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The Bride and the Original Groom are trying to decide if the Love Bug should start Kindergarten early. On the one hand she IS ready, but on the other hand she would be among the youngest in her class. With her summer birthday she is just two weeks shy of the deadline for turning five. Oh, and she would be the tallest.

Right before our four year old Bug was scheduled to stroll across the lawn throwing flowers this month at Uncle Dave and Aunt KiKi’s wedding, my daughter was having second thoughts. Maybe this is too much, she might suffer from performance anxiety. She might refuse to walk, or stop mid-stream and run away, or maybe just collapse in a puddle of tears. These things have been known to happen. Like me, my daughter likes to examine every scenario before plunging into deep water.

Probably she was remembering her own walk down an apple orchard hill to her Groom. Her flower girl at the time, three year old cousin V, was so immersed in her task, it took her quite awhile to find the Officiant, her Grandpa Hudson. V was steadfast in her circuitous route, and eventually placed flowers on Hudson’s feet! It was a magical beginning. So spontaneously, the Bride asked our little flower girl if she wanted her to walk alongside her as she was throwing her petals.

“No Mom, I’ve got this!” the Love Bug said. And she pushed her little hand out, palm up in the universal sign of “Talk to the Hand.”

And I thought of my four year old Bride, who always stood with her hands on her hips. The leader of her pre-school pack, a determined future collector of bottle caps on the schoolyard playground, and later, much later a healer of any and all people, young and old, rich and poor.

Our little flower girl did an outstanding job!

When educators evaluate a child’s readiness for school, their ability to listen and take direction, to be attentive, is rather low on today’s list. In fact, it’s rated #9 of the “Ten Kindergarten Readiness Skills Your Child Needs:” right after #8 “Reading Readiness,” and #7 “Cutting,” aka playing with scissors.

# 9 Attention and Following Directions
Read lots of stories with your child and work up to reading longer chapter books, one chapter each night or as long as she remains interested and focused.
Give your child two and three step directions. For example: “put on your pajamas, brush your teeth and pick a book to read.”
Play Simon Says with two or three step directions. For example: “Simon Says jump up and down and shout hooray.”
 https://www.education.com/magazine/article/kindergarten-readiness-secrets/ 

But I wonder if maybe we should be evaluating the parents’ readiness to part with their child for Kindergarten. Some parents never do, and home-school their children. Some parents wait a year, until their child is six or even seven to start Kindergarten, particularly for their sons. As Malcolm Gladwell has pointed out in his book “Blink,” this gives a boy the decided advantage in sports. He will be among the biggest, and strongest of his team members. The advantage to waiting for a girl is not so clear.

Will the Bug become a world-class volleyball player? She loves gymnastics, and enjoyed ballet lessons. I remember dancing with the young Bride every year in the Nutcracker with the Berkshire Ballet. Traipsing out to Becket, MA with her for Friends of Jacob’s Pillow meetings. Wanting her to love dance the way that I loved movement of every kind. But one day she came to me and said, “I can’t take any more ballet lessons.” She had too much homework, and she was riding horses at a stable near our home. She was almost afraid to tell me since she knew how much dance meant to me, and she also knew this would not be her passion.

Parents cannot see into the future, we can only take our best guess when we make life-altering decisions. In hindsight, I wish I had held the Rocker back a year for Kindergarten, until he was six, but then would he have become such a talented musician? Would his life have taken a different path? At times like these it’s best to turn to your heart and read poetry, like Khalil Gibran:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

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It was almost midnight on Valentine’s Day. After two flights and running through Dallas International, Bob bought me a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup at a gas station outside of Dulles. This is my absolute favorite candy, so nobody can say he isn’t a romantic! Bob isn’t the flower and heart-shaped box of bon bons kinda guy… still, this feminist never aspired to be treated like a queen, or a princess for that matter.

I thought about a lunch table conversation we had a few days earlier with the Love Bug. Her Dad, the Groom, was schooling her on the difference between “Real” and “Not Real.” She is only four, so I was thinking a little magic might be in order, but he was serious. Dinosaurs are tricky, since they were real, but aren’t around anymore. Of course monsters are definitely NOT real. And then we came to princesses.

