The answer is no, nearly all the time.

Will things always be this way?

Will they always wake up at night?
Will bedtime always feel epic and exhausting?
Will Boy always roam (or stand in his chair) while he’s eating instead of sitting at the table?
Will Boy always dump out every puzzle we have?
Will Boy always take his shoes and socks off within moments of getting in the car?
Will Boy always pee on the floor, the couch, and unsuspecting books?
Will Boy always prefer liquid mama to solid food?
Will Girl always want to talk to me when I’m on the phone with someone else?
Will Girl always insist on the other parent at the precise moment you most want to be with her?
Will Girl always want me to snuggle her in order to go to sleep?
Will Girl always talk in the mouse voice, the one that makes me feel annoyed before even hearing what she says?
Will Girl always be upset over scary things in movies and TV shows?

Right now, it’s 9:14. Girl and Daddy went to a Frozen sing-a-long. After beginning the movie once – and stopping partway through because she was afraid of the wolves and other parts, too – she declared, “I’ll watch it when I’m ten.” That’s been her standard for things like Rudolph, at the point when Clarice is in the Abominable Snowman’s grasp. Girl was in tears, and that was the end for her. Until she’s ten.

She loves the music and can sing the songs (there was at least one month in which we heard the soundtrack every day; Boy knows lots of the words, too!), which is why I thought she’d enjoy it and encouraged her to go; I thought she’d leave after Anne met Kristoff – pre-wolf.

I hear the car door, and since the movie started at 7:30, this can only mean one thing: they watched the whole movie. I’m impressed that she’s been brave – what a milestone! It’s another “no” for the list. No, not always. It only seems that way. While I’m impressed, I’m a little sad, too. Isn’t that always the way?

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“Fock,” she said the other day, and looked at me craftily – no, not craftily, but testingly, sideways, just a little.

“Fock,” she said again. She waited.

“Oh,” I said. I didn’t laugh, and I didn’t gasp. I remained calm – it’s what I’m practicing, being patient and calm. (It’s working pretty well, too – now, I sometimes stop myself mid-shout: “Why am I shouting? Tell me to be calm!” My daughter then says, “Be calm, Mama!”) Besides, I was thrown for a loop; I hadn’t expected this line of conversation. I was trying to figure out how to address this. You can’t just say, “Wait a minute honey; I’ll be right back after I go read a parenting book for advice on how to deal with this situation.” There’s a lot of improv, and maybe it’s not the kind that would make Second City hire me, but as a parent, you do your best – without cursing yourself for not thoroughly preparing for whatever particular moment you find yourself in.

“Is that OK to say?” she asked.

“Where did you hear it?” I countered.

“At school.” Of course. Preschool is educational in many, many ways.

“Oh. Who said it?”

“One of the kids.” Naturally. Or “natch,” as my daughter sometimes likes to say.

“Fock.” She waited again. “It is a bad word?”

Earlier this week, she came home from preschool, telling me how someone had said “hate,” and that she told the student that that wasn’t a nice thing to say. She also told me that the student went on playing and didn’t pay attention to her. Someone else said, “Stupid blocks!” and she also said that it isn’t nice to call things stupid. In our house, we try to avoid lots of words – and not just the obvious ones. (Once, I said “crap” in front of her, and she repeated it over and over for about a minute. I knew then and there that slipping wasn’t an option because I’d hear about it – and so would many, many other people – for a long time.) We try to avoid saying “hate,” “stupid,” “dumb,” “idiot,” “ugly,” and my big three classroom no-no words and phrases, “gay,” “retarded,” and “shut up,” among others – really, the words that are most likely used disparagingly. We don’t always succeed (for instance, Sandra Boynton is prone to use “ugly,” and Lucy in Peanuts uses the word “stupid,” so you either have to say it or go with “silly” or something else on the spot), but we do our best. I told her then that I was proud of her for using her words and telling them how she felt about those words.

So here, we had “fock.” What to do?

