NOT ABOUT A SKUNK

I used to wake up to Rachel’s voice two inches from my face as she stood beside my bed wishing me good morning. Before that, I woke to her toddler kisses and wet breath on my face when she climbed into our bed at six in the morning. Now more often I wake to the sound of sisters, connecting happily before making that first connection with Mom or Dad. “There were bells, In the air………” I heard Hannah singing sweetly this morning while she played with her sister. The other morning I heard Rachel explaining the gag reflex to Hannah, “You see, Hannah, when you smell throw up it makes you want to throw up.” This is a fact I had pointed out to Rachel a day earlier after Rachel vomited on my bedroom carpet. She saw me gag when I was cleaning it up and said, “Gee, Mom, I think you’re getting sick, too.” Now here they were, the next morning, playing throw-up together with a yellow salad bowl. Hannah kneeling in front of the yellow salad bowl, not quite getting what throw-up really is, which is ironic, I might add, since she was quite the barf queen when she was a baby.

Late this morning, Hannah watched as I sat on the bathroom floor with Rachel, rubbing her back and holding her belly (the only thing that seemed to soothe her). She didn’t actually throw up, but we spent a good intense hour getting through a wave of what I assume was nausea. Later this afternoon, Hannah quietly beckoned me into the bathroom. “I’m going to throw up,” she announced cheerfully. “Does your tummy hurt?” I asked skeptically. “No.” she responded, patting the tiles of the bathroom, showing me she wanted me to sit in the same position she saw me in with Rachel. She leaned over the toilet bowl and said, “After I’m done, I’m going to get a biiiiiiiiig treat. Like going poo-poo.” We sat for a few seconds. “Are you done?” I asked. She nodded. We got up and went back in the kitchen. “Did you throw up?” her Dad asked. “Yup.” She answered importantly.

Somehow, the stomach flu has not flattened us to the floor today. Rachel’s stomach virus seems to hit about once every 24 hours without a whole lot of trauma in between. (I literally knocked on wood after I wrote that.) Mr. R and I managed to finish cleaning the garage. A BIG deal, considering we haven’t been able to park our cars in the garage since we had our house painted last Christmas. A very long stretch—even for us. As I sat working in the garage it struck me how much easier things have gotten, even on a barfing day. Hannah was sitting at the table in the art room we set up in the garage. Rachel was inside watching Music Man, the garage door propped open so we could hear if anything went wrong. No toddler grabbing things from the shelves. No baby screeching for me with arms stretched out. Six hours out of ten the girls play beautifully together. If I play a part in their pretend games, I only need to play a supporting role, if anything. I’m usually assigned the role of “Grandma,” who occasionally baby-sits while “Mom” goes out. Feeling a little frumpy about playing Grandma once again (No offense to the grandmas our there. If anyone is frumpy, it's me.), I asked if I could be a Princess Grandma. Rachel thought, no. A Queen Grandma would be more appropriate. I protested at first, but then gave myself the role of Queen of England, which amused me greatly. I tried to get the girls to act out nursery rhymes for me, while I recited them in a posh accent, but that fizzled quickly. I just may be losing my touch.

A day earlier, I was feeling playful and put a book on my head, beginning to walk around the room. It reminded me of my sister’s best friend in grade school, who used to run away from her Catholic school to our house, where she’d end up hanging out with me, while my Mom waited for her parents to pick her up. My sisters, who were going to public school, were at school when she’d come. She’d usually teach me lessons that the nuns had taught her, like how to act like a "lady." How to do a sort of curtsey when you pick up your handkerchief. And how to walk with a book on your head. So I was amusing myself the this day thinking of Sis's friend as I placed a book on my head, “Look, I am walking like a…..” I paused. Did I really want to say lady? Thinking, thinking. What I really was feeling was powerful. Yoga has made me feel strong and well balanced, able to hold a book on my head. So I stood there, looking for the right word. Hannah finished the sentence for me: “like a skunk!”

At the same time life seems to be getting easier, other things are shifting, keeping things challenging. Rachel doesn’t nap, so my down time is limited. Right now, she is supposed to be taking a quiet time. Instead she has made her way into this office. I told her if she wanted to stay with me, she had to remember that it was my quiet time, too. She drew, and then made her way back to my desk, picking items up and asking me very sweet questions about them. I began to remind her that quiet time required actual quiet. Finally, I looked at her and smiled. “Are you wanting attention?” She smiled. I held her in my arms, we talked, and then I gave her a project. She is sorting my cards. The girt loves a project, I tell you.

