Friday, January 30, 2009

A little light in a long, dark week...

So Kate, our 10 year-old, is home sick today from school. It's been a rough week for me because Carroll is away in Europe for work for two weeks and so far:

-Monday was a half day for Kate, so I couldn't go in to the office
-Tuesday it started snowing and after taking 90 minutes to drive to Kate's school and back, I decided maybe I wouldn't drive the 30+ miles to the office
-Wednesday, there was a two-hour delay and then they cancelled after school activities due to ice (I made it to the office for 4 hours and then worked from 9 pm to 3 am)
-Thursday, on my way in for the first full, in-the-office day of work in a week, I went to fill up the car with gas (across the street from the office) and managed to douse myself with gasoline, which required me to go to Ann Taylor and buy a new outfit, then go the gym and take a shower, then go to the dry cleaner's a drop off my clothes!
-And then today, Kate is sick.

So I needed something good to happen today. Kate slept in and when she woke up, she was feeling a lot better. While I took conference calls and did my e-mail, she sat at the kitchen table and wrote a picture book for her siblings. I was so amazed at it that I had to Skype it to Carroll in Europe. And now I have to share it with all of you. I hope you like it as much as I did.


"When the sun was young"
By Kate Muffett

When the sun was young, she was sad. She was lonely, for she had nothing to shine on, for it was when she was small that the universe was empty.

All she shined on was the black sky around her.

The sun was so sad and small in the big, black space that the spirits who created her now helped her regain happiness. So one day, Sun gave birth to nine beautiful children.

The sun was so happy that she gave each of her children a name and a gift.
Her first son, Saturn, she gave a ring.
To her second son, Jupiter, she gave size. He would be the biggest of his brothers.
To Pluto, her smallest son, she gave hope. Hope that he would be like his brothers someday.
To Mercury, she gave speed. He would be the fastest of the brothers.
To Neptune and Uranus, her twins, she gave reason. They would always be reasonable, even when their brothers weren't.
To Venus, her seventh son, she gave responsiblity. He would take care of his brothers and be responsible for what he does.
And to Mars, her youngest son, she gave joy. He would spread it to the other planets when they were sad.

Then the Sun turned to her daughter, Earth, and whispered to her...
"You are my daughter and I shall grant you my love."

And because of her mother's love, forests and oceans sprang up on little Earth
and whales and fish and dolphins played in her waters.
Elephants came to be on her lands.
Birds flew in her skies. Wolves ran on her ground and cats slinked in the tall grass.

Mother Sun was happy and so was little Earth.
But high up in the sky, the spirits decided that Earth was worthy to hold more and be appreciated more.
So the spirits made people.
And the people were to go onto little Earth and little Earth liked it.
Mother Sun told her daughter to love and care for the creatures on her and she did.
She gave them shelter and food and they loved her. She became Mother Earth and all of her people and animals were her children.

All of her brothers were excited and happy for the new creatures and Venus, because of his responsibility, gave Earth a moon.
"Because our mother does not shine all the time, Luna will shine for you at night." And she did.
Luna kept the Earth company at night and shone for them.

All the planets were so happy that they danced around and around and around Mother Sun, and they are still doing the eternal dance today.

And Mother Sun gives light to all who live on her daughter, the Earth.

The End

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sometimes, it takes a three year-old to tell you how it really is

Things have been a little rough lately. Our fabulous au pair, Ruzica, left us on Thanksgiving Day because her mom was ill in Serbia. We hoped in vain for her return, but finally gave up a few weeks ago. We were very lucky to find a spot for Truman at a local home-based daycare, but it's been pretty hectic, and I found myself recently wishing for JUST ONE MORNING when I did not have to clean up a disgusting mess before 8 am (you know, oatmeal on the floor, Cheerios bowl complete with milk overturned on someone's homework, pee on a rug...stuff like that).

It was one of these mornings when I found myself alone with Izzy and Truman after Kate and Carroll had left on the bus. Izzy and I had been having one of our long conversations about the fact that, unfortunately, all of the underwear does not have Cinderella on it, and inevitably, we reach the point in the week where we have run out of Cinderella underwear (I have since procured about 28 more pair of Disney princess underwear, netting me another 4 Cinderellas.)

Anyway, after a great deal of negotiating, I had Isabel mostly dressed and downstairs, ready to eat breakfast. Of course, on this day, she preferred her cereal in a sandwich bag and honestly, I'd just already had enough arguing that day. So I gave it to her.

