Saturday, November 9, 2013

In Which Chaos Attempts to Redefine Itself As Cleaning.

Our house has been on the market for three months. Experts we know describe our local real estate market with words like "collapsed" and "dead" and "maybe you should consider renting."

Thing is, my house is *so nice*. I love it so much. It's very hard to see something I love so much get no love at all.

So you can imagine my excitement this morning to hear the magical questions "can you show the house" and my enthusiastic "YES!!" in response.

One problem.

The house was a disaster. Today was the end of a week that had a lot of priorities and housecleaning was definitely not one of them. At some point this week, K splashed half of her milk on the sliding glass door. It's still there, an amorphous body outlined in semi-transparent yuck, with long skinny legs where the milk ran down and puddled on the floor. The dining room table was buried under who knows what, and when I walked down the hall little ripples of pet hair floated behind me like a the wake of a canoe. My bathroom was a no-mans-land. The kitchen? Let's not talk about it.

I cleaned from the moment I heard the news of the showing until half an hour before they arrived, which is to say 9am to 2:30pm. And I wasn't even close to finishing.

After a few hours I just had to triage, which is why, frankly, the milk is still there on the door and if you look more than a few seconds at any floor surface you'll seriously call into question the origin of the 5 second rule.

The laundry was the biggest challenge. I didn't have time to wash it. I didn't have time to pretend it was clean and fold it. I couldn't just sort it and leave it in several huge piles on the floor. What to do, what to do, what to do?!

Hide it in the car, of course.

I hid so much laundry in my car that it is now impossible to differentiate between the back seat and the way back.

In the end, the cleaning was a relative success. I am reminded of a scene from the movie "Julie and Julia" when Julia Child and her sister look in the mirror all dolled up and one of them says "We look good. Well...good, but not great." That's how my house feels right now.

Now we just wait to see what the buyers thought.

(See that optimism? Buyers. Ha.)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sticky Fingers

Yesterday we had an intervention.

Despite our best efforts, and for lack of any other options, we were forced to evict the long-beloved bath ducks from their home. It was an emotional scene, let me tell you, but I just couldn't have them bringing that mildew under my roof any more and as much as I begged and pleaded, they just wouldn't get clean.

Then we went to Target.

I have a theory that shopping with small children is what really separates the wheat from the chaff, parentally speaking. It requires strategy, forethough, quick thinking, unflappable negotiating skills and physical and mental agility. And that's just to get them from the car to the parking lot.

So the deal (highly unoriginal, I know) is that if they're *really good* they can choose one thing to bring home from the store. And I have veto power over what they choose. Yesterday I vetoed a $35 talking stuffed animal, sparkly permanent markers and chewing gum.

Normally the veto is no problem, but occasionally I feels pangs of guilt, like the one time when F fell in love with an enormous pool noodle that had a seahorse head on the end. On the one hand, it was a harmless toy and kind of sweet looking in a 6' floaty noodle kind of way. On the other hand, knowing F, she'll want to feed it dinner and take it for rides in the car, and take it in the tub and have me dry it off with a special towel and tuck it in bed with her.

She gets very attached. Better to cut things off early.

Finally, we finished shopping (aka saw K's fourth attempt at throwing herself out of the moving cart as the writing on the wall and called it a day) and circled back around to the super discount section. Miracle of miracles, there were 4 bath toys for $3! Talk about timing!

In these situations, F serves as K's proxy for choosing the toys, not because K doesn't have opinions but because I can only deal with so much negotiating and if I never let on that K has a choice, she's just as happy that she got anything. Don't feel too bad for her, she'll grow out of it any minute and I'll be forced to reckon with the both of them. Live in the moment, that's what I always say.

So, F could choose two duck sets or two frog sets, or one of each. She chose two frogs, immediately named them and started telling me all about their complex relationships, including one who couldn't remember if he had a sister. Poor little guy.

Once home, she was apparently still mulling over her choices because she made the following startling announcement:

F: We should go back to Target and steal some of those ducks.

I'm sorry, what?! My precious child, a thief?! Surely not. Surely. NOT.  How does she even know what stealing is? OH, maybe she thinks it is just, like, picking up or know, how we say that Ulrich von Dog is stealing the food off her plate...right?

