Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Untitled

I can't think of a title and every counter space is covered with dishes so I must press on. Tomorrow is Sam's morning to sleep in until 6:45am and mine to get up whenever the bells toll, so to speak, so I cannot linger over the sink too long. Sam and I just finished re-watching the final episode of Lost: Season 5 while we ate dinner and I almost wept again when Juliette was pulled down the hole by an ungodly magnetic force to her doom. I don't watch much TV and more often make fun of it, but boy can I get sucked in (sorry Juliette, no pun intended). If it wasn't for the purple Listerine commercial that came on immediately afterwards, I might have been a complete puddle for the rest of the night.

Maybe Untitled is more appropriate than I originally thought. I have had trouble putting words to most everything lately. Every day, I have elaborate plans to clean the house, get physically fit and write my first novel as soon as the kids go to sleep. And every day, the kids go to sleep and it's like my battery has run out and I need to plug into the charger for a few hours before anything of note can occur. But hope rises triumphant each morning. My friend Nikki suggested that maybe this is preparation so that when the time is right, I will be eager and ready. I like my friend Nikki a lot and I like this idea so this is what I will tell myself when the temptation looms to feel that F word coming on. And no, I'm not talking about the expletive I said forty times under my breath yesterday when I closed the garage door on the back door of the minivan while the kids were flipping the hazards on and off. I suppose I should have heeded their warning. No. This F word is really so much more damaging than that one. Failure. Maybe failure and I should become friends. Not the backstabbing kind of friends, but the kind that can offer and receive constructive criticism. Maybe then when she comes around, I won't feel like I am 31, going on too late.

I only think about such things in the dark hours, the hours where the children are asleep in their beds and I am racing around the house folding, washing and twittering (not literally- you know, the way we used to mean it) and the hours pass by so quickly, only to begin all over again. When the children are awake, they fill each moment with meaning and help me to lose myself in this life we are making together.

Last week, I was changing Elena's diaper in the family room. Our family room is huge and yet, there was only one tiny pocket of space where she could lay next to one of the wardrobe moving boxes that Mike turned into a coffeeshop, now spaceship for the kids. I had just finished removing her poopy diaper and was working on wiping when Manny catapulted off the huge box onto the poop, coating the bottom of his foot to the sounds of Louis Armstrong crooning, "And I think to myself, what a wonderful world." Come to think of it, I was so taken by the moment, that I didn't properly wash his foot and he may not have had a bath that day. I was telling my grandma last night that every night we do a bath, I take the girls back to Manny's room in their towels, and without fail, one of them piddles a little bit on the carpet before I can get both diapers on. I just rub it in with my sock so there won't be a line. One can only be so on top of things and by that time of night, I reassure myself with a promise of future carpet cleaning and ironclad immune systems.

Today, I was preparing a marinade for tofu and Manny snatched my ginger and took off running. I caught up with him and broke off a little piece for him to keep. I went back to the cutting board to continue my work and he was right behind me asking questions about the strange thing in his hand. Me, trying to be a good mom and engage every opportunity for learning, said, "Wait! Do you want to smell ginger in a different form?" I pulled the ground ginger out of the spice drawer. Manny took a whiff and said, "It's bad?" "No," I chuckled. "It's not bad," and continued to drone on about the merits of ginger while I peeled and minced. I could see motion out of the corner of my eye and stopped to look. Manny was rhythmically hitting the side of his head with his piece of ginger and said, "Hurts your head?"

Manny has begun to sing. Not a lot. But some, and if I ever ask him to be quiet for any reason, it's like I've stomped on his foot while he's trying to run and play. It just squashes his joy. So, during the girls' nap, we were in his room and Elena had just recovered from a mid-nap crying spell and I was trying to play it cool and not care that she might have only napped for 45 minutes, even though my heart was beating fast and I totally did care. Manny chose that moment to start repeatedly screaming the word "Heap" to the tune of Jingle Bells. I could hardly stand it, but decided that if Elena woke up and was a mess the rest of the day, that was better than giving Manny the message that he cannot fully express himself in my presence. After several minutes, I began to rethink and started to sing Jingle Bells softly, thinking that might change the game. Manny immediately stopped and whipped around to face me, telling me in no uncertain terms, "Mama! Quiet! That's too loud for the babies!" and immediately went back to "Heap, heap, heap. Heap, heap, heap. Heap, heap, heap, heap, heap...."

It's an amazing time. The kids amaze me, I amaze myself and Sam amazes me, but that last part is nothing new.

Two things I am learning. One, if your oatmeal tastes like poo, it's time to take out the kitchen garbage. Two, there must be a zero tolerance policy for unattractive pants in your closet, because inevitably they end up being what you wear more often than not because of their ugly, comfortable, you haven't done enough laundry powers. 31 is too old for pants that don't fit and unkempt hair. Somehow at 20, anything could be cute. Now, I just look like I belong in the classic SNL "Mom Jeans" commercial, but worse, because at least those women blow-dry. As I look back on 2009, I have gained a lot of wisdom, but these two lessons will carry me through the rest of my life.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An A-ha moment

Last week, Elena woke up from afternoon nap first and it was immediately evident why. I took her to the changing table in our bathroom so that Glory wouldn't be disturbed and while I was changing her, Elena turned her head to look in the mirror and said, "That's Glo Glo!" To be sure I heard her right, I asked, "Where's Glory?" and she tapped the glass.

That same day, the kids and I were reading a christmas book and there was an illustration of the nativity. The girls said, "baby! baby!" and Manny said authoratatively, "Baby Jesus." I said, "what's Jesus' mama's name?" "Mary," he said, which surprised me because I haven't taught him that. "What's Jesus' daddy's name?" I asked and the word that came out of Manny's mouth as he pointed at Joseph was unique to Manny, but could most accurately be translated as "Dufus."

Today, Manny told me that Daddy has a baby in his tummy and that so does Manny. When I asked Manny how big his baby was, he said the baby was as big as Manny. Manny does have a big tummy, but WOW!

This afternoon, Glory was pulling dozens of diapers out of their plastic bag and distributing them all over the hallway. Manny walked out of his room and said, "Oh honey, that's a lot of diapers." I just love it when he calls the girls honey.

If anybody even mentions the word "baby" these days, Manny is lightning quick to say, "I'm not baby. "I'm boy!"

The girls have been waking up on average about 5am for weeks now. The only saving grace is that every other morning I get to stay in bed for a while, which really means trying not to listen to them screech and cry for, as handsome and charming and cuddly as Sam is, he's not me. Here's hoping they magically sleep longer tomorrow. You know you're tired when every time you walk down the stairs, you find yourself thinking, "Don't fall, don't fall because I'm the only one home with the children.....but if I did fall and had to be hospitalized, at least I could rest uninterrupted for a while!" I guess there is a bright side to a lot more than I previously realized. It just depends on one's level of desperation.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Glory and Elena

Little girls in big boots (Elena left and Glory right)
I haven't posted in so long and that makes it hard to know what to say when so much life and emotion has occured. So I will keep it short and vivid and then go clean the kitchen.
After the kids' nap, I was getting them ready to go up on Queen Anne Avenue for "Holiday Magic" which was far short of magical, though the kids did get to hear some holiday music in Starbucks. Thankfully they are too young to know that the man singing, though in a lovely voice, did not know the words to a single song he sang. Had I the talent, I think I would have grabbed the mike to save us all from the agony we collectively shared as he butchered carol after carol.
Before we left the house for "Holiday Magic", I convinced Manny to go potty. He is small and his little butt doesn't cover much area, leaving the perfect gap for Glory to watch in front and Elena to watch in back. What were they watching? Well, for the sake of good taste, I will not say, but it took a while and there were lots of the baby equivalent of "oohs" and "ahhs" as they witnessed this amazing physical act for the first time. Some parents would probably have tried to move the babies away from the action, but I really wanted to put some mascara on so I would stop looking like I just got out of bed, so I let them fawn over Manny's potty show. It was a lot more magical than what they had going on at Starbucks.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Two Stories from Preschool

Little Red Wagon circulates a red Asiany-looking silk handbag around to the children in Manny's class. It is the sharing bag or a really cute purse for a night out on the town. Manny gets the opportunity to share pretty frequently as there are now only 5 kids in his class and there are two of these sassy little accessories. This morning, I asked Manny a number of times what he wanted to put in the sharing bag. He never acknowledged my question with a response, only grunts and syllables that didn't make any sense.


Finally, it was time to go. I asked Manny one last time if there was anything he would like to put in his sharing bag. He said, "socks." Sometimes it seems like he picks the most obvious thing. Like, last time he shared his lion and tiger magnets because that was the exact thing he was looking at when I asked. I peered down at his new striped socks and said, "those?" "No," he said. "Those." I looked over to where he was pointing and there was his pair of dirty red socks from yesterday. "These?" I asked. "Uh-huh," he replied happily. The selection was made. Dirty socks for the beautiful sharing bag. I smelled them. They were pretty stinky and I tried to roll them in a ball, all tucked into themselves. I guess that's what I get for not taking the dirty laundry upstairs.


