Thursday, March 31, 2011

Short and Sweet: Saturated

Yesterday's lesson in 100 or fewer words:

It's not advisable to put a diaper in the washing machine.

As I removed the wet laundry, I realized that everything was coated with slimy crystals that had burst from a diaper, now bloated and saturated, that had made its way into our washer the way an invasive species infiltrates a new location: stealth.

My guess is that Brooke, who despite the inauspicious start to potty training now always wears underwear except for sleeping, tugged her diaper off with her pajamas one morning and tossed them into the laundry basket.

Now everything looks like this:


Hello, lint brush.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Blink. Gone.

Last week I spent many late-night hours sorting through outgrown baby clothes and paraphernalia to sell at a local children's resale event.  Each item of clothing was sorted and hung (hangers facing left).  Each printed price tag was safety-pinned in the upper right corner (pins inserted right to left, fingers pricked on multiple occasions).

The bins of baby girl clothing that I had packed and repacked these last few years as my daughters have grown were emptied for the final time.  A tottering stack was piled on the bed, ready to leave our house for good.

Although I wrote this post a month ago, I found my heart sink in my chest as I drove to drop off my items.  When I arrived, smarter women than I were transporting their items easily in laundry baskets or cleverly wheeling them on strollers.  I carried brimming arm fulls, hugging them close to my chest.  With each trip back to the car I reconsidered entering the sale in the first place.

Especially when I saw a volunteer take a stack of my clothes and hang them up on the racks.

Suddenly, this little blue dress -- the blue dress that a dear friend of mine whom I've known since nursery school gave to my firstborn daughter, the blue dress that she wore when she met Joel's grandfather and fell asleep in the crook of his arm -- was on a sales rack.


The yellow outfit that my second daughter wore in her surrender sleep,


and the lavender onesie that my littlest daughter wore as she lay on her tummy, her bottom tipped upward toward the sky, were now dangling on cheap plastic hangers.


As my eyes locked onto that sale rack, I -- a woman who organizes with abandon, a woman who detests clutter, a woman who constantly sorts and repurposes unnecessary things, a woman who wants to minimize, minimize, minimize -- suddenly understood hoarders.

Hoarders can't separate the memories from the objects.  To keep the memories, they hold onto the objects.

For one moment, I thought I'd grab the items off the rack and bring them back home, but I left the rack and walked away.  And blink, just like that, my children's baby clothes were gone.

In a week or so, they'll be replaced with a check indicating my sale tallies.  Some other mother will dress her little baby girl in the clothes, creating an entirely new set of memories, which I pray are just as wonderful as mine have been.

But this one piece,


this newborn pink sleeper that already seems so small, will be tucked away in one of my drawers.

I had to keep just one thing.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Tangled Up

Our town has a dollar theater that shows movies that have already left the box office and are due for DVD release.  It was the perfect opportunity to take Reese to see her first movie: Tangled.

I didn't tell her where we were going, but I dropped hints in riddle form as we drove.

Speaking slowly, I offered words as clues.

"Long," I began.

Reese immediately countered, "Short!"

"No, we're not playing opposites.  Listen to the words and try to guess what they have in common.  These are your clues."  I paused.  "Long and blonde."

Silence from the backseat.

"Long, blonde, and brush."

"You're buying me a long yellow hairbrush?" Reese tentatively guessed.

"No.  Think about it.  What's long, blonde, and can be brushed?"

She gasped.  I glanced in the rearview mirror and caught a glimpse of her broad smile.  "I know!  You're going to dye my hair and let me grow it out!"

Not quite.

As we pulled into the theater's parking lot, she looked toward the theater, to me, back to the theater, and then clasped her hands and lifted them toward her heart.  "We're going to see Tangled?"

Bingo.

The two of us sat side by side in the darkened theater.  At one point in the movie, she leaned her head onto my shoulder, and we snuggled into one another as best as we could despite the armrest.

I think I'll keep our movie stubs forever.



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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Date Night

Last night Joel and I went on a date.  A bona fide, legitimate, actual date.  We hired a babysitter, hugged and kissed each child goodbye, and then headed out the door without looking back.

With no specific plans in mind, we ended up walking through the aisles of a furniture store that was advertising a large sale.  (We're contemplating new couches since ours, which have been used not only as seats but also as trampolines, are sagging and creaky.)  Without kids, we never had to utter don't touch.  We never had to chase anyone who darted away from our watchful eyes toward the most fragile and overpriced centerpiece on display.

