Wednesday, March 5, 2014

... all i want for easter is...

... at least one loose tooth.

Found under Miss L's pillow last night:

We'll have to see what the tooth fairy is able to come up with to "help."

It's been interesting to see how the "is Santa real?" questions have played out. K came home and told us that she knew Santa wasn't real because an older boy in her class told her so. We made clear that, whatever else she thought, she was not to tell this to her sister. And to our knowledge L continues to believe (though if I had to pick one of the two as a child able to pull the wool over her parents eyes, it would be Miss L!). And as we've allowed that to continue, K has backed off somewhat on her insistence that Santa (and related magical characters) aren't real.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

...what we have in mind is breakfast in bed for four...

... (hundred thousand)...

Two weeks ago, on Saturday morning, I woke up to the softly thumping sounds of a little girl's feet. I'd sent the previous week trying to tie up all the loose strings on my old job so I could jump into my new job the following Monday, and I was exhausted. It was sometime shortly after 5am (5.16 is what the clock said, I believe), I heard the thump of feet, the telltale sign that K was up.

For some reason, K is categorically unable to tiptoe with any effectiveness. I don't know if it has to do with inflexible ankles or an inability to walk lightly. In any case, it's usually easy to tell when she's up. The great thing about K is that she gets up, thumps downstairs, and finds herself a book to read. She does tend to turn on all the lights in the living room, but the reading-quietly-on-her-own part I really like.

So even though I was vaguely aware that she was up, I turned over and tried to go back to sleep. Over the next few minutes I heard her thumping (more than usual) in the kitchen (also unusual). Something was going on. She wasn't reading, at least it didn't sound like it. I finally got myself up around 5.30 to see what was going on, and I discovered not K but Miss L downstairs, busy preparing…..

Breakfast in Bed!

That's a Mandarine orange and a carrot, for those of you not using your reading glasses. It's not a great photo, but it's what I managed at 5.30 in the morning.

L had pulled a chair over to the counter, found a couple of things that are her "go-to" snacks, and set to work. How could I fault her?

I ducked into the bathroom with the intent of possibly helping her (and stalling her) but when I came out, she'd already gone upstairs with her "tray" to deliver it to her mother, who had been asleep when I left our room but who no longer was.

I hurried back downstairs to make espresso to go with the carrot, and we all snuggled in together to enjoy the treat. And when K woke up (soon after), she wanted to get into the action as well so she hacked up an apple and brought it up with another carrot.

Parental bliss.... of a sort.

Monday, December 9, 2013

... like walking in the rain and the snow...

... or wobbling on the ice and sitting in the gym...

One of the things I love about our girls is how unique each of their personalities is. They look similar (sometimes they are mistaken for twins, though they really don't look *that* similar), they can sound and act similar. They are clearly closely related. But boy are they different in personality!

K is a rule-follower by nature. She checks with us, knows when she's stepping out of bounds, listens to instructions and follows them.

L is a boundary-pusher. Tell her she can't do something and she'll do it. She's the only one in the family who regularly wears her shoes in the house, even though we have a long-standing convention of NOT doing so (exceptions for visitors and, apparently, for Miss L!). "I've just got to get the ...." "I'm going to the bathroom...." Whatever the reasons she gives, they don't really map to any real justification and she might as well be saying "I know you told me that but I'm not going to pay any attention to what you're saying." Which she is, in essence saying. Sort of.

A well-balanced and thoughtful friend down the street from us who has a child with a similar style to Miss L once said to me, "Isn't it great? Wouldn't you hate it to be any other way?" His point being that the sort of "do it anyway, apologize later if necessary" approach can be a real powerful strength for these people in the future. Much more so, possibly, than the rule-following, permission-asking approach of many of the rest of us. I don't know how true that will be, but it's a nice way to think about it as we navigate the challenges.

In any case, this is all intended as a lead-in to my real topic, which happens to be how much we, as parents, are willing to do in support of our children. Which is not a new or particularly illuminating topic, I know, but it's one I've been thinking about.

