Tuesday, December 27, 2011

In Character







Manny, Glory and Elena spend copious amounts of time in character.  This often involves costume pieces and quick changes.  The story is usually centered around who's the baby or fighting the bad guys.

Tonight, while Sam and I were in the middle of our snuggle rotation (each child gets each parent two times), I asked the kids if they wanted to pray.  They were enthusiastic, so I asked what they were thankful for.

Manny's standard answer is "everything and everybody!"

The girls rattled off names of friends and I added family, food, shelter, etc.  Then I said a short, simple prayer for those in need (which is all of us), but this particular prayer was centered around people not having their physical needs met. 

Glory piped in, "Pray for the kids who don't have homes or food."

I was snuggling Elena and she screeched in my ear something I couldn't make out.  After she said it six times, in the same cartoonishly shrieky voice, I figured out she was saying, "OR TOYS!"

So we prayed for the kids who have no homes, no food and no toys.

Then Elena started shrieking again, and after a deciphering process, it was confirmed she was demanding we pray for the kids who have no homes, no food, no toys, and no....

Costumes.

Manny thought this was silly.  I also found it silly, and absolutely wonderful at the same time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Three words I never wanted to hear...








These pictures were taken at St. Anne's School playground near our house.  The two extra darling children are 5 year old twin brothers, James and Gavin.  They are hanging out on top of the high monkey bars while Josh, the twins' dad, makes them crazy and hysterical with his never-ending variations of "I'm gonna get you" moves.  Manny's giggle is one of infectious delight and Josh pulls it out of him every time.  And for that, all five kids locked Josh up in prison under the tunnel slide forever.  Who knows?  He could still be there now.  Eating all those invisible poison hot dogs and occasionally stepping on those invisible buttons that shoot bad stuff up at your face. 

Today, the kids and I had all kinds of adventures that will have to remain undocumentable so that Christmas gifts can be wrapped, but the three words I never wanted to hear, in a public restroom, as I was feeling quite self-satisfied that all the kids were in stalls with shut doors taking care of their own business, came from Glory as she meandered toward the sink with dripping hands.

I wiped Lena!

If you are ever having a self-satisfied moment as a parent, you can guarantee something interesting is about to happen.  It's like the red flag.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A new tradition












We walked up the street to Once Upon a Time, our local toy store, so the kids could each pick a toy to donate to the New Horizons Christmas party.  It was really fun and they were very sweet about the whole process, including personally going home empty-handed.

That night, we drove down to New Horizons and Sam and the girls ran in to make the delivery.  Since we were parked in the same spot as we were when one of my favorite moments of 2011 happened, I will take this opportunity to record it. 

Early one Friday morning, the kids and I drove down Queen Anne Hill to Belltown to make our baked goods delivery at New Horizons for their outreach program.  The drive is only about one song long and the song this time around was Iris by The Goo Goo Dolls.

The lyrics are very dramatic- here is a sample-

And I'd give up forever to touch you
'Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You're the closest to heaven that I'll ever be
And I don't want to go home right now

And all I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
'Cause sooner or later it's over
I just don't want to miss you tonight

Back when this song was new, I loved it.  It always made me very emotional, which I liked in a self-punitive sort of way.  So I was more than a little amused when I looked in the rearview mirror and Manny was holding Glory's hand in the air, pumping it up and down, with his eyes closed. 

We pulled up in front of New Horizons, but I felt sheepish about turning off the music when he was so obviously moved, so I got out of the car, payed for our parking and then sat back down to hear the last few seconds of the song. 

When it was over, I felt like something needed to be said to affirm Manny's huge emotional response to the song, you know, so he wouldn't feel awkward.  Actually, maybe it was so I  wouldn't feel awkward.

"That's an old song by The Goo Goo Dolls and I really like it," I said.

"I like it too," Manny said.

Glory ripped her hand back and snapped, "I don't!  I only like old songs about Jesus!"

