Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chocolate and Pee

I asked Manny what he wants for breakfast. "Oatmeal or Pancakes?" "Chocolate," he said. "Me too," I said. We settled on oatmeal and pancakes. And then chocolate chip cookies after dinner. Lucky kid.

During bathtime, Manny pushed Elena. He constantly pushes the babies. My mom tells me that I used to hit my sister over the head with books and continued to do so after lots of intervention, so I guess he comes by it naturally. Sam pulled Manny out of the tub, naked, to have a little discussion about his behavior. After Sam gave Manny the talk, he asked him to say, "Yes Daddy. I understand." Instead of repeating that obedient phrase, Manny grabbed his penis and peed on Sam's leg. We can all relate to that, right? Somebody tells us we can't do what we want to do and we really just want to pee on them. Thank God that is socially unacceptable or life would be a whole let messier. Manny eventually said what he was supposed to say and rejoined the tub. Sam washed his leg.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Diaper Changing, Part 2 + Some Old Pictures











First of all, I just want to say that anyone posts a comment, I get a real kick out of it. I don't know what the blogging etiquette is. It feels rude to read a comment and not respond somehow, like if someone left you a thoughtful voice mail and you never returned their call, but it also seems silly to assume that any of you would be checking back to see if I wrote, "Thanks!" below your comment. So feel free to educate me if there is some blogging etiquette and I will add that to the list of things I forget to do because I am preoccupied with all the other things I am not doing.
Yesterday morning, I was trying to get the kids ready for a trip to the Vance's house. Elena had a poopy diaper so I pull out a new package of wipes. Manny, being the helpful lad that he is, opens up the package, pulls off the sticker that reads "Remove Completely" and affixes it to his forehead. Then he lays down next to me and rolls back and forth like a dog who wants his tummy rubbed. I open the diaper and attempt my first wipe when I realize that Glory, at not even 11 months old, can read. She is following instructions and trying to "remove completely" the sticker from Manny's forehead. Manny doesn't like this and pushes Glory. Elena wants to get in the middle of it all, but I have made no progress on her bottom and am trying to micro-manage Glory and Manny while I grip Elena's ankles. The scene keeps playing out over and over like a skipping record. Glory reaches to remove the sticker. Manny pushes her. I freak out. Repeat. Finally, I just ignore Manny and Glory, tackle Elena, wash my hands and escape out the back door for a much-needed coffee break. (All true except for the escape.)

Thinking I have paid my diaper dues for the day, I retreat to the kitchen/dining room (where I do most of my poopy changes....mmmm...appetizing) and realize that Manny needs to be changed too. He lies still for me. Good boy. Oh no! It's Glory again and she is alternately trying to gouge Manny's eyes out and stick her hand in his diaper deposit. Oh no! There's Elena on my other side. Manny is trying to get away. I would too if two babies were sticking their fingers in my eyes. I don't know how we made it out of that one, but I didn't have to change my clothes or theirs, nor did I have to clean the carpet. I think that's what we Christians like to call mercy.

On my way to the Vance's, I stop at Macrina to pick up a latte for myself and one for Candace. There is a parking spot right in front. Grace. I go inside with one baby in the Ergo, one in my arm and Manny between my legs again. I am aware that I look ridiculous, especially when I add to that two steaming hot beverages. Why do I do this almost every day? Why do I put myself into this awkward, attention-grabbing position? I didn't even really care for espresso prior to the girls' birth. A nice barista helps me to the car and as I drive to Shoreline, eating my morning glory muffin, I realize that this has become my coping mechanism. It bothers me that I require a coping mechanism in the first place, as though that is revealing of some weakness I would not have were I a better person. As far as coping mechanisms go, it's a whole lot better than breaking out the wine at 3pm or any other list of things that help people get through their day. And maybe there isn't any thing wrong with it at all. Maybe I waste too much time evaluating myself and too little time just savoring the opportunity that is now.

