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Friday, May 23, 2008

Some things I've learned since becoming a parent

1. Sometimes a good night sleep on the end of several sleepless nights makes one even more tired.

2. Few things smell better than Johnson’s Baby Shampoo on the head of a sleeping child.

3. Your children don’t usually have malicious intent when they ask you “but when are we leaving?” for the 100th time or “yes/no/yes/no” in response to an easy question, they are simply trying words and interactions out for the pure fun of it.

4. I would rather spend my tax return on a new swing set than a trip away.

5. While I may not have grown the extra hands I pray for at night, I have learned to better utilize the two I have.

6. That the best part of a jam packed holiday weekend can be the time where everyone gets out of the car in an empty parking lot and you chase your three-year-old around.

7. I’ve begun to understand the notion of a family unit- wherein I do things sometimes for the harmony of the circle of us, rather than fulfilling my own intentions.

8. I know that the sweet smell of a baby’s breath cannot be overshadowed even by the freshest lilac blossom.

9. I understand why experienced moms have messy houses.

10. Few things feel as good in your hand and the soft, fleshy, smallness of your child’s hand.

11. A dog can be a general hassle when you have children, but it makes the best cleaner-upper of all food flung by said children.

12. That being sick and having children to take care of (especially sick ones) is pretty much the worst feeling in the world.

13. I’ve learned it’s worth getting excited about the tinkle of the ice cream truck, catching sight of the first spring butterfly, REALLY good macaroni and cheese, licking the cake batter beaters, finding a new playground and sleeping all together in one big bed.

14. Going to work is “time off.”

15. And that coming home, hearing the unrestrained peels of laughter and excitement at my arrival would warm me through and through like a 1,000 cups of cocoa.

16. It is best to travel with too many wipes than too few.

17. Even though it’s heavy, bring all the clothes for all possible weather patterns.

18. If a dishwasher your kitchen is without, pillage, debt or beg until you get one.

19. That babies give you such huge, gummy grins when they wake at 4:30 a.m. that it is impossible to be angry with them.

20. A colossal, blow-up Elmo and Frosty the Snowman are not the worst things that can happen to your lawn.

21. The start of Sesame Street Live can actually make you cry when you see your child’s face aglow and full of awe when Big Bird takes the stage.

22. Turkey pepperoni is a legitimate protein.

23. Smoothies are the best way to hide nutrition, hands down.

24. Drool can make a lovely leave-in conditioner.

25. Thumb sucking should be encouraged heavily- it far beats chasing down a pacifier in the middle of the night.

26. It’s okay to use whipped cream as topping to bribe kids to eat fruits and vegetables.

27. Satin dresses and hiking shoes can make a stylish ensemble if colors are complimentary.

28. There is an acceptable threshold of spit-up or smeared food on a Mom’s clothing- and it gets higher with every passing year.

29. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being overwhelmed with the long days and equally overwhelmed by the fast years, tearing up at the thought of when your arms can no longer hold your babies in them.

30. Most importantly, I’ve learned that just as ice cream cones, pigtails, wriggling worms in a muddy hand and lighting bugs are all quintessential hallmarks of childhood, it is also the case that cold, interrupted suppers, sleepless nights, a never ending grocery list, a house that can only stay clean for 2 hours, feelings of love so intense we struggle to express them, a kindredness with all other moms who have gone before, a steady, uphill climb toward self-improvement so that we can be a better person for our children, and a sense that the world is a better place because of the magnificent children we are contributing to the human race are all hallmarks of motherhood.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Defining Moments

Don't you just LOVE lipstick?

And the power of soap and water?

You know those moments when your heart feels like it could burst?

I had one today, driving home with our van full of girls (Mochy included.) We had a really lovely day, the one day Sandi was off in between two work stretches. I worked this morning and then we had the whole rest of the day unplanned- an occurrence as infrequent as Haley's Comet.

All four of us, mostly well-rested except maybe for a chronically overtired Sandi, went out on the town for an early dinner. We splurged on yummy dessert, wine for Sandi, and carbohydrates for me (I'm only sort of kidding.) On the way home, our girls were just so unbelievably cheery. Ella and Maya were literally squealing with delight at just having their moms' undivided attention. Sandi was in the back making funny sounds at Maya who was mimicking them exactly and cracking herself up each time. I drove away from the dark, thunderous skies of Bangor toward the sunny, rainbowed skies of Hampden wondering if it was a good sign- hard times behind, smooth sailing ahead. And by this I mean everyday struggle finally abating. I found myself thinking, is there a family happier than us in this moment? I think not. (If you were happier than this at 6 p.m. tonight, go ahead and tell me. I'll be happy for you.)

