Mumbo Jumbo

The toddler with yogurt in his hair.

Nope, that’s not styling gel in the toddler’s hair: that’s yogurt. Lots and lots and lots of yogurt. What’s that you ask? Why, yes; he did smell DELICIOUS after waking up from the 3 1/2 HOUR LONG NAP he took right after I snapped this picture!

I am not a very superstitious person by nature.

There are no horseshoes above my door. I do not throw spilled salt over my shoulder (I’ve already made one mess to clean up in this scenario, why on Earth would I create a second mess to clean up??). I walk under ladders if they’re in my way. I do not pull on a “lucky” pair of socks that haven’t been washed since the Carter Administration in attempts to ensure my beloved Tar Heels an NCAA Championship win (I only wish I had that kind of power, because I’d wear those darned socks until they disintegrated off my feet…). I do not forward chain letters that declare I will waste away in the pits of Tartarus for all eternity (or perhaps just get a foot wart) if I don’t email it to a dozen of my closest friends within the next 24 hours (note to my dear friends: as much as I like new ideas for what to cook for dinner, I also don’t forward on recipe chain emails – that has nothing to do with superstitions, though; it’s just pure laziness on my part – my apologies). And I don’t use a complicated algorithm of family birthdates and number of pets I’ve had in my lifetime when I buy lottery tickets (well, I don’t buy lottery tickets – this does not, however, keep me from being deeply disappointed when I don’t win the Mega Millions jackpot).

No, I usually don’t put much stock in such mumbo jumbo. But, for this last week and a half, I’ve become, if not a true believer, increasingly superstitious…

You see, I’ve been paying attention (I know! Apparently all that coffee I’m drinking is working!), specifically to my 23mo’s nap schedule, and I’ve realized that if he eats a container of YOGURT before I put him down for his nap he sleeps for 3 – 3 ½ HOURS. If he doesn’t eat YOGURT, then he sleeps for, at most, 2 hours. I realize that 2 hours is a great nap, but do you have any idea what I can do with that extra 1 – 1 ½ hours?? I have learned to become extremely efficient in completing chores, work tasks, and various other projects that need to be completed during nap times in the last nine-plus years since the arrival of my first born (well, let’s be honest, last eight-plus years; it took me a good year to even get dressed before 3pm, let alone get any work done, after I had my first child…), but that extra bit of time is, in my world, as fantastically exciting as if I really did win the Mega Millions jackpot (well, now I’m exaggerating, but long naps really are much appreciated and pretty thrilling in my world – and yes, I realize I should get out more often).

The problem is, the yogurt-eating sessions are REALLY REALLY MESSY. While spooning in huge mouthfuls of creamy, strawberry or blueberry or peach deliciousness, the toddler (still working on those fine-motor skills) inevitably drips and drops a bit of (read: lots of) yogurt on the table. This, in turn, becomes a wonderful opportunity for finger-painting on the table. And for styling his hair. And for throwing at the cat. And then, of course, the sticky hands need to be wiped on his pants. And on his shirt. And on his face. And in his hair (again). All of which necessitates the use of too many rags, towels and wet wipes to count to clean up the child, the table, the floor, the cat, and, more often than not, leads to an entire change of clothes (and an ever increasing load of laundry). But, I have come to realize, I am more than happy to sacrifice an endless supply of wet wipes and organic yogurt at the altar of the sleep gods if it results in (much appreciated) 3 hour long naps…

I know it’s ridiculous. I realize that yogurt itself has no correlation to length of naptime AT ALL. And once, at the beginning of the week, I even tried to root this (much appreciated) phenomenon in more scientific soil by switching up (wait for it…) “the variables” (See! I did pay attention in that science class I was forced to take back in college, even if it was Physics for Poets; hey, don’t judge – there is tremendous value in knowing how those “Magic Eye” 3-D stereogram posters work – how else was I to learn how to see the shark eating the dinosaur in those optical illusion posters at the mall kiosk??), experimenting with how much yogurt was required for the longer (much appreciated) nap. So, donning my lab coat and goggles (not really; I just watched from the safety of the kitchen) I gave Broder a toddler-size container of yogurt rather than the larger (and messier) normal-size yogurt. Result: 1hr 55min nap. Say what?? Well, the larger container of yogurt it is!! And that whole “science project” thing can just go searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! At this point, I don’t really care to explore “the theory” that a full belly – full from any substantial snack at all, not just yogurt – before a nap will keep the toddler from waking up hungry, and the child will therefore sleep longer. Don’t talk to me about RATIONALITY or REASON! Do you understand that the child IS SLEEPING?! I don’t want to try any more “science experiments,” thank you very little, in fear that I’ll yet again return to the shorter nap schedule.

