Monday, August 29, 2011

it's getting mighty.... quiet

M and the girls are out of town for a week, and the house is crazy quiet. You'd think I like that, and there's aspects of it that are nice (I don't have to tiptoe through the outer room on my way in/out of my bedroom, I can listen to music and read the paper at breakfast, I can shower without interruption, leave the house at the planned time....), but I miss my girls (all 3 of them) and am looking forward to their return. There's something about this time on my own that makes it even more of a contrast - it's the first since Lucy died. Our domain isn't named "loudlucy" for nothing. So I'm moving around, getting up in the morning and crawling into bed at night in a house even more library-like than the last time M took the girls to see her mother.

I've got tons of projects to finish up, and quite a bit of garden maintenance too, but in the morning when I wake up I'm aware of the emptiness around me, and realize just how much a part of my life these various females are. When everyone is home, it's crazy, yes. And yet here I am wishing I could see them.

Last night K got on the phone and asked "How is the studio going Daddy?"

When did she get that old, old enough to know that I'm supposed to be working on the studio while she's out in Alabama visiting her grandmother, old enough to remember and to ask me? I felt like I was talking to a 15yo rather than to a 5yo. L on the other hand, had missed dinner and fallen asleep half on K's bed and half on the floor. M said she just moved her into her own bed (a crib at Grandmama's house). She's a "growned up" 3, but she's still 3, and travel and visiting with cousins is hard work.

When I said goodbye I told K I loved her.
K: Goodbye Daddy. I love you too.
It doesn't get much better than that.

So for the next week, I'm working at work and working at home, I'm paddling and feeling like I shouldn't be doing that since there's so much to get done. But I know the week will zoom by and soon it'll be Tuesday and I'll be picking everyone up from the airport. Until then, it's good to be reminded that what I sometimes wish for in the chaos of day-to-day living (silence and peace) is not what I truly want. Sure it's nice to have now and then, for a few hours or maybe even a day at a time, but after that it's disconcerting. Now, time to get back to work!

Oh yeah, and one more thing - I know M is going to need a break when they get back. There's nothing like being the solo parent to drain parental resources. She does a fantastic job, though she'd sometimes claim otherwise, but she'll need some time to herself. To be reminded of how much she wants the chaos.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

.... so this old world must still be spinning round...

... and I still love you...

Post-ice cream

For me, just about the worst parenting situation is the one where I've lost complete control of one or both girls.

Neither M nor I manage particularly well with poorly behaved children. And part of being a child is being poorly behaved on occasion.

We don't like being those parents who overreact to behavior that probably should be ignored and/or dealt with using humor. Luckily, M is pretty good about using humor, and I've learned a bit from her about how to disarm seemingly humorless situations. But I haven't learned enough. Maybe when I'm 80.... (which reminds me of that Mark Twain quote: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”)

Recently we've begun wondering if we're turning into "that couple" and "that family," the one that all the other parents talk about. ("Honey, I'd prefer if our kids don't go up there. They'll learn all sorts of bad habits and behavior from 'those girls.' I'm not sure what M&P imagine they're doing, but I couldn't live that way, children who show no respect, who've wrapped them around their grimy little fingers.").

We worry, are we raising out-of-control children who run roughshod over us? I'm (probably) overreacting/exaggerating (slightly). I hope. But that's what it feels like at times. Like a night last week.

We both knew that the girls were exhausted. They'd been going to a day-camp at their school, which means they've got to be "on" from 8.30a to 3p, which means they're drained by the time they get home, which means they tend to collapse over small things and/or get wound up in ways that are hard to diffuse.

So we knew they needed an early bedtime, and I had them in the tub by shortly after 6p, aiming for a 6.30 reading time. They didn't want to get out. They wanted to dry themselves. I'm working on giving them more freedom to do things they want to do, so I said they could dry themselves, even though I figured it would mean trails of soggy footprints leading from the bathtub across the living room and upstairs to their bedroom. But they came up, mostly dry, and then we struggled with getting them dressed. I'd already told them there would be no story. We were running too late. And if things were delayed much longer, there would be no books either.

