28 September 2007

For Lack of a Better Idea

I've been trying to think of what to write about all morning, and I'm coming up with nothing. Probably because I'm not having such a great day...kind of blah and blue and uninspired. So I decided just to tell a few stories. These are a random bunch, with no particular connection except that I hope I remember them FOREVER.

Story #1:

Back in the day when we were a family of four (or maybe five, I do sort of lose track), we were experiencing some pretty gnarly sleep deprivation. Which, if you have experienced it -- parents, medical professionals, POW's -- you know how disorienting it can be. We were also being subjected to Raffi music in high doses, which, now that I think about it, could also be used as a strategy for wearing down POW's. Our boys LOVED Raffi, and we did too, at first. But there are only so many times a parent can get excited about "The more we get together, together, together..." Conversely, there is no end to how many times a small child can hear the same music. Thankfully, some kind soul gave us a new CD as a gift, thereby introducing us to Dan Zanes, and his collections of children's music, and he has since become a true favorite in our house. Rick and I were marveling about just how much better it was to listen to kids music that adults can also enjoy, and my dear husband said (you'll have to use your imagination here):

"I like it a lot better than that f***ing R-A-F-F-I."

I stared at him in disbelief, which prompted him to look at me like I was being completely unreasonable. "What? I spelled it!" He had spelled the name Raffi, protecting little ears from its horrors, while failing to spell what is, for many people, the most offensive swear word in the English language. He was tired. He was spent. He was a dad who knew vaguely that one should spell things when one is going to curse; he just got a little mixed up about what exactly he should spell. I pointed out to him, through clenched teeth, "YOU SPELLED RAFFI!" That was a pretty long time ago, and I still laugh like a hyena when I tell the story. Classic.

Story #2:

One weary evening several years ago, I was bathing my two sons. When it was time to get out, one of them complied and went into their room to get dressed. The other would not budge. This had been a trend of late, and I was just plain tired of the battle. So while I kept trying to encourage him to come on out and get wrapped up in a towel, while he ignored me and played with the bath toys, my brain was working hard to try to come up with a way to convince him that it was HIS idea to get out of the tub (a strategy I use ALL the time). I let the water drain out. Still no movement. I started to yell a little bit. Caught myself. Was just about to give up, when I said, one last time: "Please get out of the tub, now." Son's reply: "OK, but can I bring my penis?"

Well, that was the best deal I could have hoped for, so of course, I agreed to it immediately. Out he jumped, into the towel, and I was on my way to other things!

Shamelessly, I did in fact use this during subsequent bathtimes. "Come on, honey, it's time to get out, but hey -- why don't you bring your penis?"

You'll notice I did not name said child. Some of you have heard this story, so you know who it was; but since a blog is rather public, I have decided to protect the, uh, innocent, and just let you speculate.

Story #3

Just this morning! Vincenzo has a set of frogs that show the various stages of frog, from egg, to tadpole, to adult frog. He also takes religion class at school, goes to Mass with us on Sundays and with his classmates during school, and has learned about the Stations of the Cross. So it all got jumbled up in his head, and today he announced that he was bringing his "Stations of the Frog" to school to show his teachers. Who knew frogs could be so holy?

25 September 2007

Decisions, Decisions

The question I am pondering today is this: Should I take my two youngest daughters out of daycare, where they spend three days a week, and care for them myself instead? We originally placed them in daycare -- a wonderful, home-based operation, run by a Peruvian family we have come to love -- so that I could work on those days. I work for myself, so while the girls are at Nora's house, I and my computer are supposed to be earning money through the various freelance jobs I have and through the work I do to help run the family business. In theory, it all works. In practice, it's quite a different story. I still end up finishing projects at 3AM, working after the kids have gone to bed, working with a baby on one knee. On my "workdays," the first order of business is to plop down in a semi-conscious state on the couch and recover from the monumental daily task of getting five children out the door with lunches they will eat, appropriate attire, a minimum of ear wax build-up, clipped fingernails, sweaters when it's cold, sunscreen when it's hot, clean socks (well OK, matching socks), loveys, school projects, homework, permission slips, money because it's Nacho Day, diapers, wipes, and happy dispositions.