And now there is a baby (Elena) crawling up my leg and wiping her nose all over my hip. She already coated my back. I like being this down to earth. I like that she feels like she owns me and that she sees me as an extension of herself. I think, in general, this attitude the children have of viewing me as completely accessible all the time, actually makes me feel more accessible in really good ways. Except for when I am wondering if I have travelled down a dark road by buying too many lattes and eating too many muffins. Especially ones that don't have cauliflower in them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A few thoughts before making muffins

I am about to make muffins with cauliflower puree in them. Sounds unusual, I know. But pretty darn tasty and indiscernable with banana and peanut butter, and of course, lots of brown sugar. I am discovering that cooking is really important to me. Even when I'm exhausted and I should just be going to bed, I still do it. Sure, it's for the kids. But it's also for me. I remember when the girls were almost six weeks old and my aunt Virginia and cousin Alissa were coming up for the day. I was really struggling. Every time I nursed the girls, they fussed and screamed and this was going on about six times a night between the two of them, not to mention all day long. And, even in the midst of all that, I insisted on making cookies. I am sure it did not make an impression on my aunt and cousin, but it felt so critical to me. And it has been that way all throughout. Why am I not wired so that running three miles and lifting weights are the thing I will not sacrifice, no matter what? Oh well. Why fight your deepest impulses? Instead, I am just trying to make every cooking experience count. Which is why I spent three hours today making a barley risotto that was only supposed to take 50 minutes. And then I ate it in 5 minutes so that I could get the kids fed and up to bed on time.

Our outing this morning was to Caffe Fiore, one of my favorite spots since the girls were born. They have a teeny, but cool, kid's korner with books, toys and two tiny chairs. I parked my enormous double jogging stroller just off the bathroom door (far enough away that people can still use the bathroom, but close enough that everyone involved feels awkward) and gave the kids crackers and apples so I could have a moment to sit on the tiny chair and enjoy my espresso. I thought perhaps reading books to the kids would stimulate their brain development and buy me more time. Manny wanted to read an Elmo counting book. The words on the last page read, "Elmo loves you." The End. This really stuck with me. The only other person we hear this regularly about is Jesus. I have never even heard the phrase "Santa loves you." But apparently after counting from one to ten, the next logical thing to say is "Elmo loves you." I didn't read that part. I would prefer they used the extra page to teach children about the number eleven. Eleven Elmos. There's a good idea!

I think I might pull a muscle changing diapers. I don't remember when we crossed over. Maybe it was a gradual process. A partial roll here. A wiggly leg there. But now when I change Glory and Elena's diapers they immediately flip over and try to escape, which is tricky if they are dirty. It is a harrowing experience to be holding a poopy child by the ankles when the only part of their body touching the floor is their hands. And you can tell it's going to be a two-wiper. Maybe a three or four, depending on the level of skill demonstrated in the wiping. For as many times as I have wiped my children's bottoms, I have refined my wiping skills very little. Maybe it's the same reason I am no good at tennis. My follow through is weak. Today, I could not get Elena's diaper on her and Manny was standing on the ramp pulling his off. It would be so much easier to let them run around naked, but no diapers is a slippery slope (literally with our ramp) and my children are already so much grubbier than I ever imagined they'd be. I have decided that spray and wash is for people with too much time on their hands.

I love how so often when Manny is doing something I don't want him to do, like push his sisters, I say “Let's not do that” as though we are both pushing Glory off of our high chairs. Does that lessen the impact of my reprimand, to suggest that I share the responsibility of the push with him? I have a lot of opportunity to think about this because pushing is always on Manny's to-do list.

MANNY'S TO DO LIST

1. Watch Clifford.
2. Eat raisins.
3. Push Elena.
4. Climb something I'm not supposed to.
5. Clean the top of the toliet with my toothbrush after 5 seconds of brushing my teeth.
6. Push Glory.
7. Eat Mama's hair.
8. Repeat #3 and #6 and #7 until Mama shouts at Aslan.
9. Back off for one minute and then resume being alternately charming and territorial, depending on what the babies are touching.

