Monday, March 29, 2010

Keep Your Shirt On

Just now, I caught the girls playing outside naked and I went ballistic.

That's an exaggeration. I didn't exactly go ballistic. But I may or may not have said "what is the matter with you?" four or five times in a row.

Look, I sent the little exhibitionists outside with clothes on, ok? And I think I have ten minutes to, I don't know, check my email or do some laundry or basically engage in all kinds of the not-savoring-your-children behavior I was preaching against last Thursday.

And then I find them naked as mole rats on the patio reveling in the water hose. And what the hell, kids? You have been told a billion times you can't go outside in your nuddy-pants anymore. At our old house you were babies and no one could see you, and birthday suits were acceptable. Here, the entire neighborhood can see you, including the neighbors that come running out onto their raised back patio when Josh and Keen Eye start fighting and ask if everything is ok. Nobody in Fort Collins minds their own business, and especially not our neighbors.

"If you keep going outside naked," I say to the girls, deciding to level with them, "the neighbors will think mommy is a BAD MOMMY and call the police."

(This is the kind of truth-bomb I drop on them when all other methods of coercion are exhausted). Like this:

"Mommy, can I throw my trash on the ground?"

"No honey, I goes in the trash can."

"But can't I just throw it over here? Those people did."

"No honey, because it isn't polite."

"Mommy, I want to throw cans in the river!"

"Don't throw your cans in the river and mummy will buy you an ice cream."

"But mommy, can't I just--"


I'm calling this day a wash and preparing for a better one tomorrow.

But yesterday, Noah planned an outing to the park, and it was lovely, and here is the evidence.

Noah brought snacks of bananas and milk and cornbread. We have known for some time now that Noah should have been the stay at home parent all along, ok? So don't feel compelled to write to me and say "Vesuvius, we have noticed that Noah is capable of bringing the girls to the park supplied with more than a pack of gum and a fantasy novel. . ." or even, "Vesuvius, we have noticed that Noah takes the girls to the park." We know, we know. It's too late now. One does what one must.

This One must now go run interference on two goblin children who are recreating the mudfest that was the original Woodstock in the back yard.

Love to you.





Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fields of Gold


Sometimes, even though you know better, you aren't capable of doing better.

So many days go by, so many moments that I don't hold. Don't savor.

So much of the time I am not present.

I am thinking about dinner and the dishes. I am wishing for a moment to sit down and read. Sit down and go brainless in front of the tv.

So much of the girls' babyhoods I don't really remember.

So much of it flew by, busied up with trips to the doctor and the grocery store and Target and Old Navy. So much of it I spent wishing for it to be over. Wishing not to have babies that woke every hour during the night. Wishing not to have two-year-olds who would scream and kick in the grocery store, in the car. Who would break my jewelry, destroy my things, dirty up the house.

The great question of life: how to be present when simply living seems to require your distraction?

If I didn't do all these things, nobody would eat. Nobody would get their vaccinations. The house would become filthy. It's not something to feel guilty over. But still: I wish I had spent more moments forgetting everything else in the entire world except for Ayla. Pretending there was nothing on this earth that mattered a bit, save Indiana.

The good news is this: It's never too late. To start.

It's not too late to become present.

It's not too late for anything.

It's not too late to spend more time being fully there with my children. That is all they really want. My presence. My full engagement.

It's not too late to remember to spend time alone with each of them. Every day.

I don't mean that I should feel guilty over grocery shopping, or spending time alone. I have to take care of myself, I have to take time to maintain peace in my own soul if I am going to be any good to them. You can't take care of others until you have tended to yourself. (Even in a plane crash, they tell you: Put your own oxygen on first! You can't assist your child if you have passed out.)

But yet. There are other things that can wait. Someday when I am old, I can go back and read all back entries of blogs and check out as many library books as I want.

My daughters being young is time I won't get back.

"I swear," she says, "in the days still left. . . "

There are days still left. There is time to put things right.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Question

Indy told me she didn't like me anymore. Ayla didn't like me anymore because I wouldn't let her have a brownie before dinner. I can't remember what I did to lose Indy's affection.

I'm sure it was horrible.

What I look like to Indy:


What Indy looks like to me:


After Indy didn't like me anymore, and wasn't going to play with me or be my friend--all things that she had heard Ayla say, as Ayla ranted and stomped upstairs--she came into the bathroom to pee. I could see her from the bed.

Mom, she said. You still love me?

So casually she spoke. Mom, what's this called? Mom, what's for dinner? Mom, you still love me?

Yep Indy. I sure do. Yes, Indy. I quoted my mother. Nothing you will ever do will make me stop loving you.

Ok, said Indy. Bye mom.

Bye, Indy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Full of Wish


I really hate Fort Collins, you guys.

Really truly. I really do.

I admit that in college I fantasized about the entire town being wiped out by a meteor.

