Trim the Fat

Any vegetarians out there may want to find something else to read.

I had a lot of cravings during my pregnancy with Maggie. Overall, they seemed to have more to do with things that I couldn’t get or wasn’t allowed to eat than with any sort of nutritional deficit, even though many of the cravings (root beer floats, Oreos) were not particularly healthy. Now that I’ve done a little more research into nutrition, whole foods, superfoods, and the like…well, I still want chocolate milkshakes. Gross ones from fast food restaurants. I’ve (mostly) been able to deny myself those, but I’m helpless in the face of other, undeniably stranger cravings: animal fat and garlic.

As I type, I’m sipping on a giant mug filled with undiluted homemade chicken stock. There’s a slick oil sheen on the top and I had to wash my hands twice after filling the storage containers–they still have a slight oily luster. Turns out drinking bone broth during pregnancy is one of the most healthy foods you can consume and it’s easily digested, which is awesome. It is full of all sorts of happy baby-helping minerals and nutrients. We use a grocery delivery service that specializes in organic, local, and free-range products so getting a whole free-range happy chicken to toss in the stockpot with a bunch of veggies and a spoonful of herbs de provence is no big deal. (Making stock is also a killer way to use up all the mushrooms we’re getting in our farmer box from the same service because DEAR GOD, I CAN ONLY PUT AWAY SO MUCH FUNGI IN A WEEK.)

Drinking homemade broth is no big deal, relatively speaking. But last week, Tom ordered sirloin steaks for our Sunday dinner. One of the steaks had an incredibly fatty rind, about an inch high and a half-inch thick. Tom left it on to cook and since the less-fatty steak was also larger, I took that one and cut off a third to serve to Maggie while he took the smaller steak for himself. We sat down for a nice meal and I watched as he oh-so-carefully cut the fat away from the meat, leaving a six-inch long slab of fat on his plate. I barely noticed I was salivating. “Dear,” I said. “Would you judge me if I ate that?”

“What? The FAT?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I guess probably not–”

I didn’t hear the rest because I was busy scraping his plate and cubing the fat so I could have a tasty little morsel with each bite of my steak. Never in my life have I felt quite that depraved, but oh man. It was soooooo delicious. I want it again, right now.

The ravenous indignity of devouring animal fat like party mix aside, I have no explanation for the garlic. It’s an immune booster and infection-fighter so I guess that’s…good? This baby doesn’t want me to get infected? It’s a considerate fetus? I don’t know. What I DO know is that Tom got a bunch of red chili peppers in the farm box and had to use them. He decided to roast garlic and mash the peppers into a paste to be used in things like hummus spread or mashed potatoes (which, for the record, is SO tasty, and even the non-pregnant members of my family agree).

What did I do with the paste?

I spread it thickly on garlic dill pickle halves, sprinkled the whole mess with sea salt, and ate it.

And then I did it again. Twice.

I had to put my feet up immediately afterward to prevent the inevitable swelling, but it was utterly, ridiculously delicious. It’s too bad no one believes me. Tom finds pickles repellent on general principle and a friend of mine (who is also pregnant and should have pity, if not understanding, for me and my cravings) said “I’m going to need a photo of you eating them to make sure you’re being forced to eat them under duress or torture.” I should have told her that at least there was no animal fat on them anywhere.

Now that I can finally eat again, I’m enjoying powering down these otherwise questionable foods. But good grief, I’d like to get through a steak dinner without being more interested in the fat than the meat itself.

…Say, what do you think about crushing raw garlic into my broth? Good? Too overpowering? I should go find out.

Gestating Gertie Gets the Grumps

When some women are pregnant, they become beatific rays of sunshine casting a warm, maternal glow of love over all they see and touch.

I…am not that woman.

In fact, pregnancy makes me downright hostile. I have nothing even close to resembling a sense of humor. I try to focus on the positive, dwell on things that are pleasant and happy as to fill myself with good vibes. But once in a while I just need to scream, let it out, and continue on with my life.

