Tag Archives: parenting

“I am Neville Longbottom”

Harry Potter Spoilers…

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I have written before about my admiration for the character of Neville Longbottom. This week someone linked to an older article on Stirrup Queens, detailing a theory I happen to agree with: Neville is the most important character in the Harry Potter universe.

I can’t relate to Harry, can you? He’s too, well, extreme. He’s been gifted with tremendous athletic talent for starters. He’s “the chosen one.” He’s an adrenaline junkie – he takes crazy risks often without thinking. Like sneaking into Hogsmeade when a homicidal maniac is looking for him or driving off with Ron in Mr. Weasley’s flying car, just for starters. He’s unnaturally resilient – how can someone lose pretty much every parental figure in their lives and still keep going? Don’t get me wrong – I admire him as a character, but his motivations don’t resonate with me. And I’m not sure Rowling wanted them to.

Neville is another story. Neville is a kind of Gryffindor everyman. He’s a klutz, he can’t fly, and he isn’t athletic. He’s bullied by Professor Snape, and has a terrible memory for schoolwork. He has little confidence in his abilities or his smarts. He has a chorus of naysayers like his grandmother, Draco Malfoy, Snape (and I’d argue Professor McGonigall isn’t that nice to him either) implying and often outright saying he’s less than. You’d think he’d be the first to fold to Voldemort/the Death Eaters and to be afraid to stand up to those who demand capitulation. On the contrary, his refusal to capitulate results in the action that leads to Voldemort’s downfall.

It’s a wonderful moment. The twins have taken an interest in World War II because of this book, and reflection on those “darkest hours” brought me back to Neville Longbottom. When it’s most important for humankind to act, we need to stand up and say: “I am Neville Longbottom. And I won’t back down.” Sadly, the echoes of the past are still deadly.

Do you relate to Neville? Or Harry? Or, say Hannah Abbott, who is my daughter’s favorite character?

(As an aside, I am ALWAYS sorted into Gryffindor in every online quiz, even the silly BuzzFeed ones. I’m a neurotic worrier who is afraid of a lot of things like flying and heights and not eating organic food. Shouldn’t I be a Hufflepuff?!?)

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Kevin Ware, Violence in Sports and Should Kids Be Allowed to Watch?

To say Darcy is a sports fan is to say that War And Peace is a tad long. He hid his mania for all things athletic from me for a while, but it became starkly obvious how much he needed sports in his life when we moved to London and he became obsessed by televised cricket. The most boring and confusing sport in the world.

Sorry, Brits 😉

So, we watch a lot of sports around here. We also watch Bryant Gumbel’s HBO show Real Sports (some of the best investigative journalism in the world, and yes, I am serious) and thanks to that show I am very well aware how incredibly gruesome the head injuries sustained by football players are, and how dire the long-term consequences of said injuries are. I truly think football is not too different than the gladiator games in Rome, and even though I was a cheerleader in high school and come from my own legacy of 49er fans (ahem: my father and brother are only slightly less fanatic than Darcy), I just can’t watch football in good conscience anymore.

On the other hand, I love baseball and have no problem taking the kids to Giants games. There are problems with baseball (steroids) but it’s not an inherently violent sport.

Basketball is more tricky. I don’t love professional basketball. I don’t love the morals some of the main players represent (LeBron James leaving his hometown team for a team with better prospects seemed selfish and I don’t like the veneration of Kobe Bryant) and the game is sort of dull.

However, I LOVE March Madness. The unpredictable nature of the tournament, the underdogs coming from behind and the last minute plays are truly exciting. There isn’t the big money, the players seem to play from the heart just for the glory of being there and making the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four seems to be the only goal. There’s also usually some compelling human story, and that story (Cinderella or otherwise) seems to reflect on American society.

This year, the biggest story is Kevin Ware and his gruesome injury, his courage after suffering this injury and the team’s determination to mark a victory from such a terrible event.

Normally, our son and Darcy would have been watching the game but we were in New Orleans for a wedding and Darcy began watching the game on the plane instead by himself. I am so glad he did, because what happened next was beyond comprehension.

WARNING!!!!! THIS FOOTAGE IS GRUESOME BEYOND ANYTHING I CAN DESCRIBE. Click at your own risk. I am not exaggerating.

Obviously, the faces of the players said it all. Basketball has a relatively low level of injury compared to other sports, and to see someone take a normal jump and for THAT to happen, well, it was incomprehensible, scary, horrific and your heart went into your throat and all you could think was just immense sympathy for Kevin Ware. His teammates were in tears and apparently some of them actually threw up.

What happened next is just as incomprehensible: Ware, in terrible, horrible pain, called over his teammates on Louisville and asked them to “just win the game, y’all.”

Which they then did, handily defeating powerhouse Duke.

I have been very disturbed about this story all day. I think it’s because as a mother of a son, I worry about sports. About the messages of sports. I know that there are things that benefit boys and men about sports: talking about sports is how they bond. And I think I know why: in the language of sports talk, there is an emotional currency of sorts. You can express your horror safely by telling the tale of Kevin Ware’s injury, you can choke up over the victory of Louisville in Kevin Ware’s name. It’s a safe way to express your emotions to other men.

So I don’t want to take this away from my son (who is already obsessed with baseball cards and the Giants) but I worry.

Do you think sports are too violent? Do you watch sports? Would you let a child watch sports?

