Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Grandpa Hal

Most of you who read this blog knew Hal Tyler personally. But for those of you that didn't, he was one hell of a guy. Which is why I try to reference him as frequently as possible. One thing I love to remember about Grandpa is that he was a hand holder.

I don't know when he became that way. I can't imagine that when my aunt brought home her first boyfriend, Grandpa Hal held the boyfriend's hand while he gave him a tour of the house, but at some point, Hal Tyler became a hand holder. It was an extension of his care and love for people, a way of communicating things he probably didn't say much, like, "I see you. You matter. You are lovable." He was such a servant-hearted person, always willing to help and quick with a joke. When my sister and I were kids, we played pictionary and OH, did he draw Dolly Parton. Quick with a joke and fast with a pencil too.

Grandpa passed away 3 1/2 years ago. Soon after that, I had two dreams about him. In the first, I actually don't recall if he was there or not. I guess that's why you should write dreams down when they happen! I just remember that upon entering his garden he kept at the home he and Grandma lived in for 45 years, I knew it was now my job to tend that garden.

While I do think it would make him smile if I learned how to grow heavenly raspberries like he did, what that dream meant was that he planted many seeds in my life. Generosity, faithfulness, humility, an appreciation for animals and the earth, laughter, a love of nuts (which took me almost 3 decades to cultivate) and a respect for human life not in any way general, but in a very specific love the person standing right in front of me sort of way.

In the second dream, we were in a room with Grandma and Grandpa was lying in a bed in his hospital gown. He rose up. Then we were in a multitude of people singing, like in church, and he was dancing joyfully in his hospital gown, which, for the record, is NOT something he would have done on this side of heaven. It was pretty glorious.

After he died, I told Grandma I wanted to go to a brunch buffet every year on his birthday because Grandpa loved to eat, and when called upon, like my husband, could put away a healthy sum of food. But a brunch buffet with Glory, Elena and Manny sounds a bit horrifying at this point. So I haven't really held to my intention, but today I decided I could at least muster a trip to a the bakery.

While we were getting ready to leave, I happened upon all the kids in Manny's room rubbing organic shortening all over their faces, hair and clothes. Part of Manny's eczema treatment is skin care and a tub of shortening is economical and I don't care if he puts it in his mouth, which is a BIG plus around here. I instructed them to rub it in, confiscated the shortening and plunged forward, knowing that if we didn't exit as quickly as possible, we might never make it. Everyone would have to pee again, someone would inevitably inflict or receive an owie, the kids would get too hungry to go eat, or more likely, I would just lose all the fight in me.

I commanded that they all go down to the mudroom half-dressed, with a pile of clothes and socks in the crook of my arm. When they were dressed and ready to depart, their hair plastered to their faces with shortening, I felt a twinge of regret at their appearance. When you regularly have people comment, "Oh, your children like to dress themselves too," but in fact, you are the one that dressed them, it is an indication of two things. One. You don't ever do enough laundry and in the right combinations. Which is a perpetuating problem because then the mix-matched things are always washed together. And two. The poorly developed fashion sense you have is being displayed on three small, unsuspecting people who have a fistful of shortening in their hair.

It's just really, really sad.

You know, if you're not rooted in the true meanings of life and stuff.

But come on! Turquoise socks with harvest orange pants and a gray and pink jacket, finished off by a very dirty pair of Keen sandals. Yikes!

On the way, I told the kids how whenever Grandpa took me out to eat, he always said, "Make sure you get something good." And, in that spirit, when Elena didn't like what she had, I bought her what Manny had. I didn't anticipate, however, that she would then want a third thing, so while I tried to insert more lovely things about Grandpa Hal into my monologue, Elena was a broken record about one of the muffins in view, which she probably wouldn't have liked either.

Later this afternoon, we were getting ready to go to Sam's holiday happy hour at G2B. I dressed the girls in the darling Christmas dresses my mom made and attempted to put their hair in pigtails. My fashion ineptitudes show up in my hair design too, sadly, but something had to be done with their hair so that an unsuspecting G2B investor didn't slip and fall while brushing by them. Manny was effusive with his compliments telling Elena she was so beautiful (all true) and when I sat on the bed with my nicer pair of jeans in hand, Manny said to me, "You're so cute." Then he took a closer look and exclaimed, "WHAT'S THAT?", in reference to my leg hair, which in my defense, for the season, isn't terribly unkempt, but it was enough to put a cork in the bubbly champagne of compliments.

We went to the party, which was on top of G2B's offices, on a deck overlooking Lake Union. It was lovely and cold. Manny was distracted for a while by the view and by the hot dogs on the grill. When offered one by Sam, he ate it faster than a dog in the prime of his life. It was awesome. This is a feat only accomplishable by someone who regularly practices food stuffing. When we broke the news that one hot dog was the limit, it wasn't long before Manny came up to me, hugged my legs and said, "Take me inside. Feed me. Make me feel better again."

When we got home, I rushed them through a post-hot dog dinner and convinced them to take off their clothes with promises of more shortening. After they got slicked up, Manny and Elena went to roll around on the girls' beds and there was more penis talk. Because the things you can say about penises really are endless.

Elena was a captivated audience and when Manny shouted, "WHO WANTS TO PINCH MY PENIS?" she replied with gusto, "I DO!"

I gave the kids their fish oil supplement with a drop of Vitamin D. It tastes like lemon starburst and they love it. Whenever I give Glory a spoonful, she licks it clean and hands it back to me saying, "I'm better now!"

That's how I felt whenever I had the good fortune to be with my grandpa. Whenever we parted company, I could have made the same exclamation. "I'm better now!"

Maybe I'll try to talk to the children more about Grandpa Hal tomorrow. I am reminded today that attempts at conversation about anything beyond food, sharing and potty behavior must be forcibly inserted when there are three people who are constantly rotating and overlapping their thoughts and requests. Today we ventured into human reproduction and the death and resurrection of Jesus. I think the whole time I was talking about those things, the children were demanding more food, which may be why it's important to open the lines of communication about faith and sex early. It gives you plenty of time to refine your talking points.

And when words are too troublesome or simply not necessary, it's good to shut your mouth, smile, look someone in the eye and hold their hand for a just moment or a good long while.

Thanks for teaching me that Harold.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Would this work better with an attachment?

I have a long post brewing in me, but since it has taken me over 2 hours to get the kids to sleep coming off an already tough day, I think it's time to do the dishes and consider exercising, but have a bowl of cereal and watch 30 Rock on Netflix instead.

But I had to write, at least briefly, because after spending the day worrying about Elena being sick and an afternoon of meltdowns (all three kids, me and a scary incident with the Christmas lights, an outlet and a metal disk that is now charred and misshapen), Manny said something that made me laugh out loud and that took some doing.

Trying to get Elena ready for bed, she suddenly looked panicked and said she needed to go potty. I was still worried about her potential stomach problems and rushed her to the bathroom, stripping her while we moved. Once she was sitting I crouched down right in front of her to provide all the moral support required for someone who doesn't feel well and is new to a life free of daytime diapers. I wasn't even fully aware of Manny right next to me, who was pacing the rim of the bathtub in his Batman pajama shirt and absolutely nothing else.

Elena peed.

Manny stopped, cocked his head and exclaimed, "I don't know why you don't use a penis," as though a penis was like a vacuum attachment that has fallen behind the messy shelves in our family room closet. "You just use your bottom," he concluded.

Elena didn't even dignify his comments with a non-verbal response. I, on the other hand, was doubled-over the toliet, but not for the traditional reason.

Thank God for Manny and for laughter and for Tina Fey streaming on my computer in my dirty, soon to be transformed, kitchen.

(And for my Dad, who visited this morning and barely made it out unscathed. Glory and Manny think he is a jungle gym. I felt simultaneously sorry for you Dad and happy, that for a few hours, it was you and not me. Painful love they give at times. Sweet, but ouch.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dear Manny, who is now 4

Dear Manny,

It is so hard to believe that you are 4 now. I have only been away from you for one day of your whole life. It was Sunday, July 6, 2008, the day after your sisters were born. Daddy came home to put you to bed that night, but of course, I stayed at the hospital with Glory and Elena. Other than that, we have spent your life together. And yet, I cannot quantify you, I cannot encapsulate all that you have been or are- your light is so bright and the pulse of your life is so fierce and ecstatic that I cannot contain it, even in my own memory or thoughts. I sit with a string of memories and feelings that have brought us to this point where you are 4, sleeping upstairs under your pink blanket that you successfully stole from Glory and the penguin blanket that Grandma Barb and Grandpa Hal gave me when I was 10 years old.

