Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Our new family portrait.



Reese brings home A TON of art from school and bad mother that I am, about three-quarters of it gets tossed in the circular file when she's not looking. C'mon, I can't keep every elbow macaroni, collage of toothpicks the teacher loads into her "art file" each day, now can I?

After all, as I've previously stated, we have a small house.

That said, I do keep a lot of it and I have a bursting at the seams notebook full of the especially sweet pieces she's amassed since first picking up a crayon a few years back.

But, this picture today was a first.

Maybe she knew I've been trying to schedule a family portrait for the past three months to no avail. But now, for this year, I think we have one. She nailed 2008 better than the Picture People ever could have.

It's been a crazy year. It began with a bang and it's certainly taken it's share of shots, some documented here, some not. But through it all, including this morning when yet again Chris and I had to scramble to make sure everyone, including me who was home sick with the flu, was taken care of, we've weathered most of the craziness with a minimum of fuss and a generally large amount of affection and humor. And sometimes even grace.

As money has gotten tighter for everyone, as our house has gone from confining to cozy, I look at this picture of us, well-rendered by our five-year old and think, yeah, that's about right. The rain is coming down, sun just behind it shining brightly and we're all standing tall, really, really close together. With especially big hair, even for Chris, who in his baldness has earned a generous sprinkling of spikes from the artist.

I like how Chris and I have our feet firmly on the ground and we're well-attached at the hair, at the head, and then the kids are attached to each other and to me, again at the hair. They're floating just a bit, especially our two-year-old, Finn. Again, I think: an accurate perception. Perpetually dancing or tumbling or climbing or jumping, it seems Finn is often in mid-flight.

We each have belly buttons and shoes and matching blue outfits and eyes and ears and noses. We are green in palor with what I'd have to say are looks of surprise on our faces, especially Chris', who looks a little like he's just seen a ghost, or perhaps his hairdo. None of us have necks to speak of. I, for sure have the biggest mouth. Coincidence? I think not.

What I really love though is how there are just a few elements in the picture, a few units: the sun, the rain, the mountain behind us, and us. US. One complete unit. There's the sun. And then, for better or for worse, green or otherwise, there's us.

It's a good picture I think.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Five, oh my.

My lovely girl turned five today.

Just for reference, this was what I had to say right here on this blog about her turning four:

"I have to say, this first week of Reese being four has thrown me for a loop. All of a sudden, seemingly overnight, my chubby, pot-bellied little baby has leaned out into a stringbean. All her softness seems to be disappearing right before my eyes. Everything's too short for her ever-lengthening legs and too big for her shrinking waistline. She is so rarely out of her dress-up shoes and lip "glass" and play jewelry around the house, I'm starting to feel as though I'm living with an extremely petite - for lack of a better word - streetwalker. And she's got the lip to go with the lip gloss - sassy and broody, I had no idea that my introspective, sensitive toddler was capable of such a dead-on imitation of Molly Ringwald in any John Hughes' movie."

Well, thank goodness for us all, the moodiness and broodiness has been transient and has been mostly replaced with helpfulness and smartness. Knock your socks off smartness, actually. Reading sight words. Adding up numbers in her head. Imagining and acting out stories. Telling jokes. Making wisecracks like this one earlier today:

"I'm already smarter this morning 'cause I'm five. See, you C-H-R-I-S spells Chris. G-E-R-I spells Geri. And R-E-E-S-E spells five!" (Doubles over laughing hysterically.)

As to those skinny arms and legs, they've become stronger this year, and faster too. Running on her first soccer team, learning how to jump rope, trying to learn to swim, even riding a dirt bike with her very patient uncle this past weekend. Yes, she still likes the dress-up clothes and the lip gloss, but she's also picking out her own clothes, mixing and matching stripes and patterns and pulling it off like only Punky Brewster once could. Maybe it's her hair that saves her: wildly curly and with a mind of its own, it trumps any outfit.

One of her main activities is advising her two-year old brother who at the moment is alternating between throwing fits and being the cuddliest kid in the universe. She lectures him about school and he sits in rapt attention as though Gandhi himself were speaking:

"Finnie, I'm going to school today because I have to LUUUUUUURN. I've gotta lurn Finnie and that's what you're gonna do when you're big too."

He nods, eyes two big brown marbles, blinking in the information.

She informs him about ding dongs (good) and shots (bad) and all foods yucky (raisins, nuts, shrimp) and all activities fun (jumping off the couch, watching Jack's Big Music Show and Sesame Street). She is, by and large, amazingly kind and patient with him, never hitting back, sharing all her jewels and shoes and puzzles and art things. I think he is her favorite person and I am sure that she is his.

I love that Reese is five. I love that we can go to the movies now. And that she, nor her brother, need a stroller or a wagon to get around, we just take off down the street, headed for the park or just a walk around the block. I love that her mind can figure things out now on her own, but that she still has the innocence to see things clearly and without predjudice. Like just the other day, when she was explaining to her one year younger cousin Charlie about God. From the odds and ends I could pick up from their conversation, I think she's definitely onto something.

After a lifetime of soul searching, what if Reese-ism is the religion for me after all?

First off, I know anything she would subscribe to would include large quantities of inclusiveness, manners, hula hooping, books, art, friends, cozy warm blankets and her favorite of favorites (and mine too): chocolate.

Wait, no, she would correct me there, she would say, "no Mom, chocolate CANDY is my favorite."

I would point out that chocolate is a candy so you don't need to say candy too.

Then she would say, yes mom, yes you do.

That sums up Reese at five, and I have a feeling will describe her well at twenty-five too: passionate, specific, confident; a girl of conviction, especially about the things that matter most.

Happy Birthday my sweet Reese. And many, many more.

Love,
Mama

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A cause for celebration.

Chris, the love of my life, turns 37 today.

At the risk of getting all sappy, I've forced myself to constrain the waxing on of my darling husband's spectacular attributes to a list of ten:

1. He gets up with the kids twice as much as I do. Maybe even three times.

2. For our 5th wedding anniversary, he made me a photo collage that spelled out our anniversary date, "MAY 18TH" using photographs representing some of the "firsts" in our past together: the first place we kissed, the location of our first date, the screen door of our first house.

3. He is laugh out loud funny and it's rarely at anyone's expense.

4. He is even nice to telephone solicitors and customer help operators. "You have a nice day too, OK, thanks a lot for calling, bye." I don't give my mom the kind of treatment he gives people calling to see if we want to refinance.

5. When I say "I'll be with you shortly" I can count on him to say "Don't call me Shortly" with a laugh. When I say, in the middle of unpacking groceries or opening mail, "Go ahead honey" he'll say, chuckling, "You don't have to call me Goat Head." There's something so comforting, not to mention sexy, about a man secure enough to make bad jokes and make them repeatedly, knowing all the while how horrible they are. You gotta love that. At least I do.

6. When asked by his four year old daughter what the best part of his birthday celebration was today, he told her it was watching her go for a motorcycle ride with her uncle. Because she was so happy. Because she discovered something new. Because she was brave.

7. When he brushes the kids' teeth at bedtime, he calls it like he's an announcer at the Olympics or at a horse race. Big, deep voice, hands cupped around his mouth: "Will he do it, this time ladies and gentlemen? Will he brush the BEST EVER? Oh, he's coming in fast, it's a longshot, but I THINK HE'S GOING TO DO IT!!! And the crowd goes wild!! AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!"

8. He calls for no reason every single day. From wherever he is, even if it's just down at the market. And when I stop and think about it, I realize that since the very first time I heard the sound of his voice, it's always felt like coming home.

9. He lets me pick the movie, the side of the bed and the first slice of anything. But he makes sure he gets what he needs too.

10. On our third date, I felt so comfortable, so more at ease than I had with anyone before, I thought: this couldn't possibly be real romance - and promptly told him so. At which point he said: no problem, that was cool. Unmoved and unfazed, he went on to talk about other things. I immediately understood that my interest or lack thereof had no bearing on the fact that he was so perfectly, irresistibly OK with himself.

That was the point I realized I wanted to jump across the table and kiss him.

Nine years later, I still want to. Nine years later I am still awed by being with someone so kind, so good, so obviously further along the number of lives completed than I. For everything I am thankful for in this life, for every amazing gift I've been given, Christopher has been the gift of all gifts.

Happy birthday baby.

All my love,
Geri

Friday, December 5, 2008

A crappy start to the day.

6:02 a.m.

Reese's panicked voice from the hallway breaks into my dreams:

"Mom, I stepped in something!"

As a sad commentary on the un-hygenic state of our home lately, I knew instantly what had happened.

Logan, the Westie we adopted in April, had yet another incident. And this time he didn't mess around. With his mess, that is.

Whoa.

Twenty minutes and one million paper towels later, not to mention a generous dousing of this probably toxic stain remover called Nature's Miracle, we're still miles from a miraculous recovery. Luckily, or unluckily, our carpet has been ready for replacement since we moved in four years ago. But, we've been waiting until we're a bit more in the clear from moments like this.

When exactly that will happen remains to be seen.

Oh, I love my dogs. I LOVE LOVE my dogs. But for some reason the three dogs we've owned in six years have all had something very wrong with them: a biter, a tearer-upper, and now, a serial pooper and pee-er.

Oh my.

I'm starting to think it's me.

Can someone fail miserably at dog ownership? Perhaps I am blazing the trail over here.

Your tips, stories, or recommendations on stain removers welcome.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A tragedy of immense proportions.

Certainly, children lose parents everyday. But this week, five of these children have names for me, have stories. Five of these children have broken my heart just a bit, thinking of them and what's been lost forever.

In one of these families, a mother died just a week after giving birth to her third child, a son who would join two sisters, age five and seven. In the other, a father leaves two young boys, also five and seven.

