Monthly Archives: June 2014

Learning to Crawl?: My First Anniversary As A Blogger

“… Life’s a journey not a destination/And I just can’t tell what tomorrow brings/You have to learn to crawl/Before you learn to walk…” Amazing by Aerosmith

Babies normally transition from crawling to walking around their first birthdays. I verified this, and was going to provide a link backing up that statement as proof. But I’m a mother. I remember. Take my word for it. Or don’t — look it up.

Consider this though: The mother of the family of three that I baby-sat for during my senior year as an undergraduate spent much of her time crawling around their home. She could, on occasion, incline herself to stand, to walk.  But most days, she was physically unable to do either for long, or at all. I’m not sure what I feel worse about — that I have forgotten her name or that I can not remember if it was Multiple sclerosis or Muscular dystrophy that afflicted her. Though, after doing a Wikipedia search, the descriptions I got pointed at the latter.

In any case, she experienced pain, discomfort, and other issues that did not occur to my unfairly lucky, healthy, young self. Every time I have reflected back, wishing I had kept in touch, (she wanted to keep me on! But commencement loomed and I had no idea where life was leading me next.) and as my age has increased, my life experiences have accumulated further, it hits me harder every time to think about how the baby that she was had gone through the same process of learning to crawl, then walk, just like everyone else. Later, as a completely able-bodied woman, with a career, a husband, a home, the eventual arrival of her son…a life, her condition is realized. Maybe it started out manageable at first. I can’t attest for certain, as it didn’t remain as such. After all, many afternoons, I was there for Noah, their 8-year-old or thereabout in age, because even though his mother was home, too, I could reach the top shelf of their fridge. I could help him wash his hands before his after-school snack. I could stand next to him to assist him with some homework. I could freshen the wet compress for his swollen eyes when his seasonal allergies were at their most severe.

As a mother now, I imagine how much this might have killed her a little inside. To not be able to do these simple things with her son. Even then though, my heart felt heaviness about the situation. Good thing I seemed to have left a positive impression.

Still, the resonance: She had to learn to crawl all over again.

If you’re lost on the connection that I am drawing, stick with me. It will gel. Promise.

The months of May and June of last year were tremendously and relentlessly humid. The rigor in my search for comfort multiplied in direct result of our-then busted central air conditioning. I feared that this was becoming one of those “times in my life/When I was goin’ insane.” My kid and I inevitably slunk to the basement for whatever cool refuge could be found on June 25, 2013. This action plus our family computer’s residency on the bottom floor turned out to be my final impetus for starting this blog on that day a year ago. And I began to write.

Because I have come to believe that it is often important to see someone’s beginning, in order to understand where and why they currently are in life, here is that first ever post of iloveyoumorethanicecream: https://iloveyoumorethanicecream.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/navigating-all-the-time/.

We have a universal method for measuring time: seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, a year (and so forth). But how do we quantify our personal journey during the course of those 12 months? How when life — like time — is not linear.

We’re all familiar with the phrase that “life is like a rollercoaster,” speaking to its ups and downs, to the various occurrences, both good and bad, to how you never know if the bad time you are coming off of is getting better or turning worse. Or, if the good time you are having is about to sweeten further or sour altogether. So, we are all always learning to crawl, then learning to walk, as well as learning to walk, and then finding ourselves learning to crawl. Both metaphorically and literally, depending on what life has doled out.

For a while, after a few months as a blogger, I wondered how I was stacking up next to other bloggers/writers. Was I learning the ropes? Was I learning to crawl? Am I now entering the stage where I will learn to walk?

But just like life has taught me that you can not compare yourself to others in general — you can only compare/compete with yourself, be better than you were yesterday — the same goes for writing. I was looking for right answers, but there arn’t any. After all, even though some fellow bloggers write on similar topics, some are also writing on topics that I have not yet touched.

This first year has showed me that I shouldn’t be sweating over how and if I measure up to my peers, but instead look to them for inspiration, for community, for reciprocal support. Whether I am still crawling or now walking doesn’t matter. There is no end or beginning to either.

