Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tsunamis begin with a ripple...

"Mom... are you so happy, you're crying?"

This is my daughter to me, in the car tonight as we drove home from gymnastics.  It's just a gymnastics class, you might think.  What's the big deal?  You don't understand.  It's the sun coming through after years of a storm.  It's that hug that breaks open the floodgates when you've been holding too much in.  It's the breath you take after years of holding your breath, without even realizing it.

Two years ago, I posted about a gymnastics class that Elizabeth took.  That class, that day, was a ripple that started much more change, much more waking, much more upheaval than I ever thought possible and more than I can go in to.  But the hardest thing about that day was having a heartbreaking moment as a parent.  Elizabeth was THAT kid.  Hyper, unfocused, throwing fits, uncooperative, and frightened of EVERYTHING.  It was that moment, as a parent, that scares the shit out of you.  This was more than normal fear.  This was more than a tendency to be distracted by shiny objects.  This ripple led to a tsunami of therapy, classes, tears, tools and scrambling for education... for us all.

In the end, while she is not on the spectrum nor is she necessarily diagnosable as having Sensory Processing Disorder... she rides close to the line.  She is more "sensitive" than most children and perhaps is ADHD.  We have skin brushes and chewing sticks and have to warn swimming, gymnastics, preschool, etc. teachers that she might be a little harder to handle.  But she is not considered as needing special attention or schooling.  She's in that nebulous middle ground.  The worst of it was the guilt when, during the last session, the therapist said "yes, she's more sensitive, but part of it is anxiety and mom... how do I say this?  YOU are very anxious.  Are you okay?  What's going on in your home?"  And as a parent (who already had her son's therapist ask that question 2 years earlier when he had trouble with eating) the guilt consumed me.  It was MY fault.

I began all the steps to help her.  Help my kids, both of them, and myself with anxiety.  I've changed and grown a lot.  I've taken some huge steps that are frightening, life-changing, landscape shifting steps.    But this isn't about me.  It's about why I was crying.  Today has been a breakthrough day.  So many tiny ripples that has just left me heaving in sobs as I write this.  In relief.  In joy.  In the ability to breathe.

Elizabeth began gymnastics again.  Two days ago I signed her up.  That first day, I tried to keep quiet.  I tried not to let my fears show as she bounded all over the place not listening to a word the teacher said and being afraid to try.  Her body stiffening, her voice rising.  I panicked.  And then... today.

They were over stretching and I kept expecting to see a blonde head bobbing and running around.  There she was.  Attention FOCUSED on the teacher.  Trying every stretch.  Every move.  Then came the "stations".  Bars.  Like the beam, they are her nemesis.  Bars and beam were mine too.  More delicate and more detailed than floor and vault... where energy and strength prevail.  The first "station" they had to hang from a bar positioned close to a wall mat and walk their feet up the mat until they are upside down and then try to kick over the bar.  Upside down.  Not good.  Lizzy was up first, walked halfway up and freaked.  Walked away.  The teacher had to call her back and my heart sunk.  The teacher said just walk halfway up and forget it.  So she did.  The teacher moved on to help the next child at the next station and then, something amazing happened.  Lizzy turned back toward that bar.  I could see she was talking to herself.  She walked ALL the way up and began kicking her feet to try to go over the bar.  I stopped breathing.  The teacher, not knowing how momentous this was, turned and praised her, but missed, as she turned back to the other students, how Lizzy physically changed.  The sun shone on her little face, her shoulders went back, her head went high and she lit up.  She tried.  Again and again and again.  And then she tried each station in turn.  No matter how hard, no matter what of her MANY fears that station involved... she tried each one.  Red in the face and determined.  Not her usual obstinate self who just says "no".

The moved to the beams next.  Oh god.  Jumping on beams.  Balancing on one leg.  High beams.  Good god, I thought.  Today is her nightmare.  Yes, she lost focus a couple times.  She got tired.  But that little blonde rock of a child stood in line (she's horrible at standing in lines) and tried EACH AND EVERY beam exercise.  I could see her talking to herself as she did it.  I had to walk away.  I had to go in the bathroom and cry.  You see, this was the 4th time today, my daughter rocked my world.

Many parents want their child to be just like them.  I fear it.  Childhood was not easy for me.  I was shy.  Introverted.  Socially awkward.  I stood out.  I had many fears, a wild imagination, was highly sensitive and was often told I could not focus.  I was distracted.  Talked too much to my classmates (nervous habit).  Couldn't sit still.  I was clumsy, I lost everything, forgot everything and was such a little stress-ball that my stomach always bothered me.  My son got my stomach... Lizzy, I often fear, may have gotten the rest.  But I try not to pin my fears on her.  I try to relish her originality.  I try to joy in her efforts to go against the grain.  I try to laugh at her horribly messy eating (I am the same) and her ability to walk into a wall that's right in front of her.

I had to work hard to reign in my "differences".  While I was desirous of positive reinforcement, attention embarrasses me.  Like Lizzy today, that reinforcement from the teacher was desperately needed, but had the attention come from the whole class, she would have shut down.

So why did this little nymph,  this crazy, frenetic, mini-me rock my world today?  Because she did what I was not able to do.  And saw what I was not able to see.  She became my teacher today.

