Sink or Swim… Er, Float

11 06 2009

Ruthie with cute, pink, ruffled floaties.

Ruthie floating not-on-her-own. Notice the cuteness. And the pinkness. And the ruffles. Oh, the ruffles!

Last Sunday, Ruthie and I, along with a very dear friend, broke into a local neighborhood pool while its patrons were at church. Thankfully, there was only one family there, and they were lounging at an angle that would allow us (and by “us,” I mean my dear friend) to inconspicuously jiggle the gate in just the right way with just the right amount of pressure so that it would open without the key. Once I saw the gate swing open, we plowed through and set up camp in a nice, shady corner where we could eat lunch.

Ruthie loves the pool, but I’m trying to break her into her floaties this year and have been, thus far, unsuccessful. I’ve gone to great lengths to find cute, pink ones; they even have a ruffle. She’ll put them on and wear them in the baby pool, on the steps of the big pool. She even ate lunch with them on. But she won’t let them hold her up. I’ve tried coaxing her to simply stand on the third step and lift her feet, I’ve tried luring her out into the middle of the pool with motor boat sounds and bubbles, but always she is stubbornly resistant to the very notion of using the floaties to FLOAT! I finally got her to let me hold her in the pool and drag her around with her arms out “like an angel.” For a solid half hour, I pushed and pulled her all over the pool, but as soon as she felt my grip loosen, she’d freak out and pull her arms down to her sides. Which made her sink. Which made her swallow water. Which made her even more fierce in her determination to not let me go. I even tried just pulling away real fast, but she had a death grip on my index fingers and I didn’t have the heart to rip them away. All I could think of was that swim teacher who told me to swim to him and kept walking backwards, all the way down the pool. I thought I was going to drown. When I tried to pull away from Ruthie, her face had the look of sheer terror that must have come over my own face when that jerk wouldn’t stand still.

I wanted her to see that she could trust the floaties, that they would keep her up. Having seen tons of kids her age positively leaping into other pools that I’ve high-jacked this summer, only to bob right back up to the surface with those floaties sticking up out of the water. I thought kids just knew that floaties would keep them up. While I can remember being afraid to swim, I can’t ever remember being afraid to float. The problem is that Ruthie has no confidence in her floaties. Her refusal to rely on them to help her float actually makes her sink. In order for them to work, she has to kind of relax into them. But because it’s new and scary, her whole body tenses up at the possibility of me letting go, she jerks her arms down, and her head goes under.

This whole experience struck me as somehow significant and metaphorical, but I couldn’t quite pin it to anything until I came across this passage from Oswald Chambers:

Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing… Certainty is the mark of the common sense life, gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all of our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless anticipation.

And brilliant E.L. Doctorow insight  that Anne Lamott quotes in Bird by Bird:

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

I, like Ruthie, am on the cusp, the brink, the brim of lots of unknowables. I have a new job in a new school system teaching a grade that I haven’t been with in over four years. In recent months, I have experienced tremendous changes in my personal life as well. I have no idea what my life will look like in the fall, or even in, say, July. For the past six weeks, my shoulders have been in knots and I often catch myself holding my breath for no particular reason. I am tense because my life is new, different, and, well, scary.  When things seem out of control to me, my tendency is to run straight through as fast as I can. This tends to send my life spinning even more out of control. And so, as I quelled the frustration that I felt at Ruthie’s resistance to letting go and trusting the floaties, I realized that I may need to do the very same thing in my own life: trust more and fight less.

Ruthie resigns to the baby pool (with ponies, because ponies make everything more Fashionable, and thereby, more fun.)

Ruthie resigns to the baby pool (with ponies, because ponies make everything more Fashionable, and thereby, more fun.)

Ruthie never did float on her own in the big pool. She resigned to the baby pool, where she kept her floaties on and bobbed around like a little shrimp. That is until she confessed that she needed to go “poopee” (however you spell that) and we realized that you have to have a freaking key to get into the bathrooms. It was nap time anyways.

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Futi Kunga

8 04 2009

Two nights ago, Ruthie discovered Futi Kunga in our kitchen pantry. What follows is the story of our new found friend Futi and how she came to be.

