A nasty cough, a 31st birthday, and a royal wedding

I’ve cried a lot today–not exactly sure why…

Today, Will turns 31.

Today, my girls are both sick with chest colds, complete with a nasty cough and a fever.

Oh, and today is “The Royal Wedding.”

The day started off emotionally when I was quickened at 6 a.m. by my poor, pitiful Abby whining and sniffling.  It was good to go ahead and get up to get started on Daddy’s birthday breakfast (a tradition I am determined to uphold).  The menu: bacon, eggs, blueberry pancakes, fresh strawberries, and homemade yogurt.  Why did I think I should make pancakes this morning, when the kids are both sick?  (Tradition.)

Cooking breakfast, 7 a.m.

I start the bacon in the frying pan, and it’s as if the mere sizzle sends Abby into a holy fit.  She’s screaming “ma-ma. ma-ma” and listlessly throwing open cabinets throughout the kitchen, taking pauses only to push on my legs and get between me and the splattering grease.

Enter Sophia.  She’s standing on the stairs, confused aand sweaty from a fitful sleep.

“Good morning, honey.  Go potty,” I say.  Oh, good she’s gone.  Not one minute later.  “WAH!”  Sophia’s crying.  (Remember, Abby hasn’t stopped whining and crying and banging on cabinets.)

“Sophia, honey, what’s wrong?”  I run upstairs.

Sophia’s sitting on the potty.  “My back hurts.”

I’m confused.  “Are you done?  Wipe.  Let’s get down.”  I notice that her panties and pajamas are moist from an apparent nighttime accident.  (Future note: might be a good idea to give a pull-up to a sick toddler at nighttime during drug-enhanced sleep.)  My acknowledgement of her wet panties sends her into full-on shame crying.

Enter: Abby, crying for lack of attention.

Enter: birthday boy, fresh out the shower.

I literally bite his head off and end his life on his first day of his 31st year in this world…

Tears, #1 .

Meanwhile, bacon is burning…. smoking… charring….

8:00 a.m.  We have a very nice breakfast.  Girls get it together.  Mommy apologizes for losing it.  Bacon is surprisingly edible.  Daddy reattaches his head and opens some fun presents and we get on with the morning.

9 a.m.  Cry #2.

I notice on Facebook all the people commenting on “The Wedding.”  I decide to look up CNN on my phone and watch the video.  I have no idea why the sweet, Catholic wedding sends me into the sappiest, throat aching cry, but it does.

I contemplate my situation.  I realize that I have missed every single bit of the hype.  I knew it was happening today, cool that it was on my husband’s birthday… cool that there’s going to be a wedding… But, we don’t have cable, so I missed the 5 days of wedding countdown on the Today Show.  I missed the commercials, the wedding party dress speculation, the… I don’t know what all cause I missed it.  I wasn’t sad that I missed it until I watched the wedding footage and felt… I don’t know… American–completely disconnected from all things “royal” and British.  And, without cable.  There’s nothing to apologize for.  It just made me sad that I didn’t get in on the hype, I didn’t get up at 4 a.m. to watch it, and I don’t get to claim them as my country’s royal family.  The wedding was nice, and the kiss was sweet.  The 2nd kiss even sweeter.  I’m glad I got to watch it, and read a funny NPR story on it… but it made me cry.  Weird.

Welling up, yet again.  Cry #3. 11:30 a.m.

I decided to take a bath–wash off my over sensitivity and soak in a hot, relaxing tub.  I put the girls in front of Sesame Street and expect to have 20 minutes to myself.  Apparently, the sound of running water to Abby is like rustling paper in a dog’s favorite biscuit box because she was up two flights of stairs before I even got my hair wet.  She kept handing me all the elements that I needed for my bath, showing me with her body what I needed to do with them.  Then, she’d miss the side of the tub, and they’d fall on her feet and send her screaming.