K brushes her teeth and is on track to get dressed and snuggle in for a book. But not so much L. When I've brushed K's back teeth and am just sending her out to get some jammies, L is running naked, back and forth across the room. So K hops up and joins her little sister. And now I have 2 girls, one in diapers, one nude, both getting more and more wound up, right when things should be quieting down.

And the thing is, I can't help laughing when L races out of our bedroom, first naked and then wearing her bright red Monkey underpants, like some tiny superhero, intent on saving the world.

It's "nearly naked girl" to the rescue!!

I make sure to not be smiling whenever she ricochets back into our room. There's nothing that spurs her on like obvious enjoyment from her audience - which is part of the problem. K is a ready and willing appreciator, and L plays to her all the time. Including on this particular evening.

And where L will eventually wear herself out and collapse, K gets more and more wired the more exhausted she becomes, which, translated (and skipping a longer, boring description of the events) means that when it is tuck-in time, she isn't having it.

I do my best to get them into bed, suggesting bedtime songs, recommending lying quietly if they can't sleep, finally closing the gate at the top of the stairway to go downstairs in search of their mother, leaving the girls yelling and screaming alternately for me and M.

I let this go on a bit, having headed outside to find M and let her know that L&K want to say goodnight to her. She is over at the neighbors' watering, so I go back inside and after I'm good and fed up, head back upstairs where I tell the girls that it is past time to get into bed and be quiet.

K: "I can't sleep up here."
L: "I can't sleep up here either."
me: "It's time to go to bed."
K: "Can I sleep in the living room?"
L: "Me too?"
me: "No. Climb into bed and lie quietly.
L: "I want Mama!"
me: "She's out watering."
K: "I want Mama!!"
L: "I'm going to get her.
me (closing and locking the gate): "No, I'll see if she can come up. You get into bed."
K: "No!"
L: "No!!"
me: "Then you'll lose privileges." (this is our standard approach, which is probably not the best and is often not particularly effective any longer, and which I very likely pulled out much much too soon)
K: "I don't care."
me: "Ok, no sweets tomorrow. No juice, no dessert." (I've been feeling less and less comfortable with sugars in our diet anyway, so this was an easy call for me. But probably a mistake.)
K: "I'm not going to bed."
L (arms folded): "Me either!!"

Things deteriorated until M climbed the stairs and took over for me. She let them try to sleep downstairs in the living room. They each got up once to ask us something. Finally they both fell asleep there in the bright evening light, and I carried them one by one up to their beds.

Contemplative K, early July

I'm left wondering what I could have done differently. What do you do, once a child refuses, to your face, to behave? What effective punishment is there at this point? It's particularly difficult for me when faced with a "No!" yelled directly at my face.

Options are to leave them to scream and yell upstairs (but I wanted them to go to sleep), or to let them out and go into my own room and give them the run of the house (but, see the concern above about becoming "those parents"). The temptation is there to spank, but we're not spankers, and I don't see that as being particularly useful.

Friday, August 19, 2011

photo friday: honu

A picture from our May trip to Maui:

At the Honu tank
K&L at the Maui Aquatic Center, Maalaea

What was even more exciting was that K and I also saw turtles (and a dolphin) from Mom's deck.

Monday, August 15, 2011

... your mother and i...

L has always been good with words. At least good with repeating them (minus a slight lisp that I tend to play up a bit in this blog). She started talking early, and has hardly paused since. I suppose there's something typically second-child about that, but I'm too lazy to do a search and find references. Seems likely though - she had K's example from early on.

But where she has been able to pronounce and use complicated words and sentences for years now, there's some discrepancy between usage and comprehension.

