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Chatty

So, today is our fourth day of school.  I already had my first cold of the academic year.  And now, I’ve cleaned up the first vomit of the school season.

Grace, my four year old, complained, “My stomach hurts” all evening and lolled around on my bed looking rather pitiful.  She’d returned to her room, watch television for a while, then drag back into my room where I was riding my exercise bike, clutching her tummy.  Then, she said the fateful words:  “I’m going to throw up.”

She spoke so with such calmness, that I didn’t stop pedaling but merely answered, “Well, go throw up in the sink.”  (The sink?  I simultaneously thought, ewww, how dirty is the toilet? and she’s not really going to puke.) 

So I was wrong.  Poor baby.  At least her tummy felt better afterwards.  She fell asleep watching television and has been sleeping ever since.  I keep telling myself that she’ll be fine, this was a one-time deal, it’s a mild virus (or whatever it is).  I just hope that we don’t have a puke-fest involving our entire household plus all the other people who come and go.

Meanwhile, I did the dinner dishes tonight.

I have been trying to see Katie Couric on the news and Rosie O’Donnell on The View, but have failed on both counts.  I feel like I ought to take note of each event, but my real life keeps interfering with television!  Of all the nerve!

(Today, we had two landscaping guys working in the backyard–they trimmed ivy and hedges and spread playground mulch on what used to be our pathetic lawn. Now our backyard truly is a child’s playground.  Anyway, suddenly, the doorbell rings and it’s another guy, the guy who’s supposed to arrive after 2 p.m. to pick up the dead car.  We’re donating it to some charity because it’s blown head gasket is too costly to repair.  Stupid car.  Anyway . . . as the car guy is loading the car, the landscape guy says, “Repo?” to me as he walks by with his wheelbarrow.  As if!  What a bizarre conclusion . . . as if someone, somewhere would repossess a 1993 Mercury Sable!)

I realized something about myself.  (This is a new thought . . . I’m rambly tonight.)  I realized that I hate to pay anyone to do anything I am capable of doing myself.  I hate that I am paying the guys to do the landscape work.  I could totally do it myself!  If I had time!  And a giant chainsaw!  And a huge truck! 

I hate that I paid a guy to deliver two twin bed mattresses and box springs today.  I could totally do that myself!  If I had a truck!  And time, more time! 

I keep talking about hiring someone to help me with housework, but I probably never will because I hate paying anyone to do anything I feel able to do myself. 

I hate that I’m going to have to pay a guy to come and fix the seal on my refrigerator because I am certain it’s an easy job that I could totally do myself!  If I had the right tools!  And a manual! 

Oh!  And the guy that we’re going to pay to paint the boys’ room?  I HATE THAT!  I could totally do that myself!  I have painted almost every room in this house!  I could paint that, too, if I had time!  And more time!  And a little extra time after that! 

Oh!  And the guy we paid to paint the deck?  I could have done that!  I could have power-washed the house!  I could have replaced the rotted rails on the deck, if only I had the correct saw and a large truck in which to haul a 15 foot two-by-four.

I either have some control issues or my dad taught me too well.  (He did everything himself from fixing the car to building a computer from a kit to making homemade ice cream.  If you can read, you can do it, was the message he gave me.)

(If only I could pay someone to take care of the vomit that is sure to come.)

Some Books You Might Like

Here is a blog by a woman after my own heart.  (And I’m not just saying that because she quoted my other blog and said I write more “honestly and inspiringly about moms and weight than anybody [she] know[s].”) 

Her book, Momfidence!, was just released, I might add. 

Which reminds me that I’ve been meaning to recommend Barbara Curtis’ new book,  Reaching the Left from the Right: Talking About Social Issues With People Who Don’t Think Like You to you, too.  She sent me my very own copy which I’m going to read any minute now.  (So many books, so little time!)  I’ve gotten to know Barbara through her blog, Mommylife.net, and through email and have to say that she is one remarkable mother and writer.  I only wish she lived next door to me!