When I picked Manny up, I asked Miss Eve how the sharing of the dirty socks went. She said, "Well! Manny shared that these are his red socks and that he likes them. Then he put one on his hand and pulled it up around his wrist. I asked him if he does sock puppets and he said no." I love preschool.


Today, it was our turn to bring home the class book they made entitled, "We Are Thankful." I wish I could display the artwork from each child, but here is the text.


Cover page.


Page 1- I am thankful for the picture I'm drawing- Jordan


Page 2- I am thankful for "Super Why," for drawing, and for the whole circle- Mira


Page 3- I'm thankful for circles and Mom and Dad- Manny (when Sam read this aloud to Manny at bedtime, he choked up.)


Page 4- I am thankful for "Super Why" and my Mom and Dad. I'm thankful for circles and school and coloring and crayons- Brevon


Page 5- I am just thankful for green- Drew (True to his sentiment, Drew used only the green crayon for his picture.)


While Glory and Elena were finishing their lunch before we rushed off to get Manny in the pouring rain, they both said "Manny" the clearest I have ever heard it. Actually, prior to that moment, I was never aware that they even tried to say his name. And then I must have said, "my Manny" because Elena kept repeating it over and over. "My Manny. My Manny. My Manny." Incidentally, when Elena says "Manny" it sounds exactly the same as when Lyella Borwick used to say it when she was tiny.


Tonight while I was making dinner, Manny actually shared some toys with the girls at my feet for about ten minutes. It was extraordinary! Maybe it was all the wrestling we had just done and the good pee he had on the now extinct cardboard box that has been Manny's third place for months, but he was in a rockin' good mood and it was beautiful to see him adopting a nurturing big brother attitude. For a few minutes anyway....

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Street Bean

Sam teaching Manny how to wrestle. When Manny pins Sam, he shouts, "1, 2, WINNER!"
Elena (L) and Glory (R) all dressed up in skirts my mom made.
The barrette lasted long enough for this photo.

It's been a long time since I posted anything. I'm kind of at a loss lately. But the children aren't! Glory and Elena are talking a lot. They are willing to try anything these days. Whether it's food or words, they are soaking it all up. It is really exciting to see and hard to believe that they are just four months away from how old Manny was when they were born.
Today, Sam and I took the kids down to the grand opening of Street Bean Espresso, a new, gorgeous coffee shop that is employing 5 clients from New Horizons for the next two years, creating a job history that will help them transition from street life into the greater marketplace. The coffee is fantastic, the space is inspired and the heart is solid. I was so moved to be there and thankful that I am connected to people who paint bold strokes on behalf of others that enable all of us to expand our vision for what love and faith can accomplish in the world.
You can find out more at www.streetbeanespresso.org or if you live in Seattle, it's worth a visit. Free wi-fi too. 2702 Third Ave in Belltown.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Some Birthday Pictures

Manny's birthday balloon and pumpkin. "Make pumpkin bread Mama?"
Sam and Manny at Julia's for a special father/son breakfast.

Manny's Little Red Wagon Preschool class.
From L to R: Lucy, Drew, Miss Eve, Jordan, Mira, Brevon, Miss Kristen and Manny.


Manny blew out the candle on the first try!



Birthday dinner with the Vances and Kathleen and Charlie. From L to R: Echo, Charlie, Zoe, Sam, Manny and a few locks of dear Max's hair.


Manny had a great birthday. He still says he's two, but lots of us claim to be younger than we are, so I don't fault him. I think age is probably something that's okay to be creative with.
There is a lot going on right now and life is really demanding so I don't feel like writing. I find that happens when things get tougher, but I know there are some of you that check this periodically- some dear friends who are far away and treasured family and I don't want to leave you out of a peek into Manny's big day.
There's a lot that sobers me. The war, health care, the fire at Taproot Theatre, challenges people I love are facing that are grievous and hard and that's just the start. Then there's my own personal limitations that had me exploding glass bottles in the freezer today, flinging poop across the room and joining my kids in a good round of sobbing. BUT we have much to be thankful for (Kathleen's visit was a big one!) and I suppose that includes the mountain of clothes that I have to go iron. I have been avoiding the pile for three months and I think it's now harder to avoid it than to just do it.
Hope you all are well and finding ways to love on the people around you.
And enjoying good coffee or chocolate or whatever your thing is.
Why am I not in Northern Ireland drinking at a pub right now? Somehow that sounds so good. Wish I could meet you Katy!



Monday, October 19, 2009

Manny's Birthday Eve

Almost 3!
A terrible picture of an adorable kid.

Glory before she styled her hair with banana.
Sam is at his board meeting tonight so I got the rare treat of putting Manny to bed. He was laying on the floor and I was straddling him to brush his teeth with his electric Oral B toothbrush and I paused to tell him, "We're going to have to get your hair cut soon. It's getting long!" I stroked his head. "You have nice hair," I said. "It's beautiful, huh?" Manny said. "Yes, it is," I agreed.
Manny, you do have beautiful hair and a beautiful heart and a beautiful bottom that I enjoyed watching as you sailed around on your skuut in your pajamas pants this afternoon. Tomorrow I am giving Manny some fleece sweatpants and waffle knit shirts that we will be referring to as "daytime jammies" in the hopes that I will be able to talk him out of wearing pajamas all day.
I'm off to make some healthy-ish cupcakes for Manny's preschool class. Hard to believe that three years ago tonight Sam and I successfully induced labor with a Clive Owen film, some red wine and a little bit of pressure point massage. Look out for Clive Owen ladies. Or maybe it wasn't him. Maybe it was the heist movie. Or maybe it was Denzel. I guess if you're pregnant, just look out in general, because sooner or later it's going to come out and it might demand a whole lot of jammies, raisins and love. Thank God there's always plenty of those to go around.
Happy Birthday Eve Manny!


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday

I just had the most ridiculous conversation with the two baristas at my local spot. It’s Saturday afternoon and I am taking a momentary pause from mothering to eat a sandwich and smile at people I often see but don’t know.

The first barista asked me if I have ever seen The Wire. Is that the prison show, I ask. No. It’s a cops versus drug show in Baltimore. It’s awesome , he replies. Then we spend the next five minutes trying to think of the name of the prison show, which incidentally, I have never seen and don’t know anything about. But he’s really trying to help me out and finally when I say, I think there was an O in the title, he says, Oh yeah…that was like 10 years ago.

Wasn’t everything like 10 years ago? I am still trying to get my mind around 10 years ago and 10 minutes ago and all the stuff inbetween. The older I get, the more behind I am in trying to absorb what it means to have experienced all the living, loving, striving, creating, sitting on my hands questioning, screwing up, reconciling, connecting, screwing up more, reconciling more. I think if I live a long life, I may be one of those people that hopelessly has my head in the clouds and makes really asinine comments about someone’s cute little boys who are dressed head to toe in pink.

I have come to believe and have said to a number of friends recently that we are all deluded. Just what we are deluded about varies, depending upon the person. We simply cannot hold it all at once. It is all too startingly painful and beautiful and naked (especially if you are the guy in line who just took off his shirt. Thankfully, no penis sighting. I had three of those in a row back in 2003.)

That’s a neat thing about little kids. They are, almost always, in the present moment. The past is what you ate for breakfast and the future is what you are going to do after lunch. So there is more room to soak up what is now. I like that.

Manny will be three on Tuesday. He is exhibiting so much growth! He is experimenting with conversation and concepts that are coming as such a delightful surprise. Rona has been trying to teach Manny how to deal wth the girls in a more loving manner when they take something he wants or HAVE something he wants (which is all the time). She explained that babies are often easily pleased with new toys, so all you have to do is provide a distraction and, most of the time, you can have what you want.

I had been working on the laundry and came downstairs to get caught up on what they had talked through. As Rona was finishing her update, Manny shouted, “DISTRACTION!” at the top of his lungs while he yanked the toy out of Elena’s hands. If nothing else, I think it is probably the longest word he has ever said.

Elena wants to climb on everything, including me. Last night while I was getting the girls ready for bed, I laid down on the floor to read to them. I told Elena to go get a book. Back and forth, she toddled, bringing me six books, one at a time. I began to read, but kept getting stuck because the only suitable place to sit that Elena could find was my face. She would sit patiently, waiting for me to continue. I would ask her through her diapered bottom, which absorbs quite a bit of sound, to find another place to sit so I could see the words. She got up, walked in a circle and sat down on my face again. We went through this about four times, before we skipped the story and went straight to bed.