I had a revelation the other day. I realized that I could actually set official rules in the house. I know. I am a slow learner. (Okay, okay, I watched Super Nanny the other night. Joe is a sweetheart). After dinner, I made an announcement. I wrote six rules on a piece of construction paper as I dictated them. One of the rules made Rachel’s eyes light up. Rule #6: Clean Up Messes Before Watching TV. Rachel interpreted this to mean: When you want to watch TV, clean up and your wish shall be granted. When I explained to her yesterday that was not what the rule meant, she actually went to the rule list, read it out loud, and argued her point, as if the list was the Constitution. I made some faces at her and we laughed. This is where “I’m in charge” comes in handy.

Oh, what a lengthy wandering post. What I am really DYING to shout to the world about is this. A new purchase. An extravagant purchase. A new baby really. A Baby Grand. The old Raehan probably wouldn’t have told you about it, but I’m feeling bold in my last week here. I’m throwing my privacy issues to the wind. THIS is what is on my mind while I’m rubbing my daughters back in front of the toilet. This baby.


And my Minnesota roots tell me not to tell you this without apologizing in some way, like to mention that my car is old. Because, well, it is, but also because that’s how I was brought up, feeling apologetic for owning nice things. Tell me you like my sandals, and I’ll tell you I got them half off at a sale. My Dad studied in a monastery and dedicated himself to having a non-materialistic life. That commitment was always part of him. I’ve got all that baggage—good or bad—locked in me.* And really, buying a new piano WAS a very extravagant thing to do, considering not a single one of is a piano virtuoso. But every time I’ve had access to a piano in recent years I’m all over it. I’m thirsting for it. And I have this dream of turning our front room into a music room. The piano hasn’t arrived yet, and my fingers are itching. ITCHING I tell you. The very worrying thing is that as well as my girls play together and often without me, whenever I sit down to play our electric piano, they are all over me and the piano.


Worrisome indeed.

Rule #7: When Mama's playing, let her play.

Oh man. I need a lawyer.

*(I re-read this and am realizing that the reason I probably want a music room is because my Dad had one growing up. They had a family band and I used to be fascinated by their music parlor and the lore surrounding it. How odd of me not to see this connection. I wish he could be here to play the piano, his clarinet, or even his accordian. I think move his photo to the piano when we're all set up.)

A DECISION

It started with my post about boundaries. Writing that post left me feeling so unsettled and uncomfortable that I knew something was up inside of me. Last night I figured it out, and then I cried myself to sleep.

You see, there's been this force moving around inside of me, first like a loose lump of knotted thread and now sometimes like an ocean rolling deep into the night. Last night I recognized it for what it is. It's a voice inside of me, but I can't hear what it's saying. I need to write and find it, but it's not the kind of writing that I want to do here. I am embarassed to write about this because I don't mean to sound all "artsy fartsy" and "I am a writer"-ish. It's just that no matter how much I love you all, this blog will never be a place without boundaries for me and I really want to understand this voice of mine.

So last night, I imagined my life without my blog, a life where I would have time for more private writing, writing just for me, with no boundaries. I saw it and realized I wanted it. I REALLY wanted it.

And then I cried.

For you. For Raehan. For this space. For all these loves of mine.
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I am going to leave this post up top as a sticky post, but I'm going to spend another week or so here on this blog, writing my heart out about my girls, like I did when I started this gig. You'll find new posts cropping up below this post. I want to capture my girls, bottle them up, in this glorious summer that we're having together. And then on my last day (and you'll know when it comes cause I'll say good-bye), I will write my heart out about me. And I will close the museum, for a long time, perhaps forever. But I'll still be hanging around the neighborhood. And I will send periodic updates for those who leave e-mail addresses.

Thank you, friends. If love is touching souls, then I love you.

Tears. I have tears, as Rachel used to say.


(And what do you know, I have no idea how to do a sticky post on blogger and my browser isn't letting me fiddle with the time-stamp.)

