26 May 2009

When You Have Older Brothers

In the car, of course, on the way to some kid function (of which there are many), Vincenzo was playing with two whiffle balls he got from his baseball coach. They both cracked somehow, so he had these four half whiffle balls, which he thought were pretty cool.

So he says to me: "Mom, I cracked both of my balls, and then--"

And he was interrupted by his 6-year old sister who said, in exaggerated voice: "YOU DID? WOW, CENZO, THAT MUST HAVE HURT!"

I laughed for at least five miles of freeway.

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19 May 2009

The Ability to Make Me Laugh

Tonight I was helping Samuel review definitions for his vocabulary test, and we came to the word flexible.

He got the general sense of the word and I could tell he understood it, but his answer was a little vague; I've been trying work with him to be very specific in his definitions. (If you write "a base" for the word foundation, how is your teacher going to know you mean a base on which something rests and not a base on a baseball field?)

He was saying things like "able to move and stuff" and "able to reach things" and "able to be good at moving..." Not so accurate.

So I was sort of trying to prompt him and coax him to use the word 'bend' in his answer. He stumbled on to it, and in the middle of making dinner and feeding the dog and pouring myself a glass of wine, I sort of lost my ability to speak. So in order to encourage him and tell him he was right, I touched my nose and pointed at him a few times in succession.

He looked at me funny and said: "The ability to smell?"

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And now, I present a little photographic proof that Easter was only traumatic for the grown ups:

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17 May 2009

Major Dilemma

I am philosophically opposed to "Spring Pictures."

OK, that might be a little strong, but for a family of seven people that watches its few pennies, it burns my backside how many times we are enticed to buy, buy, buy. Spring School Pictures seem to me to be one of those times.

When I was a kid, we got one set of school pictures each year. And as a mom, I really love getting these pictures each year of my kids. But isn't one enough? Isn't more than that just another way for the picture companies to reach into our pocketbooks? The second set of pics irritate me. The kids get to wear "free dress" for these, so they aren't formal uniform shots, and they look, admittedly, more fun than the Fall pictures. The cynic in me knows that this is just a ploy to separate me from my cash.

Every year, my kids beg me to buy Spring pictures. Every year, I decline. They get mad. I stand firm. They get madder. I stand firmer. It's a dance that has worked until now. (I have promised that they can each have Spring pictures when they are in 8th grade.)

So not only does the school take Spring Pictures but they send home the packet whether or not you order them, and the onus is on each family to return the packet either with an order or without. Every year, I unceremoniously return the envelopes after a cursory glance.

You must know where this is going.

This year, after the usual Mad/Firm/Mad/Firm dance, the kids were resigned to no Spring pics. Oh, but then the envelopes came home. These pictures are fan-bleeping-tastic. My kids look so incredible, so handsome, so beautiful that I fairly melted away on the spot.

I am such a wimp.

Do I give in, thereby doing serious damage to my credibility and my already shaky reputation for standing firm? Do I cave, and get these absolutely stunning photographs? Or do I stick with the party line and keep my integrity intact?

It may be a moot point. I haven't actually looked at what these babies cost, and when I do, my resolve might become a whole lot stronger. But right now?

I am officially torn.

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15 May 2009

Black Pants, Striped Shirt

I have been meaning to write about our Easter Sunday for awhile now. It was a big day. A good day for many hours, but a day that took some wild turns and tumbles.

I've been meaning to write about it, but haven't. It was such an intense day and I've had trouble capturing the depth and breadth of the intensity. Until now, I have given up. But the story won't stop rappin' on me brain, so I suppose I'll just try to tell it.

We went to a local regional park on Easter Sunday. It was a beautiful day. . .we brought bounteous good food from Trader Joe's. . .the weather was perfect and the kids went swimming in the lake. . .we loved every minute of it. Until the part where I got the hair brained idea to take ALL FIVE KIDS for a walk around Lake Anza. Give the hubby a break, I thought. Let him stay back at the beach and "chill," I thought. Such a dumb idea.

The walk around the lake was much more treacherous than I had remembered. Small girls -- all of them mine -- fell multiple times in the first five minutes, due to rocky and rooty path conditions.

This culminated in Lola tripping with serious ferocity over a mean ole root, and planting her face on a very pointy rock. I heard the scream before I saw the blood, busy as I was keeping the other two girls from falling in the lake. Lola turned to me with her hands covering her cheek and screaming that scream that moms 'round the world know instinctively to signify "not your average boo-boo."

There was a lot of blood. As it happens, she was wearing a white shirt, which accentuated the bright red blood quite vividly, and somehow made the entire situation scarier.

Anyway, we were half way around the lake at this point, and I had absolutely nothing with me to help her feel better or get cleaned up. The walk thus ended, with me telling the boys to get back to the beach, grab the wipes, and head back towards me.

I started back to the beach with the three girls, trying to shepherd them as quickly as possible, which wasn't fast enough for the 6-year old bloody cheek. Anyone else know how hard it is to rush a 4-year old and a 2-year old along a nature path? I'm sure many of you do. It's tough.

And the boys? Yeah, they forgot the part about returning with wipes; instead, they got back to the lake and jumped in for another swim. Heh.

