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!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Germ Cookies

We all have a little bit of a cold. I wish that meant that Manny was ready to take a nap while the girls napped, but despite my best attempts, the most he will do is climb on top of me and then roll off the bed while holding a fistful of my hair. So far, no bald spots. Miraculous.

So today, about an hour after he ate lunch, Manny requested a snack. I was already thinking we should bake something. Manny would only accept cookies and I remembered this healthy cookie recipe that I have and boy is it delicious. 101 Cookbooks.com, Carrot Oatmeal Cookies, made with lemon zest instead of ginger. The kids and I all loved them.

Manny was up on his red chair at the counter in a flash. He is getting really adept at emptying the measuring cups into the bowl. And he is better than I am at not flinging spoonfuls of the ingredients over his shoulder as he is mixing them together. But, about five minutes in, things started to unravel and I could not move fast enough to keep up with him. He stuck his hand in the bag of flour and let it snow, so to speak.

But, it was when Manny insisted on scooping the dough onto the cookie sheet that our bonding experience really became a sweaty game of strategy. Manny would thrust his hand in the dough, then take a pinch of dough off of the cookie sheet, then stick the whole ice cream scoop in his mouth all in a matter of about five seconds. I never knew where he was going to strike next and I think he managed to infect every single ball of dough that went into the oven. I was relieved there were no raw eggs and that we had not planned to share the finished product with anyone outside of the Lai Five.

It became funny to him and to me and I had to keep reminding myself, as I had when he kept "making a cave" out of my new sheets and duvet cover that I had just double washed and ironed, that it didn't matter. If he ate the whole bowl of dough, it didn't matter. If he smeared his dirty plaid pajama outdoor play pants all over my clean sheets, it didn't matter. All that mattered is that he felt seen, accepted and enjoyed.

When we were cleaning up, I had a surge of appreciation for Manny and I said, "You know Manny, I like you." And he said, "I like you too, Mama."

And the germ cookies will be making another appearance quite soon.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chinese Dragons

I just finished eating about a hundred small pieces of these bar cookies I baked for New Horizons. My bosom buddy, Carmen, likes to poke fun at me because I often take these tiny bites of bar cookies, instead of just having one normal-sized one, and then end up eating more than everybody else. This time I was doing it because I halved the recipe, but forgot to halve the chocolate chips. So the cookies are a bit intense and didn't firm up quite like they should, so I have been forced to eat a quarter of the pan to make sure that they are good enough to share. I really don't know if they meet my standard, but I am all out of time and stomach, so share them I will, and hopefully the recipients will really, really like chocolate chips.

When Manny was sitting at the table, enjoying his bar cookie, he turned to me and said something I couldn't understand. "Jesus?" I said. "No," he said and then repeated the illusive word. "What is it?" I said. "No!" he declared and again repeated the word. Thankfully Kathleen was here to translate for me. "It's delicious!" As soon as I understood, it sounded clear as a bell and I wondered why I had ever been confused. Thank you for the compliment Manny. He likes chocolate chips. But I knew that already.

Later, after Kathleen and Charlie went home, Manny was again sitting at the dining table and said something equally elusive. "Watch a show?" I asked. "No!" "Play with Enzo?" I asked. "No!" Manny started to get frantic. I knew I only had one more chance. He repeated himself for the third time. "Play in snow?" I asked with trepidation. Manny's face lit up. I swear confetti and balloons should have dropped from my ceiling because this translation game is every bit as hard as Final Jepoardy or guessing the cost of a heinous bedroom set on The Price is Right.

Connection. It's a good word and a sublime feeling. This morning, Glory woke up too early because she had a dirty diaper and, thinking it would last for a minute or two, I sat with her in the rocking chair and we rocked for forty-five minutes, me in and out of sleep, Glory sucking her thumb and staring at me sweetly until she finally relaxed into a dream. I had to wake Sam for work, so I took her upstairs and she laid between Sam and I for a blissful ten minutes before he got up to get dressed and she turned into a writhing, squealing piglet. The peace was only complete with Daddy by her side.