“Abby.  Go downstairs with Sophia and watch Sesame Street.  You know?  Elmo?”  I did my best to coax her back downstairs, but it all failed.  She continued picking up oversized Sam’s Club bottles of shampoo and body wash and dropping them on her feet.  More screaming and wailing.  I sink down in the tub, trying to drown out the cries.

Enter: Sophia.  She runs into her “princess bathroom.”  (Yes, that’s where I’m taking a bath.  It’s our only tub.)

Sophia has the most pained look on her face.  Her knees are pressed toward each other, and she’s calling out in broken syllables.  “Ah. I.  Ah. I.  Ca-.”  I remember the 4 glasses of juice and milk she’s had this morning.  I look over at her “princess potty.”  Her potty seat is in the floor between the toilet and the wall, her stool is two feet away.  She’ll never make it.  Not with that look on her face.

She fumbles with the seat.  I coax her nicely but firmly.  She gets the stool.

I raise my voice, “Hurry.  You can do it….”  

My voice gets louder as she stands on the stool and doesn’t sit down.  “Pull down your PANTIES!!!!  SIT DOWN!!!!”

Pee runs down her leg.  She screams out as the pain of holding it in is replaced by the shame of having wet herself. I sink back down into the tub, close my eyes and hold my breath as the girls are both sent into another fit of cries.

“Sweetie.  It’s okay.  It was an accident.  You tried to make it, and it’s o-kay.  Mommy is NOT mad.”

I pull her in the tub with me.  And, I try not to cry.

It’s 2:30 now.  They’re both asleep.  Probably.  I hear some coughing.

I might cry again today….  We’ll see.

We cancelled our babysitter tonight.  Will thought it might be best not to venture out on an evening bike ride date when the kids have temperatures of over 100…

Parents first.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  It gives me joy to parent them everyday.  Even days like this.

Happy Birthday, Honey.  I love you.

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Easter Egg Hunt

I hope you all had a great Easter.  We had a super fun time playing with the girls and telling Sophia about why we celebrate Easter.  She listened intently as we looked through a picture Bible and Daddy explained how Jesus conquered the grave.  It was sure interesting figuring out how to explain it all to her.  Her mad knowledge of Sleeping Beauty helped quite a lot.  There are some similarities there that you might not think about…  We also had a little Easter Egg hunt for the girls.  They were both a great age for this.  It gave me such joy to watch them run around and fine the bright little surprises.

Here’s some video for the grandparents.  My camera battery ran out so we only got the first couple minutes.  Not terribly riveting, but sweet.

We didn’t take any sweet dress-em-up pictures… sorry, I know, so sad…  Check out this sticker collage that Sophia made with the stickers she found in her Easter Eggs.  I’m afraid that she may take after me more than I thought. 😉

I, of course, helped her with her name, but the stickers and the placement was all hers.  She kept removing and resetting stickers, and she had to have so many of each one.  I’ve seen her categorizing colors around the house, but never quite like this.  Anyway, it’s really cool to have the privilege of watching her grow up.

Better throw in a picture of Abby.  She’s starting to try on other people’s shoes.

It’s a privilege watching her grow up, too.

Precious time alone, a cherished treat

I’m sitting outside under our back porch, reclining.  I’m thinking about how I have this rare time to myself today. No agenda. No plans. Nothing pressing to get done… (expect for some cooking and cleaning and all that business that can definitely wait.)  I’m thinking about how my body needs some “me” time.  I need to spend an hour or so doing nothing but what is restorative.

My life is good.  I think I have no stress.  I was laying awake a few mornings ago about 4 a.m. listening to Abby fussing and chewing on her blanket.  She’s getting 3 molars at once, and it’s taking a toll on her in the middle of the night.  Our “noise maker” oscillating fan is out of commission, so I had to listen to her.  😦  In the moment, I’m sure I felt some stress.  8 hours of sleep is a rare commodity that I am learning to live without.  Here’s the thing, though.  I was laying awake listening to her fussing thinking about this: what yummy conglomeration of leftovers and pantry items I would put together for lunch.  I hardly ever lay awake at night thinking about anything.  If my stress is “what-I’m-gonna-make-for lunch-without-going-to-the-grocery-store” stress, then I think my life must be pretty darn good.  (By the way, we had grilled chicken and black bean quesadillas with yummy peppers and jalapenos and sour cream and cilantro for lunch.  I’m thankful for that middle of the night epiphany.)