A recent example:

me (getting out the glass with the toothbrushes in it): Which brush do you want to use, L? K, come brush your teeth!
L: The printheth one!
me: That's K's toothbrush. K!
L (crestfallen look, though we go through this most every night): I want a printheth bruth!
me: I know. Maybe the next time your mother gets more toothpaste she can get a princess brush for you?
L: But thee did!
me: She did? Did what?
L (pointing): Get more toothpathe! Your mother and we went to Target and got more toothpathe!
me (my mother?!?): Uh, oh. Well, maybe we need to ask her to look for a princess brush next time.
L (arms crossed): Oh, I gueth! I want the Light McQueen one!
me: The red one is yours, right?
L: Yeah! K's is the blue one!!
me (handing L the brush): K, if you don't brush your teeth you'll end up looking like me!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

... to have a couple of girls like her...

... is truly a dream come true...

"Let's play horthie..."
"Yeah, and this bowl is our water trough...."


This is a common suggestion/command from K and from L these days. For which both M and I are grateful. We're big believers in imagination and imaginative playing. And we've arrived at some magical point where the girls are willing and able to play amongst themselves, pretending and creating games with horses, dolls, buckets of grass ("hay"), towels, legos, horses, the plastic "kitchen," pots and pans, playdoh, horses.... you get the idea.

What's funny about this though, is that frequently the command "pretend" is an instruction to do whatever it is that they are already doing.

K: Are we still playing horses?
L: Yeah!
K: Ok, pretend that I'm the horse and you're the owner.
L (pouting): I want to be the horth!
K: No! I'm the horse!
me (starting dinner): Why don't you both be the horses? And I can be the owner.
L: Yeah, and Momma is the annana owner.
K: And we're in the stable and I'm the black stallion and you can't ride me.
L: Yeah, you can't ride us. And pretend we're on the floor.
me: Ok, you're on the floor.
L: Pretend!
me: Right. Pretend! And you're the black stallion. What about you L?
L: I.... I'm the wild stallion too!
me: Ok.
K: And pretend you're married to the annana owner, and...
me: You mean Momma?
K: Yeah, and you're married and you both own us
L: Yeah, you both own us, and pretend you're married.
me: Ok. I can manage that.
K: And pretend I'm hungry but I don't want to eat.
L: Yeah, pretend we're hungry.
me: I'm still pretending I'm married to your mother.
K: You can do both.
me: Oh, ok!
M (walking in): Hey guys. How're you?
me: We're pretending. They're horses and you and I are the owners. And we're pretending they're on the floor and that we're married!
M: You and me?
me: Married. Not on the floor. They're on the floor. Pretend.
K: Yeah, and I'm the wild stallion.
L: And I'm the wild stallion too.
me: Wait, I thought you were the black stallions?
K: We're both.
L: Yeah, we're the wild stallion and the black stallion too.
me: And we're married.
M: Yeah?
me: Yeah. You have to pretend.
M: I suppose....
me (cutting carrots): And pretend that I'm cutting up carrots.
L: Yeah, and I'm in the stable but I want to get out.
K: We want to get out because we're wild.
me: Because you're the wild stallions.
K: Yeah.
L: Yeah!
me (opening the oven): And pretend that I'm opening the oven.
K: Ok.
L: Ok.
M (giving me an odd look): Uh...
me: PreTEND!
M: Ok!
me (starting to set the table): And pretend that I'm starting to set the table and dinner is almost ready, so if anyone needs to change out of work clothes or go to the bathroom before they eat, they should go now.
M: Uh, Pretend?
me: Yeah!
K: Yeah!
L: Yeah!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

... all the people stared....

... as if we were both quite insane... or A Date with my Daughter.

A picture I've probably used before...
but I don't have any handy from this last week....

K was invited to a birthday party last Saturday. The hidden import of this is that L was NOT invited to a birthday party last Saturday. Which means there were complications.

I've never been one of those parents who wanted to make everything exactly equal with both children. It seems obvious to me that when one is older than the other (and maybe even when they're the same age), the experiences each has will be different. They're at different stages of development, have different interests and abilities and.... blah blah blah... I'm sure you're as interested in this line of reasoning as L was.

In any case, M prepared to take K to the party and I inherited a sobbing L. Who stopped sobbing when I suggested that she and I go ride a "city bus" down to the West Seattle Junction where there happens to be a Cupcake Royale, which happens to serve one of L's favorite food groups: sugar. She couldn't get her shoes on fast enough. We were walking out the door before M & K had pulled out of the driveway.