We could meander.  It took me a while to acclimate to that pace.

After leaving the furniture store, we found a hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant that we had never visited and enjoyed a leisurely meal without any interruptions, except for the waitress refilling our glasses and bringing the tiramisu that we shared.

He opened the car door for me.  We didn't carry a diaper bag or need to fasten car seat buckles.  We engaged in sustained, uninterrupted conversation.  As an added bonus, only one out of three children was still awake when we arrived back home.

Happy sigh.  It was a good night.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chicken Leg in My Bathtub


Title:  Chicken Leg in My Bathtub

Subtitle:  This was the scene when I drew back the shower curtain today.  If these toys could talk, they'd have such random journeys to report.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

Last night my husband arrived home around 9:30 and presented me with a one-pound bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup miniatures.  Earlier in the day he obviously had paid attention to my lament that we didn't have nearly enough chocolate in the house.

I have a thing for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and he knows this.  I love him so.

In case you are wondering, the fact that my eldest daughter is named Reese is entirely a coincidence.  Because, really, if we had been naming our children after guilty edible pleasures, I would have dubbed the other two Oreo and Dots.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Where Were You a Year Ago?

One year ago, I was nesting.  I was over seven months pregnant and my desire to organize (which operates at a frenetic pace like a hamster racing on a wheel during even typical non-nesting life) was kicked up a notch.  One Saturday in March I surveyed our unattractively mismatched bedroom furniture and settled on a brilliant idea: I would refurbish the entire suite.

I started working that day.

I emptied dresser drawers, cleared off the nightstands, disassembled the bed frame, and asked Joel to carry each cumbersome piece downstairs into the garage.  I'll take care of the rest, I assured him, and being an intuitive man, he nodded, moved the furniture, and let the pregnant woman do what she intended to do.

Over the next several weeks I spent my free time in the garage with both doors opened for ventilation.  I suspect that more than one neighbor shook his or her head when they saw me, dust mask and safety goggles donned, as I bent over my protruding stomach and fired up the power sander in the driveway.

Never underestimate a woman who's nesting.

I sanded and wiped down each piece, and then primed them with the first coat of paint in Java Brown, a color that came out much more like a Crayola crayon than the rich espresso that I had envisioned.

Here it might be good to add that as a woman who began this endeavor while past the third trimester mark, I was equally headstrong and indecisive.  The "headstrong" is what got the project up and running.  The indecision is what caused me to eventually change my mind, ditch the Java Brown, and finish the final two coats in a classic black.


I modernized the outdated brass hardware with brushed nickle spray paint.
 
When each piece was drying in the garage, I turned my attention to the bedroom itself.  The furniture already had been moved, I figured, and it wouldn't be that much more work to paint the walls, right?

Because this is how I think when I'm pregnant.

One coat of primer and two coats of Natural Taupe later, we had ourselves a new bedroom.  Joel and a college student we know carried the furniture back upstairs and shimmed each piece into place.

The baby was born not quite two weeks later.  She has since left our bedroom.

In contrast, my alarm clock, which I placed directly on the ledge of our headboard the day that we moved the furniture back into our room, remains permanently affixed on that ledge to this day.

The moral of this story?  One, there is no way I'd have enough energy now to take on such a task.  Nesting is a powerful force.

Two, even if you're certain that it's dry to the touch, let repainted furniture dry much longer than you think is reasonable before placing objects on it.  You'll thank me for this.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Grass Stains

Kerrington, today I took you outside and set you on the grass.  You've been outside before, of course, but you've always been carried -- a bundled little entity, one swaddled or wrapped or hung in the crook of my elbow in your increasingly-weighty car seat carrier.  Today, however, you were set directly on the grass that prickled your fingers in its still winter-rough, dormant state.

You immediately set off exploring.  You wrapped your fingers around a fallen leaf and, as is your style, tried to eat it.  Brooke yelled.  I reached my fingers into your mouth, pulled out the soggy clump, and flicked it aside. 

Undeterred, you crawled to the side yard directly for the rocks.


Grabbing one rock in each hand, you sat up and tapped them together.  You concentrated intently for several moments, banging them against each other with greater force as if you were trying to start a fire by hammering flint.


No sparks appeared.  You reverted to your old habits and drew the rock to your mouth.


