Monday, December 31, 2012

Farewell, 2012

Well,
The year is coming to an end.
In two hours and 30 minutes, to be exact.

I have to say, I cannot remember being more excited to see a year end.
When I think of this year, I think of pain and fear and waiting.
Of holding my breath.
I think of worrying it would be my last.
Of the talks I had with Justin about what to do with the girls if something happened to me.
How I looked at my newborn daughter and prayed to be able to see her grow up.

But now, here I sit.
Alive.
Thankful.

Watching my kids head-bang to the celebrations in New York that are playing on TV.
Saying things like, "We don't put our broccoli in other people's faces."
All the joys of life in this crazy house.

And I realize it's all perspective.
I could focus on the fear and the illness, or I could focus on what coming out of that fear and illness taught me.
To trust.
To live in every moment.
To be thankful for what I have because I don't know how long I'll have it.

I can focus on my round-faced baby girl.
The best thing that happened in 2012.
On how, in my darkest moments, her sweet breath against my skin soothed me.
Like I was breathing in her newness and innocence.
The soft sounds of it assuring me.
The meaning her tiny fingers curled around mine held.

I can choose to think about my best friend announcing, after years of unsuccessful trying, that she was pregnant.
On the excitement that brought.
On the tears of joy we cried.

I can remember my Asante girls and how they changed my life completely and filled me with a love I almost cannot understand.
This year was so much about them.

It can be about the bad or it can be about the good.
Some of which came as a result of the bad.

All of my best growth has come painfully.

This has been a year of struggle.

This has also been a year of answered prayer.
Of relief.
Of second chance.
Of reconnection.
Of recognition.
Of creativity.
Of REAL LIFE.

So, I bid goodbye to 2012.
Goodbye and,
well,

Don't let the door hit'cha.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Orphaned No More



It's the final day.

Today.

The day we say goodbye to Capi and Divine forever.
Or at least until we board a plane and fly across the ocean to their village in Burundi.

The pain lives in my chest and seals my lips and then comes spilling out of my eyes.

Constant actually physical pain.

This morning, I mentally willed them to leave some of their things behind.
Things I could look at and hold later when I'm facing what is sure to be an unbearable void.

We loaded in the car and headed out in the rain to make their 9:20 drop off;
My sadness not lessened by the sounds of Sarah Maclaughlin singing "I'll Be Home for Christmas" on the stereo.
Sarah can make anything even more sad than it already is with her voice.

I don't remember most of the drive.
I feel like I had spend the majority of it looking at their faces in the rear-view mirror.
Trying to memorize them.
Their eyes.
Their beautiful and perfect smiles.
They just sat silently looking out the rain drenched windows.

It was as if the gray of the outside had invaded everything
- spreading like a drop of ink in water and turning everything murky.

I thought about the last 6 months.
I thought about the first time I saw them.

I had been disappointed they were so old.
I'd thought the little ones would be cuter.

Cuter.....

I had no idea the impact those two girls dressed in pale blue Asante shirts would have on me and my family.

That our lives were about to be permanently intertwined with girls we had never seen from a country we'd never even heard of.

I remember trying to even understand what they were saying their names were at first.
I made Capi say hers four times.
Capita? Capitola? Capitilli?

Capitaline.

Just call her Capi.

I remember thinking Divine looked sad and feeling that that look of needing nurturing behind her eyes was perfect work for me.
I wanted to fix it.

The first day, in a sea of dark faces, they'd looked all the same.
We had trouble figuring out which one was which.
Which ones we were taking.

But now, after all this time, we can pick them out in a dark room, just by the way their shadows walk.

We've memorized them.

That Capi prefers her breakfast hot, and denies she snores.
That she's a joker and full of mischief.
That she likes saying "No" to a question just to get a rise out of you.
"Capi, Do you see the house with 5000 lights right in front of you?" "No."
That she likes being tickled and loves to help with the baby,
which I gladly let her do anytime she wants now after finding out about the time she walked, at the age of four, with her sick baby brother on her back for miles in the jungle trying to find help for him.
Help that I don't think ever came.
So I let her hold all she wants.
She coos.
She sings.
She strokes.
Then she teases Paige about being fat with love in her voice.
Her voice that sounds like a song, somehow.
In spite of the unimaginable she's suffered.


I know that Divine is by far the Fresh Beat Band's number one fan.
That she loves thoughts of mystery.
We taught her about the tooth fairy.
She taught us true Christmas as she literally danced with joy over a gift of a bag of Doritos, which are her "best food."
What a lesson to learn.
Divine is smart and quiet.
I can see something deep and painful in her eyes, but her laugh sounds like Tigger and it brims over with joy.
"Hoo hoo hoo!"


I thought about how our pictures with them span the seasons.
That the first ones we have are of us in the yard painting and spraying each other with the hose. We were warm and smiling unsure smiles.
Not knowing really what to expect from our meeting.

Now they are all wearing hats and coats and we're looking at Christmas lights and the looks in our eyes say FAMILY.

We went to the fair.
We went swimming.
We went to a movie.
We went to In N Out.
A LOT.

Now each time we do those things, they will be haunted with the memory of the two girls who changed our hearts forever.

I don't know how I'll do it.
How I'll let go tonight and turn around and walk away.
How I'll make my hands un-clasp.

I don't know how I'll comfort my kids who will be devastated.

I want to lay in front of their bus,
but instead, I make sure their travel bottles of shampoo are filled.
Crying as I do it.

It's too little.
It's not enough.

They've made my own needs feel small.
What a beautiful, meaningful gift!

What a blessing and a relief to take our eyes off of ourselves.

I wrote them letters that I will give to them tonight as we watch their final performance and say goodbye.

This is what I wrote, in a way they could understand:


and



I hope they never forget us.
I know we'll never ever forget them.

The orphaned girls who were orphans no more.












Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ejector seats for EVERYONE!!!

Chloe cried the entire way to school this morning.
Actually, LONGER than that.
She was crying before we left the house.

Why was she crying?
Because she didn't WANT a breakfast burrito.
She wanted oatmeal.
So, rather than just adjust and dream of the oatmeal she could have tomorrow, instead, she tilted back her head and wailed to the heavens; praying God would hear her cries and send down a lightning bolt into our car striking me and my
breakfast-burrito-making hands.

For 30 minutes straight.

Drool was produced for dramatic purposes.

There she sat in the back, hoping to make eye contact with me in the rear-view mirror so I could see her ultimate distress.
She craned her neck to remain in my view and shot lasers at me with her eyes.

Alena was in the passenger seat huffing her breath in between pages of her library book because little sisters are just SO IRRITATING and CAN'T I TELL HER TO STOP?!

I was driving.
And dreaming.
Fantasizing about reaching for the latch on my door and just rolling out into the grass beside the bike path, laying in wait, and then hijacking a stranger's bike and riding as fast as I could in the opposite direction of the car.
Never...to be heard from...again.

I thought about how great it would be to have an ejector seat.
There are far too few of those in this world.
I actually wish for one often.
For me.
For others.
Just one touch of the button and I could be soaring off into the big blue in slow-motion while a Coldplay soundtrack plays as background music.

I guess it's a coping mechanism.
It's the only way I can function sometimes.

To just pretend that the situation I'm in is a different situation than it actually is.
Sort of a "laugh to keep from crying" mentality.

That's not a van full of fighting, screaming children that I want to choke.
It's a group home for the mentally disturbed and I am their leader.
They can't help it.
They were born this way.

That's not dog throw up I just stepped in with bare feet.
It's lotion and I'm about to get a glorious foot massage!

It's not so bad to have an emotional break-down, right?
Rocking in a corner earns me Weight Watcher Activity points.

But I just about lost it when I looked back in the car at one point and saw Chloe picking all the hash browns out of the burrito strand by hashy strand.
She doesn't like "mashed potatoes," she sobbed.

Well you know what I don't like?
A kid dissecting a burrito and wailing in the back of my Volvo before I've had my coffee.
That's what.

It didn't help that I've been SO stressed out lately.
I actually think I'm having some sort of hormonal issue.
At least that's what I keep telling myself so I don't have to face it if it's just a run of the mill nervous-breakdown.
I'd rather blame it on something that doesn't make people look at you with bulgy eyes and take a step back with their arm over their children's chests as if to guard them from the crazy lady.

I think I'm just past my limit.
Far past.

And I am
So.
Tired.

I haven't slept past 8:00 or gone to bed before 11 in what feels like years.
When I mentioned this to Justin last night before bed and asked why I always had to be the one to get up and take the kids to school and why he got to sleep in all nestled in with his C-Pap his response was,

"You're just BETTER AT IT than me."

