October 2009

Posted by Duff

If you’re looking to have me committed, gift my child a toy with multiple pieces: puzzles, board games, fridge toys. Particularly something with wooden or plastic numbers or letters. That way, 1, 2, 4, 6, 7 and 9 will be a constant reminder that 3, 5 and 8 have gone the way of the dinosaur.

At supermarket check out, I dig in my purse for my wallet, only to find a small, orange, wooden fish, separated from his school.  And speaking of grocery shopping, don’t get me started on the plastic cart and 100-piece faux food set. In an effort to avoid clutter (his aversion), my husband has stored the cart — somewhere even he can’t find it. One green pepper and one red apple remain underfoot as a reminder of the 98 plastic and cardboard items that have disappeared into the (not so) great beyond of our home.

Worse than the missing? The mismatched. In a box of multicolored blocks: a playing card; a broken and peeled purple crayon; Mr. Potato Head’s lips.

That’s kids for you. Their influence spills over into everything; nothing can ever be compartmentalized again. Here, The Dervish illustrates that point:

Play-Doh 4

I am at ease when The Play-Doh behaves, surface mingling only, with the other colors.  Everyone retires to their respective canisters afterward.

However, my daughter has become a pastry chef, rolling out lavender gumpaste and layering fuschia fondant to punctuate her mark on my universe.  You know how hard it is to separate colors once they are forcefully pressed together. Just give up. It’s over.

Check out this handiwork: Play-Doh 3I think it’s a cross between decoupage and papier-mâché. Which means that under this frosting, there is no more ‘yellow’, no more simply ‘pink’. There is pellow and yink. Holy crap, my orderly world has been turned on its proverbial ass.

But. She is happy. She is engrossed. She is proud of her creations. The child who has never taken to crayons or paint has finally found her medium.  Just back away, slowly.

Without prompting, she mounts her favorite pieces on pedestals, begs us not to disassemble her display while she takes her bath.  I hand this task off to my husband. Attempting to extract inseparable swirls will surely drive me mad. IMG_2621

But it’s not just that. Something in me has changed. Those little cakes may interfere with my sense of order, but I hate to see them go, to be the one to break them down.  Her vision has me toeing the confines of my neurotic comfort zone.

Isn’t that the point of art?

She has reminded me how, back when my house was cleaner and smelled better, and things were put away where they belonged, I was acutely aware of the hollow space where my children would grow. Before I even knew to expect there would be a Dervish or an Atticus, I missed them. How I hoped, when The Unknown arrived, they’d flow seamlessly into every imaginable corner of our lives.  I certainly didn’t have children to make my house (or life) neater or more organized.

Amid utter disorder, we have completed our unmatched set.

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Posted by Fitzy

I thought I was doing pretty well managing my new full-time work schedule.  I considered myself to be somewhat of a super woman, managing a new 45+ hour work week with some snuggles, some cleaning, some cooking, some laundry, some mail, some life admin, and some more of all that stuff we working moms manage to get through on a daily basis.  I was humming along, thinking that I was the coolest chick in town, when it happened.   The breakthrough.

We were finishing dinner one night last week, savoring the last bites of a slapped-together Boboli pizza with the sauce that comes right in the package and some old cheese that I had thrown on.  It was a disgrace compared to some of my best dinners, and not bad compared to others.  It was obvious what it was, though: a lazy attempt to please my family with takeout-y food that was cheaper than our favorite pizza place.  Imagine my surprise, then, when my beloved husband looked up from his plate and said with all of the honesty and eagerness in the world, “Fitz, that was AWESOME!”

Because the guy across the table from me wasn’t being snarky in the least, because he’s my biggest fan, I knew in that moment that I have been slipping, BIG TIME.  If a Boboli pizza is awesome, then the pile of clean fitted sheets that I can’t figure out how to fold after 34 fricking years must be good.  That means that our socks, blacknened by dirt on the kitchen floor after 3 wet-Swiffers in a row, must be okay.  And that the toothpaste-encrusted bathroom sink isn’t a total travesty.  This all adds up to standards that started at Saks and are now at Tuesday Morning.  It means, to my chagrin, that I’m not as together as I thought I was.

