innocence

Seeing the way children care for each other. Tenderness but no coddling. Breathtaking. I was with my niece and nephew today. Honorary titles but no less meaningful. We see their neighborhood friend up the street all by himself. He’s on the young side to be all alone; not criminally young, but younger than I’d be comfortable with.

“What’s Jason doing up here all by himself?”

“He does this all the time. He doesn’t have a mom.”

“I know, but he’s a little guy to be all by himself like that.”

“But he’s like an outdoor cat. You see Aunt Kiki, me and Evan…we’re indoor cats. But Jason, he’s an outdoor cat…he’s still got his claws.”

“Yeah, don’t worry Aunt Kiki, Jason can take care of himself.”

The thought of an 8 year old, still needing his claws. So he can be an outdoor cat. So he can “take care of himself.” The simplicity, the truth and the profound awareness that every child isn’t as protected and fussed over. And with that, I suddenly feel very old.

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Blizzard

start out on foot.
the snow’s too thick to drive.
leaving footprints on the walk,
I watch the pigeons as they dive
from wires hanging overhead,
suspended from a sky of lead.

I pass the brave ones bearing sleds.
stinging pink and snow-kissed cheeks.
cover up the mouth and nose,
we’re all becoming Eskimos.

down, down the hill through whipping wind.
giggle whirlwind going down.
then…heavy silent sky above;
muffled sounds on powdered ground.
frosty fingers, frosty toes.
we’re all becoming Eskimos.

originally written on Feb 9, 2013

Up Here in My Tree

I’m sitting in bed listening to the sound of chainsaws; chainsaws that are cutting down the oldest tree in our yard.  This tree has been here longer than I’ve been alive. I have never known my house without her.  She is so old that she has grown straight up through our fence.  When the fence was replaced several years ago, they actually attached the new fence to the part of the old that runs through her heart. But she is sick with tree rot and I can clearly see her rotting at the base from the inside out. If she falls, she will likely take down a good portion of our house and possibly our neighbors’.  My sister and I went out early this morning to take some last pictures of her (and with her) before she is put to rest.

I remember playing at the base when I was a kid, listening to my dad’s old Barbara Streisand tapes (“Enough is Enough” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore”) on my “Soby” walk-man. I would sit in the rain, wearing my turquoise poncho with my copy of Harriet the Spy, my umbrella and my giant purple spiral bound notebook, thinking of ways to commit espionage on the family down the street.  I would park my bike under her when I played “road-trip” which usually consisted of attaching a construction paper license plate to the back of my bike, tying my Cabbage Patch Kid to its fender and riding in circles around the block until I was so tired I had to pull into the “hotel” which was my room with a room number clumsily attached to the door. I had gone so far at one point as to ask for a peephole for the door, in order to cement my road-trip fantasies. I think my dad would have folded, but thankfully my mom pointed out that a peephole in the bedroom door of a seven-year old is peculiar.

The town has promised to plant a replacement, but part of why I love her is that she’s literally part of the fence and therefore part of the house.  It will take years for another tree to grow this big.  But even if something is old and sacred, if it is rotting, it needs to be chopped down.  It matters not if it’s old and matters not that it’s sacred. It has to go to make room for something healthy. When she is cut down, my memories of her still live; her branches will fall but my childish imagination still soars.

I am reminded of this song by Pearl Jam:
“Up here in my tree, yeah
Newspapers matter not to me, yeah
No more crowbars to my head, yeah
I’m trading stories with the leaves instead, yeah.”

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 Goodbye old friend

The Craziness of a Wildest Dream

If I had a million dollars…

Ever since I was a little scrawny sassy kid, I always wanted to come from a big family. I love my family dearly. But my parents only had two daughters. I am convinced if I had come first, I would have been an only child. Not because I would have filled all their wildest parenting dreams, but simply because I was an exhausting pain in the ass. As a toddler I would sit in a corner of our hallway, which I called the “sad corner” and make up weepy country western songs or listen to Barbara Streisand’s soulful crooning on my “Soby” walk-man. We didn’t have much in the way of music, so I had to pilfer from my dad’s tape collection.  I was the four-year old master of self-pity and loneliness.  I longed for multiple bros and sissies to play with. My best friend came from a family of four kids and I was always incredibly jealous and quite lonely when our families separated after vacations.