People.
This man is lucky to be alive and mobile today.

D.
N.
R.


Better at WHAT?
Setting my alarm?
Feeling the weight of responsibility of having our children groomed and educated?
Better at pressing on, regardless of fatigue so strong that SEVERAL times a day I have to fight the urge to just lay down flat on my face wherever I am; be it Kitchen, Garage, or Costco line?

Better at it.
Hmph.

From now on, I will strive to be better at sleeping in than him.
That's the kind of competition I'd love to win.

My friend Beth came over tonight to pick up one of my Namescapes for a silent auction prize I'm donating to help her raise money for her upcoming adoption.
Beth already has three kids under the age of five.
She will be adopting two kids from the Congo, both under the age of three.
Beth is virtually dripping with stress.
Beth looked like a zombie.

When she came in, I was upstairs wrestling Paige into her footie pajamas.
No easy feat.
It's comparable to trying to put a cat
in a dress.
A 25 pound cat.

Beth trudged on upstairs to chat with me while I did it and INSTANTLY I recognized her look.
The universal look of mothers.
The look of wishing to be clubbed over the head with something blunt in order to have just a few minutes of unadulterated rest.

She actually wasn't even looking at me.
She was looking past me at my Cal King bed.

"Can I just LAY DOWN?!" She asked, and I laughed.
Only she wasn't kidding.
She really really wanted it.

This is when we had the conversation about over stretching ourselves.
About taking on more than we actually should.
About how freaking TIRED we are.

It's kind of the burden of a creative soul.
You feel like your light has been snuffed if you're just doing mundane tasks, so you add in some creative, but the second you do, you realize you just added ONE MORE THING to your list that's already twelve pages long.

It's all Pinterest's fault.

It calls to me with it's Siren Song.

I probably don't really have time to make homemade individual Vicks Vapor shower steamers, but gosh darn it, it's almost cold season.

And I've been on the hunt for good pallets for months now, not even sure what I'd do with them. There are just SO many good options....

I mean, sure,
I'll just hammer out a floating pallet shelf right after I drive carpool, and do daycare, and grocery shop, and make dinner, and design a logo, and practice a song, and paint a MURAL.
Let's not even get STARTED on that.

Meanwhile, my stress rises to levels that have me questioning DAILY if I'm having a stroke or not.
Is my face numb?
Why does my mouth feel weird?

I have stood in the mirror on SEVERAL occasions assessing whether or not one side of my face looks more droopy than the other.
Poking it to see if the sensation is even.

I'm yelling more.
I'm threatening more.
And still the girls just fake to listen and try not to smile as the veins in my neck bulge out so far that the shadow of my head and neck look like the shadow a trophy cup would make.


Then the second I turn my back they're whispering,
"Chloe, did you see Mama's face? (*snicker*) Her eyes looked like they were crying and she had black stuff under them."
*joint laughter*

They don't listen.
That's crazy talk.

We just took them to see Wreck it Ralph a few days ago, which I'm sure was intended to make people identify with the two outcast type characters.
Not me.
I identified with a whole different character.

Qbert.


He always looks forlorn and no one can understand him.
He opens his mouth and all that comes out are symbols that sound like gibberish.
He's powerless with no hands, but he has feet and boy does he hop around.

He probably feels trapped in his round little body.
The only one of his kind.
Unable to communicate his wants and desires and need for sleep past 7:00, and not wanting,immediately upon waking, to make six breakfasts that aren't appreciated followed by 30 different snacks FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE STOP WITH THE SNACKS!!!

Poor,
misunderstood
Qbert.

#?!*$#&!
I bet Qbert would love a breakfast burrito.









Monday, September 10, 2012

Don't Dance and Drive



Last night was date night.
It was great.
No kids. Holding hands. Lots of laughing.

We don't get out much, and when we do, it usually involves Pixar and kids' meals and several times of threatening to stop the car THIS MINUTE.

When Justin and I are unleashed on our own, there is no telling what will happen. Will we cower?
Will we bolt?
It's like releasing captive animals into the wild.

Last night was no exception.

We had just seen a movie and were heading home - well - to the gas station, actually, as Justin has a crazy habit of running his car until it is almost completely out of gas before he'll get more.
He thinks the gas light is there to warn that sometime, possibly by the end of the month, you MAY need to get gas.
MAYBE.
And to him even that might be a theory worth testing.

The movie had been good and we discussed it as we drove.
We were cheery.

Ooh! That's a good song!
Justin turned up the disco music that he loves to listen to as we pulled off the off-ramp close to home.
"We are Family" rang out into the night air.
"Yes! We ARE! We ARE family!" we thought,
so we bopped in our seats.

Justin's hands left the wheel for a brief moment as he did his best Saturday Night Fever dance.
He clapped.
We drifted.
Our wheels hit the dots.
We vibrated.
We laughed.
He corrected, and on we went.

We had just rounded the corner, when the all too familiar blue and red lights flickered in the rear-view.

Were we being
pulled over?
Was that for US?
For WHAT?

I mean, I yell at Justin all the time for his driving.
Every single time I get in the car with him I fear for my life and the lives of our children.
I brace myself so often that I get out of the car completely stiff and in need of a massage.
He loves to tailgate.
He has never met a slam of the brakes he didn't love.
He likes to be close enough to the driver in front of him that onlookers can't tell if he's following them or riding piggy-back.
I apply my imaginary brake multiple times a day.
I remind him that I am on blood thinners.
But strangely enough, this was one time when I had been completely OK with everything he was doing.

We hissed back and forth as we pulled into the Redwing Shoe parking lot.

Me: "Did you ever put your tags on?"
- The tags that we'd been a full month late in getting because we decided going camping was just more fun than paying registration.
Justin: "Yes. I did that the other night while you and your mom were arguing over where to go for dinner. Remember? I said I was going to the garage because I didn't want to listen to it anymore."
Me: "Were you speeding? I don't think you were speeding."
Justin: "No. I had just started going from a stop. I was maybe going 10 MPH. TOPS."

Me: "What about the brake light? Are you sure you fixed it right?"

*This was a valid question.*
I knew he'd FIXED IT, but fixing it and fixing it RIGHT are two different things where Justin is concerned.

He once "fixed" our headboard and now the headboard and frame don't hook together at all.
There are holes in places where there shouldn't be holes and the metal is bent in a way I can't even understand. How can metal DO that?.....

It frustrated me that every time I got in bed, the headboard banged against the wall and chipped my lovely Elephant Skin paint, so he "fixed it again" and it is now fastened not to the bed frame, but to the actual wall with giant hooks meant for hanging art work.
Art work it is not.

We may have to leave it when we move.

Justin: "Yeah. It's working fine."

We went back and forth over every possible thing we could imagine as to why we were getting pulled over and MY best guess landed on mistaken identity.
It really was the only possible option, right?

Surely, they were on the lookout for ANOTHER mixed-race couple in an ever so suspicious silver Volvo station wagon with car-seats in the back.

But then, as if that wasn't bad enough, suddenly the spot light was on us from behind.
I think I maybe even heard a helicopter circling above.
Even I started to think we were criminals.

I started worrying that Justin was a drug dealer and this is how I would find out. But maybe that's just too much Breaking Bad clouding my mind.
Maybe he had some secret double life and another wife and other kids and was being hunted in multiple states.
After all, I HAVE seen 20/20.
What if some of his other kids were BOYS?........That would be weird.
What if one day the kids found their long lost half-siblings on Facebook and hated Justin for never telling them they had each other?
Did they ever find Jon Benet Ramsay?......
I've never been in Red Wing Shoes.....

These are the things I think.

The spotlight was so bright I'm pretty sure half of Santa Rosa slowed to look at what on earth was going on.
Major sting operation that it was.

The glare in the rear-view mirror was so bad it was like we were being pulled over by the sun itself.

Then we could hear the officer's shoes clop clop clopping towards us.
We held our breath.
He pulled out his flashlight and did a quick visual sweep of the back of Justin's car like he was looking for something.

I wanted to tell him,
"Search, if you will, Officer.
This car is so clean you probably can't find our DNA on it.
This is the car of a driver who pulls out his Swiffer duster at every stop light and dusts off the console.
There's nothing here.
N'ery a crumb."

But this is when the good part started.

Officer: "Hello Sir. Do you know why I pulled you over tonight?"
Justin: "No. I actually have NO earthly idea."
Officer: "Well, Sir, you caught my attention back there because you were doing an awful lot of swerving as you came off the off-ramp."

