Thursday, April 30, 2009

On the Verge of Hysteria

I am feeling a little crazy tonight. A few times in my life, I have felt this way, which is most clearly defined by my tendency to laugh a little too exuberantly at things that aren't really funny until I am laughing so hard I can't speak, but whatever it is that I'm trying to say is so deliciously hilarious that I keep trying and trying until I am choking on my laughter and I begin to sob. Often racking sobs and then I get really sad. The last time I remember this happening was before Manny was born. Aaron, Mindy, Harry and Kathleen were over and we were watching an online Japanese video about potty training animated cats. And we were all laughing because it was really funny, complete with personified poo-poos. And then I just freaked out and cried in a very unreasonable voice something to the effect of, "This is going to be my life!" And then I just started to sob and sob and sob. Like I couldn't stop. That is how I have felt tonight. Except I haven't sobbed yet. Maybe I should make this post short and try to beat the crash that's coming.

A few things I want to remember...

Glory is officially rolling over now, which she demonstrated brilliantly while I was trying to change her diaper on the family room floor.

Manny brushed my hair this morning. I was playing with the girls and felt him brush, but I couldn't figure out what large, long brush he could be using. Fortunately I caught him before he turned the vacuum on.

Later, while still playing with the girls, I turned around and there was Manny, looking incredibly proud, holding the bottle brush that I use to scrub the sippy cups. It was dripping all over the carpet. He smiled and said, "Mama! Toilet!"

We installed another gate between the dining room and the living room to protect the girls from the three steps. It has two large transparent plastic panels. While I was vacuuming the living room, the girls were both sitting on the top step, their little chubby legs dangling over the edge of the top step like they were sitting on a dock dipping their toes in the cool water. I already was getting a bit of the crazies and decided I was going to mash my face against the panels to see if I could make them laugh. They both mashed their faces back and shortly thereafter, Manny was mashing his face too and we were all kissing each other with smooshed lips through plastic. It was uproarious and transcendent. And it made me want to dance. The rest of the afternoon and evening, when the children weren't taking turns melting down, I continued to entertain and they continued to laugh. They were eating it up. I was like a human dancing Elmo. If Elmo wore a black nursing bra under a white v-neck covered in remnants of the five meals he prepared in the last ten hours. Ah yeah.

This morning on my way to the coffee shop, I thought to myself, I don't need this anymore. This being caffeine, routine, feeling keen. I don't know. I just thought I don't need this every day. But as the night wears on, I've decided the jury's still out. Tomorrow's a long day, I've got a plugged milk duct, and there's inevitably going to be lots of dancing to do.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


While Glory and Elena took their morning nap, I let Manny watch Clifford on PBS Kids so I could spruce up a little bit for our coffee date with Amy, do the dishes, start a load of laundry, brush Manny's teeth without a big fuss (I spend the entire time saying, "Open your mouth! Aaaah!" My mouth hangs open like I don't know how to close it and Manny's jaw always stays in a tight lock) and plan ahead for all the food experiments I am going to try on the babies. At 9:59 I realize the time and rush into the family room. If I let Dragon Tales begin, it will be a much bigger deal when I turn off the television. It's a big deal anyway. Manny wails like I just cut off his toe or his supply of raisins. I try to play it cool and lay down on the sofa bed next to him. It is amazing how this kid will succomb to snuggling even when he is blazing angry at me. I realize someday this will stop working. Or will it? Perhaps I will tell him he can't use the car and then we will spoon for fifteen minutes and share a mug of Fran's hot chocolate.

We have coffee with Amy and it's delicious. I love the company and having a friend to hold a baby offers opportunity to savor my latte, which has become my back-up parenting generator. After she leaves, I stay outside, holding both the girls while Manny runs around the yard delighted with pea gravel and plastic shovels. He makes his way to the front door and plays with Aslan's new rope that prevents the dog from making the entire yard his toilet. Now he is limited to just 1/3. I try to deter Manny by saying, "Honey, let's not play with that (using inclusive language as though I too am rubbing the urine soaked rope all over my hands and face). You don't want to get pee-pee in your mouth. Especially not Aslan's pee-pee" (as though there is a hierarchy of pee-pee you would and would not want to get in your mouth). None of this works. Eventually he starts riding his bike down the ramp without a helmet and this brings me relief.

