Tornado Alley

Being the mother of little boys means constant motion. From the peeking sun over the eastern horizon, until the sky is “Gray dark”, as Eric says, which is very different from “Blue dark”, my life is overflowing with kinetic, whirling, busy, messy, energetic boys. Heck, if I’m honest, it’s even busy while they sleep, because that’s when I carve out my own needful things. That, and I haven’t slept through the night in well over five years now.

If it’s just my boys, or all boys, I can’t say, but they just never stop. From the time their little piggies hit the floor each day, they just go and go and go. There is no such thing as quiet time at our house- as much as we try! Even when I do manage to get them engaged in a book or story, they are poking, prodding, doing somersaults, wrestling or fidgeting while they listen. We may start playing a game by the rules, but before I know it, the Memory tiles are being made into forts, and the Lego people are coming to invade. The cherries from Hi-Ho-Cherry-O are bombs, and the poor guy from Operation is part of the Playmobil world now.

Their imagination is amazing, if exhuasting. While I was trying to steal a shower this morning, of course both of them had to come in a “see” what I was doing. And I mean, this was a quick shower- frantic rinsing, soaping, brush teeth while conditioner is on, scrub, scrub, rinse, done! In that time, both of the boys tried to get in the shower with me. Eric completely undressed, and when I opened the shower curtain, he was on the vanity, naked, with my eyeliner, drawing “whiskers” on his face “like dad!”. There was little left of my eyeliner pencil to salvage, and his face is still brown.

While I was cleaning Eric up, Jeffrey decided the kitchen floor needed mopping and dumped a bottle of cleaner out, then tried to use the Swiffer to “mop” it up- without a pad, of course.

This was all before 9 a.m.

And where was Abby, during all this? Sitting in her swing, chirping to herself, contentedly chewing and slurping on her hands. No matter what anyone tells you, they are different. Boys and girls, no matter what you do, are not the same. The boys are upstairs right now, having a burping contest. I am hiding. Abby is sleeping.

The other night, when I turned down the bed, there was a construction paper ladybug that said “I love you Mom!” on my pillow. Jeffrey was jumping up and down with excitement and glee at having surprised me. Just when I think I can’t do it anymore….

What Kind of Parents Are We??

Honestly, Jeffrey is such a drama queen! Tonight, after kisses, hugs, stories, prayers, cups of cool water, a fan in his room, getting up to pee twice, and both DH and I going in there at least twice each, he begins a plaintive wail:

“Oh, what kind of parents won’t cover up their boy?” “What kind of parents won’t put a nice blanket on their boy?” He is doing his best to sound pathetic and abused.

DH and I are in the living room, our heads in pillows we are laughing so hard, and we don’t want him to hear us. We peer at each other over the top of our pillows, eyes teary and red-faced, choking back laughter.

The Great and Mighty Modern Oracle of Google

The Oracle of Delphi lies on the slopes of Mount Parnassus in Greece, and was arguably one of the most important shrines in the ancient world. People travelled from the known corners of the world to visit the shrine and have their questions answered by the Pythias, the priestesses of Apollo. The questions presented in the sacred shrine were as varied as the pilgrims, from every days worries like when to plant, to empiric stratagem by kings and warriors. Recently, when looking for a recipe for sprouted wheat bread, it occurred to me we have a modern dayOracle of Delphi- somewhere we can go with our problems and questions, from the mundane to the esoteric; we have Google!

Consider for a moment, what finding information formerly entailed. Yes, there have always been libraries, there have long been encyclopedia, but if you wanted to know how a Tesla coil works at midnight on a Tuesday, you were out of luck. Gone are the days of having to go to a library, drive to the county building, visit records offices in person, plow through dusty piles of mouldering books (and I like mouldering books). Now, any time, day or night, you go to Google, and the world is at your fingertips. There is no piece of information, no tidbit of trivia, or question on the cosmos that is so obscure that Google does not have an answer for you. Usually 157,512 answers, all in .087 seconds. It boggles the mind.