This is that scream. A tongue-in-cheek, not-exactly-primal, not-losing-sleep-over-these scream, but a scream nonetheless. So without further ado, here are some of the completely random and irrational things that are causing my nostrils to flare and my ears to lie flat like a Doberman’s.

* I can’t find bagels anywhere and my pointed comments to friends that I would pay the cost of 2-day Fed Ex shipping to England in order to get my teeth around some doughy Asiago cheese goodness have gone unheeded. I THOUGHT YOU PEOPLE LOVED ME.

* Spaces between the last word in the sentence and the exclamation point. I understand that autocorrect is responsible for a lot of this because it automatically adds a space and most people don’t bother to fix it before posting. But y’all, I beg you. Most of the smartphone-using world has a full QUERTY. Engage your backspace. It’s not supposed to look like this !

* The odor-killing insert lurking somewhere in my dishwasher that I cannot locate. It smells like artificial lemons and very, very, very real decomposing death. That could be the sickness talking.

* This isn’t my first rodeo, but exactly how much longer am I going to be sick? I was starting to feel better around now with Maggie.

* Blogs that overuse the word “nourish.” Or hell, blogs that use it at all. I declare a moratorium on this word in hippie blogging. Yes, we get it, you’re feeding your physical hunger but you’re also feeding THE CLEANSED AURA OF YOUR PINK SPARKLY SOULS. We really and truly understand that you are filling both your piehole and your spiritual wellness reservoir. Crack a thesaurus and spare us this horrible, deeply-overused word.

* Diaper blowouts. Tolerable on infants…not so much on toddlers. I want that 20 minutes back.

* Blogs dedicated to homeschooling that are improperly punctuated and are riddled with usage errors. Bonus points to those that know that grammar (at which I am horrible) and usage (at which I am better and over which I am more likely to become seething mad) are not the same. I don’t claim to know much, and I don’t think you need to know everything to teach your kids–but you better know where your shortcomings are and how to fix them (you’re/your: LEARN IT).

* Related to the last: “lose” as in “losing” is not the same as “loose” as in “Hey, these jeans used to be loose. Time to unzip” because LOSE DOESN’T HAVE TWO Os. See also: phase/faze, bawling/balling, pour/pore.

* The song “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips. It became stuck in my head a day or two ago and hasn’t left. “Hoo-oooooold onnnnnnnn for ONE MORE DAY.”

I think that’s about it.

How Maggie Gets Her iPad On

First, a detour to Disclaimerville: We had specific circumstances that brought us to purchase an iPad for Maggie during our travels; these circumstances were added to and exacerbated by the second pregnancy’s First Trimester From Hell. So while I don’t think this is the right purchase for every child or every family, nor do I really approve of busting out an iPad for Maggie’s everyday use, I don’t regret buying it in the least. It made a very long twelve weeks much easier.

*****

So you went out and made a sacrifice to the Altar of Jobs and got yerself a shiny piece of screen. Good for you! Now…which apps to buy? I can say nothing about apps for adults as the only two we have are Paper Toss (for Tom) and Fruit Ninja (for me) and frankly, Miss Margaret was not really interested in sharing her new shiny. So aside from those two apps and an iBook copy of Tina Fey’s Bossypants for me (OMG SO GOOD), here’s what’s on tap for Maggie. Everything (unless otherwise mentioned) is under $3-4.

Videos: Pixar shorts, Veggie Tales Silly Songs, two music videos (“Single Ladies” by Beyonce and “Intergalactic” by Beastie Boys), one home movie edited by Yours Truly. The Pixar shorts are really fabulous. The animated graphics are so sharp on the iPad screen, they last about five minutes, and they’re fun for kiddos and adults. The religious aspect of Veggie Tales makes me a little uneasy, but their intermission Silly Songs are just that: silly. And fun. Maggie enjoys them. The music videos…well, let’s just say I have to leave the house now and then and Tom is free to entertain his daughter as he sees fit. And now that she has seen the wonder of Beyonce’s thigh jiggles and the dancing robot protecting Tokyo, she will never go back. The home movie is a bunch of family photos and home videos edited together to a 2-minute clip set to Loudon Wainwright’s “Daughter” and was Tom’s birthday present last year. Maggie looooooves looking at photos and herself; ergo, this is a total win video.

