Consequence and Connection by childgrower Annita Woz

caelsurfingfeetIt’s bedtime in the Woz house.  My kindergartener is exhausted but he doesn’t know it.  Without a clear understanding of how the calendar works, he has still come to the realization that the weekend is much shorter than a week of school time.  “That stinks!” he announces while standing on his pillow, stark naked, arms crossed in front of him and the biggest scowl that he can muster.

In four short weeks of formal education, he is fully aware that bedtime seems to come earlier on a school night and this has cut him off from his summertime comfort of playing late into the night with the neighbors in the back yard.

Worse, playing and growing is no longer his only priority. His new job involves listening all day to someone other than the leader of the Power Rangers. He is not pleased to hear that his new mission is very different than preschool which only required keeping his hands to himself.

He is stomping his feet on the pillow, and with various body parts waving in the chill fall air, he is telling me that he is not going to sleep, ever. He adds, “I’m not going to school tomorrow. And I’m not wearing those pajamas. And I’m not brushing my teeth. I didn’t get enough playing.  And I am not going to sleep until you let me watch television, right now.”

As his list of demands grows, so does his volume.

He is completely unaware that he doesn’t have on a stitch of clothing and he doesn’t see me trying not to grin as I realize that his limbs are all longer than they were just a year ago and my how he has really stretched in the year from age five to six. He looks so much like pictures of his dad when he was the same age that I’m distracted from his outburst enough to prevent me from scolding him for throwing a tantrum.

I’m in the room with him, and I want to make him put on the rejected pajama bottoms that I’m holding in my hand before I solve all his problems by taking away some of his allowance,  taking away the play date that he had scheduled for Friday,  and taking away the new light saber that he picked out over the weekend.

As my list of take-aways grows, so does my frustration. 

How long can a naked tantrum last when it is already 15 minutes past bedtime?

Into my head comes an idea that was planted by several books that I scoured for secrets as I became a new parent.  Into my head flies all the good and bad discipline that I learned from my parents.  I sort through all the lessons and skills that I have tried to learn from the model parents that I have met. 

I know that there is a time for consequences and there is a time for connecting. I also know that I want to be firm, effective, and I want to stop this kind of behavior tonight.

I don’t want to have Super Naked Fit Thrower running the show every evening at bedtime.

I also know what Grandma Dorothy would tell me to do if she were looking over my shoulder.  She would tell me to try what she might not have had time for when she was juggling farm chores, never ending bills and the raising of nine children. 

My little guy takes the tissue I offer and says, “I cannot stop these tears from coming out.” I tell him, “It stinks that you cannot play longer tonight. I wish you could play all night long.” 

I scoop his long legs and the birdlike wings of growing arms into my lap. He is wrapped in a warm blanket, able to act like the little boy that he still is, the same little guy that will still be living inside of him through those trying middle school years, I imagine.  I throw a blanket over his shaking shoulders and hug him.  I just hug him.

### for EP by Annita Woz, September 25, 2009.

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Technology -sound, Calendars -insane. by child grower A. Woz.

cowgirlfeet 2My daughter and her friend sit down to type up the school-morning schedule on one of the last summer play dates before the academic year begins.

On the list is the normal shower, get dressed, eat breakfast. For the first time ever, the list also includes: Check email at 7:23 AM daily;  necessary,  just in case one or the other needed to alert of a outfit change, or to declare a day for lip gloss club to meet at recess.

Oddly enough a recent report for technology services providers noted an increase in the use of electricity in the early morning hours and also a decline in the amount of time available to read the daily newspaper.  Why?

Readers have started a new habit of logging in and checking messages on-line. They have less time to read the paper, and are dedicating more time to connecting during the early morning routine.  And most people expect that friends and colleagues, will see and adjust to a notice sent at midnight on Monday about a time change for a Tuesday morning appt.

Looks like my 10 year old is up to speed, if not driving, this new trend. She is wearing the plaid skirt not the jeans today. Good thing she checked her own gmail account at half past the hour!

Constantly seeking simplicity,  I get and take a lot of ribbing on my unwillingness to embrace firing up the computer in the morning.

And, I have not set up my voicemail on my cell phone. 

That’s right,  if people call me and I don’t answer,  they cannot leave a message.