I was washing dishes in the sink because we don’t have a dish-washer. Er, we do have one, but it sits on the back porch because it has to be wheeled over to the sink in order to work. When I wash dishes, Ruthie usually plays in the pantry or with the magnets on the refrigerator. I could hear her babbling, but I was mostly just focused on not breaking a glass. When I (finally) finish with the dishes, I turn to Ruthie and begin the whole let’s-get-ready-for-bed process. Actually getting in the bed takes at least an hour of prodding, changing, whining, resisting, and brushing teeth with princess toothpaste. I tend to be fairly impatient about moving things along at the end of the day. So I was standing behind her, nudging her away from the pantry, and cooing, “C’mon, bud. Time for bed. Let’s go. C’mon. Let’s go. C’mon…” Ruthie whipped around, eye brows raised in her most serious serious face and whispered to me.

“Futi Kunga’s in there, Mom. She’s got those beans. You see those beans down there? Futi Kunga’s gonna eat um, Mom.” (I keep our canned food on the very bottom of the pantry.)

I asked Ruth if Futi might want to come to bed, and she (again with the most serious serious-face) said, “No. She’s not comin’ with us in the bed. She’s gonna sleep in there tonight.” I nodded, like, “Oh, right. Of course.”

Once we got in the bed, I learned that Futi Kunga had come from the dungeon––a place that, for Ruthie, is the most terrifyingly awful place she can imagine, so terrifyingly awful that the word is uttered with the weight of words-you’re-not-supposed-to-say. But, and this is important, “Futi did not drive there.” We don’t know how or why Futi was in the dungeon, but we do know that she got out (because she’s in our pantry).

So what’s Futi been doing since she moved in? Well, yesterday, Futi ate a banana Ruthie left for her, and tonight, we read Futi a story about bunnies. We went to tuck her into the pantry for a good night’s sleep on the canned beans, but Futi insisted on sleeping in the other side, where the vacuum cleaner is.





2 Things

7 10 2008

1.

On Sunday, I took Ruthie to the grocery store. Before we even got out of the car, “Green car, Mama? Can I get in the green car? They have them here. They do. I’m gonna ride in the green car.” As we walked up to Kroger, she spotted the lone green car across the parking lot. I hate those stupid car/carts because they’re breeding grounds for every kind of viral fungal bacterium that seems to stick to all children between the ages of 2 and 5 in the form of a thick crust of snot between their nose and their upper lip and often times caked all over their cheeks. Of course, my child is not prone to the snot-crust-cake because her cheeks and nose are generally chapped from the considerable amount of time I spend wiping her face off.

So anyway. She boards this ship of black grimy grundge and happily honks away on both of the horns in the car, as this is a two-seater. We head to the frozen foods aisle where I always begin my schlepping through the grocery store. As I’m debating over whether we eat enough Homestyle Eggo waffles to make it worth my while to purchase a box of 10 or a box of 25, I hear Ruthie talking to herself. “This is my special day. This is MY day. My day. It’s my day. Is it my day? It’s my day. It is.” I don’t know what she’s talking about until we get to the pizza section. It is at this moment that she turns to me and proudly declares: “THIS IS MY DREAM COME TRUE, MOMMY! IT IS!” And it is also at this moment that I realized that we have very little control over the cultural messages that our children receive in this world. My only comfort was that at least in Ruthie’s version of the fairy tale dreams come true, she was the one driving the car.

 

2.

We planted mums this weekend.





The Grocery Store

8 07 2008

A globe of not
plastic, not glass, but
of light and rubber:
a balloon––
boisterous, mysterious,
floating in a summer’s
salon of heat and cash registers.
Bobbing against halogen lights,
escaped from
the child’s sweaty fist.





in just–

24 03 2008

img_0028.jpg

When I was in high school, we didn’t read any of the kinds of poems that I use in my own classroom. Now that I’m working with the amazing and talented Emma Bolden in the Art of Writing Club, I’m learning that my secondary English education was sub-par at best with regard to poetry. The only poem that I can really remember from high school is “Two Roads Diverged in a Wood” by Robert Frost. I’m pretty sure that we had to memorize it. I learned more poems in French than English. So now that Emma and I are collaborating on this project, I have been drinking poems each week, amazed and appalled by my lacking knowledge of this world of words painting other worlds with their sounds, their shapes, and their strange new meanings.

When I started teaching high school English, e.e. cummings soon became my favorite poet. His beautiful invention never ceases to fill me with a sense of awe. I simply relish the following poem, which captures the day that I spent with Ruthie collecting all of the flowers that have bloomed within a 2-mile radius of our house. By the time we were finished, she was covered in fresh cut blooms. Her favorite was the big pink one with pollen in the middle. She kept pointing at it with a serious countenance, warning me: “Make you sneeze, Mommy.”

Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window, into which people look (while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here) and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and from moving New and
Old things, while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there) and

without breaking anything

e.e. cummings