Books: You can get kids’ books for the iPad in two ways. You can use the iBook, Kindle, or Nook applications (all of which are free, and I have all three) to purchase them, or you can buy books as applications themselves. Disney, like any good drug dealer, does a masterful job on the first digital Toy Story book and it is free. There are song and video clips, features where you can turn the illustration into a coloring book and color the picture in, and if you’re 8 hours into a 9 hour flight you can turn on auto-play and shut your eyes for a few seconds (ahem). The second and third Toy Story digital book apps are something like four and nine dollars respectively, thus my earlier metaphor comparing Messrs. Disney and Lassetter to drug dealers. First hit’s free, kiddos.

We also have a number of the Dr. Seuss book apps, which do a serviceable job but aren’t the most exciting apps. Never mind that, they’re inexpensive and enjoyable enough. There are numerous free book apps out there, but keep in mind you’ll get what you pay for. Specifically, we deleted each of the 15 free books we got from the StoryChimes brand. Bloatedly long, poorly illustrated, buggy and boring. Hallmark has a nice free book (although it’s a tie-in to their actual physical bear toy, Cooper) about a little bear named Cooper looking for a gift for his mom. Maggie enjoys that one immensely. If it’s free, give it a try; if it sucks, delete it. No harm, no foul.

Games and educational apps: start with buying everything from the Duck Duck Moose app developer. Their Itsy Bitsy Spider app is phenomenal. There isn’t a wasted action in the script; every icon that’s touched responds in a nice, kid-pleasing sort of way. I have slightly less praise for Wheels On The Bus but it’s still very good. Their Fish School–numbers, shapes, colors, letters–is quite well done too. Maggie loves all of them. I have read numerous glowing reviews of Drawing Pad but I think it depends on the kid; it’s a fabulous app for a kid who likes to draw, but Maggie really isn’t into real-life crayons, let alone virtual ones. I’d give it a whirl if your munchkin dug that kind of thing. First Words Spanish is nice but Maggie only likes it in short bursts. “I Hear Ewe” is about 3 dozen photos that when touched play the corresponding sound. “This is the sound a sheep makes.” I find it heart-stoppingly dull but Maggie ADORES it and it’s a free app.

The app that won Maggie’s heart (and my nephew’s, since Auntie indulged him for a while and now he harasses my sister at every opportunity to play on her iPod Touch) is Monkey Preschool Lunchbox. Matching puzzles! Letter recognition! Simple four-piece assembly puzzles! Shapes! Counting! A dancing monkey that coos “Great job” AND you get to pick a virtual sticker after you complete a few rounds. Maggie played this for close to an hour and a half, I kid you not, and left us alone to eat our disgusting airline dinners in relative peace. The background music is…not ideal but I learned to tune it out.

So how gentle is a toddler with an iPad, anyway? You know…pretty gentle. We bought a heavy-duty InCase display/protective case, which helped, and I have had to say “You use your fingers on the iPad, not your tongue” more times than I care to admit, but she was pretty good. There was slight learning curve as she mastered how to drag items and how much finger pressure should be applied and where, but she caught on fast. I noticed my nephew had the same pressure/control issues as Maggie at first but figured it out even faster than she did. Considering the other evidence of his mechanical aptitude (like the time when he was 15 months old and he systematically tried, analyzed and popped every childproofing lock in their kitchen), that’s a kid headed for the robotics team for sure.

The screen is encrusted with filth. Kids are messy. What can you do? I just clean it. We also didn’t buy all these apps and such at once. We had a list in mind of ones we wanted and rolled them out over time to help mitigate overstimulation and not leave us high and dry halfway from DC to Munich with a paperweight full of apps that she’d already seen and used. The only other problem I’ve found is that the “Home” button is too tempting for Maggie to press and then she doesn’t understand why her game/book/video went away. Perhaps a piece of tape or a well-placed binder clip is in our future, but I’m hoping she’ll, y’know, CATCH ON TO HER ERROR sooner or later.