Glory loves to talk on the phone to Sam. Yesterday, I called him and handed her the phone. She immediately said, “Hi Da!” I have a lot of things floating through my head that every time I try to write, strike me as a bit self-indulgent and very “little” picture, as opposed to big picture. So I guess the best thing I’ve got before I head home, and it’s pretty good, is “Hi Da!” Pure. Precocious. Pretty cute.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Threat Level Downgraded to Orange. Thanks Zip Ties!

Things are getting tougher around here. The way I can tell is that I am doing unusual things like getting out of the car to go inside the house, but the car is still running, and then today I took a stack of recipes to Manny's preschool and left them in his folder for the teachers and then spent an hour looking for them at home. Boy was I surprised to find them when I picked him up. I am glad I got them back before Miss Eve discovered them. The children baked pretzels on Tuesday and I wouldn't want her to think I was criticizing the simplicity of her choice by leaving her recipes for Orange Pan-Glazed Tofu and Sun-Dried Tomato Cottage Cheese Muffins.



Last night, Sam and I shot another bullet into the chest of minimalism by putting up loads more plastic sheeting and zip ties all over our main floor railings (which are a big feature, in case you haven't seen our house). Not since the eight panel plastic monstrosity baby corral I bought (and have hardly used) has there been such ugly childproofing. Now the minimalism resides in our living room furniture, which we keep evacuating to other crevices of the house because the children can turn absolutely anything into a lethal danger. It is a talent of rare proportions. Our living room would look empty if it weren't for the giant cardboard box and the loads of toys I never get around to picking up. It makes me laugh to think about the goal I had to relegate toys to one area of the house so that the living room would always look ready for company. And it does. Toddler company.



We went to our last Queen Anne Farmers Market of the year today. It was chilly, blustery and on the edge of really raining. We visited all our favorite vendors and I was thrilled to see that even on the first day of October, they had raspberries. Golden ones. Like little jewels mushed in the hands of babes.



Sarah at the fruit stand gave Manny a ripe pluot and he sat on the curb, next to the guy doing his extremely repetitive Dylan-esque banjo thing, and ate every last bit of fruit off the pit. I was glad he was wearing his red jacket so that the juices mingled with his fleece perfectly, leaving no trace of his first whole fruit free-for-all.



After he was done, I bought a mini Butter Toffee Crunch ice cream from the Parfait truck. Holy Moly. I almost turned my back on the kids and ate the whole thing myself. They would have screamed their heads off, but I might not have cared, it was so good. But instead, I was the only who didn't get a last bite. And I was okay with it. This is a clear example of how parenthood makes you a better person.



When we got home, Sam was still on the road and it was time to make dinner. I don't think that people should have to risk their life to make cauliflower, but that's what it felt like with three little people trying to scale the stove and yanking on my legs for the duration. I am amazed that we make it through some of these moments without injury or bursts of insanity. My favorite moment of the haze was when Manny rushed after Glory into the family room, pushed her, came back out to the kitchen, heard Glory crying and then ran back into the family room to say, "It's okay sweetie." Talk about mixed messages.



I was relieved and happy to arrive in the girls' room for bedtime. Elena sauntered over in her diaper to smack me in the head with Goodnight Moon, which is her way of politely asking if I will read her a book. I paused, thinking I should find the comb because her hair looked like a Richard Nixon toupee, but instead we found the comb in the book and said Good Night to it. The girls did their nursing/poking each other in the eye/sticking their fingers in my mouth and laughing thing that they do so well, we read Goodnight Moon again and I made my exit.



The days are so full of joy, laughter, snuggling and peril. Glory almost got hurt so many times today. I took the girls to the community center open gym and Glory loves to ride in this Fred Flintstone like car that has a handle for the parent to push. I thought I was so clever that I could push Glory and keep an eye on Elena until I realized that Glory had slipped under the steering wheel of the car and was trapped, about to be run over by her doting parent. Coming home from the farmer's market, all bundled in her new winter coat, I only buckled the top part of her stroller straps. I realized not a moment too soon that she had slid underneath the buckle and half of her body was hanging off the stroller. Last week on the way home from the Farmers Market, Manny fell out of the stroller. And he still greeted me with a huge leg squeeze when I picked him up from preschool today.

That is grace.

I think I'm going to go eat some chocolate chips. That is grace too.

Monday, September 28, 2009

New Pictures

Manny, not so sure about the super-healthy carrot cake I made. I'm not either.
Glory loves black beans!
Elena's facial hair.The kids in their special chairs from Grandma and Grandpa.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sunshine and Wisteria

Last night, I had the distinct pleasure of dressing up and going out by myself. Nikki offered me a comp to opening night of Enchanted April at Taproot and, despite myself, I went. This week was tough. Reality can really beat the crap out of you sometimes. As a result, I was feeling fragile and inward and dumb and thought I didn't want to be around people I know and admire who are actually leading lives outside of their homes. But, as most things that involve relationships, showing up was the thing that mattered most.

After I put the girls to bed, there was time to dress up, which is something I haven't done since I went to Matt and Amanda's wedding on May 23. I haven't done my ironing in months and my laundry (that I am now using as a blanket as I type) is in piles too, so I put on the only suitable option- a deep turquoise knit dress that Carmen spied on the sale rack at Nordstrom years ago.

By the time Sam was done with Manny, I was done with me and was starting to get uncomfortable. For one thing, there was no time for shaving and my nylons were itchy. But the bigger deal was that I felt like I was wearing pajamas. When you spend your life in mom clothes, it feels downright inappropriate (and a little bit exciting) to be wearing a dress that hits above the knee and has a plunging neckline. I felt half naked most of the night, but thankfully had a gift bag for Nikki that I could use as a prop for extra coverage.

I worked at Taproot for five years and that was five years ago. In a way, it doesn't feel that long. But the stack of diapers waiting to be stuffed on my knees is testimony to how much can change in very little time. I sat close to Karen, who directed the show and was at Taproot long before I ever started. She had a baby right when I began working there, and one day, she let me hold Hannah while she had a meeting. While in my care, Hannah had a blow-out. I am certain I was not familiar with this term then. At the time, I thought blow-outs were an unusual occurence. Ha. Hannah is so grown and beautiful now, but she still looks new. My children look so new. I don't anymore, but they do and I revel in their beauty.

The show was about people who appreciate sunshine and wisteria and whose lives are transformed in Italy, which seems to happen a lot. Is it fairy tale or is Italy really that great? Maybe I should go and arrange to meet everyone I am unreconciled to so we can be healed, enlightened and enriched. But since I have these babies, I guess I will just keep eating biscotti and drinking espresso and hanging out with my Italian friend Amy. Those are three revelations right here.

I'm so glad I went last night. I was reminded how good it is to laugh a little too hard in public and that it is possible to keep one's new year's resolution and accept a compliment, even when I feel like I am missing my pants and I was reminded that other people see me differently than I see myself. A little kinder perhaps. Oh and I made a good joke that I didn't think of ahead of time and the two other people I was talking with laughed and I didn't even follow it up with anything slightly embarrassing or inappropriate. It was simply perfect and so was my gift for Nikki (though I was sorry to give away my prop) and I was glad to show up for her because of how many times she's shown up for me.

It was late when I got home and the morning came too fast. But apparently Glory got the memo that I really enjoy the comedy and costumes because she immediately brought me a pair of pink polka-dotted roll socks and blue and white striped bloomers to wear over her too-tight footie pajamas, her thin, longish hair flopping up and down with each step. She was laughter in motion and I forgot that it was 6am and that I was back to mom clothes and that my children don't know I am a person outside of them. But then again, maybe I'm not. I vaguely remember who I was before this experience, and she is in there somewhere, but all of us, all the Angies, are melding together like flavors in a stew and even though it's hot, I want to stay in this pot because the aroma is sweet and something good is coming together. And I haven't even been to Italy yet.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lunch with Manny

After I put the girls down for a nap, I fixed Manny some lunch and took it into the family room so he could eat at the kids' table. I sat on the other side of the table with a variety of books so I could read to him while he ate. He started saying, "What's that?" over and over again, but he didn't seem to be gesturing to the books or looking at anything specific. "What do you mean?" I asked. "What's that?" he repeated. "What's what?" I said. "What's that?" he said again. "What are you looking at?" I asked. "My penis," he said.

Which was untrue. He was looking at me. But then I looked under the table and there it was peeking out from his underwear, mashed between his fingers.

"You're right," I said. And then proceeded to laugh. How could I not? And even as I did, I had flashes of him doing this at preschool during snacktime and not getting quite the same warm response. But I guess I will leave the, "Just so you're aware..." conversation for another time. I am certain there will be multiple opportunities.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

REI

For a long time, I have been wanting to take the kids to REI because I heard they have a play area. But every time, I have been flying solo and have chickened out. Good thing. Our play time would have amounted to five minutes of me sweating and swearing under my breath before a dramatic exit, the wails of Manny's disappointment making a pathway through the streams of short people underfoot.