We have only heard that song one time since that day and I was sad that Manny didn't have a similar response.  I guess it's true that sometimes all you can taste is the moment 'cause sooner or later it's over.  I'm glad I didn't miss that one.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Are robots real?







For the record, Manny is dressed as baby Indiana Jones.

The kids went to preschool today and I spent a few minutes of that time pushing my friend's twins around the neighborhood so those rascally babies would go to sleep .  Her babies were born in July, just like Glory and Elena, so it takes me back to their first Christmas.  That was right around the time when my mornings included getting the kids ready to go outside, which required a tremendous amount of will and about a full hour of work, what with diaper changers and feedings and redressing Manny who had managed to undress himself while I dressed someone else, to walk to Caffe Fiore so that I could make a scene pushing my double jogging stroller through the narrow door, pick up a latte and a biscotti, turn right around and come home in time to cry at least partially through the day's episode of Mister Roger's Neighborhood.  What can I say?  He liked me just the way I was and he could change his own sweater and put on his own shoes.

My friend was having a hard day because her babies did not sleep in the night and they were not sleeping in the day.  Having babies will do that to you and having twins will do that to you and then kick you in the gut while poking you in the eye.  I hope tomorrow is a better day for her.

On the way home from preschool, we stopped for a man to use the crosswalk.  Elena decided he was a plumber.  I went on and on about all the different things he could be.  Maybe a plumber, but maybe a waiter, maybe a doctor, maybe a musician.

"No, he looks like the plumber," she said.

I remembered the kids had been at a Green Canopy house when a plumber, who looked nothing like this man, was there to work on the sewer line.

"The one that's getting married?" Manny asked.  "The one that's going to be a daddy?"

Everyone murmured their agreement.

"WOW!  He's going to be a plumber and a daddy!" Elena exclaimed.

"He's going to rock the world!" Manny shouted.

Later, I invited the kids to do my new workout DVD.  We went through a scary period where they were all lifting the hand weights above their heads and dropping them on the floor before I convinced them hand weights are for grown ups and that they needed to select some toys that would do the job.  Manny did the entire DVD pumping a full-size rainbow wooden xylophone.

The workout is 24 minutes long and awesome.  Like all good workouts, if I stick with it, I might make it back into that expensive pair of jeans I bought last year a few days after we all had the stomach flu.  For the record, never buy fitted clothes a few days after your whole family has the stomach flu.  You are flattering yourself!  You will never wear those jeans again!  Unless, of course, you buy this amazing DVD and do it alongside your children who hop up and down the whole workout in their underwear. 

(If you see me wearing new jeans, but I never sit down, you know I did the DVD enough times to affix the button, but not enough times to bend my legs.)

In the middle of the leg lunges while doing bicep curls (brilliant move!), Elena asked me from the elliptical trainer, "How did Jesus make me a baby?"

"Not now!  Can't talk!" I cried, trying not to fall over.

"How did Jesus make me a baby?" she persisted.

I ignored her.

"I want Jesus to be in my tummy!" Elena declared.

Before I could respond to that, Manny said, between reps with the xylophone, "When you grow up, you can get a baby in your tummy and name him Jesus."

That satisfied Elena, but almost ruined the rest of my workout.  It is very hard to stay upright doing lunges when you are trying not to laugh hysterically.

At bedtime, the kids all took a link off of their Christmas paper chain they made at school today.  The note on their paper chain had a little poem that suggested the link be removed after saying prayers.  That's a good idea, I thought.  Let's try to pray.  Praying often goes sideways and results in a cacophony of arguments that is not conducive to a sleepy atmosphere, but it's Advent, and we had just read that poem on the paper chain, so I decided to give it a go.

I asked Glory if she wanted to thank God for anything or ask God for help with anything.

"I want God to help with the bad guy," she said.

I asked Elena if she wanted to thank God or ask God for help.

"I want God to shoot all the people with an arrow.  No.  A sword!  And cut them in half!  And then the robots will eat them!!  Daddy, are robots real?"  Then she lifted her nightgown over her head.  "Tickle ME!" she demanded.

