Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Challenge of a Tutu

Josh made it clear to me tonight that I have major problems.

Let me back up.  Our friend, Catherine, is one of the most talented crafters I know.  Her sewing precision and creativity are simply astounding to me, and she’s the type of ‘perfect’ that makes perfection seem effortless.  Recently, I glanced at her online photo album and noticed a new project she’d been working on: tutus.  She had made tutus, placed them around circular jars or jugs, and taken pictures of them that looked almost like portraits.  These tutus sparkled with color and simply looking at them made me want to transport to my childhood, put on my mother’s shoes and sunglasses, and sport a tutu in a mad game of dress-up with a purse over my shoulder but dragging the floor behind my strut.  I distinctly remember a picture taken of me as a child wearing a white leotard and tutu in our backyard, circling our pool.  In addition, I wore red slippers that had white lace on the top, and a sun hat with a wide brim (which, thankfully, covered most of the hack job I had done to my hair, balding most of my head).  I remember rounding beads on my neck that needed to be looped three times and wearing granny’s evening gloves that passed my shoulder.  Dress-up was probably my favorite activity as a child, and these tutus made me long for it again.

When I have moments of such girlish delight, I don’t have a lot of outlets.  My nieces live 2 1/2 hours away, and they are my favorite partners in crime when it comes to dress-up, nail painting, ballet dancing, or twirling. And my current equivalent to dress-up is shopping, and that certainly isn’t an available option unless I have enough money in my Dave Ramsey envelope. So, instead, I head to the fabric store and pick up yards and yards of toole.

Initially, I began this project trying to be like Catherine, but I quickly found a new focus: my best friends are having baby girls! I can live through their experiences and stuff their children into my tutus and leotards just for an afternoon tea party, complete with air crumpets and “Thank you, dah-ling”s (Thank you, darling). Not only do I have all the materials to begin tutu-making, but now I have a reason!  (It shouldn’t surprise you that I don’t always begin things in my life with a reason)

Tutu making involves rolling toole tightly, measuring the roll every 3 inches, and making a clear cut across the little log of bundled material.  Since Catherine works with Josh (and because Josh is amazingly understanding, supportive, and sometimes even a bit girly), she demonstrated tutu making for him, expecting that his demonstration would translate clearly for me.  Josh showed me this little demonstration easily five times.  He even sat and helped me so I wouldn’t get the direction of the toole switched around.  Needless to say, I sat on the living room floor tonight, and he watched me get this simple task backwards over and over again.  He laughed, rightfully so, at my inability to remember the simple direction of material, even after performing the task for an hour.  Once I took a break, my memory automatically emptied. The instructions–gone. I switch the directions. And the toole was three times longer than it was supposed to be.

This minor frustration followed a larger, more embarrassing one today that I can’t help but connect.  I’ve been teaching at Black River for over a month, going through similar motions day after day, from one class to the next.  My routine is comfortable and fairly set. However, there is one set back I continue to have. I can’t for the life of me understand where my office is in relation to the rest of the building. For example, I walk to school with my Freshman sister-in-law. When we go up the stairs to my office, I confidently turn left and get out my key.  She turns right. It’s because my office is to the right.  When I leave my Freshman Language Arts class, I carry my huge, bulky box of materials and usually chat with a lingering student who inquires about a grade or wants advice.  Mid-conversation, as we’re leaving the room and I’m locking the door behind me, I turn right. Every time, I expect to see the staircase and descend, continuing in the flow of conversation.  But, instead, I see a corner with a door that reads “Student Bathroom”.  The student, by this point, is steps ahead of me, and I pretend–ever so casually–that I meant to take that moronic and pointless detour.  This has happened at least 5 times, which, if you think about it, is every single week.

I will always detest this about myself, try to improve it, but ultimately wish it was different.  I will always wish that Josh got me a fabulous coat for Christmas instead of the wise and necessary gift of a GPS.  I will always hate having to ask for directions to a place I’ve been…even driven there…ten times. Nothing makes me feel more ridiculous and ignorant than this spatial challenge, but thankfully, I’m feeling extremely grateful lately for the life I have in and through these halting experiences.

I might be the teacher that always turns toward the student bathroom and a blank wall, but at least I got all my papers graded and my lecture was inspiring.

I might be the mom that is late to birthday parties because I thought I should’ve turned left, but at least I spend time in the car with my son learning new songs and playing driver-appropriate peek-a-boo.

