My older daughter, J, loves nothing better than to explain things, and her soliloquies are often so amusing that I wish I could capture their essence on the blog, but I appear unable to recall conversations well enough to portray even their gist.

There is one from a couple of weeks ago that is staying with me no matter what I do:
It was early, and J thought I had snuck off to work, as I sometimes do, without waking her. I overheard her explaining to her sister that Mama had gone already, and Mama has to work, “and sometimes she needs to work extra hours so that she won’t lose her job. She has to work extra hard so that she won’t lose her job, that’s what that means.”

She continued, after an interjection I couldn’t hear by her sister: “Losing her job means that she won’t be able to go to work anymore, and she’ll need to find another place to work. Yeah, well, she tries really hard but she needs to try really hard, because she has to keep her job to look after us. We have to understand, because Mama is needs to not lose her job.”

That was about four repetitions of “lose her job” more than I wanted to hear. She’s a sensitive soul, and takes things to heart, but I had sort of hoped she hadn’t internalized ALL of the angst that is going on around here – as I try to progress from contract to permanent employee. So much for that faint hope!

Naturally, she has her own understanding of what is going on. It probably helps her to verbalize it to her sister.

I have no idea what A thinks of all this. J keeps things inside, but eventually speaks about things. A, in contrast, acts out. And she’s been doing a fair bit of that lately. So I am concerned. Though both of them seem pretty ecstatically happy most of the time, the dull ache from worrying about next year’s job is accompanied by its twin, the worry for the girls’ well-being in the face of family life frought with uncertainty and stress about the future.

Things are good right now, but it is only now that I can look at my family’s year. I’m hard pressed not to be really scathing with myself about it. However, I take one big breath and another and realize that only by chipping away at my fears can I build a future worth having.

Meanwhile, A is getting better and better at speaking, J seems to have more confidence every day, and well, we’re just a family moving forward.

Halloween survived

This year, we got the pumpkins a week ahead, carved them a day ahead, lit them an hour ahead, and generally had things under control.
Nobody decided to be something different an hour before trick-or-treating, nobody complained about their costume. J stood very still for her make up, and was virtually unrecognizable as a witch in green face paint. A was the same blue fairy she was last year, only with fewer outdoor clothes on top. About the same time the girls could no longer contain the urge to crack their glow sticks into light, our friend came over to man the door at home so we could venture forth to demand treats from our neighbours. The glow sticks ignited and attached to costumes and bags, and flashlights in hand, we set out as merry a band as every you’d see.

We ran into a boy from the neighbourhood who used to be in J’s class, and assimilated our little group with his, catching up on news with his Mom and Aunt. The boy said absolutely nothing, but J more than made up for it, explaining all the details of neighbour’s names, families and, oh everything, to him and his mom. Nobody panicked at the sight of the Aunt’s little dog – although A continuously told him, at the top of her lungs, as she climbed down steps from front porches with her growing stash of treats: “You can’t have any!”

The weather was mild and pleasant. We managed over an hour outside, and with the many long driveways in our neighbourhood, the kids earned their few treats before bedtime, and fell fast asleep even as they tried to mumble again that they weren’t even the slightest bit tired.

At our house we had a grand total of 3 groups of treat seekers – for a total of maybe a dozen kids, including ours. We have enough candy to last us till New Years.

The kids are alright

A and J continue to amaze me. Sure, they have their incredibly babyish moments, and their fights, but generally they are exceptionally good-hearted and pleasant to be around.

Take today. I dropped them off at their daycare provider’s. J’s school is putting on a dance performance this afternoon. Because I’m out of work, I have the opportunity to attend. While standing around in the front hall discussing the details of how to get there, it came out that there will be parts when everyone can dance, too! Our daycare provider mentioned that she didn’t like to dance. I said, conscious of the little ears, that I loved to dance, but I wasn’t sure anyone liked to see me!

J and A rushed over, kissed and hugged me,  and announced that they LOVED to see me dance.
My own little fan club.

And, similarly, J applauds herself. The other day she took her sister and I on an exploration. She wanted to show me something, but she turned down the wrong street. We turned back, and went down the other street, and as she crested the hill, she recognized it was certainly the right street this time.
She pumped her arm in the air in celebration. WOO HOO! Yay J! she yelled, and jumped for joy.
What a gal.

My daughter made me a flower in ER yesterday.