But with Sam along, it was doable. Barely. Before we went to REI, we fortified ourselves with a perfect cup of espresso at Espresso Vivace. Glory threw every piece of food we gave her on the floor because we have just discovered that Glory and Elena have hand, foot and mouth disease, which sounds a whole lot worse than it is. And if you are over the age of 10, your chances of getting it are very slim. There's nothing you can do to treat it, except to self-medicate as your children cry the majority of the day. Maybe it's called hand, foot, and mouth disease because you are tempted to punch the wall, kick the furniture, and pour lots and lots of chocolate into your mouth to make it through the agony of long, uncomfortable days.

At Espresso Vivace, Elena ate a lot of the biscuits I brought along in a ziploc baggie. When we got to the impressive treehouse play structure at REI, I took off Elena's jacket and a hundred chunks of biscuit flew out of her sleeves. They were everywhere and I was scrambling around on the floor, trying to look responsible and responsive while Sam darted left and right, up and down, trying to protect the kids.

About a half hour in, Manny got that look and we knew it was potty time. There was no time to waste, so I hoisted Manny over my shoulder and ran for the bathroom. Neither of us had shoes on and that really amused me once we were in the stall. I think it amused me because I am too aware of what other people think of me and always have been. But when I'm with my kids, if there's a need, I don't care at all what other people think. I just act. And I LIKE it. It feels invigorating. Like discovering a whole new me. A more intense me. Who needs extreme sports when you can take care of small children?

Sam got a slack line at REI. He set it up in our living room. It's like a tight rope, but not tight. Manny thinks it's great. I think it might spell head injury for me. I plan to stick to my dorky step aerobics and watch from the dining room. I think Sam is going to acquire abs of steel much faster than me, but then again, he had a big head start.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gorditos the night before Preschool



Funky by Association

I am at Caffe Fiore alone! It's Saturday and I have a few minutes before Sam goes to his first eye exam in years. His glasses finally broke yesterday and he is going to buy two pairs today. I think this is smart for a man with three young children. He said he is going to get a "Fashion Sam" pair and an "Appraiser Sam" pair. I said, what do we need with appraiser Sam? I am voting for Fashion Sam to take Seattle by storm.


There is funky music playing in here and the barista is wearing a backless shirt that highlights her elaborate tattoos. And then there's me. I am wearing tennis shoes, hardly any make-up (time constraint) and pearl earrings (the only thing the kids can't pull out), but I feel a little more funky by association. And the bit of my reflection I can see in my computer screen makes my age look intriguing, rather than just tired. Soak it up.


I left Manny watching Mamma Mia. He is so engrossed that he cannot make the spoon reach his mouth. Sam is literally spoon feeding him and encouraging chewing while Manny stares at the screen, entranced by Meryl Streep. But who isn't? I asked him if he wanted to watch all the Pixar favorites and nothing interested him. But singing and dancing. Bring it on. I secretly want him to go to preschool and break out into Abba. The other kids would be clueless, but Miss Eve and Miss Kristen would be enchanted.


The kids are doing such amazing things. I put the girls down for their one nap of the day and before I changed their diapers, I told them, "I'm going to change you. If you need to go poo-poo, now's the time." Their facial expressions immediately changed and I can confirm that they indeed were listening. I don't remember Manny doing things like that. But maybe I wasn't communicating with him like I do with Glory and Elena. Also, this morning, Glory brought me a book and said, "Read book." And Elena said, "thank you." Thank you! Imagine that!


When I came down from my morning nap (yay!), Manny was sitting on the little chairs in the family room. I sat down next to him and without looking at me, he said, "Hi Honey." "Hi," I said. I don't want to give him a weird reaction like laughing or smirking or anything, because I love that he says that and I am hoping he will do it again. My favorite thing he said this week was when we were reading a toddler bible that was given to us as a gift. It is hard for me to read those toddler bibles, honestly. They are a total of about twenty sentences and all the stories are pulled totally out of context. How am I supposed to explain why David is standing in front of a dead giant? How can I explain a flood or why Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden forever? My favorite page is Jesus and John in the Sea of Galilee when the dove descends and God speaks. That one I can explain. Sam just smiles at me, because the way he deals with it is to say, "Look! There's a giraffe!" But I have trouble. Anyway, on the page where Noah and his clan are all getting out of the boat, the text mentions God. And Manny says, "Where'd God go?" The question of the ages. Where'd God go? It was completely in line with everything he talks about these days, but it made me laugh. And I don't remember how I responded. Maybe I said, "Look! There's a rainbow!"


I am reading John Gottman's book about coaching your child (and yourself) to build emotional intelligence. Miss Becky at preschool lent it to me and I am gobbling it up. There have been a number of things that have happened this week that I just realized are an answer to prayer. I have been asking for wisdom and guidance to parent Manny, Glory and Elena well and I am receiving guidance. There is so much horror and disappointment in the world. That has always been true. My common error is allowing myself to be derailed by that instead of staying in the game and focusing on beauty and relationships, including the one with the Lord. And when I do that, it's really something. It's like manna from heaven. I don't get to decide what the manna is, but there it is, so I'm trying to pick it up and hold it for a while. Take a bite and see what happens.


A young bank teller processing my transaction this week tried to convince me that parenting is much harder than taking care of pets because pets, you can just leave for like a week and they don't really care that much, but leaving your kids for a week effects them a little bit more. He was so earnest and I laughed out loud at the first possible moment as I walked away. I laughed at the absurdity of the conversation I just had and how crazy old I am now.


They're playing Michael Jackson now. Remember The Time. I had that album in middle school. I am shaking my head and smiling. How did it all go so fast? And how did my alone time go so fast? Time to go home so Sam can go funkify himself. I can't wait to see the results.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Made It To Parent Night

Showing Manny his doggie backpack tag on the first morning of school.
All ready to go with Rona's help!
Spending lots of time in the tubs lately.


Every day I have countless things that I think are worthy of writing about in this blog. But I am really coming up short on time. It's strange. I think I'm catching my stride and then all of a sudden, I feel like I can accomplish next to nothing and I have stacks of laundry everywhere, a kitchen full of dishes, no idea what I'm going to make for dinner tomorrow night, I'm tripping over toys, I didn't exercise, on and on and on, but the kids were well cared for and they have clean sheets on their beds. Oh and I made it to parent night.

I need to go to bed, but here's the brief preschool update. We all walked to preschool last Thursday and Manny was fine until we said we were going to leave. He began to sob those terrible sobs that make you want to promise your child you will never leave their side ever, ever again even when they beg you at the 7th grade dance to just go home already!

Of course, it was after the sobbing began that I realized I hadn't taken the first day of school pictures I wanted to take. I guess in this way, I am not my mother's daughter. She never would have made that mistake! And because she's loving and good, she will not think less of me for having forgotten.

But of course I forgot! It was crazy trying to get all the children ready to leave the house and this was with extra help from Rona the saint (I told her I put in her official application for sainthood, but that was a lie, which may preclude them granting my request. Did I just use preclude correctly? Sometimes I think someone with a vocabulary as shoddy as mine is seriously kidding themselves to persist with these writing aspirations).

After dropping Manny off this morning, I wiped the literal sweat off my upper lip (preschool is up a hill and I was wearing a baby and pushing the other two in the double stroller as fast as I could go so we wouldn't be late) and answered the phone. Kathleen was calling. God bless her. What would I do without Kathleen? Probably shrivel up and die. So Kathleen listens to me (laughing at all the appropriate places) drone on about how unfair it is to feel this unattractive as a mother. There should be time granted to every mother every day to iron her shirt, dry her hair, brush her teeth, find clean pants, file her nails before she scars her own face or that of her children. I don't think I have ever gone into a public place with unwiped sweat on my upper lip, but when you have two squirming babies in your arms, you are forced to let some things go. Thankfully Manny didn't care one bit that I was leaving this time and so I was able to leave quickly without any drama.

After the first day of school, I asked Manny lots of questions, but he's not one to get into details. Finally, when I asked, "Do you like Miss Eve?" he said "no." "Why?" "She's scared." "Of what?" "Of the kids," he said emphatically. I abandoned the conversation because I am quite sure this is untrue and I think if I had asked Manny if there had been a lion in the potty, he would have uttered his signature "uhh-huh".

Tonight, at parent night (how is it that I am now attending parent nights?), they told me that Manny is mellow, that he listens well, and that he sings all the time. That last one was a surprise and so delightful to contemplate. There are only five children in his class (all eldest children and one boy has 11 month old twin sisters), and two teachers, one with a graduate degree in education. I feel so blessed that we can send him to this school and that he is taking to it so well.