Time 1 - We were walking out of preschool and mid-parking lot... she danced.  A rather graceful dance for my little tornado.  Complete with leaps and pointed toes.  For no reason other than to make me smile.  And because SHE wanted to.  She didn't care about who saw... in fact, she had tuned them out. "Lizzy," I said when we got in the car, "you make me think I can fly.  You make me think anything is possible."  The pause made me wonder if that was too much for a small girl to understand until I heard this quiet reply, "I'm so happy mommy, because that's how you make me feel.  You make me feel like a bird.  We make each other feel like our feet touch the air and not the ground."

Time 2 - We are walking to her brother's baseball practice and she says, "Mommy, nobody is perfect... but you are perfect just the way you are."  I have no reply.  I'm just trying not to cry.  After a few breaths I manage "You are right, Lizzy.  We are all perfectly imperfect."

Time 3 - My fearful daughter and I are on the playground by her brother's practice and there is a suspended "shaky" bridge about as wide as 2.5 gymnastics beams.  It's suspended by cords that allow it to rock a bit, but not flip over.  She wants to try it and then refuses.  I try to encourage without pushing. She gives up and we play fairies... but she keeps coming back to it.  And finally she says, "hold on mom, I have to do something."  I'm checking my phone for the time because we have to leave for gymnastics soon when I hear "I can do this, I can DO this.  No looking down, no looking back" and she talks herself into scooting all the way across this bridge.  Snaking her legs past the cords.  Bit by bit.  There's no "mommy look".  I'm not even there to her.  This is all for her.  When she reaches the other side, she has that "waking" that I know well.  I can often tune out everything and then I suddenly wake back up to my surroundings.  She looks at me, high fives me and says matter-of-factly, "I did it mom.  I made it.  I told myself to not be afraid."  "I know," I reply, "I saw."  She is non-plussed and we continue to play.  But my world is rocked.

Time 4 - not only the gymnastics class, but what she says to me when I tell her in the car why I'm crying.  I'm so utterly happy and proud and mostly INSPIRED by her bravery.  I tell her SHE has taught me a lesson.  She looks confused and says, "Mommy you are very brave.  You know what I said to myself all class?  I just said, body, I know you're afraid, but you're going to do this anyway."

I cannot speak.  I'm driving in tears.  Shaking so hard the man in the car next to me looks at me.  Two years ago, during that horrible class as everyone in the gym stared at my daughter who had to be pulled off the mats to be calmed, I would not have envisioned this day. I had no idea the tsunami of change that one day would start.

Lizzy once told a story about me and her in "the land of hearts."  She said she would mend hearts because that's what I do.  She said I mend hearts.  She said I make people happy.  She often tells me that I am brave, that I am strong, that she wants to be like me.

But today I had the thought that she was wrong.  That I am merely a piece of glass and what she is seeing is her own reflection.  She makes people happy.  She tries to mend hearts.  She is the bravest little thing I know.

As a parent, you want to teach your child.  But in the end... I think Lizzy is teaching me.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Holding heads, holding hands... and holding on.

We’re flying back to Portland.  It’s been a very quick 3 days in Los Angeles with my family.  The kids don’t want to leave.  It’s sunny and Oma and Opa’s is always fun.  But they are troopers, my kids.  Amazing little troopers. 

The day we flew here (after a 2 hour drive to Portland from Eugene), we got on the road EARLY.  Yes, early.  With a 4 and 7 year old.  But we were packed, had Starbucks, iPods and iPads and good music.  They were cooperative.  They shared.  And as we walked into the Portland airport, down the LONGEST damn stretch just to get to the gates… we held hands sometimes.  And my heart soared.  I love the days when they are all positive attitudes and sharing and cooperation.  Children often reflect what you’re feeling.  And I’ve been working on finding my calmer, happier, more optimistic center.  So days like this make me soar.

Now, as we’re flying back… it’s a late flight from 8:30-10:50 pm.  At about 9:45 Elizabeth pronounces “it’s time to go to sleep” and slumps over into me.  I’m holding her head.  There’s still an array of books, headphones, markers, iPods/iPads, etc scattered over our 3 tray tables, but now I’m crossing my legs into a strange position, jamming my back against the armrest and holding her sweet head.  This is motherhood.   We hold a lot… babies, bottles, dirty clothes, backpacks, jackets, the stuffed animal they swore they’d hang on to, tiny Legos, etc.  But those moments when you’re holding THEM, that’s Motherhood.  Parenthood really.  Fathers do it too.

Somehow, I manage to, while holding her head steady, pack up the array of goodies except the iPod my awake (and still cooperative and cheerful) son is holding.  We start our descent and I realize… I either have to wake her or carry her.  She is 50 pounds.  And thanks to some recent stress and health issues… I’m down to about 115 pounds.  This could get interesting.  And I have my heavy “mom backpack” to carry.  But for now, as we fly, I’m holding her head and holding back tears.  Has it really only been 4.5 years?  Is this really the last little one I rocked in a chair all night and breastfed?  Is she really the tiny thing who slept on my chest as we would pass out on the couch together.  Is she the one who weaned herself at 9 months because food was more interesting, only to go through eating therapy 10 months later because almost all food caused her to throw up.