The question here is, how much do I care?  Sure, I wish I could do all of it – and it seems true that even with my husband’s significant contribution to cleaning and organizing, I can’t.  I can get my work done, mostly well.  I can love my family, to the best of my ability.  I can take care of myself, even if I’m last on the importance list right now.  I can scrape the house together well enough for a dinner party or a playdate.  Those things are just going to have to be enough, because I don’t have the time, the energy, or the desire to care more about the rest of it.  Someday my floors will be clean and I’ll channel the Barefoot Contessa on a regular basis.  Until then…there’s always Boboli.

Posted by AVM

In honor of my Lovey’s 3rd birthday today, I wanted to share an experience my husband and I had last week at the parents’ night at Lovey’s daycare.  The evening was organized so that after an address to all the parents, everyone went to their child’s respective classroom for a presentation by their teachers.  My husband and I sat down in the miniature chairs and had friendly chatter with the other parents.   The teachers began their presentation all about the songs they sing, the books they read, movement class, Spanish class, music class, what they do, why they do it, and what they learn from it.  It was a fact-finding mission for me, actually.  I have been hearing Lovey sing songs and make references to things I know were happening at school, and I couldn’t wait to make sense of them.  The teachers did not disappoint; they are wonderful, and I am grateful to co-parent my daughter with them.  I always have been, and I have found it to be one more benefit of being a working mother.

Lovey’s teachers concluded their presentation with a digital slideshow of photographs of Lovey and her classmates.  They were snapshots set to music of their year so far – on the playground, in morning meeting, napping, you name it.  The parents “ooh”-ed and “ahh”-ed, and we were getting a glimpse into who our children are when we’re not with them.  My husband and I saw Lovey in a different light.  This is who she is when she’s out in the world.  Here, she’s not holding our hands, and she’s not being guided by our direction.  She’s smiling, sharing, climbing, running, creating. . . she shines.  Now, I’m sure the photos of squabbles and tears were omitted, I’m not clueless enough to think that they don’t exist. . . .I can provide plenty of my own.  But we appreciated this look into her life.  It made us so proud.  It gave us confidence that maybe we’re on the right track here.  We’re doing well so far . . .and that’s a relief.  With three years (officially, today) under our parenting belts, I’m happy to report that my daughter is a little girl whom I – and others –  love to spend time with, and will be a woman I can’t wait to know.

Happy birthday, Lovey.  Today, you held up your little fingers and said, “I’m THREE today, Mommy!”   Yes, sweetheart, and I can barely believe it.  I love you with all of my heart, and I love the person you’re becoming.  It is an honor to be your mother.

Our Girl

Our Girl

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Posted by AVM

Our three-year-old daughter Lovey most recently has been very interested in the idea of “Family.”  No doubt brought on by the addition of her new sister, Lovey asks me repeatedly to go over and over who are the actual members of our family.  She’ll list all of us by name: “Daddy, Mommy, Baby CeeCee, and Lovey are all in our family.”  Yes, Lovey, that’s right.  She goes on to include her grandparents and her aunt and uncle when continuing her list.  She even adds our cat, Monk, when she goes on.  This idea of family, to Lovey, means that everyone is together, and remains together.  It’s not exclusive to people, as Lovey nightly will say, as the water drains from the bathtub, “The water’s going back to the ocean to be with its family.”  I love it.  It’s the idea that family is absolute.  You can always go home to them.  We stick together.  . . no matter what.  My parents taught me that.  And it’s one of the things I hope stays with my girls, as it’s most important to me.