So…that’s how we do. No one from Apple and no developers gave me any money to say nice things about their products, although I would absolutely not have turned them down if they had. I just read reviews of most of these on other sites, tried them, and used the Genius button on the App Store to find recommendations for new goodies. Good luck to you!

Odds and Ends

I’m pointedly ignoring Maggie singing a song in her bedroom (about a…tomato? Okay then!) and NOT napping because 1pm-3pm is the Time of Quiet at this particular monkey house. Since I am a Bear of Above Average Brains I assume that her full transition to a big girl bed is also impeding her progress to the land of Nod. When we first moved into our new house, she slept on a spare crib mattress–for a crib we never owned, I might add–that we brought from Hawaii on the off chance Maggie would have to sleep on the floor. This bit of sense proved…well, sensible. However, a mattress placed directly on the floor is entirely too close to all the toys and books we unpacked and the temptation proved to be too much for Maggie-bear. I don’t mind if she plays with a toy or two IN bed because if she’s tired she won’t climb down from an elevated position and will eventually fall asleep; however, simply being able to ROLL out of bed and directly into a pile of toys was a thrill of decadence usually saved for the back rooms and Vegas. I canceled this out by putting her in MY bed, but because the new couch was being delivered in the same IKEA order as her new bed I did not have anywhere to comfortably sprawl during MY quiet time. And I need it. I need my quiet time. Gestatiion, Round 2 is pummeling my expanding self all around the ring and I need two hours to doze on a soft surface and occasionally refresh myself with a hit of tea. Thankfully the balance of life has been restored, Maggie is loving life in her big girl bed (and her free reign to access her toys), and my daily sessions of Tea and (Self-) Sympathy have resumed.

*****

Parenting Pro Tip: It doesn’t matter how many IKEA flat packs and pictogram instructions you’ve navigated since entering the Land of Adulthood. When you see a 20-page pictogram instruction booklet and roughly 80 different parts to assemble together, DON’T START BUILDING YOUR CHILD’S BED HALF AN HOUR BEFORE BEDTIME. Or you know what, do. Maggie was so tired by the end of the process, two and a half hours later, that she crawled into her freshly made–and I do mean FRESHLY MADE–bed, pulled a quilt over her head and dropped off to sleep without a sound.

*****

We have put the iPad away and not used it for over a week. We don’t plan to get it out again until our trip to Dublin next month and Lisbon/Sintra in August. It feels nice to temporarily fire the electronic book-toy-game-babysitter.

*****

A return to cloth diapers: yes, we are still using them. No, Maggie has not fallen in line with the theory that cloth diapered children learn about the potty faster because of the moisture. No, I don’t know why, but my theory is that sitting over an open hole (even in the form of a toddler potty) disturbs her (and I know for damn sure that the noise of a flushing toilet–and a vacuum cleaner, and a food processor, and loud cars, and really anything that makes loud noises in any form) sends her into hysterics. Anyway. Since we are coming into our second year, some of the diapers are a little worse for wear and could either be fixed (by me, whenever I get around to rousing myself to find the needles and thread for new Velcro and elastics) or replaced. I left the decision to Tom, who voted replace. If I had it to do all over again, I’d buy all the same products–the Bum Genius one-size pocket diapers, the newborn prefolds, the nighttime fitteds with Thirsties covers–but I would not buy them with hook-and-loop closures. All the replacements we’ve ordered have snap closures, and I will never go back. The fit isn’t that much better with Velcro tabs, and they seem to hold up in the laundry exceptionally better. So there you go.

*****

It is May 16 and I am wearing long sleeves, long pants, and wool socks. WTF, England? I feel only slightly better knowing my American bretheren in New England are similarly frozen this spring, but golly. Maybe next time we do a tour in a warm locale we should do an in-betweeny climate before moving to an area that shares a latitude with Labrador, Canada. That leather couch we just bought is CHILLY when you plunk down on it first thing in the morning.

