Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Powerless

Hurricane Sandy gave me my husband for two extra days this week. An unprecedented stock market closing - two days in a row. I'm not excited that Sandy happened, that it damaged people and places and all kinds of things in between, but I think it was a brilliant move to cancel the stock market for the day and then the next day. Worth it, Wall Street, to keep people home and hopefully safe.

It would have been close to impossible to take care of two kids in the dark all day yesterday, after our power went out, by myself. And yes, as I write this I am acutely, horrifyingly aware that there are millions of single moms and dads and caretakers taking care of one or more than one kid all alone, every single day, in the dark. What I could learn from them.

Grace (11 months) was just confused all day. She thought it was night throughout the day and was pretty livid with us by 6:00 pm for keeping her up so long past her bedtime. It was a strange day; she was right.

Noah and I spent a good 45 minutes creating a witch's spell to protect us from the storm: a sun, a fire, a mermaid in tropical water, an orange and black oreo, an orange, and a banana. We added the ingredients and then made our own spoon and then flung our spell around the house. It protected us beautifully from the storm. Perhaps if I had added a peach or a plum, or maybe a merman, our power lines would have been protected too.

On discussing the *spell* as I mixed, I created one confused little three year old. "What letters? What letters do we have to make to make 'spell'? What are we going to spell to protect the house from the storm?"

And so I explained to him about homonyms. I had time.

Later, the kids played in the dark. This was okay, I guess; it sort of feels like they do that every day, with their little bodies flinging in all directions regardless of inanimate objects sitting heavily in their paths, and with Gracie attempting to eat anything at all that ends up in her hands: pebbles, leaves, pieces of popcorn, worse things.

I wrote letters in the last sliver of light coming in the window and now, today, in the light, I can confirm that my handwriting was as atrocious as it felt when I wrote.

We ate dinner by candlelight and I was relieved by how terrified Noah is of fire last night. One less thing to fear. He will keep himself clear.

At night, at 6:00, all was black but the tiny little candles (bought for aroma, not so much for light) scattered around, and the house smelled of gingerbread lavender vanilla cranberry chutney orange dreamsicle with a mixture of wet clothes, half clean, from the washing machine, slung over the furniture.

I decided it was time to tell GHOST stories by the unlit (because the damn pilot light went out) gas fireplace (too lazy to light our own wood). I began with "a dark and scary night", but when I caught the look of Noah's eyes as they grew wider and larger, I quickly turned the scary baker in my story into a magic baker who accidentally made ant cupcakes instead of chocolate ones. You weren't there, but trust me - it was hilarious and brilliant. Noah, my three year old and biggest and only fan of my work, laughed so hard, "I peed out into my pants. They are wet now."

His overtiredness/overstimulation/confusion about what on earth was happening led to an even sillier round of giggles which resulted in at least three head-butts (two to me, one to John) in a row, which everyone knows is the prelude to an immediate, fast forward version of the bedtime routine (though, do that bedtime routine in the dark and it actually ends up being in slow motion).

I experienced one day of this... ONE day... and the romance of the whole event was completely gone by 7 am this morning when I didn't see blinking on my alarm clock and random lights and fans, still switched on from the day before, had not come back to life in the night.

I had two kids and one husband, but only a *little* hot water and no milk and no coffee and no heat and only a tiny bit of power left on my iphone. I wasn't panicked about this, but I wasn't happy. And sitting here now, 30 hours later, power radiating through our house in so many ways again, television humming, microwave beeping, I don't even think I actively appreciate all of this as I now should, as I know I absolutely should. Maybe one and a half days wasn't enough.

Oh, what we have.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Putting out fires

He hears everything, so often when I don't even realize it. After a quiet discussion with my husband about how we should really veer the firefighter (fire truck, firehouse, forest fire, city fire, house fire, fire safety, airport fire) focus in a new direction ("Farms! We have lots of great books on farms he could get into" suggests his preschool teacher... "that would be a... helpful gear shift"), I felt pleased with our plan to find some new, interesting subjects at the library the following Tuesday.

The general fascination and fear of all things related to fire has decidedly gone a little too far in the past couple weeks. "This church looks sturdy... it's got big stone walls... it wouldn't fall down in a fire, daddy... right, daddy?" He said with a questioning look last Saturday during a memorial service for his great grandmother. Frequently, I have heard, "Mommy, now, this fire alarm should probably have its batteries changes soon. I don't see the green light that's supposed to be on."

There was a week where he reported to me whenever he stepped close to a wire, the fireplace (not on), the oven (also not on), electrical sockets. All this just to hear from me that he wasn't going to catch on fire from that accidental step or sideswipe. He had learned too much and not quite enough. And it seemed it was time to make new choices with him, to find new interests and perhaps pacify his passion a bit.

And so, operation: obsession redirect. Farms?

Back at the library, armloads of fire books placed on the return desk.

To the librarian, "Where are the construction books?"

Success... without even the need for an alternative suggestion!

"Right around where you are, Noah." (Yes yes! She knows his name! All these library visits! Does that mean I'm a good mom? A supermom?).

"OK, oh, I see the fire truck books right here... mommy, which ones haven't we taken yet?"

Wait, no, wait... construction books! What about construction books? You love construction! Farm books? "Hey, Noah, check out this book over here in this different section... on Obama! We can read all about Obaaaaaama!"

"I want this one, mommy, on fixing stuff." He holds up Build your own car, rocket, and other things that go. "And I'll take the one on Skid Steers. And the Scooby Doo." I slip Barack Obama, Son of Promise, Child of Hope into the pile.

On the way home from school today, he stared closely, carefully, thoughtfully, at each page of his latest selections, flipping through page by page from the back of the book to the front. And then, as he placed one book down and picked the next up, "I'm reading all these books now about other stuff than fires and it just makes me more sure that I'm all about fires. Fire trucks are important. They save lives."

Tonight, the night of the town hall debate (#2), without knowing anything about tonight or THE debate or even anything about any debate or what a debate is (he's three), he chose Obama for our book. "Tonight I'm all about Obama," he said as we cozied up with our big picture book on Obama's life.

The name "Toots" (BO's Grandma) was hilarious to Noah... and the idea that Barry became Barack was funny, but a different kind of funny, the scrunch up your nose and tilt your head and say "really? he did that?" kind of funny. He asked me to define Hope, a word mentioned on each page, written in just that way... "Hope". I started to tell him it was a name too (*my* middle name, even), but then I just went for it and tried to describe Hope as a word that is written like a name and important as a name, but meaningful in a different kind of way. "Obama cares about people... soooo much, I think. And he wants to change things that are hard for them. He wants to make their lives better. It's his hope; that's what he hopes he can do. Does that make sense?"

Um.

"Hope is really really wanting something and believing and wishing so much that it will happen. OK? OK. Great. Bed time!"

Supermom.

It occurred to me later tonight, when the debate and the tv were off and the lights were being turned out, one by one, and it was quiet and I was silent and alone, this is what I should have said:

"Noah's Hope is riding in a big red truck that can save lives."

Hope with an "H" can't be pacified.