My letter to Senator Marco Rubio

I was taught in school that our public officials are elected to speak on our behalf. I was taught that our public officials’ jobs are to ensure our voices are heard.

One of the Florida Senators let us down yesterday when he blocked legislation that would have made it more difficult for mentally ill people and those with criminal records to acquire firearms. I’m beyond disgusted.

Writing to my elected officials is nothing new for me. I’ve been writing to Senators and Representatives since I could vote. I ask them to speak up for me, to take my opinions into consideration before they cast their votes. I thank them for casting votes I agree with.

And I blast them when they’ve voted in such a way that disgusts me.

So Senator Rubio will receive an email from me today. Its contents are pasted below. And I truly hope that every American out there who is incensed by the Senate’s shortcomings yesterday does the same and writes to their Senators, as well.

Senator Rubio,

I am gravely disappointed to hear that one of the representatives of the state I now call “home” voted AGAINST requiring additional background checks to purchase guns. No – more than that. I am SICKENED.

I have a now 6-year-old who is ready to enter first grade in the fall, the same grade as those poor children who were massacred in Sandy Hook not even 4 months ago. I’ve held him a little closer every day since then, and I do what I can to ensure he’s in the safest environment possible.

Then to learn that you, who was elected by people who believed–no, TRUSTED–you would do the best thing for our community voted AGAINST background checks for gun purchasers? I am, to say the least, appalled. Don’t get me wrong: I support the Second Amendment. I have nothing against RESPONSIBLE adults purchasing weapons for hunting or collecting or protection.

BUT I SEE NO REASON IT SHOULD BE MORE DIFFICULT FOR ME TO PURCHASE PSEUDOEPHEDRINE FOR A COLD THAN IT IS FOR ME TO PURCHASE A GUN AT A GUN SHOW.

And that, sir, is the rub.

Were there elements of the bill that you disagreed with? Probably, and your PR machine will likely spit something back telling me some convoluted rationale that made your conscience vote against these additional background checks. I don’t want to hear that from you. I want you to visit every child in this state, look them in the eyes, and explain to them what YOU are doing whatever you can to keep them and their loved ones safe. Because you, sir, have not shown that you care about the safety of your constituents.

Shame on you.

I had hope for you as a representative of the Republican Party. I actually spoke up in your favor on a few occasions.

That will not happen again. I may not spout vitriol like others I know because I was taught to treat others as I’d like to be treated. But know that you have a LOT to prove if you wish to ever win my support.

Regards,

E.Caines

My Easter gift

We had a lovely Easter today. Cute Husband put together a great Easter basket for The Boy, complete with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle stuff and some of the requisite Easter goodies. I took a nap a few hours after lunch because I wasn’t feeling well, but it was a good thing I did because that was where I received my Easter gift.

It’s been five years, two months, and a week since I last spoke with my mother. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years, but it also seems much longer than that at times.

I dream about my mom sometimes. After she died, it was more frequent, but now they are fewer and further between. Today, though, I had the chance to speak to her for the first time in at least a few months.

“What’s happening?” she asked. “How is your book coming along?”

“Ugh,” I sighed. “I’m just feeling overwhelmed. There’s a lot to do and I just want to get everything exactly right before Julia goes to this conference next month.” And I went on to explain the emails my agent and I had exchanged yesterday.

“You’ll get there,” she assured me. “Just stay focused.”

At this point, she’s a figment of my imagination, and I get that. My dreams are my memories and imagination working together to produce scenes and images that speak to my subconscious.

And while I know that, I don’t really care. It was my mom, and I got to talk to her for a while and share all my insecurities, just as I would have if she was still here.

Imaginary or not, that was the greatest gift of all.

Springtime Snow

There is no question that this has been the strangest weather year that I’ve experienced since, well, since it snowed in the Valley in the early ’90s.

The Boy and I went up to New York a few weeks ago in honor of Cousin J’s birthday. The Boy had just sent his Flat Stanley up to New York last month, and he was jealous that Flat Stanley got to play in the snow after Nemo, the giant snowstorm that dumped several feet of snow in the Northeast back in February.

