Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

That's all she wrote.


I think the time's come: I've seen the light at the end of the diaper pail and it's a good one.

I started this blog back in November of 2007 to promote THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE DIAPER PAIL: INSPIRATION FOR NEW MOTHERHOOD. It was simply a way to reach out to new moms and spread the word about this sweet little book of mine. Instead, though, this blog has become an pretty accurate recording of the last year and half of our lives, the life of me and my dearest ones, and because of that, it's proven more valuable than I ever imagined. Moments I know I would have missed or forgotten are here now, forever proof to my family of my boundless love for them, along with my daily impatience, lack of exercise discipline, passion for chocolate and readiness for good humor at all times.

I had no idea how much writing these details of our lives would move me. And would touch others. I am incredibly grateful for this.

Reese and Finn are five and two now; we are rapidly moving away from the diaper pail and toward preschool and kindergarten, soccer and ballet. I can see a Sippy cup-free household in sight and it's a sad one and a sweet one as well. As much as I will miss the deliciousness of my babies and toddlers, I find actually being able to get to know these babies as people is the unexpected delightful gift. Both of them, as every mother I'm sure believes, are so amazingly special. Funny and open hearted. Warm and playful. They are each not to be underestimated.

This has also given me a place to praise my closest friend, the love of my life, Christopher. All I can say is that I must have done something good. Very good.

It's time to move on to the next project. The next phase of our lives. The light at the end of the preschool. One day, the prom night. Beginning our family with this blog has been so special and I will miss it tons. I look forward to what lies ahead of us and writing about that someday.

For now, as I look over the entries here, the theme of kindness reigns through and I still feel the way I did in my first post two Novembers ago; that we are raising kind people here. And for this, I am proud.

"At home, Finn sleeps and I eat and Rose pouts. I don’t notice it at first. She’s parked herself in our room, big black and white body on the carpet, sad muzzle on the cold bathroom floor, like a hairy teenager with a bad hangover. Hours pass, the rest of the family comes home and she remains unmoved. Maybe she’s sick? Depressed? Reese, my four-year-old strolls in while I’m assessing the situation; I tell her Rose was probably sad at Dog Camp. Without a word to me, Reese lays down on the floor next to Rose, her head inches from Rose’s, her feet aligned next to her paws. She takes one of Rose’s paws in her hand and starts talking in a low, kind voice, like the one I use when Reese is sad or sick or otherwise not herself. I hear her say, “you’re OK, Rosie, you didn’t like Dog Camp, but you’re OK, you’re home now, I love you, sweet Rose.” She makes these little sounds, these little comforting sounds to Rose, while stroking her snout with her stubby little four-year old fingers, fingers which, just months ago couldn’t find their way around a pen or a toothbrush. Her kindness overwhelms me; my heart is in my throat, savoring this victory, this evidence that no matter what failures we have in store for us as parents, no matter what fights, what cigarettes, sex, rock and roll and “you don’t understand me’s” lay before us, for this single moment a goal has been met; the kindness chip is in place and it’s functioning on all four cylinders."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Flash Forward.

I'm never content to worry simply about what's in front of me. I like to borrow worry ahead of time. An acquaintance of mine calls this pre-worrying. It doesn't negate worrying later; there is no higher purpose, actually. It's just worry for worry's sake.

My recent bout of pre-worrying began as my babysitter began telling me about her little sister, who is in third grade, and how she is being teased by the other girls at her school. She, the little sister, doesn't understand why. They call her fat, they make fun of her clothes, they are in general the horrible girls that terrorized me once, years ago. Little girls like that don't grow up, I've decided, they just hang around the cafeteria, waiting for the next victim. Like ghosts of Elementary School Past. Some of those third graders are probably like 54.

This makes me fear for Reese, my soon to be Kindergartner. She is decidedly a ham at home, less so in public. She is definitely not the hanging from the chandeliers type. At least, not yet. She is smart and sweet. But interestingly, as middle of the road, no feathers ruffled type of girl that she is, she makes friends like nobody's business.

We go to dance class the other day and before we leave the building, she's been invited to a birthday party and is being hugged by Alicia, a girl she met twenty minutes ago. We go to a birthday party one weekend and before the cake is served, Reese is running off into the sunset, holding hands with her new best friend, Mia. We're looking at a map of the United States last night and Reese reminds me that her best friend in Hawaii lives there. The one she met on the beach on vacation last July, who glued herself to Reese's side like a cuddly starfish.