So, I’m going with my newly superstitious heart here. He’s getting yogurt, and he’s getting the large container of yogurt, from now until eternity (or at least until he’s old enough to give up naps – age eight will do). If he needs to paint the table, or himself, with yogurt, so be it; that’s why I have sponges and rags. If he needs to throw the (never quite-empty) yogurt container at the cat, so be it; the cat just gets sick when he licks up the spilled yogurt anyway, so I’d rather he sprint away from the mess, if you don’t mind. And if he needs to style his hair with yogurt, so be it… That’s why I have a camera.

Yep, the kid is getting yogurt. A big yogurt. And I’m going to thank any and all of my lucky stars for the (much appreciated) long naps. And cross my fingers and toes that the (much appreciated) long naps continue for many moons to come. And I’m going to be really careful not to break any mirrors…

But I’m still not going to forward on any chain letters. Well, unless they promise, not wealth or my dream job, but that my children won’t talk back or sass me until they reach adulthood (at which point I can toss them to the curb). For that, I just might email my closest TWO dozen friends. And it’d take me significantly less than 24 hours to forward on that baby. Now that’s the kind of mumbo jumbo I want to believe in…

Maybe I need to wish on a shooting star for that one? Quick, someone get me a rabbit’s foot to rub! Or maybe I’ll find a four-leaf clover today…

Ooh… and I better remind my kids not to step on any cracks…

Dates with My Daughter (and My Son and My Son)

Mama Daughter Date Night

In the words of the very wise Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

With three kids to shuttle to various activities (or, in the toddler’s case, to shuttle home for much needed and much appreciated nap times), two dogs who need long walks (our motto: a tired puppy is a good puppy), one cat who needs prescription medicine (note to self: call vet for refill), one cat who needs to be on a diet (but I gave up that one a long time ago), a house that could be significantly cleaner than it is (if you see Mary Poppins gallivanting around town, could you send her my way? Please?), an endless supply of laundry (add to that a month of laundry duty for the 5yo’s kindergarten class), groceries (read: wine) to buy, meals to make (or pizza to order, let’s be honest), a mud pit for a backyard that desperately needs attention (I have a plan! I do! I just need time. Like maybe five years…), and two jobs between us (okay, mine is part-time, but I work hard in those hours), carving out date times for me and my husband is rather tough. Carving out date times for me and one of my children? Well, that’s nearly impossible.

For one thing, it’s not like I never see my kids. I work part-time FROM HOME. I am here whenever they are here. I take them to school and I pick them up. I tend to stay with them at most of their activities, and I attend almost every scheduled game or bout (and if I’m not there, Bill is, and he texts me play-by-play commentary so I know everything that’s going on). I take my kids to the park (where they can run around like hooligans and occasionally get into fights with each other), and to the Zoo (where they can run around like hooligans and occasionally see a cool animal or two). I play games with them (I kicked the 5yo’s butt in chess the other morning, and then felt bad about taking his king with a pawn in less than five moves – luckily he’s a better sport than I am and happily continued the game on his own, returning his king to the board in some elaborate and illegal maneuver and then, playing my pieces as well as his own, rapidly taking out my king in a vicious attack by his beloved rook), and read books to them every night (I admit, I love this part of the day – I love that they love to read, too). But almost all of this is done in conjunction with at least one sibling and a furry family member or four. One-on-one parent-child time is fairly rare these days.

So, on Friday, when Bill texted me from the 9yo’s roller derby practice – while I put the boys to bed and counted down the minutes until I could pour a glass of wine – that I should take Paisley to the Rat City Rollergirl’s Championship bout at Key Arena the next night, I thought: that’d be a blast! It’d be great to have a Mama-Daughter Date! And then I quickly forgot about it as I had to put the phone down in order to catch the naked and wet toddler who was streaking and shrieking down the hall after his bath…

…until the next afternoon when Bill reminded me about the big bout that night as he and Paisley headed out the door, this time for a joint birthday party for two of her friends and derby teammates at the local skating rink (the weekend was full of skate dates!). With Broder down for a nap and Liam busy playing himself in chess (see above), I went to the computer to see if I could even buy day-of tickets online. It took all of two minutes before I texted Bill to tell Paisley that we were going on a date that night!

Paisley was SO thrilled. She held my hand (she held my hand!!) as we walked up to the security guy who inspected my purse for illegal contraband, bubbling over with excitement as she animatedly explained to him, speaking as fast as she could (noticing the line forming behind us), that we were going to see the Rat City Rollergirls, and that she also skated roller derby, that her derby name was Lyka Livewire, and that her coach, Coach Luna, was on the Rat City Rollergirls (we had to start walking away at this time, but she kept talking, just louder, to the now smiling security guard), and Coach Luna skated for the Throttle Rockets, and WE WERE GOING TO ROOT FOR HER–

And then we were inside the building and she had to stop talking – or at least, stop talking to the security guard. She kept up a steady stream of chatter as she held my hand (she held my hand!!) and we looked for our seats – I’d gone all out for our date and bought General Admission “VIP” seats for the two of us. I didn’t quite know what General Admission “VIP” meant, but I figured I am too dang old (well, I am!) for nosebleed seats, and gosh darn it, my daughter and I are on a date and we deserve the finer things in life! So I broke the bank and spent the extra (wait for it…) $13 for the good seats. (Right?! It was a no-brainer!)