I got home from a long work day at 7 last night. By 8 we were at the hospital. J tripped on a blanky she was wearing as a cape – while running. The little grooves between the hardwood planks opened her chin when she crashed to the floor. The cut, although small, was deep, and flappy enough to warrant stitches. I did the rocking and cuddling with icepack, and BH looked up care options, which turned out to be:  back to the hospital I nominally work for, or to urgent care, which might turn us away as they often reach capacity before closing time.
I chose the Children’s hospital, and I’m glad I did, after seeing the skill that the doc employed in cleaning, taping and gluing the wound. J will have only the tiniest of crescent scars, with any luck.

She was a trooper. I took her in and talked to her about what was happening, and what we could expect, and she was much more concerned about what was happening to the other people around us. There was one huge man, bigger than my (sizeable) BH, with a much smaller woman. I wondered where their child was, or if maybe it was his little sibling (her younger child, I guessed) who they were there for. Imagine my surprise when the big man said he was 15 years old! We made friends with 2 babies and their families.

Then, J’s dad joined us around 10, having put A to bed and found a sitter. The nurses put some freezing on J’s wound, and we waited some more. Eventually we were seen by a doc, but in the meantime one volunteer gave J crayons and pictures to colour, and another gave her a flower and showed her how to make one from tissue paper and a pipe cleaner. J, by that time, was worried about her sister, and decided she would give hers to A, and that I could take the other one and put it on my wall at work. She loved her hospital bracelet, so we told her she could leave it on so she could show her friends at daycare. We had time to reflect on the yin and yang of things – had it been any worse, we would have got out of there sooner.

While we waited, we sat, and cuddled, and BH and I chatted about the real estate magazine he brought in with him. J only complained a little about being tired a few minutes before we saw the doctor, and once when we had to wait again in the procedure room for the exam table to be cleaned. But, mostly, she was soaking up all the new things, and enjoying the full attention of both parents.

A strange way to find some family time, but you take what you can get.

Four = Fabulous

My first daughter is now riding a two-wheeler. She’s four.

She had a trike since her second birthday, but couldn’t get the pedalling motion quite figured out. Then her dad told her she could have a bike if she could do 3 laps of the tennis court. A couple of days later, she did 5. She patiently waited (Weeks!) for dad to be available to take her bike shopping, and calmly understood that we weren’t buying the first one we saw. She waited again through several trips to stores till we could be sure we found the right one, and even accepted that it isn’t purple. She loves it.

J is full of exuberance, imagination, determination, and beauty. I cannot believe that she was ever a part of me, or even dependent upon me. And yet, it seems only a tiny time ago she lay in her bassinet, staring back at me, with her fist wrapped around my finger, the first night of her life.

J has reduced the depth of her concern for all things rule-based (I was seriously thinking OCD or something) to a level that allows her to not just tolerate, but embrace deviation from her world view – most of the time. For instance, she can explain to her sister that different families have different rules, and get confirmation from me that she’s right about that.

Tantrums are a thing of the past. Almost. Or at least, they seem fewer, in comparison to her sister’s stage at the moment.

 J’s passions right now are: her bike, books, helping out, dressing up, doing art, and desserts.

I worry at this point that she should be enrolled in Karate, gymnastics, dance or music classes – but I’m going with my (lazy) instincts and letting her just be.

 And what she is, is delightful. I love her physicality. She just throws herself into my arms for a hug. She doesn’t just spit into the sink when brushing teeth, she launches herself up onto the counter, feet off the floor, to get her head in there to do a really good job of spitting.

In February, I bought her a shirt with appliquéd sequins in the shape of a heart the size of her chest. In the afternoon light, it reflects a shimmering river of tiny light spots that dances on the walls and ceiling. You can almost see the love radiating from her in the same way. 

Formerly a somewhat sober child, she is full of grins and giggles. She is very much at home in her body and the world, a lithe and lovely concentration of life.

Learning Pride

Proud is powerful.

Pride is something I want for my children. I didn’t find anything much to be proud of, myself, until I had children. I was moderately good at a number of things, but never excelled at anything. I didn’t feel a level of accomplishment in anything that could be described as pride.

Clear self- perception issues exposed here, but hey, I stand by the statement that I am a Jack of all trades, Master of none. I was a seriously flakey dilettante, or maybe it was ADD.  OK, I felt occasional pride in things I did often and enjoyed, like cooking or sex, but it was a very delicate pride, a puff ball that could be dispersed by the slightest breath of criticism, real or perceived.  

I was amazed to feel truly proud when I had my babies. I was proud of what my body had accomplished and that my children were thriving, despite my uncertainty and obvious mistakes (and those certain to be discovered years later on the therapist’s couch).  I had read of many women who had had problems with carrying, delivering and breastfeeding their babies. I knew it wasn’t really a personal accomplishment, just luck. My pride wasn’t so much about my accomplishment  as I felt proud of my new standing as a mom, something I had longed to be.