Our eyes bugged out and we tried not to laugh and we looked at each other for a bit.
Oh man.

He thought we were drunk.

Officer: "Sir, Have you had anything to drink tonight?"
Justin: "Um....I had a ROOT beer at the theater, but that was all."
Officer: "Sir, Have you had anything to drink within the last 24 hours?"
Justin: "No. Nothing."
Officer: "Nothing?"
Justin: "Nothing."
Officer:
"You are sure that you haven't had ANYTHING to drink?"
Justin: "I promise you. I had a soda and a small popcorn."
Officer: "Are you really really really really REALLY sure?!"

(OK. I added that part, myself, but SERIOUSLY?)

Officer: "So if I were to have you breathe into a Breathalizer, it would say you were 100% sober, Sir?"
Justin: "Yes. 100%"
Officer: "Then do you have an explanation for me as to why you were swerving so much back there?"

Justin: "Uh....I was........ dancing."

Officer: ..............*blink* *blink* ............

Justin:
"There was a really good song on the radio and I was having a good time with my wife."

Officer: ................*blink* *blink*............

I could tell he was mentally cataloging through all his training to see if there was anything he could use for DANCING while you drive.

Officer: "Can I please have your license and registration, Sir?"

Justin fiddled around for the cards and handed them to him.
He told us to wait just a minute, and he walked to his cruiser.

This is when Justin made a whole bunch of comments as I tried to convince him to not say them in front of the cop and get himself arrested for real.
He's been known to dig deeper holes with his commentary when he gets upset.
I've thought about getting him checked for Tourette.

There was something about a scrawny mall cop.
Some business about snapping like a twig.
Something about a peach fuzz mustache and an eighth grader.

"Babe. Deep breaths. He can't give you a ticket for swerving a little bit."

It was funny.
Right?

Wrong.

Because this is the moment we remembered that a couple of years ago, one of Justin's brothers, who is known by police officers in several counties,
actually stole Justin's identity and left Justin as a wanted man.

You can't make this stuff up, folks.

We didn't know anything about it until one day we'd gone to the DMV to register one of the cars and they refused to register it because they said there was a
WARRANT OUT FOR JUSTIN and they weren't allowed to go any further with it because it was showing he'd evaded his court appearance.

HOLY WHAT?!?!?!?!

Not until we'd gone to the court house and spoken with someone who showed us the copy of the original police ticket were we able to put two and two together that Justin's brother had been pulled over, while on parole, and had panicked about going back in and given the police Justin's name as his own.
Ah, Brotherly love....
I figured it was his brother by the type of car that was described in the ticket and the signature that looked like a monkey had done it.
In crayon.
While on a bronco.

Justin had to sign a piece of paper several times as a signature comparison and send it in to the State Commissioner in order to try to clear his name.
We'd never heard back from anyone on whether or not that had actually been cleared.

Justin: "Oh NO. What if it still shows a warrant out for me?!"
Me: "No.....Oh Justin. What if you go to jail tonight because of dancing to disco and a stolen identity? Wouldn't that just be SO typical?"

I mean....I would have gotten at least one night of snore-free sleeping, but still....

We were discussing the things we should say to explain when the officer started back to our car.
Justin had his arm casually resting on his window.
His head was turned toward me.

"Sir! PLEASE put your arm BACK INSIDE THE VEHICLE!" the officer barked from behind us.
He had sounded scared.
Like, rookie cop about a split second from calling for back-up, scared.

It's that dang Native American expression again!
It ALWAYS gets him in trouble.
People regularly think he's angry, when, in reality, it's just Native bone structure seen repetitively throughout the ages.


He may LOOK like he'll eat your liver right out of your abdomen, but in reality, he's just concentrating or tired or his contacts are dry.

We both jumped.
I half expected the officer to have his weapon drawn he sounded so serious.
Maybe he actually did.
I couldn't see a THING with that bleeping spot light still on us from behind.
As it was, every time I blinked I saw giant white blotches in my vision.

I started worrying that I wouldn't be able to see to get myself home should Justin get arrested for his public drunkenness and his outstanding warrant.

I'd be left hobbling, half blind with my blood-clot leg down West Steele, and that is NO place to be hobbling. There is a reason that the only strip mall on West Steele is made up of a 7-11 that is attached to a police station.

Justin yanked his arm back in quickly.

Officer: "Sir, I'm going to ask you to stick your head out of your window for me. Further. Further.
No!
Not your arms.
Arms inside.
Just your head."

What?

Now Justin is leaning with 1/3 of his body out of the Volvo driver window with his arms stuck to his sides like he's some giant frozen Cod driving a car.

I was beginning to worry about what on earth was going on.
Were we being Punked?
Was this guy even a real cop?

Officer: "Sir, I want you to follow my finger, but JUST WITH YOUR EYES, Sir. Not your head. Just your eyes."

The officer held up a finger.

"That's awfully close to his face..." I thought as the officer positioned his pointer finger about an inch from Justin's nose.
Was he TRYING to make him cross-eyed?

But then he just held it there.
He didn't move it.
He
just
kept
holding
it.

Time stood still.

I think three minutes passed.
At least that's what it felt like.

Just as I was beginning to wonder if it was some sort of trick, he started moving it.
And moving it.

And moving it.

This was not just a slight wave side to side.
He was doing such wide movements that Justin said his finger actually completely disappeared from his peripheral view.
The cop was practically doing the grapevine at the side of our car with his finger waggling around.
How on earth was he supposed to follow something just with his eyes that was being swept in six foot wide motions?

Meanwhile, I was busy pinning Justin's legs to the inside of the car so that he wouldn't topple out onto the pavement as he perched with his upper body out the window.

And just like that - the movement stopped.

Officer: "Sir, I'm going to let you go now, but I need you to know that the State of California has given you 12 feet in each lane of ample space to drive.
We try to assure that there is plenty of room for you to make slight movements without going outside of your designated lane.
There really is no reason for such swerving.
Have a good night."

Then he handed back the license and registration, switched off his flashlight and drove off to fight other dangerous criminals, such as ourselves.
Jay-walkers and pillow tag rippers don't hunt themselves, people.

Before we drove off, Justin looked at me and exhaled.

He said,
"I was starting to worry. I thought my eye was going to get me in trouble."

I about died.
This just kept getting better.
Because I had totally forgotten that
a few months back Justin had gone in for a routine eye exam and come home looking disheartened and kind of embarrassed.
The eye doctor had detected that he has a weak left eye that occasionally, when being forced in one direction or another, wants to sort of just wander slightly off.

I had, of course, made fun of him for days, asking him where he was looking and the like.
He said that the second the officer started waving his finger side to side, not only could he not see the officer's hand because he wasn't supposed to move his head, but he started feeling his eye tugging off to the side.
He said, "I was thinking, 'Oh gosh. Not NOW! Why does this have to happen NOW?!"

He was positive that his wandering eye was going to get him in trouble for sure.


Thank goodness it hadn't.
I was tired.
I didn't want to deal with all that "can you come and get me out of jail" nonsense.

Clearly, this officer didn't know how to have fun.
Clearly this officer had never blasted the radio late at night after having two solid kid-free hours.
Clearly he didn't understand how good it felt to have your windows down on a warm September evening as you listened to music with the knowledge that someone else will have put the kids to bed by the time you get home.

"No reason for such swerving."

Humph.

By my count, we had A LOT reasons for swerving.






Sunday, August 26, 2012

Not So Nice Racks

It's like I actually have amnesia.

Every single weekend, when my mom comes home from her job in Oakland and we get a day together, we decide shopping sounds fun.
Kids?
We'll just take 'em!
They'll be fine!
We'll bring snacks.

And every weekend this conversation means that we have completely wiped the previous weekend from memory.

We drive to the store happy.
The Mary Poppins soundtrack playing cheerfully in the background.
We find a great parking spot and give the kids a talk about how we behave in stores and promise that if they behave maybe, just maybe, we'll stop at the park afterwards.

We tell the girls to remember what we've said.

But WE forget.

We forget that Tessa will try on everything she sees that is remotely inappropriate and then parade it around while people stare and whisper. Giant underwear, Reading glasses, Orthopedic shoes. She isn't biased.

A couple of weeks ago it was a neon yellow sports bra over her clothes with the hanger still attached.
The hanger which then got tangled in her hair and practically took the Jaws of Life to remove.
I bet the guys in the security office rewound that tape over and over again.

Today it was a pair of size 9 rainbow leopard pattern G-strings at Target that she held up to her chest and asked if she could get "for swimming."

