“Do you know who could lift this?
“Do you know who could jump dis high?
Hulk! For real.”
“Red Hulk is stronger than Green Hulk but not as strong as Rainbow Hulk.”
“Hulk Smash could lift up the whole Montreal! It’s true. IT’S TRUE MOMMA!” My agreement is required.
She keeps asking me to draw Hulk Smash so I do.
If I talk about how much she’s growing or compliment her on a new challenge she’s conquered, she turns it right back to the Hulk:
“Yeah! I’m getting big just like Hulk Smash!”
“You know who’s not scared of jumping off trees? Hulk Smash.”
Despite having neither book, television show nor pajamas featuring The Incredible Hulk, my three-year-old is obsessed with him. Farrah talks about Hulk Smash every day and with great reverence – so much so that he is the one who reminds her to close the closet door.
He also gets her to eat spinach via these Hulk Smash Muffins so she too can become big and strong.
I know momentum when I feel it.
Like most things that three-year-olds latch on to, I find this obsession charming and adorable, baffling origins aside. Her older brother knows about The Incredible Hulk of course but only mentions him occasionally and doesn’t give a fig about closing the closet door. He will eat muffins though, but knows they’re just regular muffins. He is six-and-a-half.
I think it was Mother’s Day when I re-read Farrah’s Birth Story (because if you’re gonna read a birth story, it might as well be on Mother’s Day), and was struck by these words:
Our Midwife arrives. I can’t even acknowledge her. The screaming becomes insufficient. I am driven to destroy as my body is feeling destroyed. I send everything on top of the toilet tank flying into the shower wall. I smash the toilet bowl brush against the ceramic floor. I shake the pedestal sink from its base. I am the Incredible Hulk, caged.”
Farrah Star as Bruce Banner, summoning the Hulk so that she could be born.
My body throws itself from hands-and-knees to sitting back on my heels, clenching my entire backside. Then my body climbs itself up the wall to a standing position. I am screaming as loud as I can for as long as I can.
I feel the baby move down and out.
Then back up.
Then down and out.
Then back up.
Then I understand I can get her out and it will be done. I understand she is ready. I understand everything. I will bear my child.
So I do.”
The connection between myself and my daughter is undeniable but sometimes I forget there is also a magic between us; something indefinable, charming and adorable. Currently, that something is a sparkling green.
I first heard “Darling Nikki” out of a boom box in a barn. It was Homecoming and we were working on the Freshman float at a classmate’s farm. A much freer 14 year-old than I had a copy of Purple Rain and played it; a musical romp in the hay, raunchy as hell.
I am not a Music Person. I didn’t develop that way. The few musical memories of my childhood include The Captain and Tenille, Tony Orlando and Dawn and The Statler Brothers, all from a portable cassette player reserved for 9-hour car rides to the Upper Peninsula.
Homecoming 1994 made me a Prince Person and in the years to follow I became a devotee.
Sign o’ the Times, especially “Starfish and Coffee”, blew my tiny teenaged mind. It pushed me and opened me: AIDS, romance, religion and freedom packaged in a golden double cassette that I could not afford but bought anyway.
I ran endlessly to Lovesexy in the dead of summer. I worked a day-shift at an auto parts factory and then went running in the salty afternoons. I went running because I was about to join the Army. Running to make weight. Running from having to pay rent to my parents. Running past cornfields and roadkill down Shimmel Road. Running and struggling to hold on to my Walkman as the sweat puddled in the palm of my hand.
Batman came out and I had a new form of media over which to obsess.
I became an adult real quick while belting out “Sexy M.F”. from the The Love Symbol album. Remember Kirstie Alley from The Love Symbol album?
The B-Sides in 1993 had “Pope”:
So, you can be the President (you can be the President) [kick it]
I’d rather be the Pope (rather be the Pope)
(I’d rather be, so happy)
Yeah you can be the side effect (you can be the side effect)
I’d rather be the dope (rather be the dope)
(I ain’t scared of you mutha fuckers) [kick it]
which sampled Bernie Mac. Bernie Mac. RIP.
