Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Table for Two

This week, John and I celebrated 14 years of marriage.  Doesn't that sound like a lot?  I mean, I still feel like I'm only 22.

And with the way the economy has been, we agreed on forgoing the gift-giving, opting instead for our usual Tuesday night frozen pizza (I work late on Tuesdays teaching ballet).  But the day before our anniversary, he hinted that there was a gift for me... "in the evening."  (And don't we all tend to think men mean only one thing when they say something like that?)

When I arrived home, there was a large sign on the door into the house from the garage.  "Please enter through the front door.  Thank you."

The drapes to the front of the house had been drawn, but I didn't think much about this as my parents had been watching the kids and that's something they would do as it began to get dark.

So I was totally surprised when I opened the front door to find a table for two in our living room, covered in my favorite table cloth from France, awash in candlelight.  Abby, our oldest, stood at the door with a linen napkin over her arm and said, "Your table is ready," gesturing to the table where my husband sat, dressed neatly.

As I sat down, Ella walked in carrying a bottle of wine with the obligatory napkin over her arm.  "Would you care for some wine?  It's an excellent vantage," she said.  John and I hid our giggles as he poured us both a glass of wine.

Shortly, Abby came pack carrying a plate of frozen pizza slices for me and then returned with one for John.

And so we dined by candlelight in our living room on frozen pizza with the girls all giggling around the corner about our "date."

It was the most beautiful date I've ever been on.

"Waitress Wren" brought out the dessert... 6 Oreos on a plate.

I couldn't have been happier.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chaos Wins

Sometimes, no matter how you look at the chaos and try your hardest to see the best parts of the day, relishing the small moments, chaos wins...

That was yesterday.

The start of the school year has not been easy for me and Wren.  She is lost and lonely without her sisters around (even to fight with) and she is constantly asking me to play or to have a friend over.  She is obsessed with "what's after this sleep" - meaning what are we doing tomorrow.  And on the days when there is nothing planned for after this sleep... (sigh).

I work from home.  My desk is the kitchen counter.  While I like the flexibility, I still need to try to get in my hours.  It's so hard to explain this to a 3 year old.

So yesterday, after packing lunches, fretting about some bills, cleaning up a bottom-of-the-bag Mini Wheats spill, starting some laundry, cleaning the dishes, and sitting down to work, I was a bit frazzled when she pulled up the stool next to me, laid her head in my lap and said, "I wish you didn't have to work, Mommy."


It's not the first time I've heard this from her.  Actually, it's not the first time I've heard it from any of my girls.  But it still gets me.

So I explained why I have to work and tried to get her doing something else, asking her to get dressed for the day.  And then there were tears over what to wear.

The morning went pretty much the same.  Eventually I did get her friend to come play, which did help a bit.

Then my dad showed up in the driveway to pick some things up.

And as he was leaving, he hugged me.  What is it about a daddy's hug that can just undo a daughter sometimes?

But I needed it.  Thanks, Dad.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Speaking in Tongues

It's 7:40 in the evening (and boy, I should NOT have looked at the clock - who knew dust could accumulate on the hands!?) and I am wiped out.

I look forward to the new school year starting about the second week of summer vacation.  The kids are always so bored at home.  But then school starts and I'm in agony.  I think it's like anything that is painful (i.e. childbirth) - you forget the bad parts.

Like getting up early and fighting with kids to get them out the door on time... or running 3 different places between 4:30 and 5:15 just to make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be... or having to make sure dinner is on the table by 6:15 so baths or showers or forgotten homework can be done before bed.

It is with this harried attitude that I set three steaming bowls of Italian Stew in front of three skeptical children tonight.  It is not the first time I've made this, but the people who enjoy it the most are certainly not the children.

"What is this green thing?," was a common question.  Or, "Do I have to eat the beans?"


But we made it through without too much weeping and gnashing of teeth (on their part and mine) - as long as Mom only asked for a trial run on the butter beans and no one had to eat their Lima beans.

And milk was spilled only once.

The real joy is always dessert.  Who doesn't like dessert?!  And since I am the biggest dessert person I know (although some evenings my dessert might be another glass of wine), the kids get it every night.  (Isn't it really the small things that get us through life?)

Ella and Wren chose from their "candy bags" - candy that has been in this house since probably last Halloween.  I wouldn't eat it, but they seem to enjoy it.  Ella is a grab-n-go kind of girl, and within about a minute, she had picked a Snicker fart (bite-size Snicker... and yes, I know "Snicker fart" is not the right terminology, but it's so fitting), a peppermint, and a Jolly Rancher.  Wren is more choosy.  It took forrreeevvvveeeeeerrrrrrrr for her to choose a pixie stick.  Do you remember pixie sticks?  Pure sugar - yum.

And the result?  One blue tongue (pixie stick) and one VERY red tongue (cherry Jolly Rancher).  It truly amuses me how excited my kids get when their tongues turn a strange color.