Oh, and our sizeable tax return checks came in the mail today. Already carved out for next winter's heat, some repair work on our lawn and our gorgeous new energy efficient washer and dryer (our last months electricity bill with the old ones was $240), and some left for play. We are one happy bunch of girls.

Fish Tail - Part II

We got another fish.

This one, reminiscent of it's predecessor, is named "Baby Fish."

We're hopeful for her future since she swims around roughly 100% more than the recently deceased "Fish Fish Baby Fish."

She is a female Betta who will be living her days in solitary (with only herself to look at in a hand mirror for stimulation -she gets all wild thinking she must attack when she sees herself in the reflection) so that we can preserve her current state of being alive. The male Bettas (which we had) are very beautiful, with brilliant colors and large, flapping fins. In some cruel game of nature, the females are puny and muted in color. Ella, of course, choose the girl. No amount of "Oh, look at this pretty one!" would sway her. She wanted the red girl fish. The fish bowl is sitting on our kitchen table and Ella loves to watch her while she eats since Baby Fish tends to blend in with the red plant in her bowl and Ella thinks she is playing hide and seek.

On a side note, here is a conversation about beauty Ella and I had a few weeks ago as we were leaving the house.

Ella: Will people look at me when I wear this dress?
Me: Yes, I suppose they will.
Ella: Will they look at me because I am so beautiful?
Me: Well, yes. You are beautiful. (And herein ensues a deep discussion of how it is important to know that you are beautiful in who you are and what other people think is irrelevant. I attempt to ride the fine line between encouraging unabashed self-confidence in Ella along with a touch of modesty.)

Ella processes all of this momentarily.

Me: (purely out of curiosity) Am I beautiful?
Ella: No.
Me: Will people look at me when we go out?
Ella: No.
Me: Why not?
Ella: Because you are not beautiful.

Thanks a lot. (She did tell me later that I looked beautiful because of the necklace I was wearing. I think she thinks beauty is all about accessorizing.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Casualties of Childhood

Last week we bought Ella a fish. A beta fish that was a brilliant blue - she named him Fish Fish Baby Fish (and sometimes Fish Fish Baby Fish Blue Fish depending on her mood.) We got the obligatory bowl and colored gravel and fake tropical plant to give Fish Fish Baby Fish the full illusion of a natural habitat.

Then we (Ella and myself) got it in our heads that he would be so much happier with a friend.

We did some light research into this and asked some seemingly knowledgeable sales folk the important questions, even asking one guy to get his more experienced co-worker when he said, "Yeah, I think this one will be okay" about some baby shark-type fish that actually needed a heater and air circulator when all we had was a measly bowl.

We were steered in the direction of a larger goldfish- allegedly the little goldfish tend to nip at the beta fish but the big ones not so much since they aren't as intimidated by the beta (also know as the Japanese Fighting Fish.) This was wholly untrue. Our poor beta had bite marks in his side the next morning, earning the still yet unnamed goldfish a big fat "time-out" (as Ella said) in a bowl of his own. Then he made the journey to Beals Island to live among Kristi's fish where hopefully he can learn to play well with others.

And here comes the casualty part: we came home from Beals this afternoon to find a dead Fish Fish Baby Fish. Dead fish don't actually float. At least he didn't. We had him exactly 6 days. Not exactly a record of longevity. We broke the news to a rather stoic Ella who took it all in and then decided that flushing him down the toilet was "not a good idea" and opted for a backyard burial. He was laid to rest this afternoon of May 15, 2008 in a deep hole we pray Mochy won't dig up.

Tomorrow we will be off to the pet store to start the journey all over again.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


During one of Maya's meltdowns this morning, Ella was after me about some insignificant details. I took one of those breaths that has become a part of every hour and said,

"I. Just. Need. A. Minute."

She looked a tad bit afraid but left me alone (for no more than 2 minutes.)

Later, we were getting ready to go to the park and we were having a struggle about a hat. You need a hat. No, I don't want one. Yes, you do - go pick one out. How about my ponytail hat? That is a winter hat - it will be too warm. BUT I WANT MY PONTAIL HAT! (Deep breath) Okay, fine. (what is the harm is she is too hot?)

But she didn't put that or any other hat on and we were at the get-a-hat-on-or-we-won't-go-to-the-park stage when she says to me, "Momma, do just need a minute?"

Off on the wrong foot...