I had already held her this trip.  At my brother’s wedding reception as she crashed out on my chest.  I slumped into that hard reception chair , so I could recline a little and let her sleep there.  Performing the familiar mom reach I used to do in restaurants when they were babies.  Cradling her head in one arm so that she wouldn’t fall over, while the other did the best to feed myself cake and coffee.    Luckily, as we left the reception, the husband of my brother’s new sister-in-law carried her back to the limo for me.  At first I refused the help.  I can be that way.  But he pointed out I was stressed and skinny and tired and in spiked heels.  He would carry my daughter for me. 

Now I don’t have this help.  On the plane, we’re the last family on.  I can wake her or carry her.  I carried her.  I didn’t wake her.  I couldn’t.  I put on that stupid backpack, heaved her up to my shoulder, wrapped my arms around her and squeezed down that airplane aisle with an amazing, encouraging, helpful William (all of 7 years old) guiding me and encouraging me.  Soaring again.  I’m soaring again.  A few months ago, right after ovarian surgery, when I shouldn’t have, I carried this same heavy child after we attended our first Country Fair in Eugene.  It had to have been over a quarter mile.  It was stupid, but she was hot and exhausted and had been a trooper during a VERY long day at the Fair.  So I carried her.  I find myself thinking of this is I walk through the airport.  I’ll be thankful this time.  Thankful I can carry her still.

We’re walking down that RIDICULOUSLY long stretch again, toward long-term parking and I spot a  bathroom and debate # 2 starts.  I’ve booked a last minute hotel, not eager to drive the two hours to Eugene at 11:00 pm, but don't think I’m going to make it there before I have to use the bathroom.  I held it on the plane as I held a sweet, blonde mess off hair attached to my daughter.  I’m going to have to set her down.  Shit. 

By some miracle… she doesn’t scream and thrash and cry when I set her down.  In fact, moments before I reach the bathroom, she lifts her beautiful messy head, blinks at me and says “I’ll walk now mommy.  I can do it.”  And after the bathroom, all 3 of us walk to long term, holding hands  I’m suddenly grateful for the long stretch as I feel their little hands. 

After a short drive, we make it to our hotel. The kids are excited by a hotel, but exhausted.  Yet our joint can-do, we’re a team, attitude means we somehow get settled into jammies, with teeth brushed with little drama.  The plan is to squeeze in as much sleep as possible before hitting the road to Eugene tomorrow morning so I can get them to school and me to work.  That’s the plan.

I’ve not been asleep long when William begins screaming.  He’s like me and panics about throwing up.  And he has to.  Throw up, that is.  Here in our hotel room, where I don’t have my oh-shit towels or a change of linens or my endless supply of garbage bag liners or ANYTHING but our suitcase and backpack… my boy is sick.  He makes it to the bathroom and here I am, holding a head again.  Holding him and stroking his head and trying to calm him.  And trying to calm me.  I have a sick feeling rising in the depths of me.   I know this illness.  He won’t just puke once.

I am right.  Somehow, he makes it to the toilet every time.  Every 30 minutes, then every 45, then every hour.  From 12:30 to 7:00 that poor child vomited and I held him.  Held his head, held his hands, held whatever he would let me as he grew increasingly despondent - finally collapsing on the bathroom floor because it was cold and felt good.  I lay right down with him.  Facing him and stroking his little face.  I know how much he hates to vomit.  I hate it too.  I still cry and want my mother.

I call downstairs and ask for a late check out.  They are all kindness and say we can have as late as we need.  No charge.  At 7:00 am, we finally sleep.  I sleep until 8:00 am when my daughter wakes.  She’s hungry.  She’s missed the drama.  I stumble down to the breakfast buffet and load up a tray and feed her and take a few bites and tell her mommy must get a bit more sleep.  I turn on the TV and sleep until about 11:30.  We get up, pack up and check out by 2:00 and make the drive to Eugene.  William sleeps for much of it.  Armed with McDonald’s coffee, I somehow stay awake.  We get back to my place and I settle them both in for a lazy afternoon and evening of TV so I can sleep a bit more.  I make a “couch campout” at one point and sit between them.  At one point, I have two sleeping heads leaning against me.  They fall into the crooks of my arms and here I am again.  Holding heads.

These moments won’t last forever, I realize.  Sure it sucks when they’re sick.  Yes, I now have to figure out how to catch up my desk at work because I miss the day we drive back from Portland and the next day to be with my sick son.  But these moments, these two heads against me, they won’t last forever.

I lean my head back against the wall and sleep sitting up.  I’ve done this many times before.  Who knows how many times I have left?  I’ll hold on for now and be thankful.  They will probably not remember this day.  But I sure will.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Rinse. Repeat. Ugh.

Someone made millions with that phrase. "Rinse. Repeat."  Did you know that?  It exponentially increased shampoo sales.  People went through it faster.  What they didn't know is that they also were describing parenthood.  So succinctly.  So aptly.  I'm laughing.  And sometimes you laugh so hard it hurts.

I'm at the lunch table today with my kids and I'm just going ape shit.  Granted, I'm recovering from surgery.  I'm tired, angry and sore.  I want to feel better.  Soooo, I'm a bit short tempered.  But really!  Oh my Jesus Christ Lord in Heaven Holy Mary Mother of God... I say the same shit over and over and over at the table.