The recovery process is not a small one.

Once recovered, or some facsimile thereof, there are also the many, many distractions: the dirty dishes, the piles of laundry, the bills to pay, the calls to make, the groceries to buy, the shower I get to take every few days. As a result, I'm not as productive as I should be. Or rather, I'm not getting the work done between 9 and 2. Having the girls in daycare was predicated on me getting the work done while they are away, and if that ain't happenin' well, then, I find myself questioning the logic of having them there. As it is now, I often feel like I am "stashing" them somewhere for no good reason.

Oh, and then there's the fact that Elizabeth has developed, over the past few months, a stronger and stronger resistance to being dropped off. The refrain begins at least 30 minutes before we arrive at Nora's door: "I don't want to go to Nati's house." (Nora and Nati are the mother/daughter team.) This plaintive cry is repeated frequently, and uttered in a pathetic little sad voice that would melt the heart of many a work-conflicted mom. I was pretty good at ignoring her for awhile. Then, I was pretty good at being super upbeat and POSITIVE with her, to help her see what a FANTASTIC time she was going to have. Then, one night recently, we were awakened to the sound of Elizabeth crying in her sleep. She was having a nightmare of some kind, and she was actually saying in her sleep: "I DON'T WANT TO GO TO NATI'S HOUSE!" Imagine how nice THAT felt, knowing that my dropping her off was causing some disturbance so deep in her unconscious that it needed to find an outlet in her dreams. Whoa.

I also notice on the days that she does not go to Nora's, that she is soaking up the extra Mommy time; now that Lola is in Kindergarten, she is the only conversationalist around. No one to compete with. Sole custody of mommy's ears. She loves it -- who wouldn't?

So, I am trying to weigh the fact that having them at daycare isn't making me anymore productive than I was before they were in daycare, it's costing a bit of money that one would hope would be truly worth it, my daughter is BEGGING to stay with me, getting them out the door in addition to the school-agers causes me a great deal of "sturm und drang", and it really is true: they are only little once, and I know for a fact and from experience that the day she starts Kindergarten I am going to GASP in disbelief that her first five years have whipped by me like a comet. And a few years later, I'll feel the same with Tallulah.


The State of California has a campaign to promote preschool for the state's Pre-K set; the idea is that the earlier a child starts his or her "education," the more likely they are to have a successful start to regular school, which sets them up for overall school success, which apparently sets them up to go to Harvard and find a cure for cancer. The tag line of this campaign is: "YOUR CHOICES SHAPE THEIR CHANCES." I hate this slogan. Like that's all I need right now: a potent mix of pressure, fear, guilt, and responsibility. Thanks, Gov! Don't we as parents have all of these forces already built in? Actually, I think pre-natal vitamins have a special "mommy booster" that prepares the body to regenerate guilt and fear faster than it makes fetal cells. Unfortunately, it's also an effective slogan, and it flashes across my brain whenever I ponder decisions that have an impact on the lives and happiness of my kids. Is putting them in daycare essentially separating them from their mother, thereby giving their future a shape that includes separation anxiety? Is keeping them home with an often less-than-patient mother who is constantly thinking about the work she's not getting done shaping them up for feeling like an inconvenience for the rest of their lives?

Whoo-boy. It's quite a bit to ponder, on a day that is already plenty full. I'm leaning towards bringing them home. So if I do, in about two months, my new question to ponder will be: "Should I put the girls back in daycare?????"