The Dinner Dishes

I woke at 6:30 a.m.–a full hour before necessary–because my daughter woke me.  Why?  Why?  No reason.  She watched a show while I dozed, then she came to wriggle between my husband and me.  I began my day in earnest at 7:30 a.m. by facing a sink full of dirty dinner dishes.

If I had any sense, I’d do the dishes right after dinner.

But I don’t.  Tonight, the second we finished eating, I took my daughter to the park “with red swings.”  Even though summer has ended unofficially, the temperatures hovered in the high seventies, maybe the eighties.  The pool is closed (alas), but it still feels like summer.

So, she skipped and dangled from monkey bars and slid down the pole with only a little help from me.  I pushed her on the swing (“but not too fast, Mommy”) and she flew down the slides. 

When we got home, she had a bath.  The phone rang.  Some friends wanted to bring over a birthday present for my daughter, so I rushed her out of the bath and into pajamas and we waited for our friends to come.

I was grateful for the advance warning.  I cleared out the living room which is visible from the front door.  I picked up a cup, two pairs of shoes, a pair of yellow boots, two dress-up gowns, one fancy shoe, a stick horse, a novel, two diapers, two cardboard boxes destined for the recycling bin, and a bag full of envelopes ready to mail.  I relocated most of these items and hoped that our unexpected guests would stay in the living room where the night’s darkness would hide dust.

They arrived at about 8 p.m., just as the show I wanted to watch began.  (Drat!)  But my daughter delighted in opening the gifts and we had a lovely little chat until 8:30 p.m. when they left.

I sent my husband out with my daughter to walk our guests to their car and to view the moon.  Meanwhile, I raced upstairs, turned on the t.v. and began riding my exercise bike.

And the dinner dishes?  Still in the sink where I’ll hate to find them in the morning, but I’d hate to do them tonight even more.

Some things never change. 

Help! More Shameless Self-Promotion

You might not read my Shrinking Mom blog so you don’t know that the bloggers over there are having a contest to get email subscribers to their blogs.  I subscribed to the daily email myself from ClubMom–it was simple to do and now, in my email box, I get an email which shows me who has updated.  I click on the links and voila!  I’m reading the blog.  (Quicker than going over to ClubMom and scrolling through the long ClubMom blogroll, for sure!)

Anyway, I’m on a quest to get people to subscribe to my Amazing Shrinking Mom blog, so even if you don’t venture over to ClubMom, won’t you follow this link and subscribe as a personal favor to me? 

You will?  Oh thank you!  I am forever indebted.

Letter to the Birthday Girl

Dear Daughter,

Friday night, you wake up three times:  2 a.m., 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.  Each time, your cry (“Mommy!  Mommy!”) rouses me from a deep, confused sleep.  I hurry into your room and find you standing in your crib.  The overhead light you’ve switched on blinds me.  I lift you up and say, “What’s the matter?” and you say, “I want to rock you.”  

And so I flip off the light-switch (blessed darkness) and rock you for two minutes, maybe three.  Your arms and legs are so long now that they dangle off my lap.  I wrap my arms around your sweaty little body and you snuggle into me.

I return you to your crib and say, “Night-night” and worry that maybe you’re getting sick.  You normally sleep from 8:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. without waking.  I worry this each time you wake.

But at 7:00 a.m., you’re awake for the day.  “Today is my birthday?” you say.  I say, “Yes!  Today is your birthday!”  And you are content to watch a t.v. show while I stumble back to bed.

By 10 a.m., we are in the van, you and me.  We’re running errands.  First stop:  the bank.  You are determined to close the van door without help.  Every single time you slam the door, I hold my breath in terror that you will slam your little fingers in the door.  You never do.

You will not hold my hand while we cross the bank parking lot.  You are independent.  You refuse to make small talk with the bank teller, and I can’t blame you.  I’m not big on small talk, either.

I finish my transaction and we detour through the other bank doors so we can throw a penny into the fountain.  You toss it hard but wildly, and it lands on the sidewalk.  You try again.  I haven’t told you about wishes and fountains.  You just like throwing the penny.  (You do, however, believe in the power of dandelions–in fact, you call the dandelions “wishes.”)

You climb into the van, but refuse to buckle your own seat belt.  Sometimes you insist on doing it yourself.  Not today.

