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Friday, 24 October 2003
Silence Between Sisters
My sister, Harmony, is 16 months younger than me. I suppose my mother expected that her two daughters close in age would be close emotionally. That has never been the case.

My earliest memories of sharing a room with her include my disgust at her sloppiness. She could not fold a blanket, which seemed to me a rudimentary skill in a girl's life. She left whole sandwiches under the bed to fossilize. She whispered at night while I tried to fall asleep. She even bit me once!

She is blue-eyed and has the long nose from my dad's side of the family. She looks a lot like he did. I take after my mother with brown eyes. I remember clearly the day we moved from our childhood home--my dad was divorcing us (I say us, meaning my mom and the kids, because that's how it seemed to me at the time) and we were moving out. Harmony was sobbing. She was always very dramatic, very emotional. We all dealt with the shattering of our lives in ways that drove us all apart.

But I digress.

When we were teenagers, I was mortified by Harmony's behavior. She refused to wash her hair, so it was stringy and greasy. She struggled with acne. She never really figured out the social skills necessary to get along with her peers. I was doing my best to not embarrass myself in junior high and high school and I was admittedly self-centered, as teenagers tend to be.

So, I didn't really pay her attention if I could help it. We had nothing in common, other than genetics. When we got home from school, we went to our separate rooms. I read, I played the piano, I volunteered and went to church and kept myself busy getting perfect grades.

She was always in my shadow and she always resented me for it. She wanted my approval, but I was a child myself and not capable of bolstering her up. I was trying to survive myself in a family whose members were isolated from one another. We had little parental support or approval.

When I was a senior, I met an exchange student from Japan. She needed a place to live and my dad agreed to let her live with us. She and my sister became fast friends. They eventually went to community college together, and then two other colleges, before they graduated from Western Washington University. After that, they moved to Japan, where they have lived ever since. That was over 10 years ago, maybe 12. They've actually lived together for about 20 years.

In our adult years, we've had a cordial relationship. We were pen-pals for many years, exchanging harmless letters without any true exchange of emotions. We saw each other on holidays and she visited several times. We had a couple of spats about ridiculous things, but that sort of thing stopped when I vowed to myself to just treat her like a pen-pal, not a sister. No emotions, just a plain vanilla relationship.

A few years back, after a particularly trying visit when she upset my mother with her constant demands and rudeness, I realized that if I viewed her as a fourteen year old I would not be so upset with her. After all, do you expect a fourteen year old to plan ahead? To take other people's schedules into consideration? To take care of their own errands and chores? To pay for their own dinner and to offer to pay for someone else's?

See? You would just say, "Well, she's fourteen, you can't expect that she'd be considerate at all times. A fourteen year old is completely self-centered. She's a teen! What do you expect?" And once I started thinking that, I adjusted my expectations and my annoyance level lessened considerably.

So, when she decided to take up photography and spend literally thousands of dollars on equipment and lessons, I said, well, of course, a fourteen year old would spend all her money on her own hobbies. And when she expected us all to drop our lives and throw a party when she visited (unscheduled, without warning), I said, well, what do you expect from a fourteen year old?

When I found myself unexpectedly pregnant for the second time, I started to think about who I'd invite to the birth. I wanted my mom to be there and my youngest sister (because we are close). I wanted to have video tape and photographs this time, but who to ask? Ah, my sister, Harmony! She has spent a fortune on photography equipment and lessons! Plus, she'll probably never have a baby herself, so it would be a great experience for her, plus, I'd get photographs!

So it was that I invited her to my birth. She agreed and seemed excited about it.

I told her what kind of photographs I wanted. No flash. Nothing graphic (I'd be in a tub, so figured nothing would be graphic anyways). She talked to her teachers and talked about what kind of film to use. She planned when to come for the birth.

Fast forward to the day of the birth. I realize I'm in labor at noon. I decide I can't be in labor because I'm three days from my due date. By two, I'm timing contractions. By three, I beg the midwife to come. By four-thirty, she examines me and informs me that I will have a baby "today." By five, I'm flinging myself to the ground every two minutes, moaning through contractions. In between, I call my sister, my mother, my friend and tell them that I will be having a baby, but that there is no hurry.

By 6 p.m., I am writhing in the birthing tub, screaming my way through contractions. My midwife and her two assistants have arrived. My mom and sister arrive at 6:15 p.m. I look up and say, "Hi. I am having intense labor. In a moment, I will be screaming. Do not be alarmed." Then I clutch the sides of the pool and scream.