The Groom explained about cartoons. I remarked that a certain guest at the wedding actually worked at Disney. The Love Bug brought up Pochahontas – which as we all know was really a Native American princess of sorts. And then the Bride chimed in with Princess Kate, so as much as this generation of parents would rather their daughters play sensibly with gender-neutral toys, sometimes little girls just have to be pretend princesses.

In fact, Aunt KiKi (aka Ms Cait) looked just like a princess on her wedding day last week.

In REAL news today, a princess in Spain will not be going to the tower, uh jail.

A Spanish court on Friday acquitted King Felipe VI’s sister, Princess Cristina, of charges that she helped her husband evade taxes, in a case that shamed the royal family. Her husband, however, Inaki Urdangarin, was given a jail sentence of six years and three months for siphoning off millions of euros between 2004 and 2006 from a foundation he headed in the island of Majorca.  https://uk.news.yahoo.com/verdict-due-spanish-royals-fraud-trial-041850122.html

It’s always hard to return to the Real World after a vacation. No more swimming in a warm pool, followed by a warmer hot tub. No more bocce ball. And since we had scheduled some tile work for this week, I am stuck at home. Trying to return to this time zone, doing laundry, catching up with myself. And yesterday I made the mistake of watching a “so-called” press conference.

To use a British term, I was gobsmacked! Mr T toyed with the press and our allies like that killer cougar, P-45 the King of Malibu, who is stalking the hills of LA. “The “P” comes from Puma concolor, the species whose common names include puma, panther, catamount, cougar, and mountain lion.” http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/13/lions-of-los-angeles

You’ve seen how a house cat plays with a mouse I’m sure, just imagine this puma killing an alpaca. Mr T smiled and teased the reporters, threw out blatant lies, and pontificated to his heart’s content. He won’t tell us what he’s going to do with that Russian ship, he said with a gleam in his eye.

This cannot be real. Am I the only one frightened by his rhetoric, his stupidity, his apparent need for self-aggrandizement. We have a wild, uncontrollable, narcissistic president who would be king, and Princess Ivanka needs to school him, and tell him he has no clothes.

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Three years ago today we were in Nashville. We had noted, not quite celebrated, Bob’s birthday and were awaiting our first grandchild’s birth. The baby was breech, like her Mama was, and so the Bride was wheeled into the OR in the hospital where both she and her husband had trained. Suddenly, the Groom appeared with the Love Bug in his arms and I could feel a cosmic shift in the universe. Love was expanding.

Over the years she has proven to be very much her Mother’s child

  • She can stand with her hands on her hips and insist on macaroni and cheese.
  • She can be a tiny empath and wrap her little arms around anyone in need of a hug.
  • She can direct her dog, her dolls, her baby brother, and her friends in the nicest way possible.
  • She can organize her toys and plan ahead in a monologue that lasts through a long car ride to preschool.
  • She can swim like a fish, as if the ocean were only blocks away.
  • She can and will choose her outfits with an eye for design and color.
  • She is a tiny dancer and a mixed media artist of the highest caliber!
  • And watch out world, she is starting to sing! “A Bushel and a Peck” is our theme song.

Her party was Sunday, but she was born on this day, one day after PopBob’s birthday, three years ago, and she was exactly herself. Happy late summer Birthday to our Love Bug. You make my heart fill with joy each time I hold you. Sleeping Baby 20120828

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Granted, I’ve never kept a gratitude journal. I tried once keeping a diary, in middle school, it was pink and had a pretty lock and key. When my older brother found his way into it, I decided it wasn’t worth keeping after all. The Bride, however, did like writing in a journal consistently, at least in high school and through most of college. I think it was a way to let off steam in her highly competitive world.

But years ago I did follow Oprah’s advice and try to list, in my mind and sometimes aloud with Bob, three things every day I was grateful for, every night before going to sleep. Some nights the list was easy; 1) I saw two juvenile foxes playing in the backyard, 2) The mole isn’t cancer, 3) My son’s band released an awesome album.

And sometimes finding things to be grateful about was harder; 1) The sun came up, 2) The rice didn’t burn, 3) A hospice nurse was at the wrong house. Some days, it feels like nothing is going your way, but especially on those days, it’s important to find something, anything to turn your mood around.