When I picked Manny up from preschool today, I scanned the white board where Eve and Kristen write all the activities from the day. They were all themed around Chinese New Year. I had to laugh. Before Christmas, preschool sent home a form and asked us to check all the holidays we celebrate. I checked Chinese New Year because Sam's parents celebrate it and, in the future, I have intentions to create some family traditions of our own. But have I ever mentioned it to Manny? Not once. And so Eve and Kristen came up with all these wonderful activities to acknowledge Manny's cultural heritage that he knows nothing about. When all the kids walked out of the classroom shaking their crepe paper/paper plate Chinese dragons, I was really amused and thankful for all the gaps that Eve and Kristen are filling in Manny's weekly experiences. It's pretty wonderful to have other people investing in your child. And apparently that investment tastes good too because Manny sucked on his dragon all the way home, coating his face and hands in a festive red. Nothing says "Happy Chinese New Year" like paint in your mouth.

It's Valentine's Day this year, by the way. So you can have a combo holiday. How often does that come around? Some Fran's Chocolate, a dozen roses, a nice dinner and a red envelope full of cash. Sam, are you reading this?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bedtime- Done!

Three years ago.

Two years ago. Big injury from blocks.

Two years ago.


Glory, one year ago.



Elena, one year ago.


Every day is such a production.
It's like preparing for, hosting and cleaning up after a dinner party where your guests trash your house, scream at you or each other at least half the time, sit on you with their bare butt and drool on your face. Except you like it. A lot.

At least enough to get up in the morning and do it all over again.

Because, let's be frank. Who else is going to invite them over?

Surrender

All the kids have a little bit of a cold so I kept Manny home from preschool yesterday. Don't tell him. He hasn't figured it out yet. I am still really tired because everybody has been up a lot in the night and the days begin WAY too early, so by bedtime, I was getting to the state where Sam asks me a simple question like, "Is Glory's blanket downstairs?" And instead of smiling and sweeting saying, "Yes, it is darling," I speak/shout/snarl, "It's in the family ROOM." By the end of the sentence, my attitude always eeks out a lot more than is acceptable.

I thought I had it made when we all arrived in Manny's room for pajamas and toothbrushing, but my patience only thinned and I had already had two instances of howling like my finger got cut off when actually the children had only smacked me in the face with books and toys. I am getting better at not screaming at Manny in my weakest moments. Instead I just sort of scream at the universe and then I calmly detail in paragraphs my physical/emotional/spiritual state to the kids so that they understand the nuances of what I'm dealing with and appreciate that, I too, am human and fallible and in need of their grace. I find that somewhere near the beginning of the explanation they got over their shock regarding my outburst and find comfort or boredom in my monologue as they search for more food to eat out of the corners.

Sam could tell I was on the edge and suggested I take a breather, but every time I tried to leave at least two children would start to wail, "Mama!" and I just couldn't make it out the door. When Elena started shrieking because we were trying to put on her onesie, Sam and I were both about to explode in frustration and anger. But Sam, moved by the Holy Spirit, no doubt, began to sing in a churchy lounge singer voice (he is exceptional at making up stupid songs that repeat the same line over and over and over and over), "Jesus! I surrender! Help me Jesus! I am so frustrated!" And I just started to shake with laughter until I was shaking with sobs and the only up side to this total implosion of emotions was that it fascinated Elena enough that we managed to clothe her after all.

Then we stayed up too late watching LOST and the girls were up every two hours last night, so I find that I am still in that wobbly place called self-control. Thank God I have the phone number for Pagliacci Pizza memorized.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pajama Day

The kids never made it out of their pajamas today. I love that they are young enough that people at the grocery find this cute and not lazy. I am not sure how people feel about the same pajamed kids covered in sticky granola bar bits. I also find this endearing, but it's kind of like how you don't mind changing your own kid's dirty diaper, but some random kid....might be a different story.