I might not know which direction to start cutting the toole; but at least I have a tutu that speaks for itself, amazing friends to give it to, and an adorable son–who is my favorite little person in the whole world–to model it for me.


The other day, Jackson and I were wrestling. Normally, I would use that term loosely when referring to a wrestling match with a 21-month-old, but my kid can take me down.  We start these sessions across the living room floor, crawling cat-like toward each other, except instead of a “kee-tee’s” devious smirk and intentions, we have ear-to-ear smiles. Upon approach, I usually make the first move and begin tickling, but it doesn’t take long for my monkey-man to jump around me, crawl on top of me, or pin my arms (with a bit of my cooperation, of course) above me.  I’m proud of his ability to hold his own.  We spend at least half an hour rolling, laughing, shrieking, pinning, pulling, and pushing.

My sister and her family came to visit this weekend, and I got to witness a similar experience between her and my second niece, Molly Jane. Living several hours from my sister and her children originally felt like mere blocks away when we moved from Colorado; but the distance seems to be getting farther as our lives, demands, and responsibilities clog our schedules.  There is a lot that I miss out on, and I only notice when we are together.  Sara and I were tucking the girls in bed at our house, and my sister straddled Molly and lifted her arms, proceeding to tickle her until Molly’s face turned red.  Lilly was egging her on and I was aside the bed, watching Molly’s head flail and listening to her howling laughter fill the room.  I’d forgotten how much delight there can be in a home with children.  Even though I experience it everyday with Jack, it becomes even more real to me as I watch a nighttime tickle-fest between my sister and her girls.  Molly was even taught to yell, “Muh-cee!”, which is her way of saying “Mercy!”  She repeated it over and over in between laughs, shouting for her life.  Finally my sister relented, only to find that Molly really wanted to keep going.

Some of my most poignant memories with my dad involve tickling or hide-n-seek. Only, in our house, a simple game of hide-n-seek had dark twists: at night, dad would mysteriously disappear, not answering when we called him, and we knew that he had started a game eventually titled “Ghost House”.  As the younger, more fearful child, this game scared the crap out of me.  Lights would be dim, I would reach for my sister’s nightgown, stand behind her, and hold on for dear life as we tip-toed through each room of the house.  She was brave enough to go first, shouting “Dad! We know you’re there! Stop it, dad! This isn’t funny!” (This is one of many protective measures my sister used, for which I’m extremely grateful). Of course, it was funny on some level, even then.  Somehow, dad managed to find a sneaky hiding spot every time; and every time he would catch us by surprise with a scream, causing us to either fall down or start hitting on him with relief, delight, and frustration all at once.

I’m grateful to be able to give my son the gift of raw and honest play.  In my world of to-do lists, it’s refreshing to leave the kitchen dirty and the laundry piling in order to teach my son the painful bliss of tickling.  It transports me back to the memories that, without a child, I may never have had the means to revisit. I forgot what the thrill was like to circle the rooms of our house, waiting to be spooked by dad. Or how he had the ability to get a hold of my knee, squeezing just above the cap hard enough so I my whole body would flail with hysteria and laughter. Tears would fall down, and when it was all over, we’d collapse on the bed with a contentment as deep as our joy.

Although I claimed to dread “Ghost House” or told my dad to “Stop!” tickling me, I greatly and excitedly anticipated it.  Life can get so serious, especially for parents, and we forget to crawl on our knees, build a fort, or make funny faces.  I’m looking forward to the day when Jackson can scream “Muh-cee!” when Josh or I tickle him. Or when I can dim the lights and hide, only to reveal myself later, jumping from the shower or pantry.  The moments of play are so precious, I don’t have words to put around them.  The intensity of Jackson’s smile as he steamrolls me across the living room floor is more valuable than any task or function I tell myself is critical for survival.  The dog-hair-covered shirt from an hour on the carpet is more valuable than the new $180 vacuum I got to clean it.

Seeing as though its Easter, I can’t help but connect this joy with the joy God has for us as His children. Any time spent with Him will be more valuable than the fickle alternative.  His joy for me as His daughter surpasses my own feeble, human expressions of joy.  My relationship with Jackson and my love for him are mere shadows of the love that God has for me, epitomized on the cross. It’s UNBELIEVABLE, and yet I believe it.  I look forward to a more mature relationship with Jack, as does God with me; but I also hope to maintain the innocence and amusement of play, screaming “Mercy!” because the joy is so big, so wide, that I almost can’t take it.