July 19, 2010

When I was a kid I remember learning about the title “Ms.” and I believe it was explained to me by my father as a title for women who and not married and are ashamed to not be a Mrs. and are too old to be called Miss any longer.  (Thanks for that one, Buzz.)  I remember having a distinct image in my mind of what this “Ms.” looked like: tall, gawky, horn-rimmed glasses, leopard-print wrap dress (wah?), and eyes that were too shy/ashamed to meet your gaze.  And I remember deciding immediately that I would never be a Ms.

Today I was filling out an online subscription and when it gave me the drop-down menu for “title” I proudly chose “Ms.” Somewhere along the journey of my life I decided to change my definition of what it meant to be a Ms. and I’m darn proud to be one now!  Anyway, I’m short, sassy, don’t wear glasses and always look people directly in the eye.  (I could totally get down with the leopard-print wrap dress, though! ) “Ms.” is just who I am!  I think I stopped being a “Miss” about 20 years ago and although the secretaries at Rahul’s school and some of his friends like to call me “Mrs. Smith”, that’s my mom, not me.  “Ms.” means power and freedom and wisdom and experience.  It means confidence and mystery.  I love that it looks the most like “Mr.” of all the choices for women, but it retains the feminine “S”.  I love that it has the “zz” sound — I think that’s where the leopard print dress image came from all the those years ago!  I like being not just Renee, but Ms. Smith.  It reminds me that I deserve respect and that I am a grown-up, even if I don’t feel like one all the time!

But as much as I love being Ms. Smith, you can call me Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.

Rahul Growing

July 13, 2010

So in all the hubbub last week, Rahul quit Tae Kwon Do.  It broke my heart because he has been working so hard at it and I thought he was doing very well.  But for several reasons, most of them a little foggy to me, he suddenly was done with it.  And I supported his decision.  But it meant that he would now be home with me 24/7 and I began to fantasize about jumping over a cliff. ( Mommy needs quiet time every once in a while!)


So I suddenly had an inspired idea: we recently joined The Botanical Garden and have been spending a lot of time there, since its close to our house and Rahul’s so into gardening right now, and they have a summer program for kids, and VOILA (or “wahlas”, as Rahul likes to say)!!  A Plan!


The program is only 2 1/2 hours long, twice a week (great for Rahul) and its very gentle socially (also a big plus for Rahul) and this morning was his first session.  And it went GREAT.  When I picked him up Rahul stepped off the tram with a huge armful of greens for us to eat and he chatted away about the carrots he planted and the recipe they made and the broccoli he’s going to pick for us when its ripe.  And the best part of it for me was that, not only did I get to fit some work in while he was there, but I arrived to pick him up almost an hour early.  So I found a little spot in the Conifer Garden (my favorite part of the park) and just sat there staring at the trees.  My brain began to stop whirling around and as the muscles in my body unclenched I was moved nearly to tears at the serenity around me and within me.  You better believe I’m getting there early every day from now on!


So let’s just cross our fingers that Rahul can actually dig his roots in and stick it out for the rest of the summer!


This is my mantra when Rahul takes a turn for the dark side: 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back.  Since we met he has had this pattern (his doctors call it “cycling”) where he will be happy and flexible for several months, then he will be unhappy and immovable for a few.  Early in 2010 I had an appointment with our family therapist and Rahul had been doing really well.  In fact, I was positively giddy, thinking that our bad times had past and we could just focus on moving forward.  Guess what Bob said.  “Renee, don’t forget, with Rahul its always 2 steps forward, 1 step back.”


I was really glad he said that one week later when Rahul entered one of the darkest periods we have ever experienced.


Then a few months ( and 4 new doctors later) he took a sudden turn for the better.  It is hard to describe how happy I was to see Rahul able to enjoy life.  In fact, the first day he spent in his happy place, I watched him try many new things with my mouth hanging open, waiting for the other shoe to drop. At the end of that day we went to a park in our neighborhood, and as he was running around with a friend tears just streamed down my face, I was so joyful to see him having fun like every other kid there.


The 2 Steps Forward phase is super fun.  Rahul is able to do so much more and I try to really push him to his limit, knowing that our time in this phase is limited.  In fact, it is now over and we have officially entered the 1 Step Back phase.  And this phase is not fun at all.


Rahul had a rough week this week, but it didn’t dawn on me that we had left the happy cycle until yesterday.  My two cherished plants that I  just wrote about in my last blog post were destroyed in a rage.  Rahul gave them to me as a gift for our first Mother’s Day and when he is upset he destroys things that I love as a way to get me to share in the pain he is feeling and also to take his pain out on someone he trusts will not leave him.  And as I stood at the window crying over all that those plants that I nurtured from seedlings to huge thriving specimens represent to me, I heard Bob’s voice reassuring me, 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back.


And I dug in my heels to wait for those 2 steps.

Old Dog

July 7, 2010

If you would have asked me 2 years ago what my biggest weaknesses were I would definitely included these in the list:

1. I’m a terrible athlete.  I have no desire to be a good one! I just generally suck at all sports.  I don’t follow any teams.