Harmony starts taking pictures. I tell her to slow down, not to take a million pictures of me just screaming. I think labor will last a lot longer. Hours, days, possibly months.

The baby arrives at 6:52 p.m. Harmony has shot seven rolls of film.

The next day or so, she brings me four packets of pictures. These are the only rolls she remembered to take in. She's only had single prints made of each roll because she wasn't sure they would turn out. (This does not inspire confidence in me.)

The pictures are grainy and pretty much underexposed, but at least they are pictures. She managed to take some very unflattering and graphic pictures. I hurry through them while the baby sleeps and promise to pick out the pictures that I want reprints of.

She visits every day or so and asks repeatedly if I'm finished with the pictures. I keep saying, "no", because I'm busy with my newborn baby. Finally, I say, "Why do you want them?"

She shrugs and says, "I just want to have them in my purse. I'm just weird."

Oh. Okay. I say I'll try to get to them.

The next time she asks if I'm done with them, I say, "Why do you want them?"

"Because I want to show them to people."

"Show them to people? Who?" I think my mouth has sprung open and my eyes have bugged out.

"Well, to Tim [our brother] and to Uncle Joe."

I am stunned. She wants to show pictures of me partially naked to my 70 year old preacher uncle and my brother. When she leaves, I call my mother in a panic and tell her what Harmony has said. I tell her that I don't want Harmony to have pictures if she intends to show them to people. She agrees with me.

I decide to go through the pictures and take out all the ones that I deem unacceptable for public viewing. I edit out maybe half of the pictures. The next time she comes, she brings the three remaining packets of pictures. She's had double-prints made of them, one copy for me and one for her.

As I look through them, I edit them, setting aside the graphic, unflattering, scary pictures. (She's taken pictures of the midwives sewing me up, for instance. And pictures of my backside as the baby emerges. And just plain ugly pictures of me looking like a shark has dragged me underwater in a violent attack.) As I do this, I explain to her that I am not comfortable with people seeing certain pictures and that I decided to just take out the ones that I am not comfortable with.

She nods. I assume she understands. I give her stacks and stacks of pictures which are acceptable.

As she leaves, she says, "Where are the rest of my pictures?"

I say, "I gave you all the pictures I want you to have. I am not comfortable with people seeing the other pictures." I ask her to bring back the negatives from the first four rolls of film. She'd taken them surreptitiously during one of her visits.

"Oh," she says, but I can tell that she is angry.

She leaves.

She tells my mother that I stole her pictures. I am shocked!

She comes by for a final visit before she leaves for Japan. She photographs my baby's feet next to mine. When she leaves, she says, "Here's your stuff." She lays an envelope on the dresser. She seems pleasant enough. But the last thing she says as she walks out my bedroom door is, "So are you going to give me back my negatives when you are through with them?"

And I think about lying, but instead, I say, "No. I already gave you the pictures I am comfortable with you having."

So she's gone. I put down my baby when she's finally asleep and pick up the picture envelope.

In it, I find negatives in the sleeves the developer uses when you order reprints. But I hadn't ordered any reprints. I look at the negatives and find that she's had about a dozen pictures made, including some shots of my naked posterior birthing a baby, which was a picture I specifically excluded from those I gave her. I did not want my nude butt shown all through East Asia.

Completely furious, I marched myself downstairs and wrote her a terse email in which I demanded that she return the photographs which she took without my permission. I told her that if it was about money, to please send me a bill and I would be happy to reimburse her for the cost of the film and developing. I gave her two weeks.

She did not respond.

In two weeks, I fired off another email demanding the pictures.

I did so every month for about seven months when I gave up.

Eleven months after she stole my birth pictures, our paths crossed. My brother and his wife held a wedding celebration reception in their backyard. I decided on the way that I would respond if Harmony spoke to me, but that I would not initiate any conversation.

I realized that I have initiated every conversation with her for years and years and years. Probably since high school. I ask her questions, I respond to her comments, I try to make her comfortable.

But no more.

The backyard barbecue was a very small affair, maybe just a dozen people, perhaps twenty. My other sister, my mother, and my stepmother were there, as well as assorted in-laws. I walked through the fence, took note that Harmony was standing near a table and said to my stepmother, "Where's Harmony?"

Shoot! I meant, "Where's Becca?" because I was an hour late (conflict in my schedule) and I figured I'd be the last one there. Becca, however, took that award for lateness!

