucks. 
ALEPH: what does he mean it sucks? 
BET: i think it means it got sucked into something. 
#letsgowiththat 

PERSEPHONE: you're too tricky for me. 
BET: that's because i'm a superhero called BRAINMAN

BET [giggling]: infinity bottles of beer on the wall, infinity bottles of beer, take one down pass it around, …infinity bottles of beer on the wall

BET: eema? abba? [pause] [opens fridge] 
PERSEPHONE: um, bet? what are you doing? 
BET: [happily] i didn't see you guys so i thought i'd sneak some cheese.

BET [whispering to aleph right in front of me]: maybe she'll go to the bathroom and THEN you can eat the candy

BET: you know what i like about having an eema & abba? 
PERSEPHONE: what? 
BET: without them, i would have to live at bubby & zaidy's or saba & savta's house. and...there's not as much toys there. [pause] but cooler tv's! hey, you know what would be fun? 
PERSEPHONE: what? 
BET: maybe we could call bubby & zaidy and watch their tv on skype!

ALEPH: [slaps lance on the knee]
LANCE: [looks at him.]
ALEPH: you wanna do somethin' about it?

[note: i do not wear either of these]
BET: the only reason i don't like girls is because they wear makeup. and HAND LOTION

bet's paragraph describing his favorite food: 
"ahhhhhh! its cheesy. it has peas. it has three things you can taste. you put it in a pan."
#ahhhhhhitscheesy 

[home from aleph's friend's way cool science-themed birthday party]
LANCE: that was a pretty fun day! 
ALEPH: eh, not that much fun. 
LANCE: you know, aleph, you seem like the kind of person who can't be happy if things are not completely perfect. 
ALEPH: …and?

aleph song of the day: if this is not the cockpit / then iiiiiiiiii'm stumped

ALEPH [through door of my shower]: you know, i keep doing things, but after i finish them i am BORED AGAIN
PERSEPHONE: yes. that is...how life works. 
ALEPH: it's very ANNOYING

LANCE: okay, math quiz bonus round! how...many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man? 
ALEPH [blank pause]: ten? 
LANCE: YES! 

ALEPH: "well, we don't actually know if the torah is fiction or nonfiction." 
PERSEPHONE: [spit take]
ALEPH: "i mean, we BELIEVE it's nonfiction, but we don't actually KNOW."

ALEPH: i'm bored. 
PERSEPHONE: you just turned off the video game. 
ALEPH: i know, but i'm bored.
PERSEPHONE: you know aleph, one reason we don't let you play video games all day is if you let them entertain you, all day long, you might forget how to entertain yourself.
ALEPH: but eema. i never KNEW how to entertain myself.

BET [homework]: write a fact about dinosaurs. okay. 
[takes paper away; brings it back] 
BET: see, DINOSAURS DIED OUT. there. 
BET: oh wait, it says write and illustrate.
[takes paper away; brings it back]
BET: see, it's a dinosaur, with an arrow pointing to it, and it says DEAD. there.

ALEPH: [brings me a napkin unasked] 
PERSEPHONE: thank you, aleph! that's so nice of you. 
ALEPH: some people might say TOO nice

ALEPH: where can i find pajamas? 
PERSEPHONE: they're in the drawer. 
ALEPH: of despair?

BET: i'm just trying to kiss your nostrils!
#what #whatistheproblem

LANCE: good night, boys! tomorrow i'll say hello to a couple of 7 year olds.
[overheard after door closed] 
BET: ...he's talking about us, right?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

someone is wrong on the internet

As a few of you know, I used to post on an infertility message board. I hung around on their parenting-after-infertility board for the first few years, too. I didn't feel comfortable yet talking about parenting with people who took their fertility for granted. I wasn't sure if I ever would.

The question of "Why is my 1-year-old resisting solid food?" came up on a semi-regular basis. It was invariably answered by me with, "You might want to have an evaluation to rule out sensory aversions; it's free, it can't hurt, and it might help." And invariably, by another member, with, "You don't need that evaluation. Sensory issues with food would only happen on the autistic spectrum."

Now, I knew this was not true. Or...at least I was pretty sure. Bet must have been seen by a dozen professionals, by this point. All of them agreed he had sensory issues. None of them ever suggested he had autism; the few I was brave enough to ask, straight out, said there was no reason to even think it. But it wasn't just Bet. Every occupational therapist I'd ever spoken to said yes, sensory issues do overlap with autism, but of course you can have them on their own.

But the person saying this claimed to be an occupational therapist herself. So there was no arguing with her.  I just walked around muttering to myself...and to you guys: What does it matter whether your daughter is supposed to have sensory issues? Isn't the question whether she actually does?

Fast forward a couple of years with me, okay? Bet has qualified for and received years of feeding therapy. He turns out to have had oral-motor weakness, as well as acid reflux, all of which made chewing and swallowing harder for him, but yes: there's no question a lot of it was just plain sensory. And it's not surprising, looking back. Because although food texture was the first place it emerged - at 7 months, in fact, the very first time I tried him on pureed peas - as he got older, it became obvious that he has sensory aversions in pretty much every modality: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, motion.

So all this time, I've been thinking to myself, I know I was right, but I don't need to argue with anyone about it. We did the right thing for Bet. I don't even know these other babies; for all I know, they're just not ready for solid food, and everything will be fine.

Now fast forward to the present. And...Bet has just been diagnosed on the autistic spectrum.

Oh.

Er.