It is just one more place for me to have to check for another update for my calendar.  This drives them crazy. I’m not on board with the pace of reality. I used to say, “All the important people are here with me, so why run to answer the phone!”  But now, everyone is in school, the grown ups are working, the wireless is available and everyone is calling, texting, emailing, facebooking, twittering and chatting. With all my kids in school, I feel the pressure check every attempt at contact!

This “No message Option” on the voicemail drives them nuts and leaves them really frustrated.  First they are polite about it, thinking I’m just too shy to admit that I don’t know how to set it up.  This quickly fades.

They call the house, they leave a message. Getting no live body,  they call the cell again and but still don’t get to leave a message.  Next avenue, if they are at a computer,  they fb or text or even check facebook to see if I’m logged in and try to catch me via chat. Sometimes, they’ll get creative and call a friend see if I’m with her and if I”m standing next to her, they suggest that she could pass along  a quick message to me. 

I am never alone.

They really need me to know that they are going to be ten minutes late, but that they will be there.  It is a matter of politeness, good manners that they are letting me know they are running behind and I have the audacity to not allow them to synchronize my calendar to the new ten minutes of downtime.

I say,  just plan to always be ten minutes late and I’ll forgive you every single time.

Worse, they hate it when I tell them I might be online, but I have all my statuses set to invisible so no one knows if I”m on or off. 

They don’t get that I refuse to set up voicemail on my cell phone when it takes less time to just stop the beeping by calling them back than it does to listen to a message that they usually repeat when I do get in touch.

My home phone captures who called, their number and what time so I know who is looking for me and gulp, I admit I screen my calls.

Surely, with all of this help, I cannot miss a thing. But maybe I want to miss some things.

I’m on calendar overload and I tell ya, between messaging systems, reminder texts, summary reminders calendar updates and my GPS that can get me anywhere; I’m becoming a zombie with no need to really keep a calendar or use my brain.

Unless I want to feel like I’m in control- an illusion at best- I don’t even really have to pay attention to what is going on since someone will kindly remind me, call me, text me, fb me or something to get my arse in gear.

Technology makes sense, but the calendar is frankly, insane.

Here’s a mom’s day:

I get the email today for the soccer practice schedule for the ten year olds team summarizing the online schedule that is available on the organization’s website and finalizing the umpteen emails that parents read and tossed over the last few weeks confirming practice times and game times that had to get switched due to conflicts.

As I am reading the newly-revised-final-updated-schedule,  a text comes in with the alert that practice is canceled due to rain for the older daughter.

Principal sends an email with a link to the classroom calendar update that is posted on the school web site each week.  One classroom teacher also sends an email confirming the sign up days and times for the classroom volunteers to make sure the dates on her calendar and schedule are correct.

So now I’m verifying my calendar and hers!

Then I get an email from my husband alerting me to his out of the office work days, his heavy work load work days and his no longer has to be at work days so I can confirm with my boss my work days, and of course, my no longer can work days due to newly identified calendar conflict.  

My middle-schooler’s Thursday Folder carries information directly to me about the overnighter trip bus schedule, the updated supplies list and the request for a new early pick up time  for the returning, and very tired students. My home pick up carpool schedule now has to be reconciled with the bus driver’s arrival and departure schedule.  And then a necessary call the soccer coach so that she knows that the bus schedule is going to make it impossible for the daughter to make the practice schedule that we rescheduled last week due to a coach’s conflict.

Add to this the backpack express notice my youngest brings home and spills in the front hallway while he searches for his homework.  There are several loose pages, some multi-color to alert parents to a schedule update, and a request that parents check our calendars before we sign up for chaperoning opportunities. On hot pink paper,  there is a reminder to send back the necessary tear-off-the-bottom-send-back-with-an-order fundraiser form because the PTA knows that parents have priorities on the calendar and this one neon page will be seen and added.  These PTA folks are parents with real calendars that have matching pens and a built in calculator and a world map with time zone notices.  These small encyclopedias, color-coded, and utilizing a system for moving to-do lists to the next week day note section, are attatched firmly to the hip of organized people and only come off for the morning shower.  

When I check my answering  machine at home, I get the notice that my babysitter is not able to make this Thursday but next Wednesday will work if I don’t have a conflict with my good friend who left a message on Facebook that the coffee clutch wasn’t going to happen at the same locale.

