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Saturday, 3 January 2004
Snowed In Again

Snow isn't supposed to fall in Seattle. We're famous for our rain. Yet, it snowed Wednesday, Friday and now again today! The first day it snowed, we happened to be talking about prayer at the dinner table. How do you explain prayer to kids who recently prayed that Santa would bring presents? (Funnily enough, they didn't notice on Christmas Day that there was nothing from Santa, nor was he mentioned.)

Finally, my husband stepped in and said, "Guys, God is like a good parent. He will give you what is good for you, what you should have." I piped in. "Yes, sometimes God says no." Shane added that sometimes God answers "wait."

So, we settled the issue of prayer. Until bedtime. Youngest Boy got a gleam in his eye and suddenly bowed his head and prayed while I was getting his pajamas on. I knew that he was praying for more snow. I didn't have the heart to tell him that God doesn't alter the weather just for five-year-old boys.

Ever since, snow has fallen. Great big, midwestern-sized flakes. The nights have been cold and the snow lingers. The high temperature is supposed to stay below freezing for the next few days. Not unusual for many places, but very strange for Seattle. This is the type of weather that causes "Breaking News" reports to interrupt regular programming. "The Big Storm" and such, which is really hilarious for a few inches of snow.

Meanwhile, Babygirl has a cold, complete with disgustingly sloppy nose and occasional cough. She seems a little annoyed, but otherwise unbothered by her symptoms, though she is more demanding than usual. The boys have had a terrific time throwing snowballs and making snow angels. I'm kind of sad to see Christmas vacation end. But did I mention that I'm reading for Spring?

Posted by Mel at 2:43 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 11:44 AM PDT
Thursday, 1 January 2004
It's Not Funny

Wiping noses. It's not funny. Get it? It's snot funny? Ah, well, that was one of my dad's puns. I think of it tonight because my baby girl has a runny nose.

Her brothers were all sniffly last week, so it was inevitable. I still somehow hoped that she wouldn't get sick. Despite the snot, she's pretty cheerful. The baby I watch was here on Monday and Tuesday with a horrible goopy nose--he'd been sick the entire week prior, but thankfully, his mom had vacation days over the week of Christmas. When he is here with a gooey, germ-infested nose, it's all I can do not to spray him directly with Lysol and quarantine him in a closet. I can practically see the germs leaping onto my delicate girl. I wipe the poor boy's nose so frequently that halfway through the morning he cries when he sees me head his direction with a tissue.

But yesterday, he didn't come over because we had an unexpected snowfall. Last year, it didn't snow a flake, so this was a happy surprise for the children. Flakes started falling about 9 p.m. Tuesday night and by morning, the world was disguised in a 3-inch white blanket. The kids were delighted. They ran out to throw snowballs at each other. Of course, all this frivolity ended with snowballs in the face and red ears and tears.

I plunked Babygirl down on the deck, near the railing so I could take a photograph of her and her first snow. She stood with arms outstretched like she was balancing on a high wire and began to cry.

This is not an adventurous child! She was happy to toddle around on the covered patio. She never touched the snow, nor did she want to walk in it.

Today, more snow fell to reupholster the grass in white again. The best part about snow here in Seattle is that it will melt in a day or two at most. And then winter can end. I'm ready for spring.

Posted by Mel at 8:15 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 11:51 AM PDT
Tuesday, 30 December 2003
Scoot Over, Lestat

I am a vampire now. I only go out at night. My kids are sucking the life right out of me--how could I not have noticed this before? I am frightfully pale. It's all beginning to make sense.

I saw movies the past two nights. I tried to see "Something's Gotta Give" on Sunday night, but the newspaper's published time was incorrect! So, I saw "House of Sand and Fog" instead. What a beautiful, but dismal movie. Last night, I tried again and saw "Something's Gotta Give."

While I sat in worship of the dark screen, I thought, I could be perfectly happy to see a movie every night for the rest of my life. I also wanted to slip into that movie and live in that life and walk on that shore and write at that desk with its ocean view. I wanted those paintings on my wall and that comforter on my bed. I wanted that kitchen, with its spacious counters. I could live without Jack Nicholson, however. I just wanted everything else.

Tonight, I am home in my own coffin--uh, I mean house, where I need to do some laundry and prepare for another day of babysitting and running this household.

Posted by Mel at 8:21 PM PST
Saturday, 27 December 2003
Post Christmas Grinch

I feel grinchy. And guilty. I want to get out of this house, alone, totally alone. I went out to dinner last week twice with girlfriends, but it just isn't enough. I want to go to a movie alone, and just like a craving for chocolate that will not be satisfied with jelly beans, I want it, want it, want it! I turn the idea over in my mind, imagine the popcorn, the darkness of the theater, the previews, even the sticky floor. I thought tonight I could go, but then my husband went to the church to study his sermon. I'm home alone, again, and I'm not nearly as clever and cute as that blond kid in the movie. And, of course, I'm not really alone. I'm alone with kids, which an entirely different ballgame, one without umpires and rules.