So, today I have this nice opportunity to relax.  The girls are both sacked out, and it’s beautiful outside.

I’ve been doing a lot of recuperative things lately. I’ve been doing yard work, riding my bike on the beautiful trails throughout town, doing kundalini yoga, reading from the word… I also like to read novels and watch T.V., though I’m unintentionally taking a break from those things lately…

I’ve found that one of the most truly recuperative things that I can do is to reflect.  Often that is stemmed from a short reading from the message, but sometimes it is stemmed from simply being quiet.  During this nap time today, I wanted to do something fun.  I thought read or catch up on my Brothers and Sisters.  Both of those options gave me stress.  “Brothers and Sisters” is high-drama.  It’s a soap opera, really.  Sometimes I love to veg out into a made-up high-drama scenario, but today I thought it didn’t feel right.  I think I love to veg out in someone else’s drama when my own drama is too stressful to sit in.  And, that’s okay sometimes. I’m just not there right now.

What I’m thinking about today is what it was like to be out by myself, yesterday.  I took a few solitary shopping trips, yesterday.  Luxury, I know, right?!  More than ONE trip!  I went out to buy birthday presents for Will and Sophia, and I went to shop a little for myself, too.  It was weird.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE shopping for other people.  I LOVE buying presents for my husband, and I LOVE buying things for my girls, too.  I love to think about them, and the joy that these surprises will bring them.

Well, so last night I planned a trip to T.J. Maxx.  I’ve lost a LOT of weight since last summer, and the spring/summer wardrobe is  hurting.  No one wants to see Mama 60 pounds down still wearing her maternity t-shirts… (I really should toss those…)  I walked into T.J. Maxx, and I caught myself heading toward the pretty pink girls’ section.  WOAH, MAMA!  HAULT.  I literally said out loud, “This shopping trip is for YOU.”  I turned a 180, and stared at the women’s department.  I kept getting pulled toward the girly child stuff, but I kept away.  

Why was it so hard to keep the focus on myself?

Anyway, I tried to let myself go nuts.  I pulled every shirt that I sort of liked, and I tried them all on. It felt so good to be able to do that without constantly pacifying and entertaining and reassuring that I’m almost done, never getting to really think: “Do I feel good in this?”  Ah, the luxury of a precious moment alone!  Thankfully, only a few of them (with low price tags) did I love… I felt so old and out of touch looking through these clothes.  I didn’t recognize many of the styles–baggy, oversized shirts, weird 80s looking prints, military style jackets, lots of awkward embellishments… I felt like I was definitely suffering from mommy-stays-at-home-with-the-kids disorder.

I have so much to be thankful for in my life.  I love to remember what they are and to gush about them.  What I’m thankful for right now, is how precious my time is.  Now, as a mother, time is more precious than ever.  Time with my children is a gift! My girls are gems that I love to cherish.  Time alone is also precious–it’s not lonely, it’s not boring; it’s not even rushed.  It’s a gift.  A gift that there will be more of–if not this afternoon, then tonight or tomorrow.  When my time alone is interrupted, it’s interrupted by a loved one who wants to be seen, loved, and enjoyed.  And when God gives me a moment to be alone, to be silent, to maybe reflect and see Him, I am restored and ready to be back with my family.

What a beautiful day to pause, listen to the chirping birds and noisy squirrels, bask in the gorgeous, warm sun, cherish the cool, gentle breeze,  and listen to the dazed frisbee golfers across the fence of our backyard… no seriously… 😉

A call to play.

Playing.  What does that word stir up in you?  Delight.  Smiles.  Warm fuzzies.  Or, what does it make you think of?  Games, running around, joking.  What about pretend play?  Childish. Frivolous. Any anxiety there?