And the good seats were worth every one of those extra 13 dollars. General Admission “VIP” seats apparently meant that all the seats in the first 15 rows in the two reserved sections along the straight sides of the oval track were available on a first-come-first-served basis. So, betraying every inherited, ingrained and borderline-pathological Scandinavian-Lutheran instinct I’ve been born and raised with that adamantly insists, in any and every assembly of people EVER (school classrooms and workshops, weddings, wherever one is allowed to pick one’s own seat), that I sit in the farthest back row possible (I’m always in AWE of those people who boldly sit smack-dab in front of a teacher or lecturer), I led Paisley (who was still holding my hand!!) down to the VERY FRONT ROW, where we boldly (so boldly!) stepped (we didn’t mean to) on the feet of the two (grouchy) people sitting on the aisle (note to attendees of any event where SEATS are involved: if you don’t like having to stand up for people to pass you when they need to get in and out, DON’T SIT ON THE AISLE – just a thought), and found two seats as close to the track as could be possible without actually being on one of the roller derby teams.

Because the teams were LITERALLY right in front of us. It was SO crazy fun.

The best seats to watch the Rat City Rollergirls!

The best seats in the house! It’s like we were ON the track.

The first bout – the Sockit Wenches versus the Derby Liberation Front – was a blast to watch; especially because one of Paisley’s coaches from last summer’s New Skater Camp (Clobberin’ Mame) is an amazing blocker for the Sockit Wenches. Paisley kept asking me if she could say hello to “Coach Mame” – she (not very patiently, but understanding that she shouldn’t take a skater’s attention away from the bout) managed to wait until half-time, when she finally had the chance to wave and say hi, and beamed in turn when Mame smiled and waved back. Paisley was only disappointed by the Sockit Wenches’ loss, the Derby Liberation Front winning the bout 168-114.

The main event – the Championship Bout between the Throttle Rockets and the returning champs, Grave Danger – was INTENSE. Paisley’s roller derby team, The Orange Crush, is coached by the Throttle Rocket’s extremely talented jammer, Luna Negra. We were, therefore and of course, rooting for the Throttle Rockets. Paisley managed to say hi and wave to “Coach Luna” before the bout this time, so was quite happy to sit back and watch the action. And eat some cotton candy, of course.

Eating Cotton Candy

The skating was so insanely intense and thrilling that the 9yo even forgot to eat her cotton candy!

The Throttle Rockets were up at halftime, 72-50, and stayed in the lead until about the last ten minutes, when the two teams began trading the lead back-and-forth every single jam for the rest of the bout. I felt like I was watching North Carolina play Duke during the NCAA championships, I was so tense (I’m a Tar Heel; I know tense)!! The bout came down to the last jam; the Throttle Rockets were at a distinct disadvantage with two blockers in the penalty box, and as incredibly talented as their jammer, Missile America, is (“Coach Luna” had skated jammer in the previous round, having miraculously pulled off lead jammer with some ridiculously good skating and putting the Throttle Rockets up again), with only two other teammates on the track, she just couldn’t get through the solid wall of four Grave Danger blockers, and in attempting to do so, managed to end up in the penalty box herself. Missile America would end up MVP of the bout (and deservedly so), but the Throttle Rockets lost 171-165…

… and Paisley started crying!

It was so sweet. She was so disappointed for her coach and for the Throttle Rockets. I put my arm around her and while other folks started packing up and walking out we talked about how each player had skated their very best, and in spite of the loss should be very proud of themselves for their herculean efforts, sheer determination, and admirable dedication to their sport and teammates. She noticed that Missile America had left the track for the penalty box with tears in her eyes – and was quite worried that she “was ashamed” of herself. Oh no, I said. She was disappointed by the loss, and probably would worry that she could’ve done something different to change the final result, but she won MVP and would know, or should know, that she skated her heart out and should be very proud of herself.

And Paisley wiped her eyes with the sleeves of her Orange Crush hoodie, nodded her head in understanding, stuffed the remains of our greasy pizza slices and drinks into the empty cotton candy bag (!!) to deposit in the nearest garbage can (yes, I actually had to pinch myself), and…

Grabbed my hand. And held it all the way back to the car.

I’m not sure our Mama-Daughter dates will always serve as such wonderful life lessons and be quite so exciting as a championship sporting event at Key Arena, but the evening made me realize that one-on-one time with my children is priceless, invaluable, to be cherished, and to be given more of a priority in my crazy busy life. I loved having the opportunity, for just a moment, to appreciate and celebrate my daughter’s empathy for her coaches, her passion for derby, her pride in her own team when she talks with the people sitting next to us, the ushers, and random security guards. I shouldn’t have needed Bill to remind me TWICE to take my daughter to this event. Next time, the laundry can wrinkle in the dryer, the dogs can chase each other in the backyard and drive the neighbors mad with their barking, the toddler can run around naked while chasing the fat cat (she needs the exercise, anyway, right?) as long as he wants (well, maybe with a diaper on…), and I’ll remember that going out to ice cream for dinner is a brilliant idea. Hey – maybe that can be my next one-on-one date with the 5yo? After all, he’s an ice cream junkie…

You know, I don’t think I need to be asked twice – I know a good idea when I read one… Salted caramel ice cream in a waffle cone, here we come!!

