The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Lucky Eleven April 28, 2014

Eleven years ago this very minute I was standing in my bedroom in a mild state of confusion. Water was gushing out of me as if someone had turned on a faucet. Nearing two weeks past the due date in my pregnancy and this night truly unable to get comfortable, I’d only just fallen asleep minutes earlier. That night my husband and I had just finished a dinner of pasta and wine while watching The Producers before going to bed well after midnight, both of us figuring we’d be getting a good night’s sleep in before any action began. Wrong. Before long I was stuck in the middle of a searing, non-productive back labor at home, with no good end in sight. Some seventeen hours later, after giving it my best and ending up with blood spots all over the whites of my eyes from five hours of pushing to no avail, I was on Lake Shore Drive being driven through rush hour traffic to the hospital for an emergency C section. Nothing about my beloved son Elihu, from start to present, had been what I’d planned on. Including his gender. I was convinced I was having a girl. Wrong again. And so it was that my son was released from Chicago’s Lincoln Park Hospital as “Baby Boy Conant”, now over a decade ago.

And what an adventure has ensued… We love our little tradition of birthday parties here, from hatching out chicks to jamming in the basement (well, kind of) to silly string on the trampoline to poker-like pokemon action at the table to the ancient model T driving the neighbor kids back home. It all comes together one day in late April and nothing, not even a brief downpour, can dampen the joy of the day. (After all, our parties go to eleven.)

IMG_2206Some intense gaming at the top of the afternoon

IMG_2236then the action migrates downstairs to the music room for a bit… but still, kids are constantly on the move

IMG_2241they do stop long enough to try to get something together

IMG_2285let’s not forget the trampoline… it’s just getting going (pre-silly string, that is) Look who surprised us by coming! It’s the twins, Cora and Sophia! That absolutely made my kid’s day. And my mother just kept admiring all the red hair present.

IMG_2289Annabelle is daddy’s girl. That family’s a brainy, techie bunch.

IMG_2225our beloved Thumbs Up entertained everyone. She allowed herself to be picked up and set down anywhere. Here Sam and Eva get a good chicken-smoochin in.

IMG_2316And Miss Coco’s bringing the chicken back to the party

IMG_2296kinda fuzzy, but can you see? Babies and chickens in the kitchen. Fun!IMG_2210Recognized immediately by his Pokemon peers. Charizard. I think. ?

IMG_2248the closest we’re gonna get to having all twenty-something kids in one shot.

IMG_2303the little kids hear the frantic peeping coming from inside an egg in our incubator… this chick worked hard all afternoon

IMG_2325With mom watching over from the steps, our neighbors get ready to load up on Zac’s Doodlebug. Stephanie has three little ones to bundle up and get ready. Let me not forget our other neighbor mom Casey – she has three little ones too, only her oldest can do it pretty much all herself.

IMG_2332Loading up six little ones for a ride home

IMG_2335Good-bye! Thanks for coming!

IMG_2343Out of twenty-four eggs, this lil gal’s the only one to have hatched on her own so far….

IMG_2338This little one struggled valiantly for seven hours, and then I realized that like me, she too needed just a little help. We very carefully peeled her free of her shell and laid her there to dry and rest. A chicken C section!

IMG_2351The end of night selfie. Thanks everyone for coming to Elihu’s 11th birthday party!

A Happy Birthday Post Script: The little C section chick, although still a little scraggly-looking, is doing just fine in the brooder tank with her/his only other sibling. A third chick died mid-hatch, and no other eggs have shown signs of life. Such is the chance one takes when breeding your own chickens. 

 

Instant Karma January 20, 2013

What a magical day we had yesterday. A day of gifts that astonished us both. Had us with our mouths hanging open, with Elihu smiling uncontrollably in the back seat as we drove home. More than a day of tiny successes, and more than a day of instant rewards, it was a day full of serendipitous surprises that just kept coming as we encouraged ourselves to expect them. I’ve been teaching my son since he was tiny that we create things first in our thoughts and intentions before they appear in our physical world. Yet often, as I share concepts with him that I myself believe to be true, I find that as a flawed, ego-driven adult I am hard-pressed to live as if I believed the very things that I’m teaching. Yesterday, I found that Elihu was my teacher; I let him guide me and encourage me to let go and follow along as he made his way through his day wishing, intending, believing… and manifesting.