If we traveled like ever, this girl would have friends in all fifty states.

Always up for advice, I ask Reese how she makes friends so easily; I tell her she collects friends like other people collect stamps. She must wizen these girls, I guess. She does have an irresistable smile and dresses like Punky Brewster. Maybe the color combinations have a friendmaking effect.

"You're so silly Mama," she says to me, laughing, "it's so easy. They ask if I want to be friends and I say 'sure' and that's it. We're friends."

That's it, I ask.

"Yes, it's so easy to make friends," she says dancing off, probably to pick up another forty or so friends at the park. And I think, OK, maybe I shouldn't worry about her and the meanness of girls. Perhaps her sweetness, her kindness, her humor, her wardrobe has bulletproofed her from harm. This I pray.

Then I realize I'm probably not worrying about what I should be worrying about. Like the world class worrier I am, I scour my brain for new issues: teen pregnancy, drugs, dirty school drinking faucets, lockers slamming on fingers, teenage driving, girl scout cookie drives, BOYS, tampons, bras, periods, puberty, hormones, my hormones, her hating me, her never hating me, high school math.

OK, I think I'm good for today.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Eavesdropping.

I'm working in the bedroom. Chris is getting ready to brush the kids' teeth.

(SOUND OF REESE RUNNING DOWN HALLWAY): Owww. Owweee!!!!!!

CHRIS: What's wrong?

(NO ANSWER)

CHRIS: OK, I'm looking for a girl who went to a birthday party today...

REESE: Me! Wait! I need to pee really bad...

CHRIS (SINGING WITH VIGOR, CLAPPING): Here we go lubby loo, here we go lubby loo all on a Saturday..

REESE: Finn turn that water off!

CHRIS (SINGING): ...all on a Saturday night!

MORE CLAPPING AND WATER RUNNING FOLLOWED BY HORRIBLE DROPPING SOUND.

REESE SCREAMING LIKE SHE'S LOST A LIMB.

REESE: FINNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!! You made me all wet because of you!!

CHRIS (CALMLY) Reese, you're not that wet.

REESE: Yes I am! Just because of you FINNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!

UNDER HER BREATH BUT NOT REALLY: Finn is so mean!

CHRIS: Finn, what do say to your sister?

FINN (REMORSEFULLY): Sorree. THEN SPRIGHTLY: It happens!

EXPLOSION OF LAUGHTER FROM ALL THREE OF THEM.

FINN (SENSING A WINNER): It happens! It happens. Sorry Reese it happens!! (NOW DELIVERS THE LINE IN LOW TONES, HIGH TONES AND SINGING TONES, LOOKING FOR THE BIGGEST LAUGH)

LAUGHTER.

REESE: Finn, you're hilarious.

I have to write this down so on the days Finn says to Reese, "no look at Finn" and Reese says "mom, finn says I can't look at him" and I want to poke my own eye out with a ball point pen from the frustration of it all, from raising two "spirited" children, I will read this and thank heaven for them and the chaos they have transformed my life into, for the laughter, for the love of it all.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

25 Random Things About Reese and Finn.



I am loving reading everyone's "25 Random Things About Me" on Facebook. It is such a neat snapshot into the lives of good friends near and far. It inspired me to do a list for Reese and Finn, my five-year old and two-year old, if they were to do a random list about themselves at this moment in time, February 1st, 2009 at 7:05 AM. I think it would go a little like this:

