Monday, May 21, 2007


This morning after breakfast Eleanor and Sylvia nestled in at the dining room table, surrounded by markers, pens, pastels, and paper. After completing various drawings-- a pepper tree with yellow, red, and green peppers; a lemon tree with a large base and a tiny top, as if viewed by a tiny ant marching in the verdant grass beneath the tree-- Eleanor constructed a Dot-to-Dot for me to complete. "Don't try to guess what it is. It's going to be a surprise for you," she told me. She drew chubby blue dots adjacent to numbers, some written backward, struggling to find their way through a dyslexic fog.

The parallel to my life gently floated into my head like a Forrest Gump feather.

1. DOT: A Typical Lunch

Today for lunch we ate corn bread, clam chowder, and baby carrots. Or I should say, I ate those things. I also served those things to my children, with varying success. 17-month-old Eli enjoyed the cornbread for a few bites, then decided, "hmm, this no longer pleases me." Like any baby who's completed Toddler 101: Asserting Your Independence in a Grown-Up World, he first threw the offending corn bread onto the floor, and then swept his hands back and forth on his high-chair tray to ensure the complete annihilation of the remaining crumbs. He turned his attention to the table, scanning for something desirable. "Mo, mo, mo," he said with his mouth and hands. "More cornbread?" Eleanor asked. "No." "More chowder?" I asked. "No." "More carrots?" Sylvia asked. "No." "I think he wants more cornbread," Eleanor stated, obtusely ignoring the mounting evidence. "I don't think so," I said, tapping into my dwindling reserve of patience. "I think he wants one of those forks," I said, pointing to the pile of forks that I'd placed in the middle of the table, just in case anyone wanted to eat their cornbread in a civilized fashion. Hearing "fork," Eli said "yeah," and I added in my head, "because I want to poke my eye like the last time I wielded a fork."

Eleanor reached over and placed another piece of cornbread on Eli's high-chair tray with an enthusiastic "Here you go, baby!" Deftly executing the Self-Assertion plan once more, Eli responded quicker than the missile defense system, propelling the corn bread onto the floor. "That's NOT what he wants," I hissed at Eleanor, my voice devoid of kindness. "You're using your mean voice," she replied, and slid off her chair like Dali's Melting Clocks. Deep breath. "Eleanor, I'm sorry I used a mean voice. How about if I try not to use a mean voice and you try to listen when I speak to you in a normal voice?" "Okay," sniffled the little 5-year-old pile on the floor.

I foolishly gave Eli a fork and let him attempt to eat his baby-food-squash with it. A few seconds later, Sylvia howled like a wolf, accenting the beat of her song by pulsating her palm over her mouth. Soon Eleanor and Eli joined in. As the volume crescendoed, my head wound up like a mexican top, then flew off my body with a whiiiiiiz. Someday it might be sited, perhaps by a satellite somewhere in outer-space.

2. DOT: Urban Turkey Herding

Most city-dwellers don't t expect to have much contact with turkeys. But two springs ago, when Sylvia was just a wee babe, we heard some strange peeping noises coming from outside. We rushed to the window to witness Gene, our crunchy neighbor from the Co-op house, flapping his arms, herding 20 baby turkeys down the sidewalk. That day the girls got to pet baby turkeys, and the Turkey Fan Club was officially formed.

This year was even better, because both girls are big enough to help herd the turkeys. For four weekends in a row, Tobin and the girls met Gene at his garage to let the baby turkeys out for a little free-range time. Mind you, these turkeys are bound for a Free-Range Farm. Gene just raises them when they're babies. The turkeys cozy up in a big nest in Gene's garage, soaking up the rays from the heat lamp above. Once a day Gene shoos the turkeys from the garage, and they stretch, peck, and strut down the sidewalk, pecking at whatever weeds, plants, and bugs they can find. When the baby turkeys look tuckered, Gene solicits the help of Eleanor and Sylvia to get them back into the garage. Completely fearless, Eleanor chases down a turkey, grabs it gently, and carries it back to the garage. When a turkey doesn't cooperate, Eleanor sweet-talks it: "Ahh, c'mon, little turkey, come with me so you can go with your little friends in the garage...You don't want to miss out on all the fun they're having in there!" Sylvia, just 3, mostly provides moral support. She's afraid to pick up the turkeys, but she forms a human blockade to assist the round-up.

Now that they're big enough, the turkeys have moved out of the neighborhood to the farm where they'll spend the rest of their lives. I'm guessing they'll be sold sometime around, say, Thanksgiving, but I haven't confirmed any of that. Last night, thinking about the turkeys, Eleanor said, "You know, Mama, even though the turkeys live far away now, they will never be far from Gene. Gene has the love of the turkeys in his heart."

Not wanting to offend Eleanor's tender seriousness, I choked back a laugh as Tobin whispered, "...and in his stomach."