The general consensus is that it takes most people a year to learn the ropes of a new job. To be familiar with their responsibilities to the point that it no longer requires much thought in order to execute them. Even though I don’t get paid being a blogger — my currency is meeting and interacting with the other good, solid, interesting, pleasant writers/people — it is still work (not some kismet epiphany, as either some lead others to believe or allow themselves to think is the truth). I am not disillusioned — it will always be work.  It will always take the investment of my time, energy, heart, passion. Ergo, I still expect to learn more. And certainly I expect to crawl when I need to, walk when I’m able.

 

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My City of the Interior: Why This Writer Reads

Whether you are a casual lover of words, an avid bibliophile, a smither of vocabulary, or just a soul searching for an overall source providing answers, entertainment, connection, disconnection, distraction, whathaveyou, do you know why you derive pleasure from however you go about studying the printed version of words, and to whatever degree? A bounty of writers have written about why they write. This even became true of myself recently when I penned my post “Don’t Stop Believin’, Or Why Writers Write.”  (https://iloveyoumorethanicecream.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/dont-stop-believin-or-why-writers-write/). I only grazed the surface of what I could say about why I’m a writer. Nevertheless, I broached the topic.

Why do you read though?

Even, how do you read? What I mean is, what is your role as a reader? Do you read just as a person? Do you read as a Reader? (Capitalized because it is a serious activity for you — like it is for me — even in the pleasure it provides.) Or, because you are a writer, do you read as one (like I do, sometimes mentally editing when I stumble upon shoddy work executed by an author’s professional editor)?

I fit all three designations. Sometimes simultaneously. Other times, only two of the standpoints are active.

Ever since I learned to read — and shortly after, fell hard in forever-love with the activity — I have been a life-long Reader. Upper case R all the way.

Overall for me though, I connect with reading simply as a person, in ways that other people must, as well. Then, reading is therapy, it’s a soul salve, it’s connection and answers. Still on the human level, it is also escape, and entertainment.

When life is heavy, when I find myself struggling to trust others and/or I don’t feel currently viewed as trust-worthy myself, books remain constant, dependable, non-judgmental friends. The closest thing to a disconnection from the outside world when that is needed instead. The closest thing to my personal island.

Writers need to connect, though, too. This is why writing communities exist in so many forms, such as virtually, like the very one that I participate in on Twitter, MondayBlogs, or the sit-down-once-a-month writer’s clubs.

But as a writer, reading serves as a way for me to study the craft of writing. It probably is for loads of others, from the unknown such as myself up to the weekly bestselling authors. I think that when you read the work of a writer whose style you admire, you take notes, even subconscious ones. (Honestly though, I also keep pen and paper close for capturing quotes that reverberate through my every bone.)

I am also driven to read because of the inner life, those minuscule but many workings that go on internally. Sure, this occurs scientifically, but that is not what I am talking about. Instead, I am addressing all the cogs and gears of the soul. Who you really are inside, separate from how your surface looks. I think of it sort of like an interior city, which is what I think Anaïs Nin meant when she titled her next to last work — known as a “continuous novel” due to its sequential one volume containing five books — Cities of the Interior, in 1959, featuring “three woman resembling different aspects of the author.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cities_of_the_Interior. The volume itself has even been described as “a lyrical celebration of the inner life and the images it evokes.” http://www.ohioswallow.com/book/Cities+of+the+Interior.

Reading helps me to understand my inner workings at the times that I don’t, but desperately want to. After all, it may be my own interior city, but that doesn’t mean I constantly comprehend it all, nor can track everything going on in there.

Also because sometimes, I am a woman at war with herself — just as Nin described the versions of herself that she wrote about in Cities of the Interior. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11040.Cities_of_the_Interior. Even the times that I believe that I am at war with the world or a specific person. Of course, personal perspective is not always clear perspective.

Reading helps to reclaim the latter.

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How Superheroes Are Helping My Child Learn to Read

Zip! Zap! Zoom!

Batman became one of my daughter’s obsessions about a year ago, and now he, along with all the other superheroes — as well as their pets — are her reading teachers, too. Albeit unknowingly.

Most people could guess that this is her daddy’s influence. And not only on her, but myself, as well, making us a family of hero-lovers.

When she learned of two connected children’s series — DC Superpets! and Super DC Heroes — she requested a library visit post haste. Of course, both my husband and myself thought the little chapter books sounded pretty cool, and when we did in fact sojourn to our local biblioteca, we flipped through some of the available selection with her.

