Saturday, October 30, 2010

A chain of memory

Abigail and Isabel, too, I suppose, love my closet.  I'm not sure what it is about the hanging clothes, the heaps of shoes, boxes stacked against a wall full of last seasons items that attracts them so, but it does.  There is a draw to the room that pulls my girls in time after time, so that when Abigail is hiding from me I am sure to find her tucked away under my formal gowns, holding a single brown sequined shoe in her grasp.

There are also a series of shelves on which I have stacked and organized any number of things: belts and ties in a bin, work shirts for Josh and Army gym clothes, socks, and at just about chest high, my jewelry.  It is by no means a large or stunning collection, it fits neatly into a small wooden box divided into two parts: the upper that holds my necklaces tucked to one side, rings on the other, sundry keepsakes and larger items stored under the tray.  It is a plain box, ordinary in all ways and, I had thought, high as it was, simple as it was, above the notice of my eldest daughter.

She had asked to wear a 'mommy necklace' for Halloween so that she might look like Cinderella and I presented her with a string of pearls to wear over her yellow flouncy dress.  After getting out of her costume she asked to continue wearing the pearls with her jeans and t-shirt; unable to explain the fragility of pearls to a toddler I, kindly as I could, said 'no.'  She asked if she might wear another necklace of mine and I agreed, thinking that later I would run up to my closet and pick something of little value that she could play around in.

She ran off apparently appeased and I returned to whatever task I was at when she first came demanding finery.  I was quite surprised to have her come back to my side mere moments later holding a small gold chain in her hands.  "How about this Mommy?  Can I wear this one?"  She asked, full of hope.  I was startled by her discovery, it was a chain I forgotten I had, one that had been a gift to me when I was about her age, perhaps younger even.

She was holding up a necklace that had been given to me by my father's mother, seeing the gold winking in my daughter's hand brought forward a rush of emotion I couldn't have anticipated.  This chain was given to me in memory of my grandfather, a man who died before I could ever know him. This necklace that makes me think of the small woman who picked it out for me, who choose something thick and heavy remembering the rambunctiousness of childhood.  I see her suddenly, her hands covered in paper-thin skin, a crochet hook working heaps of yarn and string into fancy things for my dolls to wear.  A woman whose house smelled of talcum powder and tea and who always had crayons and the largest coloring books I had ever seen stashed in the most unlikely places, who made paste and salt dough in her kitchen to amuse her granddaughters.  She who died when I was young, before I even knew this necklace existed tucked away as it was in my mother's sock drawer, who would never know the daughters I have borne. 

Abigail is wearing the necklace now, running around the house oblivious to the metal flapping against her skin.  But I look at her and think of my Grandmother and I hope that if she ever happens to peer in on me, to see what became of the gangly girl she left behind, that she would see her great granddaughter wearing her gift, proof that it can indeed withstand the rigors of childhood.

My daughter is too young to understand the significance of this chain, why I smile a slightly sad smile as I put it on her.  It is a first, this passing down of keepsakes, the giving over of memories from my youth to hers.  It is a start, this story of who I was when I was small and who that child became: a story to be told in pieces to my daughters over a lifetime.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Death Candy

I have never been a fan of Halloween.  Never.  When I was a kid, sure, the thrill of dressing up and asking for candy was delightful.  Full of charm and freedom and excitement.  Then as a teenager and young adult the downward spiral began.  The other girls I knew took advantage of this one unique day to tart it up - wearing what amounted to lingerie and some cat ears and calling it a costume.  I was, and still am, to modest, to puritan, to Christian, to dare wear anything like that.  So it came to represent a club I wasn't - and could never be - a part of: Halloween-Sluts-For-A-Day-But-I'm-Not-Really-Or-Am-I?

Now as a mother I take a whole new offence to the day.  Being the parent of a peanut allergic child has raised my awareness.  I read labels on boxes, scrutinize menus, hawk-eye all suspicious foods served at friend's and family's homes.  I am overly cautious and very leery.  I?  Am on the front line in the war against peanuts.  I will be that Mom come school time petitioning for PB&J's to be "outlawed" from school lunches - and yes I mean the ones you pack at home, too.  So you can imagine the anxiety I have at letting my 3 year old go trick-or-treating.  Allowing her to possibly receive a peanut crusted candy into her little jack-o-lantern tub.  I hate this.  Because I can't fathom why anyone would buy candy that has peanuts in it to give to children they don't know.  I know that because of Abigail I am painfully aware of food allergies and their seriousness.  I also know that other people are not required to worry or even care about my daughter's misguided immune system.  I am meant to look out for her, to be the watch dog to her candy seeking ways. 