Next, we drop off film at Costco.  You hold the Costco card as we go in, waving it at the card-checker.  I drop off film and then relinquish my perfect parking spot to another lucky shopper.  We’re off to get donuts.

You love donuts, especially Krispy Kreme.  While you pick out two donuts (chocolate frosting, with sprinkles), I see apple fritters coming down the conveyor belt, glaze still wet.  But I refrain from donuts.  It’s my job. 

You pick out a seat and dig into your first donut.  Instead of being distracted, I watch you eat.  I concentrate.  I study you on this first day of your fourth year.  Your blue eyes stare out the window, mostly, watching traffic on I-5, I guess. 

Your blond hair has never been cut, yet it barely reaches your collar–it’s grown longer, but you’d never know because the more it grows, the curlier it gets.  You have one curl that swoops down into an eye and you wipe it away with the back of your hand.

Do we talk?  I’ve already forgotten.  We probably chat about your birthday party.  You want it to happen immediately, but first, we have to shop.

In the car, you tell me you want to buy “bunny underpants” and “teddy bear pants.”  I warn you that we probably won’t find that.  I’m always trying to soften the blow, preparing you for the worst case scenario. 

We return to Costco to pick up the film and buy fruit and snacks a jumbo sized box of Zip-loc freezer bags I hadn’t realized we needed until I saw it.  

You spot a pink outfit, pants and jacket, with a castle logo on the chest.  “I want the Dora castle shirt!”, you say.  Since it is your birthday, I agree.  (You will change into this outfit the second we get home.)

You get a Go-Gurt sample and love it so much, I buy a gigantic box of Go-Gurts.  On the way home, you eat one, which gives me a moment of silence.  You talk a lot and I answer a lot, but most of the time, I must not be paying attention because I can’t remember the content of our conversations.

As soon as we get home, you change clothes and disappear upstairs.  I’m grateful because I have another batch of cupcakes to bake.  I baked two dozen the night before, but now I worry I won’t have enough.  While two dozen more bake, I cream the butter, add powdered sugar, vanilla, milk and pink food coloring.  I use a whole stick of butter to make a big bowl of frosting and almost have enough.  Four cupcakes end up without frosting.

You wear a hot pink swimsuit, the kind with a little ruffle around the bottom.  The weather is hot, so the pool is crowded with people.  While I set up the half of the pavilion we rented, you shadow me.  You stumbled and skinned your knee (barely) as soon as we got to the pool and have a spot of blood on your knee.  We ask the lifeguard for a Band-aid, which then worries you.  Will it come off in the water?  Will it hurt? 

Daddy has to go back home to get the four helium balloons and underwater camera I’d forgotten.  While he’s gone, I hang up a “Happy Birthday” banner and spread out the snacks.  I put a yellow tablecloth on the picnic table and anchor the four corners with balloon weights. 

Our friends start to arrive, bearing gifts.  First Baby Luke and his mommy and daddy, then Ruby with her friend, Ben, and her mommy.  You finally get into the pool with Baby Luke and his dad and I am relieved to see you relax. 

Grandma comes and then Hope, Nat, Toby and their parents.  (The last time we saw them was at the beach, the day you fell and cut your hand on the barnacle.)  Your Aunt Becca and Uncle Dennis and your cousins arrive. 

You have learned to dog-paddle.  You submerge your head under the water, but always pop up quickly, rubbing your eyes and pulling at your ears.  You’ve come a long way from the baby who screamed if her toes were dipped into the pool.  You love to swim.

Later, when everyone finishes eating hot pink cupcakes with pink sprinkles, I place a present in front of you.  You finger it cautiously and I say, “Just rip it!  Go ahead!” and you pull at the paper shyly.  You weren’t expecting presents.

The first gift is a pink-clad dolly, one that makes baby-noises.  Then you open a highchair for dolly.  Next comes a dolly diaper bag, complete with dolly diapers and bottles.  One of the moms says, “This is just like a baby shower!”  I have an unsettling flash to twenty (thirty?) years in the future when it will be a baby shower and know that I will remember this foreshadowing.  The years blink by.  