What would I do if I had my choice to do anything in the world? Where would I go? Who would I meet? Other than the standard self-indulgent desires of traveling the world and building a beach house on my own private island, I actually do have some idea.  If I could choose anything in the world to do, even as my career, I would buy a modest yet large house. I would become a foster parent or even adoptive parent to those little ones who are trapped in the system.  I would build a home for the ones who have none. I would give love and safety to those smallest kids who have been kicked in the face and let down too early by a grownup world.  I will have naysayers. Even in just expressing this desire, I have heard a resounding chorus of concern and questions: How would you support them? It would be harder than you think. Do you really think you could ever love them as much as your own? Wouldn’t you rather just make a regular family? Shouldn’t you have a partner (ie spouse) for such a massive undertaking? You know those kids are messed up right?

Let me answer each one in turn:
* I have no idea how I would support them, which is why I started with, “If I had a million dollars…”
* I am sure it would be much harder than I could think, because I have never done this before; but isn’t anything that’s worth doing, worth overcoming the fear that might stop me?
* I don’t believe love is measured in blood lines. It is a choice to love, not an accident. More people means more love, not less.
* A chosen family is no less valuable than a procreated family.
* At this point in my life, through God’s providence, I am walking alone.  God has called me to singleness for the time being. Ideally yes, I would like to have a husband, one who loves, supports, and desires the same things that I do. Until that happens (possibly not in this life), I hope to give as much love as is in me to those who might need it.
*Yeah, they’re messed up. So are you. And so am I. Isn’t that even more of a reason to try to give them what they need, even if they might fight you for it.

This is my no-longer-secret craziest wish. It is so absolutely ridiculous.  It seems completely outside of the realm of possibility. If this is to happen, it must come from God.  On my own, I have no hope of ever being successful in seeing this accomplished. But I’ll continue to dream, to pray and to commit this desire to God. And to ask those who know me to pray with me, that this craziest of dreams might actually come true.

So here’s to 2013. May God grant you the richest He has to offer and plant His craziest desires deep in your heart. And then, may He bring the craziness of those dreams into reality.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
– Jeremiah 29:11

“Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.”
– Psalm 37:3-6

I do not have the words today to quantify my love

written more than a year ago for a little friend, but rededicated tonight to the victims of Sandy Hook, Ct

stranger-with-stories

I do not have the words today
To quantify my love.
Your innocence and charming smiles
Are echoes from above.
Stay innocent my little ones
Still run free and wild.
Kick off your sandals and wade the brook
Of youth’s gratuitous smiles.
May many angels guard you now
And ward off evil ones
Who would seek to steal your youth
With knowledge that would stun
Your curious minds and lovely hearts
Before your time has come.
Do not be impatient to grow up.
There’s grief which won’t abate.
Stay innocent my lovely ones.
This grown up world can wait.

originally written on Monday, September 5, 2011 at 2:56pm

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Toddler Whispering:101

I am a nanny. And I love my job.  I feel so fortunate to have a job that make me smile and laugh pretty much all day and I get paid to do it.  Hi five.  I was recently told by a good friend that I am the Toddler Whisperer.  The conversation went like this:

“The nanny litmus test is having two children under the age of 4 in an awesome toy-store, without destroying anything or having a temper-tantrum. Success.”

    • me – MB, I meant me not having a tantrum 🙂
    • JL – Please, I know I am lowly and unworthy, but will you teach me your ways? Pretty please?
    • me – Lol just lots of gentle reminding before we went in that we would NOT be buying any toys
    • JL – Kristin Leigh: Toddler Whisperer
    • me – Omg that is so funny cause I’ve been calling myself that in my head!
    • JL – Do you get to do the snappy Latin shush/snap/poke?! Do ya?????
    • um…yes (but don’t publicize that)

However learning toddler lingo can be an interesting experience with lots of misunderstanding so here’s the rundown:

balella – vanilla
bwown –
chocolate
pink –
strawberry
cubuzz
– because
chickennuggetandfwenchfwies – chicken nuggets and french fries
cwyingbaff – crying bath (where one cries throughout the entire bath)
Fweshbeeban – Fresh Beat Band (that one took awhile)
ishy – icky
lellow – yellow
shushi – tushy; and also sushi, which makes me think this child might need an anatomy lesson at some point, since she might think it’s all the same thing.
Shyberman – Spiderman
Tinkerella – Tinkerbell
weawy – really

And I’ve had some great conversations lately:

to mom – “H had to have a time-out today.”
Mom – “H, why did you have a time out?”
H – “Cubuzz I pushed him. I pushed him down. Hard.” Shaking her tiny head in shame.

