Friday, October 28, 2011

sweet siblings

I'm having some computer issues that have made it impossible to download photos onto the existing array of computers in this house. BUT! Yesterday a new harddrive arrived in the mail, and as soon as it's set up I will be on my way. And I will first thing post a picture of Frances with her new purse.

Yes, Frances got a denim across-the-body purse for her birthday that she carries everywhere. In it is: her camera (kids, also for her birthday), cell phone (old one of mine for which we still have the charger, so it "works" though when you call somewhere you get an out of service message, double bonus!), nail file, and chapstick. All of which is so cute of its own accord. Clark is allowed to touch none of it, as you can imagine. Then, the other morning I let Clark get to me with his 3-year-old demands and shrieking, and I yelled at him. While he cried Frances dumped everything in her purse onto the family room floor and said, "You can play with this stuff, Clark."

They both do this, take care of each other emotionally. A couple of weeks ago Frances demanded GUM! GUM! UHUH UUUUHHH!!! not so politely (tired? overstimulated? five?). Her dad and I said we would love to get her some if she could ask a bit more nicely, but she couldn't. She had herself in some emotional spot that she just could not see her way out of. After a few minutes Clark came to the kitchen and said, "Daddy, may Sissy have some gum please?" in the sweetest most charming voice ever. It is so interesting to me that he recognized that Frances couldn't do it herself, that she was unable to get it together, so he did it for her. Sweetness. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Clark seems to think it's time to give up his nap. He's 3 and a half, and perhaps it is indeed time. I've looked forward to this on one hand because having to come home for a nap does tie us down; if there were no napping kids we could stay out and run errands or go play, whatever. But there's a snag, I'm finding - besides the general one, which is that the newly-not-napping kid is still tired as hell and hollering in exhausted frustration because his gum is the wrong flavor. The snag is how to do downtime.

Frances needs downtime. She would go and go and go all day if I let her, and then she would fall to pieces. I believe in, as Waldorf philosophy says, letting the day breathe. In breath, out breath. Outward activity, inward quiet. Then again. During Clark's nap she has developed some space for herself which works well; she quietly sings while she draws (the most common) or sets up a carnival in her room or dresses herself for her doll's tea party. It's amazing and wonderful to watch. When Clark wakes up she comes out of her inward time and they run off with hysterical laughter to play.

Clark knows nothing about downtime. Whenever they are both awake they are together, playing. Vigorously. I haven't figured out yet how to enforce some down time for both at once. I could send them each to their rooms to play, but right now there aren't any toys in Clark's room. (An easy thing to rectify.) Yesterday I had them lie with me on the bed and I read a thousand books until Clark actually fell asleep. Today I thought myself quite brilliant and turned on a CD story that is this minute working well while I write this blog post.

I'm feeling at a loss for what kind of activity he could do, as he usually doesn't play by himself. A few minutes ago the story ended and I gave him some lacing cards. Which he seemed interested in for about 40 seconds until he discovered he could hang onto the lace and throw the board and it would kind of glide like a frisbee. "Look Mama it's a surf board!"

Maybe I should get a table for his trains. I'm open to suggestions here! Maybe raw materials for building? Like rope and silks and boxes? Do I just need StarWars legos instead of plain??? Help!

(As I write this I'm realizing: I'm probably going to have to participate in his quiet time for a while. I did that with Frances. I drew with her, or did drawing games with her, until she enjoyed doing it on her own. (My favorite is when Frances and I take turns adding to a picture until it's a full scene.)  Clark doesn't like drawing and crafts, but I could come up with something to build and do it with him to get him going. The problem I was having was trying to come up with an activity that doesn't include me so I can get other things done during that time. But that thinking is backward. For a bit I'm going to have to give up my time in order to teach him how to have quiet time. Yes yes yes. Tomorrow I will begin.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

solo time

Sunday morning we went to the Memorial Art Gallery because there's a show coming up called Extreme Materials which uses odd or everyday objects to make the art, and one of the installations was going in that morning. I thought the kids would find it cool to see one as it went up. And it was - made of plastic chinese restaurant spoons. Turns out the gallery is an excellent place to be with kids first thing on a Sunday morning. Since we were the only people in the building that didn't work there we wandered around and found our way to organ music upstairs. There was a man in a big hall playing, no one around, and we listened for a bit. Clark put his hands over his ears and said, too loud let's go, but Frances wanted to stay. After a while we went up beside the organ and waited for the organist to pause, and we said hello. He said if we liked it we should come back later for the concert. Frances wanted to.