Anyway, I corrected myself and said, "Oh, I know that, I just wondered where Becca is."

Harmony never spoke to me, other than a comment indirectly spoken to a small group I was in: "Do you want a brownie?" I did not make eye contact, did not initiate a conversation. I am finished being the one who holds together the flimsy relationship we have. I am finished excusing her because she's "fourteen." I am done overlooking the selfish, wrong things she does. I am just done.

So, that's why we haven't spoken in over a year. I do my best not to put other family members in the middle. I know they all still email her. I know she'll visit again and I'll do what I can not to make anyone uncomfortable.

But she's not welcome in my home.
She's not welcome to have a relationship with my children.
She's certainly not welcome to show my naked butt to strangers in Japan.

The funny thing is, I haven't noticed any loss or vacancy in my life. I'm just annoyed that she never sent me the pictures of my newborn's feet nestled next to mine.

Other than that, it's a relief not to have to deal with a perpetually petulant fourteen year old.

Posted by Mel at 9:57 PM PDT
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 10:30 PM PDT
My now-ten year old twins napped until they were nearly four. We finally had to force them not to nap when their bedtime crept from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. and even later. They went to bed, but they didn't go to sleep.

So, we'd skip their naptime and by 5 p.m., they would be so tired that we wouldn't let them sit down and watch t.v. or do anything "quiet" or they'd fall alseep for three solid hours.

My now-five year old quit taking naps before he was two years old. One time, shortly before his second birthday, my husband and I took him to a mall, for a little outing while the older kids were in school. The Supermall is a huge, circular place and we hadn't been there many times before.

We were checking toy stores for a particular item and in the second store, YoungestBoy picked up a toy. As was my custom, I took it from him and said, "No, not today. Let's go now and see what else we can see."

He began to cry. So, I scooped him up and hurried about three stores down the mall, figuring that would be the end of that.



He has his father's stubborn streak. He kicked. He screamed. He flailed. He cried. I finally held him against me, arms and legs out, kicking, waving, twisting . . . I broke a sweat. We made a quick decision and figured it would be faster to just keep going since the mall was a circle.


We went another three-quarters of the way around before we found our exit. Then, with the fit-throwing boy still screaming, walked through two parking lots, me with grim, sweaty face, figuring that someone was surely dialing the number for Children's Protective Services at that moment.

Found our car. The tantrum had not lessened and in fact, we couldn't bend him to get him into the car seat. I spanked him and the shock of that caused him to bend long enough for me to buckle him in. He was now so angry he was foaming at the mouth and struggling to get out of his carseat.

He screamed, red-faced, for twenty minutes before he fell into a sweaty sleep. (By a stroke of luck, I'd taken a picture of him on the way to the mall, and now I took a picture of him on the way home, all blotchy and disheveled. I love those pictures!)

We got home and he woke up and remembered what he'd been doing when he fell asleep, so he resumed the tantrum. I took him straight upstairs and plopped him into his crib and told him that when he was finished, I would come and get him.

He carried on for a bit.

Finally, the fit ended and I brought him downstairs.

Sadly, my new baby, my sweet girl, Babygirl, God's gift to me, the one who will care for me in my old age, the apple of my eye, the sunshine of my life, my daughter, who is not even fourteen months old . . . yes, her, the cute one with reddish blond hair and denim blue eyes . . . she hasn't napped in four days.

Is this is a trend, a new chapter in her life, a permanent change? Doesn't God realize I am an old woman? I need a break! I need some peace! I need a baby-free zone!

I need a nap.

Posted by Mel at 2:19 PM PDT
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 10:32 PM PDT
Thursday, 23 October 2003
School Conferences
Today was School Conference Day. I attempted to put Babygirl down for a nap at 12:30. My husband came home from work for an hour so I could go to conferences. My plan was for both babies to sleep, but Babygirl did not cooperate. I was so frustrated when I had to take her with me.

TwinBoyB's conference was first. This is my son who didn't walk until 17 months old. He had only four teeth when he turned 2. He has never been in any kind of hurry in his life. His plan for life is to do as little as he can in all areas. Except, of course, for Nintendo and making weird mouth noises and swacking bushes with sticks.

He starts every school year operating in Sneak By Without Being Noticed mode. I was not at all surprised to hear that he's failing half of his subjects, even math, which he truly understands. He "forgets" things and doesn't understand things. The truth is, as the teacher said, "If a leaf falls off a tree outside, it completely derails him." This is a boy who cannot or does not concentrate.