Over the past three days, I had the pleasure of spending time with all of my best friends and their children.  These women have been my friends since adolescence and early adulthood, and we have been through the wars together.  First loves and heartbreak, crazy high school and college experiences, sickness and death, careers and marriage, triumph and tragedy – we’ve seen it all and have survived to tell the tales, always by one another’s side.  Now, all living within about a half hour of each other, our families spend time together almost weekly.  We share endless inside jokes, have traveled the world together, shared countless meals and late nights out, and have long had an easy verbal shorthand.  And after all this time, there’s something about seeing your close, longtime friends become mothers that adds a deep facet to the many complex layers of friendship you’ve built over the years.   It is surreal, and I wasn’t expecting it when it was just all of us doing homework, shopping at the mall, and gossiping late into the night. I never saw it coming.  To see our children play together and to imagine what the future holds as they grow up in each others’ lives warms my heart endlessly.  They are my family of friends, and I’ll be connected to them until the day I die.  I am grateful.  Grateful doesn’t cover it.

On our way home yesterday, Lovey carefully named all of my friends’ children.  Then she added, “They’re my family too.”  Yes, Lovey.  They are your family too.  And don’t you forget it.

Posted by Duff

Yes, we suck. Yes, we’re bad parents. Yes, The Dervish burned her finger on the stove.

Her left middle fingertip, to be exact.

I’ll admit, having a melodramatic child has desensitized me to her meltdowns. Since the issue typically is something like sock seams that don’t line up right, you can see how this could happen. But you know it’s bad when your child ought to be expressing pain but makes no sound for almost 6 seconds. Those are the longest seconds of parenthood. They give you plenty of time to wonder, “Are we headed for the ER? Did she lose a finger/arm/year of her life?”

Then the screaming starts. You know the kind.

Initially, we weren’t sure whether she was crying because of pain or because she feared having her digits forcefully submerged in water, but eventually we were able to hold her still enough to see the telltale white bubble of a second degree burn.

I headed for the drugstore, in search of something to take away the sting. I brought a possible remedy to the pharmacist’s counter. “See this picture?” I pointed to the box, which featured a mother taking a tray of cookies out the oven, and her young son about to cause himself a lot of pain. “It’s worth a thousand words. What do you think of me using this on my screaming three year old’s finger?”

The pharmacist, who has children of her own (I live in a small town and everyone goes to the same place for coffee on Sunday mornings), sneered. It was the look of a mother who has been there, done that, knows I’m in for quite the afternoon. “Milking it for all it’s worth, I’ll bet,” she surmises. She reads the list of ingredients and deems it safe.

When I get home, The Dervish is sitting in front of the TV, watching Shrek, her uninjured hand moving between a bowl of cheddar crackers and her mouth. She has stopped crying, but when she sees me, she howls like a hound. She has also formed a bond with her cup of water, and wants nothing to do with alternate pain relief.

I experienced something similar when I was roughly her age, and I remember the white blister, the panic of this new, unforeseen vulnerability, and the mild nausea caused by even the smallest of burns. While normally I’d encourage her to suck it up (often, she has to suck up the disappointment of resistant buttons or coming inside well after dark), I honor her request to pity herself for the remainder of the afternoon. I’m relieved when she is acting like her(normal, expressive)self and we sit down for dinner together.

Like me, though, she is left-handed, and can’t find a way to hold her fork without aggravating her infirmity.

“Hey, Dervish,” I say. “Let’s hold the fork with our other hand tonight, just for fun.” She is skeptical, but does it after seeing me do it. She eats the five bites she normally eats this time of day. I find it much harder to go through with my suggestion –but I do– and when the meal is over, my neck and shoulder are sore. I have a dull headache that lasts until bedtime.

I want to whine and complain, but I shouldn’t. I ate with the other hand by choice.  A lot of her day is spent switching her way of doing things to accomodate our wishes and directions, whether it feels natural to her or not.

I’ve never liked being told what to do. So while it’s my job, as her mother, to lay down the law, I have to respect her rebellion.

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