Which is why it seems like Thanksgiving is just some arbitrary day on the calendar to be grateful. Why shouldn’t we be grateful every day? After all, we may have been saved by Native Americans on that First Thanksgiving, but then look what we did to them. We brought them plagues and pox and then we herded them off their sacred land.

We’re not with our Big Chill family this year because we were expecting a grand baby in Nashville. Our little guy came three weeks early and his other grandparents, along with Aunt Jen and Uncle Dan, will arrive tomorrow to sit at the Bride and Groom’s table. It’s their first Thanksgiving, but Bob and I will get the turkey in the oven early in the morning like we’ve done for decades.

And tonight I’ll make a gratitude list, and instead of telling Bob, I’ll tell you: 1) I’m grateful my little Love Bug said she needs me to help her play Pictionary – Dada draws a picture and we guess what it is; 2) The Preschool Thanksgiving was the cutest thing I’ve seen in a long time; and 3) I’m so happy to hold our little grandson in my arms. And I could go on and on. What are you grateful for?

"Mama you are a princess and I'm a ballerina" the Bug

“Mama you are a princess and I’m a ballerina” the Bug

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On our very first outing with my new baby grandson, the Bride and I were perusing Lululemon in the Hill Center. It was a warm day, the door was open and a slight breeze blew colored leaves at our feet. The Bride was looking forward to practicing yoga in a few weeks and getting her post-natal groove on. While she tried on yoga togs, I had a nice time chatting with another grandmother from Kansas who was taking care of a two year old who just happened to be in preschool at the time. Then while checking out, the fit, handsome young man tallying up our purchases, looked up and had the nerve to ask us,

“What do you have planned for the afternoon?”

“Well, we’ll have lunch, then I’ll feed him (pointing to the stroller), then we’ll pick up the two year old from preschool,” the Bride said with a smile. ps, never ask a nursing mother anything about feeding her child, for the obvious reasons. And pps, never ask a woman, ever, what she’s planning on doing with her day, or for that matter what she did all day, because,
A) it’s none of your business, and
2) you don’t know her and you don’t really care anyway.

Maybe my Jersey came out, but I don’t like the implication. It’s a semi-paternalistic, passive-aggressive question that suggests we had nothing better to do on a weekday than shop and dine. After all, I couldn’t reciprocate, I knew what he’d be doing with the rest of his afternoon; he’d be right there behind that cash register asking inane questions.

Which leads me to this wonderful article my niece posted on Facebook about the Dis-EASE of being busy all the time. http://www.onbeing.org/blog/the-disease-of-being-busy/7023?page=1
I was guilty when my kids were little. The Bride had to write me a note about not having time for ballet, what with piano and horseback riding, etc. And the Rocker asked me not to schedule him for any more sports teams, before asking him first! I love the sentiment from the Persian culture, in their language they don’t ask how busy you are, which is what we mean when we say, “How are you?” They ask how your heart is doing

It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know. I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

Having a new baby at home cuts through that disease – we no longer need to appear busy, because in fact we are very busy. Nursing, cuddling, changing diapers all the while toilet training and teaching and feeding and loving a toddler, not to mention laundry and husbands and grandparents and friends who come to visit and cooking and…

There is a new yoga studio opening up in Nashville, specifically for young moms and children called Blooma.http://bloomanashville.com I’ve often said it was yoga that got the Bride through medical school. I’m pretty sure this new studio is just what the doctor ordered. Take that hipster Lululemon clerk.
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“That’s it!” I said to Bob this morning while watching the Breaking News Conference out of Dallas on CNN. This could be your real retirement plan, become a disease detective!

We turned up the sound as Dr. David Lakey confirmed that the first case of Ebola contracted inside the US tested positive in their Austin lab, and that they didn’t want to give his/her name at this time. As reporters questioned Lakey, we learned it was a health care worker who took infectious disease precautions, and not someone who treated their patient from Liberia, Thomas Eric Duncan, at his first fateful trip to the ER – when he was sent home with antibiotics. Duncan has since died.

So now we have our first case here in the US, like Spain, a provider is sick with Ebola. And it wasn’t the janitor who cleaned up the ER room when they first thought Duncan had a cold; when the travel history the triage nurse obtained never made it back to the doctor.

Cue the Mystery Detective music. Our family and friends have always thought Bob was the medical oracle. When signs and symptoms just didn’t make sense, when people were getting the run around from doctors, they would tell Bob their story and the sky would clear. He could somehow always make sense out of a complicated medical scenario. He is our very own Dr House!

