Learning to dance in the rain.

I've been an admiring follower of the Feeling Stitchy blog since sometime last year, but this is the first time I've attempted to join in one of this year's monthly stitch alongs. April's pattern from Digital Misfit was all too apropos for the weather we've been having this month. When I saw this pattern, my first thought was of a quoted sentiment my mom shared with me last year: "Life isn't about weathering the storm; it's about learning to dance in the rain." I can relate to that.

I choose a light pink patterned square of material and started stitching in gray, not really knowing what the finished project was going to be. This photo is kind of awful--can't see the individual stitches, but I used a simple back stitch for all of it. The color is off too. The thread is really not that dark.

I think embroidery may be eclipsing scrapbooking in terms of my crafty hobbies. It's so much easier to sit back on the couch and relax in the evenings with some cloth and a needle and thread than to spread out all those messy papers and bits and photos.

I'm still not entirely sure what I'm going to use this block for, but I'm kind of thinking it could go into a quilt, maybe using this pattern from Sew, Mama, Sew. I'd love to incorporate this stitched block into that pattern and then maybe embroider the above mentioned quote somewhere else on the quilt. Although putting this together could be tricky, as I didn't exactly leave myself any room for a seam allowance. Hmmm...could probably use some help from my sweet momma on this one...


Of me, but not mine.

Today is my son's 4th birthday. He was born on 4-14-07 at 4:07. I recite that sequence of numbers to myself like a mantra, trying to make sense of the miracle that is this child. Eliot's favorite television show is Blue's Clues. He loves tractors and all types of farm machinery, from hay mowers to fertilizer sprayers to manure spreaders. He sings along to songs on the radio and likes to recite lines from his favorite picture books in quiet, private moments when he thinks no one is listening. If you ask him, he will tell you that his favorite colors are green and red and blue and purple and yellow, and no, he does NOT want a haircut.

Eliot can be stubborn and even rude at times, demanding "JUICE!" without even looking up from his video games. Sometimes reminders to be polite are met with exasperated yelling: "I SAID please!" As his mother, I tend to praise his strengths and file away his shortcomings as faults of my own, or failures in my parenting. After four years, I still feel as though I have no clue what I'm doing, although I strongly suspect most parents don't.

I see a lot of myself in my son. Like me, Eliot is tender-hearted and free with his emotions. In the middle of playing a game, reading a book, or watching TV, he will often pause for a moment, look at me and sigh, "Mommy, I love you. I just love you one thousand! Is that the biggest number? Because I love you the biggest number." Also like me, Eliot gets frustrated easily. He's a perfectionist. He doesn't want to draw a tractor unless he can draw the PERFECT tractor, and since he can't draw the perfect tractor, he just won't draw at all. He throws down his crayon and crosses his arms defiantly over his chest. If he's struggling with a puzzle piece, he'll take one and smash it into place, like Imma MAKE that sucker fit! Or he'll throw the piece on the floor and stomp away. I have no illusions about this behavior. This he gets straight from me.

Likewise, there are traits of Eliot's that seem to spring directly from his father. I catch him looking in the mirror and admiring his reflection. He knows how to turn on the charm to get exactly what he wants. "Oh Mommy, if you buy me a toy, it will make me so happy!" On a more positive side, like his dad, he loves to be outdoors. He loves animals. He has a lot of energy and he always wants to be doing something.   

I also see elements of his personality that are entirely his own, 100% Eliot. He is so much more than just the sum of Rachel + Eli. He is a whole other human being, with thoughts and emotions and characteristics that belong to him alone. It has been a struggle for me in the past few years to make peace with the fact that though I carried him in my womb and gave birth to this person, Eliot does not belong to me. He may be my son, but he is not my possession. His paths in life will not be mine to determine. They never were.

I suppose all parents must reach a point where they realize this, when they have to let their child go to be whomever he or she is meant to be. Maybe being a divorced parent has just hastened this realization for me. I cannot control what Eliot does when he is in his dad's care. Whether and at what age he learns to shoot a gun, to hunt, I no longer have any say in that. I don't know the shape and tone of his days and weekends spent in a household that is not mine. I don't get to make or enforce the rules there.

This morning, on his 4th birthday, Eliot did not come and crawl in bed with me, and I did not get to whisper "Happy Birthday" to him in a voice hoarse with sleep. He woke at his father's house, with his dad, his step-mom and his half brother. I don't know what time he got up, or what he had for breakfast. I don't know what he's doing right now, as I type these words. This feels like a loss, a loss that wells up in my throat and makes it hard for me to swallow. But I have to remind myself that these moments were never a guarantee. Being Eliot's mom does not entitle me to anything. He is a human being, not a possession to be owned or shared or fought over.

I try to focus on the many moments I do get to share with Eliot, the presence I get to have in his life, the ways in which I get to guide and shape him into the adult he will someday be. All of this is a gift. Nothing has been taken away from me. Everything has been given.

Happy Birthday, little buddy. I feel privileged to be your mom.

Eliot and Mommy 2007

 (Yes, that is an umbrella behind us, and yes, if I had any Photoshop skillz whatsoever, I could have edited it out. Sadly, I do not and can not.)

Eliot, Mommy, and Steven 2011    
 (photo by Alex Kuhn Photography)


I have a writer's crush on Carolyn Parkhurst.

I haven't written here in forever. I still think often, sometimes longingly, of blogging, but somehow...I never make my way over here...

I've been reading a lot lately. Here's something I started to write about reading. Better a fragment than nothing, I suppose:

Carolyn Parkhurst is my favorite author.

Up until a few years ago, if you'd asked me my favorite author, the question would seem too overwhelming to even answer. There are way too many! How could I possibly choose one?! Do you have any idea how much I read?! But after finishing The Nobodies Album a few nights ago, it's official. Parkhurst is my favorite. Not only does she craft the most engaging novels, filled with stories that swallow me whole, but her sentences are just flat out works of beauty. I can't get through a single page without sighing, "Ooooh, I wish I'd written that! Aaaaahh, yes! Perfect! That is the EXACT perfect way to say that!" When reading one of her books, I turn the last page with a bit of wistful sadness, for I'll never experience that particular narrative in that exact way again. I'll re-read it, for sure, but that's the only-ever first time I will have read it. (Yes, I'm a freak. So what? I like what I like.)

I first discovered the quiet magic that is Carolyn Parkhurst's novels with The Dogs of Babel. I was staying the weekend at my former in-laws' house, and my mother-in-law had just finished reading it. She's a voracious reader and always has a stack of library books sitting at the ready on a cluttered wooden church pew in their dining room. She handed me the book, saying, "Here. If you aren't reading anything right now, try this. I think you'd like it. It's different." (People are always recommending "different" things that I might like. My mother is the best giver of gifts, and she claims her secret to finding just the perfect thing for me is to go into a store and find the most hideous or ridiculous item she can, and then she knows I'm sure to love it. Go figure.)

So Connie handed me the book, and I opened to the first page with only a vague sense of curiosity. It quickly sucked me in. It was one of those books I read and then immediately wanted everyone I know to read.