Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Making Cookies

We made cookies together that had healthy ingredients and no egg in the dough so I didn't have to spend the whole time insisting that they not eat the cookie dough.  I thought this would make the whole process more relaxed.  By the time Elena had her head submerged in the bowl of the food processor to lick out all the remains (this was not a short process) and Manny and Glory were laying on the counter like prostrate dogs licking up any bit of any leftover ingredient (including baking powder), I realized there is no such things as a relaxed baking project with three preschoolers, for me anyway.  They look pretty happy in the pictures, which makes me feel like I did a good job despite my palpable tension.  Today I made crackers with them for the girls to bring into preschool tomorrow.  They are co-hostesses with the mostesses.  It almost put me over the edge.  Tomorrow we will not be doing any group projects in the kitchen, unless I have a moment of whimsy/hunger/insanity.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Farmer Charlie and his 3 best chickens

Sam made delightful costumes with the kids.

Farmer Charlie greets his three best chickens.

The costumes lasted about one minute after entering the house.

The best part?  They could put the boxes on by themselves!

Charlie Love is 5.  We are so grateful for our friend!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Girl Time

I am at a coffee shop to write this post and I cannot suppress my smile looking at these two girls.  Glory means "shining" and Elena means "bright torch" and I love how they are infusing energy into those words and making them vibrantly true in our lives.

Yesterday afternoon, Sam took Manny to the barber shop and to look at some houses.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous, but Glory and Elena were in their underwear and I was enjoying having laid back time at home.  So, instead of going out, we cleaned the shower.

My mom talks about what a revelation it was to clean the shower after my sister and I were both in some kind of school.  So easy, so quick, so conflict-free.  Though I believe her, I have yet to clean any of my showers while the kids are in school.  The thought crosses my mind, and six other thoughts immediately crowd in to crush any kind of shower cleaning impulse.  I'd so much rather be cooking in my sunny kitchen.

But I only had to walk in the general vicinity of the shower to realize there was no more room for excuses or delay.  So I asked Glory if she wanted to help me clean the shower.  She was so excited and said, "You have to get naked to clean the shower!"

One minute later, after some clear thought, she turned to me again and said, "No grown-ups get naked.  Just kids." 

I gave them scrub brushes, turned on the water and they were ecstatic.  They danced and sang the entire time.  Elena hung her soaking purple stretch pants over her head like hair and sang to the tune of the Hallejuah chorus, "I AM MARY!  I AM MARY!  I am Mary, I am Mary, I A-AAM MARY!!"  Since Christmas, Mary is one of the characters the kids play, alongside Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Darth Vader.

After 10 minutes, I was feeling enlivened by my progress.  The tub was sparkling and the grime was disappearing and Elena had changed the lyrics of her song to, "I'm a PRINCESS!"

Glory's songs were all some repetitive chant about, "I love my daddy!  I love my mommy!  I love my brother!  I love my sister!  I am beautiful!"

When I finished cleaning, I was soaking wet and needed a real shower.  The girls decorated themselves with all my wet clothes.  Glory had my underwear over one shoulder and around her waist like it was a sash.  They each had one of my shirts around their neck like big, red cowl neck scarves and Glory had my capri stretch pants tied around her waist with her little bottom totally exposed.  It took concerted persuasion to convince them to take all that stuff off.  They were determined to wear it the rest of the day.

The girls got dressed while I finished the rest of the bathroom and took the dance party onto the deck.  It is amazing to see two people delight in one another as much as Glory and Elena can when they are in the twin zone.  Hugs, kisses and endless giggles. 

We went downstairs to make dinner and I let them watch an episode of Strawberry Shortcake, which is so over the top girly that it is hard for Manny to watch, which is saying a lot, because that boy would watch senate hearings on CNN...while they are adjourned.  Eight minutes in, Glory told me it was too scary (Strawberry and her friends had somehow become mermaids under the sea) and that I needed to change it.  I was about to when Elena promised Glory, "I'll 'tect you.  I'll 'tect you Gory."

The boys got back and we had dinner and got ready for bed.  When it was time for storytime, I was being silly and pretending like Sam was one of my kids too.  I told Manny, Glory and Elena that they needed to take care of Sammy because he was so little.  Glory got indignant from her thumb-sucking, blankie snuggling position and yelled, "Hey!  I'm the littlest one in this family!" 

