where was i?

Coffee shop.  Laptop.  Waiting for inspiration to strike.  It never did, you know.  So you were greeted with a pageful of blather anytime you clicked over to my dusty little corner during the past month and a half.  Sorry about that.
Growing up, with every January came the standard lists of resolutions - grow/cut my hair, convince Mom and Dad to let me get contacts, get [that boy] to notice me, figure out the whole popularity thing, figure out how to not care about the whole popularity thing - carefully penned into whatever notebook / journal / note paper had been chosen as my new diary.  That diary was resolution Number 1:  this year would be the year that I faithfully journaled my days.  The highs and the lows, the ultimate triumph over abject misery, carefully transcribed to be bound and published, dog-eared copy passed solemnly from guidance counselor to desperate misfit for years to come.  Perhaps it is telling that there were no middles in my vision.  Perhaps I should have taken those stacks of highly optimistic autobiographies along to my first therapy session.  Perhaps.  But that isn't where I want this post to go today.
For two, two and a half weeks it would be my priority.  Every night.  And then life would get in the way --  boring, painfully normal life, hardly worth transcribing when every day is the same as the last.  Wake up, worry about [what to wear, what to eat, what to say, who to say it to, how to say it, where to sit], replay it all on the bus ride home so as to pick out the errors, then fall asleep worrying about how to make sure never ever ever to do [that] again, latherrinserepeat. Does not make for good copy.  And so the little notebook would begin to collect dust, the little writable moments crushed under the enormity of all the unwritables,yet another layer in the mounting evidence of my failures to achieve grandeur.
My glimmer of hope (for every Pollyanna must have a silver lining) was my upcoming birthday.  The last week of January was filled with the promise of beginning anew.  The rest of the world may celebrate the new year as the calendar flips from December to January, but I, I am an Aquarian!  Child of the water sign, born to rush and flow as capriciously as I might choose!  Roaring, spilling, splashing with all my might only to quickly change my mind and demeanor to that of a seemingly still silent pool, smooth as glass.  I would begin again!  And so I would.
I have little written record of how my teenage years went between April and December.  I am as I was and will be as I am.  I don't know where I came across that quote, but I find it both comforting and disheartening.  Predictability soothes my need to be in control but the thought of being predictable sends cold chills down my spine.  How to have something without allowing it to totally encompass me is a skill I have yet to master.
That's where meta me has been since my last post.  The non-navel gazing side has been stuck right in the middles that I refused to write about in my youth.  Well, the grown up version of those middles - housework in exchange for homework, laundry in exchange for locker-room drama.  I'm coming to appreciate the stability of those middles, though, so I'm going to attempt to branch away from the me that I was and see if there's any wiggle room on the me that I'm to become. 
Here are a few blips from the middles of life as we currently recognize it:
*In January I decided that to re-purpose the blog we had put together so that family and friends could follow Josh's trip to Ecuador.  A few tweaks and a new background, and viola!, it's now more our family travel blog.  You'll find it at www.happilyeverelsewhere.blogspot.com. (I'm typing this on the iPad and it's not playing nicely with Blogger.  The hard drive on the laptop is kaput, but as soon as we get it fixed, I'll come back and put in clickable links.)  There are posts on there from trips that Josh and I took prior to becoming a family of three as well as some more current stuff.  I was great about posting every week until we left for a visit to the States in mid-February... Stuff that still needs to go on there: -the Stateside part of half-term break -spring break trip to Mallorca -two and a half months worth of everyday posts and pictures -posts from trips prior to January
*Aaron's doing great at school.  That actually doesn't need the "at school" modification most of the time.  We were on an emotional roller coaster for several months leading up to the December break, enough so that I finally broke down and admitted to some of my favorite people that things weren't going so well and I could really use some new ideas.  As always they came through for me.  I don't know why it always takes me so long to ask for help.  Pride, I suppose.  At any rate, words of encouragement plus a great book reference plus tried and true tips gave me the energy that I needed to forge ahead.  Poor Aaron was hit with a two sided strike from home and school and although he fought and pushed and tested the boundaries with all his might, he was met with a strong but loving wall of "you have too much potential for us to give in."  I continue to struggle with the religious aspect of sending him to a Catholic school, but that aside,we couldn't have found a more nurturing environment for our special little snowflake.  Less than 100 students school wide means that Aaron and his idiosyncrasies are a known quantity rather than a surprise waiting in a file cabinet to be found by a teacher at wits end.  He is challenged to work at a level that pushes him to grow.  He is patiently supported when he balks in the face of a challenge.  A little religious indoctrination seems a small price to pay.  I try to view it as tolerence training and take as many opportunities as I can to point out all the good, wonderful people we know and love who have different views.  If all else fails, there is a tidy little sum being put away monthly for his college tuition that can easily be transferred to cover therapy bills...
*Josh works hard, then goes out for 15+ mile runs for "fun".  He's training for another marathon, the Wales Marathon that starts and ends here in Tenby.  I think he's mostly happy with the "new job", but the stress of straddling cultures seems to get to him every now and again.  Hence the long runs where all he has to think about straddling are the puddles which gather in the low spots from the continual rain.  He's a much happier soul when his most pressing issues are the blisters on his feet and mapping out the miles for the next run.
*I spoke with a dear friend yesterday and heard the words "I'm growing" come out of my mouth before I'd really had a chance to think about them.  After we hung up, I tossed those words around in my head to see how well they actually fit and was surprised to find them quite comfortable.  Things aren't all roses and sunshine.  Moving internationally sounds far more romantic than it is in actuality.  Some things stay the same - wherever you go, there you are - some things change so subtly that the difference could be easily blamed on a faulty memory.  Some differences are about as subtle as a slap in the face.  For me, the subtle changes are the hardest to deal with.  But (and here's where the growth part comes in), I find myself rolling with the changes with fewer tears and resistance than I would have imagined.  
I miss Michael's and Target and having a bazillionty choices for everything from laundry soap to radio stations.  I miss Pandora.  I miss being able to pick up the phone without having to stop and calculate the time difference.  I miss the chaos of spaghetti on Wednesdays and having the living room packed with friends and the constant sliding noise of the back screen as kids ran in and out and out and in.  I miss sitting down in the silence after everyone has gone home. 
But. 
I find myself more at ease with the silence of everyday.  The voices in my head are less shrill, more forgiving now that I have time to pay attention to them.  I am more apt to follow my own course.  I meet with others for coffee when I want to.  I go for a run while others meet for coffee when I'm feeling anti-social.  I volunteer my time at the school on the days when I have time that I want to volunteer.  I pretend not to be home if I don't want to answer the doorbell/phone.  I bake.  I craft.  I wander through the shops in town.  I read.  I sing at the top of my lungs with my headphones on as I tango down the stairs with the vacuum.  Little by little I've begun to chip away at the twin monsters of What Others Might Think and How I'm Supposed to Behave.  I smile.  A lot.  I laugh out loud for the sheer pleasure of feeling my stomach quiver.  So, yeah, I think I'm growing.
What's new with you?