“You know how you told the other kids this week that they shouldn’t say ‘hate’ and ‘stupid’? That was really good, and I’m proud of you. There are lots of words like those, and some other words that just aren’t nice to say. You have to decide for yourself if you’re going to be the kind of person who uses them or not.”

And that was it. She hasn’t said it again, and she didn’t say anything else about it. We all like to test our limits, and we all have to figure out who we are – or whom we’d like to be.  I’d like to think that “fock” disappeared because she has decided that she’s not the kind of person who uses those kinds of words. At least for now.

 

According to “they,” children between ages one and five are supposed to sleep about twelve hours a day, give or take. “They,” however, have not had a chance to discuss this with Girl and Boy yet. I wish they would. Boy slept away his early months, rarely cracking an eyelid or giving us a glance before nursing and going back (or, really, continuing) to sleep, sleeping something like twenty-two hours a day. Girl gave up napping at two and a half and hasn’t napped in months, not even when she has been sick.

Even given their approaches to sleep, today was a whole different thing. Yes, Girl had a fever last night, said, “I’m too tired to eat!”, and fell asleep on the bed at 6 in her clothes. Yes, Boy wouldn’t go down for his nap, so he was asleep at 6:45. An early night, given that they’ve been falling asleep at 8:30 or 9:00 lately (and sleeping until 8, too, I should add). A moment of calm. Their daddy had been out of  town for a few days, and when he arrived home a little after seven, the quiet house was a shock.

It didn’t last long enough. Girl coughed and cried some, rousing herself from sleep, and then was happy to see her daddy, holding onto his hand with a strength that belied the effects of her fever, even as she lay with her head on my chest, coughing more. A little after two in the morning, she was coughing even more, and I took her to the shower, hoping the steamy air would soothe what ailed her so she could sleep.

Instead, it seemed to rouse her a bit. To backpedal, I tried to sing her back to sleep, scratch her back – whatever I could do while not waking her brother. Like my first bike, however, backpedaling brought the brakes on, and any sleeping she’d thought of doing came to a pink-Schwinned halt. She’d already had eight hours of sleep. When she saw her daddy again, it really was all over. She wanted to sleep next to him. She wanted to put her head on his shoulder. Sure, she’d go to sleep, she said..

“Daddy!” Boy shouted, springing to his feet in the three o’clock hour and throwing his arms around his daddy. Ah, now no one was sleeping. (Well, maybe the cats still were…)

And just to fast forward: there was no more sleeping. Their daddy went back to bed because work requires some semblance of together-ness, but for the rest of us, there was much frustration (that was mostly me: how hard could it be for them to just go back to sleep – and let me sleep, too?). By four-something, I conceded, and we watched Word World (I still love it!) followed by Classical Baby: The Dance Show. Twice. She ate an apple, he ate grapes.

He napped from almost 8 until 9:45. He wouldn’t nap in the afternoon. (To be fair, he may have, had it not been for the less-than-helpful kissiness, leaning-over-my-shoulderness, and general distracting nature of Girl. How is it that such things, which, under other circumstances, would be so endearing, can be so distracting?) She did not nap at all, though not for lack of my effort.

He went to sleep around 5:30, maybe 5:45 tonight. He was toast (the “oops, I sure left that in the toaster too long!” kind).

And Girl? She was asleep at 7:00. Just to make this clear: she was awake from 2:15 in the morning until 7:00 at night! Nearly seventeen hours. How is that possible? The fever seemed to fade away to nothing, and all that was left was a mad desire to stay awake, logic and sleepiness be darned.

Sleep is good. At some point, we realize that, often when we’re least able to get it. Sleep was in front of them, served up on a platter, steaming and fragrant. Mmmm, sleep. I could almost taste it. Was it not appetizing to them? Did I inadvertently try to serve Girl a steaming pile of mashed potato-esque sleep? (And what IS the deal with her cough? How much do I need to worry?)

I’m hoping for a better night tonight.