I have all my technology ducks in a row.

My cell phone beeps if I miss a call.

My answering machine blinks if I miss a call.

My text messaging service blares when I haven’t read new mail.

My chat box lights up if someone is trying to converse in real-time.

I am a bit afraid to open the mailbox at the end of the driveway.  After all, usually the emails, the e-lerts, the notes from the school, are safely copied and mailed –just in case- technology cannot find us hiding under our office clutter, eating the erasers off our stub of a pencil and feeding our calendar pages to the dog.

### by child grower A. Woz.

Recipe Day – Spring Rolls by child grower Annita Woz

cael toe up on beach feetThe silence is all around her.  Her children’s voices  are unable to reach all the way home from the school yard. 

The usual chattering of learning,  the incessant interruptions are defined differently from one moment to the next only by a mother’s mood and her patience level.  No small ones tug at her wisdom today.

Whisking away, she can hear the sound of metal on metal as it churns up the orange and lime juice, creating a simple dipping sauce. 

The aromas fill the room where the silence has cleared so much open space.  Fresh mint and cilantro are on the cutting board and the hot water in the tea kettle has errupted its steam to break the stillness of the day.  The shrill whistle is retrieved from the air and shut up tight as it is lifted from the burner. Then, the sound of hot water, spilling and expanding on a cold china plate laps at her ears. 

From the flat round package, the delicate spring roll wraps are carefully removed and submerged and softened in the hot liquid and filled with the fresh and crisp ingredients, the mint and scallion wait until after all the rest,  the silent creation through tender rolling begins.

Pulled back by the smell of the mint gathered directly from the patio container, she is reminiscing as she does each time she makes these.  Back she goes to a cooking class taken with her youngest sister years ago when neither had ever touched fresh mint leaves.

Standing together in a class on Laotian cooking, they are reading the now-common ingredients like cilantro, bean sprouts,  chicken,  rice noodles, shaking their heads.  One imagines biting into chicken covered with toothpaste, the other mint-ice cream on bean sprouts.

Yet that night, cilantro and mint become new favorites for the two sisters. Standing silently, hip to hip, the smiling young women learn to fold and roll and tuck the fresh spring rolls and each marvels at the taste of real mint and peanut sauce and how each bite is exactly the taste of walking barefoot through the dew covered yard of their childhood home.

Years later,  the younger will teach her sister recipes without a class.

With hennaed hands, the sisters will taste  new foods at the wedding where the younger marries a man born in Pakistan and with the marriage  comes  new food,  new music, new flavors rooted in family.   Both dance and play dandia;  sticks and twirling sari’s and bare feet and rich traditions that neither have touched before,  take them both from their quiet families and into the frenzy and laughter of celebration.

From her new mother in law’s meals, the baby sister learns and memorizes and shares with her sister all the warmth of garam masala, the simplicity of naan, the coolness of yogurt sauces and the spicy grilled kabobs of skewered tandoori soaked chicken.

Now, separated by several states, they stand alone in their kitchens, each finding a personal triumph with each successful match of flavor and meal, both concentrating and lost in each new recipe.  The silence is delicious.

Right now, it is nearly the end of Ramadan in the little sister’s kitchen.  Participation in the focus and the cleansing through fasting,  leaves the room bereft of the daily meal preparation and the clanking of metal, the warmth of the stove, the clutter of mind and home. During Ramadan, the little sister finds simplicity soothing, reading more relaxing than the television and the hustle of going out to dinner is replaced with holding hands and going for walks and mindful consumption.  

In the midwest, she sees in her head the older sister, standing barefoot on the tile with her children gone to the start of the school year.  Without interruptions it is the sounds in her own mind that are now blaring and distracting.  The sister holding the handful of fresh picked mint pauses, inhales the green to the point of tasting it by breathing, and across the country she connects the mint memories and the spring rolls cooking class with the sister who hasn’t cooked since before dawn.  She wonders how long the loudness inside her head has been screaming to be heard.

The setting sun brings them both back to the present.  The return of the school children and the return of the family meal and the end of a day’s fast,  brings the inspiration that comes from living, from getting out there, from the teaching and the touching of breaking bread and sharing stories.

Without regret, both give up the silence to accept the lessons.