Home came a few titles. She enjoyed them so thoroughly straight off, that we used up all available renewals, causing us to go back for more. This has occurred a handful of times now, since the first encounter two to three months ago.

Surely, she will burn right through the six titles we have in our possession, most of which we just selected during a family library trip at the top of last week. Luckily, she doesn’t seem to tire of them.

The six titles of Super DC Heroes and DC Super-Pets! we currently have on loan from the library.

The six titles of Super DC Heroes and DC Super-Pets! we currently have on loan from the library.

 

For awhile now, my daughter has been paying more attention to printed words, as she is taking her own initiative to learn to read. (Her bookworm momma is so proud!) I first noticed it closer to the beginning of the year, before she even crossed the threshold into turning four. While paging through the programming schedule for her educational children’s shows, to run whichever viewing request of the moment she had issued, she read aloud to me what was ahead in the listing for that day. I was simultaneously impressed and in disbelief. My baby was beginning to read! It’s the sort of thing you want to climb on top of the roof for, broadcasting it with all the strength and volume that your vocal cords can muster.

It wasn’t then, a surprise to me a bit more recently — while reading these superhero adventure books together — that she continued to absorb bits of text. My intentional slower speed as I run a fingertip underneath each word only aid and motivate her more. Some of the text is in color. This is the text she has gotten down quickest. Incidentally, they are all action exclamations.

Pages of two of the titles, showing the action exclamations commonly used in superhero situations, that my daughter has attained learning.

Pages of two of the titles, showing the action exclamations commonly used in superhero situations, that my daughter has attained learning.

 

Okay. I realize that her new ability to recognize and read this niche of vocabulary isn’t exactly an advantage for when she starts school next year. After all, being able to read a bunch of action exclamations isn’t entirely useful. It’s a start, though.

Further, how often do teachers cover superheroes in school, even as a reading device? Well, maybe a select bunch have tuned into children her age well enough to have figured out that the masked marauders could be utilized in this way.

Nevertheless, I know that it’s possible that I’m permitting Batman more credit then he is due. No disrespect toward the winged wonder.

What is realistic and true, I feel, is that she is definitely building the confidence in herself that she can and will learn to read. That she is already learning. Additionally, she gets excited about spending time with mom and/or dad on our comfy couch, going cover to cover. That excitement will also facilitate her learning process…in anything. Not just reading. And I want that for her. Confidence and excitement about herself and about learning. About life, honestly.

 

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Future Soccer Mom

It’s amazing to me what mothers instinctively know about their children. Sometimes, even before meeting them.

During my eighth month of pregnancy, I accurately and unflinchingly “called it” when all of my then-fetus daughter’s constant kicking led me to joke that she was going to be a soccer player or at least develop interest in the sport.

Yes, all babies kick during gestation, but I knew without any doubt, that my jest was actually insight into my child’s personality. Nightly, my attempt to quickly amble to the bathroom, trying not only to make it there in time, but also to somehow not disturb the slumbering cherub inside would inevitably turn into a one-sided soccer match, and usually right as I returned to my bed and searched for whatever level of comfort I had prior to waking and realizing my need. The kicking would commence. Maybe exactly as I found repose. Maybe several moments after. Either way, I would wonder if she had somehow acquired a tiny ball.

As she grew and moved through each stage of her life so far — and especially once she achieved voluntary control of her lower body, other than the cute little kicking that babies do whenever lying on their backs — she has continued to prove momma’s prediction true, using her feet in horseplay, “fighting” daddy or in choosing during moments of rebellion to move possessions with her feet, instead of picking them up with her hands.

Because I was attracted to soccer myself between the ages of 10 – 14, I am not all that surprised that my daughter is, too. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the encouragement or confidence needed to try out for a team. So, for as much as I felt a strong pull, my interest remained merely that, until it fell away into hibernation somewhere deep in all my layers. I see this as an ironic pity as getting involved in soccer and making it a part of who I was as an adolescent might have resulted in my cultivating the very confidence that I lacked, holding me back from soccer — and plenty of other things — in the first place.

Like a seed, this comatose enchantment of mine roused and replanted itself in my daughter.

What is interesting to me is how quickly my 4-year-old is picking up speed in her interest.

Of course, I encourage this for: the physical activity; the potential friendships; the skills; and the confidence. For all the good that it can do for her, that it must do for any child. Salvation from boredom in tandem with creating a place to belong.