I remember requesting “Seven” at my friend’s wedding reception and the whole floor cleared expect for the two of us. Who the hell doesn’t like “Seven”? I ain’t scared of you mutha fuckers. Kick it.
It has been a few weeks since Prince died and just more than a month since I saw him live at Place des Arts. It has taken me this long to absorb the loss. I’ve yet to listen to his music, alone and at home where it could hurt the most, but I have immersed myself in other people’s stories and tributes:
This D’Angelo cover of “Sometimes it Snows in April” hits the hardest:
and this story of Prince challenging Jimmy Fallon to ping-pong makes me laugh:
I finally took my ticket stub and unopened CD from that March concert and put them in my safe.
I can’t believe I hadn’t opened it yet. Some devotee. But now I think about how my kids will have that heirloom and the value it might possibly hold and I’ve made my Prince with it.
“All good things, they say, never last
And love, it isn’t love until it’s past”
Hi. My husband gifted me a ticket to “Prince and a Piano” and despite the performance being after 6pm and not in my living room, I went, and it was awesome. Here is the Montreal Gazette’s review: Prince Rules In Intimate Setting, and here is my experience:
This lobby smells like money.
If I had to guess by all the black clothing and absence of selfies, no one here is under 40. The wine glasses placed politely atop the recycling bin confirms it.
Is anyone else here alone? It’s cool. I’m cool.
Is anyone else going in? I feel like sitting down. I’m going in.
I am in the fifth row, on the aisle. JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH. Be cool. It’s cool. The aisle. Good. Yes. I can politely vomit in that direction.
Um. It’s after 7:15 and he’s still not here.
7:17. iPhone, iPhone, iPhone.
People are now taking selfies with his piano. A flash goes off. HIS PIANO IS PURPLE!
7:20. WTF. Is this “Prince and a Piano” or “Just Us and a Piano?” Amirite, Fifth-Row-Neighbor? Oh sorry, I did not see your hand politely atop your wife’s thigh. Date Night, huh? Nice. I saw your wine glasses earlier.
A single piece of hard candy is discovered and fished out of my pants’ pocket. Dinner!
I’m for sure gonna vomit.
7:29. The Coolest of The Cool appears in silhouette, 1/4 afro, 1/4 platforms, all soul. He is everything I want to be. I can’t believe I’m here right now. What a freaking privilege. He’s here. He’s here!!! All is forgiven. Crowd goes politely wild.
Where do I put my phone? Seriously. I didn’t bring a purse. I don’t know how this works.
Prince struts up to the piano then kneels at the bench in prayer.
He starts “U Got the Look” and is it so slow and tender it tickles, and suddenly I wonder if it’s just a build-up to OMGISSHEENAEASTONGOINGTOBEHERE?!?
Multiple security guards bob and weave their way through the front rows, clicking their tiny lights on and off incessantly. Is someone trying to record this? AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A PRINCE FAN?
During “I Would Die 4 U” the house lights come up and Prince asks everybody to stand up and — make no mistake — offer praise. Things get uncomfortable.
The security guards are getting real tired of your shit, Fourth-Row-and-Above.
I reapply my lipstick for the inevitable moment Prince spots me in the crowd and asks for a chaste kiss on the cheek. I do it eagerly but then start bawling over how my six-year-old cried when I left him to come to this concert. Prince hugs me, whispers a secret only we 2 can hear and dedicates his next song to me, The Most Beautiful Mother in the World.
Fuck. Security thinks my lipstick is a recording device and now I have their attention.
“STARFISH AND COFFEE. MAPLE SYRUP AND JAM”. I’m dying.
“This is the Ballaaaaaaad of Dorothy Parker.” It is done. I am dead now.
I wish “Prince and A Piano” would revolve. I’ve been staring at the back of his head this whole time – which is a privilege, yes. It is a privilege to be in the same room as Prince’s head but couldn’t this theatre figure out how to spin him around? Not so he gets dizzy, just enough so that he could see me above all others is what I’m saying. Damn. I don’t think that’s too much ask. I haven’t been out of my house this late in years. And did I mention the crying child?
Annie Lennox Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain”. I know this song! And now it’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend”. I sure know this song! He is blending the two into some kind of anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better spectacle because he can because Prince.