You sleep with your face about as close to your nightlight as it will go. Dad and I suspect that sometimes the light wakes you up. And when you do wake up, you want to hear music. This has been an aggravation because all of your CDs skip, due to being carried around by chubby fingers and being spun on the concrete floor as though there is a turntable and you and your sisters are the dee-jays. Finally, last night, I made you a new CD, with a few of your favorite tracks and a few of mine. When you woke up in the night last night, you screamed. You were mad as hell. Where were your CDs? And what was this crap I had left in their place? But, when I finally got you to quiet and listen to what I had to say, we solved the problem and I left you with the CD playing. When you came into my bed this morning, you said with the sweetest smile on your face, "You put the "I love you" song on that CD." I wasn't sure what you meant, but later it was confirmed that you were talking about "I'm so glad I'm here" by Elizabeth Mitchell. We left our copy in the hotel CD player in Las Vegas and even before that, we hadn't listened to it much. So, I was surprised you remembered it and that you named it so perfectly. It is the "I love you" song. It's the song that reminds me that I am so glad I'm here every day. Joy brought me here. Love brought me here. I'm so glad I'm here every day. I have had that phrase written on the white board I bought to encourage you not to freak out every time I turn off the TV. But you cannot read. So you didn't know that. But ever since I saw a child next door at the daycare screaming endlessly for someone to love him, to cherish him and to comfort him, I have had that written on my heart and on the board. So, it made me joyful when you said that.

Two nights ago, Dad was at his board meeting for New Horizons and I got to put you to bed after Glory and Elena went to sleep. When we had read "The Button" and "The Story" from "Frog and Toad are Friends", I turned out the light, and as your music played, I stood over you and said to you the blessing you have heard countless times.

The Lord bless you and keep you Emanuel Clark. The Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you, Emanuel Clark, with favor and give you peace. In the name of the Father, Jesus the son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Let it be so!

But this time I said it like a benediction. Like one of those fantastic benedictions that only come once every few years and somebody says something like the end of the book of Jude-

And now to him who is able to prevent you from falling and to present you before his glory, without fault, and with great joy, and to the only God, our savior, be all majesty and power through Jesus Christ our Lord, forever and ever, Amen!

So somebody says that, but it sounds different this time, and something inside me quakes because I know, in that moment, that I am loved and wonderfully made and life is so much more precious and beautiful than I usually treat it. So I said your blessing like that. Like it really matters. Because it does.

And you got the biggest grin on your face, and in the glow of your nightlight, I could see your eyes sparkling. Really, I could. And you said to me, "Thank you so much for saying that! That makes me really happy!"

So what I want you to know about Manny at 4 is that you make me really happy. Thank you so much for saying that. And thank you so much that you sneak in a snuggle whenever you are able. If I sit down, you are immediately looking for love, regardless of how impatient I have been or if the girls are crawling all over me too. And thank you for your endless stream of knock-knock jokes, why don't you marry it jokes and now why did the chicken cross the road jokes. You keep me laughing and when I said to your sisters tonight, "I love Manny's laugh," they both beamed and said, "I love Manny's laugh too!" Except Glory, who almost exclusively refers to you now as Manny Clark Lai, as though it were one word.



There is so much more I could say about you, but I have to do the dishes. And Daddy has to keep typing his reports, which makes me feel like at least one of us should go to bed. Just in case you wake up and need some music.



You are music in motion Emanuel Clark.



Yours Truly,

Mom

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A one liner to remember

Last night I was snuggling Manny and I said, with great emphasis, "Manny, I like you."

There was a pause and then Manny replied, "I like...Batman."

Monday, October 18, 2010

An Old Joke is Always New to Somebody

At dinner, Sam asked Manny if he loved cheese. Manny said yes. Sam said, "Then why don't you marry it?" and went over the top with a goofy laugh so that Manny would know what he was supposed to do next.

Manny totally ran with it. Everything Sam asked him about, Manny loved. And when Sam would say, "Then why don't you marry it?", Manny would erupt in gales of laughter.

"Again! Again!"

At this point, I was sort of regretting the whole thing and said, "Why doesn't Daddy tell you another joke?"

So Sam said, "Knock, knock."

Manny said, "Who's there?"

Sam said, "Orange."

Manny said, "No! The other joke!"

Eventually, Manny swapped roles with Sam. He started with a strong offering.

"Do you love playdoh?"

Sam said, "I love playdoh."

"Then why don't you marry it!!!!" (Screeching laughter!! This is the best joke ever!!)

"Do you love soup?" (We were eating soup.)

More punchline. More screeching laughter.

"Do you love applesauce?"

More. More! This just kept getting better and better in Manny's estimation.

There were too many questions to count, at which point, I could tell Sam was quite sorry he had ever introduced Manny to this ancient joke that human beings have been telling each other ever since there was some concept of legalized, committed relationship between two people.

So, to mix it up a bit, when Manny asked Sam for the second time, "Do you like Wall-E?" (as in the Pixar robot character), Sam said, "Oh, you're not going to get me this time!"

Manny burst into screaming sobs. He could not be consoled and all that we could make out was, "I WANTED YOU TO MARRY WALL-E!!"

We couldn't help it. For the first time, I laughed at my child until I shed tears. I was not laughing with him. I was laughing at him.

At bedtime, I asked Manny what he was thankful for. Silence. I said, "I'm thankful for you. Who are you thankful for?" Pause. "Dinosaurs," he said. Pause. Pause. "I'm thankful for the dinosaurs who aren't here anymore."

When I prayed, I said, "Thank you for Manny, for Daddy, for Glory and Elena, for Rona and for all of our friends and family. Manny said, "Don't forget the dinosaurs who aren't here anymore." "And for the dinosaurs who aren't here anymore," I promptly repeated.

Sam came in to say good night. I asked him to turn off the light, and in the bright hue of Manny's night light that he insists on having plugged in right next to the head of his bed, he asked Sam, "Do you like Mama?"

"I love Mama," Sam said.

"THEN why don't you MARRY HER?"

"I did!" Sam said.

Manny smiled.

Then Sam and I went back to our bedroom, totally exhausted. Sam had to go back to work for the entire evening so we laid down on the bed for a quick hug, right on top of Manny's new birthday rocket ship from Rona.

The deep, bellowing voice said, "3, 2, 1, BLAST OFF!" Then lots of sounds of blasting engines.

Sam tried to muffle it, but Manny came prancing down the hallway as though he had been paged.

So the second time, we put Manny AND the rocket to bed. Haven't heard a peep since. Which is good, because I'm guessing the jokes will resume first thing in the morning.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

As You Wish

A few things have changed in the last month. For one, Manny is not going to preschool anymore.

Some things haven't changed. Our bathroom sinks are still clogged and my ironing is still piled on the ancient ironing board next to our bed, which I accidentally bumped the other day and saw it is leaving rust marks on the floor, it has been there so long. And we are all still fighting remnants of colds we caught in the beginning of September.

Manny's was a double ear infection and it caused him to miss day 2, 3 and 4 of preschool. Actually, on day 4 I tried to take him, but when it was time to get dressed, he had a meltdown and then I had a big meltdown. It was my way of demonstrating to the children that they do not have the corner on expressing their dissatisfaction and despair over the smallest details.

You won't wear the clothes I picked out for you? I'll show you crying and screaming! I've been at it for 32 years! Stand back and admire my range! I can hit the low moan notes and the high-pitched wailing whines all in the time it takes you to outline the next item of your never-ending list of demands!

This was a really bad move on my part. And perhaps one that could not have been prevented. I was coming off of a sleepless night and Glory was wailing with fever and I really needed someone to pass the parenting baton to, but my giant stuffed raccoon from childhood who sits on the ridiculous toy washing machine that nobody plays with does not have thumbs, or even fingers for that matter and he kept dropping it. Silly raccoon.

So I took Manny to school and he stood in his classroom and cried. Cried the sad cries of a child who fears his mother is beyond help and is still wearing what looks like, but is not, some semblance of her pajamas in the hallway. The girls were buckled into their carseats in the van, but I had legitimate fear that Elena was going to crawl out and release the parking brake or shove a stray raisin up her nose and choke, so I really couldn't stand there and allow Manny or myself to suffer for too long. So I scooped him up and we never managed to get him to go again.

So now we are free of obligations, except to go to our dance class on Tuesday mornings. My friend Amy and I are taking all three kids to the Creative Dance Center where the kids warm up by climbing on my back at the same time and continuing the long-standing argument I like to call "My Mama!" But after they warm up, they have a grand time playing the musical instruments and finding their own creative way through the obstacle course and running under the magic parachute. At the end, they all gather around Anna the radiant teacher and she stamps their hands, their feet and their tummies. Manny never got a stamp on his tummy at preschool and it makes him really happy.

So this is the year of exploration.

Really, every year is. But it makes me feel good to spin it that way. When this whole preschool problem presented itself, it made me realize that all the children will go to school next year and so it will go until they are adults and I am almost 50. Gasp! So this is a special time and I am trying to be as engaged, loving and fun as I can be.

The week I took Manny out of preschool, I took the kids to Big Howe, the playground closest to our house, which I have avoided since the girls got really mobile because there are too many places the kids could hurt themselves and they all needed my close attention. Now, it's okay. Still a couple things to look out for, but much, much better.

The sun was shining and the warmth was radiating through our long-sleeved shirts. The kids were sharing in the sandbox and I was still reveling in the fact that we walked there without the assistance of our double stroller or baby carrier. I felt so light.

And then I noticed that Elena was rolling down the grassy hill behind me. Her delight was infectious, and suddenly, all my kids and a handful of others were rolling down the grassy hill. It wasn't smooth rolling. It was more like "AS....YOU....WIIIIISH!!" bumpy, messy, grunting rolling from The Princess Bride and my joy was only slightly diminished by my fear that they would roll over dog poop, develop a rash from the grass or get a bug lodged in their ear canal.