There's William, doing his best fucking Captain Morgan impression... one foot on the floor, one on the chair in some stupid pose, eating his stupid sandwich.  SIT THE FUCK DOWN!!!!!!  (don't worry, I leave out the F-bomb when I actually say it) It's easy.  Pull up chair, land bottom on it, legs forward.  SIT. DOWN.  I'm constantly saying to him, "William!  Sit down. Stay a while." And then I look at Diz.  Slouched, one leg off the chair like she's ready to dash, no where near her plate and crumbs flying everywhere because she has inherited my tendency to eat like cookie monster.  She's wiping her hands on everything BUT the pristine freakin' napkin that is lying right at her fingertips. I spend half my meal saying, "napkin, napkin, napkin, NAPKIN!!!!!"

Sit down.  Face forward. Move your cup from the edge of the the table.  Chew with your mouth closed. Don't talk with your mouth full. Use your napkin. Eat over your plate. You are not excused yet. Ask politely. GAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!  I need to record my voice saying these things and set it on an endless loop throughout a meal and then maybe I could get more than a mouthful in my damn belly before I just give up. This is the ultimate mother diet.  I talk so much and get up so damn much, I have no chance to eat.

And I realized as I needed a freakin' nap and deep breathing session to come down from just lunch time (which sadly enough probably takes 30 minutes but feels like HOURS), that most of parenting is rinse. repeat.  Rinse because it's like they are clean and starting over and haven't heard A DAMN WORD YOU'VE SAID. And repeat because you might as well be a broken record.

One of my personal favorites in my current endless loop of batshit crazy mommyhood?  Shut the door.  I say this endlessly.  William goes to the bathroom and apparently thinks we're all interested in his intestinal goings on.  "William SHUT THE DOOR!"  Of course, this makes him turn and pee all over the floor.  AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!  Or when Lizzy heads into the garage to fetch juice from the little fridge and the smart dogs are doing the happy dance because they see the chance to dash for freedom... "LIZZY!!! SHUT THE DOOR!!!"  When they come in from the outside, when they exit the car, when they change their clothes, when they go the back yard.  They both can read now. I swear I'm posting a sign on each side of each door in this house that says, "Shut the door!" I need to design something that is like a house alarm, although instead of a lovely voice saying things like "back door open" it says "SHUT THE DOOR BEHIND YOU BEFORE YOUR MOTHER SUFFERS A HEART ATTACK".  Shut the damn door.  Really.  Keep hand on door and pull it closed behind you.  Stop letting out dogs, letting in flies and letting the world (as my friend Angie would say) "see your business."

Another personal fave.  Turn the light off.  Children think that lights are essential even in a window-laden house on the sunniest day.  They leave them on.  Everywhere.  Bathroom, bedrooms, pantry, kitchen.  I hear the click of the light switch and it's like being aware of a ticking time bomb.  I'm on pins and needles. Waiting... aaaaand.  AGH!!!  "TURN OFF THE LIGHT!!!!!"

The newest refrain on constant repeat is "GO TO BED".  My little good sleepers are suddenly insomniacs.  These two little monkeys, who used to stay in their beds and ASK permission to get up, are now the nighttime wandering gypsies of my house.  I will be about 4 steps down (they sleep upstairs) when there's already a voice behind me, "Mom?"  I have to mutter obscenities under my breath and breathe deep as I turn and say, "Yes?  I was JUST there. What is it?"  Insert stupid phrase here - I don't have my blanket. I had a weird dream (Dizzy's favorite... I don't think she gets yet that she would actually need to SLEEP first).  I'm thirsty.  I have to go to the bathroom. Where is my... (pick something iPod, book, tissue, shoe, Batman, doesn't matter they're just making shit up at this point). My leg hurts. My head hurts. It's hot.  It's cold.  The closet door isn't closed. There's a Tyrannosaurus in our room. We want to slowly kill you. Wait what?  Oh, I was getting carried away there.

Mom - two things.  #1 I TOTALLY GET YOU NOW.  and #2 I'M SORRY.  I used to think Mom was mean for saying talking to me is like talking to a brick wall.  Now I get it.  I do.  Both kids, but Diz in particular, require an average of 5 repeats for most requests.  FIVE.  AVERAGE.  And TV or video games don't matter.  She was just holding and squeezing some rubber Angry Birds toy yesterday and this is me - "Diz.  Get up and put on your swimsuit it's time for swim.  Diz?  Diz! Get up and put on your swimsuit, it's time for swim.  DIIIIIIZZZZZZYYYYYY!!!  HELLOOOOOO!  What am I talking to, a brick wall?  Why aren't you moving? DIZZY!!!!  GET UP.  PUT ON SWIMSUIT.  YOU HAVE SWIM.  Oh my God in Heaven I'm throwing away that damn bird if you..." (insert Dizzy screaming, scrambling up and running to her room for he swimsuit).  Holy crap. Really?  THIS is what gets her moving?  Ugh.  Rinse. Repeat.