So I launched into a gentle lecture.

Me: No, baby, I don't think that's a good idea. If we need some ducks we'll go back to the store and buy them. When you're at a store, you have to pay for things at the checkout before you can take them home. It's bad to take things you haven't paid for, and it makes people very angry when you do it. You always have to pay for things at the store.

At this point I expected her to say something reassuring like "Oh, ok, then let's go buy some ducks."


F: I don't like paying for things.

Me (betraying a certain alarm): WHY?!?!

F (shrugging): I just don't.

How could this possibly be? F is brilliant, I assure you, but she has no idea how to count money and has never paid for anything in her entire life.

I guess at this point I just have to up my game: if I thought shopping with two toddlers was bad, now I get to try it with one who has (extra) sticky fingers.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What's In A Name?

I've always been happy with the standard American name "Mama" from my children. It's a soft sort of name, and it sounds so on their soft little voices.

For the last two weeks, F referred to me exclusively as "Mother" (pronounced MUH-ver). At first, being called "Mother" really grated on my nerves, I guess because I'm so accustomed to it having some sort of sarcastic connotation. She wasn't sarcastic. I wondered if it came from watching too much Sound of Music or Mary Poppins on our Sing Along videos (we totally rock the VHS around here). When pressed, F said she did it because Aye the otter asked her to.

Over time, I got used to it. I was getting fond of it, even. Slightly formal, slightly eccentric, my new moniker was like a little microcosm of our family encapsulated in one sweet little word. I was almost proud of it, mostly because it was so funny.

This morning, that all changed. At the park with her friends, we were surrounded by never ending "MOMMY!" and "MAMA" at high pitched squeals meant to travel across a playground the size of two baseball diamonds. Really, it was more charming than it sounds, but before we'd been there 10 minutes, I hear F's voice belt out from across the way "MY MOMMY!" in at attempt to summon me.

And it stuck. All day she's been calling me "My Mommy," even when we're alone.

I tried explaining that no one else we know calls their mother "Mother," so that would be enough to distinguish it among the playground chorus. F just looked at me and laughed.

"You are 'My Mommy.'" she said.

"But you were calling me 'Mother' yesterday. You could still call me 'Mother' now. "

"I don't think so. I told you already, I called you that because Aye asked me to." F clearly thought I was being incredibly slow on the uptake.

"You could still do it today, though..."

"That silly My Mommy. I'll never call you that again."And off she ran to find the giant red ball that had just been blown across the field by a gust of wind.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sad Bird

So I've known for a while the F is pretty sensitive and also has a very good memory, a combination which at times can prove difficult, particularly when there are some things I wish she would forget.

Like,  that charming vocabulary word she has learned because a significant male her in her life uses it to verbally bludgeon inanimate objects into submission without regard for passing 2 year-olds.

There have been other things too. Two weeks ago, the two babies and I were exploring the yard and visiting the volcanoes (aka tree stumps). As we turned the corner on the back of my house I didn't notice a dead bird in the grass before F did. K was trying to eat a spider and Ulrich was trying to chase the cats though the closed downstairs window and I guess I was distracted.

Anyway, but the time I caught up, she'd been looking at it for a while.

"What's this, Mama?"

"Um, it's a bird. Why don't we go find some dandelions?"

She stared at it, unmoving. It was clearly dead, but perhaps of natural causes. I mean, it was intact. I had some vague hopes that she would get bored with it not moving and leave it alone.

Also, I was torn. I didn't want to make a big deal of shooing her away from it, like it was some horrible thing and run the risk of making the whole situation worse. Play it down, was my thought. But also, PLEASE CAN WE JUST GET AWAY FROM THIS DECOMPOSING BIRD, was my other thought.

"Is it going to fwy?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Is it sweeping?"

*cringe* This was getting seriously uncomfortable for me now. How does one explain death to a 2 year old while she's looking at this ugly thing?

"No, it's not sleeping."

"Mama, is the bird sad?"

What could I say? Yes? No? There were no good options. I panicked, muttered some inarticulate response, took her by the hand dragged her off to investigate whether there are any apples on our trees. There aren't.