Life is beautiful. I'm going to go bond with my cauliflower puree.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Manny's apprenticeship


On Saturday, Manny participated in his first day-long building project and Glory and Elena attended their first wedding. My high school prom date, Matt, married the love of his life, Amanda. It was a beautiful ceremony with lots of happy shrieks inserted during the vows by the girls. Elena was trying to remove my face during the majority of the ceremony. My skin was stinging throughout the cocktail hour, so much so, that I had to ask Sam if I looked like I had been attacked. He said no, but it sure felt like it. I really enjoy people fawning over the children and I get it everywhere I go because a. lots of people love babies and I have lots of them and b. my children are very cute. I don't think this is an arguable opinion. It is fact. And I take no credit. But I sure take a lot of joy in it. My favorite interaction, regarding the girls, after the wedding ceremony, was with Amanda's uncle who said he loves to hear the sounds of happy babies at weddings. And I think I agree. Whether or not Matt and Amanda have children of their own, a wedding is a time where we all gather to honor a part of the cycle of life. Young and old and everything in between, we gather. And we witness. And then we drink and eat cake and be merry, or if you're Sam and I, we rush home for bedtime before our babies stop being cute and start being really, really annoying.















My mom took these fantastic photos and I haven't figured out how to configure them beautifully with my text. And since Super Why on PBS Kids is almost over, I'm not going to worry about it now. My mom and Mike came up this weekend to build a ramp so that the children would stop falling down the stairs between the dining room and the living room. Manny was Mike's assistant every step of the way. He helped carry the lumber, he passed Mike the pencil, he hid half the screws (which we have yet to find) and he tried to pack up all the equipment that Mike unplugged every single time Mike went in the house. By lunchtime, Manny could no longer speak. He could only scream. He was so tired and wanted so badly to keep working that it drove him past the point of language. He took a nap and by the time we got back from the wedding, he had run up and down the ramp so many times that he was exhausted again. Mom and Mike made Manny feel like an integral part of the project from start to finish and thereby gave Manny a memorable day and a valuable sense of accomplishment. And now we've got an amazing place to race cars and/or babies.
With recent visits from my dad, Lisa, Grandma Barb, my mom and Mike, Manny has plenty of people to miss. Before Super Why, we were playing with giant Lego blocks. Manny built a tower and then lifted it to his ear like it was a 12-inch wide phone (kind of like the cell phone bricks people used in the early 90s). I followed in suit and we talked to Mom about the cookies she was baking and Dad about the lunch and ice cream he was about to eat. Everything I would say, Manny would repeat into his blocks. I think he is going to be an excellent conversationalist, at least about food. And when it's 9:30 and you've been up for 4 hours already, what else is there? Why does Mom making cookies have to be imaginary? If only the blocks were really a phone and if only Portland was really Seattle.
By the way, Mike said that the above photo looks like Manny is attempting a bank robbery and I totally agree.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A little privacy please

When I don't have a chance to write about my day, I really miss it now. I think this blog creates a pattern of punctuation. If I don't stop to write at least a few reflections, all the things I wish to remember vaporize and are gone. This must be why so many people have told me that their first year with twins was a blur and they hardly remember anything at all. But if I take a moment to stop and write, my life ceases to feel like one long day and a different rhythm is instituted. I appreciate it.

I have never been a good journaler. Journaling, to me, has always been something, if you're being honest about your life, that you wouldn't want someone else to find and read because it would be embarrassing and/or incriminating. I can't count how many pages I have ripped out of journals because everything I wrote made me want to vomit. Apparently I should have hung onto them because there is a market for this kind of thing. My friend Nikki goes to open mike nights where people read from their junior high journals. She says it is hysterical. I'm not surprised. Because hysterical is exactly what we were when we wrote them.