Clark stayed with his dad while Frances and I went alone to the concert after dinner. She was the only child in the room, and I wondered, when she got squirrelly, if folks around questioned my wisdom in bringing a five year old to an organ concert. But I didn't bring her; she brought me. She sat through an entire hour, which was more than I expected. Some of that time was spent trying to get up the nerve to move from the end of the 3rd row where we were, up to the open seats in the front row. She finally did it, then spent a good bit of the time up there turning and studying the people behind her, goading them to smile at her. Luckily the performer in an organ concert is not facing the audience, a thing I'd never considered one way or the other before. We did spend the last song in the gallery studying the inclusion of genitalia in the 16th century pietas, about which she had lots of questions.

Afterward we went to tell the organist how much we enjoyed it, and he lifted her onto the bench and let her play some sounds. When we left the building it was pouring rain and dark, so we held hands and ran in the rain to the car which was all the way around the other side of the gallery. She thought that was great. AND on the way home when we stopped at the grocery, the cute checkout girl asked Frances if she wanted to scan the bread and bag it.

Back in the car Frances said, "This was the best night ever."

Friday, October 14, 2011

in the garage

I am this minute squeezed into a cushioned kids chair in the garage in the dark with the computer on my lap. I can't turn the lights on because the kids might see me from inside the house, and they think I'm at the grocery or walking the dog but probably not sitting in the garage with a bottle of wine. In fact, I am listening to some impressive music while on hold with applecare. (Who picks their playlist? Sometimes Apple marketing astounds me.) I've spent many an hour recently entertained by their playlist while on hold with applecare. Generally I'm holding while the good spirited front line fella named Jake talks with someone in the back who knows which end is up. Not that Jake doesn't. Just somehow I've dug myself into a digital hole from which only experts can save me.

We had swim lessons tonight, which end later than the kids should be in their pjs, and Mitch is at a work dinner. Sometimes I pressure myself about doing it alone - feel that if I'm a good mom I should be able to put them to bed by myself forcryingoutloud, but other times I'm pretty clear about acknowledging my limitations. Given Clark's incessant screaming and general volatility, my limitations these days come sooner than they have other times. Good Enough Mommy, right? So tonight I have a sitter just for bathing them and putting them to bed. It's someone they love, and whom they haven't seen for a while. Everyone was happy when I lugged my electronics out here.

You may be pleased to know that as long as I don't die from a spider bite I might soon have pictures on a computer again. I have pictures, but I can't get them off the camera. So many I've wanted to post here recently! I have faith in this round of computer support. Maybe it's the wine.

A few minutes ago I nearly killed myself tripping over a trike while unplugging the computer from the wall as requested by Applecare Jake. Besides that, and the spiders, it's rather nice out here. I can hear the rain and smell the sawdust left by the guys who've been working on our house. I can also hear my son screaming absolute bloody murder in the upstairs bathroom. My guess is it's about getting out of the bath, though really, it could be about anything. It's hard to be three. Poor Sitter Liz, but she's a capable human and besides, it's good for Clark to have to receive comfort (and reactions) from people who are not Mommy.

Sometimes Mommy needs a break. I'm pretty sure I would not have believed you if prekids you'd told me that a satisfying break would involve sitting in my dark garage in a kids' chair drinking wine and listening to music akin to The Shins while on applecare hold. Ah, the poetic twists our lives take. I hope Clark doesn't scare away Liz. She's a great sitter, and she folds laundry and does dishes. What more?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

job description, again

I've been thinking lately about my 'job'. It used to be changing diapers and spooning runny food into mouths and nursing and changing diapers and making sure no one choked on the legos, but now it's different. There are times when it seems amorphous to me, when I can't get a handle on it exactly. And then there are other times. Like a couple of nights ago when Clark didn't want to go to sleep. He'd already been read to and sung to and had someone lie down with him and sung to again by multiple people (including my mom, who was visiting), but still he was not asleep. I met him halfway down the stairs and told him he needed to be in bed, and he asked what we grownups were doing downstairs. We were spending grown up time together, I said. "Are you sitting down?" Yes, we were sitting. "I want to sit with you, Mama. Can I pweeeeeesssseee?" Oh my. We were, in fact, watching Dancing with the Stars, which Clark loves. I told him he could come down for two dances, then it was back to bed.