One family I don't know at all, but is here in my community. The other is the family of an old friend.

And for both, I am grieving today.

And strangely, it's not only for the future of these children in two different families, two different cities even - Mackenzy, Kacy, Jake, Jacob and Joshua - it is for their past, too. Of course there will be the future proms and graduations and weddings that will be less joyful because that parent isn't there. And there will be the chair at the dinner table that is so very empty at every special meal - and the ordinary ones too. There will be infinite future losses every single day, some too tiny for words.

But it is for what has already happened, that might also be lost, that is on my mind.

It is the little moments, the special shared intimacies between us and our children that, as they grow and change, are forgotten and replaced by other traditions and rituals that we and only we share, that I am dwelling on today. I think of our own family of course, and of the tiny, silly but oh so important exchanges, trials and tribulations - ones that have passed between us so sweetly as our children have grown from newborn to infant to toddler and child.

I think of the countless moments these parents, who've gone so suddenly, must have shared with their own children. Now those memories, along with the parent, might be gone forever.

So as a testament to them - and for our little ones too - I write down here as best I can the things I just don't want to be lost. As our two sweet peas richochet from one milestone to another on the way to growing up, I can feel the days, the moments, slipping away underneath me, like sand being pulled away by the tide.

For Finn. For Reese. And for the children everywhere who have lost parents, you must know this: there are a thousand moments that happen everyday that fill your parents' hearts and crush them and make them fill with pride. Know that beyond the birthday parties and graduations, there are these instances that truly bind us to you, that make us know you better and ourselves, too.

Finn: there will always be the night you fell asleep on my shoulder, your profile lit by the streetlight outside our window. There will always be the two weeks you were sick everyday with a different ailment and we clung together bracing for the next onslaught. There's you saying "bah-a-ball" for basketball and "gigi" for orange and "Ree" for your favorite person, your big sister Reese. And Reese, there is always the colic that plagued you for three solid months and not a day less and watching your dad walk you round and round the house for hours, holding you like a football, the only time you were content was there in his arms. There's you loving the water from minute one and dunking your own self underwater at eight months old, trying to swim like Esther Williams, smiling all the while. There is you teaching your brother everything you know, mostly sweetly, sometimes not so sweetly and him looking at you like you are the sun. Which you are.

Reese and Finn and Mackenzy and Kacy and Jake and Jacob and Joshua: know that even if you don't remember these moments one day, know that they, or something like them, something equally sweet and warm and life changing, happened and that those moments piled on top of one another to create the unbreakable bond that we will have with you, no matter what. No matter where we are. Or where we go.

Know more than anything, know above all, that you were loved.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Recession Confessions

It's hitting home now, this "economic downturn" as they call it. Not that I hadn't known/seen/heard it was coming.

Now I'm feeling it though.

I go into the neighborhood dry cleaners, the one I've been going to as long as I've lived in the neighborhood and find it's been taken over by "the franchise" which sounds a lot like "the firm" when I hear it come out of the mouth of the new manager that's greeted me and my dirty laundry. She doesn't know where the old owners are. She never knew them.

They had owned the business for over twenty years.

And in one day, it's like they were never here. Wiped clean.

I remember coming in and the lovely woman who ran the business would always call out my name, pulling up my account, bringing out my order without me saying a word. She always had a smile and a booming welcome. She and her husband, the quieter of the two, always kept some little candies by the door. She had carried my laundry out to the car many a time, full of compliments and coos for my children, pleasantries for me.

And now, it's like they were never here. Candy, pleasantries and coos a thing of the past. Now it's all business. I'm back to spelling my last name. Now I'm just a phone number and a tag.

I don't know if it was the economy or just plain tiredness or something else entirely that drove the kind owners from their business. I just know I miss them. And I missed getting the chance to tell them that.

I also know that I was waiting in line at Starbucks this morning with all the other folks who rank coffee up their on their list of necessities apparently, when out of the blue, the woman in line next to me starts telling me about her failing business, an Asian restaurant; she doesn't know if they will make it, her husband and she. This time, she says, she doesn't know if they can do it. Their house in the suburbs, they're going to have to try and short sale it, she says, her eyes fastened on the morning buns in the case. It's already lost half it's value.

She can't believe it she says.

We bought it for $750,000 and now it's worth $319,000 they tell me.

I want to wrap my arms around her, this stranger, and tell her it's going to be OK.

But I don't because she is a stranger. And I don't because I don't know if it's going to be OK.

I don't know when it's going to be OK.

But I suppose the fact that I'm caring more now about the folks who run the dry cleaner down the street, the stranger next to me in line, the whole world outside my doorstep that used to be noise and wallpaper and has suddenly become flesh and bone, is a good thing. A sign perhaps that things will not only be OK. But better.

Maybe in losing everything, we're gaining more. The luxury of being insulated from the rest of the world, from its pain and its loveliness both, is gone and in its place is hard cold reality, as well as opportunity to learn from one another, to live in tune, to live with less than before.

Yet, it seems, with more, too.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A new day.

This morning, my four-year old told me she was excited it was today, Election Day.

I was a little surprised that she remembered.

Oh, yes, she said, they were getting to vote at preschool today. They would vote on what special snack they would have: pizza or popsicles.

Popsicles, unsurprisingly, won by a landslide.

Then tonight, before bed, before it was announced that Barack Obama had been elected the 44th president of the United States, we sat in our usual nighttime spot, our rocking chair, the one my mom rocked me in when I was a baby and my sister too.

As we rocked and talked, her feet dangling way down near mine, her long body all pretzeled up in my own, she said to me:

"I like that Barack Obama. He is a good person. I think he will be a good president."

And I told her I agreed.

She also told me she thought he was pretty.

I told her I agreed.

I cannot wait to tell her tomorrow that the pretty, good person won. That the good person, the best person won. And that I believe her life, the lives of all of us will be better for it. That forty years after someone had a dream, it actually came true.

I cannot wait to tell her.

And when I do, first thing tomorrow, I'm betting she will say two things. One: oh, that's good. And two: what do we have for breakfast?

And I will get her breakfast and I will pack lunches and I will find her brother's tiny orange basketball for him and I will make beds and answer email but it will all be better and done with less anxiety in my heart than I've had in a long while and I will breathe easier and I will be grateful, grateful to be here seeing our country doing well. Moving forward. Making change. Having hope. Believing.

And for today, that is exactly enough.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A room of one's own.




"...a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction..."

-Virginia Woolf, 1928


Well, I don't know about the money, but I do now have a room of my own.

After writing in my bedroom for the past nine months while my babysitter tends to my sweet baby a few hours a day and my preschooler is in preschool, I have lucked into a wonderful arrangement: what appears to be the boiler room of a 1890's Victorian in mid-town.

I cannot tell you how much I love my boiler room.

For one, it has two windows, one which actually opens and allows me to hear the nice hum of the cars and trucks passing by on 21st street. Not one of them stops and asks me for more milk. Or where their blankie is.

My little room has a kitchen table as my desk and all of the paintings I have that are too disturbing to be hung in a family home. The walls are taped with pictures of my husband and my two kids, in all of there beauty and humor; they are also a gallery of my children's art: in fact, just today my four-year old handed me the "art project" she had just completed in her room moments before. She bequeathed it to me while still in her pajamas, a one inch by two inch piece of yellow markered paper - a pair of sunglasses, she explained.

"Mama, you can take it to work if you like, then you can look at them and think of me all day, every time you look at them."

I am looking at them now, Reese and am thinking of you, and so grateful I have the luck and priviledge to have a "room of my own" in which to work and dream and write, to make money for our home, to create my stories, to write my various clients' pieces which will help them sell more washers, or trips to the mall, or shows on TV. Because this keeps our poor, struggling economy going. And the words- they keep me going.

And for you Reese, for you and your brother and your Dad, for being the ones I get to come home to.

For all of this, I am grateful.

And for every woman out there who dreams of a tiny little space of her own, to house her dreams, to create her vision, to have a few moments of selfishness: you are welcome here in my boiler room anytime.

Bring snacks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Before I forget.

Reese and Finn,

I know how much I liked hearing the story of how I was born, and I'll tell you, it's only been a few years and I'm already struggling to remember the details of your much celebrated, much awaited arrivals.

So, pre-Alzheimer's, I want you to know:

Reese
You were exactly six days late and had already made me wrong for the first of many times that would lie ahead: I thought you would be early. Instead, your Dad and I checked in to the hospital at 10PM on December 9th, 2003 to be induced - to uproot you from your snug little home, which knowing you now, I realize must have been very against your will. You like to stay put. You like to be home. You are a homebody. Nevertheless it was out you would come - after 17 hours of labor and many epidural "boosters" - you slid out into my waiting arms. That's right, the doctor made me "catch" you, a hand under each of your armpits, I pulled you out into the world myself. I told him he should take ten percent off his bill if he was going to make me do HIS job, too.

But really, if you want to know the truth, I'm glad. Because when you came out eyes open, the first thing you saw was me. Your mama. Our eyes locked at minute one and our hearts at minute two. And ever since, even on the days you make me question my fitness for this job, on days you sit on my very last nerve, I would throw myself in front of a semi for you. I would give you the last of my chocolate bar. The cherry on my sundae. The last ride on the carousel. For you, Reese, I would do anything, for it is you who captured me first. First and always.