I didn't bother asking Manny what he had to contribute. 

Now they are asleep and I can't remember the last time I went to the bathroom.  Sometimes the next steps in life are so clear. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Snapshots

These pictures are a couple months old, taken in Kathleen's backyard.





I have three story snapshot moments today.  This morning, Manny rode his scooter with me following along behind.  I loved watching his little body do all these beautifully coordinated movements to get from our house all the way to the coffee shop.  His scooter crashed out from under him three times, but he didn't lose his balance and stayed upright the whole time, which made him proud.

Alicia was the barista this morning.  Manny has been seeing her for three years and she is his first crush.  When he was tiny, he said about Alicia, "She's beautiful" with awe in his voice.  After Alicia rang me up, she greeted Manny and, as fast as Batman speeds to the rescue when the Bat Signal is lit, Manny dove under the cream and sugar bar and hid his face in his hands.  She continued to try and engage him in conversation, but while Manny can be charming, he is not suave.  He never did manage to come out until I convinced him to go home, and like a shot, he was back on his scooter.

At bedtime, I was on the edge.  I had already given a ridiculous and needy version of the "at least you can show me a little respect you three preschoolers" lecture while they were getting in the bath after a day full of whining, demands, and shouting at me when I didn't act on their whining and demands fast enough.

When we got to the toothbrushing/flossing part of the evening, I took a deep breath and asked for patience, knowing I would have to make the "aaaahhh" noise for about 10 minutes straight to get the job done.  By the time I was finishing the last round of flossing on Manny, Glory snagged another piece of floss and began to floss my teeth and her toes at the same time.  I know it sounds complicated.  It was.  But it was also an act of incredible dexterity and I was impressed.

"Did they teach you that in dental school?" I asked.

"YEAH," Glory exclaimed enthusiastically and went on to weave the long piece of floss through her toes before she popped the whole thing in her mouth. 

Later, while I was reading an advent reflection, she came up behind me and wrapped the floss around my neck like she was going to strangle me, just like the mob boss did to his top man in the Johnny Depp movie I watched last night.  I think she was just trying to find my teeth.

My hair is still very heavy and oily after Elena whacked me with the comb and hairbrush (I mean, styled my hair) for a half an hour yesterday.  Right before I put her to bed, I saw the little brush and asked her what all the bits of white stuff was between the bristles.

"Lip Balm!" she said happily, as lip balm is so, so good for your hair.

That explained a lot.  About my hair and about why my tube of Burt's Bees looks so sad.  I think I will be shampooing repeatedly in the morning.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Day to Play


Elena
Glory

We arrived at University Village late. It does not seem to matter what time I begin to get us ready to go somewhere. We all expand to fill the extra minutes so that I consistently have the same reaction when I turn the key in the ignition and the digital digits swell from vague to firm. I could blame it on Manny insisting on putting his pants on his head and his sweater on his legs, or on Glory needing her blanket in the car, or on Elena falling off the dining room chair again, as though gravity is something that cannot be resisted. I could. But I think it has more to do with my inability to anticipate the unexpected. Is change possible or do we just think it is while we're busy making the same mistake we've made a thousand times before, only to be surprised by the familiar outcome?

We were 10 minutes late to Kids Club so the girls could have their hair cleaned up. When their hair becomes so unruly that they look like no one pays attention to them, I know it is time to go to the salon. Glory got a braid and pink sparkles dusted across the top of her head. I tried not to care about all the chemical fragrance she was inhaling and paid attention instead to what a lovely little girl she is. Her passion right now is to put as many clips into her hair as she can manage. She even sleeps with them snapped all around her head. It’s like she’s in training for sleeping in plastic curlers so her hair is always perfectly coiffed for an era already gone.

Once Glory’s head was shimmering, Elena quickly got over her fear of having her bangs trimmed. She flung herself into the red fire engine chair and pawed through the tub of beheaded and defrocked Polly Pocket dolls, as though it was a treasure chest. She chose blue sparkles and all the kids got a Dum Dum lollipop and a balloon.