The other day Manny said to me emphatically, "The sky is blue and I want to watch a show." I love his ability to be direct without apology while still making space to revel in the natural beauty around and above us. As I seek to live into the opportunity for joy and discovery that is my every day, I will try to do the same, even if the only one listening is Racky the Raccoon. At least Racky doesn't have an opinion about my selection of socks when it's time to load into the car.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Manny

To Sam while bathing with his sisters.

Manny (earnestly): Dad, why did God give me two sisters instead of just one?

Sam: Because God loves you so much.

To me, while snuggling in bed during naptime.

Manny: Mama, you have gentle eyes.

To our friend John after I realized Glory was touching John's puppy's penis.

Manny: I have a penis too! I'll show you!

Our days are full. Full of what you would expect and full of unexpected sweetness.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The nuggets

This whole day was a really good blog post if I had the temerity to write it. Perhaps another day. But I was about to head to bed and realized the person I would be cheating is myself if I didn't write down at least these two nuggets. Because they were pretty good.

This morning, I was not able to convince Manny to go to school and it was a really sad scene. Once he was relieved of the pressure of going, I absorbed that pressure and had no idea what to do next. So I went to the grocery store. But, that too, was a sad scene. First, it was sad because I bought three wheat-free treats from the bakery for our snack and they all sucked. I felt momentarily proud of how superior my home baking is until I realized that not only did these snacks suck, but they also eroded into cascading crumbs on the table, the chairs, the floor, and then oops, I spilled Glory's water. And then oops, I spilled Elena's water. And then somehow Elena managed to coat her entire body in crumbs. I ended up scrubbing her with the "sanitized" table wiping towel I borrowed from the bakery checker. Gross? A little.

We went to do our shopping but no one could agree how we should travel. There are two types of carts. One that was preferable to Glory and one that was preferable to Manny. Elena didn't have a say because she was sanitized and strapped to my chest. No one would budge so I dragged them all screaming back to the car and somehow managed to get them strapped in by probably making promises I didn't keep. I can't remember now. What I said or if I kept them.

Anyway, I felt a surge of relief driving out of the parking lot. I had no groceries. But I was headed home, I had a latte in my fridge and no one was screaming at me. I missed my turn onto Gilman because I was still trying to recover from what had just happened and as I planned to get off at Dravus, I noticed through the rearview mirror that Elena had slid out of her shoulder straps AGAIN. I stopped as quickly as I could on a gravel strip alongside a storage facility, turned on the hazards and confronted Elena with the reality we were all facing.

Put your straps back on or we can never go home.

Now, I did this last week on the way to the bread shop. We had to pull over at a rundown apartment building and I was really dramatic, telling her that we would have to live in our car in this apartment parking lot if she didn't put her straps on. She was unphased, but Manny was sobbing by the end of my monologue because he was afraid he was going to spend the rest of his childhood strapped to his car seat far, far, far from home (in Wallingford).

So, this time I got her to put her straps on a lot faster and as we drove away, I heard Manny sigh happily and say, "I really didn't want to live there."

Tonight I made pizza. I have had many unsuccessful pizza attempts lately, usually centered around my inability to slide this great new spelt crust off of my pizza peel onto the pizza stone. What happens then is I get unreasonably upset and try to make a calzone out of my spoiled pizza, which doesn't really work either and the resulting mess is so ugly that the kids have to eat dinner with their eyes closed.

Enter parchment paper.

Even with this magical tool, my first pizza attempt tonight failed because my fancy fresh mozzarella was sour.

The second half of the dough turned out well with the cheap Trader Joe's cheese. It wasn't amazing looking, but it was headed in the right direction. When I put the pizza peel with the finished, bubbly pie on the counter, Manny began to exclaim, "It's a circle! It's a circle! Hooray for Mama! It's a circle! Everybody breakdance for Mama! It's a circle!"

They ate every last bite, eyes wide open. Of course, there was none left for Sam and I, but that's the thing about being parents. You almost don't even care. Until it's two hours later and you've finally cleaned up from their dinner and you still haven't eaten dinner.

But what does that matter when somebody celebrates your culinary victory by breakdancing in their underwear?

You almost don't even care.

I better get something to eat.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Most popular activities at our house

Growling like a lion, which often turns into growling matches, shrieks and cries of "Scared!"
Superheroes. Particularly Super Ass Man.

"Looking at spiders", which means screaming at them and inevitably removing one or all of their legs, if those poor little suckers are lucky.



Alternately filling me with deep joy and then, five minutes later, driving me to the brink of madness. Exaggeration? Not really.




Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pictures, Part Three: Manny's first day of school!

On our way to Little Red Wagon Preschool. Fire truck lunch box is new.
If this isn't the beginning of a musical number, I don't know what is.

Manny, Miss Catherine (love her!) and Charlie, our best buddy.
When Sam asked Manny on Friday evening if he liked Miss Catherine and Mr. Jay, his new teachers, he said, with his face all wrinkled up, "ummmm.....hmmmm......ehhhh.....not so much." "Why not?" Sam asked. Manny replied, "I really need to go do my taxes now."
I think he likes them. It's just hard for him to express his delight under a microscope. We understand that.



Pictures, Part Two: Kinnear Park, Queen Anne

Manny the climber.
Me and Elena.
Glory Jane.

Pictures, Part One: San Diego

Elena and her cousin, Josh who is now 2!
Manny and his beloved playmate and cousin Ellie.
Elena (left) and Glory.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Parent Night

Thank you Sarah B.W., Sarah S., Carmen, Mom, Kathleen and Melisa for all reaching out to me. I really appreciate the love, support and Melisa's story she emailed me about a pooptastrophe that was off the charts. I laughed out loud and I don't normally laugh out loud at poop stories. Groan, yes, but laugh out loud? Never. Until now.

Last Sunday, I was talking to an old friend at church I hadn't seen in years. She told me she's a twin and that her mom found out she was having twins when she went in to have her tubes tied. How do you like that one? That also made me laugh out loud.

Boy. People have such crazy experiences. Shame on me for ever assuming someone isn't that interesting. All you have to do is ask and the stories that follow....wow.

I went to parent night at Manny's preschool tonight. I read last night that people with Blood Type O (me) require vigorous exercise so I spent 15 vigorous minutes watching Family Guy on the elliptical trainer before I ran up to preschool. I knew, living where I do, that I would be the most underdressed person there and it was true. Nobody looked at me funny, but my dated workout clothes added to my overall sense that I was way too young to be in that room. People in Seattle tend to have kids older, so maybe that's part of it. But, if I'm honest, I fit right in, only not as well dressed. And that was so weird. I suppose it's a universal experience. All people must feel this way at one time or another, right? Recently I surprise myself at how much amusement I get from watching this sitcom online called "The Middle", which is about family life from the parent's perspective. When did I start finding this stuff so funny? The Mother's Day episode where the husband tells the wife at 6:30am that he's going to go watch ESPN so she can spend the day with her whining, complaining, fighting three children, because it's "her day" had me rolling in my laundry pile. Seriously. The transition from being the kid to being the one laughing at the crazy stuff kids say and do is like practically non-existent.

No nap again today. I drove across town at the right time of day and still no nap. The only one who looked like they might doze off was Manny and he's not supposed to fall asleep! I am working hard on acceptance. I think I have gone through the other stages of grief. I don't remember what they all are, but the denial and anger are easily documentable.

I already miss my times when the girls would nap and Manny and I would play high school boyfriend and girlfriend. (He doesn't know that's how I think of it. He doesn't know what high school is.) But that's what it reminded me of. Him in his underwear (this is where it is not like high school Mom) cuddling with me, stroking my hair, loudly sucking his fingers (also not like high school). OKAY. I guess upon examination this comparison doesn't really hold up. It's just that Manny is so snuggly and so cute like a very small Sam, though I think their ears are the same size. The girls are going to LOVE him. Especially now that he's given up eating the hair once he's attentively stroked it.

I got so tired around 2pm that I herded the kids into my bedroom and initiated a game of "cave" where we all laid on the bed and I had to hold up my arms and legs to create the cave with the duvet while Manny repeatedly told me to hide from the pink cat monster and Elena, in turn, would demand that I not hide. It was a really exhausting way to rest. This time ended with probably thirty minutes where either Glory or Elena had their head shoved all the way up my shirt and through the neck hole, sometimes talking about nipples and where they might be. They don't seem to accept my standard answer of, "they're in the same place they were last time." This particular shirt looks like it has been eaten by a small animal so I allowed the game to persist. It also was buying me a few more moments of stillness. Then Glory started to lick my neck. When she got out of my shirt and Elena crawled through the neckhole, Glory started to lick Elena's hair and then my hair. I couldn't decide whether I thought this was hilarious or whether Glory was the pink cat monster, so I said what I always say when I need to get out of a situation with the children.

"I need to go potty," I said.

They totally get this and almost always back off, as if to say, "Sure, yeah, you bet, I've been there. You go right ahead."

It might have been Elena who ate the holes into my shirt because nearly every children's book in our house has some piece of it eaten off. The day we left for San Diego in August, she tried to eat an entire dinner napkin right in front of my face- stuffed the whole thing in like a chipmunk- and then later that night, she ate airport toliet paper straight from the stall. This child. And if you ask her to stop doing it, she cheerfully replies, "No fanks!" She's going to be a hard one to say no to for those who are easily charmed.