I didn’t tell him about our trip until about a week before we’d left, mainly because I wasn’t totally sure when we would go. My sister offered to fly us up, and I wrestled with the decision of whether or not to pull him out of school the day we left. Luckily, his school moved up the date for Boot Camp (their version of Field Day), otherwise he would have to miss either Boot Camp or the trip to New York, and he would have been disappointed about missing one of them.

The Boy is an excellent travelling companion. He always has been. Even as an infant, except when he was ill or teething, he was great. But it’s even more evident now. He answered questions at the airport security checkpoint, handled his own luggage (a rolling backpack), presented his own boarding pass, found our seats on the airplane, and even proudly buckled his own seatbelt. And, thanks to all the amenities on Jet Blue, he entertained himself the entire flight. He even let me nap a bit on both flights. It was spectacular.

It was a very quick trip. We arrived Friday morning and were back home Sunday evening. But he said he had a great trip. He spent time with his cousins, played in their playroom (which he dubbed The Lego Room because, well, those were his favorite toys there), and watched Cousin J in her theater group’s performance of The Wizard of Oz. But his favorite part of all was playing in the snow.

Just the week before we arrived, it snowed pretty heavily in Westchester County, enough to close the airport to incoming flights. But it cleared up over the week, and all weather reports I checked were forecasting cold but not snowy weather. Always one to be prepared, though (Cute Husband calls it “over-packing”), I made sure I packed proper attire in the event the temperatures dropped to below freezing.

It was a good thing I did, because The Boy looked out the kitchen window Friday afternoon to see white stuff falling from the sky.

“Mom!” he exclaimed, an excited gleam in his eyes. “What’s that?”

I turned and saw flurries outside. They weren’t sticking to the ground, but the snowflakes dancing in the wind were more snow than we ever see in Florida.

“Quick!” I said, taking him by the hand and rushing downstairs to my sister’s mud room. “Let’s get your jacket on and we can go outside in the snow!”

We went outside and tried to catch snowflakes on our tongues. He was excited and had fun, but I could tell he was a bit disappointed.

IMG_1184

Catching snowflakes (or trying to)

“I wish I could make snowballs,” he said. He looked out at my sister’s green lawn and frowned. “But it’s not going to stay on the ground because it’s too hot.”

“Sorry, buddy,” I said, ushering him back into the house. “We can try to come up this winter, and maybe we’ll be able to see snow then.”

“Yeah. And then I can build a snow fort and have snowball fights with my cousins.”

We awoke the next morning to a crisp day, but the flurries had stopped, at least for a while. But by the afternoon, the snow was back, and this time falling a bit harder than the day before.

Catching snowflakes again - this time with more success!

Catching snowflakes again – this time with more success!

“It’s a blizzard!” he cried, watching the snow fall, this time in clumps instead of the delicate flakes we saw Friday. We went to the local library and spent time in the children’s area. My sister and I each tried to draw his attention away from the window, tempting him with books. I mean, he loves books, and we were in a very nice library! There were so many titles he could read!

Instead, he complained. “I don’t want to be here,” he insisted. “I want to go outside and play in the snow.”

Finally, we headed back to my sister’s house.

“I hope it’s still snowing and the snow is sticking to the ground when we get back,” he announced in the car. “I really want to throw snowballs and maybe make a little snowman.”

IMG_1197

Just before launching the snowball…

...and launching it at me.

…and throwing it at me.

He got his wish. It wasn’t a thick layer of snow, but there was enough of it for him to scoop up and throw at me. As for the snowman, well, we may need to come back up north in the winter when the snow is properly sticking. While Cousin J was able to make a respectable (albeit small) snowman, he created more of a snow monster.

The Boy's Snow Monster, complete with eyes and multiple arms.

The Boy’s Snow Monster, complete with eyes and multiple arms.

Cousin J's little snowman.

Cousin J’s little snowman.

But he was proud of it and had lots of fun making it, and that’s all that matters.

My Funny (but really somewhat disturbing) Valentine

The Boy surprised Cute Husband and me this morning with a book he had written. We knew he had been working on it, and he even let me read the first chapter, but I didn’t get to see the finished product until today.

It’s too good not to share, but in case you’re wondering why I titled this post the way I did, just keep reading through Chapter 3. (Don’t worry – it’s short!)