Finn
I thought for sure you'd be early. Yet again, a lesson in patience. Then when you were two days late, I got used to the fact you'd be late and planned accordingly. So, of course, you decided to come that night. At a few minutes past midnight on November 10th, the contractions started coming two minutes apart, hard and fast. And they didn't stop. We ended up at the hospital at 2AM and I was already dilated to 4-5 centimeters. This, for a woman in labor, means one thing: epidural at will. And my will was imposed immediately if not sooner. But, after some initial stalling and then pitocin for the stalling, the epidural never could catch up with your desire to be out, now. You were in a hurry. Your Dad was the one to catch you, with me trying to work from my side as best I could. You came out screaming and husky and gorgeous and didn't stop being any of those - still. Now you are also charming and sweet and smart and so kind. You did what I had no idea could be done: you made my heart larger. You, seeing it full already with your Dad and your sister, added on a room. A room just for you. You are my special surprise. My proof that my lack of control of this Earth's plans, of my life's path is indeed a gift. You are a gift.


Love,
Mama

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Do not disturb.

I'm on the phone with a good friend this evening, trying to fit a few minutes of catch up in between dinner, bath and bedtime, when I am spotted by my four-year old, the one who arrived on the planet equipped with a GPS radar on my whereabouts, not unlike her one year old brother.

I continue to talk while she too, continues to talk - to me.

I ask for a few minutes to finish my conversation.

No dice.

Just a couple minutes, Reese. Go hang out with Dad and brother who are playing "Coo Coo" (an entirely amusing decidedly Murray version of Hide and Go Seek that is too complicated/embarrassing to go into here.)

Not gonna happen.

"Honey, I could really use some privacy."

Reese, looking almost convinced, then righteous: "Then Mom, you should go in the bathroom."

Yes, I should. In fact, should you call me in the future, please direct your calls to my private line. Make that my bathroom line.

After all, if I can't go to the bathroom in peace, perhaps at least I can make a few phone calls.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Aloha. I think.



Greetings from Kauai, my friends.

I remember now what a friend said once - that parents of young children don't go on "vacation." The kids go on vacation. The parents go on a trip.

I am so getting this right now.

We are in one of the world's most gorgeous places and though I've seen a bit of it, it's mostly through the haze of changing swim diapers, applying sunscreen repeatedly, trying to find Sippy cups, and attempting to regulate the amount of sand that enters our condo each day. We may have more inside at this point than outside.

The point is, it's an awful lot of work.

It's also fun. There are moments I know I will forget, or maybe not: sitting on a beach chair with Finn wrapped in a towel, resting quietly on me, still and breathing slowly, his hair still wet from the pool, little blond curls tickling my nose. Watching Reese first be afraid of the water slide at the resort and then today, flying down it, arms in the air, rollercoaster style, her smile electric. Best of all, conquering my own reluctance - my fear, of going down the slide myself, fear of making a fool of myself, fear of not being a good enough swimmer to not appear lame in front of my children - and just doing it. Going down with Reese, then Finn, then by myself, and then repeat. Saying no to them was not an option. How can I teach bravery if I myself am so cowardly? So I fake it. Sometimes it works out better than I expect.

I am amazed at how tired I get. At how much I long to be one of those people actually lounging on a lounge chair, daiquiri in one hand, great book in the other. I want to be on their vacation. I want to have a few hours of floating around these blue waters in my $107 bathing suit; a price for which I'm still surprised doesn't come with liposuction and a tanning booth.

Still, the other day when we were at Lyndgate Beach, a kiddie beach and my kids were pulling me to build sand castles and hold them and dance with them in the water, I met Devyn. A fourteen-year old girl who her grandmother has been bringing to this island all her life. Her grandma told me this might be Devyn's last trip. She's been such a teenager. She doesn't want to do anything with them. She won't get in a bathing suit. She's just sullen with a capital S.

I suppose my daquiri can wait.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Late as usual.



Finnie, my boy.

I wanted to write to you on your 21-month birthday, which was three days ago, and I did try, I promise you. The computer ate it though. So here I am, as I often am, quite late with my sentiments.

For some reason, this milestone of my own making seemed important. You are just exploding right now. Your brain growing before my eyes, your hair blonder, your skin darker, your eyes brighter, your scream louder, your laugh harder. Everything with you is more than ever. You are intense and alive and strong beyond reason; the other day your tantrum took me, and my back, out completely. I am nursing a pulled muscle and what I think might be a mini concussion, if I do diagnose myself. All thanks to the wallop of your very hard head hitting my rapidly softening one, albeit unintentionally.

But then, as you tend toward extremes, your love of letters for instance which fires you constantly, carrying the refrigerator magnets of "B" and "P" around with you like security blankets, you also are so amazingly lovely and loving and kind and empathetic. With a specialty in smiling at me like I am the sun itself. Your smile, one that reveals your molars-to-be, should be used in peace talks. As I nurse my three-Advil headache, it is your smile that cures me.

Tonight when I was putting you down, you made me sing the abc's - twice - and then down you went into your crib, the smooth part of your blanket rubbing against your nose, binky rhythmically keeping time, the other fist with your ball of the moment tightly in hand - a red one with suction cups. It sticks to anything.

I had no idea about having two children. I had no idea what I would do with you. How I would manage. How you would fit into my already full heart. And yet here you are, me having no concept of life before you or without you. Such a wonder, a complete seperate, challenging, exhausting, deliciously strong force in my life. In my heart. Forever.

Finn Patrick, as I often whisper into your ear as a lay you down into your sweet, smooth crib, a mantra, a prayer, a blessing, a thank you: Mama loves you so. Mama loves you so.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

From Loca to just plain Lazy.

I've decided to give up working out.

Although, to give up something, you probably need to have actually done it in the first place.

My scattered efforts throughout my adulthood at exercising, sporadic at best, are coming to an end as of this moment. The stress of not working out is really getting to me. To alleviate the pressure, I hereby announce I am no longer going to work out. I am not going to plan on working out. Or think I might someday work out. I'm not going to try to find a new exercise program that I may like. In fact, I'm going to sink into laziness. I'm going to lean into the curves. I'm going to cherish the Pudge. I'm going to embrace lethargy. I'm going to alleviate the stress of not working out from my life. No longer will I walk around feeling guilty that I didn't work out.

Now, I will not feel guilty. I will just feel fat.

Which is not so bad, because since I'm throwing my Two-Babied-Waistline to the wind, I may as well have some ice cream while I'm rolling down the ole Hill of Attractiveness.

That's it for tonite. Time for some mint chip. I'm not even going to walk to the fridge to get it. I might get my heart rate up.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Yoga Loca.

OK, really it's called Yoga Loka. Which I think means "hot yoga". Bikram Yoga. Or as my four-year old refers to it: Sweaty Yoga.

But, in my mind, it's a little bit like Crazy Yoga.

So, I've only done it once, but I think I might need this kind of craziness in my life.

First off, the room is one billion degrees and smells like feet. Everyone is practically naked and you have to drink sixty ounces of water during the ninety-minute session or I am sure you will die. There are 26 poses performed the same way every time and done twice. They are strengthening-hard-core-stretching-your-fingers-back-behind-your-head-and-around-your-ankle-type-of-poses. Because it is so warm, your body is sweating so much that I think your sweat may actually sweat.

As my friend Kim says about Bikram Yoga: "It's not natural for your forearms to sweat. That's just not good."

My forearms, back arms and every other part of my anatomy that's currently carrying an extra ten pounds or so of what I've come to call, Toddler Weight, was definitely perspiring like never before. But, strangely, that and the smelly feet didn't bother me that much. To be honest, I kind of liked it. I liked that the clock in the room had no hands, just a second hand, so you couldn't check to see how much time was left. I liked that the instructor said the same thing over and over and it was something like:

"Just let go. Letting go is the most important thing you will do here."

As a really good holder-on-er, this was a nice change. A nice challenge. Albeit a wet one.

To just focus for ninety minutes on bending my body into various pretzelesque shapes, on getting more in touch with my toes, on not getting email or making phone calls or planning or doing or picking up or putting down or feeding or changing or diapering or laughing or crying. Just being for ninety minutes in my body and seeing what the old gal was capable of was kind of - nice.

Of course, this was all on Tuesday. Today is Thursday and it was time for my next class. The class was at 9 AM this morning and I found 9 AM had come and gone and I had not a sweat bead to show for it. I am however, at eight o'clock at night, still wearing my yoga clothes. I imagine that's good for something, right?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Oh, to be four-and-a-half.

My sweet girl, she is all aglow right now.

She, my dear readers, is reading.

That's right, reading, as in:

"LLLLLLeeeeeeeeeeemmmmmmmooooooooooonade. Leeeeeemoooooonaaaaaaaaaade. Lemonade!!"

I can't tell you the look on her face as she realizes she is now capable of reading words, sounding them out, making sense out of letters. She's unlocked the box and she's not going back. Everything is about letters and words, how many and who has what.

Somehow she and my husband, both of them number freaks, something I truly can't relate to, came up with this game where everybody in our family is on a team based on the number of letters in their name.

Finn and I, Geri, are on Team 4. As in four letters.

Reese and Chris are on Team 5.

So that means everything in Reese's world is now catergorized by Team Number. She couldn't believe "milk" was on Finn and my team. She LOVES milk, as does Finn, and she thought is was plain unfair that we got it on our team, four letters or not. She started calling it "milk-e" so it could be on her and Chris' team.

But, since we have only fours and fives in our family, we have to borrow other people to catagorize items that have more or less that four or five letters. For instance, three letter words are on Zoe's team, a friend at school. So we'll be passing by a bus or something that's the color red and she'll shout out from the back seat:

"There goes one for Zoe's team!"

Or, when she figured out that "spaghetti" had nine letters, something I had to count on my hands to confirm, anything in the world with nine letters was now on spaghetti's team.

At the moment, I can only think of "cocktails" and "chocoloate" as Team 9 members.

Oooh, now I so want to be on Team 9.