But still: why risk it?  The last 2 years we've stayed home rather than risk a peanut candy slipping into her hands unnoticed.  So, candy givers this year:  Just say no to Snickers, Reeses and the like.  Kid's love Jolly Ranchers and jaw breakers and mini Twizzlers.  You don't need to pass out (potential) death candy. 

Seriously.  You don't.  Please, go buy something fruity and save this mom from an early heart attack.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sleeping with sanity

I, like the house of cards I am, have folded.  On day 6 of No-More-Binkies-For-Abby, at about 10 pm, after almost 2 hours of crying, cajoling, begging, pleading and some whining on Abby's part I fished an Izzy binkie out of the baby's crib, shoved it at my toddler and stormed from the room.  I didn't - and still don't! - know who I was angrier at in that moment: my daughter who couldn't give up her baby crutch or myself for caving after a few short days.  The old routine for bedtime is a tried and true winner: bath, pjs, story, kiss, nightlight and music on, parents: out of the room in 5 minutes or less.  It's down right wonderful.  Add to those nights an equally tired and complaint Isabel and you have two kids sleeping by 8:15 - and hours upon hours of adult time until we go to bed.

But once the binkies were gone all bets were off.  First we had to read about 40 books to Abigail (not exagerating).  Then cuddle with her.  And then try to sneak from the room - which we could never quite manage, so then we had to stand at the door for 10+ minutes until she was "asleep" and we could creep down stairs.  Only to hear her whimper, let her cry for a bit then repeat.  Hours, it was taking.  Literally: hours.  On day 6 of no adult time, little sleep (Isabel sensed this was just the moment to wake every 2 hours to check on me), I was ready to do anything to get my sanity back.

I hate - HATE! - that Abby is 3 and is still stuck to her binkie, but I hate fighting at bedtime more.  Way more.  So right now?  I am willing to agree to disagree.  We shall return to this battle later.  But right now?  I am too busy enjoying the silence of sleeping children to fight. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Faires use the US Postal Service

We had a visit on Sunday from the Binkie Fairy.  As per her instructions we boxed up all of Abby's binkies and "mailed" them to Binkie-Fairy Land where they will be planted and can grow into more binkies for brand new babies.

Abigail bought this hook, line and sinker...  Until 8 o'clock.  At which point she was ready to rally the troops, grab some pitch forks and head after that binkie thieving witch and get her pacis back.  She was crying.  And screaming.  And whimpering.  And making all kinds of pitifull pleas.  And what could we do?  Those binkies had been mailed straight to the trash.  Literally.  There was - and is - no going back.

The last 6 months we've been rationing the binkies so that she can only have them at bedtime or on very long drives or in planes.  This has worked - for the most part she doesn't even ask for them anymore and will hand over her binkie as soon as she gets up.  But taking it away at bedtime?  Is apparently akin to baby torture.

In her defense she's used a pacifier since she was 2 weeks old.  And I've loved it.  It helped us survive the first year when she wasn't a car baby.  Without it we would never have survived the teething months.  When we stopped the rocking/singing before bed routine it was there to comfort her as she put herself to sleep in her "big girl bed."  But now her last comfort of infancy is gone.  And she has to learn how to fall asleep all over again.  I am trying to be as gentle and loving and understanding as I can be.  But when it takes 2 hours of crying, cajoling, and fighting to get her to take a nap?  My patience wears thin.  After crying for quite a while she is finally napping peacefully.  So is her sister. 

So I think I'll just sit here a second longer and enjoy the sweet sound of success, and try not to think about how Isabel is cuddled up in bed, fast asleep... A binkie tucked into her wee mouth.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Digging out with a teaspoon

I have been... unhappy much of this year.  I have been hard on my husband, hard on my kids and harder yet on myself.  I have been trying to dig up and up and up and hopefully, eventually, out of my depression.  But I am digging with a teaspoon most of the time.  And so it goes.

