I've rambled on endlessly in this space about trying to break the circles that surround my family's history...of mental illness, of abuse, of neglect, of just generally being really shitty people. My brother and I both have struggled with this since before we had kids, more-so after. We both have days when we lay in bed at night, taking our searching moral inventories, balancing what we did that day against what was done to us and hoping the plus goes in our columns.

More often than not, however, those moments happen on the hour, on the half-hour, minute-by-minute. When something like what is ingrained in not just our memory but our flesh and our DNA becomes so wrapped into every minute of your life, it's a battle of epic proportions to rise above it. You blink, you forget for just one second what you know you should do, and you're throwing a child across a room because that's what you know to do. That's what you learned. That's the kind of person you were born to be

Except, if you're really really on top of it, it's not the kind of person you are at all. We are really, really on top of it, and more importantly, we're really afraid that we're not. There are no better motivating factors in the world than fear and love.

As so we fight every day to make sure that our kids lives don't even bear a vague resemblance to the lives we had. And you know what? We're doing it. I've had kids for 12 1/2 years, he's had kids for 9, and so far we've managed to raise kids who couldn't comprehend our lives if they tried. They'll never know anything we knew (except Douglas Adams, of course) and they'll never see anything we saw (except Labyrinth).

Well, at least, not by our doing.

The truth of the matter is that somethings are just out of your control, maybe destined to be, maybe just sickeningly predictable because kids are kids.

A few weeks ago my brother called me to tell me that his oldest almost-but-not-quite broke his middle son's arm. I laughed and asked if I should get the jump rope ready. He laughed, too, but only a little, because what he knows and I know but they don't know and that you don't know is that when I was four, he broke my arm with nothing more than a jump rope, a set of bunkbeds, an astonishing-for-six-years-old understanding of basic physics and a strong desire to again be an only child.

Like,' bone sticking out at an angle bones don't stick' broke my arm. Like, 'a night at the ER and a splint and a sling on the arm that I wrote with, right before I started kindergarten' broke my arm.

This is why I can kick your ass at pool today, because I can shoot with both hands. Everything has a silver lining.

But his kids did not succeed in reenacting one of the more traumatic events of our childhood (what happened after isn't exactly fit for discussion in polite society, if you know what I mean) but they did remind us how fragile the line we walk on is, the one between what is in our control and what is not.

And then, of course, last week, the phone rings at way too early for the phone to be ringing and it's my brother, who just says, "So..." and sits there on the line, breathing. I went through the Rolodex of people in our lives with whom I have not yet found closure with, and picked which one I was prepared to tuck into a casket with my unresolved issues before I asked what happened.

He said, "So, 2of4..."

And I said, "Oh no he didn't..."

And he said, "Yup, going into surgery. Best case scenario, 3 pins. Worst case scenario, 3 pins and a metal plate holding the bones in his arm together for life."

And I said, "Bunk beds?"

And he said, "Better. Dog pile."

And I said, "Do I need to get out the jump rope?"

And we had a really good, long, nervous as all fuck laugh because we are learning that, though we can't stop the timeline of history from repeating itself, we can stop the way the story plays out. Now we have the excuse, and quite possibly the responsibility, to share a little bit of our story with our kids, albeit re-written slightly, and that is a really exciting prospect. The idea of being able to look at our kids and say, "Yeah, that happened to us, too, this one time that we were really bored and testing the laws of gravity..." is foreign to us, and so is letting go of all that old shit we lug around with us every day.

But not every circle has to be a scary thing. Not every pattern needs to be broken. Neither do any more arms, children. You've made your point. Now get with wrapping each other in bubble wrap and staying in one piece forever, because you're giving my brother and me nervous disorders.

Not at all unrelated aside: I have a new post up at Polite Fictions, if you're into that sort of thing.

Singular, Multiplied

I’m outside on my patio, cleaning up after the day’s fun, when I catch a glimpse of my daughter in the corner of my eye. I stop my day’s chores to watch her, spinning alone in the living room with a puppy and a monkey tied to an old string. She twirls and dances with her friends, oblivious to the fact that I’m watching her, absorbed in her own little world. Her face is full of wide eyed wonder as she watches the universe go zooming around her, and my heart is filled with admiration at this child that I too often fail to see for what she is…one child, a singular person, a creature of earth and of me and of God.

She moves uninterrupted in front of the tv screen, around the laundry basket, beside the couch, dancing to her own rhythm in a space that has opened up for her. No one is telling her to ohmygodmoveyouareblockingthemovie, no one is snatching the toys out of her hand because they’re not hers, no one is doing anything and she is wallowing in the silence. Her brothers have gone on vacation with their grandmother, and for the first time in her life, she isn’t the third child…she is the only child.

Our family has never had an only child. Our second baby came on the heels of our first baby; the only way I’ve ever seen my children is through each other’s eyes, and that is the most glorious way to come to know a person, by how they are perceived by the people who love them. Tonight, however, I watch her though the window, fancy and free, uninhibited and unrestrained, and I ache in my heart with the knowing that this child, raw and wild, is here every moment of the day, waiting for her moment to shine through.

The space she occupies is a vacuum that draws everything into it, helpless to resist her tiny little charms. The energy in the room yields for her, the air parts to make way for her dance, the dust that has settled into the crevices of our life joins her in raucous celebration of nothing. The void that is created by the absence of her brothers is merely her personal challenge to fill with grandeur and delight and unmitigated beauty. For two weeks, she will own her surrounds. She will know what is it that she can be when given the space, and I will bear witness to it from afar.

