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!)