Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Jonah Jabber 2 .5

What happens when a toddler meets hand soap!

It's my favorite phase! 
Language acquisition.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear how miniature humans take a few consonants and vowels and turn them into hours of entertainment for the rest of us! 
I have made it my quest in life to capture the subtleties of each of my children's jabber.
My spellcheck is overwhelmed, but since I haven't kept up with a baby book in 8 years, let's call it Family History!
Here is "The Best Of Jonah 2.5" (two and a half)...
Helpee! - Help me!
Ah chump? - Can I jump (on the Trampoline)?  
Typer fah yoff! Fits it! - My diaper is falling off!  Fix it!
Tyute! - cute! (he called me tyute tonight!  The feeling is mutual)
 Whuh-hu-heck? - What the heck?
(uttered for the very first time to his Lego dudes just moments ago)
  Ah tuck! - I'm stuck!
 Uh-oh! I pee my pant! (because we only put him in one leg of his pants)
Ah-shum! -  Awesome!
 Ah pine! - I'm fine! 
 (very diplomatically uttered, as though he is doing you a favor.  In other words, "No thank you, I don't plan to have my poopy diaper changed, but thanks for asking".)
Ah mei'yat! - One minute
 (with index finger held aloft in your face.  This one was funniest when I was weaning him and would say, "Ok, you're done" and he would hold up that one finger and hum "mmm mm-mmm" ("one minute!").
Ah shick - I'm sick
 (a multi-purpose excuse for getting out of things like picking up toys,
getting in his car seat and getting a diadee change).
Nah Fuyeee!- Not Funny! (used often when we laugh at him
 for any of the above mentioned statements)
No NOT! - No I am (it is, he/she is) not!
Exposure to the forces of Evil (big brothers):
Pyre-man - Spiderman

Bah-man - any super-hero
Bah dye - bad guy
You fahyet? - You farted?
Doh'way! - Go away!
 (with the "talk to the hand" gesture in full 'tude)

Shoot dun - shoot a gun
 Not Tupit! - Not stupid! 
 (scolding the person who used the forbidden "S" word)
 Sweet Nothings and funnies:

Deh-tuu - Thank you
 Ah ya you (doo) - I love you (too)
 Nuggoh Nursie- Snuggle Nursie
 (now that we have weaned, there ain't nothin'
like a soft boobie-pillow to lay a little head on!)

Now, after this helpful tutorial, see if you can translate the following:
Nishon pinish.  No mowah.

(This one's finished.  There's no more.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

The "Happily" in the "Ever After"

The other night I read an article about things that make a marriage work.  It was interesting, and while I did see some of what keeps our own marriage running like a well oiled Studebaker, I thought, "Wait, there's more!".  Now, I realize here, that 18 years of marriage is just pre-school compared to some 50 and 60 year stints, but I'd like to believe I have learned a couple of things in between wiping butts, noses and dishes over nearly two (choke) decades.

So here are some grains of wisdom I have swept up off the kitchen floor with the Legos and bulk-bin, generic Lucky Charms.  Take 'em... or leave 'em on my kitchen floor (I'll get to them later).


Get the heck out of the house WITHOUT your children before they suck your brains out, fill your heads with jello and call the mother ship to have you abducted for alien probing.  Children need time away from you to plot their next uprising, and you and your spouse need to reload your bazookas and fill your canteens.  I won't tell you not to spend your precious time away from the beasties talking about them.  We all know you have nothing left to talk about than who wiped boogers on the wall by the toilet, but at least pick the fruit snack out of your hair and put on a vomit-free shirt before you go out.

When you are upset at your "other", think about what that other person needs.  Shift your focus.  I think most upsets happen when someone needs something and isn't getting it.  This really works, primarily because with all the kid noise in the house, it is hard to focus on staying mad and on the needs of the other person at the same time without some Ritalin.

Shave your legs. I don't know if it really helps my marriage, but I like to believe that in the dark of the night he won't think the dog crawled in beside him. Besides, a good make-up job lasts, at best, 4 hours. A good leg shave lasts a day and a half (if there are any men out there who actually read this, you can skip this last one, but I ask you, men, am I wrong?).

