My Knuffle Bunny and Me

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Sep 27, 2011 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

I get the dark haired boy on the bus.  Then it’s time to go get my blondie off to preschool.  I find him still in bed looking incredibly like the baby that he is no more.  I inhale his smell, the sweet scent of his skin and hair, of him.  I snuggle into his warmth and softness despite the fact that I know we should be getting ready to go.  How many more moments will I have like this one?  Where his cheeks are so squishy underneath my kiss?   Where he twirls my hair around his little fingers and puts his little boy arm around me?  These are the slippery moments that I must inhabit fully, even as they fall through my fingers.

I fear he will be hard to get going since last night’s sleep was restless and too short.  But as I move to get his clothes, his little voice says, “Get me.”  We go upstairs, me and my knuffle bunny, to pick out his outfit.  I reach for a t-shirt from the drawer, but he wants to check out the closet for “shirts with buttons”.

As he struggles to push and pull those tiny little buttons into tiny little holes with tiny little fingers, I remind myself to be patient and let him find his way.  I’ve been reading a parenting book that tells me I need to encourage autonomy and not step in to solve all his problems for him.   I give him some advice (which is allowed).  He works and persists until he has gotten that button into it’s hole.  Then we discover it was the wrong hole.  I wait for the frustration, but instead he gives me a big toothy grin and says, “Now what do we do?”  This surprises me and makes me smile.

He doesn’t want to wear undies.  But, when I offer him a blue pair, he decides to wear them because that’s his best friend’s favorite color.  Oh, the simplicity.  He doesn’t want to go to school.  He doesn’t like his teachers.  Then he remembers that his lost slug might be at school.  Suddenly his face brightens.  He loses the wilted flower look, sits upright and bounces up and down at this thought.  Now he is a man on a mission.

We grab an apple on the way out the door.  They are doing some projects and he needs to one today.  He picks the green one and tells me it’s cause it’s little and he likes little ones.  He says he’s going to eat it.  I grab the big red one, just in case.  As we get in the car he asks me, “Where will you be when I’m at school?  Where will you be when you leave?”  His question catches me off guard.  It hasn’t occurred to me that he might think about this.  I give him my answer and he is satisfied.  I ask him why he wants to know.  He tells me he just wondered where I would go.  Then he moves on.  No fuss.  No big deal.  But I am fascinated by this question and the thought behind it.  I am fascinated by this little boy.

When we arrive at school, he shows me the hole in the little green apple where he has dug his fingernail into the skin.  So I reach for the big, red, just-in-case apple.  But he says he wants to eat it.  We take both apples and he does indeed take a few bites out of the red one.  We end up leaving the green one.  Life is not perfect.  And I’m okay with that.

He is clingy.  He comes back for more hugs and kisses. Then he remembers his slug.  I tell him to go ask his teacher if she found it.  Off he goes.  Off I go.  Off time goes.  But this morning will remain in my memory.

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Bunny Love

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Sep 15, 2011 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

I’m not sure exactly how it began.  It may have been the rabbit family that hung a home-sweet-home sign in our neighborhood.  Daily sightings of a mama bunny and her baby, munching and hopping through our backyard.  An even smaller baby bunny that we nearly shocked out of his fur .  He shot out of the bushes and ran frantically in circles as we turned on our table saw to finish up the swingset we were building.  When he finally found an escape from the garden wall, he hunkered down in the tall grass and did not twitch even a baby bunny whisker for hours.  We feared his heart had stopped.  But the bunny statue was not there the next morning, so he must have recovered.

Then our neighbor discovered a nest of impossibly tiny baby bunnies in her front yard.  Their were treks to see the baby bunnies.  There was much instruction on not touching the baby bunnies.  There was a fiasco the day the growing baby bunnies left the nest and hopped in all directions as neighborhood kids scrambled to herd them back home.  And a couple of boys who could not keep their hands off those baby bunnies took the opportunity amidst all the chaos to grab one up and hug them tight.