And maybe, just maybe, he’ll hold my hand the whole time we’re out, too.

To learn more about Paisley’s (aka Lyka Livewire’s) love affair with roller derby, you can always read My Roller Derby Queen: Seeing Life Through Orange-Colored Glasses.

The Perfect Pair

Matching Outfits

Broder and Mama: We’ve got style!

Yeah, so… I just realized that Broder and I are dressed EXACTLY alike today: black t-shirts, jeans (faded and distressed to perfection, of course), and (perfectly worn-in) low-top Converse sneakers.

This would be all fine and dandy if we’d both just stumbled downstairs, still bleary-eyed and in need of a hot cup of coffee (or eight) to wake us up properly, before we laughingly discovered – Hahahaha! We’re hilarious! – that we’d put on the same clothes, after which discovery we’d play a spirited (and, let’s admit it, highly competitive) round of rock-paper-scissors to decide who would have to go back to the closet and change clothes.

Because there is NO WAY we are leaving the house looking like identical twins. It was just a silly mistake that we’d dressed in the same outfit! I mean, really…

Perhaps you are surprised by this revelation of anti-matchy-matchy-outfit sentiments… And perhaps we, as a family, are missing out on some fantastically powerful cosmic-bonding experience… But, for some reason or another (and feel free to pity us), it turns out that we are not those people who go to amusement parks in matching track suits (oh, Six Flags, how I adore you) or the mall in the same khakis and polo shirts (did you know that polo shirts come in about 850 different colors?) or even take family photos wearing matching pajamas (though pajamas ARE comfortable, come to think of it – maybe I’ll have to revisit this come Christmas time; do you think the hubby’ll go for it?!).

Yeah, so, here’s the problem with today’s scenario… Broder? Broder is 22 months old.

Which means: he’s not really at the point yet where he picks the black t-shirt over the blue-and-white button-up (which, really, just make his pretty blue eyes POP!), nor does his discerning fashion taste make him favor the hipster-style jeans with the low-slung pockets over the more-conservative-but-warm flannel-lined chinos (also, it’s not that cold out today, and they’re getting a wee bit tight around that round and yummy belly of his). He has, on occasion, expressed a decided (and very LOUD) opinion over which shoes he will (or rather, will not) wear, but today was not that day – he happily let me wrestle him into his almost-too-small Chuck Taylors before we headed down to the kitchen. And I didn’t even NOTICE we were twinsies until HOURS later, when I woke him up from his nap and re-laced his sneakers (of course I take his shoes off for nap time! What kind of mother do you think I am?!).

Which means: I’m the one to blame. I’m the one who picked out his black t-shirt; I’m the one who buttoned him into the cool-kid jeans; I’m the one who chose the All-Stars over the Crocs. I’m the one to blame for the matching outfits. And sadly, it’s not the first time…

It turns out, if on any given day I’m the one responsible for picking out the clothes (which is almost always the case with the toddler; which is often the case with the 5yo, who, if given his druthers, would stay in his pajamas 24/7; and which hasn’t been the case with the 9yo since she was 3yo and started pairing her swimsuit cover-ups with polka dot tights and pink zebra-striped boots), I will, more frequently than I’d like to admit, gravitate toward those items in their wardrobes that look most like what I’m wearing. You see, if I’m wearing my orange cardigan, I want to grab the boys’ orange pants (by the way, it’s my opinion that every little kid should have orange pants – so cheery, and great for picking out in a playground crowd). If I’m wearing a navy blue sweatshirt, I’m likely handing out blue sweatshirts at the door. If I’m wearing shades of blue and gray or combining shades of brown and white, so are the boys. In my defense, I usually get myself and the boy (or boys) dressed in that foggy “Before Coffee” haze, a time when I should not be trusted to make any decisions at all other than which mug to use. And I usually catch myself in the act (the orange pants are very bright – enough to wake me up to the point where I’ll reach for the sweats, instead). Some days, however, I apparently don’t notice I’m dressed like my child’s (or children’s) identical twin (or triplet) until someone (usually very kindly, but still…) points out “how cute we look!” (and, c’mon – you know they never really mean it; what could possibly be cute about me looking like a toddler or a 5yo boy, or my 5yo or toddler looking like their crazy and clearly sleep-deprived 30-something mama??).