*****

I wanted a Storchenwiege wrap since I started researching babywearing when my sister was pregnant with my nephew in 2007-2008. Since this is likely my last ride on the Baby Go Round, I bought one (in Inka, for the curious). I have no regrets. Nor do I regret dropping an iPod’s worth of cash on new flannel sheets from L.L. Bean. Consider my nest snugly and almost completely (with the exception of one or two other baby items I’d like to buy, and oh, yeah, a new CAR SEAT JESUS THOSE ARE PRICEY) feathered.

*****

Ahhh…Maggie is asleep, doll in each hand. Bliss.

Mother’s Day, Part 2: How I Learned To Be A Mom

One of the nicest things my mother has ever done for me–and this is an ongoing, lifelong thing–is that she’s never made me feel guilty about finding my own path. When I howled in high school about the possibility of having to stay in Maine for college, she didn’t seem to take it personally. When I wanted to move to Hawaii, then to Europe, or when I publicly declared on a widely-read website that I had no desire to ever live in Florida, she never made me feel bad. And it never was personal; it was never anything my parents did wrong. Quite the contrary–without them I wouldn’t be as curious and excited to explore the world around me. My mom has always had an encouraging word and has never once called me out for taking my life and her grandchild(ren) out of her daily sphere. Because of this, I know that when Maggie finds her own wings and takes off for parts unknown without so much as a backward glance, I will be able to find the strength to smile and say “Enjoy. Remember to floss.”

In that way and in others, my mother taught me grace.

She also gave me a near-perfect role model as a mother (I say near-perfect because I had to learn that white bra + white shirt = ugly thing on my own). My mother was a Sunday school teacher, Girl Scout troop leader and cookie mother, track team fundraiser, chaperone on every field trip from kindergarten to junior high, classroom volunteer, plus kept a clean home and held a full-time office job. If you’re tired reading that list, you may understand why she was usually asleep on the couch by no later than 9pm.

I also don’t want to give the impression that she was an over-involved, over-achieving scheduler of our time, either. We were allowed to roam. We got kicked outside and away from the TV. She let us be bored and come up with our own games. Moreover, she maintained her own athletic interests–golf, racquetball, and running–and is still an accomplished crafter. I write because it’s my outlet, and I don’t write as much as I might like, but my mother is the reason that I write at all–she made the time for creativity in her life, be it in complicated knitting patterns, woodcrafting, cross-stitch, or various other pursuits. I grew up knowing that it’s not only okay, it’s essential to take time for yourself to keep your mind active and growing creatively, and it’s made me a better mother. She did her own thing, and let me know it was okay to do mine.

And she taught me how to discipline and pick my battles with Maggie. Like one of her nieces said recently “Your mom used to terrify me, even though I know she’s a sweetheart. She just doesn’t take any bullshit.” And she doesn’t. She didn’t come down hard on us often, but she didn’t mind telling us when we needed to cut the crap and act right. And when I decided I wanted to paint my nails black and pierce umpteen billion holes in my ears, she shrugged and let me do it. She knew it wasn’t worth the battle it would cause, because if she was doing her job right, I’d figure it out on my own. For the record, I rarely wear earrings at all anymore and I have a fundamentalist Christian’s view of which colors are appropriate for fingernails. So, she was right. She almost always was, a fact which has meant more to me and my world view and my ability to raise my daughter than I think either of us can fully understand. But if I had to boil those things down to their essence, it would be these tenets:

Pick your battles. Be involved, but don’t smother. Be gracious. Don’t tolerate crap. And most of all, know that letting them fly means you’re doing your job right.

Thanks, Mom. I love you.

Mother’s Day, Part 1: Being a Mom

When I think of Maggie’s future, the graduations and first dates and fights and shoe shopping and broken hearts and first real loves, occasionally I get a little flash of morbidity. I can’t die before she grows up.