Or it may have been my visit to the potential preschool.  Gracie The Bunny, as she is affectionately known in my house, is the resident pet.  My bunny crazy boy finally got to meet her over the summer.  We got to hear a lot about her.  Now twice a week, when I pick him up, we make the trip downstairs to the room where Gracie lives.  We watch and wait as Gracie lies in her cage or hops about the room.  When she decides to come see us, we reach our hands over the fence and pet her furry head.  We reluctantly peel ourselves away and wave goodbye when Gracie hops back into her cage.

Or maybe it was when Grandma made a treasure trove of felted animals for Easter and bestowed some bright yellow chicks and brown and white bunnies upon us.  These bunnies became our companions at home and out and about.  So well loved they became various pieces of bunny anatomy.  An ear, a nose, a cotton tail;  unrecognizable to the unfamiliar eye.  On a recent trip to Grandma’s house, my boy came home with a great big orange bunny.  His name is FoFo.  The boy doesn’t like it if you don’t remember the bunny’s name, and he takes the bunny everywhere.

While out shopping this week, he spotted a soft bunny with pure white fur.  It was part of a gift pack for a baby girl.  It was sitting in a stroller in front of a display of baby items.  It caught his eye immediately.  Of course he begged me to buy it.  In the end he admired it, took it for a spin in the stroller, and responded to my insistence that we not buy it today, with, “But, it’s beautiful, Mommy.”  It is beautiful.

Today was my boy’s first day to be the snack buddy.  Choosing a snack for all your preschool friends is both a privilege and a great responsibility.  The fall chill in the air today called for some apples with caramel dip.  But, the piece de resistance,   cheddar bunny crackers.  The boy celebrates his new preschool pet and does not let his friends down at snack time with his boisterous, beautiful love for bunnies.

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The No-Plastic Easter Basket

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Apr 28, 2011 in Being Green, Parenthood

So I have been turning green over the last couple years, and in ways I’m pretty proud of my accomplishments.  I greened our laundry detergent, dish soap, household cleaners, and toiletries; tried my hand at growing a garden, started recycling, purchased a quarter of a locally, naturally raised cow; started visiting farmer’s markets, of course I bought the reusable shopping bags (even though I can never seem to remember to actually take them to the store even when I  keep them in my car), and tried making substitutions for plastic.  Not bad for a new greenie.

But, in ways I feel like being green is an impossible aspiration in this toxic, disposable, plastic world we live in.  For every good choice I make, there are like a million more bad-for-the-environment-and-everything-in-it kinds of things going on to counteract it.  It’s like in the world of going green, for every action there is a way-more-evil and opposite reaction.  And how demoralizing is it when something you thought was a good choice, ends up secretly being bad.  Like those reusable shopping bags we have been hauling our food in that turn out to be made of harmful substances.( Maybe I’m not such a bad person for always forgetting those bags.)

When I get so overwhelmed,  I decide  to focus on what is in my control and keep taking one step at a time.  This Easter, I thought a nice goal for myself would be to try to assemble baskets for my kids without any plastic materials.  Well, it turned out to be a daunting task to not include any plastic packaging.  So I decided to try to cut down on plastic packaging and exclude plastic items.

I anticipated it would be a challenge, but there were some things I didn’t expect.  One that it would be so frustrating walking into a regular store and trying to fulfill this goal.  It is amazing the lack of alternatives.  I found it would have been much easier had I purchased a little further in advance so I could take advantage of websites.  I found a number of fine choices online.