We forget that if Chloe is made to walk for more than 15 minutes she'll be crying that her legs hurt REAL BAD and begging for ibuprofen and a heat pack and to be carried and screaming out for someone to alert Child Protective Services because THIS IS ABUSE!

For Christmas that kid is getting a Hover-round.

We forget to bring wipes EVERY time and EVERY time Paige poops.
You can guarantee it's the kind that comes up the back of her clothes and we're left wetting down paper towels in some dirty ghetto bathroom while people look at us with pity because they are almost positive we must be homeless.

This bathroom will also almost surely be without a changing table, so this diaper change will take place on the sink or in the stroller or on one of our laps while one of us does a floating chair stance against the bathroom wall.
We won't have a change of clothes either.
You can almost bet on it.

All we'll have is a towel in the car and I am embarrassed to say how many times we've used it in the place of a blanket.

We once went to the country club for lunch that way.

We forget which diaper bag pocket we put the pacifier in, then the baby is crying because she's cold and half naked and were dumping out everything we own on the store floor to find it.

Holy cow!
THERE'S my lip gloss!

We forget that it is impossible to try on clothes when you're busy dragging kids from under someone else's dressing room stall and lecturing them on privacy, and stopping them from removing tags, and dragging them out by their ankles from underneath clothing racks as we remove straight pins from their mouths.

Is it HOT in here?!
Why am I SWEATING so much?!


"No, Tessa.

Put that back.

You can't take that out.

You have to buy it first.

Don't chew it! No! Take that out of your mouth! You don't know where that's been!"


Now an alarm is going off.

Is that US?
Did WE cause that?

And while we're spinning in circles and dumping stuff again and trying to figure out why the alarm is sounding, the girls have gotten into a slap fight over who gets to hold the empty hanger they found laying on the floor of the dressing room.

A drink spills.
We have to tell Customer Service.
The guy's bringing a mop.
From the look in his eyes, he doesn't get paid enough to deal with the likes of us.

Now I make them sit.
You here, and you HERE.
DON'T MOVE.

Don't smile,
don't talk,
don't breathe.

I realized today that I literally ALWAYS feel dizzy in a dressing room.
I thought it was claustrophobia,
but now I think it may be a form of
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I try things on and then I later realize - I don't ever think I looked in the mirror.....

Was it cute?
Probably not.

Probably I just looked like a stray dog in a dress.

Wild, blood-shot eyes.
Hair all astray.
Odd smudges on my cheek.
Mysterious wet spot on my leg.

Probably I should just get yet ANOTHER pair of stretchy pants and yet ANOTHER solid tank.
Those are tried and true.

It's sad.

I know it might be shocking, but I actually DO have style.
But, alas, it takes two hands to put on a structured jacket and then how would I free Chloe's arm which is now stuck in the sunglass display?

Oh great. Now the baby's crying.
Maybe I'll mix her a bottle.
Can you hand me the formula?
Thanks.
I'll just tap a little of it in here and then FREAKING DUMP HALF OF IT ALL OVER THE STACK OF CLOTHES I HAVE PILED ON TOP OF THE STROLLER TO TRY ON.

So now, before I've even BOUGHT them they look like they're already mine.
Covered in crap.
Slightly damp.
Maybe I should really just break them in and gnaw a few holes in the front for good measure.

I'm pretty sure that with the look in my eyes and the fluffy white powder that is now all over the clothes, the department store workers are sure I've been doing lines of cocaine in the dressing room.

By now I'm probably feeding the baby a bottle in the dressing room in just my bra as I sit on the bench staring into the mirror at my own pleading expression.
UNDER this bench, Chloe and Tessa are playing house.
A house that, by the sound of it, is about to be visited by the police because of a domestic disturbance.

Now they're hungry and everyone is crying - INCLUDING me and my mom.
"What are we having for dinner?"
"When are we leaving?"
"I have to pee."
"She wiped a booger on me!"
"Is Paige DOOOONNNNEEEEEE?!"

Yes.
She's done.
You can wait a minute to pee.
I just have a few more things to try on.

But it's really hard to try on clothes with two pair of critic eyes watching.
Eyes that see outfits and make comments like
"That looks like Alladin!"
or
"I like that clown shirt."

Of course, I don't know what I'M worried about.
These are the same kids that wear THESE outfits:


Who are THEY to judge?

Every week,
My mom and I spend an entire day like this.
Start off with good intentions, smiling, sipping coffee, plotting our route -
End up musing out loud about laying face down on the living room rug and just moaning for hours while someone rubs our necks and feet.

Every week.

And we usually never end up buying even ONE thing.

Maybe next week we should shop at GNC.
For Ginko.
Maybe that would help us remember.

I guess we're just optimists.
We think, "Maybe this week will be different."

Maybe this week Tessa won't eat the lotion.
Maybe this week Chloe won't cry so hard in the shoe store that her jaw almost dislocates.

Maybe we'll remember the stupid wipes.

If you're looking for me next weekend, I can almost guarantee I'll be shopping with my mom and the kids.

I'll be the one in the handicapped dressing room with three kids feeding a baby a bottle in just a bra.
AGAIN.
If the door is locked, just listen for the sounds of hyperventilation.
That'll be me.

YOU, hopefully, will be the one with the Vallium.

And I won't care what you're wearing.











Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Few Words of Advice

"I'M SORRY. I COULD NOT UNDERSTAND YOUR SELECTION. DID YOU SAY YOU WANTED TO IMPLODE?"

..............................................................


I went to a baby shower today for one of my dearest friends.
She's getting ready to have her first baby.
She looked radiant and innocent as she sat in her round-back chair eating her brunchie foods and looking around the room.
There were a few times I felt that her look went from,
"This is so fun" to "Dear God, is this really happening?!" - but maybe that was just me projecting.

The party was lovely.
It was held at San Francisco's Metropolitan building.
There were no duckies or bunnies in sight.
This was city stuff.
Just the hike a quarter of a mile straight uphill from the car to the party told me it would be different.

Country Mouse goes to City Mouse's Shower.
A book by Kerri Green.

Everything was pretty standard shower affair, from the finger foods to the cupcake stand.

But then it happened.

The girl throwing the shower handed out cards for us to write down our sage words of advice.

The lady next to me casually asked if I had kids.


.......
You know that moment in a super hero movie where the main character turns from average Joe into their alter ego, and you can watch the transformation start to take place just from the look in their eyes?
Yeah.
My eyes did that.
Like when a shark smells blood.
.......

Oh, Lady.
DO I HAVE KIDS?!

I started writing so much on those index cards I probably should have left some cash for replacement pens.
I think I started to smell smoke.
I hope no tree huggers were witness to the amount of index cards I ended up taking for all the "advice" I ended up giving.

And I wanted to give more.

I pulled it together when I heard my friends gasp,
"Oh my gosh. She's starting another one."

I just couldn't help it.
I felt burdened to warn her.
To take her by the shoulders and look deep into her eyes and really EXPLAIN.

Run.
Run quickly.
Grab as much as you can in three minutes and RUN.

No.
I'm just kidding.

Mostly.

I did tell her about Mylicon.
Arguably the most brilliant pharmaceutical invention of our century.
That stuff is magic.
It really didn't matter when or why my kids were screaming, Or if it had anything even to DO with gas.
.03 mls of that stuff and they were smiling and sleeping and my hair magically stopped falling out and my jugular veins stopped pulsing as tiny song birds toyed with my hair ribbons.

I told her to remember to be a parent first and friend second.
I mostly told her this so I'd be able to tolerate being around her and bouncing baby boy later on.
I see some kids that rule their roosts and I really have strong, non-Christian urges that involve duct tape and deep trenches.

Kid.
If you point that caterpillar sized finger in my face and scream "No" at me one more time I will most likely snap it off like a Cheeto and put it in my pocket to later turn into a charm.
Signed,
TOTALLY the Boss of You.



There was so much I wanted to say.....

Like:
*Think about what you name him.*

My brother and sister in law,
had they ever had a girl,
Were planning on naming her Kaya.
Beautiful name.
If your last name is not King.
I pointed out that she would be "Kayaking" and they both said,
"Oh...I don't think people will really pick up on that."

Clearly they have never met any eighth graders.


*Please. PLEASE bring tissues with you places.*

No one wants to see a kid with snot down to their lip.
You will wonder where all your friends went and your child will grow up to be one of those weird people that talk to puppets if you don't.

*Stop the insanity of the orthopedic looking character Velcro shoes.*

My kids love them, too.
I still will never buy them.
My kids would love cans of frosting and marshmallows for breakfast, but that's just wrong so I say no.

Same.

Dora light up shoes from Payless?
Jab me in the eyes.