Give tokens.  "I got ya somethin'..." Guy will say in a sing-song.  Some fresh mint leaves, my favorite cheese, moss.  Yes, moss.  I used to have a rock garden, and one day Guy brought home some really cool moss for me to add to my garden.  I love that he did that, and though I no longer have the garden, I'll always have the memory. 

Flirt (With each other, I mean.  Kinda counter-productive otherwise).  You are married, so goosing is totally legal. 

Don't "fill the empty space" when he gives you a short answer to a question about his day.  The "space" is the wind up to the swing.  Give him a minute, he might ...actually... say ... something ..................................................eventually.

Don't ask him what he's thinking.  You won't believe him when he says "Nothing", and after you badger him to tell you, what he will now be thinking is something that you. should. not. hear.

Sleep in on Saturday (wink, wink).  Invest in a door lock that cannot be opened with a penny from the outside.  Have a pre-fabricated list of... well, fabrications, for what you are doing in there.  "We are sorting socks" and "We are discussing the Cuban Missile Crisis" are good stand-bys.

As an addendum to the above tidbit, put the cereal bowls where little ones can reach them, and make sure the milk jug isn't too full to be lifted by a 5 year old.  Nothing spoils the mood like the resonating thud- glub-glub of a new gallon of milk hitting the floor.  Train the big kids to help with this one, and reward them later with at least an hour of mind-numbing Japanese cartoons for "letting you sleep".

Thank him.  A lot.  Be specific.  He deserves it. 

No tears after 9PM.  This one took me a while to figure out (I cry.  It's part of my process sometimes.  It's the lubricant that lets my words slide out more easily).  But after 9PM he is winding down, and it takes a lot of energy to deal with a wet conversation.  Wait til daylight (preferably with some sleep in between).  "It" will usually keep, and by then the tears may have dried up all on their own.

When you are mad at each other, stick out your tongue and say "Nyah!"  I don't know why, but for some reason this little exchange lightens the mood.  Don't let the kids see. Major backfire there.

Hold her hand.  For gosh sakes, man, it's right there.  Just pick the thing up, and do that little thumb-on-the-back-of-the-hand rubby maneuver.  When you were dating she wanted a ring on her hand... this is way cheaper and still very desirable.

Don't let the kids sit between you.  Your place is by each other's side, at church, on the couch, at the movies, at dinner.  Once those cretins weasel their way in, you'll never get your spot back.

Find out their love languages, and learn to "speak" them.  (take the Love Languages test here  (Mine are "Affection" and "Words of Affirmation" - just in case any of my husbands are reading.  Guy's is "Time Together", for sure.)

Fuss over special days. Not "fuss" as in complain and make each other miserable. Make a fuss. Go to some trouble. Do it up right. Sparkling cider is available year round for a buck ninety-nine, and a candle will make any crappy day into a cozy evening. Guy and I do a $5 valentines. It is more work, actually, than getting a gift that would cost more, because it still has to be meaningful. But I love that he can find some cool old thing at a thrift store that he knows I will love.  There are 4 days that you MUST acknowledge: Birthday, Valentines, Christmas and Anniversary.  You can be lazy the other 361.

Work together.  It takes one person 2 minutes to make a bed, and two people about 20 seconds. Really, I have never had so much appreciation for my husband as I do when he works at my side, no matter what we are doing.  Especially diapers.  With a two year old poopy-runner, that's a two person job fo' sho'.


Get over yourself.  Everything that comes into your head does not automatically need to come out of your mouth. In fact, I'm gonna shut up right now.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Along the path

There is a woman with whom I cross paths once in a while who has a lot of the same interests that I do.  On a recent visit she told me about the many successes she has been having this year, and of all of her exciting plans.  99.6% of my heart was thrilled for her.  She works hard and deserves good things in her life.  Then there was this other little part of my heart, you know, that shameful .4%, that felt all mossy and green.  I know, it shouldn't.  I should be content with the choices I have made for my life,
 and I really am most of the time,
 but sometimes I...
 (gasp, say it isn't so...)
 compare myself to others.

But sometimes I feel like it's not enough.  I'm not enough.