2pm. All the children are sleeping. This is a rare enough pleasure that I feel a bit giddy. Not only have I eaten my lunch in peace, but I almost done reading The Good Earth and I have enough time leftover to roast the chicken that I am planning to use and reuse in fun and creative ways for the next three days. I get it in the oven and clean my prep area, feeling like an overachiever to not be leaving salmonella everywhere. And, oh, look at the time. I might even be able to lie down for a while. But no! The smoke alarm goes off! Freakin, frackin, why the heck is this thing so sensitive, I just put the chicken in for God's sake! I am so mad. I run around the house opening windows, turning the fan on high, muttering to myself and waving a giant bath towel at the smoke detector (which, incidentally, gets nowhere near it because we have high modern ceilings). The only benefit to it being so loud is I can't tell yet whether or not all the children are screaming. The horrible beeping ceases. No crying. I am amazed and shiver at the woosh of cool air that travels up into the kitchen and through my thin, attractive mom shirt that I finally ironed last Friday after weeks of being wadded up in my closet.

Ten minutes after the smoke alarm silences, both of the babies wake and I sit them down to play in the kitchen while I baste the chicken. I realize Sam left his iTouch at home and turn on his classical music playlist, in the hopes that I can still make them really, really smart by hearing the occasional Mozart. Moonlight Sonata comes on. I look over and Glory and Elena are performing synchronized modern baby dance on the rug. They both wrap their legs around their body in preparation for the crawling position and their arms reach up over their heads and back to their sides. It seems like it is all in time to the music. They are getting smart. It's working! Manny gets up and we are snuggling some more. It all seems so idyllic until Aslan throws up on the rug. Dog vomit has a funny way of deadening moods.

For dinner, all the children eat some of my roasted chicken. Manny and Glory especially love it. The girls have never eaten chicken before and I feel bolstered that my girls have added another food to the short list of things they will eat that don't require the dreaded spoon. Sam comes home and we get the girls ready for bed. It is early and that is good. For over a week, Glory or both have cried upwards of an hour trying to go to sleep. We have finally decided they are overtired from all their developmental leaps. Elena goes down peacefully. I take Glory back to her room to nurse her and while I am there, the face of Jesus appears to me on her concrete floor. I spend the time looking away and looking back, but I still see the face. I think about Jesus appearing on refrigerators and on pieces of bread and now on my daughter's floor. It is about as clear as a rabbit in a cloud, but it doesn't matter. It gives me peace and it makes me think about my kids and how much I love them. Glory cries for five seconds when I leave and it is quiet.

Manny plays outside with Sam. I bring him in so Sam can go to hear the man who coined the phrase "green collar job" speak and I give Manny his first gummi worms. A very special occasion. Watching him eat the food coloring pains me a bit. I think I will stick to raisins and natural food store gummi vitamins. After candy, he is in an especially good mood and we get his jammies on, read books, brush his teeth again, read more books and it is then that I realize he has wound his toothbrush into my hair for the second time today. This time I laugh as I unravel all the pieces of knotted hair from his red Bob the Builder toothbrush. How I managed to not notice he was doing this, I'm not sure. I guess I was really into Moo Who?, the gripping story of how Hilda Mae Heifer got her moo back after being clocked on the head with a rogue cowpie.

Glory wakes up shortly after I leave Manny and cries for well over an hour. When I go to her, and I do three times, she quiets immediately at the sound of my voice which melts my heart and makes me want to hold her, nurse her, do whatever she requires to be at peace. But I know that I cannot do these things or else it will become a pattern. This is the way it went with Manny and this is the way it goes with the girls. So I talk and rub and pat and talk some more, all in a voice I didn't know I had. A voice so soothing that I want to lay down and go to sleep. Thinking of it now, I suppose I will. Good night.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Twins on the Move

I was reminded this week why I did not post anything on this blog for almost a year. There never seemed to be an opportunity to string a thought together, let alone transcribe it to the page. There were so many noteworthy things that the children did this week, so many magical moments, maybe some of which I will write about tomorrow, but Sam and I are going to seize our opportunity for some entertainment and watch a little Slumdog Millionaire in our pajamas. But I had to write that Glory and Elena both officially started crawling forward today. On the same day. It is a sight to behold, especially Glory since we both feel like she is the teeniest person ever. We are delighted and so are they. I think the routine I have established for myself is about to get turned upside down, but so be it! Who am I to stand in the way of progress? Congratulations girls!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I'm So Glad I'm Here