And if ONE MORE of my requests is met with "But I'm just..." I'm gonna lose it kids.  Call the men in white coats, get me committed.  I used to work in mortgage banking.  A land of whining and cajoling and deadlines and anger and egos.  And it was 10 times easier than this shit.  I'm not joking.  It came with other adults and lunch breaks.  Parenting is a slow, very lonely descent into madness.  And mine starts with the phrase, "But I was just..."  I don't give a shit if you were "just" finishing a game, playing one last thing, putting together one last piece, sitting down to play, jumping on the trampoline.  The dictionary defines "now" as "in the time immediately to follow".  Not WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE LISTENING.  Not AFTER YOUR I WAS JUST.  Right. Fucking. Now.  IMMEDIATELY.  Now, Now, Now!!!!!!!!  I have this long, loud drawn out "NOOOOOOW" that I punctuate my sentences to the kids with.  Every day.  It's when they know mom's about to lose it.  It makes them jump because mommy-gone-batshit-crazy is never a good thing. And I hate having to yell.  I hate using my big "now", but seriously.  When I make a request, little feet need to MOVE. NOW.  When they continue along as though I've said, "Get ready for school whenever you're good and ready" with their little heads bent over their Legos or whatever, I go fucking nuts.  WHY ARE THEY STILL SITTING THERE?!  Why?  Am I quiet? (we all know that's a no).  Have I suddenly spoken in a foreign language?  Am I trapped in soundproof glass?

My therapist once said that because I'm an introvert, I'm usually living with a soundtrack in my head (she's right).  But the song has changed.  It's no longer a lovely narrative of my little journey.  Now it's the chorus stuck on the same refrain.  A broken record of get up, brush teeth, put on your clothes, clean that up, come to the table, sit down, shut the door, don't hit your brother, don't tease your sister, say please and thank you, turn off the light, chew with your mouth closed, do what I say, get in the car, put on your shoes, use your napkin, two hands, use your fork, listen to me, listen to your father, come here, don't touch that, don't put that in your mouth, eat like a human being, take your shower, do it NOW, go to sleep, get in bed.  

Rinse. Repeat.  My only consolation is the day William or Dizzy makes the phone call I often make to my mom that starts with, "Mom, I'm sorry.  I so get it now."

Until then... rinse. repeat. breathe. And pour yourself a nice, stiff drink after they fall asleep. You're gonna need it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Love Thyself

I want to teach my kids to love themselves.  Not to nitpick at freckles or hair color or overbites.  Not to worry if they are the shortest in class.  Not to care if they like different clothes from their friends.  Or if they like to play different sports.

I initially worried that, at this point in my life, I was not in the best position to teach them that quality.  I'm no longer young.  I have (as my daughter points out... and counts) lines on my forehead.  I have arthritis and a squishy belly.  Depending on my mood and the time I'm willing to spend, my hair alternates between done just right and being twisted into two little "Princess Leia" buns, roped into two french braids or yanked back into the ubiquitous "mom ponytail".

But as I think on it more, this is the PERFECT time.  About to turn 40, I suddenly find that it's no longer about what I look like, or how many friends I have... but how I got here.  And I love it.  I love me.

At 17, I hated myself.  I was blonde, tan, had a 23 inch waist, belonged to every school organization you can think of, had a number of friends and "princess" tiaras from school to show my worth.  And I hated me.  I'd gotten past an abusive relationship only to doubt my every step rather than applaud my strength.  At 20 I hated myself.  I was an A-average college student and had a well-muscled frame that reflected my new interest in weight lifting.  And I hated me.  Trying to find myself in relationships, trying to find my faith in campus organizations, trying to spread my wings 900 miles from any support system, I constantly teetered on the edge of major depression.  The hatred continued as I struggled with depression, alcohol and more in my 20's.  Self doubt lingered in my early 30's as I gave birth to two kids and struggled with working after the first and staying home after the 2nd.

I turn 40 in August and I remember my mother saying she liked life after 40 because, quite frankly, you "just stop giving a shit".  And she's right.  But it's more than that.  It's that I really, truly, have found a way to love me, because of the road that got me here.

I love the lines on my forehead, because they are there when I make funny faces to make my kids laugh.  I love my arms, even though they are not yet in shape, because they have carried two kids... sometimes at once - across playgrounds, through pools, up stairs and in rocking chairs.  They have held crying babies, puking toddlers and sad kids.  They've hugged little ones who have played their first tee-ball game or conquered their first somersault in gymnastics.  I love my hands, arthritis and all, because they look like my mom's.  Hands that dig in dirt, finger paint, remove splinters, stroke feverish heads, cook meals, apply bandages and never flinch at blood, poop, puke or snot.  I love my body although it has sags and squishy places because it CARRIED and was the SOLE FEEDING SOURCE of two humans.  Because when the kids were born, even though I had C-sections, as soon as they could, the hospital placed my babies on my chest.  Why?  They've discovered the best way to warm a child, any human really, is not heated blankets or incubators, but skin-to-skin, belly-to-belly contact.  I love my voice because EVERY DAY my daughter asks "will you tell me a story", not because it matters what I say in the story, but because she likes the comfort of hearing me.  I love my legs, even when they betray me with arthritis and sciatica, because they play soccer with my son, jump on the trampoline, and run races with the kids.

