The Life and Times of Monkey, Buster, and Yessa

Just another weblog

Baby Memory August 31, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — mommie2zs @ 8:16 pm

Noa has a rather disconcerting habit of replicating habits of mine as she is playing with her babies.  She walks around, bouncing her babies, making the “ssssshhhh, sssshhhhh, sssshhhhh,” sound that was my trademark when all our babies were little.  Today, she was using the “football hold” which we often used, though especially Buds, when trying all the usual soothing tactics didn’t work.  She’s very careful to cradle baby heads as she dances them around our living room.  She’s certainly seen people with other babies, but the “ssshhh, sssshhhh,” is not something I’ve heard other people do, although I’m sure they do.

It started me thinking about how much children remember, subconsciously, of their earliest years.

I came across this on the web, from here:

Just as memory can be divided up into the dual categories of ‘Short Term’ and ‘Long Term’, there are also two qualities of memory: ‘Explicit’ and ‘Implicit’. The capacity for ‘explicit’ memory reaches full maturity at around three years of age. This is the kind of memory that is conscious and enables us to tell a story that makes sense of what happened. ‘Implicit’ memory is available from birth or earlier, it is unconscious, and is encoded in emotional, sensory and visceral recall. In other words, what we don’t remember with our minds, we remember with our bodies, with our hearts and our ‘guts’ – with lasting implications for our thinking, feeling, and behaviour.


There are occasions when implicit memory can be made explicit. Since implicit memory is ‘stored’ in the body, repeating certain movements, gestures, breathing patterns, or assuming certain postures associated with highly-charged emotional memories can bounce these memories into explicit, conscious awareness. It is as if the body releases its secrets to the mind. Many individuals have been able to retrieve traumatic memories, both from adult and infant experiences, when induced by strong emotions associated with the original experience. In certain states of consciousness, in psychotherapy or meditation, people have spontaneously recalled things that happened to them as babies. Many have remembered how it felt to be a baby, howling for a mother who would not come. In reconstructing a particular body posture, or talking about a similar emotionally charged event, the contextual memories of unbearable longing, rage or terror come back into focus. It is equally possible for sweet, joyous memories of a parents’ loving face to resurface. This phenomenon is called ‘state-dependent memory retrieval’, and while it is not essential, it can bring healing under certain conditions.

It is intriguing to me to think of Noa having stored, somewhere within her brain and cells and body, the loving, lovely memories of when she was an infant.

The flip side, though, then is that she also stores the deep “memory” of her first few days of life.  My father died on Tuesday.  Noa was born on Thursday.  Twelve hours after she was born, we were at the funeral home for the hours of visitation by the hundreds of people who came to mourn my father with the family.  The next afternoon, Friday, was the funeral.  Thursday and Friday nights, from about 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., Noa screamed and sobbed and yelled in sorrow and anger and frustration.  We had not had this happen with our previous two children, and it did not happen on Saturday night, nor did it ever happen with Noa again.  I have long hypothesized that Noa was releasing the pent up emotions that she must have felt swirling around her, bombarding her in a way she could never comprehend.  I remember Best Friend Saffy coming to the door of our bedroom in the Big Yellow House in the wee hours of Friday night/Saturday morning.  Her family was staying with us after the funeral.  She offered to take Noa downstairs for awhile, just to give us a break.  Buds was pacing the floor with Noa in the carseat, swinging her around to try yet another way to soothe her.

I thanked Saffy, but told her we were okay.  Shortly after, Noa fell into an exhausted sleep.  Possibly the love flowing from Saffiywas enough to give her, at last, a break.


Colorado Extras…

Filed under: Uncategorized — mommie2zs @ 2:16 am

I have some great photos from our camera that didn’t make it into specific blog posts.  I didn’t take the cord needed on our trip to be able to pull the pictures off the camera while we were away, and I didn’t want to get that far behind in posts, so I just used the pictures from my iphone.  But, I don’t want these pictures to disappear in the great vast expanse of our iphoto files, so here they are.  (Plus, Mary is watching for them, and I don’t want to disappoint her.  😉

Buds tickling the ivories on a piano we walked by on the way home each day.

The sign telling us of the bear sighting on our first hike.

The rocky cliff we hiked to that first morning.

The hike goes up and behind the rocky cliffs, then you cut through to get to the “front” side.

Thank goodness for self-timers.

At the beginning of our big hike, up the Flatirons.  This was really cool.

It was an incredibly rocky hike.  We talked about how much Monkey would love it.  She’s a rock climbing monkey.

In addition to being a beautiful picture, this shows how much higher up we were climbing than the little rocks we climbed a few days before.  “The Bear Path” hike was up the little stand of dark brown rocks, sticking up like a crown, in the middle of this picture.