*Stop pushing them in a stroller by the time they are three.*
Seriously now.
And we wonder why so many twenty-something's are so slow to leave the nest now a days.
They're being strolled until seven and breast fed till five.

In some countries seven is old enough to get a job.
It's DEFINITELY old enough to walk.
Uncover them from their fuzzy Looney Toons blanket you bought at the fair and let them walk.
Their muscles are atrophying.
And while you're at it, bottles are not for juice. Unless you just don't like teeth.

*Learn to get ready and eat breakfast all in under 10 minutes.*

If you have to eat soggy toast in the shower, so be it.
You have places to be and you still have to pack the diaper bag.
It may even be best to swallow food whole. Not unlike a python.

*Always bring a change of clothes.*
For you AND the baby.
The amount of things that can come out of those little creatures is astounding.
It's amazing how they can actually throw up more than they've even eaten.
It's like a baby version of the loaves and fish story from the Bible.

*Tell any crunchy granola mom trying to make you feel guilty for X,Y, or Z to BUZZ OFF.*
How's that for a bee themed shower?
There will be times you will not care if an item is made STRICTLY of BPAs and lead paint as long as you can shove it in their mouth and make them be quiet for
Five. Freaking. Seconds.

*Never attempt calling a voice-activated phone system if your children are anywhere in a half mile radius.*
They know.
They sense it.
By the time you're saying your first, "SPEAK WITH A REPRESENTATIVE" they will be there with their tiny mouths a half inch from the mouth piece asking for snacks or crayons or help wiping.
From there on out you can kiss your phone bill paying life goodbye as you pull out your own eyelashes more and more with every,
"Sorry, I could not understand your request. Did you say you'd like to pay triple your bill?"
I am almost completely positive that my current blood pressure issues stem vastly from this very scenario.

I could go on for days.
Had I not shown great restraint, I could have burned through 20 of those puppies.

But the best advice I did give was to
laugh and play and blow raspberries because it goes by SO FAST.
And to just relax.

For real.

You don't have to be perfect.
Just look at me.
I was entrusted with FOUR of them and I hardly ever step out of my yoga pants these days.
Who cares if they don't read Chinese by three?
Sure. They'll go far,
but when they get to where they're going, the only thing there to greet them will be the sound of crickets chirping.
Frankly, those kids are kind of scary anyway, and probably won't have a ton of friends.

It's OK to turn on a DVD for them sometimes.
You're not draining their brain cells.
Sometimes you're taking a moment to replenish your own supply.
Read, TOO, but a little Elmo never killed anyone.
Caillou might have, but that's another blog.

Some parents put too much pressure on themselves.

I met a mom of twins this weekend who practically Lept into my arms and tongue kissed me when I told her I was all for getting your kids on YOUR schedule and not at all interested on letting them "Be free to experience their own PERSONAL boundaries."
You're the parent.
They're the kid.

The end.

Maybe the best advice, though, is to
toss all advice and just dive in blind.

They will teach you everything you need to know.
This isn't cookie cutter life.

Be who you are,
Give yourself a break and maybe a pedicure,
And sleep now because you won't get to ever ever again.
























Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Asante Means 'Thank You'



It seems like yesterday that the announcement was made that the Asante Children's Choir from Burundi would be coming to our church and they were in need of host families for the children.

We had seen them before.
Beautiful, smiling faces hailing from various places in Africa.

They were coming to seek sponsors for children back home.
Sponsors to help feed, clothe and supply education and health care for their families.

"Can we do it, Mama? Can we host them" Alena asked.

I took a deep breath. It seemed kind of overwhelming.
Their schedule was intense.
Did I really want to stretch myself?
Did I really want to take care of MORE kids? My own four were just a hair away from eating popcorn for dinner some nights I was so exhausted and frazzled.

But something in me said to do it.
So I signed my name to the sheet and offered to house two.

By the time I was in the parking lot, I was already re-thinking my choice.
Life was so busy. I had things I needed to do. It would be a lot of money to feed two more people. I hate packing lunches.
Excuse.
Excuse.
Excuse.

By the time the day came to pick the kids up, though, I was excited.
It was going to be an adventure.
I thought of all the things that I could show them. How fun it would be to introduce this amazing Western life to them.

I had no idea that the things they would show ME would far outnumber the things I'd teach them.

I wanted to feed them. All the time.
All the images of starving, half naked African children I'd ever seen came flooding in and I just couldn't stand that thought.
I wanted to fix it.

But the looks on their faces as I opened my pantry and my kids rushed in to request any old thing they wanted to eat struck me.
What an overly priveledged life we lead.
We stand looking in an open fridge and whine that there's nothing to eat.
6 kinds of cereal. 5 kinds of crackers. What do you want for breakfast? Eggs? Toast? Cereal? Oatmeal? Waffles?

How indulgent.

Instead of feeling proud to give it to them, I was feeling different than I expected.
I felt embarassed.
I thought of the money that was sitting stale in that pantry alone.
Probably more than their families see in two months.

I asked if they had any laundry that needed washing.
They brought to me armfuls; each item with their names written on the tags.
Some with other kids' names written on the tags. Handed down and down again.
Then I wanted to clothe them.

I started pulling things out of Alena's closet that she'd outgrown. I pulled more out than they'd probably ever owned. Beautiful dresses and skirts.
I laid them on the bed and told them to pick one.
Their eyes danced and they tried to hold back smiles, but instead of diving in like I'd thought they would, or fighting over the prettiest one like MY children probably would have, they just stood there.

"But do you have some for the others?"
"The other girls?"
"Yes. Can you give them dresses, too?"

Not until I assured them that I could give dresses to everyone would they even try the dresses on.
I had to help them zip and button.
They had them backwards and completely twisted.
By the end of it, they had skirts under dresses under shirts.
Like they just couldn't choose.

The moment they saw their own reflections will live in my mind forever.
They saw themselves as beautiful.
Two of the most beautiful girls in the world.

Over the days we had them, we painted and sang, we danced and they taught us to balance bowls on our heads while we danced. Well.....They TRIED to.
We did manicures and pedicures. We swam. We took them on their first fair rides.

And as we did that for them, they did things for us.
They did our dishes, they cleared their plates, they made their beds, they stacked their shoes.
They completely stole our hearts.
Every small thing we did earned a hug and a "Thank you."

I checked to see if my own children were listening and watching.

By the time we reached the end of the time we'd signed up for, an email was sent out that they were in need of people to volunteer to have them for longer, if possible. There wasn't even a question.

In just a few short days they had become daughters to us.
I found myself staring at them often.
Studying their beautiful skin. Watching their mouths form words in their beautiful language.
Wishing I could just smile and laugh and spill out joy no matter what my life brought my way.

We had been told not to ask them about their pasts.
Many of the children had survived genocide and civil wars.
Many were orphaned or had just been turned out onto the streets because their familes were unable to care for them.
Capi told me she didn't know how long she'd been with the choir.
She didn't know how old she is.
She didn't know her own birthday.

When they found a set of birthday candles in the drawer and asked what they were, I struggled to even explain birthday parties to them.
Making a wish?
Forget it.

In this week
Capi and Divine showed me how connected we are as humans.
At least how connected we SHOULD be.

These are children.

They love dressing up.
They love ice cream and being tickled.
They don't want to go to bed at night and they're scared of the dark.

And yet these children load onto a bus day after day with the hope that someone, somewhere will see them and be moved to help ANOTHER child across the ocean.
They dance until their feet are sore and they do it for someone ELSE.
They perform multiple shows a day and yet never asked to eat.
Only if it was offered would they light up and say, "Yes, Please."

Meanwhile, Tessa cried that Chloe had more Cheese-Its than her.

The very best times, though, were at night as we sat around talking and laughing.
They tried explaining movies they'd seen to us and we'd take turns guessing what on EARTH they were talking about.
Like the hardest game of charades EVER.
They would laugh and the beauty of their teeth alone would draw me into a daze.

It's been amazing how they've touched my family.
I have never seen Justin like this.
He's been changed by them.

Last night before bed, he ran them up the stairs by piggy-back and I sat on the couch and took pictures with my mind.

In just one week.....How could you fall in love so deeply?

They didn't know last night was their last night with us until about 9:00.
I had thought they'd know, so I never spoke of it.
When we told them, they looked sad for the first time.

Capi told us she hoped tomorrow never came.

Today we dropped them off at their bus.
The whole drive there, they sang songs with the girls in the car as Justin and I cried.

Our daughters singing together.

They didn't jump out of the car. They walked slowly and held on long.