Anyway, it turns out this whole learning thing is actually more amazing than I realized. As she's sounding out the words or working the figures, I feel like I can actually see the synapses firing off in her brain and boomeranging back and forth between her eyebrows, scrunched and concentrating. When she stumbles upon the word or the answer, it's Christmas and the Fourth of July all in one, there's so much hooting and hollering going on.

Finn, her 20-month old brother is hot on her tail now. He's getting on this learning thing early. He walks around shouting "Blue" and "P" to everything. Regardless if they're either, of course. The other day, the nanny swears he spelled "IT" out of refrigerator magnets and then said the word.

You know what, I believe her.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

38.

That's how old I'll be in two days.

I don't feel 38. As my grandma used to say when I asked her if she felt her age, whatever it happened to be at the time, she'd say:

"Nope. I feel 100."

I feel 100.

At least some days. When I'm chasing my two sprites around in the hot, muggy day and I'm feeling sweaty and out of shape and so, so far from the pictures of those celebs frolicking with their spawn in People magazine. Their hair just casually placed just so, rocking the Juicy Couture or whatever hip threads I wouldn't even know the name of. Even that Marcia Cross with her twins, she's older than me and she's going around and round with that Eden Prairie and Eva Marina, or whatever their names are, and she is just looking so damn JOYFUL.

There are days I am not looking quite so hot. There are days I just look hot.

And probably tired and wrinkly, too.

There are days my intentions are greater than my patience. And that I realize, while I'm probably a better mother than I would have been ten years ago, my knees and my back - not so much.

Some days I just want to call in the butler of my dreams and ask for a tall iced lemonade, and while he's at it, would he mind watching the kids for a few minutes?

But then yesterday happens, where I get on a plane and realize, like everything, age is so incredibly relative.

My seatmate, though I'm no judge of age, was maybe 60 or so, and after not saying much to one another during the flight, we began to chit chat on our landing approach. She asked me what I was reading and I told her: a book of essays by Sloane Cross, freaking hilarious and beautifully written. I mentioned I'm into writing essays myself of late.

She said: "for school, or something?"

Bless her heart.

Nope, I said. I'm a writer, just not near as good of one as Ms. Cross here.

Well, she said. "That takes some life experience, now."

I wonder if she thought I was twenty-five or just a really dense and lonely looking almost thirty-eight year old.

Whichever, it hit me that I'm old until someone's older than me.

I disembarked with a spring in my step, a little youth-ish lilt in my gait.

I have to say, it's looking like a good year.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Only as far as your headlights.

For me, Anne Lamott always says it best.

For her, I guess E.L. Doctorow said it best because she quotes him in "Bird by Bird" which my Dad said was the best book on writing ever and I think I'd have to agree. In fact, it may just be the best book, period.

Anne, on E.L.:

"E.L. Doctorow once said that 'writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard."

Say it, Annie.

I wish, I wish like the dickens, I could take this advice.

I wish for near-sightedness. To only focus only on the next two or three feet. Instead, most days I am three miles down the road, sometimes because that's where I'm comfortable, planning the future, sometimes it's because the two square feet I'm planted in is filled with mud and poop and I'm wearing my good shoes.

Like today for instance.

Like most natural disasters, there was no warning. I came home and picked up a happy-go-lucky young Finn and attempted to put him in the car to go pick up Reese from school. For reasons I'm still not clear on, he was none too happy about my selection of events. Even though he adores Reese. Even though he adores her school. I don't know, maybe he had something against the Volvo, or the fact that the Volvo was ten billion degrees. Whatever it was, the entire neighborhood, perhaps the entire city of Sacramento, could attest to the unhappiness of my son at four this afternoon. The two of us were wrestling in his car seat, me trying to buckle him in, him trying to make me sweat my body weight in record time. The kid is like Ultimate Fighting Baby; I've never known anyone as strong. There he is: back arched, legs straight as arrows, face beet red, tears and snot flying. I was completely outmanned. I tried everything: negotiation, bribery, threats, begging. Nothing worked. Ultimately, it was trickery; I think I may have pointed at a passing car and said something like:

"Look, Elmo!"

And then fastened him, quick as a whistle, into his car seat.

Suffice it to say, we made it to school to pick up Reese and endured yet another fun battle to the death of getting him back in the car and then a debate broke out between the two of them over a small green sand toy that had been sitting in the back seat unnoticed for about two weeks.

Within five minutes of being home both of them were in time out and I was contemplating a run for the border. And I'm not talking Taco Bell.

These are the times I have a hard time living in the present. I wish I could just dig in and have the perspective that this is only temporary. This tantrum, this 100th "noooooooooooo", this "I don't want a bath/ponytail/that snack/this snack/whatever you want me to have" is only the particular two or three feet ahead of me and that leaning into the curve is OK. Instead I just want to fly through this, time traveler style and get to the next phase. Whatever phase that is not this phase. I need to know the destination and I am giving the journey the finger.

Yet I know, even as I'm doing it, that this is a mistake. I know that by taking my eyes off the road, by shooting ahead on the map instead of focusing in on this route, albeit a bumpy one, I'm also missing the thrill of the ride at times.

When I have the ability to see this, I grab my conciousness like a wayward dog and yank it by the scruff of its neck and force it to concentrate on now. And in doing so, I'm back. Just in time to hear my four-year old explain to me, just an hour after her horrific toddler tantrum, where exactly Earth is in the solar system and why Pluto is the coldest planet, 'cause it's the furthest from the sun.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

For Sale.

TIME OUT BENCH $20
Excellent condition.


This was an ad on Craigslist the other day. It was under "Baby and Kids".

I had to laugh. I just couldn't get the picture of this frustrated Mom out of my head. I see her hovering over the computer entering this listing while yelling out into the other room, with conviction:

"Well, you think you're so smart mister. You know that Time Out Bench you're sitting on, there? It's gone buddy. That's right, G-O-N-E!"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My 15 minutes.

OK, it was only 3 1/2 minutes. But it was cool.

Check it out:

KCRA Morning Show

Monday, June 23, 2008

Definitely my daughter.

We're in Costco, my four-year old and I. We're shopping for dinner for friends and have selected Costco's ridiculously chocolatey-chippery cookies o' love for our dessert item. As we make our way through the store, Reese keeps referring to the cookies, as though maybe I might forget about them.

"Yeah naptime, that'll be before the COOKIES, right Mom?"

"Oh, that toothbrush? I guess I'll use that after the COOKIES."

"Chicken Salad? Sure, that'll sure go good with the COOKIES."

OK, I get it.

"Reese," I say absently, checking out the 200-pack of toilet paper, "do you think about anything but cookies?"

"Yes," she says, contemplating. "I think about brownies!"

A smile spreads across her face like a firework and there's nothing I can say back to her that would be remotely as funny or sincere or could sum up the feeling of the moment you realize your kid is actually someone you'd want to be friends with.

Make that, someone that you are friends with.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A heap of rocks.

In Lorrie Moore's short story "People Like That Are the Only People Here" there is a passage:

"...Sitting there, bowed and bobbing, the Mother feels the entirety of her love as worry and heartbreak. A quick and irrevocable alchemy: there is no longer one unworried scrap left for happiness. 'If you go," she keens low into his soapy neck, into the ranunculus coil of his ear, "we are going with you. We are nothing without you. Without you, we are a heap of rocks. We are gravel and mold. Without you, we are two stumps, with nothing any longer in our hearts. Wherever this takes you, we are following. We will be there. Don't be scared. We are going, too. That is that."

The story is about a critically ill child and a mother's struggle to survive the experience. The story, which ends happily, healthily, is one I haven't been able to get out of my head the last few days. When I first read it, before motherhood, I choked it down like broccoli, the contents so unnerving, even then.

Now, it's more like liver. Or liver and brussel sprouts. Undigestible.

Wednesday morning, I took my four-year old to the doctor for the second time in two days. She'd been suffering from a virus that had tossed her from throwing up to fever to stomach cramping and back again. She'd lost two pounds in two days and she's not a heavyweight to begin with.

They admitted her to the hospital. Mostly for dehydration. And on the off chance there was more going on.

Luckily there wasn't. Seven or so hours and some good IV cocktails later, she was feeling like herself again, all sass and sweetness. But we spent the night. And I had spent the morning carrying her newly 39-pound frame across the parking lot from the pediatrician's office to the hospital in the 100-degree heat while she wretched and cried in pain, clutching her stomach. I had sat with her in my arms in Admitting, while no one would tell us how long it would be, having her legs dangling over the arms of the chair I sat on, her head against me, heaving into a Trader Joe's bag about every ten minutes while onlookers stared.

This is hospital right? Haven't you ever seen a sick kid before, I stared back, menacingly, a pissed off mama bear with her young on the ropes.

We sat for over forty-five minutes and the admitting clerk wouldn't look me in the eye and so I stood with my daughter in my arms, walking her up and down the corridor like when she was a colicky baby and she needed the rhythm to soothe her.

When we were finally taken to Pediatrics on the 6th floor, we were greeted by a nurse who mentioned in passing we needed to record all of her peeing and drinking, not necessarily in that order.

"If she pees in her diaper, we need to know."

Her diaper? She's four and half, I said, maybe not the least bit nicely, as though this slip-up meant greater things. Which, of course, it did.

"You are a pediatrics nurse, RIGHT?" I screamed in my head, wanting to throw her out of the room and keep her ten feet away from my daughter's bedside.

Then, a parade of visitors: doctors and other doctors, nurses and orderlies. An orderly comes to wheel my girl in for a stomach x-ray. He has a gurney.

"Well, howdya want to do this?" he asks us, I suppose.

"This is your goddamned job, right?" I think, again blood racing straight to my temples, brain caving in on itself from worry and protectiveness, wondering if we will ever escape this place where no one seems to know your name, or anything else for that matter.