We saw some impressive rock climbing on the Flatirons.

We were both so struck by this one hardy tree, doing its very best to survive in a rather inhospitable spot.  Give a tree a crack, and it will make a life.


The Joys of A Clancey August 30, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — mommie2zs @ 5:19 pm

I didn’t think I would ever have, or want, a cleaning lady.  It struck me as wasted money–paying someone to do something I should be doing myself.  (Be careful of the word “should.”  It is seldom helpful.)

Then, this post came through from one of my groups:

I just wanted to put in a word for Clancey. I saw the ad below and called her and we’ve had her help us several times since. She is AMAZING!!! So amazing, in fact, that we’re going to have her help us on a regular basis and I plan to hire her regularly for the first month or two post-partum next spring (yes, we’re pregnant!! :-)). HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend!!! She works fast and she works hard and it’s amazing what she manages to get done. My shower wasn’t this clean when I moved in, my craft and school materials not nearly so organized, my laundry room is beyond functional, and my basement – wow! We’ll actually be able to start using it soon!

Here’s the great thing:  My home didn’t need organized.  I’ve got a grip on all that.  And I clean it, but I didn’t deep clean it, and everywhere I looked, I saw dirt.  Dirt that I wasn’t going to make the time to clean, or more importantly, dirt I wasn’t going to take away time from Buds and the kids and writing to clean.

Plus, the name “Clancey” was a huge hook for me.  I didn’t want my home cleaned by some franchise cleaning company that uses toxic chemicals and sends some non-native speaker to my home who is being taken advantage of by the company.  Clancey had started her own business.  It was just one person, and her name was “CLANCEY!”  That is a great name!

So, I called Clancey, and she came for a visit, and we had a good, honest, even blunt conversation.  She uses the products I want her to use, I do what she wants me to do, and our home is clean.  Really clean, not just superficial clean.

I underestimated how much I would enjoy this feeling.  This sense of looking around our home and not seeing ick and dust bunnies, and grime on the base boards.  And I love not feeling like it is hanging over my head–this vision of myself as perfect homemaker who can have a perfectly clean house, perfectly clean children, perfectly perfect marriage.

Do I recognize that Clancey  is an extravagance?  Of course I do.  We could certainly do without her, and yet, she’s an extravagance that brings me pleasure every single day.  And for a family like us, that spends many, many hours at home together each day, something that helps us be even more in love with our home is worth it.


A Family Tribute… August 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — mommie2zs @ 7:46 pm

In 1993 my brother, George, and his wife, Kathy, started a company called Dickerson Mechanical.  George and Kathy were already extraordinary—and rather the opposites of Buds and me in some life choices:  They were married right out of high school.  They had their three children while they were still in their early 20’s.  Both of them are extremely intelligent, and though they have done well at any job they pursued, neither has a college degree.

George has been a union plumber, a sanitation engineer (garbage man), a Sprint car racer, a butcher, worked in a cattle yard, and, finally, opened his own Shop:  Dickerson Mechanical.  And, after a trip to Italy with us, opened a restaurant, now owned by his daughter, Pamela, and her husband, Andrew:  Papa Georgio’s, soon to be, Georgioz.

George, the brother closest to me in age–only 10 years older–was my only brother I ever actually lived with.  The other two were already off on their own by the time I was born.  In my mind, when I grew up, it would be George and me fighting Mom and Dad together, but that’s a little too much family history for this post.

For fear this sounds too much like an obituary, I’ll be clear, this is actually a tribute post.  My brother is very much alive, and despite the setbacks dealt him in the last few weeks, he is doing amazingly well.  Rather like another famous George, George Bailey, at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life.

George and Kathy’s business sat under 3 1/2 feet water, mixed with sewage, on the west end of a small town in Iowa.  Colfax, Iowa, population 3600 or so.  While Chris and I were in Boulder, I would call to get updates on how things were going.  The answer was seldom positive, but despite this, George always managed to sound like everything was going to be fine.

I spent one day helping with the clean up, and I was so impressed by the grace, spirit, and strength George and Kathy showed.  Many, many people came to volunteer their time.  My niece from California had flown home to help.  My other niece took time from her work to do dirty, back-breaking work.  My nephew, who works for Dickerson Mechanical as well, was out on the job, doing the work that needed to be done.

Not only was I impressed by the number of people who wanted to help in their time of need, I was so moved by seeing their adult children choosing to be with them in this trouble.  Buds and I parent the way we do because we want to have lifelong, loving relationships with our children.  I got to the see the fruits of those labors for my brother and sister-in-law.

They still have much work ahead, and I know all of this has been very, very draining and stressful for them.  But they’ll be okay.  They decide what “okay” looks like, and they’ll be okay.