25 Things about Reese and Finn, by Reese and Finn

1. Mom made us do this list.
2. Finn is way too bossy.
3. Reese is way too bossy.
4. We want breakfast.
5. We want to play Legos.
6. Scratch that, Finn wants to play Legos.
7. Now Finn wants Reese to play Legos.
8. Reese doesn't want to play Legos, she wants Finn to play dance party.
9. We love dance party. Finn loves to wear Reese's red sparkly shoes and her orange headband with yellow stripes.
10. Finn loves yellow.
11. Reese loves pink.
12. Reese loves chocolate.
13 Finn loves chocolate.
14. Who doesn't love chocolate?
15. Reese says she loves tap dancing the best and that the reason she came real quick out of mom's belly was because she wanted to get to tapping.
16 Finn says um, um, tap, yeah. Tap. Love. Tap. Dance. Party.
17 Finn loves playdough. All the colors together.
18 Reese reports that watching too many videos is "wearing her out" - enough Jack's Big Music Show.
19 Reese says that we really love playdough and that her favorite things about playdough are her favorite things about playdough. They love to make "spaghetti." See #17.
20. Reese loves her blanket and her Bubba and her Ojo and her Homa the "special-ist".
21. Reese says Finn loves his blanket the best. And the dog that he sleeps on every night. That dog is not a real dog.
22. Finn really likes Reese.
23. Reese is fair. And wants to be like Martin Luther King Junior. Peaceful.
24. Reese likes Finn. He's the specialist boy in the whole entire world. Because he's her brother.
25. Reese and Finn are brother and sister because we're in the same family and we share things and we don't whine about it because we know not to.

#26 Reese says she wants me to type my name too, so here goes: G, E, R, I.

Friday, January 30, 2009

"Eggos, Mama?"


That is what Finn says when he means, "Legos, Mama, play Legos."

Legos are his current obsession. Building, building, building, this kid. Bristle blocks, Tinkertoys, wood blocks, and of course, "Eggos". But the thing is, he'll play for a few minutes by himself and then I get the call to join in on the fun. And, you know what? It IS fun. I love to play with my kids. For ten minutes, a half hour. And then, I get the strange idea that since they're engaged and having fun, I'll slip away for a moment and do a load of laundry or unload the dishwasher or repair the breakfast damage.

This is obviously delusional thinking because within moments I get the call. And who can turn down:

"Eggos, Mama? Eggos with Finn?"

That is not an invitation to be refused. So, the dishes wait. The clean clothes pile up, homeless, sometimes never leaving the basket, just to be put into rotation again. Bills, returning phone calls, filling out forms for school and insurance: all of that is pushed to the side as I am a partner in painting, playdoughing, block building, and fort making.

I am a thirty-eight year old woman spending a good portion of her day as a toddler.

And most days, I allow myself the privilege of being my children's playmate, along with their mother. When Reese gets home from school, we do "dance party" all of us wiggling crazily and both of them wearing "heels" and me in my stocking feet. We bake gingerbread. We read books. We watch Jack's Big Music Show. We hand clap the ABC's. We dress up and they do my hair. I watch them put on shows and get into arguments and laugh and cry and grow up in front of my eyes, slowly.

And then I say:

"OK, now you guys play."

And then I make a three-minute attempt at the laundry, the bills, the dust bunnies. I get dinner started. I feed the dogs. I clean up the heels and the books and the gingerbread. I make them clean up the heels and the books and the gingerbread. I think about my childhood, pictured here, me in my mother's arms and can't remember ever laying on the ground with her building anything. I don't remember us playing. I know that this is a generational thing. I know that "helicopter parenting" is the phrase my generation is supposedly guilty of, and maybe I am an offender. But I know this:

My mother didn't play with me but she loved me SO. She hugged and kissed me all the time and once, we sat in the movie theater and saw The Sound of Music, TWICE. She talked with me a lot. She stayed up with me when I was sick and was the best nurse ever, cold wash clothes to the head, toast with lite butter. She was always real with me. And I always knew I was loved.

AND I know:

I might play with my kids too much. And I might lose my patience too much. And allow them to eat too many snacks. And I might underschedule them with formal activities and overschedule them with a different arts and crafts activity every ten minutes. But I love them SO. I hug and kiss them and talk with them and stay up with them when they are sick and use a cool wash cloth and buttered toast. And I am real with them and I hope against hope that they will know how very much they are loved.

This is when I realize how the very tough the job of mothering, of parenting, becomes so amazingly simple when you peel away all of the expectations and comparisons and pressures we put on ourselves and each other.

I can't remember ever sitting down and playing a single thing with my mother. I don't know if my kids will remember that I played playdough and trains and Legos with them, and in the end, neither will matter. What will matter is what Reese and I talked about on our way home from dance class this morning:

"Mama, what if you move to Asia or something and you are far, far away from me?" she asked, sounding a lot like she was reading out of RUNAWAY BUNNY.