MORE BIRDY AND BEN

Catherine Newman is leaving ParentCenter, but she will have a weekly column at Wondertime.com in addition to her newish monthly column there. It looks like the weekly column will stay true to the down and gritty Catherine that we love. However, I also love her monthly column, which is more fully in tune with the compassionate person she is. Her montly column also seems to reflect the tone of Wondertime, which strives to help moms "see the world through the eyes of their children." It's very refreshing.

The one thing that makes me sad about her move to Wondertime is the loss of the bulletin boards. I love the group of women (well, ahem, most of them) who comment there. Gosh, we should just have a big Ben and Birdy bash. Like BlogHer, but so much better. (I have every right to make this assessment because I wasn't at BlogHer. Ha-ha-ha-ha. I crack myself up.) All of the non-Ben and Birdy groupies that I love need to come, too.

Gosh, before learning about her new column, I was all ready to write a farewell post describing my feelings for this woman. I think most of her fans feel that there is a division in their lives, pre-Catherine and post-Catherine.

I never wrote about this here, but I met her at a book signing last year. I was a speechless idiot in her presence, but I loved meeting her and watching her interact with people (I was near the end of the line). She is as funny in person as in her book and columns. The thing she doesn't lilke to admit in her columns is that she is extremely kind. I started loving Catherine because her columns made me giggle like a schoolgirl when I was 8 months pregnant and NOTHING else could make me laugh. Then her writing inspired me to start writing, first in a private journal, then later here.

What I love about Catherine now, is that more than making me want to be a better writer, she has made me want to be a better person, a better parent. To be honest, I arrogantly thought I was doing okay in that department. Reading about Catherine struggling to be a better parent in her humble, self-depreciating way, has made me realize that I can be better, too.

That's about all I'll say about that.

She's All That

We are in the local supermarket and I have a large grocery list. Hours ago, in a burst of inspiration, I took out our kids cookbooks and chose about 10 recipes to tackle together this week. We need projects. Big time. Hannah is sitting in the back of the cart. I have filled the little shopping cart seat area with fruits and vegetables and I've got eight more aisles to go. My time is running out. There is limited space in the cart and Hannah's expiration time is uncertain.

"Hey, Mom, let's get Mango Tango!" Rachel says, staring over at the Odwalla juice display.

"No. It's too expensive." (We sometimes buy it at Costco, where it is about half the price.)

She thinks for about four seconds and then asks enthusiastically, "But, what if it was on sale?"

I feel myself getting irritated. Here we go again. Rachel's mind-numbing reasoning. Her ace negotiation skills.

"We're sticking to the list," I say firmly, not even glancing at the Odwalla stand. The girl had a valid point. I could have checked if it was on sale, but damnit, I just wanted her to take no for an answer. Just once.

This time the conversation ended there. No more questions. We moved on. On other days, it's an exhausting game of mental gymnastics. The girl is smarter than me. I'm more powerful and ultimately win, but if our sport had a panel of judges, I doubt I'd be so lucky.

It always baffles me a little when a parent describes a child as easy. Maybe I just haven't had an easy child yet, but my girls are challenging.....easy in some ways, hard in others. Very different from each other, but not opposites. And in no way easy. Rachel was never one to throw public tantrums, but could throw a good one at home. She slept through the night eventually, but not early on, and not when she was sick or teething. She was work, and each age has had different challenges. And rewards.

I'm always asking her to stop complaining-sometimes her whining seems endless--but at the same time, the girl is an incredibly positive spirit. She was so excited last week when I unscrewed the top of an old IKEA baby dresser and turned it into a small bookshelf for Hannah. She placed the books beautifully on the shelves and was so excited she said, with no sarcasm, "This is the most exciting time I've ever had with you two!" (Stop laughing. We DO get out.)

There are other frustrating paradoxes. The girl is a fantastic older sister. I mean, it's a beautiful thing. But at the same time, the buttons she can push. Oy. She is constantly telling Hannah she is wrong about something and I am constantly telling her to not correct Hannah--to just let her say what she wants to say. Perhaps it is the younger sister in me. I don't know. But I do know how many conversations end in a battle between older and younger sister of "yes", "no," "yes," "NO!" "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah." Too many.

My point is, this girl is good. She is fantastic, really. But I am constantly on her case. Sometimes I need to be. And sometimes I need to back off. It's hard to get it exactly right.