H – “A don’t like the Muppets. A, why you don’t like the Muppets?”
Silence.
“A, why you don’t like the Muppets? why? why? why?”
A – “Listen, that’s just the way it is. Some kids like the Muppets and some don’t.”

me – “A, I want you to get in bed for a rest.”
A (standing against the wall) – “I can’t, I’m stuck.”
me – “Hmmm.”

me -“Guys, it’s time for dinner.”
A – “We can’t; we have to take Havasham to buy her car.”
me – “Who’s Havasham?”
A – “My friend. Don’t worry, she’s imaginary.”
me – “Great. Tell her it’s time for dinner.”

me – “H, did you wipe after going potty?”
H – “Yep, I wipe my shushi (see above) with Dolly’s hair.”
Blehhh. Forever. Cause Dirty Dolly’s nasty hair accidentally wound up in my mouth earlier in the week.

me – “E, I want you to come and sit down over here for the story.”
E continues playing.
I, looks at me and says – “Boy, that kid is weawy annoying.”
me – “I, that’s not nice; but yes. He is.”

me – “H, do you want some fruit with your lunch?”
H – “Fruit? So I can poop?”
Me – long awkward silence.  “Sure.”

Stay tuned. I’m sure I will have more to add to my toddler to grown-up translation guide shortly.

*this one’s for you JL

All That Was

Run away. Lets run away. Oh run away with me.
To a place of swirling streams
where fish leap up to whisper dreams,
and fawns stray wading in the brook.
Bring with you your favorite book.
Run with me up mountain top
and read to me whence we stop
to catch our breath and have some rest.
Lay your head upon my breast
and intertwine your hands in mine.
Let’s try to hold off time.
I’ll make for you a crown of leaves
from laurels found among the trees.
You’ll weave for me a flower crown
to place in hair that’s been let down.
We’ll stand aloft on highest ridge,
looking down on town and bridge
And see how far we have come.
And still how far away is home.
We’ll slowly make our way back down,
diadems left on the ground.
We don’t deserve to wear them yet;
but they will keep, so please don’t fret.
I will remember where they’re laid,
for we’ll be back another day
To don our laurels and our buds,
remembering all that was.

Conversations with Smaller Ones

I am around kids. A lot.  With being a nanny, teaching Sunday school, and just hanging with my friends’ kids I have been witness to the amazing things they are capable of thinking and saying.  The more time I spend around them, the more I am convinced they are each on their own little planet, where what they do makes perfect sense to them.  Here is a collection of my favorite things that they have said (using initials to protect their integrity – or what remains of it).

***

picking up I.

I. – “Don’t frow me!”

me – “What?”

I. – “Don’t frow me!!!”

me – “Don’t throw you? Who’s been throwing you?!”

***

T. – “Daddy…I. is in the back woom (room) peeing into a cup.”

Daddy – “Sigh…send him in here.”

I. comes in holding his ear and looking sheepish.

Daddy – “I., were you just peeing into a cup?”

I. – “Ummm….yep.”

Daddy – “Why were you doing that buddy?”

I. – significant pause and look of extreme confusion…“I don’t know…”

***

G., B. and T. sitting at a table after church whispering

me – “Hey girls, can I sit with you?”

G., B. and T. in chorus –  “NO! It’s a secret meeting. 4, 5 and 7 year olds ONLY!” (in my recollection this was said in a voice very much like the witches from Macbeth, but I think it was just my hurt feelings at being banned from the cool kids table. And they were so damn specific about the age requirement, sheesh)

me – “Gawd…fine. I don’t care anyway.”

***

J. was giving me a fantastically difficult time and would not listen or respond

me – “J. this is unacceptable.” (Totally tried to super nanny his ass…and I’m not ashamed.  Although it seems to work better for Jo.)

J. – “Your face is unacceptable.”

Dear Jesus, please keep me from killing this child.

***

After the family VW bus burned down; conversation in Sunday school:

me – “Does anyone have any prayer requests?”

I. – “I weally hope that our VW is in heaven so that when we get there, we have something to dwive awound in.”

Q. – “Umm…God doesn’t let VWs in heaven…just people.”

I. – “There’s a separate heaven just for VWs…duh.”

***

T. wearing a princess dress and playing in the dirt

T. – “Kwistin…do you wanna see me pull a worm in half?”

me – “Nope. Pretty sure I don’t. And don’t ever ask me that again.”

***

Again in Sunday school; theology with 3-5 year olds can be interesting

me – “Q., I want you to draw a picture of how you could help someone.”

Q. – “I don’t want to.”

me – “Why not?”

Q. hemming and hawing – “Well…I dunno…um cause I’m not even sure I want to be a Chwistian.”

me – “Stifled GASP!”, and thinking “Well that did it, I’m going to get fired from Sunday school.”

instead saying – “Well…what makes you say that?”

Q. – terrified look

me – “You don’t have to scared to tell me. I didn’t always want to be a Christian either.”

Q. – “Well…sometimes, like when you try to tell someone about God and they get angwy.”

me – “So what would you do if that happened?”

