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Why I Oughta

My Three Stooges: Hank, Pai (dad) and Molly

My Three Stooges: Hank, Pai (dad) and Molly

 

(from the back seat of the car)

Hank: Mana (sister)?

Molly: Mano (brother)?

Hank: Are you my baby?

Molly? Noooo.

Hank: Then who’s baby are you?

Molly: Um… mama’s baby.

Me: (fist pump, whisper scream) Yes!

Molly: Quero água (I want water).

Pai: (driving) Do we even have…

Me: (inspecting the picnic basket) Moo-Moo, I don’t have water. I have juice.

Molly: Juice, please.

Hank: That was so polite, mana (sister).

Molly: Juice please, agora (now)!

Pai: (officially micromanaging) And there is no sippy-cup is there?

Me: (bicker-flirting) I didn’t get the motherhood preparedness badge in girl scouts, okay?

Pai: You were a girl scout and that is a real thing?

Me: I was a brownie for like 4 weeks until my contrariness caused the other mothers to advise my mom that maybe girl scouts wasn’t for me.

Pai: You couldn’t even be a scout?

Me: AMERICAN girl scout. I am sure I would have excelled at European Scouts where the girls and boys are equal, but I wasn’t into selling cookies and knotting macramé.

Pai: (mocked shock, completely facetious) Don’t you write a parenting blog?  Isn’t being perfect, like, your job?

Me: (soooooo much side eye)

Molly: JUICE!

Hank: Say please, be kind.

Molly: Juice, please, sim (yes).

Me: I have a cup and I have a straw which means I will need your help, Hank.

Hank: That is perfectly fine! I will make sure she doesn’t get a juice bath. Just don’t hit any big bumps.

Pai: Portuguese highways don’t have bumps or traffic and for this our country was practically bankrupt. If you can help, Hank, then we will be home in 15 minutes without a birra (tantrum).

Me: (handing back the unsecured drinking vessel to the nine year old to be administered to the two year old completely unsupervised)

Pai: (turns up the radio, whispers sarcastically, escalating the mock argument) Do you have a change of clothes for her? (trying to keep a strait face)

Me: (feigning defensiveness) If I didn’t pack a gawd-damn-sippy-cup do you think I would have planned ahead and packed a spare outfit for the toddler? You’re lucky there were diapers and wipes today.

Pai: (chuckling)

Me: What happened to the 15 minutes and we’re home attitude? Next time you make the lunch and pack the picnic basket then I’ll better pack the diaper bag instead of doing (whisper scream, shaking a fist at him) ALL THE THINGS, BRO.

Pai: (practically hysterical) Did you just call me bro?

Me: (giggling) You’re gonna drive me to drink. What makes you think I am the prepper in this family? Just because I carried those kids for 9 months each in my broken down trash heap of a body doesn’t mean I’m the one that has to carry their gear.

Pai: (positively purple with laughter)

Me: She’s lucky I didn’t ask Hank to have her drink strait from the bottle. Where’s the “she can scream for 15 minutes covered in orange juice” option, huh?  You’ve completely forgotten what parenting toddler Hank was like. He screamed for all of 2009. Every single day all day. Where were you?

Pai: Dissertating.

Me: (switching to my best three stooges impression)  A wise wise guy, eh? Why I oughta!

Molly: All done!

Hank: Here is the cup, mama.

Me: Well done! Thank you, Hank. (rhetorically to Hank, flirtatiously barbed towards Pai) Jeeze, how did you get to be such a kind and capable young man?

Hank: I don’t know. You’re my parents and you both taught me to be my best me so I guess I learned it from you because you’re such good parents.

Me: (heart melted into a puddle)

Pai: (beaming)

Me: Thank you so much, buddy!

Pai: That was so kind, thank you.

Hank: I’m your best filho (son) and you’re my best pais (parents).  I don’t know how good I’d be in another family, but I am so lucky I don’t have to think about that because you’re my parents.

Pai: Obrigado, filho (thank you, son).

Me: Truth.

Molly: More juice! MAMA! Juuuuuiiiiccceeeee.

Hank: Amália Sofia?

Molly: Please. PLEASE!

 

 

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A Rainbow We All Have on the Inside

When we got home I showed Hank the ColorBrewer schemes, a colorblind friendly way to show data, invented by Cynthia Brewer and the visual way I use to describe the spectrum of mental illness in everyone.