Hey Lady In The Front Row Who Shouts “THANK YOU PRINCE!” After Each Song – you speak for all of us. Literally. Why is this crowd so subdued? Is everyone here sober? I mean I am but I have to go home and breastfeed my daughter.
It’s getting late I’ll bet.
I’d be okay without an encore.
All these people are going to be in the coat check line before me.
What if I can’t get a cab?
It’s very late.
I need to leave this place.
What if I can’t leave this place?
I left. I was That Person who left before the end of the encore. The Only 1.
I finally looked at my watch as the cab drove away. It was 9:00pm. I smiled. No panic attack, no regrets.
THANK YOU PRINCE!
I am in between photo-editing software and laptops right now and it’s killing my creative output. Luckily I have my iPhone and motherhood.
How have you been? Is there ever a moment when you’re not doing something absolutely bonkers?
Do you manage long road trips with your family?
My kids resent being immobilized in a five-point harness for hours on end and I sympathize; I don’t think small bodies are meant to endure long travel. Everyone I know however, travels by car with little complaint or incident and I mean far, like seven-hours-there-and-back-on-Easter-weekend far. I know people who have taken a 13-hour road trip without screens and everyone reached their destination alive. My friend, her husband and two young children are on the road from Wisconsin to Florida as I write — that’s 20 hours direct – and not for the first time.
Everyone has it figured out except me. I don’t like that.
We tried it, sure. There was that one time we attempted seven hours by starting at 5pm, hoping to spend the last four hours asleep. One child did that. The other child refused and screamed “MOMMA” and cried so hard that she vomitted several times. As a bonus, her screaming kept waking the other child. Miserable does not begin to describe the experience. Hearing your nearly two-year old scream for you over and over while you can do nothing is sickening; traumatic even, for all parties. Long car rides were removed from our To Do List which is a shame when you’re also terrified to fly.
We’ll go when we’re ready and my kids are not ready and that is okay. Later is okay.
But we still have to drive around town and that too has its issues:
“Over the course of an average 16-minute trip, parents that had kids present spent three minutes and 22 seconds with their eyes not on the road.” – Kids in Cars 12 Times More Distracting for Drivers than Talking on Cell Phones
We take a lot of 16-minute trips. (Honestly, how do you do it for hours upon hours?)
Those trips begin and end with getting Farrah in and out of her car seat, which I do no less than seven times a day, so no less than seven times a day do I say “PUT THE TOY/SNACK/WATER DOWN. BUCKLE FIRST.” “HURRYHURRYHURRY! I AM ABOUT TO BE RUN OVER.” “GET SERIOUS FARRAH. A CAR IS GOING TO HIT ME.” I say these things because they are true. Farrah’s seat is on the driver’s side, the side that opens to traffic. City traffic. Montreal traffic. Seven times a day I am in a state of terror and anger.
That is a shitty way to be seven times a day looking into this face. That’s not who I want to be and she doesn’t deserve it just for being the fidgety, distracted, curious, 100% normal three-year-old that she is.
I stopped trying to change her and changed the seats instead.
Now Arlo has a little less leg room and he can no long fling open his door, but he’s not complaining because he gets to crawl through the car to his seat, much like a military maneuver, and much to his pleasure.
So that’s one car problem solved. Seems simple now, like I should have done it at the beginning of winter, but no matter. It’s done and our days are seven times’ improved. It feels awesome and I think my kids would agree.
Please share your tips for long car rides in the Comments below. I know we’ll get there one day. Lead the way!
The kids are into The Lion Guard lately so I dug up photos from my trip to Tanzania, from that time I saw all those animals “for real? For really real?” as Arlo would say.
Going through the album I was struck by how far I am from the person I used to be.
I used to see great things.
I used to do great things.
I went to Tanzania in 2003 with Habitat for Humanity. My last HfH trip was to Poland in 2006, ten years ago. It’s been eight years since I founded Bermuda’s Fertility Support Group and two years since shaved my head for St. Baldrick’s. I lamented to my friend, “My greatest personal achievement of 2015 was going blonde.” Pathetic. Never even mind that I hated it. She reminded me that no, the most significant thing I did was keep two children healthy and happy all year long. Indeed. Thanks, friend.