F is normally a good sleeper, but that night she woke up every hour or so, sobbing huge serious sobs with big tears running down her cheeks. I couldn't get her to tell me what was wrong. I thought she was telling me there was a bug in her bed, but I couldn't find one and I didn't think she would see one if she were asleep anyway.

By the time the fourth wake-up came along, it was P's turn. Daddies have a powerful securing effect on the psyche and she slept through the rest of the night. In the morning she was more coherent.

"I had a bad dream," she told me, as I changed her diaper,"The sad bird was in my bed."

No wonder she woke up so much. What a terrifying dream.

Needless to say, we didn't linger on the topic of the bird and I had hoped the whole thing had been washed away by the river of fun and beautiful experiences F is exposed to every day.

But, when an old family friend came for a visit two days ago and F took her to see the volcanoes, which she and I have visited countless times in between, guess what else came up. As soon as they rounded the corner F pointed to the corner where it had been and said, "There was a sad bird. It did not fwy."

I only wrote about this because it seems like it was such a significant thing for F. I know it's a downer.

It makes me wonder why the human mind is so sensitive to images of death. I also can't really figure out a way to counter the impression the bird gave her. I mean, she sees live birds all the time, of courseh, but what can I do to ease the idea of death into her little world?

Surely it's too early?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Really Expensive Yogurt and Eggplant Dirty Rice

Spring has sprung and allergy season has exploded all over my domicile. There are daffodils and benedryls as far as the eye can see.

P, unused to the terrible zombification that pollen allergies mean to most of the rest of the world, is convinced that he has a collapsed lung or at least leprosy and has confined himself to the downstairs guest room as far away from me and the babies as possible so as not to get us sick and also so he can catch up on some much needed rest. This has left me -1 after the babies are in bed for the evening.

Weird feeling, it is.

What have I been doing with my time? Well, two nights ago I cautiously overcame our ferocious pile of unmatched socks by speaking softly and using a Netflix movie as a way of avoiding direct eye contact. I was even daring enough to throw away a bunch of old worn out socks, which, if you know me even a little, you know that throwing away things of any value at all gives me physical pain. So let that tell you just how worn out those socks were.

While I matched them I watched "Forks Before Knives," a documentary recommended by a friend, about links between diet and health. Specifically, it discusses The China Study, which is an incredible study of thousands of Chinese people and their regional diets, and how those diets are connected to disease. The links between high levels of animal proteins and cancers of various types is stunning.

The next night, I watched a much lower-quality and almost endearingly simple documentary called "Veganucation" or something like that. It tracked three New Yorkers who decided to try being vegan for six weeks while they learned about the reasons for being vegan: health, environment and animal welfare.

I'm tempted to go read the China Study on my own, but right I've already gotten a fairly succinct summary of its high points. It is very compelling, especially in combination from what I learned reading "The Omnivore's Delimma" a few years ago (back when reading books was a real possibility in my daily routine).

Now, I'm not going vegan or vegetarian and likely never will.

For one thing, I don't have the time to suddenly jump into a new way of shopping and cooking for my family. For another, P would never go along with it. Thirdly, I don't have a thorough understanding of how to be a healthy vegetarian and I'm 100% responsible for the nutrition of my children, a responsibility that I already take very seriously. Also, I like meat and cheese (especially cheese!) and I'm just not in the frame of mind right now to commit to that kind of sacrifice.

That said, I have had a change at attitude toward certain things. I no longer think it is funny to hear people joke about how they don't care about how the animals are treated, as long as the bacon tastes good. Good bacon is one of God's most delicious gifts to Western Man, and so is fried chicken and filet mignon and leg of lamb or a good blue cheese, but factory farms are not where it's at.

So here's what I can do: I can make better choices. I'm surrounded by farms up here. Actual farms, where happy children collect eggs on summer afternoons and dairy cows wander around in green fields, hardly even noticing the occasional car going past beyond the white wooden fence. It is expensive, yes, and a little more inconvenient than the supermarket. But I have to remind myself that good treatment of animals is valuable, and anyway, animal protein is harmful in excess. So, I'll pay more for the meat and cheese and possibly eat a little less of it. Surely I can handle this.