I think my hang up is the audience. If you're journaling, who is the audience? Some people keep prayer journals, so I guess in that case, God is the audience. I like that idea, but when I try it, it just sounds like verbose emotional cholesterol (the bad kind), again my gag reflex is activated and I rush to my nearest garbage can or recycling bin - I can't decide which is better in this case- I would shred it, but my shred pile is nearing bonfire status- and the result is anything but meditative and instructive.

So, somehow this blog medium compels me. It scares me a bit- the openness of it all and I find I err too much on the side of censorship. But having an audience demands that you tell a story and that works for me. If there is one thing I could become excellent at (since the Lord did not see fit to make me a theatrical triple threat), I guess it would be story telling. So often I don't post anything because I don't have time to write something involved. So here's to the beginning of giving myself permission to tell very short stories.

My mom and I took Glory and Elena to the grocery store today. Elena had refused to take her afternoon nap because mom and Mike arrived right before naptime and she wanted to be social. As soon as we got in the car, she zonked out and was still sleeping when I parked in the underground garage. Mom stayed with her while Glory and I zipped through the store, me feeling as light as a feather with only one child and her kicking her legs to some internal rhythm, her little pudgy feet smacking me in the sides. When the elevator opened for Glory and I to go down, there was Mom and Elena. We returned to the car and Elena was disillusioned and mad. She thought she had come all this way to have an experience and now we were buckling her right back into the car seat. She screamed. And screamed. So I decided to feed her before we left so she wouldn't cry all the way home. Talk about recipe for a car accident. I didn't have anything to cover up with, so I just counted on my tinted windows to be enough of a shield. As I nursed Elena, she pressed the automatic window button with her toes and rolled it all the way down. I rolled it back up and she proceeded to roll down Glory's window with her toes.

It's is 11:08pm and I am trying to put a button on this post. This story doesn't have a lot of zing and it wasn't life changing. But it was funny and it made me happy. It was unexpected and charming and it involved more pudgy feet, which is always a really good thing. And I guess that's enough for now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Finally- Pictures!


This photo, as well as the one of Elena and our new film crew friend Randy, were taken by Rosa, the sound gal from the film crew that came to our house last week. Our house is going to show up on Greenest Homes of the World/Earth/Universe on HGTV (why have I still not figured out the name of this show?) Anyway, this experience, as well as many other things, have prevented me from writing in a long time. And even as I'm writing this, I am thinking of all the people I have snubbed on email. Why am I blogging when I should be replying to them?
I dunno. I am just overwhelmed these days and there is so much I can't get to. So I try to make the best choices I can. Like feeding the children and occasionally cleaning up the dirty diapers.

However, in the hopes that at least my mom is still looking at this, I decided to do a short post so you could see the kids. Aren't they lovely and amazing? That is Glory with me and my dad at Gorditos last Sunday so 1, 2, 3. There they are.




And now a few short stories.
Bedtime. Glory is crawling around our bedroom in her sleep sack like Maggie Simpson. She runs into my foot, plants her forehead into the concrete floor and shrieks like a banshee. Manny stands over her, naked but for his diaper, with his hands on his hips. "Fire truck," he pronounces authoratively. This, in reference, to what happened after he split his forehead on a door back in October. He frequently talks about his experience, but this is the first time he recommended the fire truck come back. Glory is fine and we have not added another teddy bear from the Seattle Fire Department to our collection.
The girls will frequently be crawling, catch one another's eye, laugh simultaneously and race toward one another like they are playing chicken, infant style. They almost always butt heads and often cry as a result.
Macrina Bakery. One of my favorite haunts. I have Elena in the Ergo baby carrier, Glory in my left arm, I am doctoring my latte with my right arm and Manny has parked himself right between my legs. A guy labors to get by me and says, with a hint of annoyance, but without judgment, "You look like a tree." I want to give him an award for originality. I constantly am told, "You have your hands full!" which I have discovered is the universal first response when you see a woman with three small children. I only gotten "You look like a tree" once and I wanted to make sure I remember it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Roomies