In the morning, we considered the day before us. Elihu had a birthday party for twins later in the day. As my son is fond of doing, he’d just given his twin classmates each a toy of his over the past week. While Santa had given him two identical toys and asked him to give one away, it was my son who delighted in the idea of twin gifts going to twin boys. Why not? he’d asked me – he had plenty, and these tiny gifts gave his friends so much happiness. Absolutely. I agreed. And when their mother told me to consider these as sufficient for the boys’ birthday gifts, secretly I was relieved. I felt a little anxious about spending more money when Elihu had already given them some forty dollars worth of toys this week. I suggested we pass on getting them gifts. But Elihu protested bitterly. He wanted to get them something for today. I suggested instead that we just give each a $10 gift card. He was distraught – he told me that the toys he gave them before were unrelated, beside the point. He wanted to treat them as he himself would want to be treated on his birthday – with a very special, exciting gift, and not a silly gift card. “I’m going to busk” he told me, “and I’m going to make $40. Then I can buy each of them a helicopter.” His voice was firm. In the sweetest, most loving tone I could find, I cautioned him that that was a lot to expect on a cold winter’s day. I tried to remind him that even on a nice warm day with tourists on the street, that he sometimes didn’t even make that amount in an afternoon. He began to cry. “Don’t do that! I believe it, why can’t you? I know I will make $40! I will!”. I began to apologize for discouraging him, but he cut me off, “I’ve already made it!” he said, still crying. That stopped me. I took a moment to collect myself, and to think. I had nothing to lose in expecting the same, and I knew that energetically it would help in some way. If we were disappointed, so be it. That was a possibility, but so was the other outcome; so why not choose to expect success instead? In that moment I decided to support my son as best I could.

After a morning of housekeeping and chores we finally made it to downtown Saratoga. I sat on a blanket I’d brought to keep warm, opened a book, and hoped for the best as Elihu began to play his djembe. First, I would like to say that he played better than he has ever played before, and second I would add that it was cold – his hands had to have hurt, but he kept going and going. He played for a good half an hour. I kept my nose down, leaving him to his own and trying not to look like the hovering mother. Although I wanted him to be successful (in playing so well he already was successful in my book), I admit that I was preparing my tender “I’m so very sorry” speech already. After a while, I heard a final woomp on the drum and looked up to see him walking back to me – a very full tip jar in hand. We ducked into the diner for a cup of hot chocolate while I counted up the loot. He’d made $26. Wow. “You know I’m going out again, don’t you?” he asked. I kinda did. And now, I was all on board. We packed up and headed out. Within minutes he had a small crowd of teenagers pulling out phones to take pictures and videos of him, and yelling out “kid, you’re awesome”. He kept at it for another half hour or so, til I called to him we needed to get going.

As we drove to Target, I counted his money. A five, even a ten… impressive. And the final tally? Forty-one dollars. Bingo. He’d made his goal – and even exceeded it by a dollar! He sat in the back seat, trying to contain his joy. I watched him in the rear view mirror as he beamed and giggled to himself. A few minutes later we were in the toy aisle, considering our options. It was beginning to look kinda bleak, and we were just resolving to settle on some less-than-ideal options, when something caught my eye. It was a helicopter with bold red and white stripes – and two sets of props. Twin engines – for twin boys! We moved in to check it out. Elihu had said he wouldn’t settle for a crappy 2 channel toy, but instead had his heart set on a 3 channel heli – a much better quality, more maneuverable toy. This was 3.5 channels. Even better. Plus it had a button on the outside of the box which let you spin the props on the heli inside. It was a Chinook, and it was impressive looking. We then found a cheerful gift bag and headed on our way. At the checkout there was a small hitch; the toy was not in the computer, and in spite of my going back to retrieve the exact price, the system wouldn’t accept it. A manager was called in, the line stopped. While we waited, Elihu grabbed some batteries – because there’s nothing more frustrating than getting a gift that needs batteries and not having any. Another $7. No problem, I can cover the extra. Then the cashier told us some unexpected good news – the toy was actually ten dollars less than we’d thought – and our extra money covered the batteries and the gift bag too! Elihu and I laughed and thanked the guys for helping us out. Then I found a twenty in my pocket – I’d been paid in cash the day before for a lesson – so we even stopped for a snack at the cafe. !