One activity that she enjoys doing with either myself or my husband is taking her soccer ball with us to a local park to kick around. Not only is there a useful pavilion for enjoying a packed lunch, and plenty of slides, swings, general jungle gym fun, but there are also a few soccer fields, which were installed for the local high school teams to hold their matches. When not in use, anyone can unlatch the fence and take advantage of the space. And so on occasion, we certainly have run off excess energy on the soccer field, pretending to be opponents, practicing scoring on the net, all of that.

This brings her such joy. The first time I realized this, I began calling myself a future soccer mom, though the term didn’t occur to me as much as just seeing how this scenario could play out in her life as an extracurricular.

Because I used to automatically cringe when picturing those huge vans that suburbanite soccer moms are stereotyped as driving — and the accompanying appearance that a soccer mom is only about soccer and nothing else —  I found this image unsavory and the furthest from what I ever wanted to be.

But I don’t have to be a soccer mom to be a soccer mom. I can redefine the term, make it fit me instead of tailoring myself.

Anyhow, I digress. What I had begun to explain was that on Memorial Day, she decided that she wanted to do that — go to the park to play and at some point play soccer in the field with her ball. It wasn’t on my radar honestly, but that guilt that so many mothers experience was what made me reprioritize the day so that we could visit the park.

Upon arrival, it was plain to see that the field was in use and would be for awhile. This was an immediate letdown for her that I managed to distract her from by suggesting that she enjoy the slides and swings. Playing was great until we were both overheated and overdue for lunch. It was at this point that she began to argue with me, reiterating that she wanted to play soccer, causing me to repeat why she could not. Back and forth we went. All the while, I kept a firm voice, even as she broke into angry tears, screaming at me. Momma kept control. Momma calmly said, “Okay, we can not use the field now. You have two choices: either, we leave right this minute if you can not calm down, or, if you can stop being upset and listen, we can watch the game for a bit in the grass.”

More argument. I decided to do what other parents have done in the past, something that surely my own mother did with myself and my younger sister; I turned slowly around and waved good-bye to her as I continued moving toward the exit. I walked with purpose and listened for her footfalls behind me, her shout “Momma, wait!” Anything.

But nothing. And I knew I couldn’t really leave. I stopped and turned back toward her to see her silently crying harder, looking dejected and bewildered. It was enough to melt away some of the frustration I was tightly holding reigns on. Even calmer than before, I got close to her, knelt down, and repeated my offer one last time. She tried pushing her luck by demanding to sit in the bleachers, which I didn’t want to do. It was crowded, and we didn’t know anyone for either school that was competing.

Either she finally understood all that I had been saying, or her fatigue got the best of her, as she succumbed to finding a spot in the grass near a small tree, and said “Mommy, I’m tired.” I told her she had the perfect spot to relax, her stroller, as I helped her get comfortable. And wouldn’t you know it, watching this girls’ soccer game for roughly 10 minutes pacified her as well as the binkies of her infancy.

While we observed the match, a current soccer mom somewhere in our vicinity — who obviously had a daughter on one of the two teams — gasped and shouted “Oh, no no no!” as the other team scored. My immediate internal knee-jerk reaction was: This can not be the biggest deal in your life. It’s just a high school soccer game. But no, it’s not. No sooner than having that thought, I understood and silently retracted. No, it probably isn’t her biggest worry. But two things: 1) When you are watching a sporting event and are engaged in it, you are completely wrapped up. 2) Her kid was out there. If this is important to her kid, it’s important to her. Even if it isn’t the most important thing. Even if it’s only a game.

That moment might possibly have been my unofficial initiation toward my role as a soccer mom.

While we walked home, my daughter must have been feeling badly for fighting with momma, since in a very small, low octave she suddenly said: “Mommy, I love you.” It hit me like she was begging for forgiveness, for me to not be angry with her, which I wasn’t any longer. Even though I hadn’t screamed back or lost sight of who the parent is, the tininess of her voice got to me. I wondered if I was harsh in a way that wasn’t obvious to me. “I love you, too, babe. You know that.” No, I did okay. I stayed firm, even while she pushed back. I effectively delivered the message: I’m your momma, so I call the shots.

She’ll come to understand that this was still be the case, even when she answers to a coach on a soccer field. Coach can call those shots. Momma will always be in command of all the rest.

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