Sam is sick, so I got to pick up Manny alone today. The girls were asleep in their cribs and Sam was asleep in our bed. Manny was so brave and we walked a block to the library before he told me that he needed to go potty. I scooped him up and walked as fast as I could home. We did not make it, but I was so proud of him for telling me and after parent night, I now know that the kids took a play break in the room with the water fountain and that explains a lot. I didn't care. We came home, stripped off our clothes, had a long afternoon with no nap and lots of tears, but we made it through together and I wouldn't have missed a moment.
I just reread this and it does not make as much sense as I wish it would. It is not the beautifully crafted essay that I imagined unfolding over a cup of drinking chocolate as I saw the sun setting over the library on my way back to preschool tonight. But it is now 10:40 and the whole adventure is about to begin all over again so beautiful prose must be abandoned and sleep must be embraced.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Love Letters

Dear Manny,

I love that you say things like, "I miss Daddy" and "Is he scared?" and "I'm sleepy" right after you didn't take a nap when you had a chance and tonight when we got home from Gorditos to celebrate your first day of preschool tomorrow, you said, "Mama, I want some dinner. I'm hungry." So we fed you and your sisters a big bowl of whipped cream and blueberries in the bathtub. I love that you helped me make muffins today and that when you ate one, you were totally covered in melted chocolate chips that you wiped on your bare chest because I can't remember to ever buy napkins or paper towels or even give you a towel unless you explicitly ask me. I love how much you love books and that when Daddy asked you to sing a song to Glory because she was sad, you beat boxed instead because that's the example that has been set for you and you are a kid after your daddy's heart. I love that you were brave today when we went to meet Miss Eve and visit your classroom. And I love that you show your backpack to everyone who comes over. I can't wait for you to see your doggie luggage tag that has Manny Lai written on it and the ball of 4 tiny photos that is attached to the interior mesh lining of your backpack. If you are ever sad, you can look at the four faces who love you the most. Daddy, Mama, Glory and Elena. We will always be right within your grasp.

Mama

Dear Elena,

I love that the other day when everyone was snuggly, whenever you got your turn on my chest, you bit me while Glory would cuddle up and suck her thumb. I love your toothy grin and how you climb on absolutely everything, including the tables and chairs at Manny's preschool today. I love that you shriek with delight every time someone puts you on the couch and that today you demonstrated your ability to say please. I love that you have been able to say it for a while (I suspect), but didn't because no one asked you until this morning. I love that you said bye to Rona after she took care of you and that you still give me a wet open mouth kiss when I say good night. I love that you are full of light and that you shine all over the place. I love how you look in leggings.

Mama

Dear Glory,

I love that you like to hold your green blanket in your high chair until the last possible moment before I give you something to eat. I love that when we ask you where Elena is, you tilt your head completely to one side like you are playing peek-a-boo around the corner of the kitchen island. I love that you need more sleep than Elena and that you curl up in the corner of your bed with your thumb in your mouth and all is right in your world. I love the way you look in the bathtub, the littlest of the three, but every bit as spunky, perhaps because of your squished gestational period. I love that you press your whole face to my body when I hold you in the Ergo and that you answer my questions with a nod or a shake of your head. I love that you listen to me sing and the way you scoot down the ramp on your tiny diapered bottom. I love the way you look when you put food in your mouth with your beautiful, delicate fingers and how messy you look when you're done.

Mama

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Downtown

I get seized by these irrational impulses to take the kids places when there's not enough time or energy, or frankly, reason for the huge push required to do it. I guess it's the thrill of the challenge or maybe it's that I need to feel like I am getting out there somehow, but whatever it is, I dress it up as stimulation for young minds and off we go.

Today we went downtown. We parked at Pacific Place and I felt a great sense of accomplishment as we rounded the corner to the elevators and everyone was strapped in place. When we neared the doors to 6th Avenue, we passed by the Barney's New York display windows. There were female mannequins with sharp, shiny, white plastic points for heads wearing designer clothes, and at their feet, were at least one hundred Mr. Potato Heads all assembled exactly the same. When we went outside, there were male mannequins - these ones had actual heads, but no facial features, and they too were surrounded by Mr. Potato Heads. Manny was excited, but I was a little put off. What the heck is that about? It seemed stupid and meaningless to me. I hope they are donating all those toys when they are done. Maybe I have just revealed myself as someone who doesn't appreciate art, but if that's art, then I should have taken a picture of what Glory left in the bathtub tonight and submitted it to Barney's for display in their ladies' lounge.

After we left Old Navy with Manny's new school shirts in hand, we walked towards the kitchen shop on 4th. I could see up ahead that there were a number of people holding signs with those insipid pictures of President Obama plus Hitler mustache. I can feel my blood getting hotter even as I type this. The people looked so normal, but they were holding these signs which are so unbelievably offensive and strange and when she asked me if I would stop, I spoke the most sharply I have ever spoken to someone I do not know. Of course, what I said was, "no thank you," but it was a strongly put "no thank you." As we walked on, I got madder and madder. I don't know how loud I was, but someone listening in might have thought I had the syndrome where you swear involuntarily. (I demonstrated that again later this evening when I accidentally made my first calzone.)

I was so distracted that as I crossed fourth avenue, I totally miscalculated the width of my gigantic stroller and could not make it onto the sidewalk because there was a car and a man selling Real Change and a long line of newspaper boxes and fire hyrdrants and absolutely nothing I could fit between. I couldn't think straight and this nice 40ish man approached me and offered help. I told him that I was fine, but then it became apparent to both of us that I wasn't and was totally stuck. So he did a gallant thing. He lifted up the dirty front wheel of my gigantic stroller and placed it on level ground so my children were no longer hanging out in the middle of a downtown busy street. I thanked him and he walked away with a noticeable limp. I wonder if he has adequate health care. Thank you for your kindness downtown nice man.

Manny starts preschool on Thursday and I can't figure out where to write his name on his backpack. I am afraid I am going to get him to school chronically late and that I will not make it to parent night or forget his teacher's name or do any number of other dumb things that will prove that I am really not cut out for this mothering thing. The nail in the coffin will probably be when Manny screws up his macaroni self-portrait and drops some R-rated language. I think I need to start washing my own mouth out with soap. But everyone needs an outlet to release all the pent up pressures of the day. Why doesn't dishwashing or folding laundry achieve this goal? This seems so unfair.

My mom and Mike were here last weekend and we had a lovely time. My mom brought me a copy of my high school newspaper and as I looked through it, I realized that Manny is closer to starting high school than I am to when I graduated. Does that make sense? I finished 13 years ago and he will be a freshman in 12 years! WAIT! SLOW DOWN! How does this crazy stuff happen? Sam and I watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button the other night and we both cried at the end because it is such a vivid description of how brief the magical moments of our lives are. And in that film, because they cannot make the moments last and they know that they can't, they savor. They really, really savor. This is something I want to get better at. Even right now, I find that I am squinting. I think squinting is a hallmark of "I am savoring this moment." Or maybe the resolution on the laptop screen is too bright. Either way, it is 10:02 and there will be very little savoring tomorrow morning if I don't go to sleep. I suspect I will dream of an army of Nazi Mr. Potato Heads wearing designer pants. Except Mr. Potato Head doesn't wear pants....

Maybe that's why Manny likes Mr. Potato Head. Gives him a role model for which items of clothing are necessary like hats and shoes and which aren't...namely, everything else.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I Should Be Doing The Dishes

But instead I will post another photo retrospective (since I have no new photos to post).

Two Years Ago
One Year Ago


And three years ago...I guess that's when we used to take pictures of the dog I often now forget I have several hours out of the day.

Sam is at a board meeting and the kitchen is scary messy and emitting a barrage of smells between the compost and the garbage that would warrant a walk out to the alley, but it is dark now so it's going to have to wait until morning.

On Saturday and Sunday, my dad, Lisa and Grandma Barb came up for a visit. The children were charming, my second stab at pizza went relatively well, and Lisa and Dad spoiled us with many treats, including an enormous peach cobbler that I just ate for the second time today.

On Friday night, I was in that "the world is a horrible, messed up place- how can I even bear to live another day" kind of mood, which was too bad, because Friday nights are supposed to be our take-out dinner, kick back and enjoy that we made it through another week date nights, but I totally killed it with my sour mood and story after story from the news of psycho people ruining perfectly nice peoples' lives. Blah. I think I realize that when I feel that way, conversation is the worst antedote. I need to jump on the elliptical trainer and watch one of the three movies I own on DVD. And that does not include the Die Hard series, which was a gift to Sam years ago, because I don't think Die Hard would be what the doctor ordered for that kind of a mood. Not for someone like me.

But then Grandma Barb comes and realligns my perspective. She is so good at that. And I don't think she really tries. It's just her nature. Because she says, yes, yes, that's all true. And that's all here. But God is so much bigger. And there is so much that's beyond our understanding. And there is this mysterious act of trusting God that we practice. And then she tells me about the generations of our family that have trusted God and what they trusted God through and though I am moved and amazed, the cynical part of me wants to resist and protest and say, "but, but, BUT!!!" But in my heart, I sense that she's right. I understand about zero in regards to what that means, but then again I don't understand much of anything. I am truly astonished at how little I comprehend, practical, mechanical, political, historical or spiritual. I understand that food makes me happy, my children make me laugh, I am indescribably lucky to be married to Sam and a list of other things that I guess entails what I am grateful for, but I really don't understand much of anything, including my oven which I can only turn on half the time.