I handed them their lunches with their names written on them as the tears dripped off my chin.
I'd drawn hearts above the "i"s.
They loaded their bags and came back off the bus to say their final goodbyes.

I could hardly even look at Justin as he knelt to the ground and told them he loved them, sobs shaking his body.
I could hear Chloe crying behind me.


"Ndagukunda" I choked out.
"Ndagukunda" they replied.

They have taught us "I love you" in the most real way it could ever be said.

In a way that transcends oceans and jungles and color.

When we returned home we found this note on our bed:

This week has been life changing.
It has divided my heart and now part of me will live forever in Burundi.
Capi and Divine will never be forgotten.

So to them I say "Asante", which means "Thank you."

Asante for changing my life.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dolphins


For Capi and Divine:




I dreampt you were dolphins.


Someone had brought you to me and left you in a shallow pool just outside my door.

I stood there looking, at first, thinking how lucky I was.
That I'd always wanted to be close to dolphins,
but that I never knew I'd be close enough to touch them
and care for them.

I held my breath as I stepped into the water.
Fully clothed,
scared and excited at the same time.

I was worried you'd swim away, but you stayed there and looked at me with eyes that felt wise about things I couldn't even understand.
Your world was under water and mine was here on land.

It seemed like you were smiling.

I waded between you and watched as the water and sun met your skin and created beams so bright I shielded my eyes from the glare.
You were shining like a treasure in the water.
I was surprised at how calm you were.

How still.

I thought about every dolphin I'd ever seen and how they lept and waved and dove.
Trained to perform.

But there you floated -

So still.

You were so beautiful there on the sides of me and I remember worrying that the parts of your skin that touched the air would dry out, so I slowly scooped up water in my palms and spread it onto your backs over and over again.

You closed your eyes and slept as I kept smoothing the water.

I smoothed until the sun set.

I felt unworthy and unqualified to care for dolphins, but something about the gentle lapping of the water and the way you slept put me at peace.

Before I awoke, it had gotten dark and we had been joined in the water by the reflection of the moon, which couldn't compare to your splendor.



I dreamt you were dolphins.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Thirteen


I can't believe it's been thirteen years.
THIRTEEN.

But it feels just like yesterday.

I remember finding out I was pregnant.
I took the test right before work. Something you should probably never do if the results may be shocking.
I remember just sitting on the edge of my bathtub and staring at the two dark pink lines.
They had come up instantly.
There was no 3 minute wait.

I stayed in shock for a long time. Not sure how to tell anyone.
After all, I was 22 and single and was raised to know that that was just not how you did things.
I didn't even tell my parents until I was 4 months along.

At the time I lived in the smallest one bedroom apartment ever known to man.
The stove top was practically the same measurements as the bedroom.
If you sneezed hard, you could blow out a window.
But it was what I could afford on my deli worker salary, and Jared's the only person I know who ever got rich off of a deli.

I remember wondering where I'd put a baby.
Worrying I'd have to move back home.
I remember feeling sad I wouldn't have a nursery to decorate.

It was going to be hard, but one thing was for sure. Whether or not to keep the baby was not negotiable.

I don't remember feeling scared, though.
I had been born wanting children.

But all those years of wrapping up Cabbage Patches could never have prepared me for what was next.

Alena Nicole Santorineos was born in room 7 of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital on July 15th, 1999.
I would later go on to have three of my four daughters in that very same room.
She weighed 7 lbs. 2 oz. and was 19 inches long.
She was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid my eyes on.


I'll never forget the feeling the first time they laid her naked, just-born body on my chest.
She immediately turned her little face up towards mine and squinted to see me.
It was like she was sizing me up.
Making sure I was prepared for the job.
Like she was saying,
"So. Are we in this thing together, or what?"

There was a lot of bustle that day. Grandparents being called. Visitors popping in. Passing her back and forth. I barely got to see her.

But then night came and we said our goodbyes.
Visiting hours were over.
Time to rest.
But I couldn't.

I will never forget sitting in that quiet room with the murmur of the tv on in the background. There was just one dim light on as I sat up and laid her between my legs on the bed.

Who was this little person?

The heaviness of sole responsibility laid heavy on me.
I prayed over her and her future.
I prayed for myself.

Then I started to unwrap.
Slowly.
Layer by layer,
until there she laid.

She was so tiny!
Red and wrinkled and completely asleep.

I was overwhelmed by the wonder of that moment.
It remains in my mind as one of the most life changing moments I've ever had.

Like putting a drop of food coloring into water and watching it spread until slowly it's all transformed.

-The moment when it hit me that it was just her and me-

The two of us were a family.
I was responsible to feed her and clothe her and to make her a PERSON.

I can honestly say that that moment turned me into who I am today.



And now she has grown.
I hardly recognize her.
Did that beautiful thing that's as tall as I am really come from ME?

THIRTEEN.

I think back to being annoyed when, at three, she HAD to give a sticker to every person who walked through our door.
"Alena! Not now, Honey! They might not even want one of those!"

I remember fussing at her that she really didn't need to bring 15 books with her everywhere that she went. (something she STILL does)

I remember her fascination with Sleeping Beauty and how she'd fall asleep with this old fabric rose we had clutched to her chest so she'd be prepared for True Love's kiss.

I remember worrying that surely she was Autistic because she didn't so much PLAY with her Polly Pockets, but she categorized their clothing into rows based on type and color.

I remember all this and I can't help but think that I didn't hold on enough.

Maybe when she came out with an arm-full of books, instead of fussing, I should have just helped carry.
Maybe I should have worn my stickers with pride, instead of peeling them off before I went out in public.
Maybe I should have told her more that she didn't need to pretend to be a princess.
She already was.

We had it hard.
It was lonely and hot in that one bedroom apartment.
Money was tight, and I was so tired.

And in between the giggling, tickling times, there were times I wanted to bang my head on the wall.

But that little girl made every long day worthwhile.
The feel of her hand in mine was so comforting, because it meant I'd never be alone again.
I was hers and she was mine.

As time has passed she has changed so much.
She is smart and beautiful and incredibly funny.
But she isn't the one who has changed the most.
She changed ME.

What a beautiful gift to be given.
Newness.

She is my helper, my friend, and my most proud accomplishment.

I look at her and think, "I did that."

And what a joyful thing it has been to do.

So Happy birthday to the book carrier.
Happy birthday to the sticker-giver.
Happy birthday to my very first princess.

The one who changed my life.

Your Child at Age Three


I took the kids for their well-child visits the other day.

When we were done, the doctor handed me a developmental checklist for each of them.
I took one look at Tessa's and laughed.
Were they sure they'd gotten the right age?

Here is what it said:

Development:
All kids develop at their own rate. At this age, you may notice that your child:
*Climbs up and down stairs
*Jumps off the floor with both feet
*Balances briefly on one foot
*Pedals a tricycle
*Eats on his or her own
* Washes and dries his or her hands
* Copies a circle
* Unbuttons clothes
* Says more words
* Describes actions in books
* Speaks in sentences and asks questions
* Knows his or her name, age, and sex
* Counts to three or higher
* Joins other children in play
* Starts to take turns and share
* Starts to know the difference between boys and girls



I just blinked at it, then made an amendment to the checklist.

This one is more accurate.


Development:
All kids develop at their own rate. At this age you may WANT TO RUN AND SCREAM AND ROCK IN THE FETAL POSITION BECAUSE TWO IS BAD BUT THREE IS PETRIFYING.

You may now notice that your child:
* Climbs up and down stairs TO MESSAGE THE RUSSIANS SHE WORKS FOR IN THE PRIVACY OF HER OWN ROOM

* Jumps off the floor with both feet FROM AN AIRPLANE TO COMPLETE A MISSION GIVEN BY SAID RUSSIANS

* Balances briefly on one foot BEFORE DOING A ROUND-HOUSE KICK TO A SIBLING'S HEAD UNPROVOKED

* Pedals a tricycle THAT POWERS A GENERATOR SHE HAS BUILT FOR HER VERY OWN SECRET ENERGY SOURCE

* Eats on his or her own PLATE BEFORE EATING OFF OF YOURS, YOUR MOM'S, YOUR FRIEND'S AND POSSIBLY YOUR FRIEND'S FRIEND'S.