23 September 2007

Tattoo You...and You and You

A Rolling Stones album . . . and so much more. My house became a tattoo parlor today. It seems that tattoos are all around us, and it seems my very impressionable almost nine year old is, well, impressed. This has been building for awhile. I think it first started when he joined his first basketball team, and then started watching NBA games on television. He was wide-eyed, mezmerized, by the professional players and all of their various special qualities. From the lingo to the blingo, and all of the tattoos in between. Since then, Sam has really noticed tattoos. He's been going up to complete strangers -- tattoo-ed strangers -- and saying, "I like your tattoo!" This has started many an interesting converation for him, and it sure is neat to see your children able to carry on conversations and be all independent and all.

I don't really enjoy the idea of having a tattooed child, but I may have to brace myself for the possibility, or at least for the "No you may not" conversation. There was a time when Samuel aspired to be a professional baseball player. Or a professional soccer player. Or a writer and illustrator (We used to have to find pictures of him to put on the inside cover of his paper books, so he could include an "about the author" section.). He has talked about being a teacher. A police officer. A firefighter. But now, he knows his calling. He has discovered the color of his parachute. He knows what his life's work will be: he wants to be a tattoo artist. He spent a good portion of today putting together his tattoo selection book, so his siblings could choose the design they liked the best. The next chunk of the day was spent tattooing his little sisters. I think his brother shined him on: smart kid. Here is the artist at work:

He is busy tattooing Elizabeth, who is playing along like a great sport, if you ask me.

In other Elizabeth news, she brought a smile to my face yesterday. We were at a family wedding, and I heard from a few people that at one point, when she was looking for me, she was going up to people and saying: "Have you seen my mom? She looks like an angel!" Awwwwwwwwww . . . isn't that the sweetest? Rick and I speculate that in about 10 or 12 years, that last word might change a little bit to something not quite so sweet. Stay tuned for her 12th birthday to find out. (She's about to turn 3.) The photo below is of her at the wedding, a non-flower girl. She was tapped for Flower Girl duties months ago, and has been talking about it for weeks. She would get her flower girl shoes out and talk about wearing them at the wedding. She did her FG duties at the Rehearsal Dinner just fine. And then dug in like a stubborn mule when the big moment came, and we had to bow out of the procession gracefully. Oh well, at least she wore the dress -- which took all of my finessing power to accomplish. Someone should outlaw flower girls if you ask me; it's too hard on the moms of the world.

21 September 2007

I Can't Make This Stuff Up

Driving to school this morning, the clouds were impressive. Big, fluffy, infused with sunlight. Gorgeous. A perfect opportunity to distract the kids from harassing each other by getting them to play the tried and true Find Shapes in the Clouds game. I don't have much time to blog this morning; we are getting ready for our niece's wedding tomorrow, and of course, I've left it until the last minute to make sure that everyone has wedding attire clean and ready to go. But before I dash off to buy tights for the girls, here are some highlights to what we found in the clouds this morning:

Happy face

Pretty run of the mill stuff.

And then, they found a king. Who had two big eyes, and because of the way the rays of sunlight shot up above the "head," the king was actually wearing a crown. So he became the King of the Clouds. And then he became GOD. And then, my kids went bananas, because they decided that they are the first people in all of recorded time to SEE GOD. They were losing their minds, screaming and yelling and pointing. I was actually thinking they might start speaking in tongues. I had visions of the boys running into the schoolyard yelling: WE SAW GOD, WE SAW GOD! As if having five kids in the Bay Area doesn't make us freaks enough, we could also be branded as that crazy God Family. The school has a "Good News" segment of the daily morning assembly, and I think my kids were ready to stand up and announce to the entire student body that the search for God has ended, and the Alatorre Family has found him. Their enthusiasm had just enough manic joy in it to be a little scary.

But, never fear, all came right back down to earth when one of my sons decided that he saw something ELSE in one of the cloud shapes. A piece of poo.

Thus ended the religious fervor. My kids went from existential rapture to potty talk so fast I think I have whiplash. As much as I hate potty talk, on less than one cup of coffee, somehow the question, "Mom, do you see the poo?" was more welcome than "Mom, why is God's eyeball moving? Shouldn't it stay right where it is?"