In only the very recent past, using Google, I have found: The window clips to repair two window sashes in our house that have been broken for 4 years. The address and a map to the location of a new house on the market I want to go look at. The weather forcasts for our trip to California in a few weeks. A pair of new church shoes in my size, very hard to find, and in the exact style I was looking for. A coupon for portraits to finally have Abby’s picture taken. What makes a rocket fire, for my inquisitive four-year old. The perfect stroller for my little girl, and on sale too, saving $$ rather than buying it at the store. New knobs for my kitchen cabinets at half the cost of the hardware store. How to get crayon off of painted walls. How to get permanent pen off of little boy skin. My soon-to-be-five year old’s supply list for kindergarten. Scripture references for a primary talk. What houses cost in San Antonio, Texas. And, er, where the Oracle of Delphi actually was. And the list goes on….

The knowledge we have, quite literally at our fingertips, is a wealth of which the ancients could not even fathom. There is absolutely nothing, that with only a few keystrokes, we cannot find out about. Wow. Talk about an oracle. What amazing times we live in.

We won’t even talk about how Oracle headquarters is right down the street from Google in Mountain View, California… Oh, and there are over 173,000 recipes for sprouted wheat bread, but the third one pulled up worked just fine for me!

Clothed in Sacks

When I go into an antique store, the trinkets and china and tchatchke’s are not what catch my eye. In every antique store I have ever gone in, I am looking for one thing, and one thing only- old linens. Pillowcases, tablecloths, napkins, hankies, dresser or piano scarves… any and all aging textiles.

There is just something about the fine, fine texture of old cotton, or of linen pressed with starch and edged in cotton crochet. This love affair started early for me- my pillowcases growing up were always crochet edged and embroidered, and usually old hand-me-downs. I loved having birds nesting, embroidered by aging hands, French knots tied with love, and trimmed out in delicate cotton crochet. Just loved them.

So now, almost all of our pillow cases are ones I have furrowed out at church tag sales, antique shops, rummage sales and neighborhood estate sales.( It kinda bugs my husband- not that he sleeps on old-lady pillowcases, but that every one of them is “old”. He’s more of a “new” guy…) But, as old things tend to do, every once in a while, I loose one of my beauties. They wear out, the cotton thins, and the seams tear. (This isn’t such a problem for the aprons, tablecloths, napkins and dresser scarves, but they all get far less use than my pillowcases)

So when one of my lovlies is retired, I have stashed them away in my fabric shelves, not sure what to do with them. The seams are worn out, but the embroidery is often still perfect; I cannot bear to toss them. And recently I had an epiphany….

There is one old case in particular I especially love- it is torn near the top, but the edge is scalloped in a lovely pattern, and monogramed with a beautiful “M” – very shabby chic. Sitting in my sewing room,  contemplating what I could make out of it for Abby- thinking of maybe a smaller pillow or something, when it dawned on me that there is plenty of fabric in a pillowcase to make little girl dresses!

And what dresses they would be! Edged, fine old cotton, beautiful embroidery around the bottom of the starched twirly little skirts, maybe a pinafore if there wasn’t enough fabric for a full dress… oh how darling and totally beautiful they would be!!!

So, my old linens are going to have new life. And I’m tickled pink at my own engenuity, and with being able to finally give a home and use to old things I really value. I’ll have to let you know how it goes.

The Virtue of Chick Music

Kinda like little white convertibles and movies with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, there are certain artists that I think of as Chick Music. And, like a Ryan/Hanks movie, sometimes Chick Music is exactly what I need.

Nothing to hard on the royal ear, nothing to demanding of my total attention, something I can definitely sing along with, perhaps with a dash of righteous angst, that is what I want from my Chick Music. Sarah McLaughlin, Natalie Merchant, Alison Krauss, Tracy Chapman, John Denver (Yes, he IS too Chick Music!), Loreena McKinnet, Hootie, Mary Black, No Doubt featuring the divine Gwen Steffani, Lyle Lovett, Alanis Morissette if I’m pissed off, maybe even Enya or Sinead if I’m really mopey.

These are bands that my husband just never picks up the CD and says, “Hey, babe, I feel like a little “Mirrorball” today!”- even if he does appreciate Ms. McLaughlin. (The possible exception might be Alison Krauss- because he really digs bluegrass) Hell will freeze over the day he pops in the “You’ve Got Mail” DVD, but he has watched it at least a dozen times with me… It’s a chick thing.

This music is like tonic water to my soul. Soothing, familiar, comfortable, an audio bowl of macaroni and cheese, if you will. Knowing every note, and singing along, off-key of course, while I do the dishes for the umpteenth time this week, helps me find my grove thing. Helps me remember who I am besides Mommmmmmmm! and brings to a happy place.