I guess I was wrong, huh?

No. No, I was even more right. Because here is the thing:

No one is going to diagnose a 1-year-old with autism. 

Autism is rarely diagnosed before age 3; usually age 4. For a child like Bet, who has one of the mildest versions of ASD (and is borderline even for that), it can easily be as late as age 6.

Why on earth would anyone want to turn down help for a child who's afraid of food until then?

I will confess I thought about it for 10 seconds, but...I'm not selfless OR masochistic enough to go back there and argue this one again. But I wanted to say this out loud somewhere. Somewhere searchable. If there's anyone out there who needs to hear it, I hope they will.

***

Edited to add, because I know at least one friend who's going to panic about this tonight: 

Please don't misunderstand; I am not saying that if your child is not eating solid food by age 1, you should start worrying that she's autistic. I just hate to see a parent who is already worried be told not to consider a here-and-now solution, for reasons that exist only in an unknowable future.

See your child for who she is. Don't let someone tell you who she's supposed to be.

That's it, for me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

baby / bathwater

Dear pulpit rabbis, shul presidents, and gabbaim of the previous generation? world:

When you announce the night before that shofar blowing will be at 10:30,

- and then you don't finish shacharit till 11:15, which happens, I get it,

- but my kids have been waiting quietly for the shofar for 45 minutes, and they're not going to be able to do it much longer,

- and anyway, pretty soon they're going to need to go home for lunch,

- and then? you get up and make an uplifting speech for half an hour?

you are endangering my ability to hear shofar.

How's that for uplifting?

When I talk to people about this, I hear a lot of "It's always been like this. [shrug] What're you gonna do?" So here's a few things you could do instead:

- for Gd's sake (and I mean that literally), when the obligatory parts of tefilla are running late, skip your entirely optional speech. I'll note here that your service didn't end until close to 2 PM.

- if you feel you have to speak? at least announce that you're going to be speaking for about 30 minutes, so I don't sit there stuck, afraid that it's just a few introductory words, and if I take the kids outside to blow off steam (or even run home to bring back lunch, which it never occurred to me I would need at 10:30), I will miss shofar blowing before I can get them back inside.

- or, if you feel you have to speak? announce that people with children are welcome to step outside; but assure us that someone will come out to tell us when you get up to shofar blowing, so I know I won't miss it, even if you can't tell me yet when that's going to be.

I will freely grant that none of this is intentional disrespect for the needs of caregivers with young children - let's be real here: overwhelmingly women. But I don't see how you can argue it is not disregard. If you don't know how the things you are doing affect your congregants, then you need to ask. Ask your wife, sister, daughter or neighbor what contortions she went through to make the kids' feedings, naps, and medication doses match up with a schedule for which you give her no informational updates at all. Ask what time she arranged the babysitter for and how much it cost. Ask how big a duffle bag full of distractions/provisions she needed to bring.

And yes, I know most shuls nowadays have an afternoon shofar blowing in case you miss the one in the morning. I do appreciate that. I just don't think it's enough - not when a little courtesy would make it entirely workable in the morning. Not when I'm already here trying to make it work in the morning. Not when my children are already here trying. And frankly, knowing how many things can go wrong with timing & little kids? I don't feel safe pinning all my chances on the afternoon, either.

I'm a lot calmer about this now than I was two days ago. I even considered not writing about it. But I don't think anyone who is angered by what goes on in the observant world can afford to suck it up in silence. For every one of us who speaks up, you don't know how many others are so turned off, they just don't come back.

Sincerely,
Persephone

Thursday, August 2, 2012

superhero meta

BET: Abba can we play Star Wars? You be Darth Vader and I'll be Luke.

LANCE: Okay.

BET: Darth Vader! You must leave the dark side and be good. Or I will have to fight you.

LANCE: No. YOU must come to the DARK side.

BET: No! You have to be good. That's the right thing.

LANCE: Maybe being bad is the right thing.

BET: No! Being good is the right thing.

LANCE: How do you know?

BET: My teacher told me. Master Yoda.

LANCE: Well, my teacher told ME being BAD is the right thing.

BET:

BET: Hold on Abba let's stop playing for a second. Being good IS the right thing, right?

---

BET: Hi! I'm Batman! 

[goes out; comes back in without cape] 

BET: Hi! I'm Bruce Wayne!

PERSEPHONE: Hey, did you see Batman? He was just here a minute ago.

BET: Nope! Didn't see him.

PPHONE: Huh. It's so strange the way I never see you two in the same room at the same time. 

BET: Oh, that's because I uh...go away on a trip with Abba when he's here.

PPHONE: Ohhhh. So it's just a coincidence?

BET: A what?

PPHONE: That's when two things happen at the same time, but they have nothing to do with each other.

BET:

BET: Eema hold on let's stop playing a minute. [stage whispers] I'M TRICKING YOU.

PPHONE: [stage whispers back] I KNOW.

BET: OHHHH. YOU'RE JUST *PRETENDING* YOU DON'T KNOW.

PPHONE: RIGHT.

BET: Okay! Let's keep playing.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

the year in quotes: now we are six!!!*

*i've only been waiting six years to say that

ALEPH: eema, you can't sit on the sofa anymore. i made it something that explodes. 

BET [completely serious, with mask on top of head]: oh NO! i can't find my spiderman mask. 

ALEPH: ♪ i throw luke skywalker in the air sometimes / saying aaaay-o ♪

[overheard from kids' room]
ALEPH: [bellowing] I AM NOT 'OLD CHUM'! 