No, it’s now a little late in the day to dominate the toddler in a game of rock-paper-scissors (the kid throws rock every time, I mean really…) and force him to go back upstairs and change his clothes. We’ve already been seen in public, and I don’t really need to add to the laundry pile, it’s bad enough. So… So, I’m just going to go with it, today. We’ll be twinsies, a matched set, a perfect pair. People can call us “cute” as much as they like, and not mean it one little bit.

But tomorrow? Tomorrow I’m drawing the line. No more dressing exactly alike. I get to wear the blue-and-white button-up, no matter how lovely his blue-and-white button-up makes his eyes look. He’ll have to settle for the orange pants.

But if he wants to wear his Converse, well, that’s okay. His are red and mine are black; that’s not too much the same, is it? And, really, it’s long been my opinion that the family that Chuck Taylors together, stays together.

Wait. What?? Did I just write (out loud) that it’s okay for family members to wear the same thing?! Hmm… well, maybe there’s something to this matchy-matchy-outfit sentiment after all… maybe it is some sort of fantastically powerful cosmic-bonding experience…

Hmm… Looks like I need to go buy Broder a new pair of Chuck Taylors that actually fit.

But if he demands a black pair, I’ll rock-paper-scissors him for it. And you know how that’s going to play out. He can have a green pair, if he asks nicely… I don’t have any green shoes.

Keeping on the Sunny Side of Life

Worshiping the Sun

That’s me: worshiping the sun.

I very rarely let myself sit down during the day – even for lunch. I find that once I sit, any and all forward momentum I actually might have mustered during the preceding hours comes to a grinding halt and it’s nearly impossible for me to get up and go do all those millions of things on my insanely long to-do list, which, for some reason, no longer seem all that pressing – or rather, I know all those millions of things on my insanely long to-do list are still pressing, but I just can’t seem to find the energy to care that they’re pressing…

And that’s why I don’t let myself sit down during the day – even for lunch – because I should care. Today, however, ended up being one of those very rare days…

Today was absolutely beautiful: deep blue skies, no clouds in sight, the spring green leaves on the trees fluttering in the slight breeze, and the smell of blooming lilacs everywhere. Today was supposed to be the nicest day of the week – perhaps the nicest day of the year, so far – with temperatures in the high 70s and, according to my weather app, abundant sunshine. How I absolutely adore that phrase: abundant sunshine... (Can you hear my sigh of contentment?) After the long, rather dreary, and VERY wet spring we’ve had, abundant sunshine is more than welcome. It’s downright delightful. And, as it turns out, delightfully dangerous…

…To sit down in.

Which I did. Sit down in. That’s right, I did. I sat down in the sun. For lunch. And it was good. It was delightful. It was dangerously delightful…

Because I did not get back up.

No, I did not get back up. The sun just sucked up all that forward momentum I’d been able to muster to that point (I confess, it wasn’t a lot of momentum, but at least I was moving!) and I really didn’t care even a little bit about that pesky to-do list (note to self: it turns out I am NOT solar-powered; indeed, the sun, it seems, actually renders me powerless). All I wanted to do was eat my cold pizza (leftover from my Mama’s Day dinner – I personally believe pizza delivery to be one of the best inventions of the modern world), drink my cold Sprite (I agree, cold beer would’ve been better, but it wasn’t even noon at the time and I have my standards – Hey! Don’t laugh! That’s rude! Okay, fine, so the beer wasn’t cold yet… Satisfied??), and read my book (I’m in a Neil Gaiman phase at the moment – American Gods – quite enjoyable). And never, ever, get back up.

I knew I should get up. I knew I should go back inside. But the sun was so warm. And the day was so beautiful. It was like I was having an internal debate between my sun-worshipping slacker self and my need-to-be-responsible mama self: Responsible Mama: I need to do the laundry. Slacker Girl: the kids don’t really need clean clothes – the 9yo prefers her jeans dirty, anyway. Responsible Mama: I need to pick up some essentials at the grocery store. Slacker Girl: Essentials, eh? Well, there’s enough wine to get us through the night, there are spare diapers in the diaper bag in the car, and breakfast for dinner is always popular (the kids will love you if you serve pancakes tonight – you know it’s true). Responsible Mama: Emails? Slacker Girl: Everybody else in Seattle is also enjoying the sun; no one will read your emails. Responsible Mama: This book needs to be returned to the library; it’s overdue! Slacker Girl: Overdue fees at the library are really more like a donation to a great non-profit, don’t you think? As I see it, you’re doing your civic duty by returning your books late. Responsible Mama: Well, I really should- Slacker Girl: Oh, please, you weren’t going to dust, anyway!

Turns out, my inner Slacker Girl is VERY persuasive.

So I sat outside. In the sun. Eating my cold pizza and drinking my cold pop and reading my good book. And having a delightful time.

And then the baby woke up and it was time to pick up the kids from school; Responsible Mama won that debate (and I’m happy to report, she won fairly quickly), and I finally finally finally got up off the chair.