Anyway, we can only hope that he grows up and graduates. He normally begins to put forth a bit of effort about this time of the year when he realizes that we are all watching him!

TwinboyA's teacher had good things to say about him. He's getting nearly straight A's. She said he'd like to just read all the time. His handwriting is messy, but she feels like he's making improvements in that area. His math sheets are also messy, but that's improving as well. She was very nice and didn't even get rattled when Babygirl decided to fuss and cry during the whole twenty-minutes.

Tonight, I went to YoungestBoy's kindergarten conference. The teacher showed me the assessment that they did the first weeks of school. He counted to 100 and knew all his numbers. He knew almost all of his letters and a few of the sounds. He knew his shapes and colors. Most importantly, though, she said he is an excellent student and a joy to have in class.

I never expected that getting children through their school years would be such an exhausting experience. I hate to see any of them fail in any area. They are all great kids.

I hate, too, that my kids are so average, or even below average. It always seems like everyone has kids in gifted and talented programs, or accelerated learning programs, and my kid is just struggling to spell "resource"! It's a reminder that they are individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses . . . and if strengths reflect positively on parents, then don't weaknesses, too?

I feel like TwinBoyB's failures make me look like a negligent parent, like a failure myself. After all, if I can't raise my children to be excellent students and good people, then perhaps I'm doing a horrible job as a mother. I worry about this pretty often. I thought I would be so good at this mothering thing and half the time I can't even keep clean underwear in their drawers!

I tell myself that they are just individuals with their own sets of struggles and successes to experience. It's another chance to step back and remember that these children are a gift from God and not an extension of me, like a couple of extra arms or feet.

For tonight, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

(And, please, God, please, don't let Babygirl give up her naps just yet or I will surely collapse! Twelve straight hours of baby-care is more than I can handle!)

Posted by Mel at 10:18 PM PDT
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 10:34 PM PDT
Wednesday, 22 October 2003
It's Raining, It's Pouring
We had the most gloriously dry summer here in the Pacific Northwest. The sun just shone on and on, as if we suddenly lived in San Diego, rather than the rainy Northwest. We took the kids to swim at the pool almost every day. The lawns turned totally brown. The experts started talking about a drought.

And then came Monday.

Early in the morning, I heard the rhythm of hard rain falling. I snuggled a little deeper into my flannel sheets, pleased with the sound of rain. Rain is good. Rain is soothing.

The rain fell so hard and so continuously, however, that we set a weather record for the most rain ever to fall in a single day here--five inches. People think that it rains all the time here, but the truth is, it's overcast a lot. It does rain, but we don't have snow, tornadoes, hurricanes, thunderstorms or typhoons. Just rain, trickling here and there. One year we did have 47 straight days of rain, which tends to grind down even the hardiest among us.

But usually, it's just damp from October to March.

Luckily for us, we don't live even remotely close to a river. We live, in fact, on the top of town. We travel downhill to the waterfront, the Puget Sound. But many people lost all their belongings when their homes and property was flooded. And I remembered once volunteering to fill sandbags as a teenager. I wonder what year that was? I think it was 1979.

Good grief, here I am going on and on about the rain, when there are so many . . . boring things to record.

Babygirl skipped naps two days in a row.
School conferences are tomorrow.
This week is half-days of school, and no school for my kindergartener.
My husband has had to wear suits all week because I haven't gotten around to ironing his pants and shirts.
I've lost almost 12 pounds on Weight Watchers, this time around.

Since I am completely rambling at this point, let me just remark about how cute Babygirl is. She nods her head. Not just a little, but vigorously in response to questions. "Do you want to go upstairs?" Nod, nod. "Do you want to go for a ride?" Nod, nod. "Are you hungry?" Nod, nod. She is so darling and so completely different from my boys that it's an adventure, a brand new adventure every day, being her mother.

Even on days that she doesn't nap!

Posted by Mel at 8:17 PM PDT
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 10:36 PM PDT
Saturday, 18 October 2003
My Dirty Shirt
I hate waking up to the sounds of children hollering. But that's how some Saturdays begin. (Why do children wake up so early on the weekends?) Usually, I hear loud footsteps thumping down the stairs, followed by the sounds of morning cartoons, but this morning, I slept soundly and didn't hear anything until the hollering started. That sort of set the tone for the rest of this day. The children argued and whined and complained their way through the day.