At some point I had to come downstairs and try to make some dinner. The kids were playing so well together in Manny's room until I heard him shout, "Don't touch my taxes either!" Sam and I finally did our taxes last weekend and Manny's really into it now.

So Elena came downstairs and Manny and Glory had a special time together pulling all the sheets off our bed and setting up camp on the deck, which reminds me I was going to wash all of that and now it's too late. Hmmmm.....anyway, I was happy for them because Manny and Glory don't usually hang out just the two of them. Every time I heard her cry, I rushed upstairs. She was in the middle of the bed, sucking her thumb and clutching her blankie while Manny jumped around to a U2 compliation, occasionally landing on her, causing her to cry. I heard him sweetly reply, more than once, "Don't be afraid. It's Bono singing!"

Elena pulled out about fifteen feet of toliet paper before we all came downstairs. Manny was trying to salvage it and roll it back, but he must have gotten frustrated because the next thing I knew he was carrying an enormous wad of TP down the stairs. He handed it to me and I sighed, but I have to tell you, an enormous wad of TP on your kitchen counter really comes in handy. I have used it countless times to dry this, wipe up that, snuggle a little bit when I need a soft touch. I'm thinking about just having a wad of TP there all the time, at least until Elena gets taller and starts nibbling pieces of it for "snacks" in-between snacks. Oh well. It's got to be easier on her digestive track than the huge chunk of the book of Revelation she ate from my Bible.

Oh, and I told Manny's new preschool teacher and assistant teacher about Super Ass Man and they couldn't stop laughing about it. We agree this is not a school game, but it made me like them a lot! I encouraged he will be in good hands.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Touching Base

Who am I touching base with? Whoever may still read this after a four month hiatus and, I guess, in a way, my future self who will not remember what happened in this very intense period of my life. My future self will read the last few posts from May and try desperately to remember what I was thinking and what went on in these blank months. So, future self, here is what I would say.

Twins and a slightly older child are really, really, really hard. If you look back and say--ehh, it wasn't that big of a deal, you are lying to yourself. And I am not a fan of live and forget- you know, the kind of older person who claims their children never did anything wrong OR, worse, that they never did anything wrong. If I say my children were perfect, I have lost the flavor of this time. The sugar is their sweetness, the spice is the boundaries they push and I hope I never forget because the stories contain the essences of who Manny, Glory and Elena are.

And that is why it has bothered me that I have stopped writing on this blog. The stories slip away from me before the day is done. This is my only record. My only way of remembering. Particularly because I don't take any photos either. Add that to the long list of things I should be doing, like brushing my children's teeth in the morning and laundering Manny's underwear so he doesn't have to go commando to preschool on Friday.

I stopped writing because I was struggling with circumstances, but mostly with myself and people who love me a lot were expressing concern for my well-being and it made me want to never share anything with anybody again, at least through this venue. But the big, big downside of all that is that not only do I forget the stories, but there are some of you who would hardly know the children at all, if it were not for this little bit of illustration on my part.

So I am sharing today in the belief that when I share, I celebrate more and curse less. So if I say anything that makes you concerned for my well-being, I would ask that you please not tell me about it. Tell God if you're that concerned and you do that sort of thing, but spare me that kind of love because I can't bear it.

This morning, Elena ate a few bites of "oh-me-all" and then looked like she poured the rest on the floor and rolled around in it for a while until it sufficiently stuck. I was appalled as I saw her walking through the kitchen. It was as if her pants were polka-dotted with gummy oats. I exclaimed something nasal and annoyingly maternal and Manny genuinely uttered, "I think it's beautiful."

It is so common for the children to be dressed and then undressed in a matter of minutes. Soon after the daily oatmeal explosion, Elena went into the bathroom to wash her hands and immediately had water up to her elbows. There went the long-sleeved shirt. So now she was naked again except for her saggy diaper which had about a fifteen-minute lifespan left. So Glory thought she should take off all her clothes and then decided the diaper was too oppressive too. As soon as she was naked, it occurred to her it was the perfect moment to sit on the potty. I love watching her climb up onto the potty insert on the big toliet. It reminds me a little of the lady in Godzilla stuck at the top of the Empire State Building, only there's no monster and the lady is not afraid. She's exceptionally brave and demanding when it comes to the tissue. "Self!" she cries.

The kids asked me if they could turn on Earth, a gorgeous documentary about ecosystems across the globe. I was going to do the dishes, but every ten seconds, one of the girls would rush out and say, "Scared! Bears!" So I let them eat carrot cake and watch the bears with me from their little table in the family room while Manny assured them the bears were stuck in the tv. By the time that experiment was over, I was wishing the bears would emerge from the screen and vacuum up the thousand crumbs of varying sizes and shapes (depending upon whether or not they had been mushed) that were scattered all over the table, chairs, floor, and yes, Elena's new pants.

I pulled out the vacuum, in lieu of the bears, and then decided to be industrious and tidy the bookshelves, knocking an expensive and utterly delicious jar of raspberry jam from my favorite farmer's market berry grower 6 feet down onto the concrete floor. The jam blobbed onto the carpet.

"Stay back!" I shouted repeatedly, as I cleaned up the entire mess. It's like a dog that hasn't been well trained. You have to say "STAY" every two seconds as long as you want the dog to stay. If I ever stopped telling the kids to stay back, they would descend on me and the glassy mess like it never occurred to them not to.

By the time this was all done, it was only 10:30 and I was ready for bed. As were the girls. I have been having a very difficult time getting them to nap and have tried every strategy I can think of, with the exception of locking one of them in the dog crate, which Kathleen, only half-jokingly, suggested. If it wasn't so dirty and underneath so many heaps of stuff in the garage, I might just try it. Aslan liked it after all and the girls liked Aslan, so the power of association would tell me that the girls would like the crate!

(Long pause for trip to the library and now it is too late to write much more. The dishes are piled high and the laundry even higher.)

So, in closing, as I was trying to make dinner while preventing the kids from eating playdough, especially Manny who has a growing wheat sensitivity, I set a tea towel on fire and threw a dinner plate across the room, sending shards in a ten foot stream. Glory tried to make me feel better by eating a truly astonishing amount of rice pasta tossed in broccoli pesto. At shower time, her belly looked particularly huge, and yet still so small. It was packed with pasta and pesto and waffle with blueberry sauce which took Sam a good five minutes to scrub out of all the kids fingers and toes and backs of knees and elbows. By the end of the waffle dessert, the kids were body-painting with the blueberry sauce. Sam was holding his face in horror and I was trying not to laugh hysterically since I was a little loopy from the whole broken glass/giant Costco microfiber towel on fire incidents.

I rushed the girls to sleep, since they didn't nap. They wanted to laugh before they fell asleep so I had to wag my hair in their face like a dog tail until they got a good laugh going. They're an easy crowd most of the time. Then I asked which music box they wanted to hear. Grandma Barb gave each of them a music box last year. "Horse," they said. So I turned that one on and the girl one too because they only like to listen to them simultaneously, though they are not the same song. So it sounds a little busy and discordant, but cheerful and persistent, kind of like me.

As I walked out, relieved that they hadn't called me back for three more drinks of water or countless full body hugs, I heard Sam coaching Manny through his poops for the day. "There's another one!" I heard him exclaim. Another poop, another day, full of beauty, humor, brokenness and a whole lot of "Mama! Watch this!"

Watch this!

I'm about to do the dishes.

Bet you didn't see that one comin'.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Love Letters, Part Two

I thought it was time to write little love letters to the kids again, because everything else I have to write is a bit sad because I'm a bit sad and despite my best efforts to pull it together, I think I'm going to need a lot more sleep and a lot more chocolate, and let's be honest, a lot more time, to take the next few months step by step with grace and humor. The girls will be two in thirty-six days and I'm just worn out. I have an amazing husband, a downstairs Mary Poppins who doubles as one of my best friends, family who loves me and friends who are the same as family who loves me. I have everything a person could ever ask for and yet, I am still mired in the human condition and I have limits, unreasonable expectations, a dirty shower, a healthy dose of ingratitude...basically, a whole lot of junk to hold up in the light. And it's been getting the better of me.

It doesn't help that the days have gotten harder and longer with Elena and Glory spreading their wings and seizing their freedoms and each other's necks long after their traditional bedtime. And it doesn't help that Sam is tired too. But I think all it does is reveal the weak spots that were there anyway. The stuff that can't be ignored.

I was listening to another Tim Keller sermon podcast this week and he was quoting a C.S. Lewis passage about, amongst other things, perspective. Lewis talks about how many things that are ugly in us get worse, slowly over time, if left to grow without precise diagnosis, recognition and treatment. And how if you are only to live eighty years, maybe that's not such a big deal. How bad can those ugly things really get in such a short period of time? But if eternity is true and we go on and on and the choices we make now continue to form who we are then, then we become more and more of our grumbles until there is no more left of the true us at all. On the contrary, if we keep fighting to move toward love, then how much grander will it be when there are less grumbles and so much more love?

This week when I have had countless moments of wishing that I would get struck by lightning so I could stop wrestling with myself, I have been reminded of that talk. There is no shortcut, no easy out. This stuff in me I find so unpleasant, it requires my consent and participation to root it out so that love can fill it up. All of this from financial questions and toddler defiance! It's a good thing I am getting really good at whipping up hearty, wholesome, delicately crumbed 9-inch coffecakes so that I have something to nibble on while I wrestle. My life is so romantic, even in the struggle!