BET: [peeks head around bathroom door] can you pretend to be catwoman? 
PPHONE: i...okay.
BET: [closes door again] 

[overheard from kids' room] 
"DON'T. CALL ME. PROFESSOR. POOPY." 

ALEPH: see bet, you broke mine. now, i'm not gonna punish you; i just want you to know that it wasn't good. 

[I Do Not Think That Means What You Think It Means]
ALEPH [crying]: i got hurt. but i don't want to tell you how. 
US: we kind of need to know. 
ALEPH: fine. i accidentally stood on a rocking chair.

ALEPH: if superman didn't have a weakness, i would be him so much more often.

BET: [after bath] ♪naked naked naked, banana-fana-fak-ed♪

ALEPH: when [hop] you [hop] finish [hop] the dishes [hop] i [hop] want [hop] to do [hop] an [hop] activiteeeeeeee

ALEPH: [falsetto] ♪i like cows / yes i do / i like cows / how about yoooooou♪ 

ALEPH: [crying] bet, you can't pick that up! i wanted to pick it up! 
BET: well, sometimes you get to pick it up; sometimes you don't. 
ALEPH: [still crying] but i wanted to! 
BET: *sigh* okay. i will put it back down on the floor, and this time you can pick it up. 

LANCE: everyone remember the rules about throwing water at the park? 
ALEPH: i...remember you have rules, i just don't remember what they are.

PPHONE: [very late and lost my directions] 
BET: eema? eema? eema? 
PPHONE: i'm busy right now, bet. i'm busy. I'M BUSY! DO YOU HEAR ME TELLING YOU? 
[finally find my directions.]
PPHONE: okay. hi, bet. what's going on? 
BET: I'M BUSY! REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE BUSY? NOW I'M BUSY! 

BET: where do we live? 
LANCE: where do you think we live? 
BET: ...africa? 

ALEPH: see bet, the thing is, i'm starting to get more into star wars and science than superfriends.

BET: i need something to eat. 
PPHONE: raisins? 
BET: there is none. 
PPHONE: no, there are! i'll give you some. 
BET: oh RAISINS! i thought you said reasons

BET: [follows me into bathroom; shuts door] i'm just closing that to make sure aleph gives you privacy. 

BET: [aims cardboard tube at me] i'm switching out your brain!

BET [from bathroom] uh oh. 
PPHONE: what? 
BET: uh oh. 
PPHONE: what?? 
BET: nothing! i was just pretending something was wrong. 

BET: i'm batman! this is my bat-pooper! 

BOYS [both out of bed]: eema? you didn't give us hugs & kisses goodnight. 
PPHONE: yes i did. 
BOYS: well we don't remember you giving them!
PPHONE: [heartless] sorry.

BET: cut! cut! cut! i'm cutting off your fingers! 
BET: let's lie down and snuggle. 

ALEPH: can i tell you something, han solo?

BET: i'm very upset with darth vader. 
PPHONE: why? 
BET: he sent me a birthday card. it said bad things. 
PPHONE: wait, who are you?? 
BET: batman! 

[Road Tripping]
LANCE: deer crossing sign! 
PPHONE: deer crossing sign! 
ALEPH: deer crossing sign! 
[everyone waits] 
BET: yup! 

[...Road Tripping Too Long]
ALEPH: i met a man and he said, i haven't had a jump all day! so i jumped on him! HAHAHAHA! 
BET: HAHAHAHA! 

BET: [being tickled] HAHAHAHAHAstop that's too funny 

ALEPH: eema, i know the problem isn't your fault, but it is something you're doing.

BET: i don't think you can buy luke skywalker at the store. 
ALEPH: iiiiiii believe you're wrong.

BET: [glaring at me] why do we have to go pick blueberries, if we already HAVE BLUEBERRIES. 

BET: [glaring, in green lantern mask] 
PPHONE: why do you look so angry? 
BET: [gritting teeth] green lanterns are ALWAYS ANGRY.  
ALEPH: [also in green lantern mask] eema, can i sit on your lap? 
BET: green lanterns NEVER say sit on your LAP!

[mid-chess game]
ALEPH: abba, i think what i have you is called 'on the run.' 

BET: eema, guess what! we saw spiderman in times square! and i asked him if he was real! and he said yes! but i don't know if that was true. 
PPHONE: wow. i think maybe he was a real person, but maybe not the real spiderman.
BET: yeah. i think maybe he was peter parker. 

BET: aleph, i thought you said you were going to watch over the toaster.
ALEPH: no! i'm combining human DNA with dinosaurs. 

[looking at pictures of jewelry] 
BET: ooh, those are fancy. wish you could buy ME something fancy. wait! my knight-hat is fancy!

[overheard from kids' room] "you can't trust your computer! you can only trust me!" 

[overheard from kids' room] "if you let me be your master, it will WORK!" 

BET [yelling]: you're not the boss of me! 
ALEPH [yelling back]: yes i -! [pause.] i KNOW that, but -! 

[overheard from kids' room]
ALEPH: excuse me bet, are you sure you know what you're doing? 
BET: of coooourse i do

ALEPH: eema! i kind of did a stand-head! 

ALEPH: eema, how did super grover get his powers?

ALEPH: i met a man walking down the street and he said, i haven't had a bite all day. so i bit him. IN THE EYE. 

BET: i'm getting a little bit into star wars. 
ALEPH: well, you gotta get a lot into star wars if you want to BE star wars. 