But first, you will be four years old for a whole, glorious year.

You unwrap a Curious George monkey that giggles, a fluffy ball, an Olivia book, a bumblebee purse, a colorful necklace, a fancy tiara and boa-adorned dress-up shoes.  The boy, Ben, narrates the unwrapping of gifts, concluding with “And now, you have to go hug everyone.”

We laugh at him and you do not hug everyone.  You are not a hugger.  That’s okay.  I’m not either.

Everyone swims some more then, soaking up this late summer sunshine. 

And when we return home, you change into your pink “Dora castle” clothes, your fancy shoes and your sparkly tiara (you wanted to wear the earrings, but I said, “They’ll pinch” and ever since you say, “Will they pinch?”  You want to wear them but you are afraid of the pinch.  I will finally hide them to stop your obsession.).

Then you pack up your dolly diaper bag, fling it over your shoulder like a messenger bag, and cradle your dolly.  You look exactly four years old, both plastic high-heeled shoes firmly planted in girlhood.  I cannot stand how cute you look and think, “I need to take a picture,” but I do not.  

But I will remember this day when you told someone, “I am thirteen years old,” even though you are just four.  I will remember your curls, the donut frosting and sprinkles on your cheeks, your devotion to your newest dolly (named “Alda” you said).  I will remember your head held out of the water while your hands and feet paddled madly. 

I will remember because you will not, probably.  But on this day when you turned four, you were happy, innocent, beautiful. 

The next morning, you woke and said, “I want to have my birthday again.”  But, you only get to turn four once. 

Happy birthday, Grace.

Birthdays

Today was my dad’s birthday and tomorrow is my daughter’s birthday. He would have been 64. She’ll be four.

They never met, which is one of the great tragedies of my life, because my dad died three weeks after he turned 47. I was 24 at the time and while I understood intellectually that he was too young to die, I only now understand, at age 41, how young, exactly, 47 is.

My dad would have been a gruff old guy, I suppose, but I know that under his exterior was the heart of a man who laughed with such gusto that he could have been a professional sit-com attender. Actors would have paid him money to hear his laughter at the right spots. He had the biggest laugh I’ve ever heard.

The dad-shaped hole he left in my life has not healed. If anything, it has frayed a little, become worn with age.

But in the long years since he’s been gone, my heart has filled up with the love of the ones who came to stay: my husband, my twin boys, my miracle son, and my unexpected daughter who was born on Labor Day, which continues to amuse me.

I’m baking cupcakes and I bought balloons and we’ll swim and play at her pool party tomorrow. And only once or twice will I think of her grandpa who never knew her. I wish they their lives would have overlapped, even a bit.

Loss and love, intertwined, intersect as September 1 ends and September 2 begins.

Happy birthday, Dad. Happy birthday, Baby Girl. I wish you had met.

(Last year, same thoughts. Different words.)

The First Day of School

Somewhere in the dark hours between David Letterman and dawn, I realized two things:

1)  I needed another blanket on the bed because the air coming in the open window was cold; and

2)  I have a cold. 

Yesterday, I sneezed and sneezed, but I attributed all that snottiness to allergies, which sometimes strike me in the fall.  This, despite the fact that one of my sons has had a cold all week (he’s just now better) and one fought off a cold (had a two-day headache, but is now well). 

So, it was really delightful to wake up super early to fry bacon.  Yes, a delight.  Truly.

To wake up the teenage boys, I used all weapons in my arsenal.  I started frying bacon.  I turned on the overhead light in their room.  I turned the radio on, loud. 

After twenty minutes of this, I sent my husband in to wake them.  They appeared at the table, remarkably conscious.

My 8-year old looked half-asleep, so I sent him up for a shower while the scrambled eggs were cooking. 

And here was the verdict on the breakfast (peach smoothies, cheesy scrambled eggs, bacon and toast): 

“I don’t really like how the eggs taste.”

“The bacon is too crispy.”

“This smoothie is too sweet.”