My eldest daughter’s pretend play has recently been turned up a notch.  She now likes to act out stories.  I’m so-and-so, and she’s somebody-else.  She calls out scenes and lines…  Tells us where to go and what to do.  Yesterday morning, I was feeling a little more gracious, and I thought I ought to “play” with the girls:

8:00 a.m. The morning began with a dance party, as it usually does.  I had intended to “start” the dance party, i.e. turn on the music, get them dressed up in princess outfits, and then proceed to do the necessary morning housework while they danced.  Only, this day was different.  Since the girls were both in their princess outfits and Sophia’s getting into story-telling, out of nowhere she tells me, “I’m the fairy godmother.  You are Cinderella.  You must go to the ball!  Where is your carriage?  The prince is waiting for you!  You have to find the prince.  He wants to dance with you!”

This was some invitation to play princesses with her!  It was on!

I was in a particularly well-rested and pleasant mood, so I went with it.  I abandoned my dish-washing plan and dove into pretend play with her.

Only, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  I had trouble adding to the story with her.  I had trouble “diving” in and becoming Cinderella.  (If you know me, you know that I probably didn’t play “princesses” when I was a kid…)

Anyway, I did my best, and the three of us played our little princess hearts out.

Why was it so hard, though?  When did I lose the ability to lose myself in the story?  When did I lose the ability to pretend play with abandon?  

I think one thing that feels so hard is that I am always in the role of “facilitating” play–setting it up for them and/or demonstrating how to play, like you do with a infant or a toddler.  The reason that I’m doing that is usually because it’s my plan to set them up doing something so that I can then do something else.  Basically, get the teaching of “how” to play this particular thing out of the way and then moving on to my to-do list.

You know, I’ll “play” with them outside by giving them gardening tools while I rake and do yard-work.  I’ll “play” with them at the kitchen table by doing bills while they color.  Or, set them up doing play-dough while I make pizza dough… I’ll read to them, I’ll show them how to properly use scissors, or make an “o” or draw a person…

But, when was the last time that I painted with Sophia when she was painting, rather than just watch or glance back at her occasionally?  When was the last time that I actually had a tea-party with Sophia?  When was the last time I got down in the sand with them and got d.i.r.t.y.?

I first noticed my “play” deficit when I was being paid to play at various times in my life, whether babysitting or as a paraeducator in a preschool classroom.  I found that “facilitating” came natural to me; I was good at it.  The kids loved me.  It wasn’t necessary (or even proper) to lose myself in the play, though, because I was getting paid $6/hour for this…

Now, though, it’s different.  I’m a parent and it’s my job to teach my kids. But since it’s the primary way that they learn it’s also my job to “play” with them, right?  Why is it so hard?  Is it just because I can’t get the to-do list out of my mind–can’t stop thinking about what else I could (should) be doing?

Yesterday, I decided to abandon the list.  I just played.  I played and I played and I played.  By noon-time, we all went out for lunch, after 4 playful hours had passed.  At the end of the day, I had forgotten the list, dinner seemed to have gotten fixed and the kitchen seemed to have gotten clean.  No one was any worse off… It was a good day.  The girls were happy.  I think they were seen.  It was pretty dang lovely.  Why then, is it so hard?

Let me leave this post with an homage to play via a cazillion pictures of us playing.  Hope you enjoy.  And, I hope you decide to play a little extra with your kiddos this weekend.  (Imagine some awesome dancing music in the background while you look at these pics.)

A Perfect Saturday

“Family Dates.”  That’s what we call them.  Last Saturday we had the most perfect day.  We biked downtown and pulled our precious babies in a trailer.  They loved it.  Abby got a little nap in, and we enjoyed lunch on an outdoor patio, ice cream (gelato with coupons!), and a stroll through a few shops.  We biked back home and the kids took another nap.  Could we get more perfect than that day?!  Here’s a few pictures.