Parenthood may not be "pretty" in the ridiculous media-TV-model sense.  I'm not super thin, my make up isn't perfect (it's often non-existent), my hair isn't perfectly coiffed and my clothes aren't the current fashion.  But I really and truly have never felt more beautiful than when I was pregnant, when my children tell me they love me or when my children hang on to me because to them I am strength, I am safety and I am Mom.

I hope in this current state of mind I can teach them that they are beautiful just as they are.  Not because of what's held in the mirror, but because of the AMAZING potential they carry in their teeny bodies RIGHT NOW.  They don't need anything else.  No one to build them up, no clothing to dress them up, no crowns to validate them, no tools.  Their little selves contain the seeds to an amazing life.  They just have to be.  Be themselves, be open, be kind, be love, be unique.  They are the beautiful future and because I was blessed enough to bring them into this world, I have never felt more beautiful.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Of misplaced lizards, expensive losses and Dory

Dory: I suffer from short term memory loss. It runs in my family... At least I think it does... Where are they?”


I don't think Dory forgot her family, I think she forgot she was a mother... because only mothers are this forgetful.  I know I am.  Honestly, I don't know where my brain is these days.  It's gone.  Officially gone folks.  Somewhere with the disposed diapers, the packed away size NB baby clothes, the rocking chair we gave away and my maternity clothes, somewhere is my brain.  Cuz it certainly ain't here anymore.  I'd look for it, but I've forgotten where to start.  I'm lucky I remember my name. Shit I know my kids wish I could at least remember theirs as I'm known to throw out the dogs' names, my siblings' names and probably a sprinkling of old flames' names before I EVER arrive at theirs.  Calling them these days usually sounds something akin to:

"Uh...Yuko-no-sash-no-Dane-Ellie-Mike-no-FUCK!  What IS your name? Agh!"


Granted, I've never had the BEST memory.  My family can attest to this. I often wore a dumbfounded expression (my son wears this now) when my mother would inquire about a field trip notice or homework that she only knew existed because my responsible sister would pull hers from her backpack in pristine condition as though it had been pressed.  I would be forced to dive into the abyss of my backpack, removing a crumpled wad from the detritus of my academic efforts and attempt to flatten it again into a paper that could still be written on.


After having children though, I can say that unfortunately, those were my BEST years as far as my memory is concerned.  Now I'm shambling around, lucky to be dressed and wearing the correct glasses... only because Elizabeth's don't fit me yet and I'm so out of it, if they did I would never notice they are the opposite correction than the one I require.  Add some drool and I'm ready for assisted living.

Now, if it were just the normal day-to-day items, that would suck, but it would be better than my most recent testaments to my increasing motherhood-induced dementia.  While I'm known to call my own cell phone in an effort to locate it (only to jump when it vibrates in my pocket... please refrain from sick vibration related jokes here) and walk around swearing about the missing glasses that are already perched on my nose, lately the forgetfulness has been... bigger.

The other day I go walking upstairs to our playroom and as I reach the top of the stairs, the landing to which affords a perfect view of our terrarium, I literally get those pre-fainting, oh-shit prickles as I realized our terrarium is EMPTY.  We have two, count 'em two, juvenile Bearded Dragons, and both have flown the coop courtesy of yours truly.  FUCK.  Juvenile Bearded Dragons are still small.  Thus they are FAST, easily camouflaged by our light brown carpet (really, did we have to obtain pets that match our carpeting so perfectly?), and will skitter away rather than accepting a helping hand back to the heat they require to survive.

So I'm looking at this empty cage, trying not to panic because I realize it's 4:00 in the afternoon and that cage has been open since 7:30 am when I fed them last.  That's 15.5 hours for them to explore our 2200 sq ft home.  Shit.  I yell downstairs to Mike that I've "done it again!" when I hear the freakiest scratching noise on top of the cage and realize one of the lizards is bright enough to stay near a heat source.  I pop her into the cage and yell "yay!  I found one" to which Mike's panicked voice replies from downstairs "ONE!!!!  You mean you lost BOTH this time?" (I had recently... uh, misplaced one when we had friends over for the first time.  Thank gawd they had good senses of humor and were not squeamish).  I look under the couch where I had found him last time and there he is, flattened against the carpet like a hawk is flying overhead.  I grab my daughter's sparkly wand (hey, it was right there) and begin to attempt to guide him out from underneath as though he's merely a marble that can be rolled in my direction.  But he begins scrambling and popping around like he's a barefoot, double-dutch champ competing on hot pavement and I'm getting PISSED.  I finally get him to jump in my direction and grab that little sucker before he can get away.

While it's nice to misplace items that can't actually RUN away, I have to say, misplacing the big ticket items in life is something I can do without.  This morning, as Mike and I are at brunch with the kids and wanting electronics to entertain them at the restaurant Mike says, "I would have brought the iPad, but I couldn't find it".  Again with the oh-shit, hot prickles as he says, "You carried it out of Red Lobster last night, though, so I figured you know where it is."  He sees my face and says, "You DID carry it out of Red Lobster, RIGHT?"  Weeeeeeell...