* Washes and dries his or her hands. YOU HOPE. BECAUSE GOD ONLY KNOWS WHERE *THOSE* THINGS HAVE BEEN

* Copies a circle ON TRACING PAPER AS PART OF AN ESCAPE ROUTE MAP SHE IS CONFIGURING

* Unbuttons clothes TO REVEAL A GIANT "S" LOGO ON HER CHEST

* Says more words THAN YOU THINK IS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. EVEN WHEN YOU TELL HER YOU'LL PAY HER A QUARTER IF SHE CAN WIN THE 'QUIET GAME'

* Describes actions in books TO ADULTS IN WORDS THAT THEY CAN UNDERSTAND, THEN ROLLS HER EYES IF THEY DON'T

* Speaks in sentences and asks questions THAT CAN RENDER EVEN DOUBLE MAJORED ADULTS SPEECHLESS

* Knows his or her name, age, and sex AND CAN ENTER IT ALL IN COMPUTER FIELDS IN ORDER TO LOG ON TO YOUR COMPUTER AND SET UP HER OWN AMAZON ACCOUNT.

* Counts to three or higher WHEN NAMING THE AMOUNT OF SNACKS SHE WANTS YOU TO MAKE HER BEFORE 10 am.

* Joins other children in play THEN HAS MOST OF THEM CRYING SHORTLY FOLLOWING.

* Starts to take turns and share, BUT THEN RE-THINKS IT AND STOPS ABRUPTLY.

* Starts to know the difference between boys and girls AND THEN SAYS TO YOU THAT SHE SURE IS GLAD SHE'S A GIRL BECAUSE "THAT THING IS WEIRD ON BOYS' BUTTS."


I know kids develop differently, but that just had to be a joke.
Tessa wouldn't surprise me if she could recite the Pythagorean Theorum.
Just NOW being able to count to three or higher?
Sometimes I WISH.
At least then I'd have time to catch up.

She's almost too smart for me.
I spend a lot of time feeling confused when I'm trying to reason with her.
Like I've been blindfolded and spun in a circle and then told to run.

This morning I saw her eyeballing the same scissors that she'd used to cut her own hair last week.
I told her not to even think about it.
That cutting hair made it SHORTER and I knew she wanted long long hair.
She didn't reply with a question of why.
She didn't say OK and wander off.
Instead, she started weaving a tale:

"Once there was a girl who had magic scissors, and those scissors made hair GROW instead of be shorter. And the more she cut, the more it grew...."

"Tessa. That girl doesn't exist."

"Yes she does. I saw her at the pool."

.......


Then five minutes later, Justin came downstairs asking who it was that had doodled on Buddie's mail.

"No one. No one did that. Not me and not Chloe."
"Well SOMEONE had to have done it because it was there."
"It was Phoebe. Phoebe did it. "
"Dogs don't doodle, Tess......I know! Whoever tells me the truth gets a surprise."
"ME! ME! It was ME!" She shouted as she raised her hand and bounced up and down.

I'm not sure if she actually even HAD done it or if she was just volunteering in order to get the surprise.
She was disappointed when the "surprise" ended up just being a kiss on the cheek, followed by a lecture on lying and drawing on things that aren't ours.

When we have to punish her, secretly we're having to hide that we're laughing because darned it if that evil genius isn't a FUNNY evil genius.

I feel honored that God saw me as capable enough to manage parenting her.

I've got so much love for this little Tazmanian.
But there is no checklist on earth that can prepare anyone for what to expect from her.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Robotic Elephant of Sleep



At first I thought maybe it was a one night thing.
That he was just really exhausted and his nose was stuffy or someting.
But now, on day 14, following night after night after NIGHT of snoring that is so loud I'm positive it can be heard from space,

now I'm starting to worry.

I've tried everything.
I've tried nudging him.
Telling him to turn over.
Poking him, kicking him in the shoulder blades, hitting him with, and even just *lightly* covering his face with a pillow.

It might not be such a problem if I wasn't such a light sleeper.
Something that has served me well through years of having babies in the house who might need attention.
If left to Captain Coma, all three little ones would have choked to death on mucus at one point or another as he slept a mere foot away.

He sleeps through anything.
Car alarms, and earthquakes included.

Thank God I don't.
It's saved our lives before.
There was one time when the next door neighbors had put a lit cigarette but into a dry tree stump that separated our properties and the faint crackle of embers was enough to wake me up.
I got us up, called for help, and got us all to safety.

In minutes there were flames 8 feet in the air.

So I've been conditioned.

Now I'm ruing the day.

I've tried to drown it out.
I turn on the fan and the cd player and the humidifier.
To any other person that alone would keep them awake, but THAT I can sleep through.

His incessant Hoover powered breathing three inches from my ear,
I cannot.

And I get bitter.
I imagine all sorts of evil things to do to him.
All sorts of un-Christian things.

Last night I imagined capturing large spiders and dangling them until JUST the right moment of inhale, then......RELEASE!
Into his mouth they'd descend.

I thought about how great it would be to own an air horn.

I wondered if holding a pillow over his face would REALLY kill him or if it would just put him into a deeper, more silent, sleep.

What's worse is that when I DO wake him and ask him to turn to the other side, he gets all confused.

"Justin, can you turn over?"
*insert confused, scowly stare*
"Can you TURN OVER please?"
*blink. blink.*
.....
"What are you asking me?"
"I'm asking you to TURN OVER. Like I do every night. Multiple times."
Non-Discernable mumble...."I can't figure out what you're saying."
"TURN. OVER. On your other side. To sleep. Sleep good. Cheif wantum sleep."

Then he sighs like I'm asking him to write a six page essay on sleep, and turns over.
Only to start snoring literally 4 seconds later.

Last night I didn't drift off until after 3:00 and even that glorious three hours I slept was broken by episodes of wall vibrating snoring.
THREE HOURS? Seriously? This just can't be.

I'm trying t figure out nice ways to tell him I'm kicking him out of our room.
I've thought about pitching a tent in the yard and luring him in with smores placed on the path like in E.T.

He likes the outdoors.

I used to sort of place scorn on couples who had separate rooms.
Now I realize how fabulous it could be.
All that leg room.....

I tell people about his snoring and almost every time get back a look of concern and a comment about how "Sleep Apnea can really shorten your life expectancy" or something.
I nod, and inside am tapping my fingertips together and thinking,
"Oh....So there's a chance it could be over soon?"

I know I've got annoying habits, too.
He often asks if I need him to build a retaining wall to keep all my clothes I have piled on my dresser from avelanching off onto the floor.
But piles of clothes don't keep you up at night.
Piles of clothes don't lead to bad moods the next day and bug eyed children gawking at "scary mommy" who's got THAT LOOK again.

It's really not my dream to glance over at my 34 year old husband and see him wearing a C-Pap machine.
Looking like some sort of Robotic Elephant of Sleep.
But, you do what you have to the keep your wife from ending your life....er....stay alive.

He's otherwise mostly healthy.
If you forget about things like the bad ju-ju of being Native American while eating a Costco sized box of cinnamon rolls, that is.

This just has to stop.

I'm getting mean.
Er.

A person is not designed to take care of four kids who are all perpetually on the verge of nervous break-downs on only 3 hours of sleep a night.
It's not good when you start recalling old Dexter episodes as you lay in the dark.

It's not good that when he kisses me goodbye in the mornings as he heads off to work, I'm tempted to bite his lips because I'm mad at his loud snorey mouth.

I just heard a motorcycle drive by while I typed this and I jumped, then thought,
"Oh great. Now I have PTSD from it."
I wonder if I'd qualify for a therapy dog.......

I've thought about Breathe Right Strips, but I just don't see how those would work. The sound isn't coming from his NOSE, it's coming from the deep recesses of his being.
Like instead of a skeleton, his insides are formed around a leaf blower.

Now I must go.
I need a nap today.
It's the only way I can function and have the energy to set up his tent later.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Alone Time Unicorn

People.
It's happening.
RIGHT NOW.
I'm actually having
wait for it

ALONE TIME.

Quiet, blissful, rare as gray hair on a baby alone time.

Well, if you remove the dog's weird reverse breathing that she does it's quiet and blissful.
She only does that when she gets excited, though, so maybe she's loving the moment, too.
Her giant Boston Terrier eyeballs bugged out with glee.

The baby is in bed, the little girls are finally sleeping, Justin's at work, and Alena got invited to go see The Hunger Games for the sixth time down at the ghetto three dollar theater.
The theater that hasn't been vacuumed in about 14 years.
That's why they can charge so little.
They save on things like cleaning supplies and fresh paint and warm water in the bathroom sinks.

Also, Alena's at the age where it doesn't matter what it is or where it is as long as it's away from home and it keeps her from having to go upstairs and get something for me.

I don't even know what to DO with alone time any more.
I always think I want it and I'll use it doing spa-like things.
Soaking my feet or painting my nails.
In reality I watch things on YouTube, stare at my reflection in my magnifying mirror and sigh, or scrape dinner leftovers into the trash while the dog drools giant saliva bubbles beside me because she wants some of the brown rice.