And I said:

"We're not going to Asia, but if we did, you can come with us. Wherever Dad and I are is home. You can always come home."

She didn't answer, but I looked up into the rear view mirror and saw her staring out her window with a smile, looking for all the world like she believed me.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Can a dining room table be your North Star?


This is what my dining room table looks like at 12:49 p.m. on a Tuesday. It's my favorite spot in the house. It gets the best light of the day, and like all things in good light, it flourishes.

It's not actually my dining room table though. It's my grandmother's. Or it was before she died two Decembers ago at age 93. When she asked me what I wanted after she died, way back before her dying was not nearly in sight, I told her then: I don't want anything, but if you have to leave me something, leave me the dining room table.

So she did. And the china cabinet and hutch too. I don't know why I asked for the dining room table, when it was really the breakfast table where we spent our lives. It was the place where she mourned her husband when my mom was just seventeen, where my mother told us all she was getting married again, where I came home to when I came home: it was the last place I saw her alive as she cupped my face in her strong hands and told me that I lay in her heart. That I laid in her heart.

But now, when I open the china cabinet to put in a dish or a cup, I can smell my childhood. I can smell the safety of my grandmother's house, my Bubbie. When I open that cabinet, I could climb in and lay down, for how comfortable and familiar it feels. And when I sit at her table with my children, I am sitting at every dinner I ever went to at her house, everyone joking and loud, the chopped liver, the brisket overflowing, and the conversation too.

When I open the doors of the hutch, I can hear the laughter of my cousins and I running through the hallways, sucking down orange Push-Ups and teasing each other about our tight Jordache jeans, racing Hot Wheels and growing up noisily together. When I open the doors of the hutch, I am seven again. And I am so light.

The dining room table came here a few months after Bubbie died and there was already something in it's place: my father's dining room table which I inherited when he died seven and a half years ago, and is just as special, but not nearly as old and therefore, had to go in the garage since we really don't even have a dining room anyway. I say dining room, but I mean: our one and only dining/eating/congregating/noshing area. So, out to the garage went my father's light oak, heavier than rock, table with it's white painted legs and it's Shabby Chic paint peeling chairs.

Oh, how I love that table too.

I sat at that table when I opened the first present that had ever taken my breath away: a Canon EOS camera. A real camera. My first. My Dad and my stepmom pushed it across the table to me and, with it, the power to see deeper, more purposefully, and with entirely new vision. At that table, my stepmom made her art, my father cheering her along, her devoted fan. The paint is still on the table today, in specks and drips here and there, like she just finished up and is in the kitchen washing out her brushes. And my dad served up my first perfect taste of fish at that table: red snapper with brown rice and asparagus. He placed it in front of me like I was royalty.

After we got Bubbie's table, which came with five upholstered chairs as well, my Dad's set reclined in the recesses of the garage alone, until we realized that five upholstered chairs and two children age five and two don't mix. That's when we brought out the chairs from my Dad's set - modern, sturdy wood with peeling paint- and married them to my grandmother's 1940's dark wood, unblemished antique table. The table where it sits now, in the light, is always covered, protected and my Dad's chairs surround it like armed soldiers: an unusual pairing, but perfect for our eclectic house where nothing matches, where nothing is a set. But where everything just seems to work together with some kind of unplanned harmony. Or unusual fate.

For the last thirty-seven years, I have made my way home to these two tables - in two different houses, in two different cities. I have grown up at them: and now that I have, they've both found their way back to me.

So now my North Star sits in my dining room, in the house that's home to my world.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Why is the grass wiggling, Daddy?"


That was actually Reese's question today as we were driving in the windy weather and she was gazing out the window.

"It's just blowing in the wind, baby," I answered, even though it wasn't me she asked.

A few minutes later, while watching her first play, a children's theater performance, she leans over and breathes hot into my ear:

"How can they NOT be real people, they're SO funny!"

This, the wonder of childhood, has to be one of the greatest gifts of parenthood: like a secondhand smoker, I get to inhale the shiny new discovery of my children's experiences. And since it usually happens in the midst of chaos, it's tough to stop and hold onto the feeling right when it's happening - the contact high of wonder, if you will.

But right now, I'm feeling it, I'm feeling it big.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My dear Finnie Boom.



