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


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.


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.


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.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009


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.