(I am transposing the work exactly as it is written, so errors and omissions in spelling, verb tense, and punctuation are intentional. The emoticons are also intentional.)

The mom and the son was in the house

The son played.

the mom used the hose.

the dad died?

he got shot!

at worck 😦

he wint to the hospitl!

chapter 2

The mom and son was at the pet shop!

the son and the mom was looking?

I wat this puppy 🙂 the son saed

they washt tv

chapter 3

I wat to wach tv the son sed

the mom sed no!

Please

no? if you ask me onw more time no more tv for the rest of the week the mom sed.

I didint do that 😦

the end

I’m thinking maybe this could be more of a performance piece. If I can convince him to do a live reading, I’ll record it and put it up on YouTube.

But on a different note, do you think it’s too soon for me to send him to therapy?

On writing and parenting

I tweeted something I thought was rather profound this morning:

My feelings on writing are a lot like my feelings on parenting: rewarding when good, painful when bad, but oh so worth it!

These last few months have been somewhat challenging with The Boy. He’s been pushing boundaries, as children his age are wont to do, and it can be is taxing. Some days are better than others, but days that don’t include at least one fit or argument are few and far between. He questions just about everything, and he wants things done his way. As a result, there’s a lot of frustration for everyone.

If she was still here, my mother would remind me that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

But when things are great, they’re awesome. This morning, for example, he was practicing guitar and doing a great job of it. His biggest struggle with guitar practice has been counting, and it probably will be for some time. Last week, I made a deal with him that he would play “Jamaica Farewell”, the song he’s working on right now, at least three times a day during practice if I wrote the numbers under each measure.

“Jamaica Farewell” is a tricky song, only in that there are combinations of eighth notes and quarter notes and quarter rests and half notes and ties and flats… It’s not an easy song for a five-year-old who just picked up the guitar about ten months ago. (Okay, it’s not an easy song for a five-year-old. Period.) As such, you have to count. And thank God, he finally got it today.

I’m extremely proud of him, and I’m especially proud that he is persevering. I’ve had to regale him with tales of how he overcame resistance as a younger child and kept trying until he succeeded (the First Steps story is a current favorite) to prove that no one succeeds right out of the gate, and I’ve also had to remind him that I gave him a $300 acoustic guitar for Christmas based on the condition that he agreed to continue playing guitar until he was nine years old. (It was a three-year extension on the initial deal, based on one year for every $100 I spend, which I think is fair. It also gets me out of potentially shelling out $10K for a guitar in the future because he’d have to play guitar for 100 years to pay that off.)

Anyway, that’s a glimpse into part of my parenting life.

My point is that writing isn’t much different for me, only I’m kind of parenting myself. There have been (and will always be) times when I’ve wanted to take everything I’ve written and burn it. (Okay, I’ve actually done that before. But they were journal entries from junior high and high school, and I don’t think those should count.) I’ve gotten really attached to characters but haven’t been able to weave a story about them. I’ve come up with ideas that I haven’t been able to properly flesh out into something coherent. I’ve written pages upon pages upon pages of, well, stuff, only to find that it rambles needlessly and has no real point.

And I’ve wanted threatened to kick my computer or Townshend* my laptop, and I’ve begged myself to please let me take a day off from writing, promising to work doubly hard the next day (and then holding myself to it). And I behave exactly like my five-year-old (Apple? Tree? Not far!) when I get frustrated with the blinking cursor or the meaningless plotless mess before me.

But then it starts to gel. And that’s when I feel all those same emotions that I felt when I first saw The Boy hold up his head on his own or heard him say his first word or watched him take his first steps or realized he could read: pride, joy, excitement, and (I hate to admit it) relief. There’s always that possibility that maybe, just maybe, your child will fail at something. And there’s always that possibility that maybe what you’ve written isn’t worth reading.

But when it clicks – really clicks – and I hear him playing “Jamaica Farewell” in a way that the tune is actually recognizable or when a friend’s daughter demands the next chapter of my WIP because she needs to know what happens next, all of that pain is totally worth it.

Until you have to go through it all over again.