But lately I have been better.  My healing is coming in the form of learning to let go.  But that letting go?  The releasing of dreams, disappointments, heart break?  Is so much harder than I could have anticipated.  So much more painful than I had prepared myself for.

There are moments in this last year I crave with all my being to redo.  Moments that I can see, now, are steeped in depression, but at the time?  I just thought I was a horrible mother and wife. 

The one moment that comes to mind the most often?  The minutes just after Isabel was born.  I will never forget that morning, though most days I wish the memory was hazy, that I didn't see with shocking crispness all the ways I was hurting without knowing.  Isabel came out in a rush - the doctor barely got his gloves on, never mind his scrubs, before she was lying warm and wet in his hands.  My husband turned to me and told me we had a daughter and I could see the emotion in his eyes, the tears just behind the surface.  I could see, too, that he was hedging his emotion on mine - if I cried, he would too.  And all I was thinking was that I was tired and that now that she was here I could go back to sleep.  I knew I was supposed to say something, do something, but I had no idea what it was.  To fill the void I was staring at I kept asking "is she okay?"  Over and over I pestered the peds nurses.  The doctor was kind enough to reassure me time and again that Isabel was fine.  Then I was holding her, this tiny bundle of a girl, wrinkled, bitty, worn out and weary from her journey.  And all I felt was incredibly empty.

Those minutes?  I play them over and over.  Because I know that girl now, I am looking at her tiny lips and her round eyes and her trusting smile and I love her.  I know this with every fiber of my being.  And I wish I had been able to tell her that then, and mean it.  I want to go back to the woman holding a baby who was hers, but did not feel like hers and say: "it's okay. You'll be okay, and this girl-child?  Do not be afraid: you do love her, you just can't see it yet."

I want to go back to my daughter who knew nothing and understood less and say: "you have not done this. She is in love with you, but it will take a while for her to find her way back to knowing it."

In life there isn't a way to get back those days and weeks and months.  So I am left with this hollow ache where joy should have grown.  But I am healing now: I am learning to let go, to become okay with the fact that for me?  The day she was born was not the happiest moment of my life.  That day came later, and I can cling to that moment instead.

The letting go of that day?  Is an incredible battle, one that I know isn't over.  I will always wish it had been different.  Always.  But I am learning to let go of that sorrow and instead am thankful that I am here, now, loving her and her sister in all the ways I could not do before.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Go Fish

I think I have mentioned before how much the girls just love to play in the bath? They do. I can convince Abigail to clean up the living room of all her toys and play nicely with her sister as long as the promise of "splash-splash" time hangs in the air. Likewise as soon as Isabel realizes she's being carried into the bathroom she becomes a huge 10 month old ball 'o wiggles. If she was taller she would climb into the tub, on her own, with clothes on. (And trust me, she's tried a few times, the fact that the edge of the tub is up to her collar bone was apparently not a deterrent.)

Right now? My least favorite time of the day is bath time. Why you ask? Because it involves playing a little game I have been secretly calling Russian poo-lette for the past month or so. Can you see where I'm going here? No? Let me paint the picture:

Two sweet girls are in the tub, with bubbles because their Mommy is super nice, and toys. Lots and lots of toys. Cup toys, and squirty toys and foam letter toys. It's a toy palooza. Then, all of a sudden, I notice one that is not like the others. A lump of something brown. And long. And possibly squishy. Yup, that's poo. In the tub. With the kids. And the eighty billion toys.

And then before I can even swoop into action and pull the kids out and start the cleaning process my eldest spots the offending log. "Mommy! Mommy there is poo in the tub! Right there Mom! Sissy pooped!" She abandons ship just as fast as she can and stands shivering on the rug giving me a 'well what now?' look. Isabel on the other hand seems quite pleased with herself and has absolutely no qualms what so ever about playing in poop water.

And this right here is why I hate bath time: someone has to fish that poo out of the water. And then Lysol the tub. And then rewash the previously clean kids. Not to mention the pile of bath toys that now have to be cleaned and then put back into the toy bucket.

So every night as I take the girls up to the bathroom I wonder: will it happen tonight? Will I be fishing poo out of my bathtub this evening? Have I even changed a dirty diaper from Isabel today?

It's totally a game of Russian poo-lette, and lately? I've been doing a lot of fishing.