On Sunday we took the plunge and moved Elena into the girls' bedroom that Glory has been sleeping in since December. When we first brought the girls home from the hospital, I had envisioned that we would nestle them in the same crib and that they would hold each other, suck on each other's fingers and bring one another a comfort so deep and so sustaining that they would have no need to wake up and see me every two hours. Didn't happen. I don't really remember that first night at home. All I know is that we tried the crib, it didn't work, and they ended up between us in bed, their spindly limbs travelling in and out of the gigantic holes in their newborn onesies. For the last ten months, it has been a long journey with many steps to get to the point where we are today. Both girls in their own room. Truly, I have treasured every step. I have also agonized over every step and, at times, thought I was going to lose my mind if we didn't make some progress like five minutes ago.

The last two days have been tough. There has been more crying and less sleeping because of the transition and I think I teeter on the edge of competency most of the time. So it doesn't take much to push me into a place where I feel like I can't make this whole thing work to my liking. And "this whole thing" has really changed. Used to be I could just make sure the girls were happy in my arms or a bouncy chair and we were good. Now, with moving and eating and pulling themselves up in their cribs and all the rest, it is a whole different set of challenges.

Yesterday, our morning outing was to go to Trader Joes and then to Caffe Fiore. The outing involved another first. First snack on the go for the girls. I bought a package of crackers and let them all nibble happily. We are turning so many corners that I am dizzy. Manny also picked up a balloon at TJs and was quite delighted with his new orange friend whose lifespan was shorter than a fruit fly. When we got back to the house, iced mocha in hand, we went to the front yard to play in the pea gravel. Manny jumped on his new treasure and the poor balloon exploded with a cry of defeat. Oh wait. That was Manny.

I set the girls in the pea gravel for the first time. Summer is coming and I have to figure out how I am going to keep the kids safe and happy outside. I would welcome any suggestions. Glory and Elena immediately began to shove handfuls of pea gravel in their mouths. I tried to finger swipe them all out, remembering the horror story in Super Baby Food about a mother who killed her child by shoving a piece of food the child was choking on further into her mouth. I swipe Glory. Elena's got one in her mouth. I swipe Elena. Glory's got two in her mouth. I swipe Glory and something out of the corner of my eye catches my attention. It's Manny drinking my iced mocha. So much for naptime. I hop up to grab the mocha and mumble something about Mama's coffee. I have looked away for one second and the girls are in trouble again. I try to set them on the deck and they immediately crawl head first over the step into the gravel pit. Manny is riding his plastic car down the ramp into the fledgling plants. He is ramming his plastic car into the fledgling plants. Ah! I spot a cigarette butt from the iron workers who finished up months ago. Glory is sucking on a piece of the bamboo fence that Aslan chewed up and spit out. Egad. Somehow I got all the children inside and by dinnertime I had a total meltdown, provoked by Aslan. He is usually the straw that breaks the camel's back. He is also the most maligned good dog I have ever known. I curse him daily, poor thing. Thank God Rona had the prescience to bring me an egg carton full of mini-cupcakes. God uses people to answer our prayers. That particular prayer was just a groan. I never even thought the word cupcake. But Rona knew. And cupcakes were just the thing.

The girls were up at 5:30 this morning. The good news was they did better through the night. The bad news was it was 5:30 and though Sam and I made a valiant effort to stay in bed, it was hard to rest with both the babies climbing all over us stretching our lips out like taut rubber bands. Will someone please clip their fingernails? I keep meaning to do it, but I am too busy making unusual vegetable purees (yesterday it was beets) to tame the claws.

After breakfast, I saw Glory pick something small and obscure out of the rug and eat it. While I was vacuuming, my thoughts drifted to how I was voted Princess of Kindness my senior year in high school. (I think the prompt was perhaps all my unkind thoughts toward Manny, who was really testing my limits.) I was told, on the sly, that I also won the Princess of Charm category. I have always wished they gave me this great honor instead. So much sexier to be charming than kind. And isn't charm a fruit of the spirit in some translation of scripture? While I was following this ridiculous line of thinking, I moved my vacuum toward the set of three stairs and saw Elena in the process of falling down them. Her head was stuck on the middle step and I screamed like a banshee, vowing this will never happen again. Not on my watch! Eight hours later, it happened again while I was trying to let Aslan go outside (Aslan! Who said you could have needs?) This time I screamed like someone stabbed me in the leg. And then the other leg. And then both my arms too. It was a long scream. The children all looked at me like I'm crazy. I think they might be right.