The other day we couldn't find her swimsuit. I had looked for over a half hour and was irritated at her for not helping me look. Okay, she gave a feeble attempt for five feet or so and then collapsed on the floor in a heap. So I went on strike. I told her if she could find her swimsuit we would go and if not we wouldn't. Then I went downstairs and left her in her room to think it over. I wasn't convinced that this was fair of me. I listened to her cry, but I was too tired to get up and keep looking. She stopped crying. She shouted down to me a suggestion about wearing one of Hannah's swimsuits. I hollered back up without listening very carefully that, no, it wasn't appropriate. She couldn't wear a swimsuit that was too small. She protested. I got irritated. She cried. And when she came downstairs and we talked a bit more I understood what she was suggesting. She wanted to wear a bikini top under Hannah's one-piece swimsuit. Hannah's suit was only slightly too small. It was brilliant suggestion, really. The top didn't match the one-piece, but together they looked fine really. We went swimming.

One afternoon last week--perhaps it was the same day we went swimming, I'm not sure--Rachel was having trouble listening as I was putting Hannah down to nap. We butted heads. And then after a while I went into her room and suggested she come lie down in my bed with me, because I was tired and so was she. She whined a little, because she was over-tired, but then she joined me.

She lay in my arms as I drifted in and out of sleep. I had flashbacks to when she was two and I had to lay down on the edge of the bed with her to keep her from climbing out of bed. I remembered how I used to have to turn my back to her so she wouldn't get distracted and try to get me to talk or laugh. While my back was turned, I would hear her talking to herself in a two-year old babbling sort of way until she finally fell asleep. Now here she was, such a grown-up, really. And on this afternoon last week, after we had shut our eyes long enough to feel rejuvenated, we looked into each other's eyes and kissed and swooned at each other like lovers. We whispered into each other's ears how nice it was to have this time alone to cuddle.

And when we got out of bed it was like we were refreshed and reconnected again. Rachel later told me how much she enjoyed that time together. I could see it in her eyes. It was like her spirit was revived.

Do you ever pay attention to how much time you spend each day making eye contact with people? I'm asking because I forget to, and when I do it makes such a difference. I read somewhere that all a dog needs is five minutes a day of intense attention with an owner. That if you lay down on the floor with them and give them five minutes of complete attention, they'll get the connection they need. I know there are a lot of studies out there talking about how important this kind of intimancy--this connecting-- is in a romantic relationship. And with yoga, I am learning the importance of and joy in re-connecting with my body.*

Some things really are easy in the end.

I said, SOME things.

(I'll actually be back on Tuessday for the Perfect Post Awards and other honorable mentions.)

*Psst....I can do the full wheel now. Hee-hee.

I found Neverland

I just finished watching Finding Neverland for the first time. Why did you not tell me this movie was so breathtaking? Why have I never really taken to Peter Pan before? Why did Crash win the Oscar and not Neverland? Why does Peter Pan usually look like Sandy Duncan and not Johnny Depp? Why can't I live in England and look like Kate Winslet? Why do I suddenly want to have boys, lots of boys.

I'll have to read the play and see if makes more sense to me now. To be quite honest, that play always confused the hell out of me.

I finished setting up bloglines. Please don't tell me I didn't have to manually enter each link on my blogroll. I don't want to know. If you do, I'll knock you over. Or maybe I'll just throw a tantrum. Which one will get me into more trouble?

See you Monday folks. I'm back to my regularly scheduled program.

And this is a message to my own Johnny Depp. We miss you! Our windows are open awaiting your flight home.

Progress is progress, right?

Hello again. It's been so quiet here lately. It seems like half of you are on blog vacations, or semi-vacations, and the other half are whipping out hot posts, really sizzling brilliant ones. And here I sit, having a month of "Gee, I really need to get that done" posts.

Do you know what I love about you? (and I am laughing to myself as I think about it.) Every time I have a "oh I am so boring post" you come and pat me on the head and tell me "oh, you are not boring" and it's like I'm having a party and most everyone has left because the party is REALLY slow, except for a few old friends and they are patting me on the head and telling me what a great party I'm having, And I feel like the luckiest woman alive because of it, and it makes me want to laugh.

Smoocherooskies.