3. DOT: Not Quite The Last Emporer, Yet

My litttle Eli, 17-months old, is still nursing. I could pretend to be annoyed, citing all the reasons why I'd like him to wean: 1) I'd be able to leave all of my children with Gramma and Grandpa and abscond to a romantic weekend getaway; 2) I'd have dinner dates with friends, unrestricted by what time Eli needs to be put down for bed, instead of rushing home like Cinderella (with Keens as my dainty glass slippers); 3) my body would finally be my own again, and I could start making demands of it for a change; 4) I might finally shed the extra 25 pounds my body has been hoarding to protect my breastfeeding baby from starvation in a food-shortage. But really, I'm just not all that annoyed by any of these things. Especially when I balance them against the pure, sweet joy that I feel when Eli snuggles in to nurse.

Raising three small children, I've come to treasure the few moments per day that I get to spend one-on-one with each of them. Eli's nursing time is mine, and mine alone. (Not counting those hellish mornings when the girls wake up early and I have to nurse Eli while they caress his head, poke him with books they're "reading" to him, and otherwise distract him into a tizzy). This is our time for inside jokes, shared laughter, and cozy nuzzles. While Eli nurses, I hold out my hand, palm straight, and Eli knows what to do: he gently slaps it, showering me with the softest high-fives. Eli pats my nose with his tiny index finger, waiting for me to provide the commentary. "Mama's nose," I say. Then his finger finds his own nose and taps it. "Eli's nose." He smiles. He reaches up and gently pets my hair. "Mama's hair," I say. And so on. In this crazy, loud house (see Dot #1), I savor these quiet, gentle moments, swishing them around in my psyche like a good wine on my pallet.

After all, when is the next time that I will enjoy a baby's chubby legs, curled around my middle like a napping cat, velvety-soft hands patting me like a kitty's paws kneeding biscuits? Never, that's when! Never is a long time, people! So I know you'll forgive me if I stretch this out just a little longer. And please don't ask me when I plan to wean Eli, because really, really, I just don't know.

4. DOT: Shortage of Iron-- In Blood but Not Will

Our daughter Sylvia is tougher than jerky. Physically, that is. Driving to a doctor's check-up when she was two, Eleanor warned her that she'd have to get shots. Unfazed, Sylvia boldly proclaimed, "I not cry, Mama." I told her it would be fine if she cried; shots do hurt and there's nothing wrong with crying when you're hurt. When it came time for shots, she jutted out her jaw like Jay Leno, stared down the needle, and refused to shed a single, solitary tear. She didn't even blink. She calmly turned her head to me and said, "See Mama? I not cry."

As you know, our Sylvia is an omnivore in the broadest sense of the word. We've wondered about the reasons: Psychologic disorder? Disciplinary issue? Poor parenting? None of the options were particularly appealing.

Then the doctor called and said she'd consulted with some colleagues and determined that Sylvia needed a blood test to determine whether she has an iron deficiency. I explained the procedure to Sylvia, and she listened, unperturbed. In the examining room, she looked so small and vulnerable laying on the high white-paper-covered table. As the nurse warned her that the needle was coming, I gently turned her head toward me. I placed a yellow gummy bear into her mouth, and she smiled happily just as the needle found its vein. In stark contrast, Eleanor paced around the table, lip quivering, stopping just short of crying, saying-- unnecessarily-- "it's okay, Sissy; it's okay." As Sylvia's blood oozed out into the vile, she asked me, "Can I look to see the blood coming out?" "Sure!" I replied.

One day later the doctor told me what we should have already known: Sylvia's blood is deficient in iron. We breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that an iron supplement is much easier than years of sessions with a child psychologist.


There it is. The chubby dots, making up a sketch of my recent days. I take a pen and draw connecting lines between the dots, but I still can't quite make out the final shape. I squint my eyes, hoping to decipher the alternate images like I'm viewing a stereogram. What's that? Is it paradise? A glimpse of madness? I guess it's a surprise.


slouching mom said...

I must say -- your posts are some of my favorite new reads.

These are lovely vignettes. The one about nursing brought me waaaaaaaay back.

And your girls will never forget the turkeys, will they!

Good stuff, Ally.

Seattle Mamacita said...

hey we want in on the turkey ushering, sounds like fun....i love the close-up of Eleanor's dot to dot, kid art is the most beautiful and the most raw and we never do it like that again...

Anonymous said...

This is a fun post.

So nice to read up on your family...And what a great way to 'meet' you!

Oh, The Joys said...

More poking in the eye with a fork! More!

bgirl said...

from the dwindling patience reserve, to the fleeting milky baby moments...well said ally.

i loved those quiet moments with ryder...obviously, since he quit nursting just 1 month shy of his 2nd birthday.... ah the freedom, oh the loss.

Nancy said...

I LOVE those pictures with the turkeys. How awesome!

And the mini stories are a wonderful way to get a glimpse into your life. Thanks for sharing.

slouching mom said...

I've tagged you. Come to my site if you want to participate.

Worker Mommy said...

What a fun post and a great way to get to know you.

I thought I was busy :)

Thanks for stopping by my blog the other day.
Hope to see you back soon.