Responding in grace

Something happened today.  Something that got me thinking.  I was sitting in the floor of my bedroom, trying to put my socks on.  We were getting ready to head out to story time.  Sophia and Abby are playing, of course, while I’m trying to get us all ready.  Sophia put a beaded necklace around my neck, and then started pulling on it and saying that I was her pet frog.  She pulled harder and harder.  I told her not to pull on the necklace.  She pulled harder and harder.  I braced myself so that she wouldn’t pull me over.  The necklace popped. Beads flooded the floor.  She was shocked.

Before I could say anything.  She said, “I’m sorry, Mommy…” She smiled, “I’m so sorry.”

It stopped me dead in my tracks.  I was ready on my heels to bark, “See!  I said stop.  YOU broke it.  Why do you not listen to me?  I told you it would break…”

Instead, I paused.  I looked at her.  I said, “Thank you for saying you’re sorry.  That was an accident, huh?”

Did I let her off easy?  That’s the first time she has ever said, “I’m sorry” without being asked.  It was growth for her.  It was big girl.  It was growth for me, too…. because I wanted to yell at her.  I wanted to be mad that she, not only interrupted my efforts to get dressed, but also broke something in the process because she wasn’t listening. I wanted to be mad at her and show her what happens when she doesn’t listen to me.

But, she will learn that necklaces will break when you pull on them too hard… and she will learn that when they’re broken you can’t play with them anymore.   She will learn that without me yelling at her.  She will learn it for herself.  She will learn it, rather than me forcing her to learn it.  What is she really learning when I yell at her and lecture her?  Careful around Mommy.  One mistake and she’ll snap.

I hate when I get so angry around my kids.  I hate that nothing can set off my temper worse than they can.  I see that it’s my thorn.  It is my every day struggle.  Many days have gone by lately that I haven’t really gotten angry.  I’ve responded with grace to the most outright disobedience with a calm punishment of time-out.  I’ve even calmly given 2, 3 minute time-outs in 7 minutes.  Some days I’m just on.  And, some days I want to lock my kids in their rooms and yell a 5 minute lecture.  I’ve personally decided that I will not spank anymore because I am not able to spank with a clear conscience.  I am angry, and I spank out of anger.

The thing is that my girls are wonderful. They’re loving and sweet, and they want to be sweet so badly.  I have seen my eldest growing up more and more everyday.  She’s starting to take her big sister role more seriously.  She helps me keep Abby away from the oven, and grabs her around the waist when she’s trying to go out the door at a store.  She is listening better, even pointing out when Abby doesn’t listen.  She wants to hold my hand in the parking lots and stores.  She’s learning to control her impulses, too, like the one that says, “Abby has my toy and I want it now.”  I see her look with desire, start to grab, and control herself.

I also see her testing the limits with the most incredible sophistication.  Just this morning, for example: I told her that I would take away what she was playing with if she didn’t play with it the  way she was supposed to.  She backed away from me with the toy, heading downstairs, and said, “Don’t worry about me, Mommy.  Just don’t worry about me.” She’s beginning to understand that I can’t see everything. She’s experimenting with all forms of deception, even lying.  She’s not even 3, yet.  You can imagine that this could spark a short-tempered mommy to react undesirably…

Responding with grace is SO difficult.  It’s a practice.  It’s a choice that has to be practiced, again and again.  I can respond in grace, though.  I can apply consequences with a gracious heart.  I can teach obedience without demanding it. It’s more effective.  My daughter responds better.  We can move on without the guilt and shame of a yelling match.

I’m so glad that my God loves me better than I love my kids.  I’m so glad that he continually responds to me with grace.  This morning when Sophia said, “I’m sorry,” it was if God spoke to me.  It was as if he whispered, “Listen to the little child.  Respond to her as I respond to you.”

Spring pics

Spring is here… off and on.  It’s 70 or 80 one day, and then it’ll snow a bit and the sun will come back out.  Here’s a few pictures of the girls from a fun time outside, yesterday.  (We got freezing rain and snow this morning.  Fun.)