19 September 2007

Junky Stuff

We were driving through our neighborhood a few weeks ago, and Vincenzo, with great disgust in his voice, says: “Mom, I’m tired of all this junky stuff!” Thinking he might be commenting on the state of the minivan, I was gearing up to launch into a tirade about how the kids never listen when I tell them to get their garbage and clothes and toys and books and papers and food and cleats and homework and treasures OUT OF MY CAR. But wait: might he mean something else? I did what the smart mom does before tirade launching; I know it’s the smart thing because of all the times I have done the opposite. Smart mommy that I sometimes am, I said: “What do you mean?” He clarified: “I mean all the dirty trees and houses, and all the junky stuff around the houses.”

He’s right. While there are lots of folks in our neighborhood who take great pride in their homes and yards, there are also plenty of folks who don’t, either because they don’t have the resources or because they are renters who don’t care or for various other reasons. The end result is that there are more than the occasional “junky-lookin’” houses and small straggly trees in our little corner of the world.

I agreed with him that some of the areas of our neighborhood were kinda junky; I tried to put it in a little bit of perspective, by talking about how lots of people probably work a lot, and don’t have much time to fix up their houses; some people probably don’t have enough money to really do things they might want to do. I tried to point out the houses that were nicer, the gardens that were clearly loved and tended. Nothin’. No response.

A few blocks away, just up the hill from the “flatlands,” as our streets are called, the homes get bigger and nicer, the streets get wider and cleaner, the trees more lush and plentiful. The junk factor dissipates. We were headed in this direction that day, and as we started up the hill, O Observant One says from the backseat: “Now THIS is what I like to see!” Is there no end to the things children notice?

It made me a little sad, that he thinks of his own neighborhood as junky and prefers somewhere else. But heck, he’s right: the neighborhood up the hill is much cleaner. I’d live there if I could; the trees alone make it so much more pleasant. I think Vincenzo was picking up on the difference between living somewhere beautiful and living somewhere…less beautiful. Is it easier to be happy when you live somewhere beautiful? Maybe, but I kind of doubt it. But I know that it sure feels nice to look out the window and see trees and clean streets instead of “junky stuff.” Somehow, it sort of seems to make our forehead’s stop creasing, our shoulders straighten, our breathing deepen.

Luckily, my family gets to live in an oasis. Our own little garden is quite the little enclave of nature in the midst of a pretty working class, urban neighborhood. This is because my husband has transformed it from a run of the mill juniper lot to a space for native plants, flowers, and shrubs, for birds, butterflies, bees, and crickets, for strawberries, apples, tomatoes, ollalaberries and pluots for the kids to snack on while playing. It’s awesome. We have a windmill in our backyard, and from my bedroom window, I can the just see the top of it. I can listen to the windmill blades clickety-clicking and imagine that we live out in the country, instead of in urban, gritty Richmond. At night (like right now), I get to hear crickets chirping away; it’s become part of my story-reading routine with the girls to stop and listen for the crickets, and then again when I put them in bed, we stop and see if we can hear the little chirpers from the girls’ bedroom. Our garden is kind of like the field of dreams for native wildlife: My husband built it, and they have come.

So fortunately, even in the midst of junky stuff, I can still look around and say, “ Now THIS is what I like to see!” Not sure if my son is quite there yet, but someday, I’m sure he will be.

18 September 2007

Just Another Fun Filled Day

Monday morning: Get up at 5:45 to make it to the grocery store when it opens at 6, because there isn't enough "lunch box" type food in the house for the school day. Stop on the way out the door because the baby has woken up. OK, so feed the baby first, drop her on the bed with dad, and off to the store. Think vaguely about what to make for dinner...give up on that one. Expend brain cells trying to balance nutritious lunch items with items the children will actually eat. Give up on that one, too.