i am here

I've parked myself in a coffee shop this afternoon.  Ordered lunch.  Brought my laptop.  Logged in.  Fingers on the keyboard, rhythmically tap, tap, tapping. Word becomes sentence becomes paragraph becomes deleted.  Cursor at top-left, blinking.  Waiting for inspiration to hit.

You would think, with the view, with the still newness of living here, that inspiration would be as readily available as air to breathe.

It probably is.

You would think that a yet-unblogged two week trip back to the States would provide fodder enough.

It probably does.

You would think that a six-month break from posting (or longer, depending on what you count as a post) would have left a backlog of options to post about so deep and wide that I would only have to push on the now spongy walls of my mind and the ideas would come flowing through.

They probably would.

Probably, but now it's been too long and I've forgotten where the sweet spots are and I'm scared I won't be able break into all that pent up inspiration without being drowned once the damn is broken.  I'm hesitant and clumsy with my blows and tap, tap, tap as I might, the only stream I seem to find is that of inane consciousness. Thoughts pouring through my head at a seemingly endless rate.  One with little or no connection to the one before or the one after or the one after that.  A constant state of consciousness of incoherence that leaves me too tired and too restless to sit down and pluck the meaningful from the swirl.

I almost gave into the choking swirl that urged me to stay home.   
Everything you need is here.  No need to go out.  Leftovers in the fridge.  Wasteful to go buy what you want when you can make do with what is here.  The sun isn't shining yet.  You're going to wear that sweater, again?  You'll have to carry your laptop to the grocery afterwards.  Won't you look pretentious, (should have)stay(ed)-at-home-nobody prancing through town as if big sunglasses and a fake leather bag give you meaning.  What about the time?  You could lose track of time.  You could lose track of time and have to rush down to the school and you haven't even gone to the grocery yet for dinner.  Have fun trying to justify that:  change to dinner plans just because you couldn't get to the store on a day with absolutely no obligations.  Unnecessary changes are *great* for a boy who is slow to accept change in general.  Better yet, take him to the store after school.  After school, after homework, after returning to the school for a parent-teacher conference.  Being up all night, coughing, won't have him running on self-control reserves already.  Go ahead, make his day longer.  That's not likely to turn out badly.  Stay home.  You can write just as easily here.  You don't even know what you're going to write about.  Bit proud to call it writing anyway.  Typing, more like.  With nothing to say.  You could just as easily do that here.  Get a jump on the laundry.  The floor down there really needs sweeping, too.  It'll just take a minute to unload the dishwasher, clean off the countertops.  Call that place about the thing.  You should really get that call made before you forget about it again and it's another week later and you still haven't worked out the details, whatever they may wind up being.  Procrastinator.  You're never going to get it done if you don't just get it started.  Probably can't even find the number.  The desk is a mess.  Are you ever going to finish that project?  What about that one?  Did you even get started on that or can we file that under "great idea, no follow thru" as well?  Just stay here.  Sit down and make a list of all the things that need done.  All the things started.  Prioritize them.  Obligations first, obviously.  If you didn't want to do it, you shouldn't have committed to it.  Who's fault is it you don't know how to say "no"?  You've got to start thinking first.  You should probably put ice on your ankle.  Probably wasn't your best bet to go out running with it still swollen from before.  At the very least you should have kept yourself in check.  Walked.  Too worried about keeping up your reputation?  The reputation of a nobody running nowhere for no reason.  Foolish.  Hubris.  Pride goeth before the (twisted ankle that led to the) fall.  Doesn't make sense to go back out on it now.  You should probably just stay here...