There's this song by an artist named Elizabeth Mitchell that Sam's business partner passed on to me that does something strange to me every time I hear it. You have to hear the music to really get it, but the lyrics say, I'm so glad I'm here. I'm so glad I'm here. I'm so glad I'm here every day. I'm so glad I'm here. So glad I'm here. So glad I'm here everyday. You know, joy brought me here. Joy brought me here, etc. You know, love brought me here, love brought me here, etc. And then back to I'm so glad I'm here everyday. And it doesn't matter how I've been feeling and or what has frustrated me or what legitimate complaint I might feel that I have; this song is clarifying to me and suddenly, I see the miracle of the moment and gratitude swells up in me and dominates over everything else, even my desire to sleep through the night and the freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want (which, by the way, I have realized is overrated). I haven't heard this song in a while because the CD lives in the family room closet, which is the repository for everything I want to keep away from the children. I have not been able to find it in the 4 seconds I can have the door open before Manny dives in and starts playing with the 10 lb handweights guaranteed to break his toes. What are those handweights doing there anyway? All they do is collect dust. I do my bicep curls with 20 lb babies.

Lately, I haven't needed the CD to have the feeling. And that's a really cool thing. When the girls were first born, I was mightily overwhelmed and scared of being left alone with all three kids. I would count the minutes until Sam got home from work (to be honest, I still do this, but it's different now) and every morning, I had that first day of school feeling, but worse, because this time I was the teacher breastfeeding the students...this metaphor just doesn't hold up. I was just really, really stressed out. And I have found, that when I am stressed out and needy, it is difficult to rest in gratitude. But thanks to a lot of help from family and friends and a tremendous amount of personal growth (my own and all three of the kids), I find that I am able to really celebrate it all. If not in the moment, then within a few minutes of the moment. And that's pretty incredible.

This morning, I was so tired. I am up at least three times most nights. Often more. I do remarkably well considering, but this morning, I was drained. The girls went down for their nap and Manny said, "Mama, play trains?" "Let's just lay here for a minute first," I said. And I plopped down on the sofa bed and pulled the covers over my head, knowing that to Manny, that action was like a porch light to bugs. He was immediately under the covers too, laughing and squirming, kicking me accidentally and elbowing me in the face. You know, snuggling. After a while, he calmed down and we just layed there for, I don't know how long, maybe thirty minutes. Me stroking his hair, him eating mine. (An unfortunate habit of his. My mom always told me that if a boy chases you on the playground, it's probably because he likes you. I am afraid that Manny will chase girls, grab a string of their hair, wrap it around his finger and suck it down like candy, thereby inciting the ridicule of all his classmates. That might be enough to break the habit.) This time ended when Glory woke up. When I brought her back down to the family room, Manny had not moved. He looked up and said so sweetly, "Snuggle me!" I'm in love. We had more great snuggle time tonight (Sam, Manny and I) after Glory and Elena were asleep. All three of us were spooning on his big boy bed and Manny was practicing his lion growls and counting the dinosaurs on his wall. More hair was eaten and I almost didn't notice the sting because the moment was such bliss.

Most naps and nighttimes, I sing my own version of a worship song that Sam's parents sing all the time. The first verse, the real song, goes, "Thank you Lord for saving my soul. Thank you Lord for making me whole. Thank you Lord for giving to me, thy great salvation so rich and free." I go on to sing, "Thank you Lord for Elena Grace. Thank you Lord for her beautiful face. Thank you Lord for letting me be Elena Gracie's mommy." For Glory, I was having a tough time, but Sam helped me out so she gets, "Thank you Lord for Gloria Jane. Thank you Lord for her beautiful mane (she has a killer mohawk sometimes). Thank you Lord for letting me be Glory Jane's mommy." I have branched out to sing thanks for her beautiful name too, which is a partial rhyme with Jane. Still works. And it's a little tribute to my grandma at the same time. I write this, I guess, because I don't ever want to forget that I sing these words to them and I have been at this parenting thing long enough to realize that you can do sometime every day for a long time and then suddenly stop and were it not for the reminder of your spouse months later, never think on it again. Amazing. It used to be while I sang this that the girls would often suck on my face, which I loved. Now they pinch me like little crabs in training. I am covered in small scabs and red scratches. I look like someone whipped me with a string of Christmas lights. But I guess I love that too because it means their fine motor skills are really improving, which means they will be able to eat more finger foods soon. Mmm...finger foods. Time for second dinner. I'm so glad about that too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Snot socks