There is a difference between my children and my child. The difference lies in the way her blond curls bounce with the pounding of her feet, the way her waist bends when she has all the room in the world to spin it. The difference lies in the quiet moments they spend in their life apart from each other, allowed to find their own, unencumbered rhythm without scrutiny or consequence. The difference lies in the space they are given to spread their arms and just spin. The difference lies in their singularity, multiplied.

Each one of my children is also my child, unique to themselves. I can’t imagine my life without all three of them, and I can’t imagine their lives without each other. Having a family with three children is gloriously complicated and intricately unrelenting, and as I steal this private moment she’s having in the rarest of moments when no one is watching her, in the fragment of time when she is completely free, I am awe-struck by the simplicity of her perfection.

When in Houston...

In two weeks, half of the damn internetowebosphere is going to descend on Manhattan for the annual BlogHer conference. Well, the half that I'm not on. I'm going camping with this chick for her birthday. Because nothing says, "I love and value you, and I sure am glad your momma shot you out of her chocha on this day, 24 short years ago" like making that person smell you after 3 days without a shower in the middle of a Texas summer.

If you're going, you might want to check out Mom 101's primer for bloggers hitting the big city, and Adam P Knave's ongoing primer for the big city hitting bloggers. If you're not going, well, you might want to check out The Retropolitan's summary of Cloverfield, which is damn near the best virtual tour of New York you'll ever take. Complete with horrifying monsters and equally horrifying plot developments.

Since I can't go to the conference, but I still want to take awkward self-portraits with my partners adentro crimen, I'm having a little get-together on Saturday night for anyone and anyone who wants to come. It's officially the Houston Pre-BlogHer meetup, but I like to call it Mochadad's birthday party plus. The plus being six months or so. Shut up, everyone likes birthday cake.

Morton's the Steakhouse has opened up their bar area for us and will be extending their weekday 'Power Hour' prices to us for the evening, including $5-$6 select appetizers, $5 select beers, $6 select wines and $7 select martinis (Manhattans totally included. Themes, we stick to'm).

Everyone is welcome to attend, and no, you don't have to dress like it's prom...just no hats. They're kind of weird about hats. You can get directions to Morton's from the map below, or call 713-659-3700 if you get hopelessly lost. There's a parking garage on Fannin Street and Valet out front, which is actually pretty reasonably priced.

See you there?

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Learning To Fly

The first time I got on an airplane, I was an unaccompanied minor. Except that back then, there really wasn't anything called 'unaccompanied minors' and I was accompanied by my older brother and my two very little siblings. Eddie sat way up somewhere else on the plane and I sat with J & J, making sure they ate their Kudos bars and didn't spill their many airplane-sized cups of soda.

Eventually, they just gave us the cans. You can get anything on an airplane if you whine enough.

I never did fly with an adult in all the times I've flown back and forth, Philly to Denver, parent-hopping my way through my childhood. And that never seemed like an issue at all; I mean, it's getting on a plane, sitting down for three hours and getting off the plane - not rocket science. I was 13 whole years old, I knew everything, and I found flying to be intoxicating.

Now, actually flying the plane is a little bit like rocket science, and since I always loved flying so much, when I had the opportunity, I learned how to fly them myself. I have yet to find anything as exhilarating and freeing and close to godly as piloting an airplane. Maybe I haven't done much with my life, maybe I've never seen the world, maybe I've never even seen Detroit, but at least I've flown airplanes.

But the problem, for me at least, with knowing how to fly the airplane is that now I know every single thing that can go south, literally, when trying to keep a few tons of metal aloft. Knowing how to do it took the magic out of it for me, and made me the world's worst airplane passenger. Learning how to drive made me the world's worst auto passenger, too. Really, ask my husband. My complete inability to sit in the passenger seat and not completely freak the fuck out has almost driven that poor man to the divorce lawyer.

I think that if I'd just not learned how to fly an airplane, I wouldn't be sitting here right now shivering inside while my husband sits at a gate with our sons, waiting to load them up on a plane and send them to Denver for two weeks. I wouldn't be going through all the worst case scenarios in my head, if only I didn't know what they are. I wouldn't be worrying about whether or not they can get oxygen masks over their faces, or whether or not they will whine their way into cans of Sprite.

Or maybe I would. Maybe I would because those are my babies, and they're going 1500 miles away from me, where I won't be there if someone falls off a bike and scrapes their knees, where I can't come get them if it turns out that they don't still get along with the best friends they left behind four years ago when we left Denver. That powerless feeling I get every time I buckle my seat belt and put my tray table up for take-off isn't much different from the powerless feeling I'm getting sending my sons into the world on their own for two weeks.

But I guess the best things in life are the ones that leave you feeling helpless - like motherhood, like launching yourself through clouds and over mountains, like letting go.  I never knew how to see the world until I saw it from a few thousand feet up, and maybe I don't know how to see my kids for the little men that they are until I see them from a few thousand miles away. I guess it's time to let them go. I supposed I have to let them go, and trust that I taught them how to put mud on a bee sting and ask politely for sodas and behave even when I'm not watching.

It took me a while, but I learned how to fly. It's taking me a while, but I'm trying to learn how to give my kids wings, too.

How to Fail at Homeopathy in 10 Easy Steps

1. Acquire ear infection.

2. Ignore ear infection.

3. Get driven mad by ear infection.

4. Pour half a bottle of hydrogen peroxide down ear.

5. Open and close jaw, letting the peroxide get all the way into brain.

6. Remain seated with head at 90 degree angle from body until all the bubbles stop.

7. Rinse.

8. Repeat.

9. Stick Qtip into ear. Like, all the way in. Like, brain matter in.

10. Swab out perohmygodthereisadeadbuginmyearcanaloxide.