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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“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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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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Filed under Discovering joy, Family, Parenting After IF

The End of the Road

My neighborhood is at the beginning of a long road, one named for the famous explorer who “discovered” California. As if it hadn’t been here the whole time.

My husband’s car has been unreliable in the last few months. It’s been to the repair shop a few times. The long faithful automobile is 14 years old (in fact it was constructed the year Darcy and I met) and Darcy had been postponing the inevitable for quite a while. (Mostly because of the plumbing and repairs to our basement that need to be done.) But he finally had to give in and purchase a new vehicle this weekend.

We decided to take it out for a spin with the kids. He drove along our long road for many familiar, happy miles until we reached a sunny seaside town that I love, where we ate oysters gathered a mile away.

Full and happy, we decided to do something rather foolish. We decided to follow the road until the very end, where the land meets the sea and a lighthouse marks the divide. Neither of us, even though we are locals, could remember visiting this landmark.

We set out for our journey amidst the bright sunshine. “Where are we going?” my daughter asked. “To visit a lighthouse,” I replied. “There’s a lot of fog where lighthouses are,” proclaimed Cassandra.

Almost immediately after her prediction, we winded up the two-lane byway and ran straight into some wisps of cloud which became a regular bank of that heavy, migraine-producing white pea soup the Northern Pacific Ocean is renowned for creating. We also noticed a steady stream of cars headed back, ominously, towards the sunshine.

“Should we go on?” Darcy asked. We both tend to get headaches from heavy fog.

“Yes,” I replied steadily. I wanted to reach the end. I wanted to show the children that lighthouse.

Google maps did not indicate just how many hairpin turns and winding sections our road produced. Our road! The one which was so orderly and well-traveled near us had become wild and unpredictable, with cattle grates and cars passing slower vehicles. It took 25 long minutes to go but a few miles. Finally, we reached an area of thick traffic, thicker fog, and cars parking along the side of the street. One car was leaving.

“Let’s park there!” I exclaimed.

We did. And we joined throngs of families and couples and tourists, hastily wrapping themselves in cardigans and sweatshirts, bracing themselves against the wind.

“I want to go back!” cried my daughter. “I’m cold!”

Darcy stopped a young couple heading back, towards us. I thought maybe they were honeymooners.

“How far to the lighthouse?” he questioned.

“40 minutes, at least,” explained the man.

“What?” I started. “How?!”

“You have to walk 15 more minutes,” the woman said. “Then you have to wait in the line for the tour. There are so many people waiting for the tour that you can’t get past them. You can’t even see the lighthouse, it’s so foggy.”

Well, we went back. We weren’t ready or prepared to wait in line. Our clothes were too thin. Our energy was too low. Our heads had already begun to ache.

“I want to see the lighthouse!” my son cried.

“Another time,” I said. Another time.

So we went home and I harvested some chard from our garden and cooked it.

After dinner, I read this extraordinary post about Luna’s blog, from Sam, a young woman. Luna is parenting after infertility and loss, and the woman notes:

“I started reading (Luna’s) story at the point she got pregnant with her second daughter. I read through her pregnancy up to current posts. Then I went back to her very first post (4ish years ago I believe?) and have been reading from there forward. It’s been actually really cool for me in a weird way. Since I know how the story ends, since I know what’s next, sometimes I find myself smiling when she talks about the pain of thinking she’ll never be pregnant again. Or the uncertainty of the adoption process, if it will work, if they’ll have a baby, if it will be a good relationship. I smile because I know how it ends. I can see 2 years down the road. I smile because I just want to say: it’s right there. Just hang on.”

Would you want to see to the end of the road? Not just your journey through infertility, but to the end of your story? Why or why not?

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Filed under Parenting After IF, What Say You?