We made a trip to Portland this past weekend sans Sam. He stayed behind for much needed R & R and thanks to Rona and her ever-present exceptional attitude, the drive went well. Before we left, I gave Glory and Elena a sippie cup full of warm pumpkin milk, my concoction of choice these days. A little maple syrup, some pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice goes a long way in this house. Otherwise milk is just something to drip out of your sippee cup onto other things for finger painting.

G & E were both enjoying their drink. So much so, in fact, that they began to say, "Cheers!" Back and forth. Endless cheers. There was a jovial spirit until Elena decided she was done cheering Glory, snatched Glory's drink without apology and made off with both sippee cups as fast as she could. And she is faster than Glory. Thankfully, I was there to smooth out the sticky situation, but I think there's something in this story that we can all learn from. Next time you are at a party and you just finished the toast, don't steal the drink from the guy next to you. Even if you're bigger and you know you can.

So today we were tired after our great trip to Portland to visit family. Thank you family for having us and loving us. All afternoon, the kids rotated taking turns being potato bugs with blankies in some corner of the house or other. It is such sweetness seeing them curled up like that. It lasts for about two minutes and then they are hopelessly compelled to jump back on their feet either falling, biting someone, stealing from someone or being stolen from. So it's like circuit training. Intensity! Let your heart rate fall. Intensity! And all the while, I have three pots on the stove, two with boiling water and I'm trying to peel a butternut squash. Fear of losing fingers or severe burns while parenting continues to be a stressor for me.

I can just imagine the reaction every time someone notices I am missing a finger.

"What happened? they would cry.

"I was trying to offer my child vegetables I knew they would not eat,"I would reply.

"Tragic," they would say.

And then I wouldn't say anything because I would be intervening in another love/mine conflict on the ground. The kids really do love each other so much, but not enough to share. Manny doesn't seem to understand why the girls run away from him after he has taken every possible thing out of their hand.

"LENA! COME BACK! I WANT TO PLAY WITH YOU!"

Elena would rather put crayons up her nose, red on one side, blue on the other, wincing with each fascinating poke. Glory would rather clear out the tupperware drawer. There was an amazing parade of hats today. My favorite was the one that went over Glory's eyes and nose, mashing her face against the transparent plastic while she giggled uncontrollably through her mouth.

Last night, Manny got out of bed after we thought he was placed for the night and had a good, long poop in the dimly lit bathroom. "Stay with me Mom," he said in his sweetest voice, so I sat on the rim of the tub and we talked. He was being so charming (hard to believe that is compatible with the activity, but this child can be so dreamy) that I couldn't help laughing and I said, "You are so cute Manny." A while later- this really was a long session- he said, "You're so cute Mama. Daddy's so cute too." Pause. Pause. "Daddy has a really big penis." So we talked about that for a while. I told Sam later, and he said, "Well, I should hope so." You know. The three-year old comparison. There's really no contest.

Tonight, before bed, Manny came up the ramp with something hanging out of his mouth. I asked what it was and he smiled and said, "a tiny bit of garbage!" He sucked on it for a while longer before pulling out the garbage and throwing it away.

When we were putting the girls in their cribs, Manny was busy dismantling the couch in their room and he said, "Nice day Mama." And I said, "it was a nice day, wasn't it?"

And it was. Full of distracted thoughts about things that ultimately don't matter like the espresso maker I might go buy right now and then, of course, have to commit to using. It will be hard to say goodbye to my friends at the coffee shop that I really don't know. And I am sure they will miss my tips that I give them because they remember my name and tell me my kids are cute. But after hearing about Sam's luxurious night in a hotel where he slept in until 9am, I want to save my tip money and professionally made latte money for a few mornings like that. And I'm sure the Seattle "I work all day at a coffee shop" crowd (who I really like too) will not miss the entrance and exit of my enormous double stroller. I often bump the door and people, but I find that if you just smile real innocently and casually bend your head toward your brood, people will forgive an awful lot. And feel sorry for you. Or maybe they're glad they're NOT you. But I'm glad I'm me. And that's all that matters.