Once I get more sleep, I’m looking for “they”;  I hope “they” can set my children straight on this sleep thing. If you’ve seen them, would you send them my way? While you’re at it, would you throw in a few extra hours of sleep? Rest assured, I’ll put them to good use.

This is what nighttime should look like.

This is what nighttime should look like.

Dan Yaccarino’s Five Little Pumpkins isn’t my favorite work of his – the drawings don’t match the charm of Every Friday, and the rhyme, new to me, doesn’t bring up any feelings of nostalgia. Girl doesn’t know it, either, so our first reading was her first exposure to it, too.

And therein lies what made our first reading interesting, what makes me love Five Little Pumpkins so much more than I expected to love it:

She read it to me.

She. Read. It. To. Me.

She read it to me!

She needed help with a few words, like “there” and “are” – we talked about the silent “e” at the end of words, and how that makes the vowel long (as in “five”), so she figured out “late” and “gate,” but “there” didn’t work that way – although she knew to make the “th” sound. “Night” proved difficult, too – no ghost of a “g” sound slips in there. She patiently sounded out what she could, trying out sounds until the word settled into place, like finally getting a chord right when sight-reading difficult sheet music. The ear knows.. “G-ah-t-uh…g-ah-t…g-a-t-uh…g-a-t…gate!”

For this four-and-a-half (plus one week!) year old, the gate is open. She’s known words like “the” and “and” for a year, at least, thanks to her daddy’s patient work, and now, she knows more. What she doesn’t know, she can often figure out – and that’s reading. Reading!

And maybe I love Five Little Pumpkins more than it deserves to be loved, but really, isn’t that what love is all about?

(9/19/14) Eleven. He has exactly eleven teeth: the eight in front (minus the bit sacrificed to the rock in the front yard) plus three molars, the top right one deciding it would wait just a bit longer to put in an appearance. It’s not a full party without it.

No canine teeth yet, although he does love to see dogs.

It shouldn’t surprise me that things happen differently with him than with his sister, but sometimes it does. She ate solid food more readily than he does. I feel like she had more teeth sooner. You could pat her to sleep, even if it took a long time; he’s not so willing to lie down and be still. She was – and is – a passionate girl, but she’s found her rival. She could be loud, then she could be louder. With Boy, though – well, let’s just say he goes to eleven, just like his teeth.

Only, now that it’s 10/10/14, his half-birthday, he – weighing in at 28 1/2 pounds – has more teeth (that’s what happen when you start blog posts but Boy wakes up). No more eleven for him! As of last week, or maybe the week before that, he had four more teeth (those canines were barking!), with a fifth new tooth pressing through his gums. The tightness is not unlike a pregnant belly, skin taut, covering the motion and growth it covers, the start of something new.

Tonight, as he was winding down for sleep, Boy roused himself, saying, “Dada. Dada. I luhv-oo. Hug. Down.” He climbed off the bed, said, “Hand,” and held my hand as we walked into his sister’s room, where Dada was, in fact, reading to Girl. Boy hugged them and told them he loved them, just as he’d said he would do.

I went along with it. Really, it doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

But I also knew that resistance was futile. If I’d stopped him, he’d have gone to eleven – one louder – and who needs anything more than a ten?

Photo from yesterday, after fountain splashing

Photo from yesterday, after fountain splashing

 

 

Maybe something funny, like, “I’m moving out!” or “Ready for vacation?” But in this case, no. Just exactly, exactly what you’d hope for, if you were a mama, or at least this mama.

“I love you!” he proclaimed yesterday for the first time. Maybe he really proclaimed something like “I luhv-oo!” – but either way, it was enough to make a mama’s/daddy’s/big sister’s heart warm and swell and become sappy like a maple in the spring. While we’d been working toward bedtime (reading a new favorite, baby loves by William Lach, which pairs simple text with the art of Mary Cassatt – he will “read” lots of it to us!), he wanted to tell “Nannie” (his nickname for his sister) good-night and headed toward the edge of the bed so he could go to her room and see her. I told him “I love you,” and he told me, then Nannie, then Daddy with such inflection that – well, a maple in spring, I was.