By mid-morning, TwinBoyB had spent time in his room alone--twice--for fighting with YoungestBoy. TwinBoyA spent fifteen minutes alone in his room for being sassy to me. That was a battle I had to win immediately. I saw a future-teenager lurking in his eyes and thought that teenager should know that I meant business! His attitude improved considerably after that.

And now, at 9 p.m., my shirt is dirty. My shoulder features smooshed banana from Babygirl's breakfast. The center stains appear to be dried mucus from her nose. Garden-variety dirt was scattered over the lower front. (Babygirl threw it at me with great glee.)

I appeared in public in this dirty shirt this afternoon. We took the boys to buy pumpkins at the local produce store and I didn't have a chance to change my shirt. Who knew that changing shirts would require so much effort?

(Scene at the produce store checkout lane:

TwinBoyA: "Mom, can I have this?" He holds up small tin of expensive hard candy.

Me: "No. That's too expensive. Here, let's get these." Places three peanut butter chocolate candies on the counter to purchase. Price: Three for a dollar.

TwinBoyA: "I hate those. That's peanut butter. I want this."

Me: "No."

TwinBoyA: "Please, mom? Please!"

Me: "No. I don't even know how much it is. Oh, look here, it's a dollar nineteen. That's too much."

TwinBoyA: "Mom, you only care about money. What if I repay you with the allowance I'll get in two weeks?"

Me: "No."

TwinBoyA: "I can't believe you won't even make your son happy."

Me: Silence.

Then, as we're walking out, "Son, when we walk out this door, I do not want to hear one more thing about that candy. Is that clear? I said no and I meant no."

TwinBoyA, grudgingly: "Okay.")

Sigh. Ungrateful kids. Now I understand what my dad was talking about!

Babygirl did not nap today. I attempted three times to put her in her crib, but she would not stay. So, she slept only thirty minutes while I nursed her. This lack of sleep did not affect her energy, of course!

Yesterday, I took her to the doctor for her 12 month check up. Yes, I know, she's 13.5 months, but I'm marching to the beat of my own drummer. The doctor was uncharacteristically unhelpful and started the visit by saying, "So, what can I do for you?" I was puzzled and said, "We're here for a well-baby check and shots."

I think Babygirl had already started fussing and crying. She did not like the nurse taking her temperature or weighing and measuring her. She's a very cautious baby who does not appreciate strangers coming into her personal space. Anyway, she screamed during the whole exam and the doctor and I had to talk around the wailing.

The doctor was extremely concerned about Babygirls's weight (18 pounds 12 ounces) and height (30.5 inches). Babygirl was 8 pounds 8 ounces when she was born and then held steady in the 25th percentile until now. Now she is below the charts, which apparently freaks out medical types.

The doctor said if she didn't put on some weight within two months, she will need to have some tests! I nodded and agreed, but when I left the office, I had a sick feeling in my stomach, like I have failed as a mother, like I received a C- in a class that I expected an A+ in. She doesn't need tests! Her developmental is completely normal, but the doctor wouldn't know that, because she failed to ask!

Anyway, Babygirl got four shots and cried in protest, but stopped abruptly when they were over.

I spent the day noticing how little Babygirl ate. I even made peanut butter cookies to fatten her up. She took one bite and spit it out! She eats a bite her, a bite there, but has a dainty appetite. She probably will take after her paternal grandma who is a tiny little thing.

So, this day ended much as it began. I passed out bowls of popcorn to the children. The bowls were the exact same size, filled to the brim with popcorn. TwinBoyB said, "Hey, no fair! My bowl does not have as much as theirs!"

"Son," I said, "The bowls are perfectly fair."

"No, they aren't! I don't have as much."

"Son," I said, "If you complain, I will take away your popcorn and you can have nothing."

Why does a child want to test his parent's resolve? He carried on with his complaints and I went over and said, "Okay, give me your bowl."

"Noooooo!" he wailed. And he put his bowl behind his back. We both had a grip on the bowl.

I said in my firmest mom-voice, "Give me the bowl right now or you will go to bed immediately!"

And he handed over the bowl and then started to sob. I told him that he'd better get a grip or he'd go straight to bed.

He complained a bit more and nearly bought himself an early bedtime. "I'm hungry!" "My face hurts!" "My throat hurts!" "I feel dizzy!" "I only ate three bites of dinner!"

He even offered to eat a banana, which is what I always offer when they say they are hungry and it's not time for dinner yet. (They always refuse my offer.) I said no.