I don't think you enjoyed it as much as the leaf.


My little one, you got your first grass stains on your knees today. 

When you confidence increased and you ventured farther away, you reached a slight hill.  Your hands slipped from underneath you and your head dipped into the grass face-first.  You rolled and then regained your position, stretching your arms and legs out like a person seeking safety on thin ice.

You've never navigated uneven terrain before.  It won't be the last time, and you handled yourself well today.

When we returned inside after playtime, I propped you on my hip and carried you upstairs for your nap.  You smiled at me.  I removed the woodchip that you had so cleverly hidden underneath your tongue, held you close, and then set you down, my little grass-stained baby.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Daughter's Voice

My two-year-old woke up in the middle of the night, crying because she dreamed that she had fallen.  We're talking deep cries -- crying that's inconsolable, crying that's intermingled with screaming, crying that's chest-heaving and cheek-flushing and household-waking.

Joel held and rocked her, whispering everything's all right in her ear until she finally calmed down and drifted to sleep again.

This morning she greeted me with her typical, "Good morning, Mommy," but her usual voice was replaced with a rasp.

The child cried herself out of her voice.

That didn't stop her from talking throughout the day, of course.  Except for the moments when her voice quivered and cracked like an adolescent male, she sounded like she had laryngitis or that she'd been a life-long smoker.

I couldn't help myself -- I kept striking up conversation with her.  I wanted to hear her talk.  You simply don't expect that type of a voice to come out of such a little sweet face.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Springing Ahead with Creative Food

The clocks have sprung us forward into a blessed extra hour of daylight, the nine inches of snow have melted, and I saw my first robin of the year.  Spring is on its way.

As the weather gradually improves, my desire to eat well and exercise increases.  We've made it through the series of holidays that revolve primarily around food (drat!), and the slightly warmer temperatures (tropical 40's) encourages me to shed layers and the cast off the desire to hibernate.

We'll be reaching the point when we won't have to bundle ourselves to go outside, when the kids can run in the yard rather than treading laps around the kitchen island, and when the back screen door accidentally will be left open on a daily basis, enabling one fly to gain permanent residence in our house until we win the battle and shoosh it out the door, only to realize that another one has taken its place a moment later.

In the interim, we're just waiting.  Although I'm starting to crave watermelon, local cantaloupe, and our home-grown raspberries, tomatoes, and zucchini, I try to make our current selection of produce more exciting for the kids.

Pear and banana slices might be getting old, but Juicy Pear Hair Guy was a hit for lunch last week.

   

Blossoming flowers proved to be an acceptable snack:

    
And pinwheels made out of apple slices, peanut butter, and a dollop of jelly was well-received, especially when I stuck a toothpick into each apple.  I don't fully understand the draw to toothpicks as utensils, but my kids love them.

I'm just thankful that jelly was the requested condiment for the flower's center, rather than barbeque sauce or ketchup, as has been known to occur.


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Friday, March 11, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Short and Sweet: Because Once is Not Enough

A short and sweet (100 of fewer word) post about today's phone conversation.

Three. 

This is the number of times during our weekly phone conversation that my father overheard me say "put down the knife" to my children.

He knows me well enough not to call Children and Youth Services, for which I am thankful.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Remembering through Writing

Last night when silence settled over the house, I found myself lost in thought at the computer reading over old blog posts that I had written.  Nighttime invites reflection.  With each post, I grew increasingly aware that if I hadn't preserved these moments in writing, I likely would have forgotten them entirely.

It's impossible to chronicle every facet of my daughters' childhoods, and there's no way to preserve an accurate rendering of each experience as I've navigated my life as a mother.

There are moments, I'm sure,  beautiful ones, that already have slipped through the cracks of my memory.  Writing and photographs, however imperfect, serve as the tools to tie up the loose threads of fading recollections.

I've journaled for years.  After my first daughter was born, I began writing stories and merging ideas into essays, and they're blossoming into what I hope will one day become a book.  This blog, which I started not quite nine months ago, was born as a way for me to stave off the gnawing doubt that my desire to write would never develop into anything tangible, that a book would never be published, that the dog-eared drafts of chapters would still be sitting on my desk, shoved aside to the corner, years from now.

Although I didn't realize it when I published my first post, blogging has been my response to these unspoken fears.  In many ways, it's met that deep desire to write and to have that writing be read.  Most importantly, it's given me a greater glimpse into my own life, forcing me in the best sense of the word to be observant, to be present, to be aware.