It’s no secret that when Mom’s happy, everyone’s happy, and I have noticed increased happiness in my kids when I play music and sing a lot. Not sure if it’s them responding to the music, or to the proverbial happy mom, but I’ll take it either way. That, and the quickest way to bring some yellow happiness your way, besides a lemon popsicle, is to dance. Dance with wild, abandoned goofiness. Let your kids see you act silly and make up funky moves; I guarantee you’ll be more interesting than any movie, game or fight they might be having. A dancin’ mama is a thing to behold, and every kid knows it.

So what brings out your groove thang? Go dig it out, pop in the CD, and show it to your kids! (Oh, and tell me, too. I won’t tell anyone!)

Mean Grannies

Do Mean Girls grown old and turn into Mean Grannies? If they do, I met up with one of them yesterday. This shouldn’t still be bothering me, but it’s stuck in my craw. (Do I have a craw? What’s a craw?)

Jeffrey is growing like a weed, and starting Kindergarten in a few weeks, so he desperately needs new clothes, particularly pants. I refuse to pay full-price for any kids clothes (or mine either, most of the time) so off we went to Ross.

Let’s just skip the joys of making a boy try on clothes; turns out my 4-almost-5 year old is wearing a size 8 jeans (egad!), that will also require cutting and hemmage. He’s always been a big kid. So I have a disgruntled boy, and I stop to look at tops. He is playing in the racks, like any boy in Ross, and I nudge our cart along the clothes-crowded aisle, flipping through the shirts. La la la….

An older lady, soon to be Mean Granny, turns onto my aisle, facing me with her cart. No biggie, polite convention would usually allow us to scootch by each other with a few pleasantries. But not Mean Granny. She is giving Jeffrey dirty looks, which I am not imagining, and not making any effort to move her cart to one side or the other. I cannot budge, and she is, litterally, at the end of the aisle. If she scooted back a foot, I could get by. But no, she’s Mean Granny.

I said “Excuse me, please” and got a sideways looks, but no other response. I stood there, uncomfotable, and wanting to ram her cart with mine, but ramming cotton-headed old ladies is not something I often do. (And she could hear me, so don’t be feelin’ sorry for her) So, louder, I say “Ma’am, could you please move your cart so I can squeeze by?”

She rolls her eyes at me and scootches her cart over just enough that I can get by if I lean over and walk partly in the racks of clothes. Incredulously, I move forward with my cart, and just as I am even with her, my foot catches on a piece of clothing under the rack (because that’s where I’m walking) and I trip. Trip like a big way, where you can’t play it of and blame the floor or something. My cart jacks up, and my foot catches Jeff in the noggin, making him burst into tears, and making me feel like a buffoon. My cart is jacked, my kid is crying, I am literally under the rack of clothes, and Mean Granny continues to just stand there, staring straight ahead with a disgusted scowl on her face. She never moved her cart!

Gathering the shreds of my pride and my poor kicked child, I kiss him, rub his noodle, and leave the store. She never moved.

In polite society, people function under certain social niceties- we smile at each other when we pass, we nod or give a small greeting- we somehow acknowledge the humanity of the stranger with whom we are sharing time and/or space. This Mean Old Lady did none of these things, and I think that is why it’s still bugging me. My basic humanity, and that of my son, was ignored.

So that’s my bugged rant for the day. Maybe now I can forget about her. I did always wonder what happened to the Mean Girls from school Guess I know now.

Good Morning

Her children are laughing, but she cannot discern from where the laughter comes. Sleep has a deep hold on her, and she struggles to find the surface, swimming through her subconscious toward the light. The humid jungle of dream, thick and oppressive, closes ranks behind her as soon as she moves, and insects are mercilessly biting her legs. The sun beats down through the canopy of trees, and sweat trickles down her chest as she reaches to scratch away the incessant bugs from her tormented legs…

The laughter comes louder, and she is confused, looking for her children- but closer to the surface now, she suddenly wakes. Huh… wha…she startles and tries to shake the dream clouds from her mind.

