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.
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.