It's time to go home and get ready for Charlie's 5th birthday party this afternoon.  We are supposed to go as farm animals and Charlie will be the farmer.  The kids are so excited to be chickens and lay eggs all over Charlie's house with his gifts inside.  I am not good with costumes and am considering just writing "CHICKEN" across their forehead with my eyeliner pencil.  But it doesn't matter.  The kids make anything fun.  Any prop or costume piece will do, as long as they have each other.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


These are the Superbabies.  Manny has a whole storyline developed, but I haven't been a good enough listener to remember anything.  The other reason I can't remember is that all his good ideas are just talk.  The reality of the Superbabies game is that the kids wear their old cloth diapers and crawl around the house whining at me to do things for them, things that they have all known how to do independently for years.  And, to sweeten the experience, they fight over Glory and Elena's baby pacifiers that I had the bad idea to bring out.  Manny has bitten off the end of one and pushed his finger through the other.  It makes me kind of sad.  They were one of the things I had wanted to save for sentimental reasons.  For the first six months of the girls' lives, those turqoise newborn pacifiers saved us over and over and over again.  (They also popped out of the girls' mouths and rolled under our bed in the middle of the night more times than I can count.  Then one of us would have to bounce and comfort two tiny newborns while the other person slithered around the floor like a near-starved snake searching for a crafty rodent to feed its baby snake.  At first, I thought that a bad descriptor, but it's growing on me because I'm pretty sure those pacifiers could move independently, and, by that time of night, I had lost the use of all four of my limbs.)

It also fills me with a strange feeling to see my kids running around in diapers and looking so ridiculously out of place in them.  It's like the years of hearing the rhythmic chides of "MOMMY!  WIPE ME!" coming from three different toilets around the house never happened.

I have started to observe, as I move through my slice of Seattle, that people have continued to have babies after I had my babies.  It's weird.  There are small ones, new ones, wobbly ones and babbling ones everywhere.  It's like a baby explosion all the time. 

I am guessing it has always been this way, but I never noticed this phenomenom before.  Not even remotely noticed it.  I didn't really like kids before I had kids.  I kind of pretended to, but I didn't.  So they were invisible to me.  I chose not to see them.

Well, now I'm converted.  Now, if it was 1986, I would probably get choked up every time I heard the beginning of The Greatest Love of All on the radio.  I think kids are absolutely wonderful and I am astounded that I was one and now I'm not.  While I was driving my mini-van today, I saw a woman driving her mini-van that reminded me of Connie, my best friend's mom when I was in elementary school.  And I just thought about how quickly it feels like I went from being in her passenger seat to being the driver in this grand story we're a part of.  And yes, I just alluded to driving a mini-van full of kids as being a grand story!  And it is!  May we never forget it!

So, I am seeing all these kids, younger than my own, everywhere, and it is a constant reminder of how much has changed and how much Manny, Glory and Elena have grown and grown into themselves.  It fills me with gratitude as I think on it and gives me an awe for how quickly they will be even older than they are now.  Oh crap.  It just happened.  They're already older.

The sun came out this afternoon and we went to Big Howe playground to catch the last hour of light.  Manny's favorite place to play is the circular monkey bars, but the entire time we were there today, there were at least 15 middle schoolers hanging out underneath them, their bodies shifting nervously from the thrill of trying to make connections with kids of the opposite sex. 

One girl barely had enough clothes on to cover her ass.  Seriously.  No tights!  (Sam wanted to know if there were tights.)  One false move and the thing would have flipped north or simply burst apart from being so snug, either way revealing her thong (I am sure she was wearing a thong) to a playground full of toddlers and preschoolers and their haggard parents.  It was 4:00, after all. 

And this girl was 13.  That's it.  And there just isn't that much time between being 5 and being 13, in the grand scheme.  And it was poignant to see this whole group of really insecure 13 year olds with no parents around, trying to be so mature under the monkey bars while my 3 year olds looked on in fascination, bewilderment and discomfort.  Elena never played once.  She just had her hands stuffed in her pockets, wanting to be held, and seemed continually heavy with the presence of the big kids.

As I watched Manny jump off the playground again and again, I tried to change my perspective from seeing the unsupervised middle schoolers as an annoyance and bad example to seeing them with a mother's eyes.  How many of them had played at that playground when they were 5?  Were they remembering that era of their life in between text messages? 