Now I fantasize that about Orange County.

Wow, we are really getting deep into my psyche here, aren't we?

Dalley and Lindsey M. will tell you. I came home griping about the FC almost every single day. In retrospect, I don't know how I lasted four years of college here. Why didn't I leave this town I hate and go to college somewhere else?

The thought was overwhelming.

I did entertain the idea of transferring to Trinity College, Dublin, after my freshman year.

Trinity College Dublin, ha!

Perhaps I set my sights on the unattainable as an excuse for not having to really try.

Do I regret not going to Trinity College? Shrug.

I fantasized about meeting an Irish boy and falling in love. I fantasized about roaming the streets of Dublin alone.

Do I regret not going? Not really. If I had gone, I wouldn't have met Noah. What does one do, with things like this?

You did what you did. You made your decisions. I don't regret not going to Trinity College, Dublin.

1) I have less student loan debt for it and

2) Noah. Ayla. Indiana.

I got my hair dyed. Again.

Noah will tell you, I am never exactly thrilled with the results.

Except for one time. This is the only picture that survives of that time. My brother-in-law Zach got me drunk on Bahama Mamas and I snapped about a thousand pictures of myself and my mermaid hair in the back of his car while he and Noah chatted in the front seat and generally ignored in inebriation (until I had to use the bathroom more than any person in the history of the earth has had to use the bathroom before and we pulled off some boulevard in Tustin and I ran into some chain pizza joint, the kind of place my brother-in-law Zach would never DREAM of eating). Anyway, all the other pictures got lost when my desktop died. But here's the one that made it:


We were at Babe's in Palm Desert. Zach and Suzy ordered the iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing, like the sophisticated southern Californians they are, and Noah and I didn't, and I was jealous of their salad.

I loved that necklace terribly and it fell right to pieces. This is why you don't buy jewelry from Forever 21. It costs five dollars and lasts five minutes.


I am dreaming to move out of Fort Collins.

Dreams are sensitive. Here is what I dream.

I dream of land in Montana.

I dream of the dusty red expanses of the New Mexican desert.

I dream of New York.

"You know in fantasy books, how there's always the one really prosperous country, and the author always describes it as full of wonderful delicacies and rarities," I said to Noah. "That is New York. It is full of marvels."

I hope I get these things that I dream. I sent up a prayer. I haven't asked for anything for a long time. So I asked for this.

There are things yet to be seen.

I would like to see more marvels.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Ice, Man, Melteth!


At the store were free samples of honeydew, cantaloupe, oranges. I bought the first strawberries of the season. I could have cried with happiness.

The park was overrun, but it was ok. Everyone was happy. The parents weren't cranky and the children didn't fight. We shed layer after layer of clothing. Jackets, sweatshirts, socks. A woman who could only be described as hyper had a Weimeraner puppy on a leash, and I even chatted with her for a few minutes, Indy petting the soft gray fellow, before edging away.

Some people are drawn to these loud ladies who don't stop talking. But I am frightened of them. They might tell me too much. They might ask personal questions. They might never let me go.

A dad pushed twelve giggling kids who weren't even his over and over on the tire swing.

The good mothers had all brought picnics. The mothers next to me were so good that they mentioned their "peanut butter and vanilla bean honey" sandwiches at least seven times. They also made a show of serving 'dad's yogurt'. Your dad makes yogurt?

Yeah, well. Real dads brew beer.

Did I mention the sky was blue and it was the first warm day of the year? The first warm day of the year, the one that makes you feel you have survived something. You have overcome. Everyone's hair glows flower colored in the new warm light. These were not girls and boys, running pale legged in the sun. These were tulips, crocuses, daffodils. Sure, some of them might actually be weeds, and some of them surely have thorns, but you couldn't tell, this day. Or it didn't matter.

On the drive home, Ayla began to fail. She is so unfairly hot-blooded. "Mom," she moaned. "It's so hot, it's just so so hot. I am melting in my boots. We should have brought some ICE to put down my BACK."

We took an impromptu picnic of Chick-fil-a back to the park. Ayla was too hot and tired to go on.

In college, spring means break and bikinis and fruity drinks. But in motherhood, spring means tired children. There is absolutely no contest as to which is better.

This morning, Ayla has been on me to hard boil eggs. Even though she knows it's not Easter yet, she says, she just wants to pretend. I was making breakfast. She grew tired of waiting for the hard boiled eggs.

"Never mind," she said. "I'm going to go be a chicken."

She nestled into the carpet, clucking and flapping her skinny elbow wings.

Welcome, birdies. Welcome, flowers. Welcome, strawberries. Welcome, sunshine.

The earth says hello.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Pride, It Cometh!

I was feeling really proud of myself this morning.

