September 15, 2014

The H word

I hate the word 'hate.' I don't even like looking at the word. In our house, it's like a curse word. (Well, it gets the same reaction as a curse word would--if my kids cursed. Which may be imminent, seeing as how I can't seem to handle the flat iron lately.)

So when I wrote this piece a few weeks back, it was published with a title that included the H word. I love my editors, but couldn't bring myself to title the article with the H word myself. I'm glad they could do it for me.

So here it is. 

Soon, I'll write my annual September post on my New Year's resolutions, but we're just getting the hang of how to get three kids + one mommy off to school on time + a daddy to work on time (all before 8 a.m.!)… stay tuned!

July 14, 2014

For the Middle Child: Summer, 2014.

You are obsessed with garbage cans.

Not the usual garbage cans, though. You'd surely be sated if all you needed to see were the typical, green, plastic, squarish bins that we and most of our neighbors hoist down to the curb each week--though you like to touch and knock on those, too.

You see a silver, round, throwback-style trashcan--the kind with the fully detachable lid--and your eyes light up. {GASP! Mom! There's one! Can I knock on it and see if Oscar's in it and say 'hi Oscar'?} This is how you learned to identify the color silver.

Your garbage can fanaticism was born of your Sesame Street fanaticism. (I blame myself for this. I used to sit you down in front of the 54-minute show when I was home with you, nine months into your first year of life, in order to wash and even blow dry my hair, throw in laundry, start dinner. But I don't dwell on it. There are, after all, worse obsessions.) Anything that had a Sesame character on it--any lamp post that looked like the show's recognizable logo--anytime you heard Somebody come and play... the neurons in your head would ignite like firecrackers. You've already had two Sesame Street-themed birthday parties, and while you tell us that you want a basketball party in September, I have a feeling you'll change your mind as we close in on finding invitation stationery. You knew your abc's quickly, your shapes, and colors--in fact, you identified all objects by the colors of the Sesame Street characters. A leaf was Oscar, your sister's shirt was Telly.

And you looove colors. Anything that's colorful, or bright, or vivid, or saturated with color gets your immediate and full attention. You love my turquoise ring, and now point out anything that's turquoise--even the garbage can around the corner. You use lots of colors in your artwork, and you're even sitting still long enough to create what we can call artwork.

Once upon a time, I was really worried about you. I hate to admit that, and elders tsk tsk when I'd ask questions about your behavior. Once, I cried to our friend Lina when you wouldn't stop banging your head against your high chair, or on the floor. I was sure something was wrong with you. Lina insisted you were fine--and she was right. She only got me to stop sobbing when she admitted that she used to run
into walls. Now she is a masterful, highly-respected math teacher at a very respectable high school, one of the smartest and funniest women I know, an amazing mom, and an amazing friend. I knew there was hope.

Sometimes you couldn't sit still for more than ten seconds. Sometimes you could only talk about Sesame Street (those days, I was sure I'd broken you forever). Sometimes you completely ignored the person talking to you because you were focused on something else. For your first year and a half of life, you never napped more than ten minutes at a time. You were a horrible sleeper. Now, you're the soundest sleeper and the last one up.

One day, you became the middle child. Other middle children warned me that you'd either be withdrawn, because you wouldn't get enough attention, or you'd perform dangerous, attention-seeking behavior because you wouldn't get enough attention. Either way, according to these people, you were already doomed.

I got a book out of the library on middle children, and it was very long and scary, so I didn't finish it and returned it.

But that day that you became both a younger and an older brother, something happened. Your compassion clicked on. We saw a tenderness in you, an attention, a curiosity that only someone with a massive, beautiful heart can foster.

And your goofiness got goofier, and I mean that in the best way. You dance like Zorba on drugs, which is so much fun to watch that it constitutes our evening entertainment when the house gets too quiet. Your little elbows and hands and fingers go up in the air and you bob up and down like a discombobulated ostrich. It is priceless. I hope you still dance like that at your prom, because you will doubtlessly be the coolest kid there--and not because of your moves, mind you, but because of your free spirit.

You're working on sharing and using your words. You haven't lost the paci yet, but you're a pro on the potty--and mister, you were a cinch there. (THANK YOU.) I never thought I'd mind staying up, deliberately, until the wee hour of the night when you'd wake me anyway, to help you shuffle from your little bed to the bathroom with your eyes still closed. So that you don't fall in, I hold your waist while you do your thing, and every time, you put your arms around me and whisper that you love me. I love you, mommy, you half-whisper and half-exhale, and then pull up your Pull Up, sanitize, and shuffle back to bed.

Your dad and I lose our minds laughing when you say, operatic-style, I love youuuuuuu! with your hand outstretched. No one taught you to do that. That's your heart.

Your dad and I lose our minds at dinner time. You're working on that. I'd love to see you cultivate a culinary interest beyond mac-n-cheese.

But you often choose fruit for a snack. That's really cool, kid. And you're super cute when your cheeks are so full of apple that you can't even talk, which is probably for the best.

You love playing in puddles and sprinklers. You're even cuter wet.

You still have a lisp. It's so slight, and so delicious.

You're surprisingly polite, sometimes, without prompting. I don't know why, but sometimes, when you're corrected, you actually say, Oh! Sorry! when there's nothing to apologize for.