I still see great things.
I still do great things.
But man, are they different things.
Of all the fevers, cabin is my favorite with Johnny at a distant second. Cabin fever is so easily cured; just walk out your door! After spiking the day before, I hustled everyone out of the house by 8am with the promise of nothing; no plan, only the great outdoors. Momma knows. Just go with it. Yes, I will carry the granola bars.
The snow was thigh-deep at the trail’s entrance but what seemed like pure foolishness immediately gave way to wonder.
We were a noisy, grumbling, bristly bunch but she didn’t seem to mind.
The kids fed off my excitement, quieting their bodies and voices as we grew closer, enjoying the pursuit.
We saw a lot of deer during our mid-winter break in Mont Tremblant but none that flirted so brazenly.
(I feel the same way, Deer.)
She eventually darted off, prancing through the snow, rounding the bend where fairy tales begin for those who dare step outside their door. I longed to follow her but three-year-olds and six-year-olds can be quelled for only so long. Momma knows. I savored the moment then returned my attention to mittens and granola bars.
It wasn’t until hours later that my laptop showed me what my camera could not; my fair lady was wounded on both back legs.
There was no blood on the trail and we were gentle in our curiosity but now that I know she was hurt I cannot stop thinking about her. I’ve heard that once you become a mother there is no such thing as “someone else’s child” and for me this has extended to every living creature. That poor baby. Perhaps when she pranced around the bend it was to her mother she was returning, a mother who would lick her wounds and nuzzle her down to a long winter’s nap. There are fairy tales all around us and this is one I tell myself as we return home, fever vanquished.
Just like in Madison, the Botanical Gardens here in Montreal is an ideal place to spend a wintry morning.
Just like in Madison, we are the only ones at the Garden on a wintry morning.
Farrah and I are so frequently alone in public places that if I didn’t have six years’ experience under my belt, I’d wonder if I was doing it all wrong.
I am amazed at people who stay home all day with their kids, literally inside their house. We just crawl up each other’s butt if we’re in the house all day. I want to work, she wants to play and there’s only so much integration you can do in that area before she gets wise. So we leave the house daily and have grand adventures, just the two of us, just like her brother and I did before her.
There’s also a huge upside to being out and about during the week and ironically, it’s being able to avoid crowds. I stepped inside a grocery store on a Saturday afternoon and it was like entering the DMZ. There were lines and Security Guards. Lines! Going to the grocery store on a Wednesday morning at 9:30 is so easy. It’s just us and the seniors and the people stocking shelves. We have so much space in the aisles I’m considering bringing Farrah’s scooter so she can get some practice. They’ll love that I’m sure.
Where are you going this winter? Have you spotted other members of your tribe? Wanna hang out some time?
I picked up coloring as something to enjoy with my son while he builds Legos.
Some say it’s not therapy but the mind drifts when hands shift and here’s what I’ve been thinking:
My body is on my mind.
Want to see something gross?
One of the many advantages to having an older child who breastfeeds is that no lump, bump or mole goes undetected. After being scratched and infected a few times, I thought best to have a dermatologist remove my moles instead of my three-year-old. I had two burned off my chest. This procedure includes plucking then pulling the flesh upwards then singeing off the top. It was fascinating.
I also had two moles cut out of my back:
It had been a while since I had my skin checked which is opposite-smart because I 1) am very pale and 2) lived in Bermuda for three-and-a-half years. Add in all the summers I spent detasilling corn as a teenager and now my skin is opposite-healthy.
When the dermatologist saw my back he said he would remove “one for you and one for me”. The mole I wanted off was lower and rubbed against my bra strap. The one he wanted off was large and displayed trademarks of skin cancer. I had no idea it was even there. You have my attention, Doctor. Carve away.
You also have my attention, Body. This is why we take care of ourselves when we are the last thing on our minds. Somebody look at me! Somebody touch me! Somebody help me! So I can look at, touch and help the little somebodies who need me.
There are no more moles to scratch and the lab never called so I move forward, grateful that I have a story to write about and not a sentence to carry out.
Take care, Dear Readers. Have a good weekend and cover up!