Tonight I ate dinner alone(ish) because P took HC on a college visiting roadtrip leaving me and the babies back. I've been making my own babyfood for K ever since she started eating it because it is more economical and I know exactly what's in it. This batch is strawberry/raspberry/banana with whole milk yogurt. I got a big container of the yogurt from the dairy across the street from me...and it costs me almost twice the price of normal yogurt.

It was painful.

 Seriously, I almost had to close my eyes and tear the container across the scanner to check out, like it was a band-aid removal.

Don't look at the receipt, don't look at the receipt, don't look at the receipt...

But now that I've frozen all my little containers of fruit and yogurt puree in neatly labeled stacks, I'm pretty proud of how healthy it is -- for K and for the cows.

For my meal I made vegan eggplant dirty rice, which was surprisingly delicious. I could easily choose this dirty rice over the usual beef kind.

I know with me that these waves of consciousness come and go, their tides determined by what and how many other things I have to think about at any given time. But each time the wave returns I learn something new.

Plus, I never have to start from zero; my feet were already wet from before.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Love is Blind

I've never been one to care much one way or the other about gender specific toys or games, and I've always just bought my girls' toys based on a combination of quality, price and personal fancy. On the way to Turkey when F was tiny, I was surprised when my sister said she was happy to see I bought F some "boys" toys (a race car, I think? whatever it was, it's probably still in Istanbul) to play with on the plane.

Honestly, I hadn't even thought about it.

Fast forward to now, and F's absolute favorite toy is a hard plastic dinosaur we picked up in Target a few weeks ago. She was being very well behaved and I gave her the option of a Hello Kitty figurine or a dinosaur. "That one." she said without hesitation, and then announced his name was Yukub (she didn't clarify the spelling so I'm going with phonetics here).

Yukub goes everywhere F goes these days. Aye is F's stuffed otter, and he will always be the king of her heart, but he is really too dignified to traipse around the sand box. He has soft fur and fluffy insides, and really needs to save up all his energy for the critical bedtime routine that is his unique responsibility.

F and Yukub, at a tea party in the rain.
So in comes Yukub, and he's quite a busy guy. Tonight alone he got his hair washed, teeth brushed, booboos tended to, even got to take his turn at Pat The Bunny (after baby K, since it was her bedtime book, but before F). Who knew that "Paul can put his finger through Mummy's ring. Can YOU put your finger through Mummy's ring?" applied to short yellow dinosaur arms? Well, now you do.

F and Yukub birdwatching.

So I'm left wondering: does the fact that F's two favorite toys are male, and one of them is the opposite of cute a cuddly, imply something about some kind of gender preference she has? Or should I read more into the fact that she has established herself as the dutiful, loving and devoted female in the relationship?

Well, I don't know, but I sure don't hear Yukub complaining.

Friday, April 5, 2013

First Day That Feels Like Spring

For the first time in a long time, today was a beautiful day. I didn't even have to wear a sweater, and I spent most of the day outside.


1. Vegetable garden that was abandoned all last year because I was pregnant and afraid of commitment to bending over, cleaned out.
2. Courtyard garden that was totally reorganized with a bluestone hardscape last fall, cleaned out.
3. Compost pile turned over
4. Compost distributed to vegetable and herb gardens.

Tomorrow, I'm starting tomato plants. They never work (no matter what I do, my seedlings always frizzle up as soon as they sense the real sun) but I have a few seeds left from previous years so I'm going to give it a shot before I just break down and buy some seedlings.

It was so sweet having F play around me while I worked. She talked the ENTIRE time, mostly about random stuff that I couldn't even understand.

Her favorite toy right now is a plastic dinosaur that she named Yakub, and the two of them are inseperable. She has to take very close care of him because he is very demanding and curious.

After she and I were outside for a while, Yakub told her he wanted to watch a movie, but F said no, it was time to play outside. He insisted.

This is the part that amazes me.

F put Yakub on the edge of the herb garden where he could see her shadows on the stone patio, and then acted out "movies" for him with her shadows. There was a cooking movie and a painting movie, and then she had to "rewind" them (yeah, we rock the VHS) and play them again because he liked them so much.

I don't care what you say, that's genius right there.