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Will you go give a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY, to my very dear friend, MommaK? Her birthday is on Saturday, but she'll be on vacation. Catch her before she goes, if you can. Happy Birthday K!! You are the Mary to my Laura, the Juliet to my Anna, and a cherished internet sister. Hug. Now go enjoy your vacation.

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Progress Report

*Still working on setting up bloglines. If only it didn't involve work.
*Office looks worse than it was, but is actually close to being done. The piles that exist now are meaningful.
*Laundry--(ditto from above)

What else is going on? I painted an old weathered wooden bench today. I love this bench because it glides and at the same time, looks simple. I painted it sunshine yellow and did just a bit of stenciling on it. It has a shabby chic look, which was not intentional, but I'm going with it. I'm starting to get my head into my landscaping and am even playing with the idea of doing a lot of it myself in the fall when I'll have my mornings free.

I'm getting ready for a girls night out.....except it's really a girls night in. My friends are coming here! Hee-hee. We are ordering Thai and drinking wine. This means I don't have to cook or drive home. It also will be great to be able to move around, mingle, play games, etc. This is my oldest mom's group. A wonderful group of women. I still remember the first time we got together and thinking I didn't really belong there, and I remember my first impressions of people. So funny how first impressions are often just wrong.

I've decided to go back to posting only on Mondays. So, meet me here on Monday. I'll have lots to say about my girls, and will give you highlights of the sizzling posts I've been reading. I have a post about Rachel brewing in my head, but it's not quite there, so I'll save it until then.

A Slice of Our Day

I'm sitting in our family room watching my girls dance to the Music Man soundrack. Hannah is dressed in a swimsuit and a tutu. Rachel, who is usually the first one dressed in the morning, is still in her nightgown. They are running in circles, holding hands and swinging, until they fall down laughing. I'm getting deja vu. I have vague memories of falling down and laughing so hard my tummy hurt while my Dad played the accordian, or piano. But now, here I am, throwing things out like, "Not so fast! Someone is going to get hurt." Yes, I need to relax.

These days we are living in a bizarre little world of Music Man references. The other night, during dinner, as my husband and I were trying to follow Rachel's train of thought as she babbled on about something (non-stop talker that she is), Hannah, out of the blue said, "What da ya talk?" And we are perhaps the only family that listens to the Music Man enough to even understand that reference. And proud of it, baby!

I announced this morning that we would stay inside all day. I'm not sure if it's going to happen, but I made my point and set my intention for the day. After two days of running around to parties and such in 110 degree heat, I am craving a day at home. I am, at my core, a homebody, though I try to stretch myself and get out as much as I can. On a normal day, we're out and about by now. But today, I am indulging. I stayed in my pajamas until I digusted even myself. I did manage to clean the kitchen, water the plants in the back, and make playdough while wearing pajamas. Now you know why I was disgusted with myself. That's a little too much activity for fun pajama wearing. We don't want to sweat in our pajamas do we? When you've crossed that line, it's time to move on.

I am dressed now, sitting here, thinking of all I could be doing; laundry; sorting out the piles of papers, scrapbook scraps, and bills in my office; finishining clearing the garage out so I can park my car in it instead of letting it sit in my driveway and turn into a mobile sauna; figuring out bloglines so there is a method to my blog-reading and I don't leave anyone out; sorting out my e-mail inbox; doing some yoga. But here I sit, staring at navel, waiting for the next breakdown. But, hey, remember, my kitchen IS clean, my plants watered, and I'm dressed. Where's that medal when I need it?

If you know me well, you know that I am continually having a mental, when not physical, battle with the clutter in my office. My husband and I have the same battle with our garage. I find it interesting how much joy Rachel gets out of the very same clutter. My office is like a big treasure box to her. Stickers, pencils, paper, photos. It's all quite wonderful to her. To me it just looks piles of crap. Well, that's only partly true. There is a part of me that is in love with my office, too. I am mostly in love with what it could be, but also a little in love what it is, crap and all. I would trade the latter for the former, though. I do strive to be Flyofficelady. It could happen, right?

I'm sitting here now talking to Rachel. She wants to have a tea party. I've never had one before. Hmmmmmm. Parenthood does stretch a soul, doesn't it?

And that's my day, folks. There have been a few breakdowns, whining fests, and such while I've written this. Music Man is still blaring. Rachel keeps turning it louder.

"Lida Rose...oh won't you be mine....."

I love that song.

What's your day like?