And yet, there is this peace that passes all understanding and if I am not bathed in it, it is only because I stepped out of the tub. The older I get, the more aware I am that there is always a choice - to surrender or to tighten my grip. To embrace the mystery or claim to have the answers.

Grandma is wise and full of the richness you would hope to see in a woman who has surrendered over and over to the Lord for 80+ years, but when I am with her, I see a clear picture of what Jesus meant when he said we are to have faith like a child. There is nothing simple about Grandma, but she repeatedly comes to the conclusion that she doesn't have the answers, but she knows who does. And there is rest in that. Even if the headlines make you want to suffocate in your own despair.

By the way, on Saturday while Sam and I were putting the girls down for a nap, Manny took off all his clothes and made quite a show of trying to fit his penis on the baseball tee for the visiting family. Since he was really little, I have talked to him every time we have guests about being a good host. I guess being a good host is open to interpretation.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thursday

Often I think that my life would be so much richer if it were underscored by some Academy Award winning composer. My lows were be more nuanced and my highs would be more jubliant and when something bad was about to happen, I would know well in advance because of the violins.

Yesterday, the girls got up from their morning nap early and Manny was playing target practice already, shrieking with delight every time he nailed one of them. I knew I had to go somewhere, but where? So many places are tricky now that the girls want to play too. For months, I went to the playground and held both girls while Manny played. It was perfect. I could follow him anywhere, the girls were visually stimulated by all the other kids playing and I got a great bicep workout, not to mention lots of adulation from other parents who only had one or two kids playing independently. I felt....above average.

Then the girls began to sit in the sand pit while Manny played and that worked well too. If necessary, I could square off, so to speak - Manny at first base, Glory at second, Elena on third and me, home plate. 1,2,3. 1,2,3. 1,2,3. But then the girls decided to push the boundaries and crawl out. Now I feel stuck. All these beautiful playgrounds mere blocks away, but we can't go.

So I loaded them into the car to go to University Village where they have a small fenced play structure, the whole while thinking, "What am I doing?" It's not a long drive, but it's not a short one and it's a whole lot of effort to load up, drive, unload into the stroller, on and on and on- I don't even want to type all the steps because it's tiring just to do that.

The play area was bustling with moms and kids and it was HOT. I let Manny loose and then tried to hold Elena in the stroller with my foot while I unbuckled Glory so that I could buffer both of their initial burst of energy at the same time. The girls are fearless. They were all over that play structure and seemed to be nonverbaly planning their strategy. "You go wobble at the top of the slide and I'll stand at the three foot drop-off and kick my legs out like I'm going to jump. Okay, break!" I kept my knees soft and even bounced up and down a little, ready to pounce like a mama cat. Back and forth, over and under - I, too, was all over that play structure. After 30 minutes, I was done with my cardio and a little miffed that no one had told me how amazing I was, so we went in search of a cold drink and our mini-van.

Manny successfully avoided sleep at naptime again so he got up and we kneaded our first round of pizza dough. I found it to be a great receptacle for pent-up stress and he found it to be something fun to hit and slap that doesn't cry. It was great. When the girls got up, the pizza dough was rising and we needed to get to the grocery store and the farmer's market quick because it was getting late. Both the girls wouldn't stop crying (I think they were hot) so we swooped out of the house and I let Manny hop into the stoller in his Thursday Lion Underwear with nothing else.

Once we were out of the house, I felt a little embarrassed for him, like no one loved him enough to offer him a pair of shorts. I don't think I will do that again. It was an even funnier visual when he fell asleep with his hand petting the lions and his chin slumped again his chest. I thought about laying my reusable grocery bag over him like a blanket, but the bag was visibly dirty and that seemed worse.

When we got to the market, the place was alive with colors and smells and alluring, expensive ice cream trucks. There was also this beautiful blues/American roots musician singing and strumming his guitar whose presence was both enveloping and humble. At last, my soundtrack. I made my rounds a little slower than usual, trying to soak up the notes. And I stood in line for a long time at the outrageously expensive ice cream truck because I had promised Manny I would. And even though he was sleeping, he remembers things now and I didn't want him to ask, "Where'd the ice cream go?" and have nothing to say but a sheepish, "I didn't feel like waiting." Manny doesn't feel like waiting all the time, but he does, so I guess it was the least I could do in return.

The pizza turned out beautifully despite the meager amount of cheese I sprinkled on top. Sometimes it's hard to know when to be lavish and when to hold back, but I find if there's a soundtrack, it's much easier to go big. I am about to do some cleaning. Maybe I should turn on some music and the toliets will sparkle that much brighter.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Supermom is back!

Yesterday


Today was a much better day because my trusty partner, Super Sam, whisked in unexpectedly and at the nick of time to conduct a business meeting on the go, while pushing Elena and Glory in the stroller. He even had the guy he was meeting with walk the dog! Hallejuah!

It was especially helpful because I attempted an even more complicated dish than rice and beans (Cumin-Scented Mushroom and Cheddar Galette from www.inpraiseofleftovers.com) and it was taking me a LOT longer than I thought it would. It was my first time making it, but it certainly won't be my last. I think I went up a notch in Sam's eyes. Thanks Sarah!

Manny was happily occupied with sitting in the tub of water on the deck while I crisped the bacon, roasted the potatoes and boiled the kale. I think he drank half the tub water with a plastic straw he was playing with, which would explain the burst of pee that exploded while Sam was finishing his business meeting in the pea gravel pit. Bye bye Monkey underwear. At least for now.

While I sauteed the mushroom, cumin, garlic, salt, pepper and splash of lime juice in olive oil, Manny ate playdough. He even got a big piece stuck on his teeth, but I didn't care. Sometimes you got to take one for the team or something.

After the business meeting ended abruptly with the change of underwear, Sam and the kids played drums and Manny even took my hands and danced funky moves with me in circles, his eyes closed, perhaps to avoid having to watch me attempt funky dance moves. That's okay. I understand. It was great.

After dinner, the girls ate books as I tried to get them interested in reading them and Sam did the dreaded tooth brushing. There were plenty of kisses to go around and now I have a mountain of chores, including cleaning the toliets which are hotbeds for disease, I'm sure, but Sam picked up cookies from Macrina on his "business meeting" and life is really, really good. It was really, really good yesterday too, but today feels a whole lot sweeter.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Elena's First Word

Almost forgot.

FLOSS.

We had a discussion about whether or not to call it and we decided it was affirmative.

Elena's first word was FLOSS.

She hates the toothbrush, but maybe she would like floss. Perhaps we are going about this dental hygiene thing all wrong.

I Need A Time Out

I totally got my butt kicked today. It happens a lot actually, but today was a real doozy. And it was really only from 3pm on, but boy, it doesn't take long for everything to unravel. For example, we had rice and beans tonight and I had all the dishes done up until afternoon nap and my kitchen currently looks like I haven't done the dishes in three days. Three days! I am so out of it right now that I am just walking around my house grazing on bits of food. I was going to work out when I put the kids to bed (Sam is gone tonight), but instead I came downstairs and watched previews to a movie while I ate Manny's oatmeal from this morning spruced up with some sugar, whipped cream, strawberries and bits of granola bar that I made this morning while I let Manny watch a little too much PBS kids.


Manny was freaking out all afternoon because he was tired because he never takes a nap anymore. I think the Lord is trying to teach me increased patience because once the girls got up, they were a mess too. I finally figured out that Glory had a dirty diaper and I don't know what was wrong with Elena. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Manny kept pummeling her like he was practicing for the NFL. Only those guys wear clothes and they don't put their underwear on inside-out, front-side back, with their crotch in the wrong pocket so that there's no choice except for the underwear to remain tightly tucked in you-know-where. How can someone so absurdly dressed cause so much commotion? You would think he would be too busy just trying to remove his underwear from you-know-where.


On one of the many times where one of the girls was thrown halfway across the room by Manny's tackle, I started to scream in that terrible voice that resides just below the surface of my calm, cool, collected Super-Mothering exterior. I hate it when that happens. I feel like the worst person on the face of the planet. And it's awful because there is this day care next door and I am sure that all the kids, teachers and parents can hear me and they probably think I'm some kind of alcoholic, abusive witch of a person when really all I am is literally bombarded by people whose unknown demands I can't meet. I was on the phone with my mom at one point today and I sat down on the floor. All three kids within seconds had thrown themselves at me and I actually fell over because the force of three little people hurling themselves at you is a lot!