I'd like to say that "we all do", a little balm to comfort myself in the thought that not only am I as deep as a teacup, but  that except for folks like Gandhi and Mother Teresa, I am in ample company, but being married to Guy has taught me otherwise.  He is truly content with his life.  He seems to experience no pressure from being around others who enjoy different successes than his own.  He is happy in his skin, freckles and all.

It reminds me...

There is an old story about two watering pails, yolked together on the same shoulder bar, that were carried each day down to the river by an old woman.  One was a proud bucket in fine working order, the other had a leak of which it was most ashamed.  Each day the old woman trundled down to the river with her empty buckets and filled them, and then trudged up the path back to her home.  As she made her way, the bucket with the leak dribbled water the entire way, until by the time they had reached the old woman's cottage, it was barely half full.

The leaky bucket sat one day on the cottage floor and lamented to the other bucket.  "I am worthless.  I was made to carry water, but by the time we arrive home each day, you have not spilled a drop, while I, on the other hand have emptied half my load onto the ground.  Our poor old mistress must haul me each way, and for what?  A job half done."

The other bucket listened patiently, and when the leaky bucket was through, she said, "You do not see yourself clearly.  It is true that you leave a little water all along the path we travel each day.  But there is no shame in this, for as you have done so each day, you quench the earth on your side of the path, and a trail of lovely wildflowers have sprung up everywhere you have been, while my side of the path remains as brown and dry as if I had never been there.  The old woman thrills at the sight of those flowers, and is given pleasure in her work each day that she walks that path."

Sure enough, as the buckets were carried along the path that day, the leaky bucket saw spreading before them a narrow but lush little garden skirting the trail all along one side. Pink sprays of heather and floated above low mounds of white and purple asters.  Clouds of alyssum pillowed around the edges of the path, fringed by cool green clover and sunny little buttercups.  The leaky bucket in it's shame had never noticed them before.  As they made their way back from the river that day, the leaky bucket gloried at the trickle of water it left behind it all along the path.

We all have a part of the path that we share that is made more beautiful because we have been there.  Each one of us, even with our flaws -maybe even because of them - gives gifts that no one else can give. 
May we look for the flowers.
May we notice less our leaks.
May we surrender the need
 to compare ourselves to other buckets.
May we enjoy what we alone can do
 along the path.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Listen and See

It has been a long time coming.

Far too long.  But finally, we got to see our dear Francine this weekend. 

"It's Christmas again!" sang Tessa.  The children ran from the door, even little Jonah, calling "Francine's here!  Francine's here!!!" 

Francine stooped and hugged each child, looking into their eyes and really seeing them.  She filled our arms with food and fruit and presents to trundle into the house.  Francine showed us all of the fun goodies she brought to share, and then settled in on the rug at eye level with dancing little ones all around her.  They brought her drawings, told her stories, and each one in turn tried to catch up for months of missed visiting.  Francine met the new hamster that Santa brought, she admired the Rubik's cube that Ethan solved, and she crooned over every story and adventure. 

The gifts exchanged were adored.  Francine received lovingly handmade hot pads from Jonah and the girls, a handmade book from Ethan and a lovely handmade bracelet from Adam.  I gave her some of my own handiwork, including the best pot I was able to throw this year.  Guy's gift came as a custom order of fudge and the most gorgeous dinner ever.  Francine showered us all with precious tokens of her love; each one so carefully chosen.. little dolls, lizard "stuff", puzzles and pottery, each one matched perfectly to it's recipient.  It was Christmas, alright, all over again.  It was laughter and gifting from the heart, sharing of delicious food and precious conversation.  It was like a page out of an old Dickens story.


Something that I love about being a mortal, with all of it's foibles and struggles, is that
 I can enjoy, again and again,
 the same simple principles of truth
when they come to teach me
for the second and tenth and fiftieth time. 
 I could never tire of being reminded of what it means to be in a family, and what it means to have embraced a friendship so close to my heart that the distinction between genetic connection and congenial affection blurs into an amalgam of utter comfort, trust and tender devotion.  What a blessing we have in this life to have deep and true friendships. 