I pick a lot of noses. Frankly, my finger is a lot more welcome than a tissue. If Elena and Glory even spot a tissue out of the corner of their eye, they arch their backs until their heads touch their toes and it is impossible to see their dried pea-sized nostrils. And with Manny, sometimes it is simply more expedient to use my finger, even though he has matured out of his unreasonable fear of tissues. Nose picking always raises a tough question. What does one do with the matter that one recovered from the nostril? Wipe it on the inside of your sock? This is a common solution for me and one I would endorse because you wash your socks every time you wear them. If you wipe it on the inside of your pant leg and then forget about the booger, you might find it the next time you wear those pants and be grossed out. If you are me, you still don't care because fatigue has a way of eliminating vanity. If it is dried, do you just flick it onto the carpet knowing that you might vacuum in the next 7-28 days? Do you put it on a shelf, promising yourself that you will get a tissue when you have a chance? Feel free to weigh in on this dilemna. The kids have been recovering from a cold for four weeks now and sometimes the recovered matter is too extreme to go the sock route, even for me. It is so peaceful nursing a baby with your boogered finger in the air, looking all around you for some scrap of paper or diaper or dust bunny on which to deposit your treasure. And it is exhilarating when you get the big one. I won't lie. I have had spontaneous bursts of joy over extracting what was sure to block one of my children's major airways before bedtime. What I discovered today is that I can send Manny to fetch a scrap of tissue. He even brought me the whole roll and, here's the kicker, I only had to ask once. In comparison, I had to ask him upwards of fifty times to make his way to the car from the zoo today. So, to ask once, felt...miraculous. People are always saying to take joy in the little things. I am doing my best to take that advice.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Three Snapshots of Manny

Even on a bad nap day, I can usually count on an hour to get things done. Manny might be talking to himself or jumping wildly for the entire time, but my hands are free and that is worth celebrating. Today was a nap day that a few months ago would have ruined my day. The girls were only down for forty minutes and Manny didn't sleep at all. All three kids were crying at the same time and I was ferrying them down the stairs, trying to calm each one enough to set them down so I could go get the next one.

With Glory in her high chair eating Trader Joe's Os, green, thick snot lodged between her nostril and her lip and Elena chewing on the straps of the Ergo on the rainbow gymnastic mat in the dining room, I began to make preparations to leave the house, the only way to preserve my sanity with such a long afternoon stretch to fill. Make rice. This was the one item I could not forget, otherwise dinner would never be ready on time. Manny likes to pull up a chair and help dump the rice and the water in the rice cooker. When we do this, I feel like a great mom because I am facilitating an opportunity for him to become acclimated to kitchen duties and therefore take over all dinner prep by the time he enters grade school. If his tastes do not change, all of our meals will consist of raisins, cookies and meat. Manny poured the rice and water perfectly. We were both so pleased with ourselves when the lid was shut and the start button was pressed that Manny picked up a tupperware off the counter and put it on his head like a hat. This is how you express happiness when you are two. Unfortunately, it contained two inches of water, which soaked his shirt. If he had napped, maybe, MAYBE he could have laughed, but with no nap, all he could do was flip open his mouth like the cartoon man from the Oral B commercial and scream, fat tears streaming down his cheeks. And I, having no buffer from no break, just laughed. The harder he cried, the harder I laughed and tried to convince him to laugh with me. No deal. Eventually, he pathetically said, between sobs, "go zoo?!?" I said yes and we had a terrific afternoon.

I am constantly coming up with "carrots" to hang in front of Manny to get him to do things I want him to do. Manny can take thirty minutes to walk one block, and this is when he is really excited about the destination. As soon as we pulled into the garage from our trip to the zoo, I started to talk to Manny about going upstairs and opening the door to the deck for Aslan. This worked! Manny went straight for the door! My fatal mistake was going into Sam's empty office, right next to the deck, to turn on music. Manny saw the door swing open and grabbed his plastic bat and tee as though we were going to engage in a lively game of baseball. We have a "no playing in the office rule" and there was an immediate meltdown combined with a total lack of listening resulting in an order to head straight to the time out chair. More screaming and flailing. Now I felt bad. I mean, opening the door to the office when Manny was right there was akin to putting a chocolate cupcake on Manny's plate and then getting mad at him for eating it because it was really MY cupcake. So I sat next to the time out chair, ready to explain this. But first I felt like he owed me an apology for being such a violent drama queen. So I said, very gently, "Can you say sorry to me?" And he says, sobbing, "Sorry me." And again, just like with the water over the head, I crack up. He screams harder. Pull it together, I tell myself! I apologize for creating this muck in which we are now wading in and promises of Daddy coming home get us through the next fifteen minutes before Sam actually walks through the door.