Get home, make coffee, go to the dryer to get the uniforms out for the kids. Discover that the uniforms are still waiting to be transferred from the washer to the dryer (we can talk about whose fault that was later). Hastily pile the uniforms in the dryer; look at the clock: 50 minutes until we leave for school, 45 minutes to dry if we're lucky. Back to the kitchen; make school lunches and realize that I actually bought enough food to feed 3 classrooms instead of three children. (Will come in handy for the rest of the week...)

Get children up. Feed them the frozen waffles I uncharacteristically, but thankfully, impulse purchased. At the last viable moment, hustle the kids into dry (or dry-ish) school uniforms; stifle any complaints about damp socks. Pile everyone out the door and let dad take them to school for once. Back in; change the 2 year old and 1 year old. Clean the kitchen. Speed clean the rest of the house (ie., set the time for 20 minutes and do as much as possible in that time and then CEASE ALL CLEANING.) Call the doctor to make an appointment for the 1 year old (likely ear infection) and the 8 year old (should we have taken him to the hospital for stitches for the gash on his head when a metal basketball hoop fell on him last night? or was the butterfly bandaid enough??). OK, appointment scheduled for much earlier than hoped for...shower REALLY FAST while baby cries in her crib and the two year olds "plays" with her. Pack diaper bag, shoes for the 2 year old (who won't put shoes on unless she's in her car seat), remember the bill that has to be mailed, don't forget wallet, cell phone, sense of humor. Pick up 8 year old from school and go to the doctor. Yes, the baby has an ear infection (as if the incessant screaming and ear pulling wasn't enough confirmation); and yes, we should have taken the 8 year old for stitches. Great. No mother-of-the-year award for today, I guess. Make mental note to add money to the childrens' therapy fund.

Take the 8 year old back to school; off to Costco because we really can't exist without the following depeleted items in our home: coffee, parmesan cheese, a Y2K supply of cinnamon. Run through Costco with the 2 and 1 year olds. Off to the pharmacy to fill the antibiotic prescription for my adorable little screaming mimi. Get there right after the pharmacist has left for lunch. Decide that pharmacists should not be allowed to eat.

Home in time to pay a couple of bills on line, make a couple of phone calls for the family business, put away the perishables from Costco.

Back in the car to see if the pharmacist has decided to stop eating long enough to fill my prescription. Answer the phone while in the drug store, only to learn that the 5 year old Kindergartner has a fever of 102º, and can I please come and get her? Pick up the prescription, head to the school. It's close enough to the end of the school day, so bring everyone home at once to start the kids on their afterschool routine:

1. Put away your lunchbox; change your clothes and hang up your school uniforms; put your backpack on the vent in the hallway.
3. Homework Time
4. Playtime
5. Dinner
6. Chore
7. 15 minutes of clean-up
8. Shower or bathe for either boys or girls (depending on day of the week)
9. Quiet activity time

While making dinner, keep stepping over the 2 year old, who has fallen asleep smack dab in the middle of the kitchen because she missed her nap today. Somewhere beteen dinner and bedtime, perform nurse duties as follows:

• Give the 8 year old head wound some ibuprofen;
• Give the 102º fever some tylenol;
• Give the 1 year old antibiotic for her ear infection and tylenol for the pain (because a muzzle isn't appropriate for such a small child).
• Give the 2 year old ibuprofen for the multiple bruises on her leg, sustained when she catapulted backwards off the couch and landed on the wooden castle.

Clean up the dinner dishes while the kids do their 15 minutes of clean up. Divide bedtime reading duties with husband. Set firm boundaries: 2 stories tonight, then teeth brushing and bed! Four stories later, enforce the teeth brushing bit. Coerce, cajole, and physically force children large and small to GO TO BED.

Pop open one nice cold Lagunitas Ale and fall on the couch.

At 9:15, before surrendering completely to exhaustion, congratulate the 2 year old who has emerged from her room, wandered into the living room, pointed proudly to her nose and announced: "Look! No boogers!"