Of course, when it was time to go back to bed Clark was not ready. By now it was an hour and a half past his bedtime, and I was done with negotiations. It was time. So I carried him upstairs shrieking hysterically and I put him in his bed. He climbed out and stood next to the bed. I picked him up and put him back in. He rolled out and stood. I put him back in. He rolled out. Again and again. Every time he rolled out he screamed NO I WON'T and he kept trying to push my anger button. There was a moment when I thought about getting angry, but decided against it. I thought two things: 1) good thing I didn't go to the gym because I'm now getting a great arm and back workout picking him up over and over, and 2) what else do I have to do? I mean, it would have been nice to go downstairs and hang with my mom, especially since it was her last night. But what struck me is that this is my job. This. Standing patiently, putting him back in his bed over and over, however long it takes. I don't have anywhere else to be, anything else to do. I did need to move the laundry to the dryer in the basement, but that could wait. In fact, it all could wait for this.

I thought the same thing last week when Frances had a screaming fit while I was cooking dinner. The end of it found her standing on the stove sobbing down! down!. I lifted her off the stove and she crumpled in my arms, and I just sat with her on my lap, as long as she needed. We could always eat tuna fish and crackers if I didn't finish cooking.

Over and over I learn this same lesson. I don't know why I forget. I slide into thinking that keeping the house is my job, or having things run on schedule, or organizing unruly and amazing amounts of clothes (a feat all its very own): goodwill, pass to friend, next season, too big. And while those certainly are my responsibilities, they are not primary. Simply being with the kids when they truly need me and my attention: that is my job.

Back to Clark, in case you're wondering how that turned out: after a while I started to count how many times I put him back in his bed. My guess is we'd gone about 15 rounds when I started counting, and I got to 32 (he was rolling out much more slowly each time by then though the screaming was just as lively). I was wondering how it would look when he finally gave up, then Mitch came to relieve me. Glad I've been lifting weights these days. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

the Overview Post

I do believe this is the longest stretch between posts since I started the blog. It's been a steady stream of off-kilterness since my birthday: school started for one kid (week 1 september); school started for the other kid (week 2 september); Frances had a multi-leg birthday celebration culminating with a fairy party (photos to come) and a ceiling high stack of gifts; a crew of fellas showed up to work on the house (woodworking guys, stucco guys, painters, their stuff so packed into my garage that my car hasn't been in there for two weeks); grandparents visited; I left Mitch with the kids and spent 4 days in NYC w/ my bestfriend; and I'm sure I'm forgetting something. (Didja hear that? It's true! I left Mitch with the kids and went to NYC all alone on an airplane! Good looking famous people sat one table over at lunch in a charming Village restaurant! I slept til 8 am two days in a row! Excellent times abound!)

It's perhaps because of all the BBETRA (Back to Back Events That Require Adjustment) that Clark is the creature he currently is. Or perhaps because what he is, is a 3-year-old. It appears that I'd forgotten what 3 looks like, though it was only 2 years ago that I had the joy of visiting this stage in FrancesWorld. In case you don't know or don't remember, three is not pretty. This mama blogger says it pretty well (in her recent post "Rule of Three" which for some reason I can't link to directly), and it wasn't actually until I read this post that I realized this was perhaps a stage. STAGES ARE A PAIN IN THE ASS. He's pushing every button I've got and I just keep up the mantra: itsonlyastage itsonlyastage itsonlyastage.

Again - this pattern being pointed out to me by my friend Andrea - when one child is particularly difficult, the other turns into the sweetest lilting tune you've ever heard. They trade. It's always a little bit of a disappointment when Frances throws her fits during Clark's naps: because he's not there to witness them he doesn't know to take on the Fabulous Offspring role when he wakes.

What else? (Since I've been having a bit of trouble coming to the blog at all, I'm not going to be too ambitious with this post. As the title notes, this is an Overview Post, a summary of this corner of the world, no groundshaking observations. Hopefully it will warm me up so I can return with more heft before long.)
  • I have all these wrinkled folded up pieces of paper in my purse covered with hand written blog posts. I think that's how they're going to have to stay: in that archival form of putting hand to paper. It is a nice sensory exercise. 
  • Went to the top of the Empire State because I hadn't been up there in decades. I recommend it. It was night, and dark, and bright lights, and we saw a whole full size firework show over by the Statue of Liberty, the bright blooms of sparks so tiny from up where we were. 
  • Clark requests a new song, Mommy every single night, so I've been going back through my music to remember songs I mostly know by heart and to learn the lyrics to ones I know less. It's turned into a part time job all its own. 
  • Bought some Frye boots in NYC that bring me irrational happiness. 

That's about all, folks. Watching while the seasons change.