His sister had a big day, too – from playing with her friend, a seven-year-old neighbor, she learned to flip over on the swing. She’d already mastered the “put-your-legs-above-your-head” move, so flipping over added a new (but very exciting) step to the process. Gravity? Head pointing away from the center of the earth? Those rules don’t apply to her – at least, not all the time. A new kind of freedom – and lots of cheering from her fan club.

Their mouths and bodies learn to contort themselves, to wrap themselves around new phrases, ideas, and motions, and we cheer, we applaud, we hug, and we revel in all the new things they’ve done, all the new that’s yet to come.

“Huhmp,” he says, holding his arms up and asking for help scaling the ladder-like side of the couch or chair or the bathroom cabinet. “Huhmp,” he says with an accompanying nod, a statement of what you will freely offer, not a question about what you are willing to give. We hold his hands and he leads us where he wants to go, walking vertically or horizontally as his whim dictates, his tucked head and body toboggan-like as he races up a ladder of wicker.

Perhaps we, his trainers, are too slow. He leaves our assistance behind to complete the circuit himself.

Hold the arm of the chair; step up; lean forward; mash your head into the seat of the chair, catapult-like, to launch the rest of your body forward. Rise from the chair and climb across the other arm and onto the table. Stand. Perhaps climb to the top of the record player atop the table and stand, back pressed against the bookcase, and smile in triumph, surveying your world from a great height. Descend to the table top. Stand at the edge, looking like someone about to plunge into a swimming hole on a hot day. Listen to the admonishment to sit and, for a moment, obey something beyond your ambition and personal drive. Sit or squat at the table’s edge. Scoot or slide to the floor, face-forward or on your belly. Save the plunge for later.

Smile in triumph again.

Do not rest on your laurels.

Back to the beginning, and begin again.

It’s like flying.

Without going very far.

The earth disappears below you, and you rise skyward, your vision filled with cerulean and white and scalloped edges so bold and bright in front of you that it’s difficult to tell whether the blue frames the white or the white frames the blue.

Into that blue, birds fly head first, but our feet lead, no longer the leaden earth-bound weights they usually are.

We swing up, up – then back in the prescribed arc so that we can fly forward again. We are both free and bound.

“Push me!” plead the small children, with eyes or words.

“Push me!” pled my daughter last week, as I stepped away from her to push her brother’s swing.

I stopped and looked at her. Her brother slowed but she swung as high as before, then higher still. Her legs propelled her forward then back.

We realized at the same time.

“I’m pumping!”

“I don’t need to push you!”

I cheered her and she flew, as happily as if she had wings, as if the chains themselves were made of cloud.

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A cheery fire in the fireplace on a day heavy with snow.

Blackberry cobbler, straight out of the oven.

Mushrooms, meaty and juicy, coming off of a hot grill.

Water from the kettle when you’re brewing tea.

Texas in the summertime.

The plastic slide on a swingset on a late May day.

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An order of forty pizzas would involve a lot of pepperoni and could feed a soccer team or two. A bouquet of forty flowers would rival a small garden in beauty and splendor, with dahlias and tulips and lilies all vying for attention. Forty pairs of shoes would take up a healthy chunk of closet real estate (but nothing like Imelda Marcos’ 1200 – or was it nearly 3000? – pairs!). Forty kids would be more than even the Duggars have. Forty cats would totally make you the crazy cat lady. For the record, I am not one of those. Yet.

Forty years…would land me here, in this town, with this family, with this life. I can’t believe the number’s getting so big, but I can’t believe how lucky I feel to be living this life, either, or how I suddenly feel the need to ration my time, to be more cautious and yet more free, to use it as I see fit and not just in a way that makes the days pass.

Forty may be getting on, but, to paraphrase a song from the musical which was my musical debut (and swan song) in high school: there’s still a lot of living to do.

Besides, forty pennies wouldn’t get you far, so forty can’t really be that many, can it?

40+1 day

40+1 day

 

 

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