The four kids are all in the family room, just feet away from me. TwinboyB sits in the recliner, fiddling with the remote control. Babygirl is jabbering to TwinboyA as she crawls off the couch. TwinboyA jabbers back while YoungestBoy flings his head into the couch like he's some kind of crazed World Federation Wrestler. Toys are scattered around the floor--and now the boys are playing soccer with the ball TwinboyB received for Christmas.

I claimed recently that I haven't been bored since 1983 when I graduated from high school, but that was not just an exaggeration, it was an outright lie. I am bored on a daily basis. The things that entertain a one year old just don't entertain me. Sure, it's cute to watch her wash the wall of the bathtub with a cloth. For about one minute. Then, it's just boring for 19 minutes. It's darling to see her pour water on her tummy once. Then, boring the two dozen subsequent times. It's boring, dull, mind-numbing to sit on the floor and entertain a baby for hour upon hour. It's boring not to be able to read, not to be able to write, not to be able to talk to anyone on the phone. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that I should be "in the moment" and all that, but sometimes the moments just drag from one to the next, and I want to be somewhere else.

Okay, so this is probably just PMS talking, but hey, even PMS is entitled to speak occasionally.


Posted by Mel at 6:03 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 12:03 PM PDT
Thursday, 25 December 2003
It's All Over But The Tripping

Well, it's over. Christmas is finished for another year. All that's left, of course, is the tripping--over news toys, new clothes, and kids who insist on playing on the kitchen floor with their cool, tiny remote control cars. I figure it's just a matter of time until I step on one of those cars and squash it like a bug.

I went to sleep about midnight last night. At about 2:30 a.m., YoungestBoy knocked on our bedroom door and asked if he could go downstairs to open presents. "No," I said, "______, it's the middle of the night. Go back to bed."

Two hours later, at 4:30 a.m., YoungestBoy again. This time, I didn't give him a chance to ask. I just said, "______, it's the middle of the night! Go back to bed!" At 7:20 a.m., when my husband nudged me and said, "The kids are downstairs," I was having a bizarre dream about a full-sized tiger on a leash and a full-sized Newfoundland dog. I was taking these animals down a school corridor to find their owners. I didn't remember until I was showering that Eminem, the rapper, was also in my dreams--he was propositioning me and I refused him, knowing, even in Bizarro-World that I was married and chaste.

So, I showered and dressed and fed the baby and dressed the baby and pretty much tortured the children by making them wait until after 8:00 a.m. to open presents. They'd found all their stocking stuffers and were thrilled with those treasures. The first boxes they unwrapped were clothes--and like the boys they are, they just looked at the first shirt in the stack and tossed the box aside with a disinterested "oh, clothes".

The exciting presents of the day included computer and video games and a brand new computer for the three boys to share. Babygirl was uninterested in unwrapping anything, which is good since there wasn't much for her. She got some clothes, a kid-sized Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner, and a a cleaning caddy full of baby cleaning supplies--a broom, mop, bucket, sponge, rag, etc. She adores the broom. She was the most interested by a grey felt box which held earrings (a gift from my mother to me). She opened it, pulled out the earrings, put them back, closed it, and then did it all over again.

We had a quiet day at home (well, as quiet as a day can be with four children and their toys). My mom was here for brunch (coffee cake and bacon) and then she headed to my brother's house to celebrate with him and his wife. She planned to go to my sister's house for dessert after that. I was just relieved to be staying home. After Babygirl's nap (in my arms), she was in a very pleasant mood, so she played happily with daddy and her brothers while I prepared dinner (ham and the fixings). The kids were impressed by the "feast" we enjoyed.

I am resisting the urge to pull down all the Christmas decorations tonight. I am so finished with Christmas. Now, I want to paint the living room and Babygirl's intended bedroom. Of course, before that, I just want to sit in a movie theater, alone, and watch a movie! I have small dreams.

Posted by Mel at 7:43 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 12:06 PM PDT
Wednesday, 24 December 2003
Silent Night, Holy Night

It's 11 p.m. and the stockings are stuffed and the presents hug the tree. The children are all nestled snug in their beds with instructions not to get up before 7:30 a.m. I like to be the one who sees their excited faces when they walk into the living room. And I, of course, must shower and dress first, so they have to wait.

Babygirl went to sleep at 7 p.m., as usual, and my mother came over to "babysit" her so I could take the three boys to the Christmas Eve service at church. Being at church without Babygirl was so strange. How did I live without her? What did I do with my arms? Having the gifts of children really does means that I have all I need and want. I honestly don't care about getting anything on Christmas Day. I have everything already.