I had to talk your sister down last night. She decided she didn't want a brother anymore.

That her life is really, as she put it, rough.

All because of you and how she used to be everything to you and now, when you're not pushing her or biting her or dumping her hair bows all over the ground or taking off your pants in public, you're refusing to kiss her goodnight or scrunching up your nose and growling:

"Not nice, Reese! Not nice!"

About what, we don't know. Anyway, I had to explain to her about the Terrible Twos. I explained they were like an affliction and we needed to help you get over them and get to the Three-riffic Threes. And the Fantastic Four's. And, of course, the Fabulous Fives.

So this morning, as you were pulling one of your more endearing moves like pushing her out my lap or making weird faces over breakfast, I heard her say to you:

"Oh, Finnie, you're just TERRIBLE. You can't help it - you're two. I'm FABULOUS and five and you, you are TERRIBLE."

And honestly Finn, Reese has it right, mostly. You are a terror, everything in your path knocked over or stepped on. Screaming at the top of your lungs regularly. Not wanting to do anything anyone wants you to do. And then, there's today. Just you and me at the little music time at the park and you sat when you were supposed to sit and danced when you were supposed to dance. You laughed out loud at all the songs and put your right hand in and your left hand out. We walked to the car, your little hand in mind. We looked at the ducks in the pond behind you and I took this picture of you today: I asked you to smile and you did. An amazing smile. Completely for me.

Finnie, you are terribly WONDERFUL. Terribly LOVELY. Terribly MINE.

I love you, sweet boy.

Mama

Monday, January 19, 2009

From the mouths of babes.

At pre-school, Reese is learning about Dr. King and is completely taken with him. I'm not quite sure how they explained the MLK legacy to five-year olds, but Reese now speaks of him in hushed tones, usually the ones she reserves for Santa, Dora and The Wiggles.

Apparently, MLK has trumped them all.

She knows that today is his birthday and that tomorrow Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States. She knows that Martin Luther King had a dream. Reese explains his dream this way:

"His dream was that his kids would grow up, his four kids, and no matter what color their skin was, they would be able to be in the same world - he changed that no matter if you're pink or yellow or brown, he changed with his heart, that everyone can go to the same places."

Yes, Reese, he changed hearts. He made change with his heart. All of it: yes, that's right.

And when they were done studying MLK in class, every child got to pick out a typed quote from Dr. King and glue it onto one of an assortment of different colored hands. Reese's chosen hand was green and it's hanging in the classroom line amongst all the other hands and it reads:

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."

I can only think that change is coming. That change has arrived. That five-year olds understand the idea of racial equality like they understand that blue and yellow make green. That 25-year olds and 95-year olds and everybody in between voted with their heart this election and that can only mean one thing: the struggle continues, but change is definitely rolling in.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Light at the End of the Diaper Pail: The Movie.

Check it out. Please pass it along to all the new moms in your life.

YouTube video

Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The one who sleeps around here.



I know, I'm only jealous, but how is it our dogs sleep like 19 hours a day and they don't even DO anything? They're not the ones up to their eyeballs in snot and art projects and picking up kids from school and trying to help two-year olds get to sleep with a binky AND a stuffy nose, making dinner and doing laundry and watching just the TINIEST amount of Top Chef: heavens, what have they been doing all day anyway, except making me clean up their poop and let them in and out of the door four hundred times?

OK, so as you can see, I'm cranky. It might have the slightest bit to do with 1400 calories a day, which I've decided is less than goldfish need to survive. Also, I'm home full-time with children and working in the cracks and it is hard work, this not working business. Or always working. I'm not sure which. Anyway, like I said, CRANKSVILLE over here.

My shining light is that it was a gorgeous, unseasonably warm day today with more forecasted to follow. Also, that Reese told me I'm the peanut butter AND the jelly in her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. So there is hope.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Resolution.


After resolving to give up exercise, I hereby unresolve to give up exercise due to the fact that my favorite pair of Lucky jeans are compromising my waistline in ways I can't even begin to go into here.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Up to my eyeballs in fun.


Chris was off on a well-deserved mountain biking break and it was the kids and I this morning convened around the dining room table, constructing the best 2009 has to offer in play-doh creations. It was arts and crafts craziness I tell you. We made play-doh bugs and play-dog monsters and babies and baby monsters. We also danced and sung and brought out the guitars. We played dress-up and we drew and we got dressed and went over to a friend's for a play date, where even more fun was had.