We carry our girl to the gurney. She is wheeled. She is photographed while her father and I stand by in 400-pound lead smocks to protect us. To protect US; an ammenity I would have gladly forgone in exchange for her sitting up at that point, a smile on her face, announcing herself cured.

But there is an IV to put in and there are two "Child Life" people who seem to be the only people here, aside from the seemingly capable and even quicker doctor, who fit their job title. They are kind and good with children and explain everything and have toys and stories and games and reassurance for all of us.

In a nutshell, they are what I would have thought every person in this ward would have been the picture of. They are preserving "Child Life" and in turn I want to kiss them both on the lips, but fear they would think that odd, which it would be I guess.

By the time we are checking out twenty-four hours later, Radio Disney is performing in the "playroom" and I do not want to take her there. I do not want her to be here a second longer than she has to be. I don't care if U2 is performing in the playroom, we're not going. But a rather pushy nurse takes her while I go to load our bags in the car and on my way back into the hospital I catch glimpses of things I missed when my terror was forefront: the bald, so-thin children being wheeled down the hall, a seven-year old in her mother's arms crying that she can't take it anymore, a little boy in a huge hospital gown leaning into his grandfather's lap, a couple waiting for their two-week old son to go into surgery.

I whisk into the room and my girl is aflutter about meeting Mick and Minnie. She and the nurse are showing me all the mouse paraphenalia that have been given out and I nod and smile collecting my daughter in my arms and moving quickly down the hallway, not looking back.

We have been spared. We have seen across the line and know our good fortune. We get home and I wash everything with the hottest water and the strongest soap. I want to wash the potential of harm from our home, from our lives. I had a moment the day before, collecting her clothes; I was in her room and she was in the hospital and her dolls were laying, cast about on her empty bed. I grabbed things quickly and thought:

We are nothing without you. Without you, we are a heap of rocks. We are gravel and mold. Without you, we are two stumps, with nothing any longer in our hearts. Wherever this takes you, we are following. We will be there. Don't be scared. We are going, too. That is that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sandbox politics.

Yesterday, I took young Finn to school with me to pick up Reese, my newly minted pre-Kindergartner.

If there's one thing you should know about Finn, it's that there's nothing he likes more than to run fast and loose among bunches of kids bigger and brawnier than him. What can I say? That kid thrives on challenge.

Anyway, Reese, Finn and I were hanging out in the sandbox, just sweating away the eighty million degree heat with a bunch of plastic toys and dirt, when a few of the little girls in the sandbox started getting into it.

LAYLA(whiny, urgent): "Delaney, move away from me!"

NO RESPONSE FROM DELANEY.

LAYLA(more whiny, more urgent): "Delaney, I need some space!"

DELANEY: (SCREAM)

No space occurs.

Wonderful teachers intervene in kind, yet firm words outlining Layla's options, one of which apparently includes screaming her head off on a bench about five feet from us. Where, at least she's having some space.

Subsequently, another small girl child leans in to tell me a very secret secret. I listen attentively, preparing for a cute childish anecdote.

GIRL (pointing to Finn): He looks weird.

ME (trying to be nice): Maybe it's because he's still a baby.

GIRL: No, I think it's his face.

Okay then.

This is the part where I lift up the little girl by her toenails and toss her across the sandbox, a la the Incredible Hulk. Or Hulkess, I suppose.

Okay. Not really.

This is where I say:

"OK, time to go, Reese and Weird Face. Time to get home."

Okay. Not really. Actually, this is where I say:

"Gotta go."

We three make our way to our getaway car, our Volvo station wagon. We disappear into the sunlight, Reese, Weird Face and the Hulkess, ready for whatever the day brings, having dodged childhood's most treacherous landscape - and in high style.

Monday, June 2, 2008

6:43 a.m.

I'm fresh out of the shower, my hair wet when Reese rolls into my room in her pink and purple nightgown. She is thrilled to see me. I bend down to her, engulfing her in my arms when she says, full of admiration:

"I love you so much Mama. You smell like ro, like roast beef."

She steps back, considering.

"I mean roses, red roses!"

A couple of hours later, I drop her off at the amazing school she's been at for the past few years for her first day of Kindergarten (the transitional, summertime kind but Kindergarten nonetheless). She shows me where to sign her in and where to stow her things in the new classroom. When it comes time to say goodbye, she does so in the company of her friends, all elated with their newfound status, the proud seniors of the preschool.

"Do you want to walk me to the door, the waving window?" I ask on my way out, knowing full well she would.

"Nope, I'm good," waving to me, smiling, beaming actually, basking in the company of her friends, a good ten feet from my arms, never stronger.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

If you lived here, you'd be home by now.

I pass by this sign, nailed to an apartment complex on Fair Oaks Boulevard, and it hits me like a wet glove every time.

If you lived here, you'd be home by now.

I think about how I had never lived in a home that wasn't a rented one before I was married. Growing up and throughout young adulthood, I was a tenant. Never tethered anywhere for long, the only home I knew was my Grandmother's, my Bubbe's. Her home, a 1930's Spanish duplex was cool in the summer, warm in the winter and I spent many a night standing over the floor heating vents in my flammable nightgowns doing my best Marilyn Monroe imitation, not even knowing it. My grandmother's house, my grandmother, was home.

When Chris and I got married, we were already homeowners, having signed away what felt like our lives, the day of the rehearsal dinner. Our first home, a two bedroom, one bath and less than a thousand square feet was dollhouse cute. We furnished it with our first joint furniture purchase: a floor model couch and chair from the now-defunct Robinson's May department store. I remember waiting on the couch on the showroom floor, anxiously hoping Chris, on his way from work, would like it. It seemed so huge, us buying an actual couch, quite the upgrade from the futon we had been so used to.

That house, the Coloma house, was where we first learned how hard it is to take off wallpaper. Where we had our first really big fight. And really big make up. It was where we sat outside on a warm August night in our very own backyard and marveled at the fact it was our very own backyard. The ownership was binding and thrilling; we were giddy with the beginning, the monument of our life starting together.

We brought Reese, our first child, home from the hospital to that home, to that house. Chris, balancing the video camera on the dashboard, filmed the whole two-minute car ride and followed me and the car seat holding four-day old Reese up the stairs and into the house. We sat down, "now what?" the obvious question. Now what turned out to be wearing out those hardwood floors walking that little colicky baby up and down and around that little house again and again, memorizing all 964 square feet, passing by our room in green and then hers in bright pink and then through the kitchen with the old cabinets and vinyl flooring and out again to the living room.

We moved into our current house when Reese had just turned one and had her first real cold - a snotty, feverish affair. It was foggy and unforgivingly chilly and of course, our movers didn't show up. But, by the end of the day, we were in - 1625 square feet! FOUR bedrooms! TWO bathrooms! We languished in the space, using first this bathroom, then that one. Maybe we should talk in this room, or that one. Why don't we go into our FOURTH bedroom to chat? It was all just so criminally indulgent. I worried our friends might think we were stuck up now, all hoighty toighty with our big fatty of a house.

Then Finn came the two-minute car ride home - and moments later it seemed, took his first steps right here, trying to keep up with his sister. The two of them laid on our living room carpet, rolling around mugging for the camera. We had our morning dance party each day, all of us embarrassing ourselves terribly, never once thinking of stopping. It was here that Reese began her tradition of always kissing Finnie goodnight at naptime and bedtime, regardless of whatever trespasses occurred that day. It's where just this evening, Reese fed Finnie dinner with a baby spoon, something he hasn't let anyone do for months now. She fed him spoonful after spoonful, both of them giggling hopelessly, white rice and edamame flying everywhere, our two dogs eager to get in on the fun.

Yet, in the midst of all this wonderfulness, I have been thinking lately that we may need more house. Or maybe a house with a bit more growing space. More living space. A bigger yard. Maybe even a little office out back for me to write and dream. But if we found that house it wouldn't be this house. It wouldn't be where we brought home our babies. Where I passed out at eight o'clock for six weeks straight when I was pregnant. It won't be where we opened our wedding gifts or christened the bedrooms. It wouldn't be next door to Reese's best friend or surrounded by the best neighbors anywhere.

It is then that I think of the apartment house banner: if you lived here you'd be home by now and wonder to myself - when is enough enough? I wonder when sixteen hundred square feet or two thousand or ten thousand will be enough for our, for my, wandering attention span, my ever growing needs and wants. When will I just be able to live HERE, RIGHT NOW. Just to be in this house, this moment. Just be home and not be thinking of what might be around the corner.

I want to know: when will my tenant self unpack permanently and lose the mover's number. When will whatever we have be everything we need; will there be a day our square footage will fill the space in my heart perfectly, no cracks, no light seeping in, just our family, perfectly nested in just the place for us.

Knowing that as the world at large rocks with instability, with real need and hunger running rampant, I aim, just for today, to embrace our abundance, our unbelievable luck. This house of joy and happiness and laughter has been so good to us, all 1625 square feet of it. At this moment, as I look back on all that has happened here, it's never felt bigger.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Katherine Alysone.

You are not even one day old yet, Miss Kate.

The reason I know this is because I had the priviledge of being in the room when you were trying to make your way into the world.

Your mom and dad, good friends of ours, asked me to come and be there with them as they helped you out of your cozy little pod and out into the most wonderful of families.

Kate, I want you to know how much you were wanted and loved, right from the start.

Your Mama was so strong and brave and calm. She tried harder than I've ever seen anyone try anything to get you here. She never once complained; her effort, determination and pureness of heart were without compare, qualities that maybe already are there inside your tiny self, just waiting to be shown.

Your Daddy was this big, tall oak for your mom: his tenderness for her, his concern and love, was so big: stroking her hair, holding her hand, supporting her with all of his focus and attention. I'm sure his strength and kindness is running through your being as well, ready for the day you need it most.