I did tease YoungestBoy and ask him what he was getting me. He asked for an advance on his allowance so he could get me a diamond ring.

I asked TwinboyB if he was getting me a new house and he looked genuinely puzzled and said, "Why? We already have this house."

TwinboyA spent part of his day readying the gifts he made at school. YoungestBoy sat down with clay and sculpted me something with dozens of toothpicks stuck into it and then drew something.

Sweet, silent, holy night.

Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus!

Posted by Mel at 11:07 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 12:35 PM PDT
Tuesday, 23 December 2003
Made-up Words

I love the occasional made-up word. When someone says "flusterated" it makes my day. Or when I hear "irregardless" I smile and think of my dad (who hated made-up words).

But I heard the best one ever recently: Parannoys--as in "it parannoys me when I think I'm being followed by a monster." Parannoys: a clever combination of "paranoid" and "annoys." Beautiful. Or, as the kids would say, "that is prettiful."

Posted by Mel at 11:45 AM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 23 December 2003 5:03 PM PST
Monday, 22 December 2003
So Does This Mean I Have Seven More Years of Bad Luck?

Christmas week--and I somehow expected a more relaxed schedule. The daycare baby isn't coming this week. No school. But my husband ran off to work earlier than usual, but not before pointing out that the carpet in the bathroom (yes, I said "carpet"--the people who owned this house before us were idiots) was soaked. The toilet overflowed. I used every available towel to soak up the wetness. The toilet looked fine, but I made a mental note to bring up the plunger later to make sure. There was no time to shower, so I didn't. I just pulled on sweat pants and a t-shirt and figured no one would see me but kids.

Of course, I had agreed to watch my nephew (age 6) and neice (age 9) for 36 hours and my brother-in-law was the first to view me in all my unshowered glory when they arrived at 9:40 a.m.

The loud morning flew by and suddenly it was lunch-time for six kids. All was calm, all was bright. Well, not really. It was foggy all day. After Babygirl took a nap in my arms, I thought that I could figure out a craft project for the kids to do so they could stop wandering the house, shouting and banging doors.

The phone rang. Could I please proofread the church newsletter? Certainly. The phone rang. Could Al come over within an hour and fix the leaking kitchen sprayer hose? Certainly.

Then I looked around. My house looked like there had been an explosion in a Goodwill store. Kids' stuff was strewn about like breadcrumbs leading back to home. Kitchen rags sat in wet lumps all over the crumb-y floor. (Babygirle takes them and abandons them all day.) The toy box seemed to have erupted. Dirty dishes filled half the sink.

I sprang into action, holding Babygirl on my left hip. I emptied the dishwasher, filled the dishwasher, swept the floor, put things away, washed the kitchen table, gathered all the dishrags--basically worked up a good sweat. Unfortunately, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and marched upstairs to turn on a curling iron. How optimistic I was that straightening my bangs would make some difference!

Then Paige, the newsletter editor arrived, with her one-year old baby in tow. I welcomed her in and then proceeded to mop while she stood in my kitchen. Just moments before I had washed the cabinet doors. I never notice the spots until I imagine someone else looking.

Paige and I sat with our babies, visiting--me acutely aware of my wild hair and sweaty face--until the doorbell rang.

Here is Al, coming to fix my sink--he wears a Santa hat and brings two of his kids, also wearing Santa hats.

While Al's on his back under my sink, we visit, until suddenly, my neice comes running down the stairs, stricken look on her face. "Aunt Mel, I used the bathroom upstairs and. . . " I shriek, "AND YOU FLUSHED THE TOILET! OH!! NO!!" I race upstairs to see water gushing over the rim of the toilet, soaking the carpet again. All the towels I used earlier are in the washing machine. I shout to the kids watching, "GO IN THE OTHER BATHROOM! GRAB TOWELS!" They run off and I twist off the water at the source.

The kids bring towels and I begin the soaking-up-the-water dance that I perfected earlier. I spread out a towel and then stomp on it with my slippered feet. Babygirl soon joins the fun, stomping, too.

Fortunately, I haven't put away clean laundry in a day or two, so I find a good supply of towels in the adjoining bedroom.

I return downstairs to find Al finishing up the plumbing job. I am so grateful that I can now run my kitchen faucet full-speed without flooding the floor.

Al leaves. I spend time doing laundry, putting away clothes, taking huge baskets of dirty clothes downstairs. I order Dominos Pizza for dinner. A neighbor rings the bell and gives me a large package that was mistakenly delivered next door. Babygirl watches in amazement as I pull a play vacuum from the box--for her! A gift from a friend in Georgia! The kids eat pizza. I order a television and Nintendo break for the kids, so they begin a game of hide-and-seek. Then, I hear the Big Crash.