[still not adjusted to summer. what. it's only…august.]
BET: [stamping foot] eema, when are we gonna wear PANTS again already!
PHONE: what do you like better about pants than shorts? 
BET: they're LONGER!

[OH RILLY I HADN'T NOTICED] 
ALEPH: [patiently] see eema, i like to keep busy with something. but...sometimes i don't like your ideas. 

ALEPH: why do they call it a peapod if you're not supposed to pee in it? 

ALEPH: bet, i need to go to the bathroom. you want to come do water experiments while i'm in there? 
BET: sure! 

BET: [points at tampons] eema, do you have any idea what those things are? 

PPHONE: you didn't eat your banana. 
BET: it's brown. 
PPHONE: no, it isn't. see? no brown. 
BET: it tastes cold! 
PPHONE: um...it's room temp. 
BET: this banana doesn't feel normal! 
PPHONE: [gives up]
BET: [shrugs. eats banana] 

ALEPH: R2-D2 needs to go to the droid hospital. i'm gonna go with him. because...it's his 1st time, and i've been to the hospital before. 
ALEPH [moments later]: his ambulance blew up. i'm gonna have to carry him the rest of the way. 

BET: [screaming] EEMA!!! remember you said we could only scream if we were bleeding broken or on fire? I'M BLEEDING. [points to chapped lip]

ALEPH: i can't have that juice. it's not safe for me. 
PPHONE: 
PPHONE: no, aleph, it's pina colada! not peanut.

[1:30 AM] 
aleph comes out crying "bet won't let me put up a star wars shelf!" 
aleph tucked back in muttering, "this really isn't FAIR mumble mumble"

BET: [whispers in my ear] 
PPHONE: what? that was so soft i couldn't hear it. 
BET: i know. it's a secret secret. 

ALEPH: ♪ jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle ingle belllllls ♪ 
PPHONE: um...where did you learn that song? 
ALEPH: i didn't! i made it up. 

BET: are you sure castles were made before rocket ships? i don't believe you. 

PPHONE: you're a funny boy sometimes. 
BET: what do you mean? i'm a funny boy all the time. 

[Good Morning To You Too]
ALEPH: why is your face like that? 
PPHONE: like what? 
ALEPH: like how it is right now! 
PPHONE: how is it??
ALEPH:...i don't know.

GREAT AUNT: bet, do you love me? 
BET: i'm not sure i should answer that. because i might hurt your feelings. very badly.

[somehow i thought we had a lot longer before this conversation]
ALEPH: can you turn from an orthodox person into a not-orthodox person?
ALEPH: ...but Hashem isn't angry at either one of them, right?

[post 'But I Can't Put On My Own Socks' tantrum] 
PPHONE: thanks for your hard work, aleph. 
ALEPH: [still crying] none of this is hard, eema.  
PPHONE: [iiiii know.] thanks for your...frustrating work? 
ALEPH: [frustrated] it's not even frustrating! it's just DUMB, is what it is!

BET: can i teach you a lesson? 
ALEPH: no. i know all my lessons already. 

BET [on jennifer of the jungle]: she has this gorilla, and she says 'you always say the sweetest things!'  [sighs dreamily] 

[Cartoon Vocabulary]
ALEPH: i won't give in to your evil orchestrations! 
GROWNUP: [laughs] do you know what orchestrations are? 
ALEPH: plans! 

[...Possibly Too Many Cartoons]
ALEPH: Hashem...is the king...of the UNIVERSE! MWAHAHAHA! 

BET: maybe if i see a video, my stomach will stop having hiccups! 
EEMA: i...don't think that's how it works. 
BET: never know till you try! 
BET: that's not funny! stop laughing!

BET: STOP! what are you DOING to my FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE!

ALEPH: eema, i'm good at beating people in my class when i play checkers, but you are tricky.

ALEPH: ♪ if you don't i'll punch youuu / if you don't i'll pinch you in the baaack / if you don't i'll throw a bomb at youuu ♪

[You Might Have A Sensory Seeker If]
ALEPH: eema, can we snuggle? 
PPHONE: [hugs] 
ALEPH: [braces his hands on my chest and pushes]
PPHONE: that's...the opposite of snuggling. 
ALEPH: oh! 

[erev Yom Kippur] 
PPHONE: bet, if i hurt your feelings this year, i'm sorry. 
BET: well, you did. lots of times. but I FORGIVE YOU. 

[on running into an erstwhile babysitter]
BET: can i tell you something? i think it's pretty sad that you don't come visit us anymore. 
SITTER: i'm sorry. i've just been so busy. 
BET: you don't need to be sorry! it's not your fault. 

ALEPH: eema? is pluto in neptune's orbit right now? 

PPHONE: i found this at the thrift shop. can you tell me what it is?
LANCE: that's batman.
PPHONE: yes, i know. which batman?
LANCE: that's...scuba...attack batman. obviously.
PPHONE: did you just make that up??

ALEPH: hey, look what i found in my mouth! 
PPHONE: [a choking hazard??...a peanut?
ALEPH: [HOLDS OUT TOOTH]

ALEPH: i can never sleep the whole night. but i CAN take short naps. 
BET: i can't ever sleep. 
PPHONE: never? 
BET: never. 
PPHONE: wow! you must be really tired. 
BET: I AM! 