Q. – “I would wun (run) away weally, weally fast.”

***

G. and A. in unison – “You’re puny!”

me – “What?”

G. and A. – “We said ‘You’re puny!'”

me – “I’m puny?! But you’re like 2 feet tall. You’re totally punier that I am.”

***

Q. talking to our pastor

Pastor – “Q., what’s it like having an older brother and a younger brother?”

Q. – “Well…my younger bwother is cool I guess, but sometimes it’s annoying having an older bwother.”

Pastor – “In what way?”

Q. – “Like…sometimes…he just doesn’t give me my space.”  He’s 4…I repeat 4.

Pastor – “Q., I just want to ask you some questions, to get inside your head and see how you think.”

Q. screwing up his face – “Well, I think you might have to cwack open my skull for that.”

***

At the pool with Q. and the kids who are intent on making me do very complicated dives, that I can in no way perform

Q. – “Now…I want you to do a back flip, spin 2 times and then finish with a dive.”

me – “Q., there is no way I can do that without killing myself.”

Q. screwing up his face again – “Um…can’t you just like twy (try) it?”

***

T. – “I. says he’s you’re boyfweind now.”

me – “I., is that true? Are you my boyfriend?”

I. – “Yep.”

me – “Well what’s gonna happen if I get another boyfriend?”

I. – “I’m gonna punch him in his face and then put on my boots and kick him in the shins.”

friend – “But what if he’s nice to Kristin and wants to play with you?”

I. – “Hmmm. Well I guess I will pway with him then. But I will still kick him in the shins.”

***

I was having a down day:

I. – “Kwistin…you are pwetty. So much.”

And that’s all it took to steal my heart.

***

A. – “Aunt Kiki is kinda like our gerbils.”

Mom – “How so?”

A. – “She sleeps all day and only comes out to play at night.”

Man, she’s got my number.

***

and I think my all time favorite (at least so far)…

Driving with T. in the car; As one of five, when she gets you alone, she’ll chew your ear off.

T. – “Wanna hear me count to 100….1,2,3,4,5,6,7,……..”

me – “T. you make me tired.”

T – “Why?”

me – “I don’t know, you just do. Someday when you’re my age, you’ll have a kid who makes you this tired and you’ll understand.”

T – “That’s ok. When I’m your age, you’ll probably be dead.”

me – almost drove off the road.

Second Family

To my second family: Everyday I love you more.

Number 5, I love that you’re a kid who does silly things, liking peeing in a plastic cup, just because you can.  I love that you dress up in your sisters fairy costume then run commando up the stairs.  I love that you tell me I’m your girlfriend and you’ll fight any boy who treats me bad.

Number 4, I love that you wear a pink princess dress yet still pull worms apart in the garden.  And that you’re kind enough to offer me a scoop of penaut butter from the jar…straight to your hand.  I love that you are the girliest of girls and still a tomboy at heart.  And your giggle I love the most.

Number 3, I love your perception.  You are only ten but you see the world through grown-up eyes.  I love your compassion, empathy, and willingness to always be the first responder to any emotional crisis with your siblings.  You push my buttons more than any of the others but it’s because you are the most like I was as a child.  I love your heart.

Number 2, I love your bravery.  I love watching you grow from a boy to a man.  I love seeing the way you take care of your sisters. I even like your moody silences because they show that you are thinking and feeling.  I love your courage and steadfastness.  And I could not live without your dry little sense of humor.

Number 1,  I love you.  I met you when you were still a kid, but now you are becoming a woman.  I love your attitude of service and your constant willingness to please.  I love your gentleness with your youngers and your care for them.  I love your sincerity, your youth, your sweetness and your innocence.

If God never grants me children of my own, I will love you the same and will forever be thankful that I was allowed to know you.  Be brave, stay strong, and keep your innocence.  And do not be afraid of that which is to come.  For you can face anything. As long as you face it together.

Lost Boys

There is a place for all lost boys
Who only want to play.
They fall asleep up in the trees
Surrounded by the changing leaves.
Their hair is ruffled by the breeze
And I admit I’d like to stay.

I took that star to my right
And went on straight til morning.
I got to them the normal way.
We played with mermaids all that day;
Found tiger lilies on our way.
I really want to stay.

We sit and feast upon a meal
Of imaginary food.
Peter’s there and so is Tink.
I am Wendy to this brood.
But I must go back to my home,
E’en though we’ve played awhile.
Since growing up for these lost boys
Is terribly out of style.
I tuck them into bed at night,
In my mind, with prayers.
That they would safe from pirates be,
And dream of peace there in the trees,
Kept company by just the breeze.
And I wish I would have stayed.

based on the novel Peter Pan by JM Barrie