But it was a strange source of pride – I was proud for doing something that the majority of people the world over had already accomplished: becoming a parent.

 Maybe it was more of a sense of relief than of pride, really. I had, in a sense, arrived. Suddenly, in at least a small way, I fit in. I was, for want of a better word, normal. I completely understood why Murphy Brown (yes, I know she was a character on a TV show, but hey, get your cultural icons where you will) sang: “You make me feel like a natural woman” to her baby the day he was born. She, like me, had always been an outsider, and here she was, really a part of something: the bond with her child, but also the continuing story that is the human race.

 For the first time, it all made sense: the way the rest of the world lives, what motivates them, what rules they live by, where they are going. Baby and I were one, and yes, I was proud to be one of “them”.

 I no longer feel that pride of solidarity much. My world is too different from any other mom I know to feel one of the Moms of the World much. However, at my advanced age, with my high-stress job, fairly fragile health and two still-thriving little kids, keeping going is an accomplishment. So, I have learnt to be proud of just hanging on.

 And you know, besides being very proud of my friends, their accomplishments and diversity, I am also very proud of having made those friendships, having nurtured, (however spottily) those friendships, having been accepted by those people I greatly admire and just, well, being a person with a great bunch of friends. So that’s another thing. I am proud of my efforts to make friends and be a good friend.

 I’m still looking for something I do well enough to be proud of it as an accomplishment, and looking forward to being an accomplished person.  But in the meantime, I have begun to be proud of my efforts, the inroads I’m making, towards becoming the friend I want to be, and a person I’d like to be, even if that is just defined for the moment as a person who keeps on going.

 I’m hoping that I can exhibit that pride to my children, so they grow up understanding the pride of growing, not just achieving. But I also hope they feel pride in who they are and what they do, before they’re old enough to be grandmothers!

It’s snot impossible…

Seriously, where does all the mucous come from?
BH thought I was kidding when I asked. He pointed out that it is pretty much concocted on-site (the implication being: after all, it isn’t an operation that can be out-sourced overseas or anything). Thanks for the help, honey.
I mean I understand that the mucous membranes create it, but who thought they could produce this much. I mean really!
Sorry, it just is a topic that is pretty much front and centre in my mind these days. I’ll step back a bit:

My early tentative good feelings have been borne out:  Spring has come a month early to these parts. We had a magnificent Easter, the sun came forth and pulled flowers out of the ground in front of our very eyes!
We had our first annual Easter Egg Hunt (held on Good Friday – all about the chocolate, nothing about the liturgy) with a great turnout of littles, bigs and in-betweens. That worked out fabulously – everyone contributed: my best friend supplied not only good cheese, great and abundant chocolate, but also fabulous white sangria! (have I mentioned that’s our summer’s project at the Treehouse? Sangria perfecting? Ah, yes, we have lofty goals!) The rest of the weekend passed in a blur, with more sunshine and a visit from darling brother and his dog.

Then, the coughing started. The kids had it first, of course, but man, when it got to me, it hit hard. The kids trouped off to their new daycare, and I collapsed. Hours at a stretch of exhausted sleep – not a moment of luxuriating with a good book or anything.  How do single or stay-at-home parents manage? I struggled through the weekend, thinking I was getting better, only to collapse again on Monday. If there wasn’t someone to take the kids for a while I don’t know what I would have done. After that,  I worried about work so much while I was off that I possibly came back prematurely. But hey, I sound so awful I get a lot of sympathy on conference calls. This may or may not be balanced by the alarmed looks at in-person meetings while I hack up a lung.

In other news, Monday BH is orchestrating the possibly final part of our move, with professional movers (!). I don’t recommend the convenience of having two houses for an extended period. It makes moving  pretty much death by a thousand cuts. I would rather we had found the time to just devote to the move and have it done. Although I must point out,  I’m not doing any of the move, just trying to set up the usual household systems etc. However,  I am loving living in our new house, love the light and space, and trying to track the kids down in the far reaches of the garden. (Note to self: dark or green clothes, no matter how fetching, will no longer be purchased for fear of losing the littles amongst the greenery. Everyone should have my problems. )

My only real problem with the new place is not as I expected, that I feel out of place due to snootiness of neighbourhood (turns out, I have a very strong “fuck-em if they can’t take a hick” attitude) but guilt. I have always been priviledged, I know this. I grew up with great advantages, education, health, oportunities etc, but this, this new place is ridiculous. I wonder if I can get over the need to apologize for my good fortune?