13 September 2007

Store Bought Spiderman

My kids and I were discussing Halloween this morning on the way to school. This is a 12-month conversation at our house; my children's plans for Halloween begin every year on November 1. Last year, my boys' costumes were AWESOME. Homemade from stuff we had around the house, a couple of trips to the local thrift store, a dash to the craft store, and one bottle of yellow fabric dye. I have great memories of Halloween costume making when I was little, and a deep sense that any costume worth its salt is NOT store bought. Half (or more) of the fun is creating an ass-a-kickerata costume from "scratch." Last year, my kids were on board with this. See the picture -- it speaks volumes:

This year, however, they have asked specifically for STORE BOUGHT COSTUMES. This is how they put it, even before they told me what they want to be. "We want store bought costumes." What, do they lie in their bunkbeds and come up with this stuff in partnership? I can just hear it: "Mom is probably gonna try to push that homemade junk on us again this year, so we gotta hit her early and be absolutely clear. OK, united front: we want store bought." And their oh-so-convincing reason for wanting store bought costumes? Because everyone else has them. (My husand's response to this was: "So did you tell them that everyone else eats sugary crap and watches mindless brain-sapping drivel, too?" Poor guy, he doesn't realize this is EXACTLY what my oldest son means when he says: "I need a new family.")

Sigh. This makes me wistful. I want them to be excited about putting together a costume as a family activity. I want to be given the challenge of coming up with a totally awesome spiderman with my bare hands and a glue gun, one that blows the Target version outta the water! My sons? They want the security and sureness of a packaged promise. My 5 year old daughter wants to be Minnie Mouse, and I bet she'll let me build her a great costume, so I've still got that.

Last year, my son's homemade Woody costume won him a prize at his school parade. He was thrilled. Even so, he was surrounded by store bought x-men, and power rangers, and spidermen, and other menacing superheroes. This is the kind of thing that revs me up for a rant about the blandness and emptiness of our culture. What happened to creativity? What happened to imagination? Why must Disney (or other mass-media/entertainment visigoth) dictate what my children like? Lordy, I sound like my own parents. And we all know that few things strike fear in our hearts more than that right there!

I should be thankful. That I can go to Target or wherever, buy a package, and save myself the time and trouble of creating costumes myself. I certainly could use the time in some other fashion. But no, I sit here, trying to think of clever ways to trick my children into thinking that they would actually prefer to be something cool like a dolphin or a box of popcorn or an aquarium full of salt-water fish. I just love it when they go nuts with ideas and imagination, and it seems like Halloween is the perfect time to do this...so why don't my kids agree? Guess they want to fit in, just like we all do, eh?

So we'll see. If past years are any indication, they will change their minds about their costumes 3.5 times in the next four weeks. They can't change their minds past October 15th, though, or mom bursts a blood vessel. Something tells me STORE BOUGHT is not going to be one of the things that changes. Different package, same security.

Thank God for Minnie Mouse. Anyone out there got a pair of ears they're not using?

ps: Addendum to this post: Apparently, imagination is alive and well, and I needn't worry. My almost nine year old suggested to me today that I go as Jane Goodall for Halloween, and dress up my 2 and 1 year old as monkeys. I just might take this suggestion...

11 September 2007

A Reason to Celebrate 9/11

I have a baby with a birthday today. She is one year old, and beautiful, and bright, and lovely. She was born on the 5th anniversary of 9/11. I remember when I first learned I was pregnant with her, and my due date was 9/13. I fleetingly thought: "Oh my, wouldn't it be awful if he or she is born on 9/11?" I didn't think too much about it, though, because my other four children were ALL almost two weeks late. But then, as fate would have it, I went into labor and delivered on 9/11.

I met a woman this morning who immediately said to me: "How wonderful to have this day transformed by the blessed birth of a child!" This is not the usual response I get. Lots of people give me sad-ish smiles, or shudder, or say something like: "Well, at least you have something to celebrate." Usually, they sound like they are tyring to say something nice because it seems too horrible to them to have a child with this particular birthday. But this woman was absolutely sincere: and she's right. My little Tallulah is a sign of hope on a dark day, and she does indeed transform the day.