It's my birthday today, and as I look back over the past year, it's evident that this blog has turned out to be a great gift.  I believe that my innate draw to writing -- this deep desire to record and reflect and chronicle -- is how God has wired me.  He keeps records, too, and I am drawn to descriptions of God as chronicler:

"You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely" (Psalm 139:1-4).

"You've kept count of my wanderings, you store my tears in your bottle.  Are they not in your book?" (Psalm 56:8).

Writers record what they deem to be significant, and God, as an author, records what's important to him.  I imagine that he's skimming my baby book today, looking over my history, remembering my earlier years with fondness, and dreaming about my future, just like I steal moments on my daughters' birthdays to pour over photographs, reminisce, and envision what's to come.

The year ahead looks good.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

And Good Morning to You, Too

I swear that my two oldest daughters' internal clocks are rigged.  There must be some malfunctioning cerebral mechanism that forces them cast off slumber and commence fully-alert conversation as soon as the clock strikes 6:20 in the morning. 

Yesterday, Reese was the first one in my room.  She approached the side of my bed, leaned in closely, and whispered in that louder-than-regular-talking whisper in which children excel, "Mom!  Is it really true that our national bird is an eagle?"

Are you serious?  This is the question that couldn't wait until after breakfast?

Brooke stumbled in next, climbed onto the nightstand, and clumsily flopped beside me.  I pulled the covers over her.  "I still have all my fingers.  Look," she said as she swept her hands back and forth in front of my eyes. "My fingers are all still on my hands."

Well, that's a relief.

What must these girls dream about to start their days this way?

I don't often remember my dreams upon waking, but after staying up late to work this past weekend I dreamed that I had been grading essays and commenting on them with a purple colored pencil.  If I got all Freudian on you, I bet I could concoct some deeper interpretation about my inner struggles to balance my home and work responsibilities, blah, blah, blah.

But national birds?  And fingers still being attached?  I have no interpretations for that.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring Break and Snowblowers

It's Spring Break here.  Given that we were pummeled with nine inches of snow overnight, the term "spring" is a misnomer.  Come to think of it, since my husband is away for the week and I'm flying solo with the girls, the term "break" isn't entirely accurate, either.

Still, Spring Break sounds a lot better than Lingering Winter Altered Schedule Week, though, so it'll suffice.

At any rate, early this morning I cued a video for the girls, placed Kerrington in her bouncer, bundled myself in layers, and set out to clear the driveway.  Fortunately, we own a snowblower.  It's relatively new and I've never used it before, but the prospect of learning how to operate new equipment was less daunting than the prospect of shoveling over half a foot of snow off 1000 square feet of pavement before the half-hour episode of Martha Speaks finished and the girls went haywire inside.

I discovered that there's a learning curve to the art of snowblowing, and judging from the two times that I took a faceful of snow from the discharge chute, I'm behind the curve. 

Once the driveway was finally cleared, I lowered the throttle and turned the key to the off position, but instead of stopping, the machine merely downgraded into sickly sputtering, as if it were stuck in neutral.  I jiggled the key back and forth.  I even pulled it out of the ignition, and yet the snowblower still ran.  Worthless little key.

How do you stop a snowblower that insists on staying on?  Certain that I was running out of time, I contemplated parking it in the center of the driveway and letting it run out of gas.  In frustration, I pushed it -- hard -- and finally, the engine stopped. 

When I stomped the snow from my boots and came inside, the girls weren't injured or crying, the house wasn't in utter disarray, and the driveway was mostly snow-free, so I chalked it up to a successful morning, all in all.

It's certainly not sand and flip flops, but happy Spring Break.  The snow's melting fast, I can tell.


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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Coffee, Ketchup, and Crayon

Whenever my college professors returned an essay, it never was in the same pristine condition as when I had submitted it.  The once unbent pages would be wrinkled and marked with winding comments in the margins

As if a professor had used my paper as an absorbent coaster when his coffee dripped down the side of his mug, one returned essay had been imprinted with a perfectly-ringed coffee stain.  On another occasion, the same professor had streaked a works cited page with what looked to be ketchup.  I didn't sniff to check.