BET: i need to think about whether i'm gonna ruin your plan. 
ALEPH: if you ruin my plan, i'll ruin your plan. 
BET: what's my plan? 
ALEPH: when you have a plan! then i'll ruin it. 

[overheard from kids' room] 
BATMAN: hey robin, you want to take a nap? 
ROBIN: yeah, okay. 

BET: i don't want to go outside. 
LANCE: but you always say that. and you always end up having fun. 
BET: i know, but i'm TIRED of that. 
PPHONE: you're tired of having fun? 
BET: i'm tired of having fun when abba SAYS. 
LANCE: [gives pphone meaningful look] this is all you. 
PPHONE: [laughing too hard to talk] i.know. 

BET: i made this myself! it's called the transweapon-mitter. no, no, the transmitter-weaponer. 

BET: huggeh baybeh! 
PPHONE: ...huggy baby? 
BET: yeah. i'm saying it in a different language. huggehh baybehhhhhh! 

ALEPH: [playing] okay, i've had enough of that. let's do some homework! 

PPHONE: so, aleph types gibberish, and bet just types batmanbatmanbatmanbatmanbatman. 
LANCE: i'm pretty sure that's how faulkner got started.

[Is not child. Is cat.]
BET [suddenly appears at my elbow]: can you stroke my back? 

PPHONE: aleph, you're being a little bit ridiculous. 
ALEPH: well it's [sob] kind of [sob] HARD not to be [sob] 

[It's Probably Inappropriate To Laugh When Your Son Makes Up Words Mid-tantrum] 
BET: i'm so DESTRICTLY ANGRY!

BET: if i was an indian and they took my land, i'd hit them in the face, and kick them in the face, and...do a lot of things to them in the face. 

[trying to persuade bet to practice soccer]
ALEPH: bet, can i remind you a lot of things you know how to do, you couldn't do the first time you tried?

ALEPH: [sleepwalks out of bedroom at grandparent's house] [inexplicably wearing maroon satin yarmulka]


[overheard from kids' room] 
"and we'll dress the poop up like ice cream." 
"yeah." 
"yeah."

BET [as batman]: i guess we'll have to do this the HARD way! 
PPHONE: what's the hard way? 
BET: i don't know, that's just something i say. 

[i can stop anytime, son. aaaaanytime]
ALEPH: eema, can you stop talking about vegetables for a second?

BET: so on chanuka the greeks lost, right? 
PPHONE: right. 
BET: and the maccabeats won, right?
PPHONE: [ahahaha! whoops.]
BET: it's a good thing all the greeks are dead! 
PPHONE: ...um. 

ALEPH: someone was injured! 
BET: someone was ninja-ed? 

BET [on blue's clues]: i really enjoy this show. but i'm not sure why everybody's dancing.

BET [on the fresh beat band]: i don't like this part. they're kooky. they dance too much. 
BET: aleph and me don't even like dancing. they're not serious! we're SERIOUS! 
BET: [tries to look severe] [can't keep straight face]

ALEPH: this elevator smells a little like throw-up. mostly like french fries. but a little like throw-up. 

[on To Do List: 1. explain expletives 2. explain irony]
aleph now says "oh, NUTS!" when frustrated

PPHONE: are you ready to ask for it nicely? 
BET: *sigh* YES. just give it to me, willya? 

BET: cookies? i love cookies!
LANCE: yeah? which do you love more, me or cookies? 
BET: *sigh* abba. there's different kinds of love. 

[in the middle of my lecture on anger management]
BET: you're rambling, eema.
PPHONE: what?! i am not. 
BET: [smiling] yes, you are. wordgirl says rambling is going onnnn and onnnn and not really having a point. 
PPHONE: i do too have a point!! 

BET: if i met a stranger i wouldn't talk to them. know why? because they might do bad things to me. especially a WOLF stranger.

ALEPH: actually, mostly only - actually, mostly only - actually...mostly...only...abba what was i talking about?? 

BET: eema, maybe when i grow up i can be a monkey actor. i'm practicing my swinging. so i can do that. 

BET: [into my neck] eema. i care for you very much. 

BET: [stamps foot] i'm angry! 
PPHONE: okay. what are you angry about? 
BET: i forgot! [stamp] what i'm angry about! 

[in latest feat of evil, i made kids wear their fleece pajamas to play outside because it's 20 degrees.]
BET: everyone will know!
PPHONE: no they won't. 
BET: but what if someone touches my pants?
PPHONE: okay, how about DON'T LET STRANGE PEOPLE TOUCH YOUR PANTS.

ALEPH: eema, this is such a good supper. thank you! 
PPHONE: wow! thank you for thanking me! 
ALEPH: you could just say you're welcome. 

PPHONE: [gives kiss] surprise kiss! 
BET: that wasn't a surprise. 
PPHONE: how'd you know i was going to do that? 
BET: because i'm trickehh, baybehh. 

LANCE: maybe we can play star wars! 
ALEPH: no, because bet is gonna want to be batman. and i'm getting tired of star wars with batman in it. 
BET: ...he's right.

BET: time for another video? 
LANCE: no. it's time for turning off the tv, and hugging, and then getting dressed. 
BET: and mind control?

BET [to pphone]: i just want to tell you something. i love you. more than your favorite...more than your COMPUTER! also more than macaroni and cheese. but that doesn't count 'cause that's a different kind of love. 

hoping aleph never stops calling it "the top bunker" and "the bottom bunker"

[4 am] 
ALEPH: [crying in our doorway] where is bet?
PPHONE: he's in bed.
ALEPH: but he didn't answer when i called him. 
PPHONE: that's because he's SLEEPING.
ALEPH: [tucked back in bed, still crying] but it's very dark in here.
PPHONE: that's because IT'S 4 O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING

BET: eema. i love you. can i please please please hold your hand.