The whole forward momentum never did really progress beyond a slow plod, though. The laundry is still waiting. The emails are unanswered. The dusting will never get done (but we all knew that). Dinner was served later than usual, though at least I served leftover spaghetti rather than bowls of cereal. Bill’s finally thrown the kids into the bath, and as I type this I’m noticing that the sun is still out (ah, longer days, how delightful you can sometimes be). It’s enough to get a (slacker) girl thinking: I bet that beer I put in the fridge earlier is plenty cold by now. And I never did manage to return my book to the library…

Maybe I’ll just go sit (and sip and read) outside in the sun for just a little while longer?

I hear the sun will be out tomorrow, too…

You know, I’m starting to think that to-do lists are highly overrated.

The Constant Process of Learning to Let Go

Paisley off to camp.

Paisley (9yo) was up at 6am (!!) this morning, bags packed, and ready to go off to sleep-away camp with her elementary class. Think she’s excited??

About a month before my first child was born (almost a decade ago!!!), one of my co-workers, when I asked her (an experienced mom of two boys) what I absolutely had to know about being a parent (I may or may not have been nervous about what I’d gotten myself into…), gave me the very best piece of advice I have ever received about parenting: “Being a parent is a constant process of learning to let go.” And after dropping that bombshell, she left me to sip at my decaf (I was pregnant, remember?) Americano and wonder what on Earth she meant. Letting go of what?!

About six months into being a new mom, I realized that she meant letting go of EVER SLEEPING AGAIN. Honestly. I remember all these (stupid) strangers looking at my bleary-eyed self trying to navigate the grocery store aisles while carting around a baby who kept throwing her pacifier on the floor, and (mean-spiritedly) telling me, “Don’t worry. It’ll get better!” Liars. Dirty rotten liars!! It did not get better! Getting better meant the baby wouldn’t need me to rock her to sleep for an hour and a half before I could put her down. Getting better meant that she wouldn’t wake up every two hours all night long. Getting better meant that I wouldn’t need to drive her around town for her to take an afternoon nap. Getting better meant that 5:30am would never be an acceptable wake-up time, EVER. But then it struck me, one middle-of-the-night rocking-back-to-sleep session when I was praying to every deity I could think of to let me and my child sleep, that I was never never never going to sleep like I did before I had children. I intellectually knew, of course, that the baby would learn to sleep through the night. But she’d still have nightmares, or get sick, or just need a glass of water or a snuggle that would require my middle-of-the-night assistance, even when she was 2 or 5 or 9… And even when she’s 18, I’ll probably stay up at night worrying about whether she passed that crucial college exam or whether she remembered to lock her windows as well as her doors or whether she was eating enough vegetables. And once I learned to let go of the desire to sleep like I once did (once upon a time, in a land far far away, I slept for nine hours every night… I call this my princess phase), I was able to accept that I would be sleep deprived for a long time, and adapted to the situation; the sleep thing didn’t get “better” like the liars at the grocery store said it would, but it did get “easier.” And that was almost as good.

Of course, sleep isn’t the only thing I’ve had to learn to let go of in the years since I became a parent – it’s just the first time I truly GOT that my co-worker was soul-shatteringly RIGHT, and that I’ll probably need to constantly remind myself to “let go” as I watch my children grow: let go of their hands as they learn to toddle, walk, and then run on their own; let go of my (intense) fear of watching them lay backwards and hang off the merry-go-round at the park as it spins at 386rpm (I distinctly remember watching Paisley, then 4yo, letting her long hair drag on the ground as she went round and round and round, cackling in delight the whole time – I literally had to turn around to keep myself from throwing up); let go of my desire to walk right into class with them, on that first day of school and every day after; let go of my expectations that they should be happily eating (as in: “This is delicious! Wow! You’re the best mama ever!”) whatever I put in front of them on the dinner table, even if there are vegetables involved – and there are always vegetables involved (I’m still working on this one; really, what’s so wrong with butternut squash and kale?!).

Today, I am yet again reminded that parenthood is a constant process of learning to let go. And for the record: it SUCKS.

This morning, Paisley (now 9yo) merrily (and with barely a good-bye) left for sleep-away camp with her entire class. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an AWESOME experience: three days and two nights on gorgeous Vashon Island, hikes and campfires and story-telling, seeing weeks and weeks of preparation (the students themselves are responsible for planning meals, grocery lists, itineraries, and who will lead hikes and take on various duties – this year, for instance, Paisley is in the First Aid group, and as I’ve written about before, she’s very good at applying antibiotic ointments and band aids) pay off in the smooth execution of a successful, and fun, trip… The benefits from these annual excursions for the elementary kids are countless: exploring nature, expanding horizons, developing an appreciation for the larger world and community, and so many other fundamental character building experiences. Plus, it’s a slumber party, there will be pancakes, and the ferry ride to Vashon rocks. Every year, the kids (at least my kid) can’t wait to go…

Which is why it SUCKS. Why does my kid WANT to leave me?? Why can’t I go (and some parents DO go as chaperones; it’s just that Paisley insisted that Bill and I NOT sign up to volunteer – sheesh! What am I supposed to do with that?!)? I don’t WANT to say good-bye! I don’t WANT to LET GO…

The house is too quiet without her. Her 5yo brother will cry tonight, when he realizes he has to sleep in their room alone. And I miss her. Already.