When we got home I showed Hank the ColorBrewer schemes, a colorblind friendly way to show data invented by Cynthia Brewer and the visual representation I had in mind when describing the diverse spectrum of mental illness.

 

(sitting outside of a café after Hank’s first morning training run)

Hank: (sipping fresh squeezed orange)

Me: (sharing his gigantic double stack of Portuguese style toast which puts American Texas style toast to shame)

Hank: I am sorry I am not very conversational today.

Me: No worries. We’re doing one of my favorite things.

Hank: Eating torrada (toast)?

Me: That and something called people watching.

Hank: Like just kinda… watching people?

Me: Exactly like just kinda that. We’re observing. We’re enjoying people’s outfits and imagining where they are going.

Hank: I bet she is going to work and those girls are going to the gym. And those grandpas aren’t going anywhere just talking.

Me: See… people watching.

Hank: Mama, this man here walking by, he’s homeless isn’t he?

Me: He is.

Hank: I have seen him a lot.

Me: He has a place he feels safe around here. I don’t want you to be frightened of him, but I want you to give him a lot of space. This man doesn’t live entirely in our world. He suffers from mental illness.

Hank: Oh.

Me: Did you know that every single person has a bit of mental illness? Mental illness is like a spectrum. We all have irrational moments where our brains lie to us, just some more so than others. Mental illness isn’t a choice and you should never judge someone for something we all share.

Hank: Mental illness is a spectrum? So like a rainbow? Like a rainbow with no color only grays and blacks?

Me: That is a good way of thinking about it in the extreme. Mental illness is like a rainbow that degrades from blinding, too-bright color to only grays and blacks, but every person’s rainbow is different. My mental illness rainbow is beautiful and dazzling around the edges but in the center of each color there is a bit of a shadow. That shadow is where my pain and grief about my poor health lives. There are days when I am more in the shadow than I am in the beautiful light and vice versa.

Hank: I totally understand. I think my rainbow is solid color but with cracks in it where I get nervous and scared like around new people, crowds and stuff or about going to my new school.

Me: (nodding, sipping my coffee) But those cracks are also important. Cracks are how the light gets into dark spaces.

Hank: (nodding) That man? He speaks to himself and I have seen him hit himself before. His rainbow is gray and black.

Me: Even the darkest mental illness rainbows have bright moments. We can’t see each other’s rainbows, but we can send love and light to darken the gray days.

Hank: Does he want a home, but can’t have one?

Me: I don’t know his story, Hank.  Many people with mental illness chose to live outside because it makes them feel safer and it allows them the freedom they need. As long as a person knows that there is always help and assistant available and they aren’t hurting anyone we should respect they are making their best choices. That man can walk into any health center or the hospital and receive help. He knows that.

Hank: Same with someone who is addicted to drugs.

Me: Correct.

Hank: Are people who use drugs mentally ill, too?

Me: Not necessarily in the same way. Again, mental illness is a spectrum.

Hank: A rainbow we all have on the inside.

 

 

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Oh, The 80’s, Bless Um.

conversations with hank

 

Hank: I was watching TV…

Me: (gasp)

Pai: Like real TV and not YouTube.

Me: (gasp again, clutching my non-existent pearls)

Hank: What?

Me: I thought kids your age didn’t watch TV anymore.

Hank: Anyway. I was watching TV, The Simpsons, and  then this show came on called The Goldbergs and it was about what it was like growing up between 1980 and 1990.

Pai: Where? I assume America.

Hank: Yah.

Me: Oh so, my life, basically.

Hank: And the show was about how it was just like really important that like everyone have a telephone. Not a cellphone because those didn’t exist yet, but like a telephone with a cord in their room.

Pai: Hank, there were three unnecessary “likes” in that one statemet.

Hank: Sorry.

Me: We had one phone growing up and it was in the kitchen conveniently attached to A WALL.

Hank: (wide eyed in disbelief) Was that a thing with you do you remember?

Me: My main concerns growing up were getting a dog, a VCR and cable. Only one of which happened before moving out on my own.

Hank: Which?

Me: The VCR. A total game changer, but we only rented movies from the library, no Blockbuster card for my parents.