I didn’t expect it to be fraught with moral dilemmas.  I had had my eye on a giant, colorful, working, and of course plastic, dump truck for my 3 year old since they had stocked the outdoor toy aisle back in snowy January.  I knew he would fall in love with this thing.  It was big enough to haul him around.  He had taken it for a test drive, pushing it down the aisles as we perused the toy section one afternoon.  It would double as his Easter basket this year, offering ample storage for his other treats.  When I made the no-plastic goal, this truck was in the back of my mind.  I had decided to buy the big, plastic wheelbarrow next to it for his older brother’s basket.  It wasn’t as easy to part with.  I was pretty sure my 6 year old would enjoy pushing it around the yard, hauling various loads, but it didn’t hold the same fascination for him as that giant dump truck did for my toddler.  I considered abandoning the whole darn no-plastic rule just for this dump truck.  I thought about making an exception.  No plastic, except the dump truck.  That was still an accomplishment, right?  The problem is it seemed to defeat the whole purpose of my quest.  I was doing this not only to save the earth from one more piece of plastic to add to the infinite piles in the landfills or increase resource consumption by recycling it, I was also trying  to expose my kids to fewer potentially harmful substances.  I was also trying to meet the challenge of NO plastic, NONE.

I didn’t expect that it would be controversial.  Okay, I guess I should have seen this one coming, but I think I was so excited about the prospect of accomplishing this beneficial goal, that I just didn’t think about it.  I posted on twitter and facebook about my project.  I got positive responses, but then there was my mom.  I had to assure and reassure her that this was a purely personal objective and that I hadn’t set a standard for others who were interested in giving my children Easter baskets, plastic egg hunts, and any other assorted treats.  Of course, I would like to be influential in educating and inspiring others to go green and would like to be a better gatekeeper for my children’s exposure to harmful substances, but that had not been my intent in sharing.  I didn’t want others to think I was judging them or would be ungrateful for gifts they had to offer my family.  Wow, this is getting complicated!

What I learned from this little exercise is that my kids can be very happy without plastic, but we are bombarded by it.  So we constantly have to make choices about what is more important.  Is it too much to ask to give up some things we enjoyed as kids and that are simple pleasures in life, to make a safer, healthier, greener world for our kids?  It seems obvious and clear cut when you think about it that way.  But what do you say to your 6 year old lego maniac when he wants to buy another set?  What if (gasp!) you find yourself going through a drive-thru;  what is a kids meal without the (almost always plastic) toy?  I think I have opened a can of worms.  At least they aren’t plastic.


What a Girl Wants

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Dec 22, 2010 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

My husband asked me a simple question that many people hear this time of year.  “So, what do you want for Christmas?”  But it set my mind whirling into a spiral of existential pondering.   I drew a blank.  “I’ll have to think about it.”  Think about it?  Since when do I have to think about what I want?  Don’t most people have a list of some sort floating around in their brains, ready for just such a time as this?   What do I want?  Not just for Christmas, but boil it down to the simplest desires of my heart?  What kind of life do I want?  What do I want to spend my time doing?   What do I want my existence to be defined by?  Where do I want to go on vacation?  How do I want to spend my free time?

Maybe it’s because no one ever asks me this question anymore, I stopped even asking myself.  I”m always trying to make someone else’s wishes come true, from the mundane to the magical.  What do you want for lunch, which shirt do you want to wear today, what kind of cake do you want for your birthday, what do you want to be when you grow up?  I am the fairy godmother, not the princess.  Caring for young kids, running a household, sustaining a relationship with a busy husband.  It’s not so much that I don’t have a running wish list ready to produce on demand that bothers me.  It’s that not knowing what I want in life has left me disconnected from the real essence of me.  It’s not just about surviving another day and accomplishing all the tasks I need to do for others.  Who am I?  Where am I going?  What kind of legacy do I want to leave?  What do I want?

As a parent, it’s easy to lose touch with yourself.  We fall into the familiar routine of caring for others and we forget to care for ourselves.  Or maybe we know it’s important, but it’s easier to let it slip because all our energy and time is expended in taking care of everyone else.   Arranging and paying for childcare, scheduling appointments or just time off, even keeping track of our needs are all an addition to our to-do list that sometimes we just would rather skip and save ourselves the trouble even though we know the benefits can be huge.

So what do I want?  Not because I should do it or it would be worthwhile or it would make someone else happy or I know it’s good for me.  What do I simply desire to do or have or be just for me?  So my first new year’s resolution is to spend some time thinking about it and start figuring out what it is I want.

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