The quiet inside their heads rarely misses the escape from the meetings, the events, the niceties that are intrusions on their calm interiors, their deliberately erected and protected peaceful walls. 

Yet, at sunset, their hearts love the racket, the cacophony that is the way-finding of their children.

Each day they learn more from their children than they teach.  The tiny experts take and use and enjoy each minute of the day, living in the moment by opposing silence and all its peace, teaching their grown ups the bittersweet gifts of growing and making all the beautiful noise.  

Laotian Spring Rolls

recipe as taught by Kathy Khamphony of Madison who tells us that spring rolls are called neung leab in her native Laos.  They are usually served as soon as assembled.  But can be stored in an airtight container in a refrigerator.

8 -10 Rice Papers (called Spring roll Skins at Millers)

leaf lettuce

bean sprouts

slivered cucumber

cooked rice noodles or vermiccelli

whole cilantro, mint and basil leaves

minced cooked pork, chicken or shrimp or fried egg strips (great way to use leftovers)

Spicy dipping Sauce (or alternate fresh sauce) and ground peanuts.

For each spring roll, dip 1 sheet of rice paper in shallow plate filled with very hot water (perhaps from your tea kettle.)  The “paper” will quickly become pliable.  Remove carefully to keep the edges from sticking together, and place it on another large plate that is slightly wet or directly on your cutting board/counter.  Soak another sheet and overlap in on the first for strength.  Layer 2 four-inch pieces of lettuce, 10 bean sprouts, 10 cucumber slivers, some noodles, 4 leaves of each herb, and 1 tbsp of meat on bottom border. Roll from the bottom edge over filling, fold edges in, and roll up tightly. It takes a little practice but it feels good to have your hands on the food. 

Sauce:

1/2 c sugar

1 tblspoon lime juice

1 tblsepoon bottled fish sauce

1 clove rgarlic, mashed to a paste

2 or mor thai hot peppers if you wish, mashed

Boil sugar with 1 cup of water 2 minutes to make a simple syrup. Cool, stir in remaining ingredients. Makes one cup. Serve with crushed peanuts for dip

Alternate no-cook sauce:

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

4-6 tbsp fresh orange juice

1 tsp honey

1 tsp soy sauce

Whisk together well. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Enjoy- perhaps next time a Pakistani recipe will have to be shared…we’ll see where the silence leads.  

### For ChildGrower blog by A. Woz Sept 11, 2009.

Youngest to K by child grower Annita Woz.

I haul and unload the high chair, bouncy seat, the crib, the automatic baby swing, and several Little Tykes toddler toys to my friend’s garage.  I hold back a sob while sticking and marking the price tags and look away quickly, fighting tears, when someone pays a few bucks and walks away with the little red swing that safely held all three of my children, back and forth, to the rhythm of hundreds of rounds of the alphabet song.

I have not been able to make myself get rid of the baby stuff until this year. My husband calls as the sale begins and reminds me that he has a special connection to the alligator teeter totter and that if it doesn’t sell, don’t just send it to charity, bring it right back home.  I feel the same about the dollhouse.

After more than a decade of having children underfoot, I am selling all the baby paraphernalia that has been taking up a lot of room in storage.

I’m also sending my youngest to Kindergarten this fall. 

With him goes all the personal and societal pressures that have been kept at bay while I took 11 years off of full-time-work  leaving me with a very small paycheck to contribute toward our mortgage.

Cutting way back on a forty hour work week has its rewards, but I am very aware that the perks of mothering are balanced by the pain of it coming to an end. 

This fall,  my youngest child’s life is changing when he takes that leap into his first day of Kindergarten-  and so is his mother’s.  

I’m grateful that my kid survived my parenting skills and that should be enough proof that he is ready to survive a school day, maybe even a ride to school on a bus, right? 

Yes, I have to admit, he is ready for school.

He is actually one of the most ready kids in the class due to has a mid-summer birthday that let me keep him home until after his sixth birthday.  He has conversations with kids, plays nicely, controls his hands.  He can write his name and can recognize some of the letters of the alphabet.  He can look some adults in the eye and still manage to form one word answers to their questions instead of hiding his head behind my leg as he did a year ago. 

He knows the school and can find the bathroom and the playground.  He has come with me every morning to drop off his older siblings at school, visited all the classrooms and knows most of the teaching staff on sight.