I was measuring the coffee and thinking about how one day, my girls won't ask me to get down on the floor and play pretend with them, and they won't think it's funny when I make Furby blow up Ariel and Lilo with his laser eyes, and how they'll find the campy German accent I give one ham-fisted blond prince even less funny than they do now.

But I thought that would be ok, because even though we won't do that, my girls will be grown up and developed into their own people. With their own personalities and preferences and passions that are not mine.

And this is when I started feeling proud of myself. Because I, you see, have been dedicated from the very beginning to being the kind of mother that lets my children be their own people. Who doesn't demand or even want them to be like me. Who admires, develops, and respects their individuality.

I pictured them, all grown up. I envisioned their individual, not me, future selves. There was Ayla, in her early 20's, going to college and reading Simone DeBeauvoir and bell hooks and Naomi Wolf and coming home to discuss feminism with me on the weekends.

And there were Indy and I, hanging out at the bookstore, watching the new Joss Whedon, happily discussing Western writers and excited for the Syfy channel's new show.

I'm kidding. A little bit. But I did have to admit how readily and fully I am going to accept my daughters' uniqueness.

As long as they are unique LIKE ME.

Suddenly I wasn't feeling so proud, and I began to panic. I had visions of Ayla telling me that women are the fairer sex and just not good at things like leadership and politics due to their genetic makeup or the presence of ovaries or what have you. She would eschew Harry Potter and care about things like handbag and high heel designers. I imagined Indy developing a fondness for chick lit and trite romantic comedies and Stephanie Meyer. .. and. . .Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or Anne Coulter.

Anne Coulter! Wouldn't that be just like a daughter, to develop a love for what her mother cannot stand? (I chose not to use the word 'anathema' here because I don't like it) (There is a pun waiting to happen there, yes).

And then I think about how I'm due for payback for what I've done to my poor mother, who is ready and happy to accept all manner of my uniqueness and different passions as long as I would just grant her one wish and remain a Lutheran.

And what do I do? Turn 21 and promptly leave the Lutheran church.

Sorry mom.

I a due for a payback for sure.

*According to this site, those superheroes? All Lutheran.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Belle Epoque

When Indy is pleased with me she calls me Sprinkle Mommy.

She asks me to call her Sprinkle Kitty or Kitty Sprinkle Dress.

We've been taking walks around the neighborhood in this false spring. Ayla rides her bike. Indy pushes a baby stroller with no seat and no baby.

I think she just likes pushing things around.

Indy rocks pairs of my underwear with the leg holes stretched over her shoulders like nobody you've ever seen.

Indy sings when she uses the potty.

Indy commands me to scratch her back and I obey.

Indy has two very short patches in her thicket of hair where I've had to cut out gum.

At the McDonald's playplace, Indy came to me, pointed to an older girl doing gymnastics moves, and said, "That's my friend Tara. Her don't talk. But her dance."

Indy thinks Lady Gaga wants to poke her face.

Ayla entertains herself more or less all the time. She has learned to say, "I'd like to be alone" and sometimes she even says please.

She is waging a campaign for us to buy Potty Patches, and hard.

"I want you buy one of them for Grammy because Lucky keeps peeing in the house. You just put three drops in it, of water. And then cats can pee on it. Or dogs. But Josh doesn't really do it, only Lucky."

She is dying to go to the art museum and dying for me to take her to Target and buy her a toy.

But when I take her, she spends two hours walking up and down each aisle and agonizing over what to pick.

And I am not using the word 'agonizing' lightly.

Ayla asks us to scratch her feet. She enjoys blue cheese stuffed olives and natural cheetos to an inordinate degree.

Ayla yells at me, and slams the door, and then comes out to tell me she's sorry she was mean to me.

Ayla's favorite movie is a French black and white film from 1946 called "La belle et la bete". She also loves the original King Kong.

Ayla never, ever forgets.

Ayla wants to know, "Why can't I pick water up, but I can put my foot in it?"

Ayla snores.

Ayla gets ticked and tells Indy she's making her "So nervous and so so angry!"

And so it goes. Noah plays 'monster'. The girls ask him to kiss them "like a kitty. Like a dragon! Like a dinosaur! Like a monster! Like a fairy!" And he obliges.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Allow Me To Indulge

Last night, I dreamed that I was Jeremy Renner's girlfriend, and I was telling the press that I hope Jeremy does not win the Oscar because I felt it would put too much pressure on him so early in his career.

What the hell?

First of all, I do not really like Jeremy Renner and would not care to date him.

Second of all, why is my dreamself so undermining? Sorry, dream Jeremy. You should go find someone who believes in you. Maybe one of the Gossip Girls.

Which brings me to this: Jeremy Renner and director Kathryn Bigelow have really strange physical chemistry.

Either they are really, really into each other but feel that it would be somehow inappropriate to act on it--

Or they really hate each other and are trying very hard not to show it.

All I know is: Tension. They have it.