I limped to bedtime. I nursed Elena first, but Glory wouldn't stop crying so I moved to the couch so that both girls could nurse at the same time. I still have not gotten over the absurdity and beauty of this scene. One girl in each arm and me doing my best to draw them close so that they stay latched on. They cover my whole lap except for a small space on my stomach which looks like an inflated air mattress and my belly button reminds me of a soggy fruit loop. The girls arm wrestle as they drink their milk. Manny crawls up the side of the couch, straddles the top of my head, and flosses his teeth with my hair. I cannot move. And I am in pain. Manny's precious love can be so painful and it almost always involves my hair. Sam looks on sympathetically and helplessly. All the children have such a profound need for me. And I for them. I'm just the only one in the bunch who can define gentle.

Trying to develop more patience is like trying to make your nose grow bigger. You think it's impossible. It can't be done. It is already as big as it will ever be. It would take a miracle to make it any bigger. And then somehow it grows. (If you're me, literal nose growth is easy. I have examined photos. If this continues, by the time I'm fifty, I will be able to stuff my fist up my nostrils. I guess that could come in handy, as my fists are almost always cold.) Anyway, patience. Somehow it comes. But it sure is painful when you need it and you haven't developed it yet. That breaking point where I'm screaming at the dog because he's licking up the spilled milk- somehow that is evidence that my patience has grown, because a few months ago, I would have shouted at the dog at lunchtime instead of dinnertime. And this is worthy of celebration. I struggle to remember this as my instinct is to feel defeat. But once again, the children are asleep. No one is injured and I'm pretty certain they all drifted off feeling nurtured and loved. And if nothing else, there will be some sleep tonight in some intervals and I live close to some great coffee shops I can visit in the morning. I'm going back to my old motto. Coffee is cheaper than childcare. And therapy, as Sam Vance wisely added.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Pleasure of Choice

Last night Manny got to stay up past the girls and eat fish tacos, black beans and crispy tips asparagus (thanks Sarah! check out www.inpraiseofleftovers.com- an inspired food blog and my new favorite website). My mom and Mike are here and I was so proud of Manny. He sat so patiently and ate so well that I almost couldn't wait for him to pronounce the magic words, "all done" so I could jump up and fix him a mug of this fabulous ice cream from Eat Local with a chocolate hazelnut biscotti, courtesy of Grandma Jan. Manny opened his mouth to speak. I readied myself to whisk his plate away, but instead of "all done", he said, "make poo-poo" in a really strained and whiny voice. So we proceeded to have a long discourse about how this business was all going to go down, but we weren't making any progress. So finally I say, "Here are your choices. You can either have ice cream or make a poo-poo. What do you want to do? Do you want ice cream or do you want to make a poo-poo?" Manny chose ice cream. The rest of us were cracking up. Sam kept fishing for the perfect one-liner. By then, the ice cream was done and Sam was on to, "hey baby. Do you want to take a shower or make a poo-poo?" This, of course, was Manny's next choice. He had trouble deciding that one too so I sent him off to play and sure enough, within a minute he was back in the kitchen, an odd color of green (which is what happens when the urge converges, so to speak), and I was encouraging him in a gentle, but firm and assured voice, "Good job. You can do it. That's right. Good work Manny." The completely trusting and half-agonized look on his face was more than I could stand and pretty soon, both my mom and I had our heads on the table laughing. There are a lot of difficult choices in life. I am glad that I am preparing Manny to be able to negotiate these situations by giving him daily opportunities to practice decision making skills. What a pleasure it is when either choice makes you feel better and everyone is pleased with you.