So, assuming that I am not at all alone in my human condition, I wish you luck as you move forward. Sam had me listen to an inspiring Van Jones talk about the critical importance of the energy efficiency movement, and his closing remarks were, "When it gets hard to love, love harder."

Dear Manny,

This week when I picked you up from preschool, we were driving the two minutes home and I asked you what you did at school. You replied, "I can't tell you." "Why?" I asked. "I'm too busy," you said.

I love how you find a way to talk about the giant robot Omnidroid from "The Incredibles" every day, even though you only saw it on screen once, well over a year ago. You would think the Omnidroid lived in your closet. When I asked you the other night if you like to feel scared of the Omnidroid, you said, "Yes!" Now your sisters, whenever they hear the word Omnidroid, they say, "Scared!" and they seem to mean it, at least Glory does. The Omnidroid has become the boogey man at our house and when I try to explain that the Omnidroid only lives in stories, like Curious George, this does not deter your insistence in any way.

I love how you are learning to thoroughly wash your hands, though not necessarily at the right times. I love how you can make a whooping good time of absolutely anything. You find the fun within yourself. You don't have a favorite toy. I asked you yesterday what your favorite toy is and you said your fire truck. You have had your fire truck parked inside the giant baby gate around the elliptical trainer for at least the last month. Your play comes from the inside out and I am exicted for all the ways you are learning to create and, despite myself, I love the way you beat the hell out of your drums that you are also slowly deconstructing because I believe that you are going to learn how to take stuff apart and build it back up in a way that expresses your inventiveness and creativity.

I love how when I bake something good, you stuff your mouth so full that other parents look on in horror and disgust, half worried you are going to choke and half shocked that Glory is mimicking you in every way. I take it as a high compliment, especially when there are grated carrots involved.

And I love how you still have an incredibly high need for snuggles and that I still fit the bill.


Dear Glory,

I love how you still feel so tiny when I hold you. You are the size of a a one-year old with the dexterity of a three-year old. I have never seen someone so fascinated by shoes and I love to watch you struggle to pull the back of your pants up over your pull-up diaper. How delighted will you be when you are freed from the bulk of absorbency and all that covers your bottom is a thin piece of pink, lace-trimmed cotton if they even make panties small enough for your itty-bitty cheeks.

I love how every time you see newborn Miles Love you have to get as close to his face as you are allowed, all the while pointing and shrieking in pure happiness, "Baby! Baby!" I love how every time Sam comes home, you shout "Daddy!" and run for the door. I love that as soon as I finish each line of the three verses of "Away in the Manger" you and Elena proclaim "Again!" I love that when you sit at the piano, you seem geniunely interested in the sounds you make and that what comes out is thoughtful and pretty, even in its disorganization.

Dear Elena,

The other day you hit me, which is not unusual these days. And when I picked you up and asked you to say sorry, you did, but you said it in such a flippant, unspecific way that I asked you to look me in the eye and say sorry. So you pressed your face to my face, our eyes matched and said as genuinely as I've ever heard it said, "Sorry." I will miss your literalism as you figure out the nuances of all the things I tell you.

I love how when you try, you can now eat without wearing half your meal. I love how much you love your bookies, which range from empty notebooks to C.S. Lewis' "Miracles" which you plucked off the shelf the other day and carried under your arm all the way to preschool and to the coffee shop and then to the adirondack chair outside where you proceeded to throw up because I gave you Tylenol and then bribed you with a gummy vitamin all on an empty stomach. I love how after you threw up, you insisted on finishing the squash bread we bought with Grandma Barb's muffin money, as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. I resisted, but you insisted and I never saw it again, so you were right. I love how much you love to draw pictures and how you are so much slower to start eating the crayons than your sister.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tricking Yourself

Most days, I wake up with, amongst other things, a renewed sense of purpose and a desire to pursue with energy and specificity the things I am passionate about outside of my children. And every day, after they go to bed, I do the dishes and maybe read a little, very occasionally shave my legs (need to increase the frequency of this practice), and almost never write. But I keep tricking myself that I will. There's something about this process that seems absurd, like, give it up already! Just stop thinking about that entirely until the next face of life that will provide more personal time! (Wishful thinking.) But there is something about this cycle of hope and disappointment, reordering and releasing, reevaluating and doubt that is so key to the human process. I need to hang on, to pursue this view of myself, even at the risk of appearing ridiculous, because the struggle, though it may not produce much to share, seems necessary somehow.

I saw a play last night at Intiman called The Thin Place- totally worth checking out if you're in town. It's a one-man piece and one character the actor portrays relates his story of being confined in a dark 3ft x 6ft cell for 18 months in communist southeast Asia. Manny was climbing all over my neck today trying to choreograph his first circus act as we were looking at pictures of acrobats and I felt like I was going to lash out from the feeling of being confined and trapped by that. I can't imagine. And yet, in the midst of my incredible creature comforts, I feel like I am going to go at least a lot bit insane every day at naptime and bedtime.

I gave up on the girls' diapers and the onesies and the tape that the girls kept ripping off their bodies and using to self inflict welts. They now wear pull-ups exclusively and if they poop on the floor, they poop on the floor. And they do poop on the floor. But we're learning and I have this feeling that this phase we've entered, this place in between toddler and little girl is going to be long and awkward. It's just started so much sooner than I expected.

We also ditched the cribs before someone dove onto the concrete floor. Now, every night, Elena turns into a vampire after we close the door and we have to go in two, three, four times and work through Glory's frantic screams after Elena bites her.

I realize I am too tired and not good humored enough at the moment to continue/edit/make any sense of this post, so here's the update on Super Ass Man instead.

He was around in force last week, but seems to have gone on vacation. Perhaps Manny is now too busy being a circus animal trainer to attend to his Super Ass Man duties, which include, but are not limited to, filling the crap flour sifter I bought from Target full of dead leaves. Super Ass Man wears tiny bibs with the bib on the back, the smallest cape known to man, as Rona pointed out. Super Ass Man also covers his ass with a turquoise tutu my mom made for the girls for Christmas. He keeps trying to recruit Elena as his sidekick, but she's not going for it. When he brought her the hot pink tutu for her costume and she refused, I suggested he try finding a different costume piece. He came back into the room wearing my filthy blue oven mitts on his feet. Super Ass Man has Power Boots, apparently.

In a completely unrelated story, last night I made these crusty white beans and kale and waffles for dessert, per Manny's request. He didn't want the beans and was real rude about it. I gave him the choice- at least try the dinner or just retire for the evening and then left him alone to think about it. He ate his whole plate of dinner, plus a huge amount of waffle and licked every bit of syrup off his plate.

When we got him into the bathtub, Sam took a moment to tell Manny how proud he was. How he knew that was a tough moment, but Manny had made some really positive choices and that he was becoming such a big boy. Manny's face lit up. He was really soaking up his dad's praise. And that's when Elena took the funnel, which doubles as a king's crown for the kingdom of Manny's room, and slapped it over Manny's penis and scrotum. End of sacred father/son moment.

The biggest laugh of late was on Saturday afternoon. Manny and Elena were sitting in the stroller and Glory was in the backpack on Sam's back. We were walking to meet the Loves at the playground and making a stop at the library on the way. Sam pulled out his phone to text the Loves and told me about how much crap his co-workers give him about his basic, old, unsexy, inefficient phone. I was feeling surly, so I whispered, "that's when you text 'eat shit' to them". This is not a phrase I normally employ. Sam said, "Um, that was totally clear, what you just said." I said, "No, it wasn't! You would have no idea what I said unless you knew exactly what I was talking about."

Right on cue, Glory threw both her arms in the air and exclaimed, "EAT SHIT!"

Sam and I laughed our heads off, but Glory never said it again. She shows restraint. She doesn't milk things. Just paints with bold strokes and enjoys the reaction, knowing it could never be as good the second time around. I really appreciate that about her, especially since that would have been quite embarrassing at the crowded playground.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Street Bean

Every other Friday, I get to bake for New Horizons. After we make our delivery, it has become my tradition with the kids to cross the street and spend some time at the giant rustic table at Street Bean Espresso, a fabulous coffee shop that exists to build community in Belltown and provide meaningful employment experience for street-involved youth. I love going there, I love that my kids ask to go there and I love to mix with the extended New Horizons community that flows in and out of there. Last time we went, our entire coffee hour was one joyous reunion for me.

Today was brilliant. The barista made us each the perfect drink and none of them went down anybody's shirt. I crouched, in a ready and waiting position, at the end of the giant table in case anyone should need me to catch them or their cup. Just above the table is a giant piece of artwork that says "I Love You". That sounds sappy, but the piece is really cool. It was a great moment. Manny was in his pajamas, now streaked with chocolate syrup and the girls were scattering gluten-free muffin everywhere like fairy dust.

When we got back to the van, I let the kids play inside while I stood on the sidewalk and took in the cool breeze, still finishing my coffee. I was rudely interrupted by Glory. She sat in the driver's seat, beating her head against the steering wheel like she was a skipping CD. Honk, honk, honk, honk, honk went the horn. I opened the door and tried (also repeatedly) to explain to her that when we honk the horn, people think we need help. And we don't need help. This, I now realize, was a lie. The rest of the day I felt like going down to the garage and laying on the horn until someone realized I needed help and came to my rescue. But I didn't because I was too busy rediapering. Thank you for the duct tape suggestion Sarah.