I suspect my dream self did not want me to betray The Man Who Should Win, But Won't:


Dear Colin: I am still waiting for your dream visit. I trust you will not make me wait much longer.

Love and kisses,

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Day, In Short

Beneath the slide, in full view of anyone who may be around, Indy pulls down her pants and shouts, "I have to pee in the snow!"

I admit this is my fault.

Back in February, we found ourselves caught at this same little neighborhood park with nature calling and only nature to receive the offering. It was too cold. There were knee high banks of snow all around, the bathroom door was locked for the season, and no other visitors were at the park.

Rather than running home or asking Indy to hold it, I took her over between a snow bank and the locked bathroom, and supported her weight while she squatted and. . . you know.

Peed in the snow.

Now it is March, the snow is nearly melted, and there is one sweet and quiet mother at the park with her sweet and quiet freshly walking boy, and Indy is offering them both a full view of her jaybird naked rump.

I can't see the mom's face, but I really hope she laughed. Wouldn't you have laughed?

I laugh. I call Indy to me. "Mom! I have to pee in the snow!"

I call her again and she comes. We go to the bathroom and Indy opens the door. It isn't locked. But its confines are dark and cavernous. Propping the door open with one foot, I call to Ayla to come with us, hear my voice echo, am reminded of a terrible story, grab Indy's hood to keep her safe from the boogeyman lurking in the dark bathroom.

Ayla won't come over to us. The bathroom looks dubious and stinks. There is no light.

"Come on, mom," says my little Alpha. She holds my hand. I walk her, or she walks me, over to the now shrunken embankment that has been the receptacle of Indy's bodily functions before. Indy squats over the scrim of ice and I support her weight. She leans into me as she stands up.

"I like peeing in the snow," she sighs happily.

Play resumes. The girls mostly ignore sweet quiet toddler boy. I feel like a character from an Austen movie, enjoying the chirping of birds in the weak but warming sun. Just when it is time to leave, loud toddler girl and her loud and baby-voiced mom appear over the summit. The girls all flock together. Mom steers her strollered baby over to my bench and sits next to me. She begins to chat in that way moms sometimes do, where they are chatting to their baby but also chatting to you.

"Would you wike some widdle toys? Yeah? Yeah? You want your favowite toys? I would like it better for you to use your widdle toys that get out of your stroller? Yes I would? Yes I would?"

I have no grace and no patience for this sort of behavior. I am terrible in these situations, with these well-meaning, if silly, women. Either talk to me or don't. I don't really give a dandelion fluff what you babble at your widdle baby. Plus, I am not a baby-talker. I have always spoken to my children more or less like I speak to adults. Can baby-talkers and non-baby-talkers even get along?

I am rescued by Ayla calling for a push on the swing. Other mom, with her preschool teacher's voice and her bubbly babbleness, follows us over. She begins to tell me about her fertility issues, her sister's lack of fertility issues, why her kids are so close together, how she helped her sister survive three boys under three. She speaks brightly and she is very nice, but she is just silly. Have I described her to you properly? She probably is a very good mother. She probably makes crafts with her children instead of writing or reading at the table while her children craft. I wonder if she speaks that way to her husband. I feel uncomfortable. She is giddy and babyish and overly enthusiastic. I am tired and a little cranky. It is past nap and I have spent all my money. I am eager to get my children home because Noah is at home and it's time for his shift with the girls and my shift off. I have a date with an iced mocha with whip and the new Louise Erdrich. I tell this sweet excitable bouncing curls woman we have to go.

As we drive off, I feel the guilt. I imagine another world, in which I had remained open to this woman, as I have promised myself to be (more open to new people and situations). I imagine us exchanging numbers, arranging playdates, stopping over for coffee. I can see her home, it must have light blue country decor, she must wear tourist sweatshirts and scrunchies, she'd probably bake lemon bars. She'd be very kind and accommodating. She is almost certainly conservative Christian. Is she sad that I left? Does she feel hurt? Have I disappointed her, ruined her afternoon? Will she speak to quiet toddler mom instead?

What is wrong with me? Do other people worry these things? Would she read Louise Erdrich? Would she let her toddler pee in the snow? Probably not. She probably had a port-o-potty hidden there among the trappings of her extremely efficient stroller, which proved, in the ten minutes we were together, to hold towels for the wet slides, and snacks.

"Mom. You should have brought us snacks like Abby's mommy." Ayla informs me.

I get home. There is my husband, whom I love, who smiles and is happy to let me leave the girls and take Louise and high tail it out of there. Later he will eat the thank you steak I bought him and make the girls dinner and pour us beers. One of us will bathe the girls and one of us will read to them. I might talk about Erdrich or Kate Braestrup and Noah might talk about what he wants to cook next, or brew, or learn to do, or learn. The outside world will fade away. We will sit in bed and enjoy the comfort of one another's predictable presence. And we will know we are home.


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