The entire way back around the lake, I was like a mother hen, escorting the three girls along the path, swiveling my head back and forth to ensure they all stayed with me. Arriving at the gate of the beach area, I turned one last time, head counted all three girls, hollered an update to Rick, and hustled Lola down to the lifeguard station for some first aid.

Lola had settled onto the bench and the Lifeguard/Angel had started to patch her up, when Rick called down to me: "Where's Tallulah?"

Thus began the longest 15 minutes of my life. We could not find her. My 2-year old was gone, in the blink of an eye, at a lake, with too many different directions to look. What started as your average "can't find the kid for a minute" kept stretching out in time until it became a full blown fear, wide and ugly and bottomless.

I have often wondered, while watching news stories about children gone missing and hearing bulletins that start with "last seen wearing...," if I would even remember what my kid was wearing when she was last seen. In less high-stakes situations, I can sometimes come up with a shirt color or pattern, sometimes not.

Under the late afternoon sky on Easter Sunday, I knew. I couldn't get those black pants and the multicolored striped shirt out of my head. In the space of 15 minutes, I kept repeating "black pants, striped shirt." People joined the search: I could hear the news traveling from picnic blanket to frisbee game to BBQ pit: a 2-year old girl...black pants, striped shirt...missing from the gate of the beach area.

Rick and I were running, running, running, scanning the meadow, the beach, the paths, doing our best not to think too much about the lake edges. We had left our other kids at the lake with the lifeguard, while we split up to look in opposite directions. I felt so incredibly alone on what might suddenly become the worst day of my life. I was running hard, and breathing hard, and asking everyone I saw if they'd seen a 2-year old girl in black pants and a striped shirt, and thinking "I'm the mom, I need help, I need someone to tell me it's going to be OK and that someone has found her, and she will be in my arms in a moment." I wanted Rick to be with me, reassuring me, promising me that she was just around the next curve in the path.

The story does have a happy ending. We found her. On the third or fourth pass through the beach, I ran by Samuel, looking wild-eyed and panicked I am sure. Alarmed, he said: "Mom! What's going on?"

I told him we couldn't find Tallulah, and ran past him on the way to the lifeguard, who would certainly have walkie-talkies and wouldn't walkie-talkies help? But Sam called me back: "Mom, she's right here!"

I turned and there were the little legs in black pants and the chubby arms in striped sleeves. Air returned to my lungs, and blood rushed back into my head, and tears started pouring from my eyes.

I ran up the beach, grabbed her, and plopped down on the sand and sobbed.

My "pre-tween" begged me to stop crying because "people are watching. Everyone is staring at you, mom!" he hissed between clenched teeth. The 2-year old herself took my face in both her hands and kept saying "Top tying, mama; top tying." (Stop crying.)

We left shortly after we were once again a party of seven.

And when we were all in the car on our way, we realized that Lola's cheek was still bleeding profusely, soaking through the bandage the lifeguard had given her. The cut was like a puncture wound, as if someone had taken a large bore needle and jammed it into her face.

So. Having once been told that I should have brought my son in for stitches on a cut that I "home treated," I knew how the sun would go down on my Easter Sunday. Off to the ER we went, Lola and I. Four hours later, and no stitches needed, we arrived back home, and I had the most wonderful priveledge of putting all of my children to bed, whole and well and accounted for.

It was quite a day.

The next day, thanks to Laura, with whom I shared the whole story, I was able to make some good out of this horrendous experience. After we found Tallulah and filled in the boys about how she had been missing, Samuel felt truly terrible about forgetting to return with the wipes, as if he were responsible for the situation. He fairly tortured himself with "If I had remembered, this wouldn't have happened." And Laura pointed out to me that Sam was the one who found her, who ended the whole search.

So that next night, as I was putting the kids to bed, I talked with Samuel more about how he was feeling.

"Samuel, the only thing you did yesterday was the best thing anyone did for me in my whole life: you gave me back Tallulah. You were the one who showed me where she was. You brought us all back together."

Short of holding Tallulah in my arms on the sandy beach, the look on his face was all the Easter gift I will ever need.

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09 May 2009

One Very Good Mother

I live in the Bay Area, minutes from Oakland. I am so sorry I never heard of the beautiful Mother Wright before her passing. I read about her life and death on SFGate this morning, and thought it was a beautiful start to my own Mother's Day weekend.

Plus, this lady had TWELVE children. Truly amazing.


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04 May 2009

4-year old Blog Fodder

"Why did God invent port-a-potties? Because they stink!" (As in, why would He invent something smelly.)

Her: "I miss Grandpa Richard! You know why?"
Me: "Why sweetie?"
Her: "Because he died!"

"Mom, that is amazing! That is amazing! Wow! I love it!" This was her response to the car making different sounds on different types of pavement along I-80.

All of this in one little car ride. Keeping up with her is a full time job, with a great benefits package.

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02 May 2009

Can I Have a Nightmare, Please?

10-year old son: "Mom, sometimes I think that good dreams are actually bad, and nightmares are actually good."

Me: "Really? Why is that?"

Son: "Because when I have a good dream, I have to wake up and it turns out not to be real, but when I have a bad dream, I wake up and it also turns out not to be real and that's a good thing."

Bring on the nightmares!

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