I ended up calling the Belltown playtime because both girls pooped and because Glory would not stop honking the horn. When we pulled into the garage and I unbuckled everyone, I reminded them we needed to go inside to the change the girls' diapers. That's when Manny exclaimed, "I'm Super Ass Man! I'm here to take care of the poops!" He paused long enough for me to confirm his superhero name, which took me by surprise. Then, he added with gusto, "I'm really brave! I'm Super Man Ass!"

The rest of the day, I did not hear another word about Super Ass Man or Super Man Ass, but there were endless requests to hear about Peter Parker/Spiderman who is apparently 3 and attends preschool. Also, he has two sisters named Dick.

The kid is a natural storyteller and he has a knack for naming things, especially himself. I'm still laughing about it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Diaper Days

Manny at Golden Gardens.
The kids watching the parking lot. Glory center and Elena right.
Snacktime.
Glory's favorite way to eat. Standing UP!


I have not posted anything in almost two weeks for the following reasons.

1. My netbook is not working and I find the idea of writing something on paper unfathomable. I think with my fingers and the sound of smacking keys. The louder the smack, the better.

2. Glory and Elena will not stop taking their diapers off.

The girls did not nap today. I gave them ample opportunity and only interrupted four times to put their diapers back on and give them an age-appropriate lecture on the merits of not peeing on your bed.

Incidentally, I am starting to wonder what the ethics are around not washing your child's sheets every time they pee on them. Manny is sleeping in his pajamas and no underwear tonight because I do laundry every day, but he has no clean underwear. This is because most loads are sheets and mattress pads and blankies and often pillows. Maybe I should have all three children sleep on the same bed so I could at least consolidate the items that are possible targets.

I gave up all attempts at a nap by 2:30, encouraging myself with the romantic notion of all the kids being in bed by 6:30.

Sam and I tried our best. He came home a few minutes early, we didn't let the girls have seconds on applesauce, we cut the bath short, I didn't brush the girls' hair for the 75th day in a row and there was no funny business in the bedtime routine.

Didn't matter.

The girls bounced around in their beds, shrieking like a couple of monkeys. I knew that meant Glory was totally naked. So far Elena has kept her clothes on at night, but on Monday night, Glory began to cry at 11:30. I went in there and was shocked to pick up this itsy-bitsy popsicle baby who had been sleeping in a puddle of her own pee since 7:00. Since then, she has taken her clothes off every night. Possible discomfort does not dissuade her.

So I rush upstairs, try to express my disapproval upon seeing the wad of pajamas/diaper on the ground and redress Glory, insisting upon her agreement that she will not remove her clothes and diaper again. After much prompting, she mimics, "Yes, Mama," and I feel better for about one minute until I hear them jumping and shrieking again.

I wait until it's quiet (it's 7:15 now, by the way) and creep upstairs so as not to disturb Manny, who is laying in his bed loudly proclaiming, "I can't sleep! I can't stand it!"

"I can't stand it" is his new phrase of choice, inspired by Charlie Brown and so fitting for Manny. Since the girls were born, Manny has had multiple moments every day where he has told me, "I can't stand it!", except until now it has been expressed through screams and tackling babies. Which, I guess is still happening, only now he has something to say while he's pushing them down.

I open the door as quietly as I can and take in the two sleeping angels. Elena is in her new spot in the corner. We moved her crib last night after she climbed into Glory's crib during "naptime" (naked) and beat the crap out of Glory (also naked). There is something really sad about a naked baby getting whaled on by her naked twin who can boast a 3 pound lead, a size bigger feet and twice the size thighs to power those big stomping feet. I still wonder if Glory is so teeny because I carried Manny on her side several hours a day during my pregnancy. Maybe she just didn't have any room to grow.

I am also wondering if my cell phone is giving me cancer. There is an awful lot to wonder about in this world. I would try to quiet my mind, but I can't get the baseball number from "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" to stop playing on repeat. When I am really tired, there is always a soundtrack in my mind and it is usually something annoying.

When Manny was first born, I didn't sleep more than a couple hours for the first three days. Right before he was born, I transferred a bunch of music to my iPod, including selections from a live Ani DiFranco double disc set. For those first three "blissful" days of motherhood, I couldn't get Ani's voice out of my head singing, "I got to cover my butt because I covet another man's butt" and then a couple mangled lines of nonsense- I couldn't get it out of my head and I didn't even know the words! Oh, the torture! Thank God I never have to be a first time mother again!

So, back in the girls' room. Elena is sleeping and so is Glory, with her hands behind her head like a teenage boy in a hammock drying off from a dip in the river and her legs splayed like a frog, and, of course, not a stitch of clothing on her. So I dressed a naked sleeping (wet) baby for the first time. It was actually really precious and I hope I never have to do it again AND I am fully expecting to do it again tomorrow night.

By the time I finished dressing Glory, Manny had given up the fight and submitted to sleep. I think he was extra tired because he woke up early this morning to play the electric guitar on his belly button. That can really take it out of a person. In fact, I would not recommend it before your morning coffee, and depending on the state of your belly button, I would not recommend it at all.

Personally, I will be sticking with air guitar.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Poop Happens

Yesterday, during snack, Manny pooped in his underwear. That's all he was wearing, which is the normal part. The poop part was, thankfully, abnormal. What was so amusing was that it took him by such surprise. How do you not see something like that coming? This is what I have always wondered about people whose butt crack (is there a polite term for this?) is visible. I think, do they not know? How could they not know? And yet, there it is.

This is what has turned me into a lifelong checker. Some people are always smacking their pockets to check for keys, wallet, or in my case before having kids who eat it, lip balm. But I am a perpetual "is anything showing" checker, which becomes a more intensive process when you are constantly crouching down in public places to gather up the thousand and one crumbs that came from your child's singular muffin or the smashed O's all around a table. An "O" looks so benign on the floor, almost decorative, a little piece of cereal that slipped through someone's fingers. But smash it? It just looks like crap.

So I whisked Manny away from his chocolate soy milk and into the bathroom to try and sort things out, so to speak. He went on to have a leisurely stay on the potty and Glory left her snack to come check things out. She could not get enough of the show and was standing as close as possible to the toilet. Manny said, "Don't eat it. It's poop." Glory continued to be mezmorized. Manny went on to add, "It's not a snack! It's poop!"

Of course, this made me snicker. But as I have thought about it more, there is some real wisdom there. How many times have I eaten a load of shit, to my regret? And often, I bet there's been a voice, internal or external, saying, "It's not a snack! It's poop!"

I've been thinking on this the last couple weeks. Some old triggers were triggered again that cause me to tell a story to myself about myself that's not quite accurate anymore and it certainly isn't helpful.

In the past, I have always eaten that story up, to my detriment. And I started down that path this time too. But I stopped. And I guess the celebration in that is that I'm starting to figure out when the stories I tell myself about myself are shit and when they're not.

All this daily refining- today was another walk through the fire- is changing me and I like it. It's so painful, but I like the result. I like being able to accept, the good, the not so good, and the really gross in me with less judgment, because who's got the time to sit around and brood too long about anything? There are three pint-sized people who are constantly reenacting the Three Stooges schtick and I'm the critic who's always saying it's not funny, especially when I'm the one who gets poked in the eye (this morning) and thrown across the room after tripping on a baby gate (this afternoon).

Incidentally, I still haven't learned how to wear attractive pants on a consistent basis, per my final 2009 post, which matters because unattractive pants (especially when you haven't been able to find your belt for three weeks) can lead to more butt checking, which is a ball and chain to the soul. How free do I feel when my clothes fit right? Like a bird. Like a really self-confident bird.

That's a big part of being a family. Helping each other sort crap out of our closet, but more importantly, sort the crap out of our heart. To be able to say, "that's not your story. That's shit. Your story is so much more nuanced and beautiful and broad and messy, but not in the can't ever get that stain out of the couch kind of messy, but in the this too, with time and attention and a whole lot of surrender, can be sifted and sorted kind of messy.

At least, that's the family Sam and I are trying to create. And since Manny knows poop when he sees it, I will try to heed his warnings. Literal and figurative.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Week in Review

I am in my happy place, sitting on a stool at Caffe Fiore, sipping a latte with a breathtaking rosette and nibbling on a walnut anise biscotti from Macrina. Thank God for Saturdays, sunshine, Rona and all the unexpected graces that befall me wherever I go.

I was here the other morning and met the owner. I had seen him a hundred times and finally asked one of the baristas if he was the owner. When I got outside, he and his friend commented on the twins. "You're really doing it," they said, nodding their heads in approval. This is the kind of thing men who are dads say to women like me and I find it quite charming.

So I told him how much this place has meant to me, how it's been the secret to my happiness since the girls were born (an overstatement and at the same time, on many days, true), how it's been my "Cheers" experience- the place where everybody knows my name and what I like to drink. No wonder that show did so well. Community is an incredibly powerful force and it can be found in a variety of ways. Some moms find it in a mom's group. I have never been organized enough to make it to one of those. I have found it here.