Manny and Glory sped down the hill on wheels and were ready to cross the street to our alley in seconds.  Elena walked, her hands in her pockets, all the way home while I carried her bike and her helmet.  I really think she didn't know what to make of the juxtaposition at the monkey bars.  I guess I really don't either.  Life is a pretty amazing series of changes and I am grateful for the gift of home, where it's mostly not awkward and we can just gather around the table and try not to pinch each other while we fight about who's singing who's song in between bites of carrots and broccoli.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

In Character

Manny, Glory and Elena spend copious amounts of time in character.  This often involves costume pieces and quick changes.  The story is usually centered around who's the baby or fighting the bad guys.

Tonight, while Sam and I were in the middle of our snuggle rotation (each child gets each parent two times), I asked the kids if they wanted to pray.  They were enthusiastic, so I asked what they were thankful for.

Manny's standard answer is "everything and everybody!"

The girls rattled off names of friends and I added family, food, shelter, etc.  Then I said a short, simple prayer for those in need (which is all of us), but this particular prayer was centered around people not having their physical needs met. 

Glory piped in, "Pray for the kids who don't have homes or food."

I was snuggling Elena and she screeched in my ear something I couldn't make out.  After she said it six times, in the same cartoonishly shrieky voice, I figured out she was saying, "OR TOYS!"

So we prayed for the kids who have no homes, no food and no toys.

Then Elena started shrieking again, and after a deciphering process, it was confirmed she was demanding we pray for the kids who have no homes, no food, no toys, and no....


Manny thought this was silly.  I also found it silly, and absolutely wonderful at the same time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Three words I never wanted to hear...

These pictures were taken at St. Anne's School playground near our house.  The two extra darling children are 5 year old twin brothers, James and Gavin.  They are hanging out on top of the high monkey bars while Josh, the twins' dad, makes them crazy and hysterical with his never-ending variations of "I'm gonna get you" moves.  Manny's giggle is one of infectious delight and Josh pulls it out of him every time.  And for that, all five kids locked Josh up in prison under the tunnel slide forever.  Who knows?  He could still be there now.  Eating all those invisible poison hot dogs and occasionally stepping on those invisible buttons that shoot bad stuff up at your face. 

Today, the kids and I had all kinds of adventures that will have to remain undocumentable so that Christmas gifts can be wrapped, but the three words I never wanted to hear, in a public restroom, as I was feeling quite self-satisfied that all the kids were in stalls with shut doors taking care of their own business, came from Glory as she meandered toward the sink with dripping hands.

I wiped Lena!

If you are ever having a self-satisfied moment as a parent, you can guarantee something interesting is about to happen.  It's like the red flag.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A new tradition

We walked up the street to Once Upon a Time, our local toy store, so the kids could each pick a toy to donate to the New Horizons Christmas party.  It was really fun and they were very sweet about the whole process, including personally going home empty-handed.

That night, we drove down to New Horizons and Sam and the girls ran in to make the delivery.  Since we were parked in the same spot as we were when one of my favorite moments of 2011 happened, I will take this opportunity to record it. 

Early one Friday morning, the kids and I drove down Queen Anne Hill to Belltown to make our baked goods delivery at New Horizons for their outreach program.  The drive is only about one song long and the song this time around was Iris by The Goo Goo Dolls.

The lyrics are very dramatic- here is a sample-

And I'd give up forever to touch you
'Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You're the closest to heaven that I'll ever be
And I don't want to go home right now

And all I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
'Cause sooner or later it's over
I just don't want to miss you tonight

Back when this song was new, I loved it.  It always made me very emotional, which I liked in a self-punitive sort of way.  So I was more than a little amused when I looked in the rearview mirror and Manny was holding Glory's hand in the air, pumping it up and down, with his eyes closed. 

We pulled up in front of New Horizons, but I felt sheepish about turning off the music when he was so obviously moved, so I got out of the car, payed for our parking and then sat back down to hear the last few seconds of the song. 

When it was over, I felt like something needed to be said to affirm Manny's huge emotional response to the song, you know, so he wouldn't feel awkward.  Actually, maybe it was so I  wouldn't feel awkward.

"That's an old song by The Goo Goo Dolls and I really like it," I said.

"I like it too," Manny said.

Glory ripped her hand back and snapped, "I don't!  I only like old songs about Jesus!"

We have only heard that song one time since that day and I was sad that Manny didn't have a similar response.  I guess it's true that sometimes all you can taste is the moment 'cause sooner or later it's over.  I'm glad I didn't miss that one.