I had one of those days today when I felt the girls were trying to break me.

Sandi and I both had an atrocious nights sleep. Maya was very unsettled and coughed so heartily that it had me up out of bed checking on her every 20 minutes. Sleep, cough, up, fall back in bed, hope it is the last time, trace the edge of sleep again, cough, pop out of bed... repeat...repeat. It was one of those nights that you wonder if you ever slept. Sandi left critically sleep deprived to take care of the critically ill.

I started my morning to take care of the critically cranky.

6:50 a.m., VERY challenging work-out completed (Yes, I rose at 5 to do it), Maya content in one of her baby stimulation contraptions, Ella still asleep, Trish (my every dedicated work-out partner) taking a shower and I am thinking, this is all good. I have time to get breakfast, feed Maya, make some much needed coffee that I now, out of necessity, acquired a taste for, and maybe even unload the dishwasher. Best laid plans... Ella wakes up (on the wrong side of the bed I might add), is furious that I have the blasted baby with me and cannot carry her, wrapped in a blanket, down the stairs. The morning took off from here.

Instead of the nitty gritty details, I will give you a snapshot looking at it through Tricia's eyes. A very hungry Suzanne trying to feed herself her growing-colder-by-the-minute eggs, hold Maya and trying to suction some very nasty things out of her nose that were coming in copious amounts thanks to the screaming, and tend to an equally upset Ella who was yelling at Maya "you stop crying!" Snot was flying in every direction, tears bouncing on the floor like fat, round jelly beans, and there was me taking deep, Yoga-inspired breaths, holding fast to every last thread of sanity. This lasted for close to half an hour. I actually did keep it together and manage to laugh - there was Ella, my opportunistic tantrum thrower, Maya, the clearly overstimulated thanks to her sister, Trish quietly eating her oatmeal and likely reviewing all possible escape routes in her mind, and me, the center of the chaos with about 3 consecutive hours of sleep and a day ahead of me.

My mom says someday I'll look back at my blog and think is funny how my life was all about kids and I had so little remaining awareness of life outside that. Yes, mom, you are right. But it won't be today.

P.S. It did improve with a trip to the park and lunch with a friend (with an equally cranky pre-schooler), our beloved baby sitters who came and took the girls so I could mow the lawn and start to weed the garden. I had said I wanted 1 hour outside. I got 58 minutes. Not bad.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Our Child Prodigy

Ella was asking for some music the other day. We decided on a new "Piano for Playtime" CD we had purchased months ago and hadn't yet opened. It is chock full of the classic composers and Ella, much to our delight, has an affinity for this type of music.

The CD is three tracks in when Ella pauses, thinks for a moment, then asks, "Is this Mozart?"


We looked on the CD back and sure enough- Mozart. It must be all the Baby Einstein.

Then she starts saying things like this, "Maybe my cousins Michaela and Brevan could come over to listen with me 'cuz listening to Mozart is so much fun!"

Drop everything and call Julliard. Ask about early enrollment.

Today, Ella has requested her Mozart piece again. She has cleared the living room rug of all toys, donned her polka-dot twirly dress, pink tights, LL Bean hiking shoes, pink bow in hair and pink fairy wings on her back. I put them on askew and she was aware of the problem instantly when the wings didn't fall properly. Meanwhile, Maya is screaming her cute, q-ball head off while Ella is sweetly giving instructions for the next part of the outfit- now the tights, Momma and don't forget the bow... Finally, we are almost assembled and she says, "Let's put on Mozart, it might help" and I think she is going to say help Maya feel better, "fix my wings."

Is there no end to Mozart's magic?

As she begins her dance (and requests her song on repeat) she informs me that all the "kids" are with her, wearing their dresses, and dancing behind her. Apparently every good Diva needs some background dancers. She twirls in circles, arms full of stuffed animals, and as the music hits a melodic creshendo, she springs the animals free from her arms, projecting them into every corner of the living room. "See? I'm doing cool circuit (a.k.a. circus) tricks like the dogs at the circus." What will she think up next?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

the weak in review

It has been a week of sick, sicker and sickest. Ella one the prize Tuesday through Thursday and Maya picked up the slack on Friday with screams that had us surprised someone didn't come over and see what we were doing to harm our baby. We finished with a Friday evening trip to Walk-In Care. And to think others were out having drinks and dinner.