Crap, here I go crying again! I’m so emotional these days…

Okay, fine. I’m letting go. It’s not like I have a choice, but I’m working on it… I know it’s important that I learn to let go. My daughter needs these life lessons, which are so critical for her developing into the independent, confident, open-minded, and socially aware woman her father and I hope she’ll become. My boys will need these same kinds of life lessons, too, so I’m staring at a long future of years and years and years of letting my (precious, little, breakable) children go out into that big crazy world, of letting them explore and learn and get hurt and be scared and persevere and grow and grow and grow.

So, I guess I better stop crying, and just keep working on learning to let them go…

(Long, fairly loud, SIGH….)

Just as long as they always know that they can come back. Whenever they want.

(Sniffle sniffle sniff…)

Potty Talk

Still Life with Potty Chair

The new bathroom artwork: Still Life with Potty Chair.

Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking hauling the potty chairs out of the storage closet. The toddler isn’t even two years old, and though I’ve heard of wonder babies who potty train super early, neither of my other kids were even remotely interested in giving up their diapers for the porcelain (or plastic) throne much before the age of three… If I do my math correctly (a note to the wise: never trust my math), that means the potty chairs could’ve stayed in storage for at least another year.

But no, no, for some reason, earlier this week, I literally dug out (it’s a very messy closet, for which I feel shame and remorse, but I can think of about a gazillion and a half different chores to complete before I tackle the basement storage areas; after all, there are dust bunnies in my bathtub) all three little, white, plastic potty chairs that I had crammed in the closet (I mean, stowed away in a nice and orderly fashion) after Liam (now 5yo) had effectively completed his potty-training regimen. I then divvied them up, the large potty chair to the main floor (and therefore the most used) bathroom, one smaller one to the master bathroom, and the last small one to the kids’ bathroom, where the toddler (22mo) just happened to be waiting to take his nightly bath.

I put the potty chair down on the floor and proudly showed it to him. Me (like I’m giving him the greatest toy ever invented): Look, Broder, this is where you can go potty; no more diapers! To which he promptly responded by picking up the small white bucket and cleverly putting it on his head. Like a hat. And it fit quite well, actually. And then he giggled like a maniac.

I SO wish I had a snapshot of this moment. I actually thought of recreating the photo opp this morning so I could show you a picture, but then (thankfully) the coffee finally hit my brain, and I realized that, maybe, just maybe, I might not want to encourage him to put the potty chair on his head again. Especially since he’s already showing signs of being the family clown – doing ridiculous things to (mainly) make his siblings laugh, and they’d think a potty chair on their baby brother’s head was a RIOT – I’m sure that if I took his picture with the potty chair on his head I would seal the deal on the funny factor, and would most likely see the potty chair back on his noggin when I least wanted it to be there (read: any time after being returned to potty duty after a 2 ½ year hiatus). It would really take potty humor to a new level… And I’m not ready to go there just yet…

So, not willing to just call myself an idiot for bringing out the chairs a year early (and secretly hoping my youngest child is indeed a wonder baby who learns to use the toilet at the age of two), as a first step in the potty training process I’m trying to teach him just to SIT on the potty chair. Rather than put it on his head like a hat. Or rather than picking it up and throwing it at the cat (yep, that happened, too). And he’s now okay with sitting on the chair… But, it turns out, and I did not know this (perhaps you did, but), it’s quite fun to scoot all around the bathroom and out into the hall on the potty chair, like it was a new-fangled ride-on toy (even though it doesn’t have wheels). How great is that?! It turns out, it just might be the greatest toy ever invented…

How to tell if your child is ready to potty train.

How to tell if your child is ready to potty train: if he’s using the potty chair to scoot around the bathroom while brushing his teeth? He’s probably not ready (notice his left foot in motion; he can scoot FAST – like NASCAR fast).

Right. So, potty training might take a while; I might need to reassess my options… I could keep working on the potty training, knowing that someday soon I will most likely discover my toddler, wet and dripping and laughing like a lunatic, after having tipped a used potty chair over his head (it’s a hat, right? Or a toy. It doesn’t matter, it’s fun!) to entertain his adoring audience (aka, his siblings). Or I could hold off on the training, and just let the miniature plastic bowls serve as yet another dust catcher (after all, I clearly love catching dust); they’ll be like tiny bathroom sculptures, adding a touch of whimsy to the bathroom decor.

Or, of course, I could just put the potty chairs back in the storage closet until the toddler might actually be ready for potty training. You know… When he’s ready to skip to the loo, and use it, too?!

Now that’d be using my head. Or not… using the head that is. Or rather, the toddler wouldn’t be using the head… Wait… Oh, you get the picture!

