California Dreaming

My mom did not have any traditional lullabies in her repertoire.  House of the Rising Sun, American Pie, Hotel California. These were the standards.  I’ve carried on this tradition with my own kids and added a few, but nothing from this century. The Joker, some Rolling Stones, and the Greatest Love of All.  This last one made it into the rotation in the predawn hours one morning when I was reaching for a song that I knew all the words to, one that would be just long (and boring) enough to finally put a teething little insomniac to sleep.

When I was a kid, I listened to Whitney Houston sing that song over, and over, and over again on my Easter egg-colored little boom box.  I laid on the floor with the lavender machine in front of me, repeatedly pushing the pastel play and pause, rewind and stop buttons. Testing the resilience of the thin cassette tape, and carefully re-spooling it with my fingers when the brown plastic loops would go slack.

I was singing it again last night as I rocked my almost 3 year old back to sleep after a nightmare.  We sat in same chair that I’ve rocked all 3 of the kids to sleep in.  But it’s too small for this function now.  The boy is half my height and the two of us together in the chair looked like a sloppily twisted soft pretzel version of the Madonna and Child.

This time Whitney’s call to action, her plea for us to let the children lead the way and show us all the beauty they possess inside, left him curious and unfortunately more awake.  There was a running commentary and stream of questions as I sung off-key.

Mama, why no walking in da shadows?  Is it dangerous?  Walking on ice mountains is dangerous. I like shadows. Can we make shadows now?  What mean “dignity”? Let’s search for heroes.

Lullabies are no longer sleepy background noise in our house.  They are songs with words and meaning, and the little person–no longer a baby–sprawled across my body was asking for more. More information. More context and definition. More time with his mama in the middle of the night.

I was rocking and thinking how much I love that I can give him these things in this too small, loudly upholstered in black and white floral chair–the same chair that my mom held his sisters in.

He’s clever and he loves his mom.  I was thinking about how my mom so loved cleverness and would have, so very much, loved him.

I was thinking about his Grammy and Granddad and his Pop Pop, aunts and uncles and Great Aunties.  All of whom rocked him and his sisters before him in that chair.  All still here, cramming themselves and one or more kids into that chair, rocking and reading with them from time to time.

I was thinking about how easy it is to get lost in wanting something or someone you don’t have, and how lucky our family is to have so much past and present love around us.

I stretched the blanket to cover his feet dangling over the side of the chair and told him to close his eyes so he could listen to a new song.  I went with California Dreaming.

Found on Etsy.

Found on Etsy.

Advertisements

St. Patrick is not nonsense.

Peanut: I heard that Saint Patrick played magic music and all the snakes left the land, but that’s nonsense because there is no such thing as magic music.

Sassy: ‘Scuse me Paige, but it’s not nonsense. Remember, the Ancient Egyptians played music to make the snakes calm down and not bite the queen so maybe it’s not magic but it’s not nonsense.

Mo: I LOVE snakes!

Peanut: He liked four-leaf clovers too. We should decorate the house with them.

Me: Actually, the story goes that it was a shamrock…a three-leaf clover–

Peanut: What story?

Me: The one about St. Patrick.

Sassy: So this is all just a story?!? What are we talking about then? I’m talking real stuff.  Really real stuff about Egypt.

Me: St. Patrick is real stuff too.  It was just a very long time ago so it’s hard to know now which parts of the story are real and which are not.

Sassy: That stinks.  They should have used hieroglyphics.

Mo: My shoe needs fixed.  It’s broken.

Peanut, 7. Sassy, 5. Mo, 2.

Choose your tail and make it happen.

Snow is exciting for kids, with the construction of snowmen and the whoosh of fast sleds. But snow is dreadful when it’s accompanied by arctic temperatures that make spending more than a few minutes outside dangerous. This winter we’ve had to explain the phenomenon of frostbite and ask the question, “is building a snowman worth losing a finger?”

The answer was, “yes.”

So, as the mounds of white taunted them, we barred the doors and hoped the siren song of winter would be muted by the theme from Wild Kratts.

Today, though, is beautiful.  A balmy 36 degrees–but it’s Monday.  School calls and outside diversions will have to wait.  We hope that we’ve turned the corner on this winter and that we will no longer have to stretch our imaginations to create more inside games.  We’ve hosted carnivals, markets, restaurants and even a kind-of TED talk series for a captivated, stuffed animal audience.   My favorite of the inside games, though, was not one that was created with parental support–or supervision.  It wasn’t even a game really.  It’s more a state of mind.

The tail store.

My 5 year old crafted a selection of tails from pipe cleaners.  The almost-3 year old got in on the game too.  But one tail was not enough for him.  He sported a dual tail apparatus while running endless laps through the kitchen, dining room and living room.

“Look at me!  I’m running. I so fast.  My tails are so fast. Do you see dem?”

The oldest was nonchalant about the tail thing, not partaking in the donning of tails but offering creative advice along the way, “I think you should use the purple for a dragon tail…..Yes! That’s it. More dragon-y.”

But the 5 year old was serious.  After creating a whole collection of tails, Sassy Bottom Baubles Spring/Summer 2015 (look for them in next month’s Vogue), she disappeared for a while in her room.  After a few minutes she came looking for tape, and I obliged.  Normally, a request for tape made outside of the scope of communal arts and crafts time and without explanation means something is broken, ripped or otherwise destroyed.  But, I was tired and lacking in motivation so I didn’t protest when she zoomed by me, on all fours, with the roll of tape in her mouth.

A few more minutes went by and I began to wonder about the quiet and fear for the safety of the pet fish who have taken up residence in her room.  I walked in and found her working carefully to affix a selection of tails to her dresser.  She turned to me, face beaming like the sunshine we all longed for, “It’s my collection.”

IMG_4632

“This way, I can choose what kind of tail I want, whenever I want,” she explained. “When I feel like being a tiger, or a mouse.  When I want to be a kitten or a cheetah, I pick one and put it on, and Taa-Daa…I’m a tiger.”

“I love it,” I told her. “They’re beautiful.”

And they were.  They were beautiful.  A simple and simply glorious depiction of the way kids can feel empowered to be something or anything they want.  She wants to be a tiger, and an astronaut, and a dancer.  She does not see any of these as impossible.  She is not afraid to make her dreams known.  To give them voice–and tail, for all the world to hear and see.

I want her to stay this way.

I don’t want her to be quiet about what she wants.  I want her to express her dreams and make them happen.  Unless that dream is to build a snowman when the thermometer reads “LL”–lower limit–i.e. so cold the damn thing cannot even tell you how cold it is.  Quiet and a little less relentless would be good in that situation.

Or maybe not.

Necessity and dreams are the parents of invention. With an adequate supply of pipe cleaners, she just might invent some newfangled snow gear before moving on to her career as an intergalactic ambassador of tiger dancing.