I have happy memories of visiting Newberry's Coffee Shop at Eastgate Mall with Grandma Barb and Grandpa Hal. I'm kind of tearing up thinking about it. I loved to see my Grandpa greet friends. He just lit up, made everyone he interacted with feel noticed and special. Boy, you just don't know the power those experiences have over you until you start reflecting on them. Now, I have tears streaming down my face and a really sweet guy just asked for the stool next to me and I have soggy bits of biscotti in every sip of latte and it just all mixes together. The then and the now. The coffee and the memories.

Manny keeps asking to hear the Michael Jacks song, by which he means, "Beat It" and "Smooth Criminal" and sometimes "Dirty Diana". Sam and I agree that Manny is quite a dancer and he's got the attitude to sell it. When he grooves, it's gold. What's remarkable about the Michael Jackson stuff is that I vaguely remember all of those videos and Manny moves similarly to the dancers in those videos. It's like Michael's music dictates the dance, and if you're open enough, the music just flows through you and comes out with a specific vibe. When I turn music on, Manny takes a moment to absorb it, the movement starts in his shoulders, he gets the "I'm about to get down" face and then he starts pumping his arms and his legs and he reeks of "cool".

Sometimes Elena and Glory join in, but if anyone is going to sit out, it's Glory. She wants to be cuddled and observe, or maybe she is just in too much pain from being bit by her sister.

Sam has a small piece of his face missing. When he was small, his sister was holding a turtle and was so excited about it that she lifted it up to Sam's face so he could get a closer look. The turtle got scared and Sam has worn the end of the story on his face ever since.

Elena is that turtle.

Glory has had a red welt on her back, the exact shape of Elena's open jaw, all week long. When Elena starts to bite, I have to scream and yell and run and unhinge Elena as fast as I can or Glory is going to have dents all over her body. Since that particular incident, Glory has been biting Elena, but there's no commitment in it. She doesn't even leave a mark for a few hours, let alone an entire week.

And yet, this is the same child who always needs an extra hug before bed while Glory contentedly sucks her thumb and strokes her blankie in the next crib over. Every time I give Elena that extra hug, she yawns the biggest yawn. It's like the extra hug is the release she needs to retire her curiosities for a time and rest.

Once all the kids are in bed, they aren't really. At least half the time now, Manny pads down the stairs and says, "I need another hug and kiss from Mom." And then I hoist him into my arms and carry him back to bed, blanketing him in kisses and snuggles and, of course, the pink silky blanket he can't seem to part from. It's a funny thing. Kids get bigger, but blankies don't. Manny's going to have to start sleeping in a ball if that tiny baby blanket is going to cover him for much longer.

And then sometime around 10:30pm, I hear the saddest whimpering I've ever heard from the other end of the hall and there's Manny shaking, needing to pee, but too tired and weak to know where to go or what to do. It is an honor to help him and a relief to place him back in bed, silent and peaceful again.

If only the silence and the peace were as easy to impart to myself. And yet it is always available, just on the other side of my busy mind and my crowded heart.

I watch other moms up here who have disposable income for babysitters and gym memberships and manicures and there is a part of me that wishes I could have that too, but I am reminded by my own experiences that though those things are wonderful, for me they don't solve the emotional difficulties that arise while I am in the heat of my relationships, when Elena and Glory have taken off all their clothes and their diapers and peed on their beds twice when they are supposed to be napping, when Sam and I both need more from each other than we each have to give, and when Manny is throwing his twentieth fit of the day because Glory should be on the other side of the room not touching anything and Elena should be having the time of her life sitting in Manny's spaceship box doing exactly what he says at every moment.

I find myself thinking of my great-great grandmother a lot, who of course, I never knew. She had twice as many kids as me in a much more rural area and her only choice was to go deeper, not to go away. I am surrounded by women who regularly have the option of going away, but my option, most of the time, is only to go deeper...with a latte in my hand, which my great-great grandmother didn't have the pleasure of either, so I still have it much easier (the washing machine and dishwasher help too). The thought of her brings me strength, which is a mysterious gift that hopefully I can hold since it is now time to go back home.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A couple of pictures

Elena.
Manny.


No new picture of Glory. Somehow she got missed. Perhaps she was curled up on the bottom stair with her blanket, sucking her thumb. No time for stories, but Manny's new favorite word is "fussbudget" and his new favorite phrase is "good grief" and his new favorite animated dog is Snoopy.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Mean Pirate

Sam and Manny on their way to Dad's night at preschool.
The Mean Pirate.
Posted at Dad's night.
All the other kids said something novel or sweet,
but Manny is the only one who would really survive on a pirate ship.
All those other "nice" pirates would walk the plank!


Last week Manny and Sam went to a pirate party at preschool where they ate Pirate's Booty, made pirate arts and crafts, sang pirate songs and all around had a good time. Manny's teachers said, prior to the party, that the sheer mention of Dad's night made Manny brightly light up. If Sam was my dad, I would feel the same way. Proud to show him off and delighted to be on his back all the way home.


This afternoon, Manny wanted to listen to crazy dance music and I have a limited amount of that on CDs (does Indigo Girls count?), so after we heard my Senegalese rap disc, we put on Michael Jackson. Manny liked "Beat It", "Thriller" and "Smooth Criminal" the best. He kept asking about the lady. I'm not sure, but I think he was confused about whether the singer was a man or a woman. So I started telling him how Michael Jackson was this amazing dancer (because Manny has really got a groove) and how he was the most famous singer in the whole world for a while and that everyone called him "the King of Pop".


So we went out to the kitchen where I get wi-fi and all three kids stood on chairs at the kitchen counter and we tried to watch Michael Jackson do the moonwalk for the first time on the tiny You Tube rectangle on my tiny Netbook screen as the light streamed in through the window, making it hard to see anything at all. And what I had forgotten is that Michael moonwalks twice for maybe three seconds. So I was jumping and pointing, shouting, "Look! He's doing it! He's doing the moonwalk!" And I think the whole thing was completely lost on them. The girls were smacking my computer keys and Manny was trying to get into it, but the picture was too small and the smooth moves too brief to pump him up.


The crowd in the footage, however, goes wild. And they are wearing off the shoulder, poofy dresses and funky 80s bangs (whose idea was that anyway?) and I got the strangest feeling in the pit of my stomach- a nostalgia perhaps, but also a gravity for how much time has passed and...I can't seem to finish the sentence because Sam has returned from staining our dining room table and I have to go to bed before I turn into a whining puddle of self-pity like I did last night when I got too tired and too sick (still sick) to maintain any perspective.


While Michael Jackson was playing, I made Mr. Potato Head breakdance and Manny thought that was funny and cool. Only Mr. Potato Head's body parts would fly off while he was spinning. I wonder if Mr. Potato Head felt vulnerable and dizzy, wondering where he was in space and time, wishing he could get his nose on straight, but his arms were halfway across the room, so he was totally helpless, but happy because it was a helluva ride and help always comes from somewhere....maybe that's how I was feeling.


Better beat it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rock On















I thought this series of photos looks like Elena (left), Manny and Glory (right) are filming a toddler music video. It's amazing to me how grown-up the girls look in a still photograph, not at all like they look to me when I am with them. Maybe it's because of the poop that squeezes out the sides of their diapers at the most inopportune times and how their hips still swivel wildly from side to side when they walk and the fact that every time they are reintroduced to their belly button, they have to spend some time with it and say "butt-on" a whole lot.






Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A few weeks later....

Boy, it's been a while since I wrote anything. It always feels a little silly to me coming back to this blog after a long absence, because I sort of assume that those of you who look at it will have given up reading and I should just write this more like Doogie Howser did every night, for my own record, but somehow that's not motivating. It's the sharing of the stories that brings me back.

The last few weeks have been marked by a "keep your head down and try to stay in the game" sort of mentality, which is why there has been no pause to ruminate on it all. We also have been sick for the last two weeks. After feeling like all I want to do is nap every day for 11 days while taking care of three sick kids, I have a heightened appreciation for my mom who always held every detail together for me, even when she didn't feel like she could put one foot in front of the other and for my dad who went to work every day even when he was sick and tired. And then, of course, there's the getting up every hour to soothe a coughing child back to sleep. It's hard to get well under these kinds of circumstances. And yet, we have everything that we need. These days have made me think about those people who don't have everything they need and are walking through the same kinds of sicknesses and worse. I find that when I am not feeling totally sorry for myself (which I have a propensity for) that there is a richness of another kind available to me. A thankfulness.

A few weeks ago, dear friends of ours experienced a terrible loss. We had the gift of being with them that night and I hope I never forget what they shared. A & J spoke about feeling like God was nudging them not to miss Him in their moment to moment journey through the days preceding and following their loss. That there was grace and growth being offered to them in the pain and the questioning and the anger and all the rest of the complexity they were (and are) steeped in. All things they were capable of missing if they instead found respite in easier escapes.

And though, having a virus is no comparison to their loss, what they are after is true all the time and heightened by having to work harder to stay afloat, regardless of what the present weight. They inspire me.

A couple weeks ago, Manny and I were having a snack. He looked up between bites and said, "You're a great mom, Angie." I said, "Thanks Manny!" A few minutes later, I said, "You're a great son, Manny." He said, "Thanks Mama."