Tomorrow?  Pancakes.  Much less work and a tried and true favorite.  (And I use a real recipe, not a mix.  Be impressed, be very impressed–not that the children will be.  I used to make pancakes every morning when my twins were in kindergarten until the day one of them said, “Pancakes again?!” in a voice of disgust.  That’s when they started getting cold cereal.)

The Night Before School

Tomorrow is the first day of school.  I have my third grader’s backpack filled with supplies, including four dozen pencils and a box of tissues.  Anymore, it seems we practically have to send in the inventory of Target when school begins.

I returned from the store at 10:30 p.m. and faced a dirty kitchen before I could even begin packing the backpack.  I finished putting the groceries away, loading the dishwasher and sorting through supplies by 11:15 p.m. 

Then I sat at the computer to check out what my teenagers’ schedule will be tomorrow and lo and behold (and gasp!), the formerly perfect online school shows that my students have no active courses, even though they have had active courses loaded for the past two months.

So, I guess we’ll stumble through tomorrow, which is fitting.  Every year since we started K12.com, our starting date has been chaotic–usually, our supplies are late.  This year, we have supplies but the internet portion is screwy.  Sigh.

Maybe, a miracle will occur and tomorrow, the computer portion will be fine and dandy.

Meanwhile, my secret weapon for waking up the kids is in the refrigerator:  bacon.  I hope it works.

Rise and Shine (Or Not)

When our twins were babies, they woke before the sun rose.  Every morning, without fail, they were awake between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.  If we kept them up later at night, they woke up at the exact same time.  We never used alarm clocks because our twins were alarm clocks stuck on “too early.”

I am not a morning person, so this was a nightmare for me.  For a long time, my husband would get up with them while I slept a little bit longer, then showered, because when you have twin babies, you really don’t have a moment to yourself.  And I would die if I had to get up at 5:00 a.m. every morning.

The early mornings were the worst.  I would say, “Just wait until they’re teenagers!  I’m going to be vacuuming in their rooms at 6:00 a.m. for revenge!”

But the years passed and now they are teenagers.  And I’m sleeping at 6:00 a.m.!  And 7:00 a.m.!  They are sleeping at 8:00 a.m.  And 9:00 a.m.!  Earlier this week, I was downstairs at 7:30 a.m. (getting breakfast for my almost-4 year old) and I heard the boys’ alarm beeping.  It beeps for an hour before it shuts off.

It beeped the whole hour and they did not stir, not even to push the “snooze” button. 

They sleep like the dead, these teenagers.  This is the first summer that they have slept in (until 10:00 a.m. some mornings).  Which has been glorious in many ways. 

But now, it’s past 11:30 p.m. and they are awake.  (I broke up a fight about a blanket just a few minutes ago.)  They will be sleeping at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, I am sure of it.

And then Thursdays?  They have to be up and ready for school-at-home by 8:30 a.m.  (My third-grader has to leave the house by 8:10 a.m. . . . and his go-to-sleep time has shifted, too–I heard him in the bathroom at 11:00 p.m.!  He’s been sleeping in until 9:00 a.m., too, a remarkably late time for him!)

All the parenting magazines and advice columns say to gradually shift the waking up time of your kids so they are back on track by the time school starts.  I tried, I did, really.  But alas, Thursday morning they’ll be waking up after a rather short night because I have not been able to get anyone to fall asleep at a decent hour.

I have a plan, though.  Bacon.  I’m going to fry bacon at 7:30 a.m. Thursday morning and if I know teenage boys, they’ll be at the table, inhaling the greasy goodness of bacon faster before I can even say “Time to wake up!”

At least that’s my plan.

By the way, over the summer, each of my kids grew a whole inch.  And my son’s voice changed in the past two weeks.  I’m living in a fast-forwarded life and I think I might be missing the good parts.  Why is there no rewind button?

Time Ticking and Slipping (Away)

Two more days of freedom. 

Then school begins.

Four more days of having a three year old living in my house.

Then, she turns four.

My knuckles look bony and my hand-skin is saggy.  I’m turning into someone’s grandmother, only my kids are too young to procreate.  My timing’s clearly off.  First things first.  I have to finish raising these kids into decent grown-ups.  (Some days, I’m not up to the task.)

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll actually have something to say.  Or not.

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