We actually get it back after calling Red Lobster, so I'm feeling better about finding it, but seriously doubting my ability to keep track of anything that isn't already attached to my body or that lacks the vocal chords to say "DON'T FORGET ME!!!" as, unfortunately, my children have ACTUALLY had to do.  Yeah, I know.  Mother of the year here.


Not only have I recently misplaced a big ticket item, I've also misplaced something just plain BIG.  I'm not exactly sure how I've managed this feat, quite frankly.  I think it takes Dory-sized memory loss to do this. My most recent?  A large, reusable grocery bag, packed to the top with Elizabeth's swimsuit, two towels, 3-in-1 over-sized shampoo bottle, a rash guard and comb.  WTF?  It's not like when I drop a small key into the abyss I call my purse.  THIS IS A FREAKIN' GROCERY BAG FULL OF STUFF.  So full, in fact, stuff sticks out of the top.  And I lose it.  Because I'm an idiot.  Because my head is so full of what I have to do and where I have to go next and whatever little strange tidbit of imagination has spilled from my daughter's lips, I can barely remember to clothe myself fully before leaving the house.  I left it on a playground we played on after swim class.  Just walked away not noticing the rather large, NEON GREEN item sitting there.


It's gotten so bad that Mike has to mark his coffee cups from Starbucks because I've been known to consume his after consuming mine because I forget I've already had one and proceed to reach for whatever is in front of me.  My children have found me swearing about the lost pajamas and bemoaning their irresponsibility, only to have to point out sadly that I'm holding those same pajamas.  I've left with a grocery list of only 6 items, CROSSED ITEMS OFF AS I SHOPPED, and still forgotten to buy the ketchup listed there.  I even tried to turn off my truck IN THE MIDDLE OF DRIVING IT on Friday.  Don't ask me why.  I don't know what possessed me, halfway down the street leading to my son's school, to reach over and turn the key.  Who DOES that?


They say that a bit of coffee daily helps fight dementia and Alzheimer's, so with the amount I drink, I should freakin' be able to get through a day without putting cereal in the fridge, losing a lizard and trying to reheat my coffee in the toaster oven.  I shouldn't attempt to put on my son's pants or walk into the laundry room in just my underwear in search of pants and then walk toward the stove to prepare breakfast STILL sans pants.  I drink enough coffee to keep the local Starbucks in the black and yet I call my son by the dog's name.


Suddenly my mother makes sense.  Her need to call me Gypsy (our dog), her inability to give the right lunch to the right kid, her falling asleep in her dinner, her countless lost cameras on vacation and her sudden rifling through a purse to search for glasses that are sitting on top of her head.  She's a mom.  Babies in your belly don't just suck your energy, they abscond with your brain cells as well.


Dory sang, "just keep swimming" and I'm thinking now, it wasn't because she was the encouraging sort.  I'm thinking she would have just plain forgotten and sunk to the bottom if she didn't.



Monday, May 20, 2013

Sleep Positions

I'm looking over at two beautiful little heads as I type this.  Hair askew, arms and legs strewn about in a tangle of William, Elizabeth, blankets and comforter and soft snores emanating from below the pillows they never quite seem to rest their heads on.

We're having a playroom camp out.  We've been sick/quarantined to the house for a week now thanks to Whooping Cough (yes, I'm serious).  And with no need to wake up early, no school schedule to stick to tomorrow, I thought - why the hell not?

And as I look at this beautiful tangle next to me, I find myself thinking of the many "sleeping positions" I've taken in the last nearly 7 years.  I can measure my life as a mother in those positions.  I can mark the growth of these two and the change into who I am now, versus who I was then.

When they were teeny I found that my sleeping positions were often not chosen, but a result of sheer exhaustion posing me as my eyes closed despite my best efforts to the contrary.  I recall falling asleep in the rocker, feet falling asleep on the ottoman, Boppy pillow on my lap and a child attached to my breast.  My head would fall, my body would rock forward and I would start awake, fearful of dropping this sweet thing who had fallen asleep, mouth still open as though wanting to keep the option of nursing open should they wake.  I remember being so exhausted from the nurse/pump/clean/diaper/put to bed cycle in the newborn days that I would only get as far as burping them and just fall asleep with them there.  Me sitting straight up, them with their tiny, sweaty heads on my shoulder.  Sometimes my hand would just stay on their backs.  I remember falling asleep cradling them, sometimes on the couch, sometimes in the rocker, because I hadn't made it to the crib.  I would wake up and see their beautiful little faces in my arms and just decide to sleep with them, because it was too delicious of a moment to let end.  I remember not wanting to be apart from them, so I would make a little "nest" for them on the couch and fall asleep facing them or next to them and I could feel their little breaths across my face.

Sickness over the years brought more sleeping positions.  There was the half-reclined/half-sit up position, propped up on pillows in an effort to help them sleep sitting up when they were so congested they couldn't breathe lying down and were so small they needed to be held in that upright position. I've slept in small beds, on couches and even on floors, usually curled into a small ball with one hand on a trash can listening for the telltale moan that precedes their vomiting.  I've fallen asleep against bathroom walls, toilets and even kneeling and leaning against them during nights when vomiting or diarrhea has taken so long, we haven't left the bathroom for hours.  I've fallen asleep on my back (which I hate) with one arm falling asleep under their sweet heads because they feel so yucky, they want to sleep on my shoulder.