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Halloween Horrors

The following may have happened this Halloween:

1. The twins MAY have been a bit crabby.

2. I MAY have been a bit crabby.

3. The door MAY have closed during this photo shoot. In the rain. When I didn’t have my keys or my phone or my purse, or worse, the rain gear for the kids.

4. While we waited at our friends house to enjoy a Halloween meal and for Darcy to show up with the keys, it MAY have started to pour down rain.

5. Whilst trick-or-treating, it may have rained so hard that the kids got soaked and begged to turn back without completing their rounds.

All of this is ALLEGED.

I will tell you that once festivities were completed, we all changed into our jammies and cuddled up in bed to watch “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Disney’s Legend of the Headless Horseman.” Which was, by far, the best part of the night.

What did you do this Halloween?

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“We Will All…Fall”

“We are all vulnerable, and we will all, at some point of our lives (pause) fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts, that what we have is special. That it can be taken away from us, and when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls. We will now all be tested. It is these times, it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves.”

Coach Taylor, Friday Night Lights

Life is brutally hard, sometimes. For me, anyway. I have found great solace lately in focusing on the positive, whether by changing my thought patterns or through my own vision. Seeing with my own eyes the dazzling natural beauty we are surrounded by, observing the goodness of the mundane: it helps. I use my curiosity about the world to wonder why my tomatoes didn’t grow very well this year, and why my chard did. I enjoy satiating my own children’s curiosity by exploring topics they want to know more about. I make their lunch with homegrown apples and carrots and fine organic yogurt from our local creamery: this makes me happy. I keep up with the laundry, taking pride in the excellent folding I do. I provide the twins with fresh, downy sheets and towels and underwear and socks. I rearrange my closet with cute, pre-arranged outfits, complete with jewelry and shoes, to make getting out the door easier. I try to outfit our life with beauty.

Even reading the list above makes it easy to remember that I did some good today, even though I failed more than I succeeded, that I feel so alone in my day-to-day life. That I feel so achingly responsible for everything and everybody.

Infertility and loss (and did you know that it was pregnancy and infant loss remembrance month?) is when I fell, to quote Coach Taylor. Those experiences tested me, severely. They isolated me. They made me look inside myself.

Today I was chatting to Darcy about my college experience (a four year sojourn in one of the most beautiful places on earth where I made many friends and spent most days in yellow sunshine), as opposed to the miserable East Coast weather and highly academically competitive university he went to. He often thinks I went to the wrong school: that those sunny, mellow years didn’t suit my personality or make me as tough as I need to be. I don’t know: in some ways, he’s right. But in other ways, I’m glad I have that bedrock of happiness to look back on.

Because when I fell, first during my illness and then my failed IVF cycle and loss, I needed to remember what happiness was. Happiness was running on a warm abandoned beach with the surf gently beating a slow tattoo, while I gazed upon a sailboat harbored, glittering in the sunlight. Joy was boarding the EuroStar and arriving at the Gare du Nord, and noticing that even the ugliest buildings in Paris had beautiful architectural details and balconies that welcomed coffee breaks.

Parenting twins is not parenting triplets or quads. But it is the Mt. McKinley of parenting, especially when your husband works such tough hours and the kids are testing boundaries like those Velocirapters in their pen in Jurassic Park. My children are wonderfully bright. But precocious as heck.

Sometimes my mood goes from zero to 100 and back all in one hour. How can my mood swing so dramatically based on parenting? Yet it does.

Somedays, like today, I think about all my friends still in the trenches and I grit my teeth.

I think: I am lucky. I am lucky.

***

I am lucky.

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Filed under Discovering joy, Family

The Beauty of Life

Oh, boy. This weekend, it kinda blew. Ear infections, tantrums, exhaustion, etc.

I will spare you all the details, because my Mom and some friends made it better.

Amidst the chaos and the difficulties, as always, there was beauty. I struggle to express the beauty I see without feeling like I am sugar-coating life and making it less authentic. But, beauty is always there. It is. And the more I notice it, the better I feel.

We ate that freaking delicious (if wonky) cake all weekend long: it actually tasted better with each day that passed.

We spent one last day at the beach.

Our tree continues its yearly odyssey into winter. Trees losing their leaves? Beautiful, but it is a display of loss. Maybe the finiteness of life makes me enjoy the display. But I blushed with pleasure when our neighbor told us how much they enjoy watching our tree from their living room window. I’m glad something we have brings beauty into someone else’s life.

I’m in PHASE TWO of The You Project. Which is: trying to change each negative thought I have into a positive. At first it was difficult, but today I’m finding it much easier. The more you do it, the more it becomes a pattern.

For example, Jjiraffe’s internal monologue:

“You are letting the twins watch ‘My Little Ponies’ again. Rainbow Dash is not a positive role model. You suck.”

Positive thought insertion:

“You don’t suck. You are only letting them watch that because the preschool has had holidays 33% of the school year so far, and if you don’t do this, no laundry or dishes will get done.”

It works.

I have also been allowing myself to watch Freaks and Geeks as a treat once the twins have gone to bed. By myself. Watching each episode is like a spa treatment. How did that show only last one season?

Finally, I am freaking proud of myself for making that cake. It’s by far the most delicious dessert I have ever baked. And next time, I can double the frosting recipe and it will look as beautiful as it tasted. Practice: whether baking cakes or telling yourself what you need to hear or reminding yourself of the beauty in this world.

Practice Makes Perfect.

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