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.


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,

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.


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.