The other thing I cherish is that through Francine's visits I see us, our family, in a sort of looking glass.  I see reflected back in her eyes the love and joy my children have, and I appreciate them more.  I hear her ask them about their lives, and
each word that tumbles from their lips is precious to her.
She shows it, and they feel it.  In those moments I am reminded of how much I may miss if I don't pay attention to their words.  The thousands of times a day that I hear "Mommy look!"  "Mommy, guess what?" or "Know what I did?" could be special if I would let them.  When I see how important my children's words are to Francine, it is a gentle prompt to me not to ignore the endless flow of chatter that spills from gaped-tooth mouths attached to bouncing little beings.

I realize I have evolved one of those off switches, like the ones men use when women talk about feelings, or the ones women use when men talk about sports.  I slip into the "Pretend to Listen" mode.  "Uh-huh...Oh, cool."  I say blandly without eye contact as I wash or fold or who-knows-what.  Those little words have become the interruption to my work, not the other way around.

Today I will listen. 
I will listen to the agonizing plot to Invader Zim. 
 I will listen to the gruesome description of a snake eating a mouse sideways. 
 I will listen to the millionth telling of that dang knock-knock joke, and to the sorrow of a six year old still grieving her lost hamster. 
Today I will look in their eyes. 
 I will get down on the floor if that's where I need to be to see them
... really see them.  I will focus on their eyes and let them have me entirely to themselves for those moments.
Today I will let my children feel as important as they actually are. 
(and if I'm paying attention, I'll manage to do it again tomorrow!)

Jonah helped Francine open her present from him. 
 He was as surprised as she was, even though he made it!
Love the looks.

 Million Dollar Moment
The doll house has new residents
 Guy's gift to us all...

 Cashew Encrusted Chicken stuffed with feta, green onions, bacon, spinach, and Guy's special magic.  Roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli and spinach salad with cranberry and cinnamon goat cheese.  Oh, and that gravy there?  Yeah, I want to swim in it or name our baby after it or something.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

In With the New

 Welcome 2013!!!

I have an old tradition.  
Well, it was my mom's, really...
When it comes time to ring in The New Year, as the clock strikes Twelve, I grab out my trusty yellow broom and sweep The Old Year out of the door.  Some years are easily swept out, depending on the preceding calender of chaos.  Sometimes I am happy to watch the dust of our Yesteryear fall between the cracks of the front porch steps.  

And then, after ceremoniously ushering out our bygone days, I welcome in The Year That Will Be.  But just before, for one brief moment, broom in hand, New Year awaiting her welcome, I stand on the cold porch, the children around me banging their pot-lids and spoons,
my bare feet straddling the gap between two years.  In that timeless moment, I feel like I was just here, broom in hand, only moments ago.  But the faces around me betray the thought.  Faces that suddenly look a little leaner, a little longer, a little wiser than last year.  

The Year That Leaves looks over her shoulder as she crosses the lawn.  She takes with her our April showers, which this year were more like a monsoon.  I am not sad to see those clouds fade.  She totes away the thrills of May, which taught so much.  One by one, she packs away the months into loose pockets and carries them off into memory. 

She steps off the curb and nods to The Coming Year
and I think I see them exchange a smile.  

Oh, yes.  I know what that smile is.  
Last Year brought us something unexpected around about August.  
Our family will be growing, and not just taller.
Certainly not richer,
unless you count your wealth in noses.

Last Year's wily grin did not reflect the stress of the past few months, with the waiting and worrying that comes when you are the owner of a fickle uterus, but seemed almost like a smirk.  But I have one on her.  I saw the look on This Year's face as she stepped onto our front walk, turning her back boldly on Last Year.  Her own peaceful expression lit the way ahead, and her smile 
as she stepped through my door was genuine and warm.

She assures me;
she is bringing wonderful things with her, This Year.

 Our Baby New Year, pondering the mysteries of a still tiny universe.  
All parts operational and still under factory warranty.


 If you feed them, they will come...

 Jensens sippin' cider

 Slaughters making our furniture look classy

 Ethan and baby Ryan in heaven. 
 I don't know who was enjoying themselves more, big boy or baby.