ALEPH [building lego]: and this is his magical water chair of DESTINY.

BET [to lego man]: here you are, you magnificent knight!

[Emerging Readers]
BET [reading computer screen over my shoulder]: i...don't...give...a... 
PPHONE: [scrolls down RAPIDLY]

[The Pesach Story: A Retelling] 
"and then the Torah shot LASER beams at him!" 

[watching wonder pets rescue another cute baby animal]
BET: i wish every video we watch, we could just jump in and KILL them! 

[Emerging Readers, Part 2]
ALEPH: you know, eema? many things are made in china.

[Send.Help.]
ALEPH: oh! i LIKE mouth kissing. 

BET [one finger pressed to forehead, whispering to self]: thinkthinkthink!

ALEPH: ohhhh. this is a real cooked chicken? 
PPHONE: um. yes? 
ALEPH: no WONDER it's so tasty!

[1 AM] 
PPHONE: do you smell...food?? 
LANCE: you don't think aleph is sleep-cooking, do you?

ALEPH: eema, when you say good things to me when i'm sad, it makes me even sadder
PPHONE: *sigh* fine. no more good things. 
ALEPH: but no bad things either.  
PPHONE: 
ALEPH: eema, i REALLY don't like when my homework takes this long. 
PPHONE: 
ALEPH: [stares at me] why aren't you saying anything.

ALEPH: [in bath] ♪ that man in special suit, against the water-gun-of-destinyyyyy ♪

BET: do babies understand what we say? 
PPHONE: no, they have to learn that. 
BET: do we understand what babies say? 
PPHONE: we have to learn that, too. 
BET: wait. do babies understand OTHER babies?

[playing chess against himself]
ALEPH: [singsong] iiiiii wouldn't do that if i were youuuuuu! 

[Yeshiva Education: So Worth It]
ALEPH: see, Hashem is basically like an alien that can do whatever it wants. 

PPHONE: i think your pants are inside out. 
ALEPH: that's okay. i don't mind. 
PPHONE: you...won't be able to get into the pockets. 
ALEPH: i don't need pockets.

LANCE: there's a song about driving, wanna hear it? 
ALEPH: what's it called. 
LANCE: Born to Be Wild. 
ALEPH [firm]: no. 
LANCE: [laughing] oh no no, i mean, uh, Barney the Dinosaur Likes to Drive.
ALEPH: really?
LANCE: yes! 
ALEPH: no.

[Pesach Day 7] 
BET [despairingly]: i've forgotten what everything i like tastes like! 

[Hard To Argue With This]
BET: abba, why are you sad? it would be worser if i killed you. 

BET [re: my library book]: what's that about? 
PPHONE: um. werewolves? 
BET: who's that woman? 
PPHONE: she's married to one of them. 
BET: does he kill her? 
PPHONE [laughing]: what? no! he loves her. 
BET: well what happens?
PPHONE: i don't know! i haven't read it yet. all i know is she's having a baby. 
BET: well when you finish it, can you just tell me: does he EAT the baby?

[bet composes superman-style tagline for wonder woman] 
"look, up in the sky! it's an american flag! it's...an almost-naked woman! it's..." 

ALEPH: you know what i hate most in the world? 
BET: aveiros? 
ALEPH: no, eating poop & pee. 
BET: and also aveiros?

[follow-up question]
BET: eema, which is more important? not doing aveiros or not eating poop? 
PPHONE: not eating poop. 
BET: what?! 
PPHONE: [heretic] sorry. 

ALEPH: ♪ if he kills me, right-before-he-does, i'll order someone to kill him, after-he-kills-me ♪

ALEPH: what happens on yom ha'atzmaut? 
PPHONE: [lectures on state of israel's birth] 
ALEPH: see, i thought what happens is i go to a party at yeshiva university.

BET: does your soul ever go back in your body after you die? 
PPHONE: no. i mean, Hashem could make it, but He doesn't. that's a really big miracle called t'chiyat hameitim, bringing dead people back to life, and Hashem doesn't do miracles like that nowadays. 
BET: oh right! like zombies?

ALEPH: is 20 x 50 a thousand? i thought so. because 10 times 100 is a thousand, and 50 is half of 100, so...all i have to do is double the 10s.

[bet has to draw his math homework, but he gets to decide what to depict it with:] 
"that's 2 people who do ballet + 5 people who do ballet. i gave them extra arms because they're twirling so fast." 
"that's 2 aliens in a spaceship." 
"you might think that's a door, but it's really a house with a forcefield around it."  

BET: are you making macaroni & cheese? 
PPHONE: yes! how did you know? 
BET: i smelled it. 
[note: only thing in pot so far = water]

ALEPH: [wakes me up way too early] can you tell me where bet went? he's not in the bedroom or bathroom or living room.
PPHONE: [blearily] wha?
ALEPH: [comes back] oh sorry he's in bed actually i didn't see him there sorry

ALEPH: eema, i want to ask you. have you ever been in space before?

BET: my INVISIBLE SWORD is MISSING

Friday, May 25, 2012

agency

For those of you who don't follow me on Twitter, we just pulled Bet mostly out of school. It has become overwhelmingly clear that the school is both unable, and unwilling, to protect him from being bullied.