Well, Truman the Tornado saw his opportunity right away. He snatched the bag from Izzy's hand and proceeded to shake it all over the kitchen as widely as possible, while Izzy wailed as if she had just been mortally wounded. I swooped in and grabbed Truman, plopped him on the naughty seat and, while counting to 10, got down on my hands and knees to clean up his mess. There was still a little cereal left in Isabel's bag, so she went into the hallway to pout and munch while I cleaned.

Now, Truman is not so good with the naughty seat concept yet, but I just didn't have the time or the patience to hold him on the seat and count that day. So, of course, he released himself on his own recognizance. As I was down on the kitchen floor in my suit trying not to lose my mind, I heard another wail from behind me. Truman, of course, had grabbed the bag again and spewed the last of the cereal all over the hardwood floor (just in the spot where there are little gaps between the boards), and was dancing on the cereal to crush it really well, gleefully chanting, "Happy, happy, happy!"

At this point, I think there may have been some profanity, and I definitely took Truman by surprise with the way in which his little legs flew out from under him as I hoisted him up and moved him to the dining room. I guess you could say that I came unglued because it was enough for Izzy to stop mid-wail and tell me, "Mommy, he is my baby brother and he loves me and you need to be nice!" When I tried to explain that I was not being mean, I was just a little angry and frustrated, Izzy replied very pointedly, "Well, you LOOK like you're mean." Hmmmm.

As if this was not enough of a reminder from the universe to get it together, I got another little kick in the head about 15 minutes later. We finally got ourselves together and headed out the door. Truman had decided he was big and thought he'd start down the concrete front stairs himself while I was locking up. Yeah, not such a great idea. He skidded down about 4 stairs on his forehead, leaving a nice scrape that I thought might leave a permanent scar (but looks like it won't now).

So, ok, I got it. Chill 0ut. If you look like you're mean, you probably are. And never forget, if the universe wants to mess you up, it can always do worse than it's doing now. So just watch out.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Inauguration Week!

Well, it finally came and went--Inauguration Week!

We did it up--Carroll and I went to the concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, Kate and I went to the Kids' Concert on Monday night and then the three of us stood outside in the freezing cold on the grounds of the Washington Monument to witness history live. Kate insisted that she didn't *really* see it because she just watched it on the "big TV," but I disabused her of that notion pretty quickly. As it turns out, she was the only kid in her class who actually went down there. We told her that she'd thank us for making her go when she was a grown-up.

I did try to write my way into tickets to see the swearing-in up close, but wasn't chosen as one of the "10 average Americans." Still, I thought I'd share the essay I wrote to try to get those tickets here:

It’s easy to forget the power of your own possibility. We start out thinking we can be anything—an astronaut, a movie star, President of the United States. Soon enough, though, we learn that it’s just not that simple. You don’t always get to be who you might have been. At every turn, you are told to be realistic, to be reasonable, and eventually, slowly, you come to accept things as they are—deeply flawed and not what you expected, but good enough in their own way.
When I was ten years old, before I understood what was reasonable, I came to Washington on a family vacation, all dressed up in my little girls’ business suit. I wrote to Representatives and Senators from my home state of New Jersey and set meetings with them. I rode on the underground transit system beneath the Capitol and watched speeches made on the floor of the House. I wanted to walk those halls one day, make a difference—maybe even become President of the United States.
Somewhere around high school, though, I understood that it wasn’t that easy. We didn’t have money and we had never been in politics. I didn’t go to private school or grow up with the children of Senators. Other dreams came and went. A serious dancer, I took classes with Broadway hopefuls. I earned a Master of Fine Arts and published my poems. But the voices kept up: be reasonable, be realistic. Accept what your life will be.
I did, and to be honest, it hasn’t worked out so badly. I have a good job, beautiful children—but I haven’t set the world on fire like I thought I could.
And that is what this Inauguration means to me. It is a reminder—to me and to us all—that you don’t have to be born into it to make a difference in this world. It reminds us of our own possibility, what we expected of ourselves when the voice in our heads said, “Why not?” instead of, “No way.” It reminds us that there is someone out there who didn’t listen when he was told that he wasn’t the right sort of person, didn’t come from the right kind of family, didn’t hold the right sort of pedigree, or even the right set of convictions and ideals. It reminds us of the power of boldness, the magic that can come from pure and simple stubbornness and an unwillingness to give up on our dreams.
My daughter is ten years old. I want her to see that audacity up close. I want her to know it in her bones. I want her to never give up on the best parts of herself, her best hopes for her future, no matter what anyone says to her. I want her to dream of what she might accomplish and hear her own voice answer, “Why not?”

That's all for now.