You say to me, Mom, you look beautiful, even when I don't feel beautiful.

You are three. You will soon be four. Your nickname means 'sun' in Spanish, and you are our sunshine, our son, our middle child, with the beautiful, dark eyes, the colorful spirit, the enormous heart, who teaches me, every day, how to be a better listener, a more patient parent.

June 8, 2014

A Day in the Life (June, 2014)

mom? Mama? Maaaa-mmaaaa? Mom? Mommy? Mommy? Moooom? MOOOoooom? 

{I am not getting out of bed until 7 a.m. It is Saturday.}

MOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!! {I am getting out of bed. It is 6:10.}

The baby, who is no longer, technically, a baby (he's 22 months) has a delicious smell in his neck when he wakes up that is a combination of skin, stale drool, and cotton. He will not smell like this in a year. He will especially not smell like this when he's 17. When I pick him up out of his crib, he lays his head on my shoulder for a few seconds, stroking my hair, pulling it, even, undoing whatever coiffing I've done just before, and I love it. He does the same just before I place him in the crib at night. I listen to his breathing and sometimes we start humming our breaths, as though we're calming each other down. It's our daily peace, our silent ritual. (It will not last forever.)

Each day, our daughter wakes up with the same combination: one part five-year-old goofiness mixed with two parts sleepiness. Her first words are often: Mom? {yawn} Did you know... and the sentence will either end with a recap of somebody's antics the day before, or a joke, or, my favorite: that I GREW last night? See? Look at my foot! (Nor will this last forever.)

Their tiny, square, white teeth, their little, flailing, pink tongues, their delicious lips, their wide smiles, their devious smiles, the way they break into enormous yawns, their belly laughs, their sweet voices that unmistakably come from little bodies. Their trying new words, like im-me-di-ate and san-i-tiz-er, waffle (fa-fel) and truck (replace the "tr" with an "f"). They way they stretch in the morning, as if they're trying to break through their pajamas into an invisible world beyond their reach.

The fl-lap, fl-lap, fl-lap of lazy feet on the floor.

Go potty, please. I already went. Amazing! I didn't hear anything. I'm a quiet pee-er.  Gosh, I didn't hear the water run. Did you wash your hands? I love the smell of that soap. Can I smell your hands? I have to go potty. Be right back.

Can you help me find socks?
Don't eat that crayon.
Who wants an apple?
Who wants a fart joke?
Can I have some gum? Can I try your coffee?
 You need a tissue. Come here.

Go 'way! WAH!
Mom, she said fart joke!
Can we wake up daddy yet?
Mmmm... I love coffee. Can I have more in my milk?
Cheesh! Cheesh! Cheeeeeesh!

Scalloped bites into the orange square of cheese. A trail of crumbs from the table to the chair to the floor. Spilled milk. Food that has somehow landed inside the shirt. Mushy, regurgitated banana on the table that is indisputably going to wind up in someone's hair, because there are three, untouched napkins on the table.

The way they bolt from the door in the morning, coltish, all knees and elbows in motion. My three-year-old son and his sister, the five-year-old, yell, no matter how early, and no matter the weather: IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAAAAAAY! 

The car antics: climbing into carseats, playing with the overhead ceiling lights, small, revolutionary wars of independence over who's going to fasten the seat belts, choose the driving music. Singing to princess music we've heard so many times that to maintain sanity I can only overdramatize my lip-synching as I drive. I don't care, on the road, thinks I'm nuts. The giggles are worth it. (Because the fact that my kids think I'm funny will definitely not last forever.)

The constant identification from their back row seats, the same objects that never get old: the canal! (can we go over it again?), firetrucks, school buses, city buses, bicycles, dogs on leashes, yellow houses, thickets of trees, ponds, geese, turquoise cars. These hold an appeal that will break up any inter-carseat acrimony: Look! Geese! is a phrase that miraculously has saved me many a headache. If I ever write a book on parenting, which I highly doubt I will, Look! Geese! will be its title.

Sleepy eye-rubbing. Snacks in square, multicolored, plastic cups. Lazy late afternoons on the couch with The Wonder Pets, pillow fights, pillow forts, pillows on the carpet is a game called Don't Touch the Carpet or You Lose.

Mom, I want you to know that I'm done liking girl stuff. So no more pink stuff for me, okay? Like, only blue nail polish now. 

The struggle to get everyone sitting for dinner at the same time for more than two minutes. The struggle to get everyone to eat something during those two minutes. The struggle not to lose my mind in those two minutes. (The conversations Heath and I have had in our own head-wagging, exhausted staring language could fill a book, if there were actual words exchanged in those conversations.)

The nightly routine, potty, teeth, washing, books. And more books. Favorites in rotation, like Little Blue Truck and Where's Spot (Goodnight Moon has taken 4th place behind Hug), My Name is Not Alexander, Darn Those Squirrels, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. If I cannot still recite these verbatim in ten years, it will surely be a sign of dementia. And the apocalypse.

The stillness that takes over their tired bodies when they finally give in to rest. One thumb in the mouth, a finger rubs the nose as her eyes close. One tiny rump in the air, feet crossed at the ankles. One soft lovee blanket against his cheek, the pacifier still moving, until it doesn't, and he's finally asleep. I'll snuggle a little longer, because I know, trust me, I already know how fast this is all happening, and that this blissful chaos won't last forever.