So much more that Reese said to me in the car going home:

"Sophia's house is WAY more fun than our house."

That's when I took off my fun hat and crumpled to the ground in defeat.

No, just inside. Actually I explained that everybody else's house always seems more fun than ours because it's new and different and blah blah blah.

But, Reese is right, Sophia's house is more fun than ours. At Sophia's house you get to write on the walls of her room in crayon and there's Christmas lights strung up beautifully and persimmons to eat and hard boiled eggs you get to throw on the ground outside and peel and then put in the compost heap when you're done.

Sophia's house is MORE fun. I had a great time myself.

And the truth is, maybe I'm just not that fun.

Lord, I try. Really I do. I color and draw and make believe and read a million stories and make up lots of them too. I try to not be rigid and a no fun ninny. I try to be game. I try to be the kind of mom I would want: a FUN mom. In a fun house.

But at Sophia's you can draw on the walls. With crayon. And there's this really great playroom out back and a beautiful deck you can sit on outside and eat persimmons that grow on THEIR OWN TREE.

Maybe Sophia's parents, who I also adore, will adopt me. Then we can all live in a fun house.

Probably not.

Anyway, it was a great day. Maybe I'll let the kids draw on a wall or paint the laundry room or tie dye their coats after nap. I'm inspired now. I may never be the FUN queen, but darn it if I'm not going to try.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Patience and the lack thereof.



My boy turned two today.

Metaphorically, that is.

He turned the actual two about two months ago. But today TWO arrived.

It started about 1AM this morning: wouldn't go back to sleep. Comes in our bed. Tosses and turns and doesn't let us sleep. Doesn't let me sleep. Finally falls asleep. I'm still awake and go out to the couch where I still can't sleep. When I finally fall asleep, I waken to the sound of he and his sister padding down the hallway.

"She's in here," my daughter says, the lucky winner.

I cringe and sink into the blanket I've hastily thrown over myself. My eyes have sandpaper lids. My mouth tastes like smoke.

They pile in on me and with me. Sweet and cuddly, I forgive all momentarily.

Moments later I am in waitress mode: movies, breakfast, blankies, etc. By 10 AM, Finn has been in time-out, a tool I'm gathering is losing effectiveness rapidly, three times already for various offenses: hitting his sister, hitting me, and the other one I can't recall but I'm pretty sure it was your typical toddler fare. Non-punished offenses, though thoroughly irritating nonetheless included throwing a tantrum while being dressed, throwing food while eating and throwing me for a loop.

Sweet, sweet Finn, where are you?

I am in a heap with the lofty goal of a shower while everyone else is at the market. I know there were at least two moments of voice raising and then, on his way out, he tried to run into the street and received a certified stern talking to by his father, who was scared out of his mind and pissed off to boot.

So, 11:02? Where do we go from here? I am heading to the shower to calm my nerves and wash my hair. I am hoping to emerge a new woman with bottomless patience and good humor. Or at least clean hair.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Day 2.


It is rainy and cold and we are all tired of celebrating and ready for rest except two of us are five and under and two of us are parents of those five and under so rest is not in anyone's vocabulary.

So we opt for second best. We stay home. It is 11:15 and we are still in our jammies.

We have played three games of Candyland and I still lost every time even though I was mostly in absentia. We unwrapped more holiday gifts. We ate yummy pumpkin muffins and did somersalts on the living room carpet. We watched Sesame Street and we watched Finn try to juggle. I contemplated lunch.

I think it's going to be a good year.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year.



Last night, after a rollicking New Year's Eve of toddler mayhem, I was checking in on Reese before I went to bed and she was sound asleep. I went in to give her my usual kiss on the forehead and she opened her eyes and looked straight into mine as though she had just been in a play pretending to be a girl asleep.

"Hi, Mama. Watch this."

She proceeded to put her index finger square in the middle of her bottom lip.

"OK," I say,"what's that?"

"That's it," she says proudly, as though what she had done actually qualified as an actual something.

Then:

"Mama, will you come back and kiss me goodnight?"

"Of course, sweetheart."

"Always you do?"

"Always I do."

My first promise of the year: kept.