Friday, September 25, 2009

indian summer

It's been 80 degrees here the past few days. A nice little kick before the cold sets in. The trees are already turning, a sharp bright orange against the blue blue sky.

Our favorite activity is popsicles. Really. After naps (sometimes before depending on how things are deteriorating, but generally after) I give them each a popsicle and we go outside. They sit in their little chairs or cram together in the little tikes car or we draw with sidewalk chalk while they eat their popsicles. I can even leave them out there by themselves a bit if I need to organize things for dinner. The rule is that they can't go down the driveway past the dogwood. Frances is very good about hollering to me if Clark tries to test this rule. She likes being a big sister.

Anyway, popsicle time takes up something like 45 minutes and makes everyone happy. They can be after-nap-crabby crabby crabby but when I say the word popsicles, everything improves. We go out into the sunshine, get some fresh air and vitamin D, eat a festive popsicle. I mean, really. What can be more festive than a popsicle? I bought these little molds at the grocery at the beginning of the summer and just fill them with fruit juice-- I don't ever feel bad about giving them a popsicle because no cane sugar (and certainly no hfcs!). Since we always water down the juice in the kids' cups, full strength juice is something yummy.

What will we do when it's cold and popsicles are not an option? I've loved this little ritual of ours.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

not much

I know I've been posting infrequently these days. I think it's because things are going well. Ha! The trap of good times. I mean, when everything's skipping right along there's not so much to wrestle with here in writing, you know? I'm feeling good, I seem to have an extra parcel of patience, I find the kids interesting rather than exasperating.

There was an interesting incident yesterday morning. I was on the phone trying to place an order of cupcakes to take to Frances's school on Friday for her birthday, and at the same time was slapping together grilled cheese for the little people. Clark was having a general meltdown in the background because he was hungry and tired. And Frances wanted me to find her a balloon to try to blow up. I asked her to wait until I was off the phone. She cried. I explained that I didn't know where one was but I could help her after I was done on the phone. She wailed. She whined. I finally told the bakery I'd have to call them back. Clark was still melting down and I was hurrying with the grilled cheese and Frances was still whining. And I snapped. I turned and hollered, "Frances, I am trying to get lunch together and I can't help you find a balloon right now! I told you I would help you later. If you want to cry about it you'll have to go upstairs." And she said, "You're yelling at me." Which was the most perfect response. I sighed. "Yes, you're right. I was yelling. I shouldn't yell," I said. As I was putting grilled cheese on plates she brought it up again. "Why did you yell?" she asked. "I was frustrated," I said. "I was trying to order cupcakes for your birthday, and you were yelling at me, which made me upset." She nodded. "I'm sorry, Mommy," she said. "I shouldn't have yelled." The look on her face said she'd had some sort of realization, but who knows.

She's been hollering at Clark a lot these days. She yells in his face, "Give me that back!" and he puts his hands over his face and sobs. Poor guy. Mitch thinks she's learning it at school (she can't possibly be learning it around here...) and maybe she is. In any case, I need to point it out to her, need to help her hear herself. There have been a couple of times when I've asked her not to yell at him and she's said, "I didn't." And she really didn't hear that she did. Habits, habits.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

free to be three

Well, the birthday was a success. We had the party early because her grandparents were in town, and organizing the party left me a little torn. Last year we invited everyone--neighbors, friends, Mitch's collegues with kids her age--and it was a big fun cookout with hotdogs and baked beans and watermelon and beer and cake. This year I was considering the same thing, but when I asked her if she wanted lots of people here or only a small group, she said small. Then she said the same thing when I asked her again the next day. And the next. She gave me a list of four friends of hers that she wanted here and she stuck to it. I suggested the kids of some of our favorite people, people I would want for my own sake to have at the party, and she said no. So asked again (children are fickle, right?), and again no. She really knew her mind. I considered ignoring her and planning the party I wanted for her--I mean, she is only three, but then it was her birthday. So little it was.

I try to let her be herself. I try to let her have her own opinions. Mitch lets her be herself so much that whenever he dresses her he insists she pick out her own clothes. I can't let go of control that much yet. She has some mighty cute outfits that I don't want to go unworn, for one thing, and I do have to look at what she's wearing all day.