All four of us were giggling and sticking out our tongues.

And Abby (who choose Peanut Butter Filled Keebler Cookies - yum again!) said, "Maybe I should have another dessert that's green so I can have a green tongue!"

Good try...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Buns are beautiful?

Yesterday, chaos won.

It was one of those days when you keep thinking to yourself, "Is it time for bed, yet?"

Perhaps I set myself up for this the night before.  I was dreading the morning.  It was to be day 3 of school and the first day with both girls taking their lunches.  I imagined battles over which jelly to use and who would get the last pieces of turkey - grapes vs. apples, too little Goldfish, "but I don't LIKE that."  You get the idea. 

But it wasn't at all like that.  The girls were polite to each other - even helpful.  And they both walked out the door happy and smiling...

And that was the last smile I had of the day...

It began when I ran an errand to use the rewards card I received from a certain office supply store.  All I needed was paper.  That's all I ever need.  However, upon presenting my rewards card, I was told the balance was $0.00 - because the card had expired 9 days before (feel free to insert "stinkin'" between each of those words).  All through this exchange, Wren was totally and utterly tempted by the candy bars and chips and gum they display right at her eye level.  And so yes, I snapped at her with that old mom phrase, "If I have to tell you one more time..."  (which never seems to have a conclusion.  Just those words fix the behavior.  But the threat... ohhhh.)

Now, ticked that I had to spend $20 when I thought I had $35 in free money, we sped home.  Sullen and silent in the back seat, Wren said in a tiny voice, "Can I have grapes when we get home?"

"Of course."  And by now, I was feeling guilty for the empty threat.

Bursting through the door to the house, she kicked off her shoes, ripped open the fridge door, grabbed the bowl of grapes, and didn't    quite    make   it    to    the   counter.

CRASH!!!!  Broken bowl, squashed grapes, and a sobbing 3 yr old.  (sigh)

No matter how much I told her I knew it was an accident and I wasn't mad, she kept on crying.

After the crying, and lunch, and a play date with a friend, things seemed to be looking up.  Until the "potty dance" started.

"Mommy, I have to go!" 

Run into the bathroom.

"Then go. You know how."

Run out of the bathroom.

"Really, I have to go now."

Run into the bathroom.

"Then GO, Wren."

Run out of the bathroom and do a little dance.

"Mommy, I need to go."

Run into the bathroom.

"WREN - get on the potty!"


"Mommy, I didn't make it to the potty."  But she made it next to the potty... onto the floor... and onto the tights around her ankles... and the skirt around her ankles... (sigh)

And the last straw - the frozen buns.  I bet you were wondering what that was a picture of.  Those are the buns I forgot to take out of the freezer for dinner - until 5 minutes before dinner was done.  (sigh)

So we feasted on sloppy joe sandwiches in hot dog buns.  Which, quite frankly, seemed to work a whole lot better for the kids.

Maybe that is the beautiful part of my day yesterday...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fashonistas Three

I am not fashionable.  There.  I said it.

In a perfect world, I could wear blue jeans and this green sweatshirt from college all the time.  Just ask any friend of mine from college and they would say, "Ahhh - THAT green sweatshirt..."  (And even a few people I met after college would know what you're talking about.)

And I would always have my hair in a sloppy knot at the nape of my neck.

But I try.  Mostly I try because of the "peer pressure" around me.  That is, all the fashionable mothers on the soccer field or volunteering at the school or sitting in the waiting room at ballet.  Not that they point out that it's the third day in a row I've worn these jeans, or probably even care if my hair has not been colored in 8 weeks.

So I'm a little confused about where my kids got their sense of fashion.  And today, the sheer amount of color, pattern, and sparkly bling between the three of them has been making me smile all day.

It began when Ella came down the stairs in a longish shirt and leggings.  "Do these leggings go with this dress, Mom?"  Dress?!  What dress?!

"Well, I guess, but you need a skirt to go with that shirt and over those leggings," was my response.  And then I thought to myself, "Right?"  I have no idea.  Are you supposed to wear longish shirts with just leggings?  But then it seems to me your rear end is hanging out there for anyone to look at.

Next she came down with the same longish shirt, the same leggings, and a floral skirt (almost as short as the shirt).  "Does this go together, Mom?"

Hmmmmm...  Well, the shirt has purple and the skirt has purple...  But "together"??

"Try again, Ella.  Maybe a solid skirt," I said.  But it was said without much conviction, because I wasn't really sure.

In the end, Abby picked a skirt out for her.  I didn't think it looked all that great, but Ella did.

And then Abby came down...  Suddenly the girl who always wears her long hair in a terrible, limp pony tail has brushed it till it's straight and shiny.  The headband she chose matched the skirt - and they were both plaid (shopping with Grandma - check my earlier post).  Her shirt had more sparkles than my wedding dress...

And then Wren got dressed for her first day of school...

And then I put on some blue jeans and a grey pull over...