She is lying in a bright beam of sunlight, tangled up in her bed-sheets. The heat pours in the open window, her brow already beaded in sweat, and her tangled hair stuck to her cheeks. Her children are laughing at the foot of the bed, and she groans as she lifts her tired head to see their bright apple cheeked smiles. They are beside themselves with giddiness… and her naked legs are covered in Post-It notes.

Crawling from bed, laughing children dancing around her feet, she trudges down the hallway towards her day, a trail of Post-It’s fluttering and falling from her legs like a queen bestowing kisses.

(D.P. at MMW today)

Oatmeal Brain

I got nothin’ today. My brain is a puddle of oatmeal, and I can’t put together a cohesive sentence to save my life. Maybe my kids’ lives, but not mine.

The boys are still in their jammies, and it’s after lunch. The kitchen thermometer read 112 degrees at 11 a.m.- I know that wasn’t right, but still, just seeing it is freaky. I am hiding downstairs in my dark office, enjoying the cool, while the boys chatter and continue to make bed-sheet forts in the playroom. They come in here every few minutes to jump on me or whine or ask for something, or to climb under the desk and poop, if we’re taking about Eric.

Abby is snoozing with the fan on in her room. Yay for white noise. She is such a mellow baby, I am grateful beyond all reasoning. Now the boys are fighting, and I need to go me mama. *sigh*

I’m ready for fall. I love fall. The crispy air, the cool days and cold nights, the colors, Eric and I have birthdays, school starts…*sigh*

I got nothin’ today.

Hot Hot Hot!

According to the great and mighty Google, (… the modern equivalent of the Oracle of Delphi?) the whole country is smothering under a sweltering heatwave. Here in the great northwest, where we are more comfy in our LLBean sweaters, the 100+ degree heat is utterly stifling. And, I hate being hot. Hate hate hate it. Gets me grumpy.

My red heads fry and turn into little tomatoes outside on days like we’ve had lately, and even the spf45 doesn’t cut it.  Jeff’s swim lessons have been put off another two weeks, because for the life of me, I can’t figure out what to do with Abby in 105+ degree heat. That is what our kitchen thermometer says right now. Ugh.

So aside from having the AC on to maintain my cool, litterally and figuratively, I am trying to come up with things to keep the monkeys occupied. Here are some things I have come up with:

Bed-sheet forts. This is taking place in our play room right now. The boys have been engrossed all morning in making forts, and all I supplied were two bedsheets, some chairs and a baby gate. Voila, hours of instant fun.

Finger painting. I know, I know, the disaster potential is great, but I found a recipe for making my own- and they are fabulous. Takes about 5 minutes to make, clean up fairly easy, and cost about a quarter, so who cares if they mess them up or spill? E-mail me if you want the recipe…

Play restaurant. My boys love to play pretend kitchen. And right now, Jeff loves to pretend to write, even though he really can’t. So give them a tablet and pencil, an apron and some play food, and they have a ball. We have  pretend food, but you don’t need it. Eric serves me up handfuls of delicious air all the time, and I taste it with great delight.

Go to the public library!! Free air-conditioning, free books, free story time, free weekly science stuff… Free!

Our local movie googaplex has free movie day for kids all summer long. On Tuesday, they show a rated G movie, and on Wednesday, a PG movie. For free. So check your local theatre.

Make popsicles, slushies, smoothies and milkshakes at home. The kids love to help, and they get to see how fruits and juices turn into good things to eat. Just know ahead of time they will make a huge mess, and be prepared mentally and with lots of towels.

Anyone else have any fabulous ideas for beating the heat with a house-full of little kids?

Shape of a Mother

“A mother’s body is beautiful. Period” That is the header for  Shape of a Mother, and I absolutely love this site.

If you are squeemish about bodies or, more specifically, naked bellies, skip it. But, if you are like me, and thought you were the only one in the world with stretched out tummy skin and silver squiggles along your torso and thighs, check it out. Women post their feelings and emotions about how motherhood has changed them, their self-image and their bodies. Some post belly pictures, and some simply tell their stories.

Reading all the mama’s stories, about loving and hating our bodies, about self esteem and coming to terms with our new mama bodies was very moving. It was wonderful to see other women who look just like me; I don’t see many (any) women in ads or on the news who look like me-so it was refreshing to know I am not alone. Not by a long-shot.

Our bodies worked miracles to bring our children into the world, and it’s nice to try and appreciate that. Check it out.