So in the spirit of letting her be herself: night before last she asked to have her hair cut. Her hair that's never even been trimmed, her baby hair hanging now long down her back. She'd asked a few days before and I said that we'd see how she felt in a day or two to be sure it was what she wanted. In the morning it was still what she wanted. And the next day. So Monday night when she asked again I said, "You sure?" and she said, "Yup! I want it too look like Sophia's." Sophia is her favorite friend and has a little bob and bangs. I said, "You want me to cut it right now?" She brightened up and said, "Yes I do!" I felt a pang. "Your long hair is so pretty!" I said. "You might not be able to wear it in braids anymore, and I love your braids." From the next room Mitch called out, "You can do whatever you want, Frances." Sigh.

But I do want her to be herself. Theoretically. She wants to be someone else, like Sophia or one of the girls on Barney. "Just like Sophia's," she said. So I sat her up on a stool, got the sissors and a comb, and I cut her hair. Short little 1950s bangs, the rest up to her shoulders, which is still pretty long. "Does it look like Sophia's?" she asked. "It looks a little like Sophia's," I said. "The bangs are shorter, but they will grow." I saw a stray hair I'd missed and asked her to sit still again and she said, "Does it look like Sophia's now?" She insisted we call her Sophia for the rest of the night. Later she asked again if it looked like Sophia's and I said, "It will never look just like Sophia's, honey, because Sophia has wavy hair." "I have wavy hair," she said. "No, your hair is straight," I told her. "I have wavy hair and curly hair," she said. "No, it really is straight, Frances," I said. "Sophia!" she said. I said, "Right. I forgot. Sophia. You have straight hair, Sophia."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

my time

Okay, I'm doing it. I'm sitting beside the pool at the gym eating a tuna sandwich, the kids in Kidtown. I did not work out. I came in, dropped the kids off, showered (!), then stretched out on a lounge chair and opened my laptop. They even have music out here, something I've never noticed before, what with the shrieking and splashing that usually accompanies my time here with kids.

I am not without guilt, but now that I'm sitting here--sunshine, light breeze, blue water, crisp pickle on the side--my guilt is thinning. This is just lovely. We took a 40 minute walk in the stroller this morning so I'm alleviated the specific guilt of not exercising. Any other guilt I have is born solely of not being with my kids, not doing more, playing more, being more.

Sometimes I think that the guilt that mothers feel is just part of the job description. Sometimes I think that rather than fight it, try to free myself from it, I should just accept that it's going to be there and then ignore it. Which is what I'm going to do this minute as I close my eyes and listen to the cicadas behind the music.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

monetary cost of sanity

We took a babysitter with us to a 5-year-old's b-day party a couple weekends ago. The issue was that we had two parties that night... the 5-year-old's at 5:30 and then the second at 7, an adults only party on a boat so we couldn't be late (lest me miss the debarquement). Which meant we didn't have time to take the kids home in order to leave them with a sitter, so we had the sitter come to the first party and then she took them home from there while we went on to the 2nd party. Following?

Anyhoo, afterwards I swore that I'm never going anywhere without a sitter again. Oh my it was fabulous. I got to talk to people. And eat food. Seriously. There were crafts at the party and Frances requested that the sitter come do them with her instead of us, and later when Clark was crazy crazy crazy I was able to just ask the sitter to fetch him or make sure he wasn't flinging himself from the porch railing while I continued my conversation with a friend.

Then last weekend we went to a big picnic and I forgot about my previous assertion and I spent the entire time either entertaining one child or chasing the other. Every conversation I had was no more than 3 sentences long. I only ate half my piece of cake. I told Mitch we should have brought a sitter and he just shook his head at me.

The issue is -- what kind of people does it make us if we bring a sitter to a social gathering? Honestly, I think I would look a little sideways my friends if they did it. I would think of it as excessive, as luxurious, and maybe ridiculous. On the other hand, maybe I don't care. Maybe it's worth $20 to be able to enjoy myself socially.

It won't be like this forever. One day, probably sooner than I realize, the kids will be old enough to entertain themselves running around the field with the other kids while I chat with a friend about the chickens she's keeping in her urban backyard.

Does the fact that it won't be like this forever mean I should bring a sitter with me or that I shouldn't? Hm.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Frances: Why is Milo barking?

me: He's barking at those other dogs.

Frances: Why is he barking at those other dogs?

me: Because he wants to play with them.

Frances: Why does he want to play with them?

me: Because he likes playing with other dogs.

Frances: Why does he like playing with other dogs?

me: I'm going to stop answering questions now, Frances.

Frances: Why you going to stop answering questions?