Definition of TOWNSHEND: to pulverize something by repeatedly crashing it into the ground; most commonly used in reference to a guitar

A different perspective

Cute Husband took The Boy to Legoland on Sunday, primarily to look at the new Star Wars Miniland (but also to see some of the holiday stuff that was out).

The Millennium Falcon at a September press conference.

As soon as they got home, Cute Husband said The Boy made a beeline for his Lego sets and began recreating his version of Hoth. Indeed, when I got home from the post-NaNoWriMo dinner that night, he showed me how busy all of his Lego minifigures, his Star Wars Galactic Heroes, and even his green army men had been there on the Ice Planet.

What Cute Husband found especially interesting, though, is that The Boy has a very different view of the Star Wars universe than we do. In his world, Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader, and Darth Vader has always been Luke’s father. Naboo, Tattooine, Hoth, Coruscant, and Bespin all have equal billing in his mind. Gungans are nothing new, pod racing is normal, and a double-ended lightsaber is unique, but totally normal.

Of course, in a few years, we will take The Boy to see the next installment of the Star Wars saga. (It’s only good parenting, after all.) There, we will all be introduced to new characters, new planets, new stories, and new villains.

And I can’t help but wonder if he’ll have the same sense of awe when he sees the early previews that I had when I first saw Darth Maul activate his double-ended lightsaber. Or will he have the same feeling that Cute Husband and I have, that there is a pure Star Wars universe that existed pre-1999 and everything that came after it tries really hard but is just not as cool?

I really hope it’s the latter. And I have to admit that Cute Husband and I enjoying the view of the Star Wars universe from his perspective, even if I don’t think Naboo is as awesome as Hoth.

When procrastination rears its ugly head…

I am lying on the couch as I type, the same place I have been since about 9 o’clock this morning. I’ve done a few productive things: I’ve provided breakfast for The Boy (which is to say that I opened his yogurt – but I also moved his granola bars to an accessible shelf!), emptied the dishwasher, cleaned up breakfast dishes (The Boy’s spoon), and made lunch for The Boy and me. (Cute Husband will be returning in a few hours from a convention, so he’s still on his own.)

Ah, but what is on my To Do list today? Laundry (of course), a thorough scrub of the bathtub, and breaking my rough outline into manageable and fun-to-write chapters in preparation for NaNoWriMo. And instead of doing any of that, I’m on the couch, typing with one hand as I “pitch” while The Boy plays baseball on Wii Sports.(The score is tied, by the way. Apparently, I’m not a bad lefty pitcher.)

Ugh. I need to get up and be productive.

But not until after this game of Wii Bowling.

Early voting in Florida

I live in one of the crucial swing states, and as such, I know it’s critical that I make my voice heard this election year. I’ve read the transcripts of each party’s nomination’s convention speeches. I’ve watched the debates and gone back to read the transcripts. I’ve read about the proposed amendments to the state constitution, studied the records of the Senatorial candidates, and did everything I could to educate myself on all the issues.

And now I’ve done my civic duty by filling out the ballot and submitting it. The polls opened at 7 this morning; The Boy and I arrived around 8:45 and still found ourselves behind a line to check in. By the time we finished, there was a much longer line of people waiting to cast their votes.

This election means a lot to me. Cute Husband and I are among the fortunate ones. We’re doing just fine; about the same as things were four years ago. I don’t think the government (federal or otherwise) has had anything to do with that, though. Plus, both of our employers are multinational organizations, so what happens abroad is just as important as what happens domestically.

There is a lot at stake, just as there is in every election. And as I explained to The Boy, it’s important for everyone to vote so they can make their voices heard. No, you won’t go to jail if you don’t vote (The Boy asked me that this morning), but it doesn’t make it any less important.

Mean Mommy Award – I’ve still got it!

I was told this morning that I am a Mean Mommy. And odd as this may sound, I did a happy dance inside because it was affirmation that I’m doing something right.

The Boy woke up this morning before 6 o’clock with a nosebleed. I was able to get him to lie back down in bed and rest for a bit longer, but I doubt he actually went back to sleep. At around 6:15, he bounced out of bed and was ready to start his day. (I, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as eager to crawl out from beneath my warm, cozy covers.)