I took them out to a sit down lunch at Boom Noodle. I intended it to be something festive, something fun, something out of the ordinary and a way to avoid wiping up food from the floor for a few hours. (Yeah, right. Like I was going to wipe up the floor.) What I didn’t expect was how profound the experience would feel.

Manny said, “We’ve been here before.”

No, we hadn’t.  But after a few minutes of watching them negotiate the wooden kids chopsticks and enjoying the atmosphere, I realized we had been there before, when it was a different building and a different restaurant.  I thought of Manny and Sam and I at the booth eating hamburgers and fries and trying to engage him in the food and the coloring long enough to finish our meal. I thought of the two little babies I was carrying around with me. We had been here, but not here. Look how it’s changed. Look how we’ve changed. So many places feel that way to a degree. We’ve been here before, but not here, because look how we’ve changed.

Elena, Glory and Manny diligently used their kids’ chopsticks and nobody disappeared under the table or wandered to another part of the restaurant. Not even once. It all made me feel deeply connected to the memories of my mom taking me on urban adventures and how special it felt to have treats together. Suddenly my life felt so brief and fast and I was practically tingly with understanding of the wonder of each blessed moment.

As we walked to the bathroom, I wondered, how old am I? It feels so foggy now, there’s so much I can’t remember and the train I'm on feels like it’s speeding from stop to stop. I hope that I am able to hold some of this, even when I can’t hardly remember a single thing I was taught in college. My emotional high continued on through chaotic peeing, wiping and hand washing, only to be abruptly shot down when Manny turned off the bathroom lights, leaving a poor, unsuspecting woman in a pitch black stall.

We missed Manny’s swimming lesson because we tromped across the village to pick out a gift for my mom, losing two balloons to Anthropologie's gorgeous vaulted ceilings. The girls' cries carried them to the wishing fountain where Manny flung his penny and loudly proclaimed that he wished Dad didn’t have to work so much. That’s the second time he’s used a penny to wish for that. It is the collective wish of our family and it was positively epic to have him speak it over the rushing waters of the fountain.

The kids played at Pottery Barn Kids for ages with brown mustaches from the Fran’s Hot Chocolate we shared. I was surprised over and over with how special it all felt. I should have cared, at least a little bit, that Manny missed swimming, but I was just so glad to watch them play and I was so pleased that we could walk away with nothing except Manny’s rapidly deflating balloon and a gift for Grandma Jan and there were no complaints. Only fun.

About 20 feet away from the car, Manny announced he was out of gas and he turned into a piece of overcooked pasta. I almost forgot the delight of the day in those 20 feet when it felt as though no amount of coaxing would promote movement. When he finally slid into his seat, he told me he needed to go potty. I took my chances and we drove up Montlake past the very sick and disenfranchised looking man we saw the last time we were coming home from University Village.

Glory and Elena chatted happily about how dirty he looked and how they believe Daddy is building a house for this man and how in the meantime, we can bring him home to our house. I was pleased that their reaction was one of compassion and hospitality. I talk to them a lot about justice. But I didn't know what to tell them about that man and why we were leaving him far behind us as we drove through Fremont and up Queen Anne hill.

The kids were tired by the time we got them into bed and as I snuggled Glory, I could hear her begin to suck her thumb in the rhythm that indicates she is moments away from drifting into a deep sleep. Elena, on the other side, was busy sucking the french fry salt from dinner off of every single finger and then licked her palms like they were giant lollipops. Manny fake coughed until I agreed to give him a cough drop.

I skipped down the stairs to attend to my sink of dishes and tableful of half broken Christmas ornaments from last year's daily tree demolision, my heart full of gratitude for the present moment, with a pause to sigh, peel a french fry off the bottom of my foot, toss it in the compost and try to ease back into the gratitude for a rich and wonderful day.