Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy Holidays! Or, As We Say in Russia, Весёлого Рождества!

This was a major toddler morning.

For those of you who have kids, you'll know what I mean. For those of you who don't, simply picture a ten-car pile-up on the freeway, stir in a little background whining, some nuclear bombs exploding in the near distance, ten car alarms going off at once--and no one turning them off, and getting smacked in the face by an indignant little person. There, can you see it?

This was my morning. We were thirty-five minutes late to preschool, and I missed my twice-weekly hike in the national forest with my dog: a time I treasure, one I look forward to for days for the rich smell of the winter earth and the life-affirming cold of the air near the river, for the silence and the sight of my dog bounding up the trail ahead of me, for the thinking time. Instead, I barely managed to brush my teeth, throw on my bra and a fleece coat (I still wore the fleece pants I slept in), slap a toboggan on my head and tuck my daughter under my arm like Heisman, and make it to the school.

This was after the Mexican stand-off over the yogurt. It wasn't blueberry, and so really, it had it coming. The banana, bless its heart, became a giant crayon which my dear child used to smoosh into the coffee table, to "draw" with.  It was World War III over the coat, the right cup, the treatment of the dog. I said "gentle hands" and other inanities so many times I think I'll change my name to Rainman.

I have a pint-sized problem.

She's my little Czarina. My precious little despot. A two year-old schizophrenic with dimples and a killer left-hook. Here's her photo. (See how tall she is? She did NOT get this from me. That, and the tyranny she gets from her father. The big mouth may be my fault.)

Do not be fooled by the blonde hair and the dimples. She's a tyrant, I tell you. A gorgeous little centuries-old Russian despot. The other day, the despot came with me to the post office, and the postmistress gave her a few Priority Mail stickers to keep her happy. I stuck them on her chest and told her I was shipping her to Siberia. Or maybe her grandparents'.

Learning how to be a mother, a wife, a college teacher, and a writer--not to mention a functioning friend, family member and a generally good person at Christmastime--has been tricky. I'm about to add graduate student to this mix, and I've really avoided thinking much about it. I'm not sure if this is wise, but it's the way I'm going about it. That is, until Dec. 28th, when I fly to Vermont for my first ten-day residency in the MFA in Writing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. A stack of manuscript pages for my first VCFA workshop (which I'm seriously excited about reading) I've had to put at the bottom of the pile of to-be-graded English final exams and essays on my desk, simply to keep them out of sight. Because, I lack self-control when it comes to reading. Last night, I almost lost my just arrived copy of Diana Gabaldon's The Scottish Prisoner to the lukewarm depths of my bath. Because I fell asleep there. (Not because of the novel--it's fantastic. Because I. am. officially. an. old. person.)

I'm not sure how some writers do it. There's this famous anecdote about best-selling romance novelist Nora Roberts, and how she wrote her first novels at the breakfast table while her boys were eating cereal. I am not Nora Roberts. (Sigh.) In my life, I think the cereal could become airborn. A spoon makes a good catapult... I'm sure my little pumpkin pie would figure that out pretty quickly. She's sly. Maybe she's not Russian. Hidden beneath that exterior of sweetness is the soul of a secret agent. Maybe she's Mossad.

I swear I'm doing almost everything I can to spread Christmas joy. To be enveloped by the magic of the season, a magic I have so genuinely believed in since childhood. Our house is lit with white lights, candles in the windows; our tree is small but hardy, full of glowing bubble lights and beloved ornaments, our stockings hung by the chimney with care, our manger scene placed just out of the sweet little puddin' pie tyrant's reach. Heck, there's even a Santa hat on the rocking horse. We dig Christmas in this family, let me tell you.

See, here we are, enjoying Christmas. Look how calm the despot is. Can you see that blue hundred-yard stare? I think she's just biding her time.

Perhaps I can make a deal with that sweet little schizophrenic Czarina: give me back my precious toddler of yore, and you may return at 16. We'll even let you obscond with the peasants. But despots don't make deals, do they? I think I remember this from World History. They lop off heads. Or utilize efficient firing squads. So maybe I'll lay low, hide behind the dog, play "Frosty the Snowman" on the DVD player as many times as I possibly can, at least until my husband gets home. Until then, writing anything except for this blog post may have to be put on the back-burner, sad as it makes me.

Because a girl's got to make it through the day, нет?