All glamor
all the time.

I feel like there's so much I WANT to do with alone time that when I get it, I get so giddy trying to decide what to do first that I spin in circles and hyperventilate and before I know it, the girls are standing in front of me asking for snacks all over again and I've wasted it all.

*POOF*
Gone.
Back to reality.

It seems magical, this alone time.
Like a unicorn.
Powerful, mystical, and never ever seen.

I needed it, though.
Those brief moments of silence.
This has been quite a week.

I have endured so much whining this week I deserve some sort of prize.
At the very least a mylar balloon.
I picture the Pope kissing MY hand.
The girls have taken turns crying like they're in a relay race, passing the baton of terror, and the time-out chair has stayed perpetually warm for days.

It's getting to the point where I'm trying to figure out new consequences for them.
Bigger than taking toys away.
Bigger than going to their rooms to "think about their behavior."
(see: Scream bloody murder and kick the walls)

Like - Den of lions,
maybe.

I might have even considered posting an ad for them on Craigslist if I could ever remember my stupid password....

And it's not only been the little girls.
I'm seeing in Alena this week the beginnings of what other parents of teenagers have warned me about.
Here I thought I'd get by without dealing with it.
She was so sweet. So innocent.
Now I see the look.
The, "I will be mortified if anyone knows we're together" look.
The look of distaste in anything remotely related to family time.

I could set her up with a week at a chess camp and she'd be like,
"I don't play, but I'm there. As long as there's WiFi."

We got invited to a baseball game in a suite last night that had 18 seats available.
She waited to see where we were sitting and then chose her seat.
If we had been seats 1-4, she would have been in seat 18.
Across the aisle with the other group.
The group she'd never even laid eyes on in her life.
Then she spent the whole time casting mournful sideways glances at us then slowly returning to her book.
I tried taking her picture and she'd just make lame faces on purpose to ruin the pictures.
They were already bad enough from that far distance.
All grainy from the zoom I had to do to try to capture her that far away.

Then the girls cried tonight about VBS.
They don't want to go tomorrow, they said, because today they'd been separated and they "don't like being apart."
Uh....
You could have fooled me with the daily torture and drawing of blood they try on each other.
Most days I think they'd as soon hit each other in the temples with rocks than play nicely together.
Now they can't be apart?
Go figure.
I guess that's just siblings for you.

I SUPPOSE I was that way.
I mean, I did tell Branch Roth to remove my brother from the trash can he was sticking him head first into in high school.
Even though I agreed with Branch that wearing a matching sweat-suit and transition lenses was grounds for trash can dunking, I didn't want anyone to do it other than me.
We stuck together when we were in public.
We saved the flogging for at home.
Well. I DID.
Darren just laid there minding his own business eating his microwaved burritos.

On top of all this week's crazy, I've had a sick baby and daycare kids, birthday parties and trips to the city. Father's Day and shopping trips. Return lines and grocery stores.

I just never get a moment's peace.
Whatever happened to laying all afternoon on a Fun Island listening to Bob Marley in the summer?
When is a girl supposed to tweeze her eyebrows?
How does one stay on top of their DVRed Master Chefs?

I deserve some down time now, right?

Wait.
WHAT?

Well.
I did.

But now it's over.

Alena just walked in.

I think I'll make a memorial bumper sticker for my car window.
"In memory of Alone Time 2012.
Gone, but not forgotten."









Saturday, June 9, 2012

Wake Up Call Barbie

This morning it came to me.

I wonder if I could use the same technology they use in race horse gates to build a bedroom door for the girls that won't allow them out until the buzzer sounds.
They'd be in there pawing at the ground - eyes on the prize - until it was at LEAST past 7:00 before theyd be released.
How in the WORLD do they have so much energy?!

They wake up at 6:00 giggling and within five minutes they've dressed up in costumes, built something out of foam blocks, logged on to the computer dismantled 2 rooms and gotten in a fist fight.

I've been wondering the last three days why I'm so tired.
Like
eighty year old, supportive shoes and soft foods tired.

But then I realized that's just how one FEELS with four kids.
I seem to keep forgetting I'm not 20 anymore.
The WORD twenty feels like a foreign language when I say it, actually.

I still feel the same inside.
In my mind.
It's my body that isn't keeping up so well any more.

I mean, I WAKE UP tired.

That's just wrong.

And it doesn't help me ease into my day when the first thing I see with my sleepy eyes is a naked Barbie that just has to be dressed this very second.
Who cares that it's still dark out?
This, apparently, is Nocturnal Barbie.
Haven't you heard of her?

And have you ever tried dressing a Barbie?
It requires the focus and skill of a vascular surgeon to get their arms in those sleeves.
Every single Barbie outfit we own is shredded by the cuffs because those blasted hard, pokey thumbs just
Won't.
Go.
Through.

I am completely convinced that whoever designed them actually hated women.
They wanted not only to give them messed up body images, but they wanted to completely infuriate every sleep deprived mother who'd ever have to help dress them.
Doing it without contacts just by feel while your kids laugh at how funny your hair looks is not exactly top o' the day material.

And my body aches now.
All the time.
I thought I'd be at least 50 before that started, but boy was I wrong.
I've had a stiff neck for so long now I'm forgetting what good mobility feels like, and that has me turning around to look at things like my spine has been fused.

It's made backing up the van pretty hard.
I just pray a lot and try to do it fast so that my window of possible time I could spend backing over someone is a smaller window.

I'm basically completely falling apart.

Yawning.
Limping.
Unable to look behind me.

And the kids.
They're so ENERGETIC.
And unappreciative of all that energy, too.
The things they have to complain about are that their hair band is too tight or their sock seam is funny.
They don't even know how good they have it.

I used to ride my bike miles a day to visit my friend Katie across town.
Now that much riding would put me in traction.
I used to think the cereal pieces in Lucky Charms were just there to make the bright colored pieces you REALLY eat stand out more in the bowl.
Now I have to think about fiber intake and if I ate that much suger my heart would jump out of my chest.

In the last few days alone the girls have run and climbed and swam and jumped and chased and spun and all they have to show for it is some sun on their noses.
Me?
I almost need Hospice tonight.

Chloe acts like her growing pains are enough to earn her an AARP card.
Just wait till she's my age and she realizes she's spent over 85% of her day daydreaming about a foot rub.

The mental space that used to be taken up by thoughts of My Little Ponies and coloring pages will be replaced by fantasies of deep tissue massage and a well fitting Dr. Scholl's gel insert.
And SLEEP.

Oh. Sleep.....

Life just GOES FAST.

You never really understand that when you're younger.
Summers stretch out forever.
Time stands still.
I have childhood memories that, in my mind, were 40 hours long, but I know now were probably mere moments.

Maybe realizing this is what has made me really want to just spend time with the kids this summer.
Crafting, baking, creating.
Living vicariously through them. Remembering what it's like to stay out as long as the mosquitos will let you.

And good thing I have Pinterest.

I have prepped crafts like a crazy person.
I've used so much food coloring there's probably some sort of government surveillance on me.

I guess there's my answer to why I'm so tired lately.
It's probably some sort of food coloring toxemia.
It's probably some rare thing that nobody ever gets, but with my luck, I would.

I mean really - What person in ONE YEAR gets Lyme's, a rare serious reaction to a medication, pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure, a life threatening blood clot and goes into A-fib?
Now a day when I get sick I just assume it's probably the most rare random thing. That way, when it's not, I'm pleasantly surprised.

I've learned to push on, though.
To try harder to enjoy each day as it comes, because there are no guarantees.
See your friends and tell them they're important to you.
Hug your kids even if earlier in the day you used those same hugging hands to pull out clumps of your own hair.
Be kind to your family even if it's easier to take them for granted.

I guess I shouldn't complain that the girls wake me up at 6:00.
At least I have them to wake me up.

One day they'll be gone and I'll get to sleep as late as I want.
Or as late as Justin's Hoover powered snoring will let me.
Instead of buying 4 pairs of new tennis shoes, I'll be able to buy that deep tissue massage and I'm sure
while I'm laying there in perfect peace I'll miss it all.

I'll miss Barbie's dagger hands.
I'll miss wiping down the ENTIRE bathroom after their bath because there was so much splashing.
I'll miss cleaning up the ice cream bar that got left on the coffee table for a half hour and melted all over the shag rug.

OK.
Maybe not that.

I just want to enjoy every day as it comes.

Even if it comes at 6.