It's amazing to me that some kids continue to test the boundaries year after year after year. TwinBoyA has been attempting to wrest control of the family from me since he was a year old!

Some days, I want to do a little happy dance when the darkness falls and they are finally in bed. But I resist the urge and save my energy for the laundry which still awaits. Sigh.

Posted by Mel at 9:08 PM PDT
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 10:41 PM PDT
Thursday, 16 October 2003
Queen of Socks
I just folded 47 pairs of newly bleached white socks. I had 33 unmatched socks. Four discards. Even bleach and three washings in hot water could not remove the gray dirt from those four socks. The boys wore them outside on a muddy day and then peeled them off for a wet and soggy sock fight. They sat on the back patio for a week or two, until I finally remembered to retrieve them.

So, I'm not the Queen of the Clean Patio.

Frankly, I probably wouldn't even win the title of Queen of Socks. The Queen of Socks wouldn't be wearing her husband's socks because she couldn't find any clean ones in her own drawer. And the children of the Queen of Socks probably didn't have to tell her this morning that there were no more clean socks in their room.

Maybe I'll just have to be the Court Jester of Socks. I wonder if the Court Jester gets a tiara?

Posted by Mel at 2:33 PM PDT
Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Where is my naptime?!
I live for naptime. I admit it.

My day starts at 7:30 a.m., when my one-year old daycare baby arrives. My husband takes our 10 year old twins to school at 8 a.m. Then I spend the rest of the morning on the floor playing with the babies, changing the babies, feeding the babies, distracting the babies, dancing with the babies, watching Sesame Street with the babies and so on until 12:30 p.m. Then my neighbor picks up YoungestBoy for kindergarten.

I put the baby boy to bed and nurse my daughter to sleep. By the time People's Court ends at 1 p.m., she's asleep and I have two hours to myself.

Except for today. She snoozed while she nursed and then at 1 p.m., when I gently placed her in her crib, she sat up and screamed. I tried again, but to no avail. She's skipping her nap today.

I made my lunch anyway, hearts of Romaine with a can of tuna. She ate the tuna off my salad.

I called my husband to complain.

It's not that she's crabby or whiny. It's just that she's awake! I need her to sleep. I need silence. I need time to catch up with the laundry and the dishes. I need to be able to walk from one room into another without her panicking and screaming her cute little head off. I went into the laundry room while she was watching Teletubbies and when I came out, she'd scampered upstairs and was in the hallway shrieking. She thought she was following me.

I am so now so desperate that I gave her the box of pop-up tissues to play with.

This child wants my undivided attention at all times and in fact, is fussing now on my lap. Sigh. Twelve hours is a very long time to spend with a one year old!

* * * * * * * * * * *

Some people like to work in fits and starts. I know people like this. They begin a project, then break for breakfast. Start another job, then decide to run some errands. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Not only do interruptions not bother them, but they actually create their own interruptions. Somehow, they accomplish a lot, everything they need to and more.

I hate working like that. I like to work until a job is done. I like to work first, play later. I hate being interrupted. Unfortunately for me, motherhood is one big interruption.

I had a little flicker of realization today. My husband keeps asking (taunting, really) when I am going to write my first novel. I just roll my eyes. I have no time! Well, I have time, but it's interrupted time. Little, chopped up snippets of time. (Until night, when I'm worn out.)

He can accomplish things, even when he's interrupted. I get flustered and my brain starts to rattle around in my head and my eyes blur over and I just can't think. Sometimes, I'm thinking while I'm washing dishes, orderly thoughts lined up nice and neat in my head and then the phone will ring and two kids will talk to me at once and the baby will screech and all those thoughts fly into disarray.

And I have to think if I'm going to write. I know I'll have to retreat inside myself and kind of be unavailable for a time. I'll need blocks of time, uninterrupted by the buzzer on the dryer and the phone and a baby crying and fifth grade homework.

Until then, I'll think as much as I can and wonder if I should write that novel in first or third person.

Posted by Mel at 2:05 PM PDT
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 10:43 PM PDT
Monday, 13 October 2003
Baby Miracles
Babygirl is 13 and a half months old, almost. Today, she walked down the cement stairs in the back yard without holding on to anything. She was chasing a ball.

While we were in the back yard, she begged until I gave her a garden tool, so she "helped" me dig up weeds.

She writes with a pencil. In fact, she insists on writing with any pencil or crayon she spies.