Since he was up so early, I took advantage of this and encouraged him to get dressed and have breakfast. And since we didn’t need to leave for school for a while, I also suggested that he practice guitar to get it out of the way and give himself more time to play when we get home tonight. Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly), he agreed to practice.

We began with “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. Since this song is now all about practicing chords, I’ve been taking it easy. On Monday, I had him practice the first line of the song. On Tuesday, Cute Husband worked with him on the second line. On Wednesday, it was the third line, so this morning, I had him work on the fourth line.

Now, for readers who don’t play guitar or haven’t seen the music for it, the beginning of the song (before you get to the chorus) is fairly easy. There isn’t a whole lot of strumming, though you do need to change chords at the beginning of almost every measure. So this morning, I was really only asking him to play three different chords (D, Dm, and F) and strum F six times.

As you may guess, he pushed back. And I pushed back harder. And I won, but at the cost of being told that I was mean.

[sigh]

Once he played the fourth line three times, I let him play the melody lines once through before moving to “Minuet in G”. He can read the music and play all the notes, and he does quite well playing the first half of the song with the correct rhythm, but he struggles with the rhythm of the second half. And so I drilled him on that. And he didn’t like it.

So he pushed back. And I pushed back harder. He threw down his pick. I calmly gave him a new one with a firm reminder that throwing it one more time means losing all gaming privileges for the day. He played. I corrected. He sulked. I reminded him that practicing was non-negotiable. He told me he was mad at me. I accepted this and pointed to the music. He played well, paying close attention to rhythm this time. I praised his efforts, and he unplugged his guitar and put away his pick, pouting all the while.

I don’t like making him mad. I don’t like hearing him tell me that I’m mean and that he doesn’t like me. I don’t like when he runs away from me when I try to give him a hug.

But I do know that he lashes out when I’m firm with him because I’m making him do something he doesn’t want to do. And I also know that in a few months’ time, when he’s playing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” for fun because it’s an easy song for him compared to “Hotel California” or whatever song he’ll be working on then, I’ll remind him of this morning and he’ll roll his eyes and say, “I know, Mom.”

And that’s when I’ll know I’ve done my job.

“Mom! I saw a woodpecker!”

Every day when I pick up The Boy from school, I ask how his day was and what exciting things happened during the day. Usually, it’s fairly easy to get him to open up, but his favorite answer of late has been “I forgot”. When he does this, I generally start asking probing questions to help jog his memory, but I do need to give him the benefit of the doubt that, well, he may have actually forgotten that he did a craft that day with N’s mom.

[sigh]

Yesterday was his first day playing soccer with the Elementary school kids (“Graders”, he likes to call them) instead of the Montessori kids. He’s at that weird stage where he’s bigger and more capable than the Montessori kids but isn’t quite ready to hold his own with the Graders. So I was a bit nervous and anxious to hear how he did.

“I did okay at soccer,” he told me as we walked to the restroom. (It’s a long drive home.)

“Oh, good!” I replied, relieved. “Was it different that soccer on Fridays?”

“Um, a little bit,” he said. “Some of it is the same, and some of it is different.”

“What’s different?”

“Well, on Fridays, sometimes we did shoot-outs. But in Big Kid Soccer, you have to dribble and then shoot.”

“Ooh, that can be a bit challenging,” I acknowledged. It’s been a (long) while since I’ve played soccer, but I still remember those drills.

“But, Mom!” he exclaimed suddenly. “I saw a woodpecker!”

This was a big deal. Apparently, he spotted it during recess and called his teacher over to come look at it. The kids were all excited about seeing it, and he was a bit of a playground celebrity for finding it. After consulting a bird book (courtesy of my mother-in-law), he decided he either saw a Yellow-Bellied Sap Sucker (it’s October, after all, and the weather is turning a bit cooler… for Florida) or the far more common Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

Yellow-Bellied Sap Sucker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

All he could remember was that it had a round head with red feathers on it and black feathers. Both birds fit the description.

I wish I could express how excited he was when he told Cute Husband and me about the other kids’ reactions when he pointed out the woodpecker. This find made it a great day for him – and provided easy conversation for all of us!