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.