One set of your grandparents were in the waiting room, thrilled and joyful, the first to see their son emerge from the operating room to announce your arrival, as triumphant as an Olympic gold medalist. Your other grandparents were at home with your big sister, Natalie, waiting for her to wake from her nap to come meet you, her new best friend and worst enemy, the one she will learn and grow from more than any other. Her first really big gift in life, next to your mom and dad: you.

So, as you probably figured, you didn't come out the way we all planned, but after a quick labor and and a quicker C-section, you did, in fact, come out. I saw you for about five minutes and I could already see you were special. You are perfect and as you can see from my story, you are loved without end.

Here's to a wonderful life, Katherine Alysone Stewart. The best is yet to be.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

For Reese, on her 13th birthday.

My sweet girl,

I don't know your thirteen year old self yet. I've only known your one, two, three and four year old selves. Thirteen: I don't know if you are wearing long skirts and high collars and then changing at school into tight pants and applying layers of body glitter and red lipstick. Maybe you are hiding behind thick glasses and braces and hanging out in the library. Or maybe, hopefully, you are somewhere in between, part fun, part serious, all you. I do know that no matter where you are, your heart, the heart that I know so well, is still beating strong inside that mysterious teenage self; your kind, tender core remaining, regardless of the clothes you wear over it.

I don't know if, at the all too confident age of thirteen, you now think I'm the stuffiest, dullest of women; one who simply doesn't get you. Maybe you don't want to be seen walking down the street holding my hand or god forbid, hugging me or being hugged.

So just in case, I want to tell you now, before I forget: once you were my biggest fan, my shadow, my own personal very small and mobile cheering section.

I want to tell you. And I want to remind myself. For there will come a day I may forget.

When you were just a girl of four, sweet Reese, I would put you down for bed at night and you would say to me with all the sincerity of a holy one:

YOU: Mama, you know why I love you the best, the most of anyone?

ME: Why angel?

YOU: Because I never had a mom before you. You are my first mom. And I will love you forever. You are going to be my mom until I'm 100.

ME: OK.

YOU: You'll be 100 and I'll be 100 too. I don't ever want to be without you.

So, Reese, on this day, on every day from now to 100, remember this - know that you saw me this way once. Remember on the day you get grounded for staying out too late or hanging out with the wrong crowd. Or mouthing off. Or picking on your brother. Remember this when you think I don't understand you or don't care the way you want me too. Remember this when I'm not the mother you wish I was. Remember that once, I was. I was everything you wanted.

I was exactly enough and you, you were everything.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Daddy's boy.

I admit it. Sometimes being the favorite is kind of nice.

For the past four and a half years, I've been my daughter Reese's favorite person (known around the house as F.P.) Don't get me wrong: she adores her father the way I only dreamed my daughter would. They read, they play ball, they dance and cook and tickle and are often partners in crime; I find them doubled over with laughter about something neither can articulate and when they do, I still don't get it. Nevertheless, when the chips are down, it's Mama that Reese wants and wants now.

Well, the tide is turning around here lately with Mr. Finn, my eighteen-month old son, who since birth seemed to like both of us just fine, thank you very much. It was always he/she who held the Sippy cup ruled Finn's day. Until recently, at least. That's when the Daddy bus pulled up front and center and continues to hold court full time. What do I mean, you ask?

Yesterday, Reese, Finn and I had to drop something off at Chris' work on the way to a fun kid thing we were doing; we pulled up in front of the office. When Finn saw his Dad it was like a tourist seeing a soap star walking down the streets of Santa Monica - shock, awe, joy radiated from his mega-watt, eight-tooth smile. He couldn't believe his good fortune.

We gave Chris what he needed and said our goodbyes, pulling away from the curb, Chris waving goodbye, knowing he will see us in just a few hours. Finn on the other hand, was already in mid-emotional flight, skyrocketing to the other end of the spectrum, sobbing, heaving with sadness and rage. Pulling at his car seat straps, tears and snot running freely, nothing I say to him in the least bit comforting.

It is then that I realize my little F.P., my little Finn Patrick, has his own F.P. - his own Favorite Person. And it's not me.

I have to tell you though, it's only a little bittersweet. Mostly it's just sweet. My heart fills for these two who have each other, for our family who is so lucky to like each other this much, during the moments we're not driving one another crazy. My heart fills just for the sake of filling I suppose, because I have them and together our cup is overflowing.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Why I love my husband.

It's our anniversary today - six years since the day we stood underneath the trees and were announced man and wife by the fastest talking rabbi in the business. I think he may have been going for a record. Well, at least it wasn't a bris.

Anyway, of all the reasons Chris rocks, so many of them blow in and out through the day and I think to myself, wow what a guy, but then someone throws up or has to go to work and I forget to make a mental note about how absoulutely singular he is, how good he is at being my husband and these children's father. Like tonite. He's about to give a bath to Reese and she, true to form, is peeing before the bath, talking his ear off about this and that and this and that and since my child is a talker and I am working steps away from them, I am tuning it out, when I hear:

REESE: I wish I was a boy. Being a boy is funner.

CHRIS: What do you mean? Being a boy isn't more fun. Why do you think that?

REESE: Because boys get to pee standing up.

CHRIS: Well, it's not more fun to pee standing up. Girls can do anything boys can do. It's just as good to be a girl.

REESE: Really? Yeah, and girls can have babies.

CHRIS: See, girls can do even MORE than boys.

REESE: Maybe even it's BETTER to be a girl.

CHRIS: Nope, it's better to be whatever you are.


Need I say more. Six years with this makes me long for sixty six.

Happy anniversary baby.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Don't even think about it.

I know, I know, what is this two posts in one day thing?

I just couldn't resist sharing this tidbit.

Our little Westie dog, Logan got neutered a few days ago. He's been quite bummed since the procedure, certainly not helped by the embarrassing cone he has to wear on his head, because "even though most dogs don't do this, HE is a licker." So the punishment for licking, for which I assume the temptation is both strong and wholly understandable, is the cone. He is now Cone Dog. As such, his spatial sense is all out of whack and he keeps bumping into things: my leg, the door to the outside, my other dog, Rose's bum. Let's just say Logan will not be entering this week in his diary.

Before "the procedure" Logan was known to sleep in a very open way - on his back in his little bed, all four legs straight in the air, dowstairs package wide open for the world to see. He also has a prominent underbite in his sleep, further building the comical appeal of the whole display. Anyway, he has not assumed this position since the surgery, which I quite understand, considering the vulnerablity of such a move. Well today, I was walking past and there he was, flat on his back, legs splayed, not a care in the world. I decided to take a closer look at his incision while he was making it so easy, fulfilling my owner responsibility of checking the wound two to three times a day for infection. So there I am, inspecting said area, when I notice Logan is awake, eyes wide open, staring at me, his little stuffed toy dog behind his head, also staring at me and baring it's cotton teeth.

Step away from the package. Step away, please, says the real dog.

Step away from the dog's package, right now, says the stuffed dog, eyeballing me menacingly.

So I do.

The real dog, sweet Logan, resumes sleep, one leg sort of shielding his privates, protecting him from any further injustices, tongue sticking out, looking very much like he's giving me a raspberry. And well he should, I suppose.

The ultimate compliment.

We were outside yesterday afternoon, my kidlets and I, doing what you do in one-hundred degree heat with two small children and no pool: you turn on the hose and let the fun begin.

Reese in her brown swimsuit with the polka dots and Finn in his tractor T-shirt and swimshorts cavorted in that sprinkler spray like they were in the tropics. Both of these children are water fiends, their idea of a good time letting the outside faucet run and filling watering cans and buckets to the brim, using the contents to water the yard, each other, and often their own heads. While it may not be the most conservationist move we've made, it is cheap and fun entertainment.

So with this added sprinkler feature, the happiness of simply filling buckets was replaced by the sheer joy of running through the spray; whole body immersion now possible. Finn stood straight in the outpour, being pelted by water pellets, his body vibrating with happiness, eyes closed, smile permanently fixed to that gorgous little face. A shayna punem, my grandmother would say, a beautiful face on this one.

Part of his absolute, knock-your-diaper-off delight was watching Reese running through the sprinkler like it was spraying chocolate. Her giggles bounced off every corner of the yard; more than just infectious, they remind you of every giggle you've ever had, the good ones that come in waves, where you just can't stop no matter how hard you try.

In the middle of all this, I am sitting on the steps, feet in the water, all mama-bear; keeping an eye out for hoses that might trip or bugs that might sting or anything else that might ruin the fun. I spy Reese whispering something to Finn. He is listening intently. She whispers again.

"What are you whispering about, Reese," I ask, not ready to be left out of the fun.

"I'm telling Finnie a secret and I'll tell you too, Mama."

She runs over to me, feet splashing through the water, her wet hand cupping her mouth close to my ear.

"I told Finnie he can come to my birthday party and you can too."

She squeals, pulling back from me, water droplets like crystals in her hair. She searches my face for understanding. Do I get that this is the highest praise, the "I LOVE YOU" in skywriting, the bouquet of roses at my feet?

I do. I am not trying to do anything else right then. I am not trying to make dinner or change a diaper or talk on the phone. I am right here and I see what she is offering and I take it, her damp swimsuit pressed up against me, arms around my neck. I let her hold on tight, until she's ready to let go.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The view from here.

I'm sitting at my Mother's Day present, which is a day at the spa, starting with lunch, don't hold the curly fries, please. I am one at a table for two and it's me and Jhumpa Lahiri's first collection of stories and I just can't think of any place I'd rather be. After curly fries there will be a massage and a facial and then home to the fam for a BBQ and darn it if life just can't get any better than that.