As they've gotten older, the chances to sleep holding them diminished and blooming in their place have been the strange solitary positions brought on by my body just surrendering after a day of keeping up with two little ones.  I've fallen asleep at the kitchen table.  We'll be mid-meal and my eyes will just shut and my head tilt backward or forward.  I've fallen asleep lying next to them in bed as a book has crashed onto my face because I can't even get through one short pre-nap or pre-bedtime story.  I've fallen asleep sitting on the bathroom floor, with my head and arm stretched across the side of the tub because I can't even make it to story time.  I've even drifted off standing up... drying my hair, cooking a meal, surveying the pantry, washing dishes or standing in front of the open fridge.  Not even realizing I was tired until my body pitched forward.

Now the two of them sleep together.  But there have been nights when they still want me to sleep with them.  And I do, either because these moments don't last forever or because I fall asleep mid bedtime story.  I often end up balancing carefully on my side, arm falling asleep, so I can take up as little room as possible in the bed.  Otherwise, I end up in the tangle myself - Elizabeth's feet in my back, William's arm smacking my chest, all of us rolling around and complaining in our sleep about the accidental wrestling match that results from sharing a bed.

But the best positions are the ones like tonight.  A playroom camp out.  A playroom tent city.  A makeshift "bed tent".  Whatever silly fun we can come up with.  I'm thinking if it's warm enough this summer, we'll need to add one more to the repertoire  - the trampoline camp out.  That thing is freakin' huge and I'm sure I can find a way to rig something across the top of the protective netting so that we can make a trampoline tent.

I know I'd sleep better if I would just put them in their own beds every night.  But these moments won't last forever.  They won't want me close forever.  They've been asleep for hours and my butt is falling asleep as I write this and I know I may be tired tomorrow, sharing this not-so-comfy fold out with them.  But they'll remember this camp out.  The movie, the giggling, my snoring and the novelty of waking in our playroom with nothing to do tomorrow but play.  So what if it's not a good night of sleep for me.

Besides, as my mom often says, "I can sleep when I'm dead."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Don't miss the little moments

"Mommy, am I ice skating?"

I look up from cooking and see Elizabeth, clad in a short night gown and over-sized Hello Kitty slippers, sliding and laughing across our hardwood floor.  She is utter joy clothed in unkempt, blonde bed-head, crooked glasses and a smile so big, it breaks my heart.

"Wanna skate?"

I pause.  I should finish making brunch.  I'm in pj's still, tired from our shared illness, and hungry.  But I don't want to miss this.  These little moments are where the magic lies.  So I put down the chef's knife, slip on my own socks and make her crack up at my purposely clumsy twirls and leaps on my "skates".  I don't really want to go back to cooking.  So we skate a little bit more and I feel like a kid again.

We miss these moments often, or at least I do.  And these moments usually hold more magic than any of the "big" ones we work so hard to plan- the Disney adventures, the airplanes, the grand parties, the school programs.  The little moments are what they'll remember.  What they'll treasure.  If we'll only take the time to stumble on them, like that perfectly intact, sparkling shell on the beach.  All the more beautiful because we weren't looking for it at the time.

I want to remember heading out in rain coats and rain boots one ridiculously wet day to "worm hunt" with my kiddos, hands FREEZING as we picked them out of puddles.  And I want to remember their surprised laughs and joyful squeals as I turned the worm hunt into a puddle splashing adventure, not caring that we came home dripping wet and freezing... and too late for naps.

I want to remember the "car picnic" in the very back of my Ford Escape while the rain and wind pounded the windows.  Me and two little bodies packed together, surrounded by an array of Starbucks bags we used as plates while we enjoyed scones and yogurt and oatmeal and coffee and hot cocoa.

I want to remember the last-minute playroom camp-outs where we ignored bedtime, shared our huge but not overly comfortable fold out bed, popped popcorn and fell asleep together to some animated movie or another.

I want to remember jumping on the trampoline with my son and his friend while the sprinkler was spraying all of us and doing a front flip just to make them laugh.

I want to remember walking out of the house with my daughter's fairy wings strapped to my back and one of her tiaras on my head and going to pick up William from school that way just because she asked if we could be fairies when we picked him up.  She and I walked to the front of the school, hand-in-hand, wings out, tiaras sparkling and too busy enjoying the look on her brother's face to care what the other parents might have thought.

Don't miss the little moments folks.  I kick myself when I let one by.  Let's not get so lost planning the perfect event that we care about WAY more than they ever will, that we forget to stop and draw "whiskers" on our faces with washable marker.  While we're busy cleaning our houses, making meals or jumping on the computer to plan that ultimate vacation, let's not forget that deciding to wrestle with them or watch a movie mid-day or go the park after dinner because it's not dark yet, will mean so much more.  Because it's the little jewels collected over time, piled up and put together, that they hang on to and treasure most.

I know because, while I have good memories of a Cancun vacation with my folks, or the big trip to Maui we all took... one of my favorite memories is of my twin and mom and I, huddled under a tarp in POURING rain in the Sierras on one of many fishing trips because we weren't going to just give up and head back to the cabin without any fish.