In the midst of the roar a single word broke through:  Go.

And so now, somehow, I find myself here, in a coffee shop, lunch dishes cleared.  The sun is breaking through the clouds, shimmering on the water below, warming my shoulders.  Fingers tapping aimlessly at the keyboard, waiting for inspiration to trickle through.

Poised.

Ready.

It feels good to be here.

of biology and career choices

For a while now Aaron has been inching closer and closer to "The Talk" with his questions about where he came from.  I had been able to satisfy his curiosity by answering exactly the questions he's asked -- that he has DNA from both Josh and me, that he grew from an egg in my uterus, that Josh had to give me some of his DNA in order for the egg to start growing into a baby, that I used my muscles to push him out through my vagina when he was big enough, etc.  Mostly stuff I could look him in the eye and tell him matter-of-factly.

I try to use the correct terminology. I try (despite my Puritan upbringing) to not get too squirmy when I use the correct terminology.  I'm more than a little thankful that most of these conversations happened last year in the car on the way to or from preschool so that "looking him in the eye" could be a loose translation of "glancing a little less frequently than usual in his direction in the rearview mirror".

A week ago Saturday, as we were all sitting quietly in the living room he sprung the big one on us. "But how did Daddy give you his DNA so you could put it with the egg that grew into me?"

One of the upsides to where we live now is that it is, quite literally, less than a two minute walk to school.  One of the downsides to where we live now is that it would be ridiculous to hop in the car to drive him to school.  Especially on a Saturday.  So, here we are, comfy and cozy on a (probably soggy) Saturday afternoon, well fed, reasonably rested, with no rearview mirror to act as a bumper from this most dreaded of questions.

In the echoing silence my first response was "Shit." (I managed to keep that in my head.)

My next response was "Daddy?" (Unfortunately for Josh, I said that out loud.)

Josh's face suggested that he was valiantly trying to figure out how the combination of Aaron working on a giant floor puzzle + Josh responding to work emails + me scouring the internet for weatherstripping x SportsCenter on in the background = Let's Have A Family Discussion About Sex!

His first couple of attempts at where to start gave me enough time to remember, "Hey! We have a book! With words and pictures! Aimed at kids! It's science!", so I sent Aaron up to get his Little Encyclopedia of the Human Body. He brought it down, sat down beside me and perused the index, then flipped to page 78 - Egg and Sperm:  How babies are made.  (Methinks maybe he had already read this page?)

We sat there and read it together.  Well, as long as "read it together" means basically the same thing as "I sat on the floor and made him sit on the floor in front of me, facing the book rather than my face and then I choked out the words on the page":

Adult humans use their reproductive systems to make babies.  Males produce cells called sperm that can swim.  Females produce a single egg each month.  To make a baby, a man puts his penis inside a woman's vagina to release sperm.  The sperm swim toward the egg and fertilize it.  The fertilized egg grows into a baby inside the uterus.

He sat there for a few minutes, quietly taking in the rest of the information listed, helpfully, next to the corresponding pictures.

I considered whether or not I could just leave it there and remain true to The Teacher's Oath. Hey, I'm not REALLY a teacher anymore, so it doesn't really apply, right? Right? He's my child, not my student... what do you mean my child is my most important student and if I don't feel compelled to honor him enough "to impart the knowledge [he] seek[s]" then I probably should reconsider that wild dream of every going back in the classroom. Shit. All right then. Deep breath. Here goes: asked him if he had any questions.

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A: Where does the penis go?

Me: Into the vagina.

A: Why does it have to go there?

Me: So the sperm can fertilize the egg.

A: Oh.

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A: Sounds kinda yucky and messy.


Possibly related:  This past Wednesday Aaron informed me that he thought he'd like to be a "blesser" when he grew up. When I asked him what exactly that was, he elaborated, "A blesser, a priest.  You know, like Father McGriel?"

I suppose there is a certain "neatness" inherent in following a calling into the priesthood...