Anyway, the view from my table is of a group of ladies having a baby shower for a second baby 's arrival in a family. I can tell because the shower is small and subdued, everyone passing around pictures of their kids and looking tired and happy to be eating bread that no one has taken a bite out of before them. They are a bit older. A bit wiser than your average baby shower crowd. There are no games, just gleeful, interruption-free conversation.

The view from their table is of the wall-length glass that separates the restaurant area of the resort from the resorty-area of the resort. The glass reveals a long hallway of sorts. From the baby shower table they can see a young couple taking their wedding pictures on the way to the ceremony. The bride is, of course, lovely with long dark hair and a young groom on her left who holds her train uncertainly, but with great kindness and effort. The couple smiles at the photographer and at one another. They do not see the women at the table having the baby shower. They do not see me seeing the women seeing them. It is as though it is a one way mirror this window between us; us with a view into our past, them with no view at all, except the one into the camera, into the unknown.

The women talk of sleeping schedules and not sleeping and birthday parties and whether or not boys should be invited to tea parties. It is the talk of women who have not debated the colors of bridesmaid dresses in quite some time. Or cakes. Women who can't remember dreaming of honeymoon locations. It is the talk of reality, and in listening to them, seeing the couple muted through the glass before me, I feel the distance between these phases of life. Between marriage and babies, it seems the miles are growing.

I wonder, as these women look on at the life forming in front of them, if they are reminiscing, reflecting back on their big day, their gown, their groom. I think they might be and I think it is with an experienced glaze over the memories, their skepticism, the skepticism of real marital life hanging over them like cartoon bubbles. If you could read them, they would say:

"Wait till you see how he NEVER takes out the trash on trash night."

"Enjoy that size 2 now honey. You are never seeing that again."

"Enjoy the honeymoon kids. It's about to be over."

The bubbles waft around the room and I look at them and wonder why the moment the ceremony is over, the biggest ceremony of our lives, the committment to a life together, why the romance of all the days before needs to be shut out and forgotten. We are urged to move on the "next." The next whatever: house, kid, boat, job, etc. The giddy moments before the vows, erupting into the air like earnest confetti, are gone. Perhaps it is too much to wish for: to have, to hold, for now and for always. For better and for worse. In good times and in bad.

Perhaps it is too much to wish for.

Perhaps it is easier to laugh it off. To think it impossible. To lose ourselves in babies and real estate and RV's and big screen TV's.

But I think of the other night, when I came home late and got into bed, still wearing all my clothes and Chris folded me in his arms, never once asking what I was doing, only holding me warmly, not letting go.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Reese-isms.

That girl of mine, she is a funny bunny.

Just in the last few days, I've taken to writing down her especially good ones.

Good one #1:

I had told Reese that this year, she and her little brother will be having home birthday parties. We are on an "off" year, having decided after last year's one-year old fifty-person hoopla for Finn followed closely by Reese's four-year old Pump It Up party-rama that we will be having big parties only every OTHER year. This builds in at least one year of recovery time for my nerves, probably not nearly enough. Anyway, we've explained to Reese that on the "off" years, there will be a small celebration at home with as many guests as the birthday kid has years under their belt.

Reese, contemplating the upcoming passing of being four and a half, commented:

"So, at my party, I can have four and half guests, right?"

I'm still envisioning Reese with her four friends and maybe one midget four-year old. I mean, little person four-year old.


Good one #2:

Reese is not fond of people in costumes where you can't see their faces. Which, I suppose, is perfectly understandable. This includes Chuck E. Cheese, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, the Sacramento Kings lion mascot and the Sacramento River Cats River Cat. Whatever that is.

Anyway, I've been trying to work her through this fear over the last few years and yesterday, as we were sitting watching a Wiggles video, she was asking yet again about the Wiggles sidekicks, Wags the Dog and Dorothy the Dinosaur - characters who prance around in big foam suits.

"Reese, those are animals with people inside them. The animal part is just a costume. There are people inside there, " I said, trying to diminish her anxiety.

She sat thinking for a moment. I guess she was thinking of our two dogs, Rose and Logan, because then she said, with a completely straight face:

"So, are there people inside Rose and Logan?"



Good one #3:

My kids get up at the crack of dawn every day.

For years, I fought this. Now, I just try to get some work done before their little internal early morning clocks go off.

The other day, Chris was already at the gym and I was working on my laptop in bed when Reese stumbled in at around 6 a.m. and crawled in next to me, all warm and sleepy.

"Why are you always on your computer?" she asked me semi-accusingly, as though she'd caught me eating a gallon of Chunky Monkey without her.

"Because Mama decided not to go in the office anymore so I can be with you and Brother more. So now this (gesturing to my computer) is my office," I said, all therapeutic and zen-like.

"I don’t want your bed to be your office. I want your bed to be your bed."

I laughed and then pushed the laptop to the side, gathering her to me, her head on my chest, heart on my heart. We stared off together, quiet, the light of the computer the only one in the room.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The more things change.

There's a girl of thirteen who hangs out at the park I take my kids to. It's a little kid park and if big kids stop by it's usually to look cool with their buddies, talk on their phones and split. This girl does not split. And she does not hang out with friends. She is usually alone, save for a small dog that sometimes accompanies her. She is also on the heavier side, with a beautiful face and shiny brown hair.

We got to talking the other day, her swinging on the swing next to my four-year old. She was telling me about her school, one that goes from Kindergarten straight through eighth grade. She's about to finish her sixth grade year there and she wishes she could transfer to a regular junior high in the fall, somewhere she could get a fresh start. She says if she stays where she is, she will be friendless, which the way she says it, sounds exactly like lifeless, which I suppose is what she meant.

She tells me she only has a few friends, most of them boys, that one of them has dandruff and doesn't realize how truly bottom rung he is, unlike her. She says she's about two steps up from Dandruff Boy.

"At least the popular kids talk to me," she says, half-bragging, dragging her toes in the sand as she swings, altitude not her objective.

When I came home that day with my two little ones in tow, I have to say, this girl stayed on my mind. I realized it'll soon be twenty-five years since I too was a friendless thirteen-year old, not to mention scrawny and frizzy haired and flat chested to boot. I had one friend and I clung to her and she to me, our lifeboat of two on a sea of acne and insecurity. We had each other at least, braving the "Sportsnights" which were school dances where we didn't dance and no sports actually occured, except for maybe the game where everybody tries to get in everybody else's pants. Purely a spectator sport for us, our pants completely secure.

I don't forget about the girl that I was, the big geek inside me who is still shy and awkward at times, though no longer frizzy or flatchested, and rarely pimply. What I do forget is that the insecurity, the Breakfast Club-type typecasting that occurs throughout puberty and beyond, is still happening. I get caught up in the iPhones and the texting and the technology of this next generation and forget that technology does not shield these young ones from the pain of being human, of being a human in progress, finding her way in the world. Twenty-five years ago we did not have Facebook or cell phones or GPS or AOL. But we had nerds and geeks and goths and gamers and jocks and prom queens. And now, we have it all: the agony of growing up and the ability to communicate that agony, or hide from it, faster than ever.

As much as that reminder was a big, wet rain on my parade of a good life with my sweet little family, it was also good. Because I realized even though I had my first child at thirty-three, when she is thirteen I will not be clueless as to what she is going through. Even as she is complaining about how her jet pack is so last year or her hydrogen bike is the laughingstock of the seventh grade, I will get it. I will know that as much as technology solves every problem humans face, it will never solve the problem of being human.

For this, I am grateful.

Mostly because I am here, writing this and not sitting on the park swing with my toes in the sand.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Maybe it all comes down to non-dairy creamer.

After thirty years, apparently Mocha Mix makes the difference.

At least that’s what I gathered at Noah’s Bagels today. I couldn’t help overhearing a fifty-something woman and her seventy-something mom talking about what the fifty-something’s husband had done to prepare for his mother-in-law’s upcoming visit.

“He was so sweet, Mom. He says to me, ‘Don’t forget, your mom likes Mocha Mix in her cereal every morning. We need to get Mocha Mix for her.’ And I told him it’s not necessary, she’s only going to be here for three days and then we’ll have to dump the rest of the Mocha Mix down the sink, since we don’t drink it. Next thing you know, he’s back from the store with the Mocha Mix. He tells me he thinks we can splurge $2.50 on Mocha Mix for you. What a doll, huh?”

As I sat at my little wooden table next to them, feeling the glow of her happiness beside me, I began thinking about how we start these married lives of ours. With the dresses and the cakes and the honeymoons. The mushroom tarlets versus the shrimp canap├ęs. I think of all the pageantry and parties and anniversaries and houses and jewelry and flowers that punctuate a life together.

And then I think about Mocha Mix. And how so often, when we really think about it, the things that make us the most happy in our marriages, in our lives, can be had for about three bucks.

Sometimes even less.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sweating the big stuff.

It is 11:15 at the park and already, it's hotter than Sacramento in April has any right to be.

No one checked with me about this climate change. No one had told me that wearing a fleece vest and long sleeves on an eighty-degree day might be a poor choice, like eating questionable leftovers or microwaving plastic. But even if they had, I wouldn’t have heard them because I was busy getting other people dressed, ones who fought being clothed as though they were allergic to Old Navy.

“We’re going to the park!” I said, trying to rally excitement, compliance, while gently shoving my one-year son’s pudgy little piggies into sandals. Finn had already escaped my diapering efforts, preferring to run naked down the hallway with his big Buddha belly leading the way, holding onto his privates protectively, already smart about the things that matter.

Meanwhile, my four-year old daughter Reese is busy tantruming in the other room, crushed that she has not gone first in this entertaining exercise.

And just like that – forty-five short minutes later – we’re at the park, fairly presentable. There is lunch in my diaper bag. There are wipes. Even two buckets and shovels of equal desirability. We are good to go.