It has become clear, too, that Bet has difficulty reading social cues and controlling himself: he responds aggressively to neutral things that other kids do, which were never meant to bother him. But there is no doubt he is also being repeatedly, intentionally harrassed. Even if it weren't emotionally damaging him to stay in this environment, it would be pointless. We can't possibly teach him to behave like the other kids are not out to get him, if they actually are out to get him.

Putting this decision into action was way too many things I hate - heartbreaking, enraging, confrontational - and I knew I would be relieved when it was over. But I didn't fully understand why.

I guess it should have been obvious; I've been so focused on what Bet needs - he needs to feel safe, he needs to be safe, he needs to get out of there. I spent a while just holding him, the day I picked him up sobbing after he was ganged up on by almost his entire class, holding him and saying, "You don't deserve this. You don't deserve this." And yesterday I told him why he wasn't going back: "Some boys in your class keep being mean to you, and it seems like the teachers can't stop it from happening. If they don't stop it, then Eema and Abba have to." He needs to know he can trust us to stand up for him.

I just didn't realize how badly I needed to show myself that, too. Even I - too weak to tell someone what I think of them to their face, too quick to defer to authority and experience, too doubting of my own instincts - even I can stand up for my kid. To the administrator who pleads with us to try again, who promises to do it better the next time, I can say in a voice shaking but clear: "There is no 'next time'. We're done."

Over and over, since they were babies, it comes down to this lesson I need to learn most: feeling helpless is poison to me. It's not true, anyway. I am not powerless. I can make it stop.

I can be what they need.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

loss: one year

Adapted from my "just in case this is my last chance to tell you" letter to A, March 15th, last year. (It was.)

Someone asked me today if the reason you and I got so close, even though we were 7 years apart, was all the interests we had in common. I said I don't think that was it. I don't think it would have mattered what I was into. I think the reason you're so easy for me to be with is that you accept me for whoever I am.
I think you do that for everyone. I think that's one of your gifts. But you were the first person in our family to do that for me; and I don't even know how to tell you what that meant to me back then, or what it still means.  
With all of the dread hanging over us these days, I still feel lighter every time I walk into a room and see you.
I love you so much. 
P.

Monday, January 9, 2012

rubicon

I had my own Amalah moment last Friday. On the subway, carrying a letter to the DOE proving Bet is now a danger to himself and others without 1:1 supervision, I...froze.

I'm the one who asked for this letter; in fact it was composed right in front of me. "Are you sure this is okay? I can change any of it," the preschool director wrung her hands, typing the phrase violent tendencies. I turned my own hands up, helplessly. "Be careful not to make it sound worse than it is," my mother fretted to me on the phone the night before. "What if they...I don't know, send him to juvenile court?"

He's a goodhearted little boy and he's not going to be that difficult to help and no, I don't want it to sound worse than it is. But I can't allow it to get any worse than it is. He almost did something terrifying last week, and I am not waiting until he actually does.

And yet. You know this is what your child desperately needs - and this is your job, this is the whole reason you're here on earth parenting this child, to get him the help he needs. You know the alternative is far, far worse. Most importantly, you know that it will work. He will be okay someday. If you do this, he will be okay.

And still you sit on the train, tears in your eyes. I can't do this, you think. I can't do this. I can't do this. I just did.



Thursday, October 27, 2011

ceci n'est pas un blog post

So. It's come to this, eh? Too much to tweet; I'm going to have to actually blog just to catch up?

My sister's birthday: started out pretty hard, but got a little easier as it went along. I've been so agitated lately, like I have all this restless energy I need to put into...something. Something to do because of her, something to make because of her? I didn't know what. But SOMEthing.

I think it's turning out to be a blanket. Last winter, I brought home a lot of yarn I had sent my sister the year before. She wanted to crochet something for my boys, who'd outgrown the baby blankets she made them, and she wanted to try something she'd never done before. We settled on a new hat pattern. The first one came out too small for them to wear, but it is gorgeous, and the last handmade thing I have from her. She never got as far as trying a bigger one. An open-ended project was too overwhelming, I think, as her world started to close in on her. And in the end, it was too painful to use her hands.

I took the yarn home back then mostly so she would stop feeling like it was hanging over her head. But I knew at some point I was going to have to face it myself. This was the right time to start: thinking of her while I crochet is both heartbreaking and comforting, which seemed exactly right. And keeping my hands busy - and the music on loud - was not a bad way to get myself through the day.

Bet and the bullying: has also hit a heartbreaking point. The director pulled me aside after school yesterday to tell me four classmates had ganged up on him together; one of them hit him. She came down on them pretty hard. She called them into her office and talked to them about how terrible they must have made him feel (3 of the boys were so sorry they cried, she said. the 4th just shrugged and stared her down). They had to make him a card saying "I'm sorry, Bet. I want to be your friend," and give it to him in front of the rest of the class. They had to stay inside for recess.

When they gave him the card Bet easily said he forgave them. But he also said "I knew it was going to be me. When something like this happens, it's always me."

[Insert knife in heart; twist.]

Postscript: Aleph, on hearing that all the boys said "I want to be your friend," said "Oh, [boy with no remorse] doesn't want to be his friend. He's been mean to both of us for a long time." Well then. That shoe does appear to fit.