During Manny's time out, Elena walked over to him and they began to laugh together. I can't remember whether she had been the most recent victim or not. I felt like the only one who was on the outside of the joke. I think it is cruel that I am supposed to prepare healthy, balanced meals for these children while I am trying to referee the madness and keep everyone from losing an eye or scooping out fistfuls of water from the potty. I can see why some people resort to frozen chicken nuggets every night, but I absolutely refuse, even though my "easy" pot of beans was somewhat of a culinary disaster. Thankfully, the kids ate it with gusto anyway. We finished off the meal with whipped cream dashed with a bite of fruit. My kids don't like milk and Glory is so teeny-tiny that I am afraid she might waste away with an undeveloped brain if I don't resort to some serious measures.


The last time out of the day was met with constant screaming from Manny, "I need to go potty!" The time out is two minutes. I did not warrant his requests with a reply. He replied to my lack of reply with a strong stream of pee that covered his whole time out corner. I made him sit down in it while I got a towel. I don't want him to slip, do I? Glory grabbed a rag and helped clean up and then the girls stood outside of the bathroom and screamed while I put Manny in the shower for literally two seconds to rinse off the 65% of him that was covered in urine. Sheesh.


I felt a great sense of relief when I secured all three kids in Glory and Elena's room to get them ready for bed, but that was no cakewalk either. Neither girl wanted to be changed or dressed and Manny kept climbing on top of my head and throwing himself down onto some appendage of the babies. Then it came time to nurse. Glory can't decide which side she wants to be on and they pop on and off every five seconds for a total of about 50 latch-ons, half of which involve some level of biting. I can't believe we are still doing this, but we just dropped a feeding a few days ago and I don't want to push them to wean too quickly.


I skipped brushing the girls' teeth because I simply couldn't wrestle with them any longer and I am really hoping their teeth don't decay. Every time we brush their teeth, the sounds they emit are so horrific that I almost can't stand to be in the same room. I want to run down the hallway and hurl myself into the pea gravel pit below and ride one of the plastic cars straight to West Seattle for a Twice-Baked Almond Crossiant from Bakery Nouveau, the new most amazing thing I've ever tasted.

The best part of the evening was saying good night to the girls. They kiss on command now and Elena usually just shoves her tongue at your face and Glory gives you the sweetest, tiny wet mouth kiss you could ever hope for from a baby. I love, love, love these children and God help me because sometimes I think I will melt into a puddle of simmering, puce ooze because I am so beyond the point where I know what to do or how to salvage my experimental healthy dinners.

They say the length of time outs should match the age of the child. I think if I could send myself to the corner for 31 minutes, that would definitely do the trick and I could save myself the sore throat I currently have from shouting.

A few things worth remembering of late...

On drums:

Glory and Elena were crowding Manny and Sam while they were playing before bed. Glory accidentally knocked over the snare. Manny said, "Is she sorry?" This coming from the boy who cannot see a box of anything without immediately dumping it out.

On the penis:

Manny chased Elena around the kitchen island with his penis the other day. He really knows how to win over the ladies.

Elena has discovered Manny's penis in the bath and likes to yank on it.

Manny was running around naked and Aslan sniffed his crotch. Manny ran to the bathroom, singing, "She likes my penis!" (FYI: Aslan is a boy.)

On the potty:

I think every time Manny climbs on the potty, he might fall in and disappear forever. It is like watching a toddler mount a horse. It is a complicated piece of choregraphy and once he is in position, Manny massages the toliet seat (Sam's description). After he drops the mass of toliet paper in the potty, he often tries to retrieve it and my favorite thing of all, he frequently lifts his penis up as high as it will go in the hopes of being able to see himself pooping.

Aren't you glad you read this post?

I try to think of meaningful things to say, but then I don't really write for two weeks and I think it's because that's too much pressure. This is what I've got and I suppose someday I will read this and find it quite hysterical, which was the whole point in the first place.

Time to go attack the mountain of dishes. Bakery Nouveau is already closed and Sam is still gone so I guess I better get to it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Drums

Glory wants a turn too. Manny likes to drum naked.
This was taken on day one before he figured that out.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thanks Rona X 3



This is Manny one week ago when I took him to the show. I think I have scary eyes in this picture, but he looks take your breath away handsome.


Out of the blue, Rona (our friend and neighbor) told us she would hang with the baby monitor so we could go out after the kids went to bed. We decided to go use her birthday gift to Sam and had a fantastic three course dinner at Crow in Lower Queen Anne. Then I got home and she told me that her 6 year old niece Isabella was looking at a Victoria's Secret catalog and said that one of the models looked like me. Nobody's ever said that to me before and it won't likely happen again so I wanted to make sure I wrote it down.


I doubt those nice Victoria's Secret girls eat three course meals. It's good being normal and not in catalogs. And it's really, really good having friends like Rona.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Changing Rhythms

Manny got a drum set yesterday. Sam's co-worker at G2B found it free on the side of the road and gave it to us. So with great joy, Manny rocked out with his chopsticks for an hour before dinner. I don't find the sound of it the least bit annoying (ask me again in a week). The sounds I can't stand at 5:30pm are the shrieks of children attacking each other with diggers and their own fingers. Two year old drumming is loud, but it's productive.

When Sam went to get Manny this morning, Manny was laying on his bed, wide awake and content. Sam said, "Have you been up for a while?" "Uh-huh." "Were you thinking?" "Uh-huh." "What were you thinking about?" "Drums."

Manny has also been playing/pounding the piano a lot lately. Who knows if he has any talent, but I am excited to give him opportunities to explore music.

On Monday night, I took him to a Daniel Berryman & Friends concert. It was at 8pm and Manny usually goes to sleep by 7:30, so this was a big deal. It was only his second time ever that he has gotten to stay up late for a special event.

Earlier in the day, I took him to the Counterbalance Barber Shop up here on the hill, so he was looking fantasically handsome. After dinner, he took a shower while the girls bathed and Sam dressed him in nice, clean clothes. The shirt was a Max Vance hand-me-down (meaning it was hip and without stains) and the sleeves fell below his knuckles. The jeans were also just a hair too big, but he looked like he might grow at any second, so it worked.

As soon as we put the babies to bed, Manny began to prance down the hall. "Come on Mama! Let's go Mama!" I told him I needed to change my pants, so he ran down to our closet and handed me a pair of Sam's jeans. "Here you go!"

We arrived at the Good Shepherd Center just in time to go potty and grab our seats. For the next hour, Manny sat on my lap and listened to Daniel and three of his friends sing, half the time performing opera in foreign languages. He watched intently and clapped with enthusiasm after each song. I kept revisiting my escape plan, in case he started to shout, "Mama! What's happened?" or wiggle out of my arms, but it never happened. The four performers were amazing, but I kept wondering why the audience wasn't applauding my son, for I felt he was the most astounding person in the room.

Elena is getting fast. She's going to be running any day. And Glory can walk across the room now. She holds her arms out to her sides and wobbles back and forth like a zombie. The only difference is she giggles the whole time. Maybe if zombies did that, we wouldn't be so scared of them and I would enjoy those movies more.

Incidentally, Manny was supposed to go to the dentist for the first time this week, but I couldn't get my act together and ended up rescheduling. When the receptionist put me on hold, I got to listen to a segment of George Michael's Faith. What is it about George Michael and dentists? It's like that album inspired a whole generation of young people to pursue the drill. Once, while I was having a cavity filled, my previous dentist's office was playing the musak version of George Michael's I Want Your Sex. I thought that was one of the more absurd moments of my life.

That is until I had two babies giving each other a smackdown over who gets which nipple and then swapping back and forth every ten seconds. I think it might be time to wean.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pictures From the Beach

Glory at the wading pool.
Elena.
Manny in too small swim trunks.
Oh sand! Oh ocean! What rapturous delight!
Tastes GOOD.
I wanted to write tonight but I decided to spend some quality time with Kathy Smith instead and then proceeded to smear Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (that I had been saving in my freezer from the Baked Cookbook) all over my oven, dropping the F-bomb twice in front of Sam. He hates that. And I admit, it is not a becoming reaction to anything.
I try to be so good all the time. But all my ickiness comes out whether I want it to or not. And when my baking explodes into disaster, I am always beside myself with anger and grief, at least for a minute.
We ended up defrosting some Lemon Loaf and eating the couple edible bites of the cookie remnants and laughed much too hard joking about Sam taking the dough-strewn piece of parchment paper to work tomorrow and seriously offering some cookies to his co-workers, suggesting that I would be offended if they declined.
One of my favorite games when I am tired and loopy is thinking of the most inappropriate thing one could do or say in certain situations. Try it! You'll like it!
I better get to bed so I can clean my oven in the morning.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

This Week

I am sitting at my favorite coffee shop that is much too close to my house eating a gigantic piece of Macrina Walnut Anise Biscotti (every word deserves capitalization) and wiping all the stray crumbs (there are a lot) on my recently clean pants. I am recovering for a few minutes. We had a fundraiser for New Horizons at our house yesterday and I blew my energy wad early. Sam and I both have been dragging for the last 24 hours and are walking a fine line between exercising proper coping skills and completely dissolving into selfish misery.