So today, I am incredibly happy and finding great joy in the fact that my kids are not like me - that they are not crippled by color combinations and whether or not having your rear hang out is alright.  They are comfortable in their own skin (and bright clothes covered in bling).  I love that.  Please God, don't let them lose that!

And now, since I know you're dying to see...
Ella - note the "longish" shirt
Abby - note the monkeys on the socks
Wren - what is not included in this picture is the pink poncho with red hearts that she wore to school

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Family Time

Sunday, after a long summer of perhaps too much time with the neighbor kids, Ella broke down when all they yelled her name in that way that kids do that expresses frustration and anger and daggers shooting out of their eyes.  She cried.  I don't blame her.  I wouldn't like people yelling my name like that either.

So I knew we needed to get out of the house a bit and just be with the kids before school started in two days.  I know - you're thinking I have spent most of my summer with the kids.  But I think "being at the house" with the kids is not the same as just "being" with them.  Does that make sense?  I find too many toys not put away or beds not made or breakfast dishes left out. 

It was a beautiful day.  Summer is on its way out, but is still hanging on.  So it was a good time to throw on the grungy tennies and head to the woods.

We went to Fernwood Botanical Gardens.  We love it there.  The walking path through the woods is just long enough that the kids only start complaining about it at the end.  And in the summer, they have a "train set" with fairy houses and local landmarks (like Notre Dame's Golden Dome!).  The kids love exploring it.

After much gnashing of teeth (Wren did not want to wear jeans as she is a skirt kind of girl and Ella only wanted to wear her brand spanking, sparkly white, new shoes), we set out.  And all the teeth-gnashing was worth it.

Wren took the lead on the path through the woods with John close behind her.  I hung back, mostly with Ella.  She slipped her hand in mine and sometimes we would walk in silence and sometimes she would point out interesting trees or leaves or other "nature" things.  Abby travelled between the two groups and kept to herself a bit.  But she's like that. 

Later, John told me that Wren kept saying, "Don't worry about them Dad.  They're okay." 

She was a hard pace-setter.  I even got warm trying to keep up.

And it was a beautiful afternoon with my family - as it always is when we go there.  Even the whining at the end ("PLEASE carry me, Mommy") was worth it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Nice Spot to Read

Yesterday it sprinkled on and off all day.  At about 2:00, Abby was complaining about nothing to do and decided to read.  So I told her to "go read."  Then the problem was she wanted to be around people... but not her little sisters.  I don't think they qualify as "people" for her.

I tend to ignore this type of griping and groaning and sat back down at my desk - which is actually the kitchen counter.  The next thing I know, this is where she ended up:

I was sneaky taking the first picture.  By the second one she had caught me.

What is beautiful about this is that she chose to be near me.  She dragged her beanbag down to the kitchen to get close to me.

I am a pretty "hands off" type of mother.  All my girls are very independent, and Abby more so than the other two.  She is not one to seek me out or ask for my company.  She never asks for help on homework or much else for that matter.  Although I would be more than willing to help.  For several years now, I've felt like she just doesn't need me that much.

So it was really a privilege that she chose to be near me.

And then later, in a rare family TV viewing time (Dave Matthews Band on Ellen!!), she cuddled up next to me and we sat "cheek to cheek" (the bigger kind of cheek!).

As she approaches the pre-teen category and her desire to be near me wanes, it was really a wonderful gift that she gave me yesterday.  And she doesn't even realize it...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Middle

It's hard being "the middle."  I know.  I am "the middle" - stuck between two brothers.

It seems to be particularly hard for daughter #2, Ella.  She's 6.  There are several factors involved here.  First of all, she would like the privileges of daughter #1 (who is 9), but the pampering of daughter #3 (who is 3).  Not that there is much pampering going on in my house...

Also, she's a tall 6 year old, she is uber smart, and she's been talking in complete sentences with an astounding vocabulary since she was about 3 months old.  OK, maybe not 3 months old, but she did start talking clearly and intelligently long before most kids do.  So, I think we all "forget" that she's just 6 - especially since she is almost the same size as her big sister.  (Well, that makes her sound freakishly tall.  She's not, her sister is just short.)

Several times a day, she cries.  Her big sister has an incredibly annoying way of saying "Ella" and her little sister likes to tell her she doesn't love her.  She also is fearless and throws her body around resulting in bumps and bruises that could have been avoided.  And then there are the battles of will...

But yesterday, something beautiful happened...

I had asked her to take something over to the neighbor's house for me.  Immediately, little sister piped up that SHE wanted to do that.  And Ella, so contrary to her nature, let her!  And went along as the voice of explanation on why this thing was going to the neighbor.  She was the "big kid" that I keep asking her to be in these situations.

It felt like a break through...

And then, when they got back from the neighbor's, the fighting started and she ended up in the kitchen with me crying about the recent injustice done by her sisters... (they wouldn't let her dance how she wanted to).

But it was a glimpse of progress... and it was beautiful.