Archive for September, 2010

Lice Capades

September 29, 2010

The muse works in mysterious ways.  Today’s guest post comes to you via my wife, Andy, inspired by creatures greatly small…

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Summer was going swimmingly. No triple digit days. The boys getting along well, with just an occasional, basic skirmish. Lots of down time. Great reading.

One evening in late July we had a dinner party al fresco. In between bites of bruschetta (our tomato plants were high yield) and Penne with Pesto (ditto, our basil), a friend with a teenage daughter who had just returned from a two-week trip to a rural village in Argentina to assist in an orphanage (did I mention she’s the daughter I always wanted?) mentioned she was thankful her raven-haired beauty hadn’t returned with head lice. Another friend chimed in that her lovely, gold-locked 15-year-old had the dreaded beasts at least five times. With a compassionate smirk and crossed fingers, I commented that I was likely above and beyond that scourge. With a house of boys to men, I would never hear, “There was the cutest hat at Forever 21!,” or “We laid out all the pillows on the living room floor and all 20 of us slept there!”

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Bless Us, Ultima

September 22, 2010

Recently I have been reading some of the things my kids are reading.  I liked Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolpho Anaya so much I was sad to see it end (like so many things in life and especially in parenting).  At the core of the story is a boy’s coming of age under the spiritual wings of his mysterious grandmother, Ultima—a healer, a curendera, a wise old woman, a being eternal and at one with nature, but not always with the evils of man.

I felt so disoriented and melancholy at the book’s end that I had to take a nap; I consciously wished to dream of Ultima, and then I did; carrying red and yellow chairs into my parents’ living room in the house where I grew up, directed by Ultima, she confided in me that she must speak to everyone (implying this was hard and she was weary but it was her task and she accepted it).  I could feel her strong wrinkled hand in my own, eyes piercing and kind, me still boy-like at fifty compared with her.  She sat upon black stone, ready to receive guests.

I awoke feeling blessed and free.  I can speak to a few people and I can hear from a few people, but Ultima blesses us all, Ultima knows better than us the mysterious source of being, the presence of the river, the juniper and what happens below it and further down at the roots; Ultima knows the owl, she knows the golden carp that swims god-like from the thicket awing children who still see with the eyes they were given.

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First Comes Love

September 15, 2010

Falling in love is a private business—a mystery and a blessing, a fickle arrow that sometimes works out for the best, and sometimes leaves you crawling on all fours and trying to believe that everything happens for a reason.  Sometimes it just plain breaks you, but sometimes it transforms you.

Today is Andy and my twenty-year wedding anniversary.  It is not the anniversary of falling in love, as I say, that is a private business narrated by private communiqués, arcane memories of places and shared experiences, trips and tumult and near break-ups and fears and angst-filled sleepless nights and dreamy wanderings through castles and tundras and dreams of rose petals and slow coming to trust that it is okay to trust.

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Can back-to-school blues hit on the first day… of preschool?

September 8, 2010

A recent New York Times article by Pamela Paul, “Can Preschoolers Be Depressed?,” raised a number of points relevant to parenting across the span of our children’s development.

While identifying depression in preschool age children is presented as something newly emerging, Harry Harlow identified failure to thrive in monkeys, and later observed it in human babies—which looks an awful lot like depression, at least to me.

Nevertheless, some of the key issues that Paul’s article highlights have to do with our increasing understanding about the brain’s plasticity, especially at very young ages.  The same open-brainness that makes early intervention with autistic kids an optimal treatment approach leads researchers to hypothesize that early intervention with depressed kids may prove equally important.

Although a negative environment can contribute to kids getting depressed, many kids of depressed, or otherwise limited, parents do not themselves get depressed (in other words, parents can mess us up, but depression is far from always their fault, at least not counting genes).  Guilt rarely helps anyway but, unfortunately, there are many cases of perfectly nurturing parents providing loving environments in which even very young children sometimes become rather melancholy and lacking in exuberance.

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History Lessons

September 1, 2010

It was the evening after the first day of school and after cooking with Andy we were all seated in the deepening dusk of the garden, candles burning in jars, Will stating that this macaroni and cheese was the best he’d ever had… Andy’s magic, complimented by my grilled protein and sautéed green beans (beans that Nate had helped prep).

We debated the merits of school starting before Labor Day and my assertion that since summer had already ended, Labor Day might be less depressing, less drenched in the last meal before the execution sort of melancholy.

We talk about being present to the moment and I can happily report that I was—the edge of fall in the night air (or what passes for fall in LA), the color of the velvet sky, the tastes and textures of pasta and cheese—soft, crisp and creamy, the sounds of neighbors living life on the other sides of fences and trees.

Will excused himself to get back to his homework and Nate asked for tips on reading more effectively.  We talked about sitting up rather than lying in bed, all of which lead to him talking about what he’d read on his first day of eleventh grade:  the opening and the afterward from Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States.”

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