And then we’re not. This is a park we don’t go to often. I am in unfamiliar territory. Reese has gone one way, swinging from a series of unstable and odd poles, and Finn is toddling off in the opposite direction, presumably to eat sand and discarded bits of Veggie Booty.

This is when I realize I am sweating more than is socially acceptable.

So, I do what you do in times of trouble – I go for the lowest common denominator: lunch. We join friends at the picnic tables. I dole out sandwiches, juice boxes, raisins and granola bars. We are set and so we eat.

For about two solid minutes.

The kids, lunch grazed, are off to play. I am chatting with another mom when I look up to see Finn halfway up a chain-link-rope-ladder-thing-a-ma-bob that telegraphs "deathtrap" to every maternal fiber of my being.

My seventeen-month-old is climbing it like it’s Everest.

At the exact same moment, I see Reese clinging on to the top of a climby thing she's scaled to the top of and now has no idea how to get down from. She is not pleased.

I know I’m in over my head. I am swimming upstream with my two guppies and I know we’re headed into deep water, so I cut my losses and swim for shore. I assist my daredevil with his climb. I collect Reese from her post. I pack up and head out.

As I escape with a child tucked safely under each arm, I am quite the sight, balancing diaper bag, food, toys and tikes - grace never my strong suit.

And just like that, I am the mom you feel sorry for as she blazes past you, a whirlwind of peanut butter and sand and tears and snot, her overwhelm and harriedness almost a scent coming off of her, like smoke, all of the other mothers cowering away, trying not to inhale.

I am also the mom who, a half hour later, is putting these sweet innocents down for a nap, singing their songs, holding their blankies, rocking them and feeling their warm, peachy heads heavy against my shoulder, with no place I’d rather be.

And this, ultimately is the truth about parenting young children. That for every hot, sweaty, end of your rope moment, there is one of these: a sleeping, perfect being, heavy in your arms, trusting you completely. And you, holding them, knowing that, for today, you have proved worthy of it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ode to a pediatrician.

When you first met Reese, our now four-year old, she was less than a day out in the world, still swaddled tight, lined up with all the other babies in the hospital nursery, like loaves of French bread in a pink and blue bakery. You inspected her. You, our lucky find. We hadn't done the "Meet with the Pediatrician" item #34 on our list prior to childbirth and we had no excuse, Reese being a week late and all - finally having to be evicted, never one to make sudden changes easily.

So you, kind doctor, were randomly selected on the insurance form. Your name seemed friendly, your office close. Somehow, miraculously, you were accepting new patients. And our insurance was accepting you. That's why you were the one to walk in our hospital room that December day and tell us gently that our baby girl was going "under the lights." She was jaundiced; such a common thing, but this daughter of ours was being serious about it, her billirubin levels skyrocketing. Reese was going about getting yellow like it was her job.

You told us we wouldn't be taking her home for a few days, but that I would be released. Hospital policy. My heart, hormones in full swing, reeled straight to the pink and white linoleum floor and stayed there. A few moments later I looked up to see you patiently waiting for the news to sink in. You empathized. You, a mother yourself, said you knew how hard you knew this must be. You gave us options. You never looked at your watch. You sat down in a chair opposite my bed and went over what our plan would be. Our plan.

That was the first time a doctor had ever surprised me, your compassion making the impossible possible.

Since that day, our healthy, happy girl has been joined by a little brother. The two of them have had their share of visits to your office, leaving outfitted in stickers and tongue depressors. But last summer, Reese had a disturbing cough - we brought her in a few times over the course of a week to be checked. She was listless and feverish, so sad and uncomfortable, her usual good spirits far away. We saw the on-call doctor each time and were told it was "just a virus." Finally, on our final visit, holding our sick little one in the waiting room, we were relieved to know it was you we would be seeing that day. You checked all the same things the other doctors had checked, but you did it so slowly, so carefully, as though there weren't ten other kids in the waiting room. As though you didn't have your own two waiting for you at home.

"Breathe deep, Reese. Again. Again."

Ten, maybe fifteen minutes passed as you closed your eyes, stethoscope in hand, listening so closely to those tiny lungs, intent as though it were Mozart. You told us you heard a "crackle" in her lungs. You wanted a chest X-ray. It was seven o'clock at night and you sent us across to the hospital to get it, STAT. We asked when you would be at the office until. You said, "until you get back." Two hours later, we were sitting back in the exam room. "It's pneumonia," you said. "We'll do antibiotics and she'll be just fine."

And she was. And when she got it again this week, less than a year later, it was you who diagnosed it, who listened so patiently to her breaths, who thanked her for her patience and for taking so much time with you. Once again, your thoroughness, your kindness saw her though - saw all of us through.

So, for all of the things I overprepared for when it came to parenthood, all the researching and reading, the buying and doing, I wanted you to know that the one thing I missed, that I forgot completely - #34 - turned out to be the one thing I got so right.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Hey, that's my brother."

Not having grown up with a sibling, I'm still getting used to all this sibling revelry. Or rivalry, depending on the moment.

They are opposites in so many ways, Finn and Reese. She is slow and steady, he is fast and furious but both of them are sensitive and kind-hearted, as well as unbelievably impatient. And they love so many of the same things passionately and whatever they don't love passionately, they do, simply because the other one does, making the item in question at risk for short supply.

He wants her purses and sunglasses, she discovers a deep need for his balloons and the baby toys she hasn't glanced at in a year or two. It's simply about guarding what's yours, what might be yours, never mind the value of the actual thing. I once had to intervene in a dispute over posession of a piece of packaging, the gift long forgotten, the plastic sheathing somehow wildly fascinating.

They understand eachother in ways I do not. He brings her the things he knows she wants; kind offerings, her blanket, her Sippy cup. They are given up to her almost with reverence, his eyes smiling at the delight he knows he is about to see in hers. She sees what he needs, the fall where no one knows what happened and he cannot tell us; she is his voice explaining what exact body part was hurt and how, what he needs to make it all better. She knows what he needs better than anyone and will be his voice, ensuring he gets exactly that and no less. There is also this:

REESE: Finn, that is my balloon. THIS is your balloon.

(LOUDER): THIS IS YOUR BALLOON. THIS ONE!

(BOTH SCREAM)

REESE: THIS ONE, FINNIE!!!!!!!!!THIS ONE!!!

(SOME SORT OF SHUFFLING, SCUFFLING)

REESE: Yep, that one Finnie. Good job.

(PEACE RESTORED.)

So much of the time I hold myself back when I hear them get into it, in the midst of playing so nicely, dress-up or cars or school, both of them reeling with righteousness. I want to go in and tear them apart and make them apologize and make it all fine and fair. But I wait. I curb my every instinct to go in and sometimes, in that extra minute, the problem is solved. He moves over or she gives him the crayon or they both find something else to do. All is well. And they've done it alone. No arbiter of justice to impose upon them. They've navigated their world and have found a path to okayness and I am thrilled for them - for their luck in finding a home, a person with which to find their way.

When we are at school picking up Reese and Finn is playing amongst the big kid toys, delirious with joy, his diaper sticking a bit up out of his pants and one of the kids calls him "diaperhead" - something he is totally unfazed by, it is Reese who is offended:

"He's no Diaperhead. That's my brother."

And when we are at the park playing and a big kid comes a little too close to Finn, there is Reese, warning:

"Be nice to him. That's my brother."

I tell her how proud I am, her looking out for Finn this way. How lucky they both are to have someone who has their back. How he will protect her and love her just as much as she does him. But of course, she doesn't know. Already, she doesn't remember a time without him, her brief two years and eleven months on Earth before him a distant memory.

There is no before Finn for Reese. Obviously, there is no before Reese for Finn. There is only the two of them, two little sweet specks on this planet together, everything better and stronger and more difficult and more lovely because of it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Like two lovers saying goodbye at the airport.

That's how it is for Reese and I at bedtime lately.

Except I'm the much less clingy lover. And she's the one you always feel sorry for and have to avert your eyes because she's making such a scene.

Somehow we've gotten into an elaborate bedtime routine with Reese that has more steps than putting together a piece of furniture from IKEA. Way too elaborate to elaborate on here, that's for sure. And embarrassing, this fact that a four-year old has snookered us into this much hoopla each evening. Anyway, one nice part, aside from just getting to hang out with her, is that in an effort to keep me just a moment (or twenty) longer as I'm inches from a clean getaway, holding onto the frame of her doorway with my fingernails, the rest of my body pointing off down the hall in the direction of non-Noggin television and unhealthy treats, she has come up with a new twist in her scheming: flattery.

"Mama: you are so _______"

Pretty.

Handsome. But in a girl way.

Lov-a-ly.

Special.

Interesting.

"Mama, you have a warm heart and that is why you are going to be 100, because your heart is SO warm."

Then, there are requests for more hugs, "ones she can feel." She says this, squeezing the life out of me, her strong arms tightly around my neck.

"Sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite. If they do bite, I'll be right here. I don't want this dolly. I need that dolly. I'm thirsty. I have to go potty. Can you get Daddy right now. No, RIGHT now. This second. "

And I'm finally off, down the hall to send in the talent for Act II and then, she is calling after me:

"I love you. See you in the morning, Mama."

If these statements are not met with a call and response-response, much chaos and tears may ensue and some steps of the process may require repeating, thus shortening the already brief time between kid bedtime and ours to mere minutes.

But in the moments the kind words are falling from her lips, manipulative or not, agenda or not, they can't help but plant themselves like little seedlings in my heart, where I keep them safe for another day. When maybe the compliments might have dried up and I will have to dredge them up from here, from this fertile ground of love and happiness - her four-year old perspective of me and all my perfection and how nothing is greater than being carried in my arms down the hall and there are no goodbyes on the horizon.