It's a several block walk up to the bus stop. Something between 1/4 and 1/2 mile. Which means that I fully expected to be carrying L part of the way. We made it roughly 50 yards. But that's ok, I'm strong, and she was in a good mood (drying tears leaving visible tracks on her cheeks). We wandered up to California Ave. where we waited in front of our favorite local pub grub place (Circa).

Taking a small child out in public is always "interesting." Especially so for someone like me who's instinctive approach to the world is to lay low, not be noticed, observe without being observed. That's pretty much impossible with a small child.

First, there's the constant question of whether or not she'll need to go potty. I made sure L went before we left, but that's never a guarantee of anything, and if there's one thing I dislike about parenting, it's needing to take one of the girls into a public restroom.

This aversion had nothing to do with the potty experience itself and has everything to do with the restrooms. I don't particularly mind needing to help one of my daughters in the bathroom, but I don't particularly like going to a public restroom even when it's just *me*. Add the complication of a child who is lower to the ground (and thus, lower to the germy surfaces), who is not particularly conscious of what to avoid touching, who doesn't seem to notice when clothing is dragging.... it's a horror I prefer to avoid.

So there's that. But there's also the small person's observations of the world that, while frequently interesting and/or eye-opening, can also be a challenge. Like "That lady is fat Dada." And when I mutter something about not pointing to other people, "But that's ok, everybody is different. Right Dada?" Uh, well, right, but how about we don't talk about it at the top of our 3 1/2 yo lungs?

Anyway, after a 10 minute wait, during which we observed passing people, trucks, dogs, and at least 1 bus that was not our bus, our bus pulled up. I had already prepped L about how you tell which bus is yours (teaching opportunity! "see, they each have a number, and ours is '55' so that's how you know what bus to get on." "But Dada, you can tell me, right?" Sure. Right.). It pulls up and the front door opens with a smelly blast of compressed air, and we climb aboard and wander back to a seat immediately behind the handicapped seating.

There are questions about seatbelts, about wheelchairs, about the bus itself. There is standing up while holding onto a handle, there is sitting in my lap, there is sitting on the seat next to the window, kneeling on the seat next to the window, handling the bell pull, deciding not to pull it, wanting to pull it.... until when, at last, our 7 minute ride is over, she and I pull it together and then get off.

I was going to get her a mini cupcake. So we get her a large one (pink frosting w/ sprinkles, white cake). I wasn't going to have one. So I get a large, caramel frosted one. And a pound of Stumptown Hair Bender! (Yes, we've discovered that we can buy our current favorite espresso roast from Cupcake Royale. Which means we don't have to make a special trip to Capital Hill to buy it.)

We eat, we wipe up crumbs, we wipe faces and hands multiple times. L wants to save the last of her cupcake. I don't want to carry it. Impasse! Until I ask if I can eat it. She and I split it. And then we are off, heading back toward the bus stop to catch another bus.

I notice that Easy Streets was selling Caspar Babypants' new album, but L doesn't want to stop by to buy it. I'm not sure why this is, but I respect her choice. (Note: if you're at all curious what a Nirvana song sounds like when done by an ex-pop musician turned kids entertainer, you should get this album, just for his version of "Sliver." He makes it so obviously a children's song that it makes me look at Curt Cobain in a new light.)

So we wait for the bus and when it comes, climb aboard and this time sit in the high seats so L can see and when I point out how the middle of the bus flexes as we go around turns she is fascinated and we have ourselves a blast, even including my carrying her all the way home.

We finish off our date with some water coloring, some books, and just as I am nudging us towards a nap K and M arrive home and things are transformed into their natural state (chaos).

It's a real treat to get to spend one-on-one time with the girls. We don't do the divide-and-conquer thing often enough, but when we do manage it, I nearly always find that my children are quite pleasant and fun to be with. Saturday with L was a special occasion for me. And the bonus for her, over and above the cupcake, is that now she's ridden 3 "city buses" while K has only ridden 2 (something K has lorded over L for some time now).