Friday, October 28, 2011

Another, Um, Month Gone?

It turns out October is a surprisingly busy month. We have birthdays, trips to pumpkin patches and local attractions like Apple Hill, and of course the usual chaos that comes with red-headed mess makers:

"See no evil..."

"Look ma! No hands!"
I've been working on planning specific activities for the kids. Part of it is to encourage imagination and play, helping them to learn and experience new things. The other part is that sometimes I get to strap them down in one place for 20 minutes:

"Ooohhh... look Grace! Mom thinks this will keep us
out of trouble. Hahahahaha!!!!"

Mark only gets to play with the caps to the markers.

Grace got to color with markers for the first time, and
did a great job drawing circles for mommy!

Strapping them down is helpful, but not foolproof. While they were playing, I got a phone call and went into the other room for just a moment...

"Um, mommy? What does the 'permanent' in
permanent marker mean?"
Luckily, they were washable markers. I may walk out of the room when my 3 year old has a rainbow of markers in front of her, but even I have some brain cells left.

Remember the rice and beans Grace had such a fun time with last March? Mark was too little to participate then, but he's finally outgrown putting things in his mouth all the time, so I let him try it out recently. He loved it! He did quite well, but toward the end he still tried to eat some. Nevertheless, it kept them both busy for a long while which made me happy. Oh, and them too.

Why yes, that is a pink tutu over a party dress.
If one is pretty, two must be prettier!

Mark really got into the whole sensory experience. After
using just his hands for 20 minutes, he graduated
to full body immersion.
It's hard to believe I haven't posted ANY pictures of all our adventures the last two months. I finally went through them, and picked out some of the best. There are over 100. Hey, I told you we'd been busy!! Even the Grands may not be able to handle that much Sunshine at once, so I'll share just one with you today.

When daddy was on vacation last month, we did lots of fun stuff - including the Children's Museum. Both of the kids had a great time playing, exploring and working. Well, maybe not working, but training for future employment.

"What extension please? Can you hold?"

Panama Canal Director OR Disney Park Engineer

Ships captain OR
the role of Ginger on the new Gilligan's Island

Bus Driver OR Practicing for Drivers License

"'Don't worry dad, I've got this one!"

"If you run out of fingers, you can always use your
tongue. It helps."

This was by FAR Gracie's favorite play area. The register
beeps, the drawer opens, and she even handed me
my change! We did this over, and over, and over....
Life isn't always roses though. Earlier this month, Grace was climbing on a toy and fell off. She has a huge smile on her face because she was granted permission for a band-aid. If only everything were that simple.

"This has to rate at least TWO bandaids!"
Mark also got a bandaid this week. He went to the doctor for a check up. He's in the 75% for height, which means his Daddy is very proud of his "big boy" and his mommy is going to have to buy size 2T footie pajamas because his toes are threatening to burst out of the 18 month sleepers due to those long legs.

Mark had a GREAT time at the doctor's office. He played when we first arrived:

"Wow! This doctor stuff is fun! Let's do this every week!"
"I'll dance, you spin on the chair... then we'll switch!"

"Let's see, yep! All stocked up. Are we done here?"
After the kids were done touching, opening and playing with everything not baby-proofed, the nurse finally arrived. Mark cried when I put him in the scale to weigh him (25 lbs!). He cried when I put him down to measure him. He cried when they measured the circumference of his head. He cried when they took his temperature. He cried, cried, cried...

"Breathe? How can I breathe? I'm practically
hyperventilating here!"

"Look lady! Only I put things in my ears!
And for the record, it's usually something edible!"
If he had known what was coming, maybe he would have saved the tears for the final scene:

"What was THAT? I don't care how many
band-aids are involved. I'm NOT going to smile!"

"DeeDee... they SHOT me! SHOT ME!!!
Isn't that illegal or something?"
(DeeDee is a nurse, that's why she can smile while
Mark is so upset...)

"Nevermind what I said about the
doctor being fun. I'm NEVER going back!"
Gracie is also growing by leaps and bounds. You can't see it on the outside, but her words and actions indicate a much deeper level of understanding. She is still in love with the moon, and frequently asks to see it. "Where did the sun go?" is a nightly question, and "It's dark outside/in there/in my room" is a frequent comment.

Recently, I put her hair in a ponytail when we were in the kitchen. When I was done, she said "I'm going to go look in the mirror!" Daddy asked me how long she'd been saying things like that. I replied "About 2 seconds!" She has been fascinated with the mirror lately though. I caught her yesterday admiring how it works:

"Why yes, you do resemble Mrs. Potato Head!"

"Uh, mom? Some privacy please? I'm practicing for
my role on the next Toy Story movie."

"Oh my goodness! Buzz in trouble again??"

"Don't worry, I can be worried and pucker up for the
final kissing scene. Buzz does have a thing
for redheads you know."
Well, you made it to the end! I hope your month was filled with more smiles than bandaids, and that you're taking the time out of a busy life to enjoy those you love. Good job for making it all the way through... not everyone does you know.

"Whew! That was exhausting!"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Because My World Is Small

Once, I held a rather large place in the world.

Okay, not really. It seemed much larger than the place I hold now though. In my early twenties, I had a job where I'd fly all over the West Coast, helping to train staff at new offices from Washington to Arizona. In my thirties, I was part of a statewide organization that brought me into contact with staff from every county in California. Our job was to make recommendations that went straight to the politicians in Sacramento. If I fired up my imagination, I could envision myself sitting in a room with (then) Governor Schwarzenegger... ready to answer questions about the work I did.

Last week, I faced the high pressure decision making that comes with being a stay at home mom: Do I continue doing 55 mph in the slow lane behind a trucker, or dart around in the hopes of passing him before my exit comes up?

