Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hogwarts or bust

We moved our young family, including our two-month-old firstborn, across the country in the middle of winter. It was a dreary time for me. I had no friends nearby and the closest family member was 2,000 miles away. There were no sidewalks adjacent to our apartment complex, which didn't matter, because there was nothing within walking distance, anyway. To top it off, my husband would take our only car to work each day. I was very, very alone.

Our baby was anxious from the start. He had trouble nursing and trouble sleeping. I spent (no kidding) a good eight hours a day in the rocking chair. My friend was the television, and there were days when I didn't change out of my pajamas. When I think about my life now, how I rarely sit down during the day, I have a hard time remembering what it was like. I do remember the loneliness. But I also remember a bright spot.

I decided, a few months into my solitude, to track down just who this Harry Potter character was that I had heard about. I brought home a copy of the Sorcerer's Stone from the local library. I settled in to the routine of feeding and rocking, but this time, I had a new friend nearby.

I fell in love with the book in the first few pages (it had me at 'a completely owl-free morning') and I devoured it. I breezed through the second book as well. The third book helped me escape during a visit to the in-laws' family where my baby nephew was mortally ill. The fourth I read aloud to my husband into the wee hours of the morning.

I had found a friend. Thank you, J.K. Rowling.

I and millions of readers watched as Harry grew up and dealt with increasingly desperate circumstances. I laughed, cried, and held my breath. Each book release was fun to anticipate.

I watched our firstborn grow up as well. So it wasn't a big surprise when he approached me and asked permission to start reading the series. I was hesitant at first because I knew how the series matured and I was unsure that he would be ready for those themes. But then his teacher, on his progress report, noted that he was only interested in non-fiction books. Here was a chance to foster a love of fiction. I said yes. Thank you, J.K. Rowling.

A few months ago I noticed that our firstborn was unable to see things at a distance, so I made an appointment with the optometrist. My husband and I talked it up in the days leading to the visit. After all, if both mom and dad wear glasses, so could he! He was excited and nervous at the visit. We picked out the frames and ordered the lenses.

A week later we returned to pick up his glasses. As we sat down at a small table to have them adjusted, he put them on and turned to look at himself in the mirror. My throat was dry and I held my breath. It was all I could do to keep from biting my fingers in fear. Here was my baby, my eight year old, about to see himself in a new light. Would he love it? Would he hate it?

He examined his face for a moment. Then he snapped his fingers and pointed at himself in the mirror, winking, while a huge grin spread across his face. I almost fell out of my chair. "What?" I asked, giggling.

"I look like Harry Potter!" he proclaimed.

Thank you, J.K. Rowling.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A second career

Nearly nine straight years of constant diapering and I am ready for my youngest to be potty-trained. I am ready to be done. I would say that I can "almost taste it," but that would be gross. We have begun the training, complete with numerous tiny underpants and an enormous bag of M&Ms.

Three weeks into his training, he has only approached me once to tell me that he needs to go. I am waiting for the light to turn on, for that elusive cerebral "click", for that heralding of the end of diapers. I will celebrate! It will be earth-shaking! A monumental moment! We'll run with glee to the nearest commode and I will dance.

Yesterday I loaded the boys into the car and headed to Leesburg, a city about seven miles to our west. My oldest was attending science class for the week. He was learning about electromagnetic cars and trains, and he was loving it, my baby enginerd. The class was held at Leesburg's community center, next to a bucolic little park complete with a stream. I had whiled away every afternoon that week at the park with my two younger boys, and today was going to be no different.

I settled onto a bench and watched my little guys tear around the park. Suddenly we heard the sound of a helicopter. I looked up and noticed it was a police copter. I watched it circle, again, and again... and again. The circle got tighter and we appeared to be almost at the center. Then we heard sirens, more, and more, and more sirens. I grew up in the L.A. area, so it didn't really faze me. My boys just thought the copter was cool.

A little while later I saw community center employees heading my direction. They informed me that there had been an armed robbery and that the community center had been placed in lock-down mode, with my oldest inside. There was no way I was going to leave now, but I still wasn't too worried. An employee watched with apprehension as I stretched out my legs and folded my arms behind my head. "I'm from L.A.," I said. He shrugged and left.

Later I learned that the robbery had happened a half mile from the park. The perpetrator had unsuccessfully tried to rob a jewelry store, shot at someone outside the store, and fled to a nearby residential street. He broke into a house, tied up the couple inside, and stole their Jeep. He fled in the Jeep to another residential street. At this point I heard and saw the cop cars race past the park, but didn't know what was going on. I still wasn't going anywhere with my baby in lock down. I did, however, examine the park for good hiding places.

When the suspect arrived at the second residential street (a mile from our park,) he abandoned the Jeep and broke into a home of an elderly couple. They dialed 911 right before he took them hostage. I did not know this at the time, of course. I just knew that I wasn't going anywhere. Then, my toddler ran up to me.

"I need to go potty, mommy!"

The moment! The moment I had been waiting for! At the worst time EVER! All bathrooms were Fort Knox-ed during the moment that was to mark the beginning of the end of diapers! Finally, I was motivated enough to leave. My oldest was safe with his physics teacher and I was ready to dodge all law-enforcement vehicles in my way. We went to the outlet mall and did our business. And my oldest was released on schedule.

Why did we not just use the nearest tree? I didn't want my little guy to end up on the evening news sans pants. No, really, my dad's minimalist camping training is too deeply ingrained. I can't let my kids do their business that close to a running stream. Plus, my son hasn't learned to take care of business standing up yet. Man, he's going to hate me for this post.

Epilogue: The hostage situation lasted until ten o'clock p.m. when the suspect surrendered peacefully. Apparently the negotiators did their job extremely well and talked him down. And after raising three boys, I think that just might be my next line of work.