I was driving my kids to school this morning, thinking of Tallulah's birth date, and listening to NPR (pledge time, as it happens). And even though I am celebrating Tallulah's first birthday today, I was very disappointed that I wasn't hearing coverage of the 9/11 anniversary. I think it's very important that we hear that story every year. It's a horrible, terrible story, but one that I think we need to hear and never forget. It's hard to imagine ever forgetting, but I did find myself caught up in Tallulah's birthday and completely ignoring the anniversary. Yet another example of the contradictions inherent in life: the very good and the very bad being commemorated on one day.

10 September 2007

A Riff on Names

I just read Dawn's blog, from http://mom2my6pack.blogspot.com/ (which, if you don't know about her already, you absolutely should check her our and find out her story -- it's a kick!), and it inspired me to write about my own children's names. First and foremost, it is not a good sign when you triumphantly announce your minutes-old baby's name and your mother -- your own flesh and blood -- responds with: "You're kidding. What? You're kidding, right?"

Dawn is right: no matter what you intend, or what YOU would prefer people call your children, people will give your kids nicknames. We're not really into nicknames here. Or at least, we like the names we picked for the kids so we like to call them by their full names. We have lots of nicknames for them, but not that they really go by all of the time. For example, I call my daughter Lola "Lola-berry ding-dong" quite a bit...we call the boys "Chief"...we call each other "Monk-a-loo," a take off on monkey...I've called all of my babies "Bug-a-boo." But we pretty much call Elizabeth by her first name, and not Lizzie, or Beth.

It took a little convincing for me to agree to name my second child a wonderul, resonant, beautiful Italian name from my husband's family. The English version of this name is also shared by a guy who dated my college roommate -- and boy did I despise him. Don't even get me started there -- he was just plain awful. Years later, here I was contemplating naming my very own son the same name as this repugnant, pathetic excuse for a man. Well, the Italian verison anyway. My son's name is Vincenzo (pronounced VIN-CHEN-ZOE). I had visions of prepubescent boys banging on my door and slurring through half opened lips: "Can Vinnie come out and play?" I thought of this guy from college, Vince, whose very name made my cackles rise and my claws extract. But then, how can you argue with an Italian immigrant grandfather who farmed, made his own wine, pressed his own olive oil from his farm's olive trees, and whose name can be found on an Ellis Island manifest? You cain't. So I have a little Vinnie. But no one calls him that -- at least no one I listen to. Actually, his nickname has become Cenzo (CHEN-ZOE), and I call him this a lot more than I ever thought I would when I first stumbled on it when he was a baby. But I love his long wonderful name, and it's a lot of fun to say.

So we have the following names for our children:

Samuel -- picked because we liked it, and we loved what it meant: "God has heard."
Vincenzo -- Italian ancestor; see above
Lola Margaret -- both her first and middle names come from people dear to us. One of her grandmothers is named Lola, and we have two dear friends named Margaret and Lola.
Elizabeth -- because it's long and beautiful.

and the one that had my mother gasping in disbelief:
Tallulah. Like Bankhead. If you are an old movie buff. Named from a good old fashioned baby name book, because we liked the musicality of it.

My mom, apologetically, asked me if it would be alright if she found a nice nickname for her youngest granddaughter because she was having a hard time saying Tallulah. Not pronouncing it, just saying it. I assured her that (a) a nickname would be fine and (b) that she shouldn't worry too much because she had trouble with the name Vincenzo at first (and called him Vincy) but that she got used to it after awhile. So she calls my daughter Tula. Which is very cute, I must agree. I still prefer the long version...

Anyway, we get lots of compliments on the childrens' names, and I must admit, I do love them. The names I mean. The kids, too, but that's a different post.

07 September 2007

Heaven is us.

A story.