Now, I don’t mean “I can’t die” like “I’ll miss everything that happens!” That’s true and I would. No, I worry about not passing along what I consider essential information to my daughter. Tom absolutely *could* handle a conversation about menstruation, but I think he would rather stab his eye out than be part of an outing to comparison-shop for tampons. In my mind, I have a running list of things that someone needs to tell my daughter in case I can’t.

In no particular order:

~ Don’t wear a white bra under a white t-shirt. It looks really odd and jarring. Wear a nude-color bra instead.

~ Actually, when in doubt at all about whether your bra is visible and that’s not the intent of your outfit, wear a nude-color bra. You can and absolutely should own fun lingerie; but have two or three bras the same color as your skin. Marlene Dietrich knew that, and if that tip was good enough for Ms. Dietrich, it’s good enough for you, Maggie.

~ After dressing for formal events where it is likely your photo will be taken, take a photo with the flash on to make sure you don’t have any weird translucent/sheer/wardrobe malfunction areas. If you aren’t getting ready with a friend, use the self-timer on your camera.

~ Always carry a camera with movie capability. You never know when someone is going to do something hilarious. Or blackmail-worthy.

~ Between sitting, kneeling, and general thigh-rubbing (which 95% of the female population experiences, so relax) you should always pay extra for higher-quality jeans. T-shirts are negligible.

~ Until you buy your own home, stick with white or blue towels. Rental properties almost always have neutral or blue-toned bathrooms.

~ Perfume is a tool to inspire intimacy. People should only be able to smell you if they are very close to your person. A little on the pulse points goes a long way. You will see your peers blast themselves with two or three sprays at a time. Don’t make that mistake.

~ If you meet a boy who quotes The Fountainhead and smokes clove cigarettes, RUN, DO NOT WALK, away.

~ Because most girls do end up dating that boy instead of running away, don’t feel bad when it doesn’t work out. Give him a second chance if he concedes that Ayn Rand is a douche.

~ Try yoga. Try kickboxing. Figure out what you like best. There’s nothing wrong with being an aggressive woman. There’s nothing wrong with being a woman in search of tranquility and peace. There is nothing wrong with being both at the same time. Embrace your contradictions; it’s what makes you human.

~ Get tattoos if you want, but don’t get really visible ones until you’ve been in your chosen career field for a few years and you know how it’s going to go over. There’s a reason all of my tattoos can be covered by a nice pantsuit and wristwatch.

~ If a boy spreads nasty rumors and lies about you and compromises your reputation, tell him he’s a worthless worm and to cut the shit or you’ll tell everyone he said “Mommy!” when he finished. Mean it. Stand up for yourself.

~ If a girl spreads nasty rumors and lies about you and compromises your reputation, tell her she has a small mind and an ugly heart and to cut the shit before you rain down some serious consequences. Mean it. Stand up for yourself.

~ Only marry someone who has a lesser or equal interest in video games.

~ Buy a king-size bed as soon as you can afford to live somewhere with the space for it. If you can’t, get a king-size comforter. It’s cheaper than marriage counseling.

~ Accept all compliments gratefully, gracefully, and sincerely; self-deprecation and false modesty are disingenuous. Ditto gifts. Write thank you notes on real paper.

~ When you are a teenager and in your early twenties, eaten up by insecurity and worry and trying to figure out who you are as a woman, as an adult, and as a human, know this: you are more beautiful and have more potential than you can possibly understand.

~ That said, many opportunities knock but once. They don’t come back and beg for you to reconsider. Take advantage of as many as you can, even if it means sorting out the consequences later. It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Seize life.

~ Carry floss in your purse, ESPECIALLY on dates.

~ At least once in your life, you should have a signature drink. Doesn’t have to be alcoholic; just has to be yours.

~ Love people and treat them well, even if they don’t deserve it. Positive energy always pays out in the end.

~ From May-October in a four-season climate, budget for pedicures.

