One person’s craziness is another person’s reality.”  ―    Tim Burton

Sitting down with the calendar this morning, it dawns on me that Eli has his Crew Awards ceremony the same night that Katriel has her third-grade play. Damon will be out-of-town (of course!), so…what’s a mom to do? How can I simultaneously be in two different places, cheering on two different kids?

Mother’s Day was just here, and Sunday morning my five kids all sat round the dining table smiling at me in my new, fuzzy robe, taking turns squirting mountains of whipped cream onto waffles piled high with sugar-soaked strawberries. It was a sweet moment, literally.

But most of mothering is not as simple as smiling at your daughter even after she’s squirted whipped cream all over the dining room chandelier by mistake. Most days you have three, four, even five little chicks running off in every direction. There is little time to cluck over their individual learning curves because you are too busy just trying to physically keep up with all of them. Each morning you have that one moment before rising, where you visualize, gather your inner strength, hope…Then you actually get up, the crazy sets in, and it’s wipe and go…wipe and go…wipe and go…over, and over, and over again.

Annalise needs braces now. Desperately. She needs new pants, new shoes, new socks, too. This morning she put her foot into a child’s sock and it burst apart at the seams. No longer the size of a child, she, like Peter Pan, will not grow up. She stubbornly shoves herself into clothes much too small, much too tight. Everywhere she is busting out all over, even her teeth seem suddenly wildly overgrown in her mouth, and each day I think, “Call an orthodontist already!” Yet where in the budget is ‘braces’?

Jacob needs to register for college, put a deposit down for on-campus housing, order his cap and gown for graduation, buy a yearbook, pay for prom…..the list goes on and on. We never did manage to get his senior portrait taken (ack!), so will this photo do? It’s the only one I have in the last year or so where he posed willingly, a proud artist bearing his homemade Homestuck horns.

Eli leaves tomorrow for a crew regatta in Portland. I nag and plead for him to remember to put on sunscreen while he’s gone, all while he rolls his eyes at me and nods blankly. Yesterday I made a special trip to Fred Meyer’s to buy sunscreen for him to pack, at the unbelievable price of TEN dollars a bottle (I just about fainted dead away, because have you seen my kids? They’re pale as paper). The sheer volume of sunscreen we will need this summer will surely tally into the hundreds of dollars… now where is that in the budget?

Of course I returned from the store and offered the sunscreen to Eli as if it were liquid gold in a can, yet he kept his ear buds in and just stared.

Eli Stares…or Eli Stairs

Lovingly I set the bottle down next to him on the desk and walked away. Within two minutes he had knocked the can onto the floor by accident, where it remained until I stepped over it this morning trying to get some coffee.

Soon thereafter, as I sipped away, I pondered whether to pack for him. Maybe I should demand that he pack everything himself, or stand over him with a pointer and guide him through how to pack, or do it all myself. Alternatively, I could not say a word, even to remind him to pack, leaving it to fate and the gods to see how crispy he will be upon marching home. As I thought on all of this, I realized our tree out front had split in two. The entire limb that used to dangle over the grass was lying dead and stiff in the yard. And an entire bottle of whipped cream perched on top of the sofa, leaning against the window, a sort of Tim-Burton-esque alternative still life.

I stood there, dumbstruck, while Juliet and Katriel readied themselves for school, handing me one paper after another. One reminded me about the third grade play. One read ‘Don’t forget it’s early dismissal today’. “Today?” I gasped, taken aback. There were two identical papers, one for each girl, entitled ‘Make Your Own Musical Instrument Project!’ due next week. Ugh! Why, oh why, do teachers do this to parents? (I was a teacher myself, so I can say this!) Damon will be gone every night this week and all weekend playing gigs (of course!) So who has to figure out what musical instruments two eight year olds should make? How do I know how to guide them in making instruments anyway?  Where do I buy all the necessary stuff? How do I pay for said stuff? Then, I still have to actually go get the stuff, lug it home, corral the twins, make them attempt the building of these musical instrument themselves, offer assistance, yell, regroup, try again, remind myself that I wanted to have children, banish everyone to their rooms (including myself), then finish it all and clean up the holy disaster that will ensue sometime before it’s due.

And who has to do all that again? Oh, yes, it’s me… the mother.

Because whip cream drips from the chandelier. Tree limbs come crashing down even in sunny skies. Mothering never ceases, even for mothers who must get up and get themselves out of the house to go to a paying job somewhere else, work for a boss who doesn’t care about homemade musical instruments being due, or why there are splotches of whipped cream and sunscreen all over your shirt at 8am, or how you must daily agonize over the smallest, yet biggest, of choices – braces or college? crew award ceremony or third grade history play?

And yet, for all the crazy, we are lucky still. We have our freedom, our privilege, our choices. We can wear whatever we like, go wherever we please, indulge our children to our hearts’ (or wallets’) content.

In most places around the globe women fare much, much worse. Most women struggle daily for adequate food and water for their children. A roof over their heads. They are not concerned about after-school activities or how snug one’s socks fit or any of that nonsense. They wish for food, immunizations, freedom from violence and disease, education for their daughters as well as their sons.

In Afghanistan, women may not leave their homes without wearing a burqa. Yet even five years ago the cost of a burqa was equal to five months’ salary. Yet no woman, under Taliban law, may hold a job. So women in entire communities share a burqa, only leaving their homes under the direst and rarest of circumstances.

The legally mandated burqa has also become a severe financial hardship. The veil now costs the equivalent of five months salary – if any women were still receiving one. Most cannot afford to buy the garment, and whole neighborhoods must share one. It can take several days for a woman’s turn to come round; even if she has money to shop for food, she can’t go out until then.  From – Buried Alive, Afghan Women Under the Taliban

Women are told to stay home and care for children, blacken their windows, leave their jobs, stop wearing make up, mingle only with men in their direct family, give up every bit of freedom and independence they once knew… that is the religious role of women, which must be strictly legislated and enforced, according to these men.

Before the Taliban ban on female employment, 70 percent of the teachers in Kabul were women, as were 50 percent of the civil servants and university students, and 40 percent of the doctors.

Why does the regime insist that women be confined at home? Reducing women to mere objects, the minister of education says, “It’s like having a flower, or a rose. You water it and keep it at home for yourself, to look at it and smell it. It [a woman] is not supposed to be taken out of the house to be smelled.” Another Taliban leader is less poetic: “There are only two places for Afghan women – in her husband’s house, and in the graveyard.”

I don’t see how the current legislative bombs that have been leveled here in our country are any different in philosophy than those imposed on Afghanistan’s women by the Taliban. They are radical, fundamental notions, couched as ‘principles’, that stem from religious zealotry and are meant to disempower and enslave women to men. Period. This is happening now, here, in the United States of America, in the Republican party. I urge all women to think very carefully before they vote. Republicans publicly denounce they are waging a ‘war on women’, yet legislatively they are doing just that, all across this country.

This is not about belief in a higher power. This is about your daily freedoms, your current way of life, your ability to choose to mother or not as you see fit. The fact that I, as a woman in 2012 living in the US, feel threatened enough to write this, is a whole lot of crazy. Yet it’s become reality, too. And now you, the mother, must make a choice.

Aftab, an Afghan girl, waits to receive vaccination for polio in a UNICEF-organised countrywide campaign, in the central province of Ghor September 13, 2009. Once at the heart of the medieval Ghorid empire stretching between present-day Iran and South Asia, Ghor is now an obscure place, with no proper roads, hospitals and schools. (REUTERS/Maria Golovnina) #
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