At least once a day for weeks, sometimes more often, Manny will say out of nowhere, "Happy Valentines Day to you Mama. Happy Valentines Day to you Dad." And we always say, "Happy Valentines Day to you too Manny." And Manny always gives a heartfelt thanks. St. Patricks Day didn't change anything and I suspect Easter won't either. I find it so utterly charming that I would be happy if Manny wished me a Happy Valentines Day for the rest of my life. It makes up for the fact that he stills screams at me every time I turn off the television.

Monday, March 1, 2010

All at the same table

Goodbye high chairs!
Last week I decided high chairs were an eyesore and impossible to clean and I would take whatever the kids gave me at the table. What they have given me is a giant mess 5 times a day. But it was a giant mess in the high chairs too. I am hoping empowerment is the first step to growth. And better aim. All those whole grains really stick to a person.
I just thought of a Halloween costume for next year. Oh, good for me! I am not typically oriented that way. I will let one of them go as a dish of brown rice, another as a bowl of oatmeal and the third as a mashed up muffin. It will be so easy to dress up. Just have dinner and go.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Euphoric Morning with Steve Songs

I just had a moment of euphoria, only matched by the moment of euphoria I had an hour ago when Rona told me that Lost aired a new episode despite the competition of the Olympic games.

The kids are watching PBS Kids and Steve Songs comes on. When the girls were newborn, I really loved it every time this man in the red polo with his guitar came on TV and sang to the world about shapes and feelings and the people you meet in your neighborhood. But then Steve went through an awkward performance phase where they had him in a studio and he looked….well…overmedicated.

But, today, they play one of the old ones. I know it from the first note and I run into the family room and practically shout, “I love this song!” The kids are slumped on the couch and they all look at me like I am being a little dumb. I feel sheepish, but then I remind myself that Elena is wearing a Tupperware hat, Glory is breathing like a pug while constantly taking her temperature, and Manny is clutching a giant picture of a ladybug.

I am feeling really good. The girls slept in until 7 this morning and didn’t wake up all night, which is the first time that has happened in I don’t know how long. Maybe it’s the half dose of Motrin for 2 year olds that I gave them because I was out of infant drops, or maybe it’s the teaspoon of honey they sucked down in the dark for their cough or maybe it’s the grace of God in the form of lighter mornings, but I feel like I can run the next leg of this race today.

And I will either have Steve Songs in my head or the gay love song to the President of Iran from Saturday Night Live that Sam was humming this morning. I love creative types. What a wonderful world!

"I like soccer
And I like songs
I like when everyone around me sings along
I like apples and canoes
I like outside things to do
And I like you too

Everyone has their own song they can sing
with their own special words and their favorite things
Each voice's song is a song that's unique when it sings
ha-la-la-la-la

ha-la-la-la-ha-la-la-la-la-la

a-woo-hoo"

-Steve Songs

P.S. my apologies to Steve Songs for his wrecked lyrics. I replicated them as best as I can remember and I bet you can tell where my memory fails me. But as I tried to think of the words today, I couldn't help but think- wouldn't it be great if we adults lived the principles that we try so hard to instill in our children? Everyone has their song to sing and it's beautiful. But then I think of Fox News and I don't want to hear the song that they sing....argh. Pop goes my balloon. Well, they probably like puppies and cookies and sunshine too. So there are things we call all agree on. What a relief.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Manny's Manners

Table manners are not a big topic of discussion at our house. It just doesn't rise to the top of the list for me. I am much more concerned with other niceties like keeping your diaper on when you're pooping. Elena, I'm talking to you.

So, today at lunchtime, I was giving the kids shredded mozarella, and as often is his want, Manny requested to have his cheese on the table. "Sure," I said giving him a pile of cheese on the table and then went back to doing the dishes.

When I checked to make sure the kids were doing okay, the top half of Manny was lying on the table, his face planted in the cheese, his tongue licking it up like a dog. He noticed I was watching and lifted his head. There was a shred of mozarella stuck up his nose. He looked at me seriously and said, "Teacher said don't do this at school."

I told him Teacher was right, but that if it made him happy to do that once in a while at home, it was okay with me. The poor kid has enough restrictions. And we'll work on table manners once I am capable of demonstrating them myself, as opposed to my current eating style that I would describe as "sit down, lift fork, hop up, get milk for Elena, sit down, lift fork, stand up, get new spoon for Glory, pick up plate, stuff four bites worth in at once, walk around, put things in the refrigerator while I chew, tell Manny not to get up from the table, feel like a hypocrite, stuff another four bites worth in my mouth, repeat until exhausted and/or finished."

Besides eating Manny-style looked fun. We should all enjoy our food a little more.

Just not when Teacher's watching.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday

I haven't adjusted to life without Aslan. I just came upstairs and I still have the strong impulse to let him out and make sure he makes it up the stairs while the lights are on because this staircase was always very perplexing to him. The other day I was chopping a particularly teary onion and in my culinary haze, I thought the pile of dirty laundry at the base of the steps was Aslan. It's amazing how, in those split seconds, the heart really does forget what the mind knows.

This morning was my first morning at church since Advent. We went the Sunday after Christmas with Sam's parents, but it was a very small service with no music and I spent the whole time outside of the worship space trying to comfort three tired, screaming kids. Since then, we have been with family every Sunday, except for the fourth Sunday of the month when our church doesn't meet.

It was good to be back. Entering worship at our church for me is like going to University Village to buy a book and making eye contact with the Fran's Chocolates sign. I didn't even know I wanted chocolate, but now, quite suddenly, I must have it. My taste buds have been roused.

Sam stayed with the kids in the play area so that I could have a turn in worship. We were twenty minutes late, which is normal these days, so I walked in and scanned the room. I can't help it. I guess I sort of check people out. We are still somewhat new at our church and I think I am trying to get a sense of who's there and where I fit into the group. I notice people's clothes, their age, their butts, how intently they are listening, if they are drinking coffee, who is resting their head on their lover's shoulder, then more body parts- namely all the ones I am self-conscious about on my person. I notice a lot of post-partum pouches these days. I don't like that I am this way. I think it comes from being imperfect and also from ten years of being mostly in church shopper mode, which is not a very good way to grow as your part of the body of Christ. It's like I've often been the pointer finger wagging at the rest of the body, only I don't realize that I've severed myself and am bleeding on the floor while the body is doing all the things that bodies do, with or without a pointer finger.

The first thing I heard is stories from a young man who works at our church. He lived in the Dominican Republic for a couple years and just got back from being in the DR and Haiti, participating in life-saving surgeries and aiding in post-op recovery. And even though my eyes were still distracted and making all kinds of snap observations that have no relevance, my heart was stimulated and I began to cry. Not the kind of crying where you know it's coming, but the kind where tears start streaming down your cheeks without warning and you desperately wish you were the kind of mother who carries tissues because the drips in your nose are beginning to pool and you only wore 3/4 sleeves, which are much harder to use as wipes.

Worship consistently is so transformative for me, which, I guess, is the point. But I don't even realize I need it until I'm there and that craving is awakened. The involuntary response that I have is something I can't create for myself at home or in natural beauty or with those I love, regardless of how holy a moment it may be. It's a unique thing to stand in a group of people who collectively claim their need for God and experience the Lord's presence together. To say as a body, we are at the same time full of beauty and error, but as we abide in the vine, fruit is born in us and through us that we could not have constructed alone. It's awesome.

At the end of service, all five of us went to receive communion right next to the thumping drums and singing guitars of the worship band, which is Manny's favorite place to be. When I tore off my hunk of bread, Heidi said, "This is Christ's body, broken for you Angie, because he loves you so much." And then James B said the same thing when I dipped it in the wine. And then Glory grabbed the piece of soaked bread out of my hand and popped it in her mouth, leaving me with a crumb. But it was enough and I liked her boldness. Get as much of God as you can Glory.

Manny is going through a contrary phase. Most of it is funny, but there are some things he says that are hurtful. For example, this week he keeps saying that he doesn't like Glory. Sam and I ache when he says this, and we try to have a 3 year-old discussion with Manny each time, but Glory doesn't seem to notice or care, so hopefully the contrary phase will pass before she becomes self-aware.

At bedtime tonight, Manny and I read a book that says,

Giraffes like to stretch. Do you like to stretch?

Manny: I don't like to stretch.

Gorillas like to swing. Do you like to swing?

Manny: I don't like to swing.

Lions like to run in the grass. Do you like to run in the grass?

Manny: I don't like to run in the grass.

Hippos like to eat snacks. Do you like to eat snacks?

Manny: I don't like to eat snacks.

Penguins like to say good night and go to sleep.

Manny: I don't like to say good night and go to sleep.

This totally cracked me up. I turned off the light and laid my head on his chest and began to sing Jesus Loves Me. And I could just barely hear Manny whispering, "I don't like this song. I don't like Jesus." So I stopped. Then he asked to hear another song. I paused, trying to think of something he couldn't be contrary to. I settled on "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." I knew he couldn't say, "I don't like Emmanuel," since he still thinks that song is in some way about him.

It's late and there's no time for editing or a conclusive statement, other than every day is so filled with emotion, hilarity and being distracted by a helluva lot of crap that doesn't matter. And now I need to fold the laundry on my bed so I can go to sleep. Unlike Manny, I like to say good night and go to sleep.

Good night!