Pai: (snickering) Blockbuster (sigh).

Me: Music was more the competitive thing I remember. Your favorite band, knowing all the lyrics to every song, etc, that was what I remember most. Music was a part of your identity. Your friend group was often based on your musical tastes. I remember spending hours waiting for a certain song to be played on the radio and even more radical was when you would actually call into the radio station and request they play your favorite song and then you would sit riveted in front of the speakers not moving for fear they would actually play it and you would miss it. If you were very lucky the DJ would record your request and actually play the recording before playing the song and then you would scream because you were on the radio, hyperventilate, and pass out before the song would even come on. (sigh) Kids at school would have heard it because they were home doing the same thing and the next day either judge you for requesting the song or congratulate you for being on the radio.

Pai: And then there were mixed tapes.

Hank: What were mixed tapes?

Me: You would choose songs that best represented your soul or romanitc intentions and compile them into a mix

Pai: What you would call a playlist.

Me: Exactly and then you would record those songs on a cassette tape and give them to your friends and if you were brave to someone you had a crush on BUT what you have to remember is there was no internet, no downloading so you had to go out and buy all the music that made up your mixed tape or record the songs off the radio. I spent all my paper route and baby sitting money at the record shop, buying albums, cassette singles, sheet music to learn how to actually PLAY the song because my family was musical and blank tapes.

Pai: Your mother made a lot of mixed tapes.

Me: Guilty. I am a passionate person. I used to stay up real late, light a single candle and play records all night long and really feeeeeeeeel the music while staring into the solitary candlelight. Nowadays, hipsters call this meditating.

Pai: (snickering)

Me: Music was such a big thing your Uncle Jesse saved up all his money and bought a Boombox.

Pai: Oh, that was a big deal.

Me: This thing was as big as your sister, but not as heavy, and it ran on batteries which meant you no longer had to sit in the house with your music you could – wait for it- take your music with you… outside. Uncle Jesse used to throw this up on his shoulder and march around Sunset Boulevard with our neighbor and his best friend, Dennis Hicks, listening to Thriller, Run-D.M.C. and The Fat Boys, those were his cassettes I remember, and this machine ran on eight DD batteries. (gesturing the size of a single DD battery) Uncle Jesse bought eight rechargeable batteries from Radio Shack that probably cost just as much as the Boombox and I think they only had about two hours of playtime before they had to plug into a wall. Man, good times.

Hank: So where did you go?

Me: Oh, I wasn’t invited to parade around the neighborhood with my brother and his friends unless Dennis Hick’s cousin BB was visiting. My brother wanted nothing to do with his baby sister. Made that very clear when he declared he wouldn’t walk me to my first day of kindergarten and left me in the middle of the road not knowing where to go.

Hank: I still can’t believe he did that.

Me: Not every brother and sister get along. You and Molly are a rare and wonderful exception. We made up for it of course when I was a freshman and he was a senior in high school. Then we became friends, but not before.

Pai: Not all big brothers are like you. You are Charlie and Amália is Lola.

Hank: Awe, really?

Me: Totally! Oh, I didn’t see it before. You two are just like Charlie and Lola! Loving that cartoon really paid off.

Hank: That is such a nice compliment, thank you. I love my sister. I know she frustrates me so much, but every morning when we wake up I am so happy to see her I don’t remember why she was frustrating.

Me: You have summed up the parenting paradox in a single sentence.

Hank: I have a little sister, Molly, and she is small and very funny.

Me: Remember that when you’re a teenager and she is your age now.

Hank: I imagine I will be focused more on my studies, but I will always have time to play video games or pick her up from school! OH! I want pick her up from school and take her to a café and then we could talk over cakes like I do with mom, just her and me.

Pai: Your sister is very lucky.

Me: All I got from my brother when I was in elementary school was a pitchfork to the skull.

Hank: WHAT!

Me: That made it sound really dire doesn’t it?

Pai: Completely sinister.

Me: Not my intention. It was a total accident. My brother was extremely apologetic. I was fine. We were having a hay fight while bailing to my grandpa’s horses and my brother misjudged where my head was. To be fair my hair was the color of straw. My cranium was camouflaged, well it was until I started bleeding.

Pai: Okay, let’s go back to music, shall we? What were these Fat Boys?