A Year of Dates #2: Lunch & Literature

Bill and His New Book

I think Bill was still a little sore about the beat down I delivered at the bowling alley during a Year of Dates #1...

Perhaps one of the best parts about my mom’s BEST GIFT EVER to me and my fantastic and devilishly handsome husband (for our Christmas present, she’s giving us a Year of Dates – one a month for twelve months – isn’t that absolutely the best gift ever??) is that it forces us to do something together, just the two of us, no kids. Just the two of us.

No. Kids.

The thing is, we really like doing things as a family. It turns out (I know it’s crazy, but), we actually like being with our kids. Even when they’re doing something that drives me totally nutso crazy – like kicking each other over and over and over again at the park while I yell at them to stop from the other side of the playground (totally impressing all the other parents at the park – we are such a model family),* or looking at me with total innocence (a look that I know means they’re as guilty as sin) while I say “No, you can’t do that” and then doing *that* (whatever *that* may be, usually something I consider dangerous or rude or both) anyway – even then, I still want to be with my kids; I just want them to use better manners (and really, am I asking too much with the whole good manners thing??).

So, given that we like taking our kids with us on our adventures, it’s been a bit challenging to decide on what to do on any one of our twelve dates. For instance: Me (all excited because I think I’ve finally come up with a good idea): Hey, want to go to a Rat City Rollergirls bout?! Him: Well, yeah, but don’t you think that’s something we should do with the kids, or at least with Paisley, since she’s in roller derby now?** Me (after a loud sigh): Well, what the heck (I used a different word, but I’m trying hard to keep this blog family-friendly) did we do before we had kids??

Which brings us to February’s Date #2: Lunch and Literature.

Way back when we first started dating (you’d think I was referring to the dinosaur age with the way I talk, but it does feel like a long time ago), and even after we were married but before we had children, Bill and I used to while away whole afternoons or evenings just browsing through bookstores (rarely buying, because for most of that time we were broke college students or broke bottom-of-the-ladder employees – browsing bookstores was such a cheap date… and, uh, I mean that in the best way possible!). New bookstores, used bookstores, small bookstores, big chain bookstores, specialty bookstores, it didn’t matter… we were (and still are) equal opportunity bookstore junkies.

But browsing bookstores requires time to browse; and with three kids who come with their own busy schedules of feedings and naps and play dates and numerous extracurricular activities and more feedings, there’s not a lot of time to browse in our lives anymore. Also, I have found that the few times I’ve taken my kids to the bookstore (usually under extreme duress, to find a last-minute gift or a book that I needed to read for book club by the next day), they don’t really have the patience for browsing, at least not for more than one minute and forty-two and a half seconds (and I can tell you, it feels like the longest 102 ½ seconds ever). Nor, it seems, do they care for any section of the bookstore other than the comic book section, of which they inevitably gravitate toward the definitely-not-G-rated-if-they-rated-these-things comics/graphic novels (it’s truly uncanny how they find the most inappropriate item in any store we ever enter). So, yeah, I’ve learned that the online bookstore is now my bookstore of choice. And online browsing just isn’t the same…

So, decision made, off we happily went to feed our souls (thanks, Mom!): lunch at our favorite little neighborhood Indian restaurant (delicious!), then off to the bookstore to browse (to browse!) through an abundance of literary marvels and even spend the gift cards we’d accumulated from various birthdays and holidays, but had yet to find the time to use. It was so fun to just stand next to each other, while leafing through books in the humor section, trying to be quiet (see, kids: good manners – they’re important!) while we laughed out loud at this humorist’s essays (Samantha Bee kills me) or at that comic book’s pages (Calvin & Hobbes – the best). We meandered (meandered!) through the aisles, each heading off to our own favorite sections (me to gardening and home design and cooking, him to sports and non-fiction and travel), to meet up again a short time later to show each other what we’d found. For instance: Me (drooling at the pretty picture): Look, I mean look, at this landscape. Do you think we could do this with our backyard? Him (probably hoping I’d snap out of it and remember we live in rainy Seattle and not on the sunny shores of Lake Como in Italy): Sure, babe. Sure. (He’s so good to me.)

Yes, we really did have a wonderful time together. Just the two of us. No kids.

No. Kids.

Books for the Kids

Broder (22mo) adores reading The Napping House by two of my all-time favorite children's book authors/illustrators, Audrey & Don Wood; Liam (5yo) is, naturally, loving the Magic Tree House books (these two are about dragons and ninjas - very popular these days with the 5yo crowd); and I stole Neil Gaiman's book, The Graveyard Book, from Paisley (9yo) so I could read it. Is that wrong? I didn't lose her place...

We even managed to spend our gift cards! I bought four books. Of course… they’re all kids books. For the kids…

Okay okay okay, so it’s taking me a while to get used to this whole dating thing again! But, seriously, the books are really good…




* Of course it happened: Daylight Savings Time to the Rescue??

** Yes, roller derby has completely taken over our family: My Roller Derby Queen: Seeing Life Through Orange-Colored Glasses.