George and Kathy with us in Italy when I was pregnant with Baby #1.

To read a Des Moines Register article highlighting the flooding in Colfax, with George quoted, click here.


Wheeled Madness

Filed under: Uncategorized — mommie2zs @ 7:36 pm

The kids all got new scooters when they were at Mom’s.  Zoe and Zachary both had their scooters stolen from in front of our house in VA, and Yessa only had The Buster’s old, rusty Dora scooter.  So, now they are all zooming happily and speedily around the neighborhood on their new wheels.  Yessa got a plasma scooter, which allows her to go very fast, very low to the ground.

Then, yesterday, Monkey decided she had had enough of training wheels, and she got a crescent wrench, and took her training wheels off her bike.  And she’s been riding her bike like a pro.  Truly, no wobbling, able to do skid turns, start up from a standstill.  The spirit was ready and the body was able.  It’s really impressive, and serves as yet another reminder to me of how letting things happen in their own time works out very, very well.

This has all been good for me, too.  Having to stand back and learn to let them take their spills and bruises as they choose.  The number of times I’ve wanted to cry out as Yessa heads down the big hill in front of our house, but I stop…and realize…I don’t want to be a hindrance to her joy and moxie.  I’ll be there if she takes a spill, and set her right back on the scooter, ready to zoom off again.


Lies, Lies, and More Lies

Filed under: Dragonfly — mommie2zs @ 7:29 pm

My father, God rest his soul, taught all of us to be outstanding liars.  It was a two-part process, and I’ll share the complete details with you to allow you to a) become an accomplished liar yourself, or b) train your children to be fantastic liars.

1)  Use little white lies, small fabrications, or outright falsehoods to get your way or to get people to do what you want.  In my father’s mind, he was lying to us with our best interest in mind.  He truly believed that he was doing what was best for us, and any means necessary, though he wouldn’t have phrased it that way, was clearly his mantra.

His favorite method, which Buds and I laugh about now with great affection was, “The County Man.”  When we lived in the Big Yellow House in Iowa, which we designed and paid for ourselves, though my family did help us extensively in the building process, and my parents lent us the money to purchase the land the house was built on, my dad often thought we were making poor decisions about how we cared for the house and the land.  If he was especially concerned about one of our choices, or if he just really, really wanted us to do what he wanted, he would tell us that, “The County Man stopped by to tell me to tell you…” fill in the blank with whatever Dad’s latest concern was.  “The County Man told me…”  We never saw The County Man, but he certainly visited Dad often enough that he became the stuff of legend for us.

I believe The County Man was a carryover from my teen years.  I finally started to rebel, and to try and appease my hair-quick temper, Dad would tell me, “Your mother told me to ask you,” or, “Your mom said you should…”  I would ask Mom later, and she had no idea what the heck I was talking about.  Again, this was Dad’s way of keeping the peace while still getting things to happen in the way he thought was best.

So, I had that as a role model.

Next method:

2)  Overreact to every single thing that happens in your family’s lives.  Truly, every single thing.  Immediately jump to the worst case scenario for every conceivable event, and have no balance whatsoever in what you allow your children to do.

He went absolutely ballistic when my mom got a flat tire.  Truly, ape-s__t bonkers.  I cannot tell you the intense pleasure I felt when he got a flat tire a week later.  I was 9 years old.

I didn’t get to stay overnight for a friend’s slumber party because her mom was divorced and had a boyfriend.  As a parent now, I begin to understand better his fears and concerns, but, truly, every other girl in my class was staying overnight, and the girl’s mom was a teacher.

When we sold our house in Indiana, Dad was convinced that we’d a) never sell it, or b) if Buddie’s company bought us out, they’d only give us 25 cents on the dollar on the value of the house.  Might these things have happened?  Sure.  And if they did?  We’d figure it out, just like we had everything else in our life.

I was a good kid.  A very, very good kid.  I wasn’t a drinker, didn’t smoke pot, didn’t have sex, never had a car accident, class president, student council, band president, a freakin’ nerd, in fact, but very popular.  It didn’t matter.  Dad would say he wasn’t worried about me, he was worried about the rest of the world.

What did he succeed in creating?  The very things he didn’t want to have happen:  I went out of state to college, married a man who lived on a coast, and learned to always, always screen the truth from my dad.  My siblings were the same way.  We ended up not telling Dad so many things as a way of protecting him, we said, but it was largely to protect ourselves as well.

What does this have to do with a blog that is supposedly about my children?

Well, it isn’t just about my children, it is also about my journey as a parent, and recognizing attitudes and habits and family legacies that hinder my growth as a parent.