I chose the slow lane.

Realization dawned on me that I no longer had meetings to attend. No one would care if I was three minutes late to Target. The brand of graham crackers I choose will not be used as a benchmark for future generations of toddlers. My world has shrunk dramatically.

I enjoyed working at a "real" job. I got a lot of satisfaction from thinking that my ideas and knowledge helped others and made a difference in locations far from where I lived. My work could lighten another's load. My innovations kept other people from having to re-invent the wheel. I worked hard because there was always the chance that excellence in my work could affect people I would never even meet.

Not anymore though. Now my world is small.

Oddly, I found a quiet satisfaction in realizing I could drive as slowly as I wanted. There is a sense of freedom in planning your own day. The world could continue to rush on by. We were heading home to peanut butter and jelly and didn't need the stress of maxing out the speed limit.

I remember watching mini vans in the slow lane as I rushed to and from work. I recalled driving behind "that car" on my way back from lunch, hoping I wasn't late because the person in front of me had nowhere to go, and all day to get there. Sometimes I could actually feel my heart begin to race as I was forced to slow down and take on the pace of the car in front of me. Now I am "that car". I don't worry as much about the car behind me, because my world is small.

When you have young children, you learn very quickly that there is little point in rushing around, shaving seconds off tasks, minutes off trips, moments from conversations. Little feet only move so fast. Little hands are still mastering the task of putting each arm through the right holes in a shirt and strapping the slim velcro shoe closures in just the right spot. Little minds have to observe every detail around them as they walk, lest they trip and fall. Or worse - miss the small shiny object on the ground that everyone else seems not to notice. Little hearts have taught me that getting upset because we are behind a big truck in the slow lane is simply not worth the effort. Little hands, little feet and little hearts remind me daily that my world is small.

Honestly, I do sometimes miss the "big world" where my thoughts and ideas had the potential for far reaching impact. I loved the challenges that required sharp focus and logical thinking. (Something quite lacking in my small world now!) I loved seeing a daytimer filled with meetings, showing in black and white how important I was... to someone. Only now I'm not sure who that someone was.

Now, there are two someone's who feel that I am very important. They don't care how fast I drive, how many meetings I schedule, or whether my thoughts and ideas reach beyond our home. They only care that I am there, and loving them. Because for now... my world is small.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lies Our Parents Tell Us

By parents, I mean OUR parents - the Grands. Remember when you were a teenager, and you thought you knew far more than your parents did? Then you got smacked upside the head with reality and came to your senses? Well, apparently as we age, this process reverses. Your parents tell you things and think you won't catch on.

I'm a bit concerned this will continue to devolve, until they're actually spelling things again. "DeeDee, do you think Jen would mind if we fed I-C-E C-R-E-A-M to her children after taking them to the P-A-R-K during their N-A-P T-I-M-E?" If that conversation ever takes place in front of me, I've already got a game plan. I'm raiding the freezer and eating all the ice cream before they get back.

"She's kidding right? She couldn't possibly eat that
much ice cream..."
"We'd better tell PapaDeeDee to keep some extra
in the deep freeze."
Seriously though, the list of lies is astounding. Here are some of my favorites:

"The kids were great!" - I live with these short people. There is no way you had them for more than 24 hours without someone having a meltdown, eating the dish soap, climbing onto the kitchen table or - and I KNOW this one happened - stealing toys and hitting one another.

"We're just going to get them a little something." - I don't know if there was just too much LSD in the air when they were growing up, but a "little" ice cream somehow ends up being the ZiggyPiggy dish from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. A "little" gift takes up fourteen square feet of your living room, requires more battery power than the first supercomputer, and has it's own atmosphere. Which brings me to my next point...

The Grands are great! Mom and Dad will
never know we haven't slept all night!
"They went to bed a little late." - Clearly the word "little" changes it's definition as one ages. Eleven p.m. is not a "little" late. Eleven was my curfew just three months before I officially became an adult. Remember? Curfew? The time the Grands set as "too late"? Oh, if we could only reverse time. Let's see, my kids are supposed to be in bed by eight. They usually get to bed around ten when they're with The Grands. This equates to my waltzing into the house at 1 a.m. as a teen. If only I could have told them I was "just a little late" and recorded it for future use... but you know what they say about hindsight.

"Enjoy this time, it goes by way too quickly." - Nostalgia, n: a yearning to return to the past. Alzheimers, n: a progressive degenerative neurologic disease characterized by loss of mental ability. Nostalgheimers, n.: a progressive, degenerative loss of mental ability that begins the moment a parent is born.

Generally kept in check during the child rearing years, when grandchildren arrive Nostalgheimers rapidly erases all memory of potty training, temper tantrums, feces artwork and virtual heart attacks brought on by swingset mishaps. Left in its wake are nostalgic memories of the wonder of childhood, where your daughter sincerely asks to touch the moon, the search for a snail supersedes all other responsibilities, and the triumphant announcement "I did it myself!" somehow makes up for the fact that your child has walked into a fully populated room with no clothing, but two shoes on the right feet.

Christmas 2010
Unfortunately, a parent was born in September of 2008, and already the effects of Nostalgheimers is beginning to show in her memory banks. I was looking back on pictures from last year, when Mark had his "faux hawk" hairstyle. I'm already missing that soft red strip of hair down the middle of an almost bald head. Grace was enamored with the smallest of things... and her little face revealed all her emotions, because her words hadn't yet formed well enough.

"I did it myself!"
There is no cure for this disease. So, rather than confront the Grands with their devious behavior, I've decided to let it slide. It really isn't their fault, since it began the day they became parents. (Which makes it my sister's fault. In case you were wondering.)