Two days ago, she waved a bubble wand and created bubbles! (Over and over again, despite the October chill in the air.)

Music makes her dance. She'll even say "dance" if I ask her if she'd like some music.

She figured out how to blow on a whistle today (it was actually the top portion of a recorder). Her little cheeks puffed out and she'd toot. I'd laugh, she'd giggle and do it again.

But today's nap was only twenty minutes long! I was so disappointed to hear her wake up. She went down without a fuss at 8 p.m.

I watched her run in the kitchen this afternoon (dirty dishes in the sink and crumbs in the carpet) and thought that I probably won't remember so much of these days. I won't remember her four-toothed grin, her toddling gait, her interest in sticking her finger in my nose. I won't remember the dishes or the crumbs, either!

So, while waiting tedious hours for nap-time and building a three-block tower fifteen times in a row and watching baby temper tantrums when she turns her back to me and clenches her fists and screams, I will try to see the miracle of her. I will try to be present in the moment. I will try to memorize her blond curls and her denim-blue eyes. I will not wish away these weeks and months.

In another moment, she'll be going to college and walking down the aisle and having babies of her own. And I'll miss having her finger up my nose.

Posted by Mel at 11:17 PM PDT
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 10:44 PM PDT
Sunday, 12 October 2003
Sundays At My House
Sundays mean church at our house. Even though the twins suddenly developed stuffy noses when I announced that we would, indeed, be going to church this rainy morning.

"But, Mom, I'm sick!" TwinBoyA said.

"I'm sick, too!" TwinBoyB said.

"I don't care." I said. "We're going."

I showered before Babygirl woke up, then supervised the boys as they dressed, gave them donuts leftover from yesterday and combed their hair. When Babygirl woke up, I nursed her and then dressed her in a dress and tights. With the children presentable, I turned my attention to myself.

But, I have a corn on my toe. It appeared some weeks ago, this spot where it felt like a toenail was jabbing into my almost-pinky toe. I examined it and self-diagnosed it as a corn, then treated it myself with some acid I bought at Target. All seemed well, but now, apparently, I'm going to die of a toe corn. It hurts more than ever.

So, getting dressed was a challenge. No pumps for me. No pantyhose. I wanted to go barefoot.

Now, Babygirl was not excited about the idea of being put down. Have you ever tried to put on eyeliner while holding a one-year old? I stood her on the counter while I lined my eyes and put on the rest of my face. But I had to put her down while I pulled on some clothes (black knit pants, black shirt, black shoes--ouch, that toe hurts). She screamed, but I was dressed.

We arrived at church fifteen minutes early. I concentrated on not limping. I intended to claim a certain back pew for my rowdy clan, but it was already reserved with someone's purse and Bible. Drat. We sat in the second to last pew and Babygirl immediately decided that something was not right in her world.

Her whines became howls. I have no idea what upset the delicate balance of her universe, but sure enough, I had to take her to the nursery before church even started. I left the boys in the care of a couple who are grandparents. Their cousins and grandmother would eventually join them on the back pew.

Babygirl sat on my lap for a good forty-five minutes in the nursery before she felt comfortable enough to venture off in search of toys. I enjoyed visiting with the volunteer mom who was staffing the nursery.

On the way home from church, five and a half year old YoungestBoy says, "Mom, I was the funniest kid in Sunday School!"

I said, "You were?"

"Yes," he said, "Whenever they asked me any questions, I just said, 'bacon!'"

"Bacon?" I said.

"Yes, bacon!" he answered triumphantly.

I do not know why, but apparently this is the pinnacle of humor when you are five.

So, I did not sing a hymn this morning. I did not pray with the congregation. I did not hear the solist, nor the choir. I did not listen to a sermon.

But all is not lost! I had a refreshing conversation in the nursery. And miraculously, the twins apparently received a complete healing. Their colds instantly vanished the second we left church.


Posted by Mel at 8:57 PM PDT
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 10:47 PM PDT
Saturday, 11 October 2003
The beginning
Note: I created this site in October, but this was written last February.

February 8, 2003.

I am the mother of boys. Three boys. The twins are almost 10 and the youngest is two weeks away from being five.

Before I had these boys, I used to think I was going to be a wonderful mother. I would teach the children to read and cuddle them in bed and tell them bedtime stories. I would prepare crafts in advance for them to do and allow them to paint whenever they wanted. I would bake them cookies and healthy meals and they would love vegetables. I would cheer for them and hug them and be a room mother and make sure their socks were really, really white. My house would be clean and tidy and ready for company at all times.