Some snapshots of our week:

- Sandi went to Home Depot to get a pine door for the investment house (which henceforth I will refer to as the Savage St. house since it is on Savage St. in Bangor). It was improperly marked and, although Sandi told the cashier it was stocked under the sign that said $74 and even though she gave her the correct dimensions of the door, the cashier decided to charge her $13. She said there were so many doors listed in the computer and she didn't know which it was so she gave her the cheapest price. We are so loving the Home Depot moving sale.

- Ella informed everyone that she had a bad cough and was indeed very sick. She needed constant monitoring not to wipe what she began to call her "snotty snot" all over the furniture, Maya's blankets, or anything fabric. I found myself saying, as Emilie once commented she never thought she'd hear herself say it, "Ella, wipe your nose on your shirt instead of on the couch."

- When I took Maya to Walk-In Care, the place was deserted (everyone was having the aforementioned dinner and cocktails) and we got right in. The nurse did her initial interview and vitals and then asked if she could hold the baby. I assumed this to be for medical reasons, assessment and such, that is until she opened the door and announced, "I'm going to go show her off." Luckily by then she had gotten Tylenol and Ibuprofen and had stopped crying. The nurses cooed over her and commented that she looked like a Gerber Baby. The doctor, who also had nothing to do, was prompt and kind and even recognized our name from the article in the paper and asked me about it. Turns out Maya had fluid in her ear, caused by the cold which she got from Ella wiping her snotty snot on everything, and it can be very painful. We were on our way 30 minutes after arrival with numbing drops, license to use pain medication freely and a "your moms are doing a great job" compliment said to Maya but aimed at me. You can never hear that too many times.

- Ella was playing with her rice table and she, very intentionally, dumped a bunch of rice on the floor. Emerson has a tendency to do this often which earns him a prompt time-out. Ella is not really familiar with the time-out, except as a by-stander. She told me of the unfortunate rice-on-the-floor situation and informed me that she needed a time-out. She put herself on the couch and told me to tell her when she could get off.

- I caught the cold too and was reminded, unnecessarily I might add, that being sick and taking care of kids sucks. On Friday, I opted to go to work instead, which left Sandi with one recovering Ella and a getting-worse-by-the-minute Maya, but I told her it is more restful for me to massage. That is no joke.

- Ella was watching "Dora the Explorer" (she watched her quota of TV this week as well as the quota for all the kids on our street) and asked me the following, "Why are Dora and Boots outside so much?" (with a hint of jealousy) and then "Where are their parents and why don't they have to be careful for cars?" (with a hint of incredulity.)

- At around 7:20 a.m. on one of the days of this past week, a young girl on her way to school was driving down Wheelden Heights, took her eyes off the road in search of something, veered off the road, into our drainage ditch, around the back side of our mailbox, across our driveway, into the ditch on the other side and managed to correct and get back on the road. I am not exaggerating when I say that this couldn't be replicated easily by an experienced driver going at the speed she must have been traveling. She fit her car between our mailbox and our thick metal water access pipe with mere inches to spare. Luckily, she was unscathed, just rightly a bit disturbed.

- Our lovely friends, who have decided to get married after 10 years of being together and who have two adorable children the same ages as ours, have asked Sandi to photograph their wedding. What a huge compliment! The wedding is a really low-key private affair taking place on Cadillac Mountain at sunrise in July. And... we get to go stay overnight in Bar Harbor -ALONE!

- We had a week of such miniscule sleep, with the girls being up every few hours sick and Maya staying up for chunks of the night crying, Sandi called into work on Saturday and we all stayed home and had a quiet and relatively restful day. The girls and I are in much better states of health and Sandi went to work with the sniffles today. What are you going to do?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Leaving the nest?

This morning Ella and I were eating breakfast, just the two of us. A school bus drove by and she asked,"Momma, will I ever get to ride on a school bus?"

Oh, my. The thoughts that flooded in- yes, only too soon. No we'll never make you ride on that bully machine where kids get lost and left and the bus drivers should be characters in a Steven King novel. No, you will never go to school; we are going to keep you with us forever. No, honey, you won't need one because you will be home schooled (don't laugh we haven't fully ruled that one out.) No, because you will probably go to Montessori school. On and on these went, the balance of thoughts being a resounding no. But really, the sucker punch to my stomach was of our little girl being big enough to even go somewhere on a bus without us. How could she be contemplating jumping ship already?

"Sure, honey. You'll go on a school bus someday." This was the safest, least emotionally damaging, and largely true answer I could give. Of course, at some point in time she'll go on a school bus. Like taking one from the Bangor Auditorium down to the Waterfront for the Folk Festival in August.

And then... "Momma, will you go with me?"
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