I don’t even work out.

2. I have killed every plant I have ever owned or taken care of.  I once had to hand over a whole tray of plants I was “babysitting” for a neighbor and they were all dead.  Once my aunt gave me a gift of some Paper White bulbs. They came in a kit with a pot, soil and directions.

I planted them upside down.

Enter Rahul, who is an amazing athlete and has the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen!

Its really quite astounding how much time I spend these days in some kind of sporting activity, either watching Rahul, coaching him (as if I know!) or playing with some kind of ball/frisbee/bike/etc.  I really believe in letting boys wrestle and “play fight” and since I am both mom and dad I feel its important to try to do these things.  But it is quite a hilarious sight.  I am either tickling Rahul (my one and only defensive tactic) or squealing and ducking my head.

I’ve been a little more successful at the gardening.  Rahul gave me 3 plants for Mother’s Day last year and 2 of them are still alive! And they’ve multiplied! We have something like 12 plants in our house right now, all of which are thriving! We have a membership at the Botanical Gardens.  And we even located several mulberry trees in our neighborhood and made pies with the berries we picked!

I feel stretched daily as I try to meet the demands of motherhood.  Its nice to know some of that stretching has taught me some new tricks!



Life Marrow

July 4, 2010

This morning my son and I slept until almost 9:30.


I cannot even remember a time when either of us slept that late.  For us, 6:30 is sleeping in!  What’s more, we are at my parents’ house for a Fourth of July visit and it is near to impossible to get much sleep here.  My parents are both early risers and my bedroom is right next to the kitchen.  My dog sleeps like a log here, until anyone walks by our door, then he barks as if there is a sudden state of emergency and it lies on his shoulders to protect the nation.  But, by far, the biggest impediment to sleeping in is my dad.  Once he’s awake, he wants everybody else up too.  So he talks extra loud, bangs pots and pans, turns on the radio.  There’s no point in even TRYING to sleep through that.


So it was a major miracle that we ALL slept in today.  When Rahul woke up, he was disappointed that he had missed so much of the day.  And it struck me that he really does like to suck the marrow out of life.  Which is really inspiring.  And exhausting.  Today from the moment we all finally arose, we have been active non-stop.  As there are 3 adults here, we try to spell one another so we can each catch our breath in turn.  But Rahul just keeps ticking.


Rahul didn’t even change out of the clothes he slept in (he doesn’t like pajamas) when he saw how clear Lake Ontario was this morning.  He jumped right in before my eyes were fully open.  Then we had a big breakfast, then jumped in the car to go take a plane ride with Grandpop.  My dad got his pilot’s license 2 years ago and has a plane at a nearby airfield, but I have never had the chance to go flying with him.  Rahul absolutely loves flying, so off we went this morning.  Then we came home and barely slowed the car down enough for Grammy to jump in and went off to pick cherries at a nearby farm.  They have a fun kids’ park there and Rahul ran from one thing to another, in the blazing hot sun, having a great time.  They just added pony rides to the menu there, so he rode his first horse today.  Then we had hot dogs and ice cream and came back home.  Then it was time for another swim.  Then we planted a garden–Rahul’s summer project here, ate dinner and swam again!  At this point I pulled a chair up to the edge of the water and fell asleep.  Sometimes you just have to grab it when you can get it!  Then we made a bonfire and roasted marshmallows.  I just put Rahul to bed at 10:50pm tonight with 2 teeth he pulled out of his own mouth under his pillow.


And the whole day, Rahul keeps talking.  He’s got ideas and thoughts just bursting out of his head.  He has so many things he’s interested in and he is always making plans for his future–declaring a new career he will pursue, hobby he will take on, etc.  Before Rahul came here he had not thought of his future at all.  That is not a topic discussed in orphanages much.  Rahul had no sense of time–days of the week, holidays–he didn’t even know how old he was.  It took me a year and a half and lots of corroborating evidence for him to believe me when I told him how old he was.  And children without parents in India do not have a happy future to look forward to.  When many of my friends met Rahul for the first time they asked him the standard “kid” questions, to which they got no response:


“How old are you?” He was 7, but he thought he was 6.


“When’s your birthday?” He had no idea, and still doesn’t remember.


“What do you like to do?”  He didn’t know what that meant because orphanage life doesn’t give you choices.  You all do the same activities whether you like them or not, so you don’t develop a sense of what’s unique about you.


“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This was a question I’m sure no one had ever asked him in his entire life.  And it was something I’m sure he never thought of.


Now however, I DARE you to ask him what he wants to be when he grows up.  Every day he has a different idea about what he wants to do.  Two days ago he announced he wanted to be a rich farmer.  Then it was a pearl farmer.  Then it was an underwater explorer.  Today he told us that when he turns fifteen he wants to buy a horse and become a Mennonite.


I love hearing him talk about his future.  And I love that he lives his life to the full. And I love that he is sleeping soundly right now.


Because now I can count on a good 6 hours before we start it all over again.

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