As it turns out, I am a horrible mother. I hardly ever get the paints out. The socks are dingy grey because the boys like to play outside without their shoes on. The boys leave the socks on the floor or on the couch and the dog carries them away in a wild running game outside. My boys have never eaten broccoli. They don't like anything that has onions in it or anything that looks weird or suspicious or is mixed together.

When someone calls and says they are coming over, sweat glistens on my brow while I frantically run up and down the stairs, putting away clean clothes and carting away dirty clothes and putting the upstairs toys upstairs and the downstairs toys downstairs and plumping the couch pillows and picking up bit of paper off the floor and scraping toothpaste off the wall with my fingernail. Then I yell, "Why is this sheet coming off the bed?! I just put it on! You are driving me crazy!" (Which always makes me think of when TwinBoyB was three and used to say to me, "You are diving me cazy!")

I yell at my kids and they yell at each other. One of my boys is as snotty as I am. I never used to be snotty. I used to be quiet and kind and serene and self-controlled. Now I occasionally slam a door in fury and fling my hands in the air and grit my teeth and say, "OH MY GOSH!" My husband looks at me and says, "Dear . . . " by way of warning me, but that just irritates me more. I promise that I used to be a sweet and gentle person. Then I had boys.

I am responsible for their dirty, ragged fingernails, their waxy ears, their unruly hair and their unmatched clothes. "Mom, do you think everyone stands in front of their closet every morning and says, hmmm, what can I wear that will match?" Their breath smells, one has body odor and they just don't care if their hands are sticky. Their hair is sweaty from jumping on the bed. They use their shirts for napkins and their forks as shovels.

They wrestle. They clomp down the stairs. They play outside without bothering to step carefully around the dog poop. They accidentally make each other bleed. They scream at each other, they smack each other and they tattle. They are not quiet. Ever. Especially on Saturday mornings. The only time they sleep in is on Sunday mornings, when it is imperative that we wake up early and get the show on the road. At night they whisper and giggle and occasionally shout while they are supposed to be going to sleep. They complain about going to bed at 8;30 since there are kids in their classes who stay up until ten. Or midnight!

They hate getting into the bathtub and then don't want to get out. They splash water outside of the tub everyday. They pee on the toilet seat. And the floor. They forget to flush. They forget to wash their hands. They remember everything they ever learned about Super Mario Party 4.

We tell them to go upstairs and shut their bedroom door and they forget by the time they get upstairs. We tell them to wash their hands and they never even end up in the bathroom. They never comb their hair without being reminded.

Their clothes lay in a crumpled pile wherever they happen to disrobe. They don't hang up wet towels. When they come home from school, they somehow step out of their shoes and leave them directly in the path of foot-traffic, normally at the bottom of the stairs. They drop their coats on the floor.

They cry sometimes when I force them to practice spelling words. They can't remember their multiplication facts. (Well, the almost-5 year old is exempt from that. He somehow understands the concept of negative numbers and a few days ago had me chalk a hopscotch in the driveway that started with negative three and went up to eleven.) Neatness does not count, in their minds. They grip their pencils wrong. Their handwriting scares me.

I just wonder what I have done wrong. I thought I'd be such a good mom. I had no doubt that my children would be quiet and respectful and smart and good students and never sassy or snotty. They would want to follow my rules and my wishes. Ha. They are likely to put one another in headlocks, but they are not likely to smile and nod and do what I say without delay.

At nighttime, my patience expires about five minutes before bedtime. They say we are still hungry, we are thirsty and can we please stay up until nine? They forget to pee. They forget to brush their teeth. They forget to brush their back teeth. They need to go downstairs to find their blankets. They want to talk about their day. I just want them to go to sleep. I want peace. I want quiet. Instead, I go back upstairs four times telling them to be quiet. Good-night, I say. GO TO SLEEP! No sweet bedtime stories and cuddles. I am finished with them.

So, I am a mother to boys. Dirty, stinky, naughty boys. But there is hope. Her name is Babygirl and she's the reason I need the boys to be quiet upstairs! She's just a baby and she's taking a nap! Shhhhhh! I think I'll be a good mother, ready for tea-parties and lace dresses. I'll let her paint whenever she wants. I'll let her help me bake cookies. I'll never yell at her. Really.

Posted by Mel at 9:55 PM PDT
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 10:50 PM PDT

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