As we drove to the party Elihu remarked that he really thought we’d be rushed today. We were actually five minutes ahead of schedule, and I myself agreed that I could hardly believe it. When we got to the party the reality of a busy Saturday downtown hit me as we began to look for a parking spot. Then we started to tell each other that our spot was waiting for us, we just had to get to it. And sure enough, in a full-up garage, just by the exit, was one vacant space just waiting for us. We pulled in, then enjoyed a leisurely walk through the park to the party, where we arrived just in time to find the first of the afternoon’s entertainments just commencing; mentos and diet coke explosions. Awesome.

He was settled in, and now I had two hours to myself. I often stay with him at parties, but this time parents were sent on their way – so I found myself suddenly surprised with having nothing to do. Hm. This was unusual. What should I do? I considered walking the strip, taking in the windows, the sights, maybe heading to the library to check my email. Naw. Didn’t inspire me. So I asked myself “What would I like to do? What thing would I not usually do, and more specifically, what can I do that I wouldn’t usually do with Elihu?” I knew. I knew, but I felt some guilt. I told myself to ignore the guilt, to let myself off the hook and go. So, I did. I pulled out of my choice downtown parking spot and headed out of town.

Three months ago, while waiting for a prescription down the street, I’d gone into Pier 1 to kill some time and happened to come upon a stunning, deep red pillow. It’s color attracted me first, and the hand of its fine wool was so satisfying. But I didn’t have the money, and furthermore I couldn’t justify such a purchase even if I’d had it. So I filed it away in my brain. We have a rule in our house to prevent against impulse buying: if it’s still on your mind in two weeks, you may reconsider it. I thought back… it was Thanksgiving when I’d seen it, and it was nearly Valentine’s Day now… Dare I reconsider it? Within minutes of entering the store I found the pillow – one of them at least. But I wanted two. I searched for awhile and didn’t find it. Guilt finally overtook me and I put it down, told myself to forget it, and instead just enjoy walking the store and looking at all the beautiful objects. On my way out, I casually asked the clerk about the pillow. She looked it up on the computer and discovered that it was not an item that would be restocked, and also that there did appear to be one more somewhere in the store. My heart lifted. Then the clerk simply looked down and said, “Oh, look, here it is!” and held up the second pillow. It could have been anywhere in that store – but it was right there, within arm’s reach. Needless to say, I was sold. I’d waited more than two months and it was still on my mind. ! My heart was bursting at the beauty of these pillows, at the excitement of bringing them home to live on my couch. 

When I returned to pickup Elihu the boys were in full swing, jumping on each other, hugging each other and ooing and ahhing over the presents… I sat there drinking in that lovely, innocent energy, marveling over how sweet and sincere they all were. Savoring the moment entirely. They told me that they’d just come back from laster tag; the lasers were blue so Elihu could see them (Elihu can’t see the red lasers at all), Elihu did really well (even won a round), plus he had a blast. As we drove home, Elihu remarked that he hadn’t had any cake, because it just looked too sweet and he thought it might make his tummy feel icky. But now he was feeling some regret. We quickly pulled into the grocery store before we left town, and found a perfect single frosted brownie. We took it to the register, and for some reason, the young man decided to ring it up at a lower price. Elihu and I looked at each other. ? We thanked the clerk and headed out. Elihu ate half his brownie on the ride home, and ended up saving half for later.

When I awoke this morning and walked out into the living room, my spirit positively lifted at seeing those gorgeous, deep red pillows on my couch. And now, mid-day as Elihu was looking for a sweet little snack, he was happily surprised to remember his brownie. One magical day has spilled over into the next. I made a promise to my son that I’ll renew my efforts to keep up an expectant and positive attitude. I admit I was due for a little proof of my theories. And thankfully, I got it – almost instantly.