~ Regarding your father. He’s an uncommonly good man, but an oddball. If your oddball tendencies (and you have them, trust me) don’t match his, be patient with him. You don’t have to understand someone to love them.

~ If you wear makeup, skip the colored mascara. Call your Nana for photos of me circa 1996-98 for further proof.

I love you, girlie. Take care of yourself out there.

Answers to Questions Unasked

Advice columns, self-help books, blogs…they all say that when talking to your children about difficult issues to remember that it’s okay to say “I don’t know.” And I don’t. I only know I’m glad Maggie is too young to ask.

How do you define for yourself the most defining event of your childhood? And 9/11 was part of my childhood; the girl I was might have disagreed but I don’t think now that seventeen is an adult. When your first real taste of foreign policy is the falling Towers, can you ever fully catch up on the whys? When that event lowers applications at your alma mater, allowing more admissions than years prior and getting your foot in the door of the whiplash-wild world of DC politics, how do you reconcile that? How do you combine joy for all that you’ve experienced when you were told by a guidance counselor that without the drop in applications, you may not have been admitted at all? When your partner’s education and job are defined by the post-9/11 world but provide you a life better than one you could have dreamed of, is joy permissible? Is it acceptable to delight in a life that in its happiness and triumphs has, in ways both obvious and subtle, been painted by the deaths of thousands of people both home and abroad? And more simply, can you answer “Why? Why did it happen at all?”

I think so. And I don’t think so. I don’t know. I don’t know.

When I woke up to this morning’s news about Osama bin Laden, at first I was up: “All right! Nailed the bastard.” Then down: “So, people are screaming ‘USA! USA!’ in the streets. That’s…gross.” Then furious: the Fox News coverage all but denying that President Obama even exists, let alone gave the command to carry out the attack; people trying to claim this was a victory for Bush (WTF?); people claiming that “credit” was being distributed in unequal portions–screaming “It’s the soldiers!” “It’s Obama” (dudes, it’s EVERYONE, these things do not happen in a vacuum); people interpreting Proverbs and other holy verses from the East and the West to passively identify their own feelings. I moved on to exhaustion and sadness: this is the violent epilogue to a ten-year-old story, one of the last splashes of red ink on a book already soaked in blood.

Finally, I settled into a shade of gray: I am not happy that he’s dead, but I’m not unhappy either. I have seen those who were the friends and family members of 9/11 victims say that they have found a measure of peace today; I have also seen it written by witnesses in Manhattan and DC that he should have been made to face us. Nobody is wrong.

I’m proud of our leaders, analysts and soldiers for carrying out the mission so well and efficiently with no US casualties. But I’m less proud and more saddened by the thirst and hatred I’ve seen all over the internet today: “It wasn’t enough.” “He died too well, he should have suffered more.” “He should have been tortured.” “We should have desecrated his body.” Well do I understand the need for peace and closure, and a primal part of me did initially cheer at bin Laden’s passing, but I will not glorify in disrespecting the dead. He was an evil murderer of thousands, but I will not stoop to wishing that we indulged in his level of inhumanity and indignity.

For my daughter, my unborn child, and for my own conscience, I will not delight in savagery.

Which brings me to my next point. As I said above, I’m glad Maggie is too young to understand. I have a few more years before she starts asking questions about current events and maybe I’ll have some kind of response. But I remember interviewing my grandparents for history projects, which I desperately wish I could find, asking about Pearl Harbor and WWII and Korea. At the other end of decades past, were they able to reconcile their feelings? I know they answered me well and honestly; did it feel that way to them in their hearts? Had they found for themselves a satisfactory answer to the question “Why? Why did it happen?”

One day our children are going to ask us those same questions about 9/11, and bin Laden, and oh, God, whatever horrors may come next. They’re going to ask “Why?” and it’s right that they should ask. I pray for children who never stop asking that question and who always seek answers. I only hope by then I’ll have formed answers in my own heart; at the very least, I hope that my actions and values in raising them speak louder about war, peace, dignity, death, and humanity than the only stumbling answer I have right now:

I don’t know. I don’t know.