But of course I’d rather he do some medical school teaching, or even golfing, rather than run around the world trying to solve real-time medical mysteries. Even though the CDC is probably hiring right now. Here are the facts, and only the facts about Ebola: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/

In my dystopian view of the crisis, I can see the GOP blaming this outbreak on Obamacare. I can see the National Guard putting up a fence around Dallas, and I can see some crazy militia taking up arms. As soon as the TX Health Resources guy told people of Dallas not to panic, while ambulances are currently being diverted from that Presbyterian Hospital, I just knew people were going to panic. But let’s get real.

“The Ebola epidemic has killed 3,431 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia; it has killed one in the United States.” http://mic.com/articles/100618/one-powerful-illustration-shows-exactly-what-s-wrong-with-media-coverage-of-ebola

So if we can keep some sense of perspective about this whole business, we’ll be alright. If we remember that yet another child in Michigan has died from enterovirus D68, that this upper respiratory infection is something we really need to wash our hands about, we may not panic about Ebola. “Enterovirus is very common, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating 10 million to 15 million infections each year in the United States.” http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/11/health/michigan-enterovirus-68-death/

“…D68 is a particularly virulent strain of this respiratory virus. So far there have been 691 cases of enterovirus D68 in 46 states and the District of Columbia;” six patients who died had the virus strain. It mostly affects children with asthma, or compromised immune systems. And like Polio, there can we some paralysis associated with its symptoms. Enterovirus-D68--EV-D68-jpg-1

Oh, and remember to get your flu shot!

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It’s finally happening in the previous Capital of the Confederacy, ex-Gov Bob McDonnell’s trial is underway. Lawyers are picking a “jury of their peers” and charging him with accepting bribes loans and lavish gifts from a health/supplement company CEO/supporter. It’s rumored that much of the blame on the defense side will be placed on Maureen, who needed the pretense of a certain lifestyle in order to marry off her daughter. It seems misogyny is still rearing its ugly head in Dixie, particularly among Republicans. They are also contending that the ex-first couple of VA were simply extending “common political courtesies” like hosting and arranging meetings for his supporter…while also accepting loans of $165,000.

I’ve never served on a jury, but believe me this would be ripe material for a writer. I’ve heard that many have simply sat in the public section of a courtroom just to listen, to pick up the cadence of a jury trial, to spark an idea that might lead to a plot twist. I wonder if this Richmond trial will be televised? I’ve only watched two trials on TV, OJ and Anita Hill. But this is my kind of reality TV. Gentlemen get out the clapperboard – “Roll Cameras!”

The Bride sent me a video of the Love Bug reading a book at the airport last night. I love that it’s her favorite of the moment, and it used to amuse my daughter too, “Caps for Sale” by Esphyr Slobodkina. She was born in Siberia, Russia and immigrated to the US in 1929. A talented artist, this book became a children’s classic instantly. Probably taken from a Yiddish tale, the peddler is trying to sell his caps, while monkeys are doing what they do best. It is a cautionary story for parents and children alike, a kind of “monkey see, monkey do” parable play.

When I would laugh out loud in the car, I’d hear the Bug laughing behind me in her car seat. When I would say, “Thank you Mama for making us pancakes this morning,” she would repeat, “Thank you Mama.” When I would point out a lizard on the deck, she would repeat, “Lizard!” We hiked to the river, we looked for deer every morning, and she would repeat whatever we said, but more importantly, she picked up our feelings, like a tiny toddler empath. It was not just baby see, baby do, but baby feel.

And so, as I was aware of the constant push and pull of parenting once again, of the need to civilize our smallest citizens, and as I was modeling “Please” and “Thank you” and “Excuse me” a gazillion times – because not getting what you want when you want it is tough for anybody, especially a toddler – I thought about our poor ex-Govenor.

In a system that has become corrupt, it becomes harder and harder to distinguish between ethical and unethical behavior. If everybody is doing it, trading favors, on Wall Street or in the hallways of political power in our state capital, well then one might understand how a loan might be perceived as a common courtesy. But in a democracy, someone has to play the role of the parent, and put a stop to all that monkey business.   IMG_0927

 

 

 

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