After Manny's extended shower, Sam had to wrestle him to the bed to put on his diaper. (Manny takes longer showers than a teenager these days because it is something for him to do while we get the babies ready for bed. By the way, if you have never seen a two year old take a shower, it's just funny. His little body parts and his big, round belly, not to mention the constant yanking of his penis. Priceless.) Anyway, once his diaper was in place and the initial pee danger had passed, we were both too exhausted to broach his onesie. I was trying to nurse Elena and Glory was laying on the bed, an easy target for Manny to pounce on. In an attempt to buy some peace and some time, Sam asked Manny to go to his room for a library book (one of Manny's most favorite things). He took off like a shot, his chubby naked legs shooting out more to the side than to the back, and we turned our attention to the girls. After a period of silence, I heard his feet pounding back down the hall. I look up, and to my surprise, he is running with a full-size laundry basket over his head, the rim of which comes almost to his ankles. Again, I crack up and for the first time today, Manny and I are laughing hysterically at the same thing. What a great way to end the day.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Chillin' Out at the Grocery Store

As soon as I step outside the front door, I know it was a mistake not to bring a coat. It is cold, rainy and windy. Thankfully, Whole Foods has an underground parking garage, so I don't go back inside. Once I get to the car, it will be warm and I'll be fine.

One thing I am learning about myself is that I am hopelessly unobservant. Like, I can know people all my life and not be able to tell you with any certainty what their eye color is. Stuff like that. Stuff like the fact that grocery stores are chilly.

I walk in and immediately am aware that not only is it freezing inside, but I am also not wearing a proper bra. And the nursing pads I have had as a nipple barrier throughout the day are compromised. One is in the sink full of dirty diapers in my bathroom (It's like building one of those peaceful miniature rock gardens in a small box of sand, except it's a squishy diaper mountain and it smells) and I don't know the whereabouts of nursing pad number two. I decide to make this shopping trip quick.

Side note: When you have two babies with industrial vacuum strength sucking powers nourishing themselves off of your body all day, it does something to your nipples. Enough said.

My course is always to begin in the refrigerator section and move through the freezer section. I am now covering myself with my electric turquoise shopping list. Years ago when we were first married, I bought a ream (yes, 500 sheets) of this electric turquoise paper. This was one of my favorite colors as a kid and I guess I wasn't quite over it until my mid-twenties. So, now I use it for random purposes and suspect I will for a long time. Maybe I will print my children's high school graduation party invitations on it.

I am paranoid about some things. I have that disease where I think people are looking at me when likely no one actually is. This is why I have never been able to fast dance in public, why when I wear a lower-cut shirt I am constantly checking out my neckline to see how much cleavage I am really showing (which is impossible to determine since no one has the vantage point of my head) and why I am darting up and down the aisles of Whole Foods treating my grocery list like it is a tube top. This paranoia, in particular relation to grocery stores, is only enforced by a persistent memory of a college trip to QFC where my only purchases were two large pummelos (Chinese grapefruits). I carried them in the palms of my hands as one would if carrying two large balls and the lanky, slack-jawed checker made some snide comment about my nice grapefruits. I did not find him funny.

When I make it to the fish counter, I think I am getting close. After this, it's just bulk foods, produce, checkout and game over. I look across the counter. I know this guy. I see him a lot. And either he is the kind of guy who looks at everyone with just a hint of warmth or I remind him of some girl who broke his heart in junior high. There is an awkwardness between us as he carefully selects each piece of sole for my fish tacos. I make some ridiculous comment about how impressed I am that my order is exactly one pound and he answers very seriously about how hard he tries to select the right fillets to match the requested weight. It is at this moment that I find my second nursing pad. It is shoved into a wad under my breast where I put it while Elena was nursing before bed. I have not felt this conspicuous since I stuffed my bra with socks in the sixth grade to imagine what it be like to have boobs. And how is it that I have dropped my turquoise grocery list to my side? Grocery list up! Oh and I am practically dancing. There is no music playing, but I sway dramatically back and forth, as I often do when I should be standing still. When I wearing a baby, no one questions it. But I have no baby. Just a bunchy nursing pad and I am smiling too much and still talking about how impressed I am with his fish selection. When is he going to print the stupid label? Finally fish in hand. I say goodbye, turn around and hoist up my pants. They are on the verge of falling off.

He walks by me while I am loading up a plastic bag full of organic thick rolled oats. The floor was clearly just swept before I arrived. When I walk away, you can see the outline of my shoes in the pile of oats I leave behind.

Calypso music plays on KEXP all the way home. I find myself pumping my fist in the air like I am an audience member for Arsenio Hall. I consciously try not to do the white man's overbite, but I do clap and snap my fingers like someone who has no musical talent. My kids are going to be embarrassed of me someday. I will try to protect them from this, but there will always be another day when I can't find my coat and it's time to go to the grocery store.