He has a backpack, a lunchbox and gym shoes. By material measurement, he is way ready.

He informs me that he knows exactly what he is in for.  With his long arms crossed in front of him, he squints through these amazing long eye lashes and then gives me the eye roll and says,  “Mom, I know that it is not going to be fun the whole time.”

I have to agree.  It is not all fun.  I resist sharing that my first day will not be fun the whole time, either.   

### for EP, August 31, 2009, by Annita Woz.

Going, growing, gone by child grower Annita Woz

caelsandalfeetrockwallEvery mom I talk with is worried about the food related aspects of the first day of Kindergarten.  Everything from the brain-filling breakfast fuel, the lunch line,  afternoon snack and of course whether to have fresh cookies and milk waiting on the counter at three o’clock so as to entice a full report of the day.  Food will be a bribe to get the goods on how many friends were made and whether the teacher is nice.

I’m not worried about the food. 

I’m worried about the rest of it.

All of it.

All of me, mine, gone.

I’ll never forget going to visit at recess when my first born was in school. I was mid sentence, near the monkey-bars I think, crouched down on one knee, looking into her green eyes and holding her little hand when the recess whistle blows. She slips her hand from mine, breaks eye-contact, turns mid-mommy-sentence and runs to the single-file line. She is listening to the teacher now, not mom.  

It is just how it is. If we do our job, our children know who to listen to and when, and they figure out the rules. They find ways to fit in to the academic world where they navigate the social norms and feed their minds.

While my youngest is off to K, and my other children are in their classrooms, and my husband is gone to work, I’ll be going, growing, gone, too.

Gone out of my mind, maybe,  but more likely I will be going to take a nap at nap time and finally get my cupboards cleaned out, even the one with the spilled molasses and the silverware drawer that needs sorting and a major scrubbing. Ask my sister Jane, she’ll tell you this is a milestone in parenting when a mom sends her youngest to Kindergarten and then prioritizes cleaning the cupboards because she knows that with all of her children IN SCHOOL she will now have time to get this chore done. 

I’ve met with many a mom over the years as she counts down the days till all of her brood will be back in school.   I realize I’ve always wanted summer to be endless.

I’ve had coffee with a mom who is back in school and proudly does her homework at night with her kids.  I realize that story problems still make me break out into a cold sweat but that I am also envious of the college students who get to return to fill their heads with new ideas.

I’ve had fruit smoothies with moms who started working out every morning when their youngest went into Kindergarten.  They also claim to burn off calories by organizing classroom parties and coordinating fundraisers.   I realize I regret that I didn’t view flying around a plastic Batman as the ultimate physical (and mental!) exercise.

My friends, my family, even completely exhausted strangers, wise women all, have- over the last ten years- warned me, sometimes with a finger wag, sometimes with an odd smile and a sigh, they have warned me with the words, “They grow up so fast.”   I did not listen very well.  I guess, I did not live in the moment enough, did not believe the speed of childhood in the grand scheme of parenting.  I also realize that I have just become some one who will inflict this knowledge on another unsuspecting mother- and she will not listen, either.

Across the nation, about the time that the reading lesson begins in the kindergarten classrooms, moms everywhere, (and some dads too, I suppose) will be assessing new options,  repeating to herself, over and over in her head or writing it in her journal,  making a plan like  “Now, I’m going to go to work part-time and do something I love.” 

Over steaming mugs of coffee, another mom is saying to her good friend, “I’m going to continue staying at home where I’m going to actually practice yoga not just do yoga.”

Or some moms will silently hide in a wadded up kleenex,  with shaking shoulders and a runny nose,  this mom is going to cry the entire day.  Then she’s going to call all her girlfriends and have them over for Kringle and a donut chaser.  

 From the silence, come the words echoing in an empty house, “My youngest is in school now so I’m going to just take a year and see if I can remember who I am,”  it says, this little voice that hasn’t spoken in years.  

That last one is me,  being very honest with myself. 

I have my youngest going to K this fall and while I’m on this cliff of opportunity, I’m not sure I am meeting all the criteria to graduate from my real-life parenting classroom.  Can somebody just give me an F and make me repeat this last summer?

### foar ChildGrower blog, Sept. 2, 2009 by Annita Woz.

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