As two examples (and here is where the differences come into play, at least a bit):

A week ago Sunday we went skating as a family, a request from Miss L for her birthday. Her birthday desires were:
  • go skating as a family
  • have dinner out as a family
  • have cake and ice cream at home with our neighbors (and pseudo-grandparents of the girls)
Nice and simple and sweet. Just my kind of celebration, in fact. Except for the skating bit, which is hard on my knees and cold and hard and....
So we went to the skating rink and all skated, spending family time (after a challenging effort to get the girls out of the house in an appropriate state of dress and properly fed) at a rink crowded with beginning and mediocre skaters (our family included), a cold and echo-y space with gouged and chunky ice. I did a bit of skating as a college student, and I loved it. But this time (and the other time we skated at the same place) both M and I were holding onto slipping, floppy little skaters who were a bit awed by the activity and the chaos of the rink. What I'd love to do is find an opportunity for the family to skate without the crowds, music, chaos and give the girls a real chance to learn how to get around on skates. This wasn't it.

But it WAS L's birthday celebration, so we went, we had fun, and we came home with sore knees and cold toes.


That was Sunday.

Last Friday we all went to West Seattle High to watch a three-school gymnastics meet that the girls had heard about from their gymnastics "coaches" on Thursday. So we sat on hard wooden benches in an echo-y high school gym and watched girls in leotards do the vault, uneven bars, beam and floor exercise. Just what I want to do on a Friday night! And the girls *loved* it.

And M and I realized that in "normal" life, our exposure to gymnastics is limited to either watching the girls do their little girl attempts at cartwheels and handstands, or video of the Olympics. And what we very quickly realized was that there is a *huge* gap between the beginning gymnasts and the Olympians and if you go expecting to see someone anywhere close to Mary Lou Retton or Nadia Comenici, you are going to be disappointed. (Huge realization, right?) And to be honest, most of the competition was much closer to beginning than to Olympian. Floor exercise routines seemed to consist of a couple wobbly, bent-knee cartwheels, a roundoff (possibly), a forward roll or two, and then, mercifully, they were over. It was eye-opening.

And reassuring, oddly enough. These were high school girls! And they looked and behaved like high school girls. As they should have. Or rather, they behaved better than my impression of how high school girls would behave. They were all supportive of their team mates, clapping and yelling encouragement, acting mature and with good sportsmanship (sportswomanship?). We did wonder whether gymnastics might be a sport where, if you're truly competitive, you aren't spending your time on a high school team. Are the really good gymnasts on club teams instead of their school teams?

The bottom line though, is that the girls were in seventh heaven in the gym (and the rink). K , who'd worried that we didn't know where we were going, that we weren't on time, that we wouldn't know where to sit and how to watch, she settled down and eventually sat on my lap and soaked it all in. L too snuggled against M and also tried to absorb it, though they both had lots of questions.

With multiple things happening at the same time, with loud music and incomprehensible loudspeaker announcements, clapping and yelling and cheering, it was a bit much. High school students came and went, some obviously coming from other sport workouts, others looking like they had nothing better to do on a bitterly cold Friday evening. And (I noticed) there were the parents watching closely from the bleachers around us. When K told me later that she wanted to be on a gymnastics team and that I would have to come to her meets. I told her that I would do that. Because I would/will. Just as I'll go skating again with L when she next wants to do it for her birthday. Because these are my daughters and this right here and now is what we have and what we get. This is life.

Friday, November 15, 2013

... it's a little bit funny...

... or, a peek into a morning not long ago.

You know how we keep getting told "not to sweat the small things?" Well sometimes it's the small things that are the most important to keep in mind. At least that's what I'm thinking at the moment.

self-portrait by miss l
(with daddy's phone)

Yesterday the plan was for me to make french toast in order to use up some of the leftover bread we had from dinner the night before. Except that Miss L wanted pancakes instead. K agreed, though it was clear that she would have preferred the french toast. And they both insisted that the pancakes come with powdered sugar.