Aleph and the allergies: I am still not sure what we accomplished today but I think we basically went around in a circle. The skin test for mustard was, as it was last time, negative. The blood test results won't come back until next week. But if they come back negative too, the final step would be a food challenge EXCEPT the doctor says a food challenge for mustard is tricky, because it's spicy, and a child could report symptoms because of that, rather than because he's allergic. So it might not be worth doing it. Which leaves us...what? Avoiding mustard anyway??

But the other potential major change is that, even if his allergies stay the same, we might start expanding the list of brands we allow him to eat. Like, a lot.

See, they apparently did a study [ETA: actually, looks like two of them] where they looked at whether items with a "may contain traces" warning actually do contain traces, and whether the items without a warning do not. For some allergens - milk, especially - the assumption we've been operating with holds true: presence or absence of a warning was not a safe way to tell whether it's contaminated. But for nuts, it actually was. They think nut allergies are high-profile enough that major manufacturers (even the asshole ones, like ahemKraftcoughUnilever,) are being pretty careful about cross-contamination. So if it's made by a major manufacturer, and there's no warning on the label...as far as our doctor is concerned, Aleph can eat it.

In addition, they told us, there are categories of packaged food we don't need to worry about altogether, major manufacturer or not. Because most likely, there would not be nuts anywhere near production. So we can trust those labels too. No need to call.

I know, right???

We'll definitely be starting slow, because we don't want to find we regret it and/or have a stroke. First on the list is mayonnaise, because omg, my mother in law will be SO HAPPY to have her favorite brand back. After that? I don't know. We'll see what happens.

The one thing I know for sure happened at the appointment was a lot of screaming; either because Aleph's terror of allergy testing is unavoidable, or because I didn't do a good enough job brainstorming ways to help him cope, and as you know, I prefer to blame myself whenever possible. So: shellshocked child/mother, CHECK.

Unexpectedly, I found myself telling him about infertility treatment as a sympathy measure. "Eema, did you ever have a blood draw?" "A lot of blood draws." "How about shots?" "Omg, too many shots to count." "And you didn't like them, but it was worth it, because you got a baby faster?"

And there you have it: the TL;DR version of my old blog! The end.


Monday, October 3, 2011

anger: six months

If you're looking for my Rosh Hashana post, you might want to try last year's. I'm not doing much stock-taking of the spiritual kind, this year; I'm finding when I turn to Gd, I run into a solid wall of my own anger. So I'm...not.

Instead, some navel-gazing of a different kind.

"It's no help to know this is a beautiful portrait of grief", Jody wrote me three months ago. But it does help, actually.

Last summer I had the extreme pleasure of talking to Julie about why she blogged, and to Anna H. about why she didn't. If I'm not wildly misquoting them, Anna said at one point, Does it help you make sense of things? and Julie said, Yes. Definitely.

But I remember thinking: No, it doesn't. Not for me. I'm never sure I'm making sense, before or after writing. In fact I think I always assume, in the back of my mind, that I might look back on what I wrote a year ago and completely disagree with it.

It's probably one reason I don't look back, too often. It might even be one reason I took down my old blog.

So what am I in this for?

When I started talk therapy, years and years ago, my therapist asked me at the first session: Do you know why we do this? I was a psychology grad student at the time, so you'd think I would have had an answer ready. But I just blundered around, till she took pity on me and said: Because if we talk about it, we might find a pattern. And it can be a comfort to say, Ah. I recognize this. This kind of thing has happened to me before.

Maybe that is 'making sense of things', in a way? I don't know. I don't really see it that way. I think it's just that my overwhelming confusion is a little less hard to take, when I can...find a thread to follow my way through. When I can find a voice, in telling my own story.

So I do that. With the funny things I'm confused about, sure, but especially with the painful things: I try to tell those, not in prose, but in poetry. Because I can't stop it from happening; I can't understand why it had to happen; but…if it's a story, instead of just a series of senseless events, maybe it will turn out to have its own coherence.

And if I can wring some beauty out of ugliness - yes, there is a small solace in that. I'll take it.

I guess it's a very old instinct. No matter how powerless we humans are, we can still scrawl a defiant mark on the wall. Persephone was here in '11. This is my voice. This is my story.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

the thing is

I've been a lot better. But these days, facing my first trip to Israel where I won't see my sister at the other end, I'm worse again.

I know today I'm not the only one grieving.

I went back to read Emma's post from January, when we knew what lay ahead. I thought you might want to read it again too.

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

- Ellen Bass

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

last fruits

Hey, you guys. Thank you more than I can say for your thoughtful, kind comments on my last post.

Fair warning for anyone struggling with infertility: this may be hard for you to read. Please know that I hesitated for years before writing about this, not wanting to hurt you. And I wouldn't write about it now either, unless I needed to.

I am sad again today. Today we signed the agreement to thaw our remaining embryos.

I won't go into details, because they concern other people besides me. But I will say that we worked long & hard to donate these embryos, and we've finally hit an obstacle none of us can surmount.

I'm kind of stunned, after all the obstacles we did surmount.

I'm kind of angry: there are so many families out there besides ours, grieving the loss of a child or sibling to forces beyond their control - illness, accident, murder - you read the papers, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. And this is something we COULD have done. We could have brought some life into the world, instead of all this death. To have that chance taken out of our hands too feels a little like another death. Such a pointless waste.

And I'm just, well, sad. I made my peace with not having more children long ago...in theory. This is a lot more concrete. And final. And hard.

So I'm thanking Gd for the gifts I've been given. And hoping He understands if I cry a little, while turning the rest of them away.