A few years ago, the family dog passed away. Chelsea was, quite simply, the most wonderful dog in the world, and we all loved her dearly. At the time, we had three children, and I was great with child #4. Telling the kids was the hardest part, of course; the 5 year old took it the hardest...he immediately burst into tears and had many questions about why and how and when and where. The 4 year old was matter of fact. "That's OK; we'll see her in heaven." End of story. The two year old...well, she was two, so if it wasn't about her, she wasn't interested.

A few weeks later, I was walking up the hill to pick up the 5 year old from Kindergarten. I was walking with my four year old, hand in hand, enjoying a rare moment with just him. We weren't talking about anything, just walking. Out of the blue, he says to me, "Mom, I know where Chelsea is." And when I asked him where, he just put his hand over his heart. And I said something like, "Yes, honey, she's in our hearts." Pause. Quiet walking. And then my son: "Heaven is us."

I come back to this story frequently. It brought me up short and made me see my son with new eyes, realizing that he hears and listens and makes connections and understands the world so much more than I know. I try to remember that he, and all of my kids, and all children, have the ability to be open to the world and to know beautiful truths like that one.

We were all children once. We once knew exactly where -- and who -- heaven is. And if we are lucky, we get to have children to remind us.

So many questions, so little time

Here are some of the questions I have been asked in the past 24 hours:

Can I have a cell phone when I turn 9?
Where is my yo-yo?
Do I have to eat the green beans?
Did you fix my frog yet?
Did you sew my nightgown yet?
What's for dinner?
Why do I have to go to school?
Have you ever seen a french fry walking down the street talking on a cell phone?
Where is my yo-yo?
Where is my homework?
Where is my yo-yo?
Do we HAVE to pick up the girls?
Where are my shin guards?
Why can't I watch a show?
Does this mean I can't play soccer in the house?
What is a cherry-picker?
Can I paint my fingernails?
Where is my yo-yo?
Where is my pencil?
Can you help me with my homework?
Can you do my homework?
Can I fingerpaint?
Why can't I fingerpaint?
Why do people have tattoos?
Why does Emmett (neighbor) smoke so much?
Where is my yo-yo?

As you might imagine, I really hope I find the flippin' yo-yo soon.

See, this is part of what I mean by motherhood being ridiculous. It is simply ridiculous to be asked so many questions, by so many people, in such a short span of time. My favorite, of course, is the one about the french fry and the cell phone. What goes on in those little heads, one can only imagine.

06 September 2007

Looks like it's gonna rain!

Here I dive, into the wonderful world of blogging. Having been inspired by many a mom-blogger out there, here is my contribution to the online world of writing. I have five children. In another month, after three upcoming birthdays, they will be 9, 7, 5, 3, and 1. They are...hmmm...how to describe the little darlings? They are wonderful, exasperating, adorable, brilliant, exceptional, infuriating, exhausting, and time-consuming. So basically, they are just like yours. Over the past nine years, I can't tell you how many times I thought to myself, or had someone say to me: "You should write that down!" This in response to some story or utterance from one of my kids that made me laugh, cry, stop and think, or want to scream. I also can't count the number of times each day I think about how ridiculous parenting and motherhood actually are. By this, I mean I can't quite believe the situations I find myself in, the questions that are put to me (and that somehow need to be answered) by my kids, the lengths I will go to in the name of a child, and a million other difficult to fathom things that are now my life. Being an eternally, if not obviously, hopeful person, I just have to believe that there is some great truth to be gleaned from being a mother. I catch glimpses of this, and I think it has something to do with learning to live with, and even to delight in, massive contradictions. Anyway, the kids do make me laugh, and boy do I need to laugh EVERY DAY.

Here's one: After having taken a very hard-hit soccer ball to the crotch the other day (kicked by his father, no less), my oldest son has been spending quite a bit of time with an ice pack. After one recent session, he was sitting on the couch moaning. Next oldest son asked him if his crotch still hurt, to which he replied: "Nah, my crotch only bothers me when the weather changes." Ha!

Welcome to my blog. I am hoping it helps me save my sanity...which can only make me a better mother.