Last night the girls got haircuts. J is cuter than a button with a short bob that shows off her heavy tresses, while A’s fine hair makes her look remarkably like the kid in Les Miserables posters – except possibly better fed. When I woke J this morning, I couldn’t help exclaiming again over how grown-up she looked. She reached up and felt her bare neck and said “and its still there”. Yep, it wasn’t an elaborate haircutting dream sequence, honey.

Back at work, I continue to try to string together effective sentences while my synapses are clearly mired in this gelatinous goo. On Fridays, my workload seems doable. The rest of the time, I feel like I may or may not make it to the end of May. Perhaps I could find someway to hang on to this hopefulness the rest of the week?

If Blessed are the Peacemakers, I’ll have company in hell

The girls are awesome, and handfuls. J is now 3 going on 13. Honestly, can any one child have more mood swings in one day? She’s smart and bossy to boot.  I caught her not just picking arguments yesterday, but orchestrating them. The conversation at the tablebetween her and her sister, A, while I was out of the room went like this:

J: Say Yummy

A: Yummy

J: Now I’ll say Yucky – Yucky. You say Yummy again.
A: Yummy

J: And I say Yucky. Yucky. – and you say…

A: Yummy

J: Right. Yucky. Now, try it the other way. You say Yucky. Say Yucky.
A: Yucky.

J: Yummy.

A: Yummy.

J: No, you say Yucky now, I say Yummy.  I say Yummy so you say Yucky. Got it?
A: Yucky.

J: OK! Yummy.
A: Yucky!
J: Good girl, that’s right. Now I say Yummy. Yummy. Now we’re ready for Momma.*

And, yes, J really does speak that way. She is annoyingly didactic. Don’t know where she gets that from (says Mrs. Bossypants herself , willfully blind to her own quirks).

On the other hand, A, at almost 2 and a half, raises her own sort of devilment. She takes advantage of the fact that J believes that rules can only be broken by her, and some are sacrosanct.

For instance, J totally took to heart the warning that we do not say “Shut up” in our house.
So A bounces up and down in her crib, and just to get a rise out of her sister,  yells: “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” 

This makes J positively wail. “A__ is saying ‘shut up’ to me” she manages, between sobs. 

A just grins when I come in, then switches to “Get up! Get up! Get up!” and grins some more. Sigh. Eventually, they will get calmed down and asleep, by which time I am only good for going to bed.

And so it goes. That was in November. They’ve been a little quiet lately. They may be plotting the overthrow of the Western world, practicing yet a more diabolical way to befuddle mama, or just saving their strength for another onslaught.

Who knows?

*I’ve tried everything to get this section to have regular spacing, but to no avail. I tried using Word and removing all formatting, then pasting it in, typing it in anew, and I’m out of ideas. Anyone have any ideas on this? I refuse to mess with it any more.

Perfect bliss

Is there really anything I can write that expresses how great it feels to have little arms around my neck after two weeks away?

The big one woke up as the cab dropped me off from the airport. She wanted to know how I had got home. I picked her up and carried her into the other room (so as not to disturb her little sister). Her dad quickly darted in and moved the basket of clean laundry off the big soft rocking chair, and set the light down low for us. J kept her arms tightly linked behind my head, even after we sat down, until she was fully awake, and sure, from searching inspection of my face, that I was really there.

 Then she grilled me about all the modes of transportation I had experienced – from leaving Grandma’s house to arriving home. After that lengthy discussion, and some just plain cuddling, I convinced her that she’d be more comfortable stretched out with her blanket and bear. It wasn’t too hard a sell, since her eyes were already closing; so I took her back to bed.

 That woke up her little sister. All she said was three words: “Mama?”; then, softer: “Mama….”; and finally, with delight, but still quietly: “Mama!” – if she could have said “at last” I think she would have. As I carried her to the rocking chair, her sleepy arms drooped in an attempt to encircle my neck and her heavy head bobbed on my shoulder. Sitting in the chair, she blissfully snuggled her head in, under my chin, tucked her arms in between us and heaved a great sigh of relief, clearly deeply satisfied with her position in the world.

 We rocked for a while. I just inhaled the delicious sleepy scent of my little girl- such a short time ago my baby- aware of what a blessing our every synchronized breath was. I could feel her weight – heavier in my arms – and see the fringe of her hair –  closer to her eyes- had changed  just in the short time I was away. She had changed, so had her sister, and so had I, but we were, forever and ever, a mama and her daughters. They were happy and healthy, strong and beautiful. They loved me still, even if I had been away too long.

 In the stillness of that dark night I was clearly the luckiest woman alive.