I almost lost it last night when we got home from the playground and Manny began to freak out about some unidentifiable incident. He was a broken record of screams without a single syllable to support his complaint. I took him to the bathroom, but he was too despondent to pee. Like the Tasmanian Devil, he whirred a path of destruction back through the kitchen and dining room until it all exploded into a furious stream of urine flowing down the ramp. “Mama! Mama!” Manny cried, as though I hadn’t noticed what was happening.

I wanted to take the scream baton from Manny and run with it. I wanted to do that thing where I also act 2 years old, but I dress it up a little nicer so that it seems like it might be defendable adult behavior. I’ve been practicing that a lot lately. Thankfully, I was able to stifle my impulse long enough to get Manny to the bathroom where he proceeded to proudly deposit a poop in the potty, thus solving his mood entirely. Never underestimate the power of accomplishment.

This has been the week of love. Monday night Sam was just about to tuck Manny into bed when he asked him, “Who do you love?”
“Mama.”
“Who else do you love?”
“Daddy.”
“Who else do you love?”
“Rona.”
“Anyone else?”
“Glory. Lena.”
“Do you love Aslan?”
“Sometimes.” (Such complexity of emotion! )
By this point, Sam was really enjoying the conversation and wasn’t ready to let it end. So he began to prompt.
“Do you love anyone else? Grandma?”
“Grandma Mike.”
“Anyone else?”
“Cake.”

Then last night, after the poop accomplishment, Sam and I were serving the kids dinner. Sam said he loved me and Manny began to tell all of us that he loved us. Over and over and over. It was very dear and I was so glad to have so many opportunities to tell Manny I loved him back. He really is such a wonder.

Elena is walking all over the place. It is so shocking to catch a glimpse of her little head bobbing up and down as she walks around the kitchen island. These are the same girls who didn’t even roll until after they crawled. I laid them on the bed on their backs until they were almost nine months old. Every time I went to the doctor and had to fill out the questionnaire, I always lied.

“Do you leave your child unattended on the bed?”

“No.” I checked that box every time even though it was a total lie. And now Elena and Glory are trying to scale every climbable area of the house, which there are many. They even climb up on chairs and SIT on them. This may sound boring and obvious, but I hope I always celebrate these details. If I don’t , who will?

On Tuesday night, Sam and I put the kids down, handed Rona the Saint the baby monitor and went to Ryan and Brooke’s house to have a great conversation with Barry and Linda, a couple who are on the brink of being empty nesters. We came hungry for wisdom and perspective about parenting and marriage and following Jesus and they offered up stories of pain, struggle, triumph and praise for the faithfulness of God in their lives. It was the best church I have been to in a long time and I left wanting to love with more abandon, serve my family with less agenda and praise God for all of it.

Embrace the pain, Barry said. Embrace the frustration. Embrace the chaos.

What is remarkable about these sentiments to me is that pain, frustration and chaos are not limited to events of magnitude. Pain, frustration and chaos can sweep over me and there is really no discernable reason except that it is really hard to show up and be present in this life a lot of the time.

Last week, James B preached from the text where Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego receive their death sentence to walk into the fire, but they do not burn. And King Nebakenezer (not at all the spelling, but my phoentic version!) releases them amazed by God and God’s power. And James B’s point was that God does not deliver us from the fire. God delivers us from within the fire.

I hope I never get thrown into a literal fire. But emotionally, there are fires smoldering all over the place and they ignite without warning. I am excited about embracing the heat. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that it dawned on me that it really hurts to grow. I think I’ve always wanted to be mature because, in my opinion, I was never very good at being youthful. Self-awareness is a blessing and a curse. In high school, I equated maturity with melancholy and being moved by Sarah MacLachlan and Tori Amos in the dark. Now I think maturity is about how we respond. And responding requires refining. And refining requires some heat.

Makes me wish I had some more coffee. And some more time. Here’s to embracing the rest of the day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Too Much Water

Manny has begun to go to the bathroom by himself when it is time to use the potty. He always emerges proud and naked from the waist down because underwear is difficult to put on. I still trip every now and then. I frequently send him back from his triumphant victory lap around the kitchen island to flush the toliet and wash his hands. Every time Manny washes his hands, somewhere a reservoir empties. I guess conservation is a learned value.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hard Sun

I am listening to Hard Sun, an Eddie Vedder track from the film Into the Wild. When Glory and Elena were two weeks old and my mom had gone home, the girls went through a difficult period. And Sam and I were reminded what it meant to pace the floor for hours at night. Except when it was Manny, there was only one baby and two of us. And frequent naptimes during the day. Those weeks with the girls were an unpleasant experience and I remember thinking that this pacing with infants must be God’s way of reminding me that parenthood demands everything. Lay it all down. You think you can hang on to that? Nope. You’ve got to lay that down too.

But you know what? It feels really, really good to be sold out for something. I am a confused and divided person about some of the most important things more often than is comfortable. And even though I have moments where I want to hop in the mini-van and drive into the horizon, I am totally sold out on motherhood and the nurturing of my children. And if it means pacing floors and sopping up pee for the sixth time in one day, it is an easy choice. And there is rest in that.

Oh, but Eddie Vedder. When the girls would scream inconsolably in the middle of the night, Sam and I would take turns coming downstairs to the family room and we would pace in front of a movie. And all the movies we paced in front of were sad and dark and depressing, which did not improve my mood. The three I remember were I Am Robot, Into the Wild, and There Will Be Blood. And now every time I hear Hard Sun, I am back in those moments of helplessness and fatigue. Little Glory was probably six pounds. But really freaking loud. And terribly persistent.

I would say, remind me to watch cheerful, funny movies next time I am pacing the floors. But I don’t plan to pace again, except maybe for my children if ever they find themselves held prisoner by a sleepless baby.

Tonight at dinner, we were listening to a band called Beirut. Manny was sitting at the table finishing his teriyaki (Melissa- I get plenty of take-out despite my better intentions!) and he did the most extraordinary thing. He lifted his chin, closed his eyes, swayed his head back and forth and air drummed through the entire song. I could barely watch. It made me want to laugh uncontrollably. But I don’t want him to censor himself in front of me, so I walked away and stole glimpses here and there, just to make he was still feeling the music.

In Portland, during my dad’s retirement party, I took Manny to the potty and thought, oh no, I have become one of those women who coaches their children loudly in the stall. Another thing I never wanted to be. When we left the stall, there was a young woman in SHORT shorts with TAN legs washing her hands. Manny never saw her face, I don’t think. He turned to me and said, “She’s a pretty girl, huh?”

We went to the wading pool today. Finally. Don’t know why it took us so long. It is blocks away from our house and more shaded than I thought it would be. The girls wore swimsuits for the first time (pictures to come). They had ruffles on their bottoms, which grew substantially with the water. When we changed their diapers later, it looked like we hadn’t changed them for a whole week.

At the wading pool, I saw a baby whose head was the same size as Sam’s. No kidding. There was also a girl running around with goggles on. The water is like eight inches deep. And there was a girl in a fairy swimsuit, complete with a leaf-like skirt, prancing around sharing magic out of her plastic yellow bucket. For Elena, magic meant a Seattle Supersonics ball that she spent the next ten minutes chewing on.

Sam and I walked away asking each other, “Do we look as old as all the other parents there?” We talked this through for several minutes and decided that no, we don’t. Those people are all much, much older than us. Like at least three or four years.

This is a really random post. A series of unrelated thoughts, but in the spirit of things I want to remember, here’s another one.

On our last night at Gearhart on the Oregon Coast, my mom and Mike sent Sam and I to dessert for our 10th wedding anniversary. We left happy, full and with a bag of soft, delicious ice cream for my mom and Mike. On the way back, Sam decided to drive down onto the beach because, for better or worse, you can do that in Gearhart. We had not even gone halfway down when we got stuck in the sand.

Truth be told, I was more worried about the state of the ice cream than anything else, but I didn’t say that to Sam because I knew that would annoy him, as it should. He pushed and pushed the car and I revved and revved, cringing all the while, afraid he was going to throw out his back or something like almost 40 year old people do. The car didn’t budge.

We called Mike to save us. Mike probably could have been a British version of MacGyver. He is very resourceful. Upon arrival, Mike was there to greet the gang of 10 year old children who ultimately pushed our car out of the sand. One part The Little Rascals, one part the cast of the church Nativity play and all bravado, they saved us from an expensive towing bill and the ice cream was still in good form when we arrived back at the house.

My mom gave us a bad time about going to park on the beach and make out for our anniversary. If only we had made it onto the beach. But I still would have been thinking about the ice cream. That makes me laugh. It would make Sam laugh too. It’s good to be loved for who you are. And for ten years? That’s a whole lot of love. And a whole lot of ice cream. More to come. More to come.