Every time I over react to something my children do, I’m training them in how to treat me.  Every time I act like they are the cause of me feeling happy or sad or upset, I’m training them to hide from me.  Even when I do it out of love for them, like today when I ripped into the big kids for riding their scooters in the parking lot when cars are driving through, I am still training them in how to hide from me.  Is being safe important?  Most definitely.  Is playing the hard-a__, tough parent the best or even the only way to deal with a situation like this?  Most assuredly not.  In fact, I think it is probably detrimental.

Any time a hot rush of emotion dictates my actions, it’s an opportunity to examine what is going on.

Now, The County Man might say differently.  He might say that yelling and being stern with children is the best way to impress an important lesson on them.  The research doesn’t support The County Man.

NurtureShock has a great chapter on lying which explains that all kids lie, and let’s be honest, so do most adults.  (We say we’re doing it out of kindness or to protect someone, and kids do it for the same reasons;  out of kindness to themselves and others.)  Not a big shocker for me; children in the most restrictive, controlling environments lie the most.

Here’s my point for myself:  I am the one who dictates the relationship I have with these children we have been blessed with.  Though they will still lie, and I should not ever be shocked by that, I can train them that they have little to fear in telling me the truth or asking for my help.  And, I will stop acting like things are a big deal.  Very, very, very little is a big deal.

And for clarification:  I was only a liar with my dad.  Though I come from a very long line of exaggerators, I try very hard to not even do that.  It sometimes leads me to sound odd because I’ll say, “I got up at 6:27,” or, “I drove into the parking lot and picked out one parking place, but then ended up driving to another spot that was closer to the sidewalk.”  Lots of extra information to be sure I’m  giving accurate information.  I’m probably erring on the side of too accurate, and I’m comfortable with that.

And to be fair:  My dad had a generous, loving spirit, especially toward the end of his life.  I was never able to completely adjust my quick and sharp reactions to him to match the mellowing he did over the years, which has always saddened me.  As with everyone in our lives, he had many lessons to teach me, and I’m still learning from him.

How will it work out for our kids?  Time will tell, and time always tells honestly.


The Folly of Children and Manners

Filed under: Dragonfly — mommie2zs @ 7:24 pm

There is someone in my life that I have a very difficult time with.  In fact, now that my father has passed, this is the one person who can push my buttons so fast I almost have to remove the top of my head to vent the steam.

This person is going to remain in my life…by my choice…and I know that I must have lessons to learn from this person, just as I had many lessons to learn from my dad, because otherwise I would not have these intense reactions.

Still, for the most part, despite my generally negative reactions to this person, I treat this person with politeness and kindness, as best I can.  Being extremely human and fallible, I do not always succeed, but I do truly try.

Which brings me around to the children.  Why is it that children, and for some people, adult partners as well, are not given the same politeness and respect that is give to strangers or even people we cannot stand? People save their best selves for others they only see randomly, or may never see again, while their loved ones, with whom they plan to spend a lifetime, get scorn, harshness, rudeness, and even verbal brutality.  I grew up with it.  It’s a way of life for many, many people.

I’ve been trying to be very aware of the tone and attitude I have been using with the children.  They deserve no less than my very best, as does my spouse, and my friends, yes, even the person in my life I don’t care for very much.  And I’m not talking about nicey, nicey.  Blech.  I was called “nice” so many times in high school it makes me want to vomit.  It’s a stupid, half-demeaning word.

I’m talking about common human decency and respect.  When I yell at my children or use a cutting tone, especially in front of other people, I’m not giving them the same respect I extend to every other person in my life.  I would no more yell at Buds than the man in the moon.  I wouldn’t consider yelling at my neighbors.  I wouldn’t yell at the person that rings up my groceries at Trader Joe’s.

Think about the ubiquitous baby monitor.  It was a huge part of our life for 6+ years.  It was to help make sure we could hear our babies and toddlers if they needed us.  But, what if we think of it from a different angle.  What if it is a mouth monitor as well?  Every word and tone I use is broadcast out to the world, allowing everyone to hear how I am speaking in my own home.

I was staying with friends when Monkey was very young, and I was talking to Buds on the phone.  We’d been away from him for a week, though I was enjoying myself with these friends, it was a rather oppressive home for various reasons.  I started to tell Buds my tale of woe, when I saw the baby monitor.  It was turned on, and if I turned it off it would cause a loud, harsh sound on the other end, in the living room, where my friend and her husband were sitting with their children.  I couldn’t know if they had turned the monitor off on their end.  So, the rest of the conversation was in half-speak, and day-to-day stories.  And it was fine.  It was probably best that I didn’t speak negatively of my friend in her own home after she welcomed us as visitors.  And, I certainly am grateful that I hadn’t said anything that would have been hurtful to her.

My children deserve no less.