I dislike powdered sugar. I'm not entirely sure why I dislike powdered sugar as much as I do, but partly it has to do with the ease with which you can blow it (via sneeze, cough, loudly yelled argument with your sister) off your plate and all over the freakin' place. It's sticky (it's sugar, after all!), so drifting floating motes of sugar don't work for me. I don't even like it much on pastries where it gets into your nose when you inhale at the wrong moment, it sticks on your face, your clothing.... I fall into the pure maple sugar camp myself. Don't give me any of that fake maple syrup "flavored" corn byproduct! But I'm getting away from my point. Which is that even when I'm keeping my mind open and remembering to appreciate the day-to-day moments, I fail to keep my mind open and remember to appreciate those same moments. Sometimes.

Anyway, so I'm making pancakes, against plan, and have agreed to include powered sugar on them, against my good sense.

Backstory to (and complicating) this scenario is the fact that the girls got new clothes a couple of days ago, including sweatshirts from their school. Who doesn't love a Montessori-branded sweatshirt? But new clothes means that these are the only clothes the girls are wearing at the moment, to the point of digging them out of the dirty clothes every morning. Ok, so they've got on their new sweatshirts, and Miss L has on a pair of new pants that M found on sale last Sunday.

Lately we've been weathering (with better or worse success) a "downturn" in dressing. By which I mean that 2 out of every 3 mornings, L has "nothing to wear!!!" and she ends up in what M calls "watermelon" position, crouched huddling face down on the floor. She has an amazing ability to turn on the tears, so a side effect of this is that we end up with a wet spot on the floor, rug, couch, pillow... whatever. We keep hoping this is a phase, but it would be nice if it wore off before we're into the teenage phase where she has "nothing to wear!" but is bigger and has more attitude and we're older and possibly less willing to put up with that attitude.... But I'm getting away from my point. Which is that getting her dressed is a challenge that no sane person would want to take on if they could possibly avoid it.

So you don't mess with it. At that moment it's not broke, so hell if I'm going to risk needing to deal with it broken. When means that I need to keep those new clothes clean! And I'm already a tad concerned about the powdered sugar potential for complication, when L comes dancing into the kitchen to ask if she can help "so it goes faster."

Here's where I'm aware enough to know that the tradeoff in efficiency is made up for by the pleasures of doing something together. So I say yes, and I do my best to keep the sigh out of my voice. And we drag a stool over and get her into an apron and she helps by dumping flour in the bowl, stirring it with a knife (it was what she could reach), dumping baking power in on top and stirring it (most of it ended up in the bowl - cooking like this is like a mad scientist experiment. Who knows what is going to come out!), cracking eggs and spilling their contents mostly in on top of the milk with only a bit splashing out....

At which point I can't help myself and I recommend, strongly recommend that she at least consider taking off her sweatshirt. And here's the thing: I don't really care if the sweatshirt gets dirty. I don't particularly mind dirty clothes. But it's the reaction if it gets dirty that I'm afraid of. I don't know that I have the bandwidth to deal with a clothing meltdown on this particular morning.

She opts not to remove it. We continue on, me more concerned about her getting herself dirty than anything else, and eventually I'm delivering pancakes to the girls (both of them reading now) at the table.

More concern here, because frankly, both girls eat like starving animals, with foodstuffs scattered all over the table, bench and floor. Napkins are used to mop up spills, dribbles, splashes, and then tossed aside. It's like a trough except messier. At this point, with some urging, L and K both take off their sweatshirts to keep them clean, and the short ending to this is that we manage to get the girls fed and out the door without (too many) issues.

But the thing is, as I rode into work on the Water Taxi I found myself revisting the morning, thinking how I just wasn't able to help myself, couldn't just let things happen as they would, and I wondered if maybe I'd been so damn concerned about messy clothes that I'd missed out on the joy of a shared experience (the small stuff), mixing up a batch of pancake batter with a small person standing on a stool and still only reaching to my shoulder. That image makes me smile and even feel a bit nostalgic for these days... except that I'm actually still IN these days and I have to stop stressing about the bigger stuff so I can embrace and enjoy the little moments.