That crash was the shattering of a full-length mirror that my mother abandoned behind the door in the storage room. No one is hurt, but I have a big mess to clean up.

This is why I wonder--does this mean I have seven more years of bad luck? Will my toilet continue to flood twice a day? Will the toy box keep exploding? Will the children pee on the toilet seat every single day?

I'm almost too tired to find out.

Posted by Mel at 8:53 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 12:39 PM PDT
Friday, 19 December 2003
Sweet Child

What a darling boy, my YoungestBoy.

Friday night bedtime and I said, "Let me read you a book." I picked out Stellaluna, a lovely, award-winning book with beautiful pictures and a moral to the story.

As I'm reading, I suddenly remember this morning, when we were watching "Sesame Street." Rosita had a Frog Prince friend and she was singing him a song. She was going to lose her friend because he would turn back into a Prince.

YoungestBoy suddenly said, "Mom, I'm going to cry, too. That is so sad that she's losing her friend."

My sensitive, sweet boy.

That was what I was thinking (while reading) when he abruptly crawls on top of me and farts loudly.

I say, with mock indignation, "Hey, didn't anyone ever tell you not to fart on your mother?!"

He bursts into giggles and I laugh, too.

After mothering boys this long, it was bound to happen. I laugh at farts.

What's next?

Posted by Mel at 9:12 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 3:57 PM PDT

Last week, my five year old son brought home his first-ever report card from kindergarten. His grades were nearly perfect and his teacher wrote, "Wow! His math skills are amazing for his age! He is doing very well in all academic areas and is a joy to teach!" Tears sprang to my eyes. So this is what parental pride feels like!

I have two older kids, the twins, who are in fifth grade. TwinBoyA normally does well, though his handwriting is horrific and impedes his progress in writing. He has an enormous vocabulary, but when writing will choose a small, easy-to-write word rather than a bigger, perfect word. This year, he's really working hard and earned an academic award recently. I'm relieved, since fouth grade ended badly. (Let's just say, when he started sitting next to a girl named Tasha, everything went down hill.)

TwinBoyB, though, is another story. He is a kind boy, charming and fun-loving. Even at this age, when pimples are beginning to dot his nose, he'd just as soon be out in the backyard swacking bushes with the metal pole he broke from the broom. He makes a lot of noise, mouth-noises, foot-noises, just plain hollering. He's hated school since the day he started. I remember driving him home the first week. He chanted all the way home, "I hate school! I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!"

His handwriting has been messy at best, illegible at worst for years now. His second grade teacher told me, "It's just second grade." She used to help him cheat on his spelling tests because she knew he'd get a milkshake if he got a perfect score. What a scam that was. He is a charmer.

So, the week after YoungestBoy brought home his perfect report card, TwinBoyB tells me early Tuesday morning, "Mom, I have to tell you something, but I'm afraid you'll be mad."

I hate it when the kids start a sentence like that. Then I have to assure them I won't be mad.

"Mom, my Roanoke report is due today and I didn't do it."

I just raised my eyebrows instead of my voice. When I finally pulled all the details out of him it turned out that the class had been given a week and a half to write a fictional historically-based story. TwinBoyB didn't understand the directions from the start, so he just fiddled away his time. He never mentioned it to me. When I asked about the project, he said they were working on it at school.

I emailed the teacher for the information. Then, for two days after school, I hovered over TwinBoyB while he agonized over writing three pages. He is truly a horrible writer. He has no intuition, no skills, no interest. As a writer myself, I just cannot find a bridge between us. When I was in third-grade, I wrote a ten page story for fun and won an award for it. Words have always been my friends, my partners, my solace.

TwinBoyB's worst enemies are words.

No, I take that back. His worst enemy is long division. And multiplication is out to get him, too.

I worry that this child will never succeed in school. And I realize how important it is to me that he does well. I feel like this is what I do. I raise kids. If my kids fail, am I a failure? Sigh.

Then again, I think of YoungestBoy. I've raised him the same as his brothers. In fact, I didn't even teach him how to write anything before school, not did I "work" with him in reading or math. He just embraces math. The other day he said, "Mom, I know what 5 minus 50 is." Half-listening, I said, "You do?" And he said, "Yes, it's negative 45."

So here is what having adopted children and biological children is teaching me. My older kids are not struggling because of me. My youngest is not excelling because of me. My job is not to duplicate my own successes in school. These kids are individuals.

My job is to give them a map, help them read it, point them in the right direction, and watch them go. They will succeed, they will fail. They will learn, maybe not the way I want them to, but they will learn.

In the meantime, I need to work on being a soft place for them to land. Especially for my boy who hates writing and loves mud.

Posted by Mel at 3:04 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 4:00 PM PDT

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