In light of this, I try to be careful with my students' papers.  When I sat down at my kitchen table on Friday and Saturday nights with a stack of essays and a brimming glass of ice water (yes, I live on the edge), I cautiously pushed my drink aside while writing.  Perhaps due to my current reliance on typing, my handwriting has deteriorated noticeably from a consistent and tight font that garnered compliments to one that's choppily scrawled and prone to drop off at the end of words and require cross-outs.

I don't love this.  The one compensation for the bad handwriting that I can offer my students is that at least I avoid spills.

However, I do occasionally put essays where I shouldn't, like when I left a stack of them on the kitchen table overnight.  The next morning the girls ate breakfast and turned their attention to coloring.  They were being cute.  The camera was sitting on the counter, and I snapped a quick picture (note the essays in the foreground), and then diverted my attention to feeding the baby her rice cereal... and then to unloading the dishwasher... and then to sweeping the morning's fallen cereal from under the chairs.


Only then did I lift my eyes long enough to notice that one child (the one hiding her face for anonymity), had decided to brighten an essay in her distinctive two-year-old Crayola scribble.

I'll explain this to the student when I return the essays.  Crayon is better than ketchup, right?

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Friday, March 4, 2011

A Different Spin on You've Got Mail

Have you ever seen You've Got Mail?  It's the perfect feel-good romantic comedy, which is why I love this cleverly recut trailer that pitches it as a suspense-thriller.

Enjoy!
 


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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Words from the High Chair

See this little baby?  While sitting in her high chair eating rice cereal and applesauce today, she said ma-ma-ma and then puckered her lips and made a kissing sound.  Clearly she loves me.  

The remainder of her monologue was spoken in Serbo-Croatian, and for one brief segment where she punctuated her repetitive syllables with clicking noises, Swahili.  At least that's my guess.


When your child says mama for the first time -- or any close approximation of the word -- your heart does little cartwheels.  It's just so sweet.

It counterbalances the fact that my two equally lovely children said mommy roughly 117 times during the half hour before dinner.  (They also sung the Wonder Pets theme song twenty-two consecutive rounds, helping a baby gecko, a baby chipmunk, a Bengal tiger, and some baby ducklings.  They've got the right stuff.)

I'm positive that they were speaking English.  I only pretended that they were speaking Serbo-Croatian so I didn't have to respond every time.


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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Daughter, the Beatboxer

In perhaps one of my more random Google searches prompted by an article that I had read, I came across Matisyahu, an American Hasidic Jewish regae musican and beatboxer.

Yes, really.  Because in our very suburban family, this is how we roll.

I had to look up more.  My daughters, who are drawn to videos on the computer like moths to a flame, flanked me on either side.  Being that I monitor what they watch, I looked for the most family-friendly clip available.

It's not that I anticipated that his beatboxing would be inappropriate, but really now, I'm pretty unfamiliar with the whole Hasidic Jewish beatboxing scene.  Given this, I figured that his Sesame Street appearance might be a better gateway than some random YouTube concert footage captured a on cell phone video camera by a jumping and whistling teenage fan.

So, I cued this this brief video for the girls.

Brooke was unaffected, but Reese, as the more ambitious five-year-old, watched with a glint in her eye.  It was the same glint that had appeared when she saw Swan Lake and wanted to attempt the dance.  It was the same glint that must have served as a precursor to her ill-fated jump from the trampoline into the tree.

By the time the clip finished, the child was poised to beatbox.  She has no inhibitions.  She does, however, seem to have a fair amount of saliva, and beatboxing brings out the best in that area.

My daughter, the beatboxer.  I love her so.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Stinky Truth

Sometime during the night, a skunk sprayed outside the perimeter of my daughter's elementary school.  Being a clever skunk, this little fellow managed to disseminate skunk odor through the school's ventilation system.  The only way to rid the building of the stench was to air it out -- turn off the heat, open the windows, and let ventilation do its work.

Reese came home and told a version of this story. From her version, I gathered that 1) there had been a skunk, 2) the skunk had been in her classroom, 3) she had to wear her jacket inside, 4) her class spent most of the day in the library because of the skunk in her classroom, 5) she had chicken nuggets for lunch (this detail is essential to most every story), and 6) to repeat, there had been a skunk.  In her classroom.  And it sprayed.  And they wore jackets because it smelled funny.

Numbers 1-6 above are why I appreciate the principal of the school.  He sent an email to all parents, aware that the story would arrive home in "many forms" and gave us a more direct recap of events. Thanks for airing out the truth, Mr. Principal.