After all, it's not always (or even often) going to be as easy as relaxing on a sunny beach and knowing that this moment is an important one...

a little sunny october moment
(note handful of rocks flying water-ward from Miss L's hands)

Sometimes those little moments are buried in the swirl of morning demands for getting out the door in a timely manner or evening routines for getting into bed. Which doesn't make them any less important (and might actually make them MORE important), but certainly seems to make them easier to overlook. At least for me.

important shared moment
(doing not much of anything)

singing into the fan
(and what's more important than that?!?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

... no need for argument ...

There's a new game in town and its name is called "dominos!"

lucky tiles, lucky grab-shot

I recently resurrected a set of dominos that belonged to my grandparents (I think). They pack into a very nice koa wood box that was broken for years and which I just finally glued back together. The girls had no idea what dominos were, so we showed them how to stand them up and tip them over. And then we started playing.

K picked it up fairly quickly, with L not too far behind. I had to have the girls read the rules to me because they were printed in .5 point font. Translating K's interpretation was a challenge. And then M came and joined us and we figured out the real rules (she could read them, somehow) and all was good until K got 0 points 2 or 3 times in a row, at which point she quit and the rest of us continued to play without her. When she realized we were soldiering on, she came back to the table after missing a round, and promptly won 2 or 3 times in a row to win the entire game. So much for sportsmanship and good behavior.

Everyone had so much fun that K wanted to play again this morning (M was at an early morning spinning class and Miss L was fast asleep, putting in a good 12 hours). I got a Dutch Baby into the oven and then K and I laid out the tiles. I took a quick lead, 24 to 7, at which point my luck changed and K beat me 102 to 24. It was a great opportunity to show her how to lose gracefully (damn it!).

serious consideration of the tiles

*disclaimer - I don't know dominos from sugar beets, but we sure had fun!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

... you angel you...

This parenting thing is confusing. Just when I think I've got a bit of it nailed, things shift out from under me and I am reminded that I don't know squat about any of it. I'm hanging on by my fingertips and hoping that I don't lose my grip.

miss l, wearing clip-on earrings

But we all lose our grips now and then, right? Like digging in my heels and insisting on telling K where in the book we were, even though it doesn't really matter. (For those of you following along at home, the next night we read in the book again after I talked her into letting me do so and assuring her that we wouldn't disagree about it, that where ever she said we were, we could be.)

Tonight we're solo, by which I mean I'm playing at being a single parent while M is out at an event. She's been gone since about 9a this morning, and the girls are now in bed and asleep and we've had our moments, but I just stopped by their beds and kissed both of their sweaty heads and was reminded of just how damn much they mean to me, and so instead of crawling into bed as I had intended, I came back downstairs to write this.

Yesterday I read this column in the NYTimes about parenting, and there were several things in it that really struck home for me:

  • She [his mother]  taught me that you must allow yourself time to find stillness and so you can be moved by it. Sometimes we are so busy that we forget why we’re busy. We have so many things on our list of priorities that we lose sight of what’s really important.
  • And she taught me that my children are not truly mine. They don’t belong to me; they’ve simply been entrusted to me. They are a gift life gave to me, but one that I must one day give back to life. They must grow up and go away and that is as it should be.
And I'm reminded that even though Miss L has a breakdown every single time she has to find something to wear, when she snuggles in close to me to listen to Frog and Toad or smiles at me or even when she crosses her arms in a grumpy display of attitude,  she's doing her job and I need to do mine, to raise her and her sister (who can be a separate handful too, when the two of them aren't being sweet siblings) to stand on their own feet.

I took them to Circa for dinner, the first time we managed to get out of the house all day (the morning trip down to the beach to run around like horses crashed into the reality of L not being able to get dressed in anything that "works" for longer than 5 minutes, so she spent the morning in her underwear and nothing else, crying until, ignored by me, she stopped and got distracted by a book, her sister, or some other thing), and K was very well behaved while L acted like... well, like a 5 year old, which she still is for another month.

But that column by Charles Blow, and the goodnight kisses combined to make this a good day. These two are a gift that life gave to me and M, and one day they'll be independent and on their way and that is as it should be. So I need to hold tightly to the now, and make the most of every day we have.

Sleep tight, with the most pleasant of dreams.

my horsewomen at home
(september, before the rains started!)