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6:30am.  Breakfast table.  Me sitting down.  C. bouncing up, down, all around.  Me saying one more bite, sit down, please eat, don’t play, come back here, no, just, stop, wait.

I just stop and look at him.

What?

Why are we still here? I ask.  You are 7 years old; why am I still trying to get you to eat?  You can do it at school.  I’ve seen you sit at the table and eat your lunch there.  Why can’t we have that here?

His little face crumples:  I’m just… I’m just living a natural life!

Well, what can you say to that, but a big hug.  This is the day to day balance of preparing them for life in our social world, and being the safe place that they don’t have to hold it all in and just be themselves.  Naturally.

—————–

A. asked for spaghetti without the sauce.  I like it bald, he says.

Added to the family lexicon forever.

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Weekends.   Sigh.

It’s Sunday night.

Let’s note a few bright moments to flush out the dread of starting all over again on Monday without the faintest whisper of ever catching up.  Things like:  Not only did I not clean up the writing on the wood floor (ssshhh), now there are misspelled last names and Frozen snowflakes on two new pieces of furniture.  Kids uniforms will be waiting in the dryer for early a.m. search and rescue missions.  Got through sorting a few boxes of old work stuff last week, but at the cost of all regular housework, exercise and volunteerism.

So shut up.  Here’s the thankful list from the weekend.

At his request, took a walk around the block with Clifton Saturday evening to see the moon. He was wearing Toy Story pjs.

Got a text from Angela asking if I remember a Heart concert where the guy who got the tickets licked us on the face.

Got to endure jokes about both my marriages – not too many friends around with that level of intimacy!

Arthur about to fall asleep thoughtfully listing all the foods starving Clifton could still eat at 7pm.

Krispy Kreme bread pudding. (me, not starving Clifton)

I stayed out until after 1am BOTH Friday and Saturday nights.  So now I have the first episode of “Orange is the New Black” Season 2 to watch finally.

 

Ooh. Gotta go!

 

 

A big worry in the new parenting realm for me was the state of my spine.   I have treated the symptoms (but not the cause!) of my back problems for years with the altogether fabulous trifecta of pain pills, muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories.   Just saying muscle relaxer makes me soft and smiley.

Then came the practice back pack trip at Black Creek, MS, wherein I attempt to carry significantly more than I ever have in preparation for a much longer harder higher trip scheduled a  month later.  And the back goes out.  Way out.

The ensuing year and a half is a blinding blur of extreme pain, Cirque du Solame contortions to get out of bed, a full body brace “positions everyone!” whenever a sneeze approached, wonderful physical therapy with diagnosis (thanks Fred and Crane PT),  that ended with the epidural.  That’s right ladies.   epi.  dural.

That word does continue to freak me out, but y’all, they put pain meds right where it hurt, right on it!  I don’t really do major medical procedures (Lasics vision correction, which Jim watched from the hallway, doesn’t count).   The nurse took my blood pressure, did the eyebrow raise and immediately recommended the fast acting xanax, so I don’t remember much of the procedure at all.  Jim still talks about how we went to McDs after,and I ate the egg mcmuffin AND the hashbrown.  He’s still not over it.  But I was over my back pain and able to strengthen instead.

So now, I am extremely pleased to report that I have had no back problems whatsoever in the two and a half years since becoming a parent.  Turns out all the extra activity of bending, picking up, running around, chasing flailing arms is good for my back.  It was my sedentary lifestyle that was the culprit all along.  As if I didn’t know that already.  No time for television, no time for stiff as shit.

What I am constantly protecting from pain are my breasts.  The elbows, the twisting bodies, the climbing over and over and over, the head jerks without warning.  I love it that the kids are on me all the time.  It’s an unexpected perk of parenthood, the constant feedback of touch and skin is well documented and leaves an aura of euphoria about you all the time.  The worst is when Clifton uses my breast as leverage, when he’s slipping off my hip or trying to reach to something above his head.  The pain.  I spend a good part of my time with my hands over my breast like Mike Myers’ verklempt Linda Richman

Here’s a poem I wrote about Rio our cat and my breasts a few years ago.

In the quiet river

of our sleeping bed.

Slip-covered bodies sway

and roll from shore to shore.

Rio, the yellow tabby cat,

uses my nipples

as stepping stones

to get to the other side.

Ow!

Fuck me!

Ow Ow!

I could write a similar poem about the kids and the last three lines would be the same.

There has been a funny conversation thread on one of my adoption discussion groups about the Russian personality type:  very nice but not outwardly friendly and very very blunt.  Several told of gruff strangers who went out of their way to help without a word or  smile and then gave their child a chocolate upon departure.  My personal favorite is the frequent response “of course, of course”  with dismissive hand gesture.

The discussion started when one of the members complained about comments that a guy in Russia made about her email address.  It had the phrase “Russiancuties” in it and he said in a reply email to her… are your children really that attractive?  Ooh, Gemini hooted and hollered about that one.

When we started the adoption process I worried that I wasn’t outwardly excited enough as other people that I admittedly only knew through their online personalities.  Sample identities:

  • growingfamily@
  • alexssmom@
  • sueadopts2@
  • adoptivemom2010@
  • babiesacomin@

I made up the last one, but the others are real.  Granted these email addresses were probably created during the process to join the adoption discussion group, but they just seemed so much more animated about everything.  We didn’t really tell anybody, didn’t start a blog about the mind-numbing minutiae of the process, and the only thing I bought besides books was the vintage yellow and green giraffe lamp that I kept under my desk without opening for almost a year.

Then I worried that I would become one of those enthralled parents who talks non-stop about their kid’s toenail development and helicopters around every utterance and masticated morsel.  I would spout babytalk non sequiturs in the grocery line, share hilarious poo stories at bookgroup, and enroll my finger-painters in art appreciation classes at the Ogden.

It’s over a year in, and I really don’t have time to worry about any of that shit anymore.  I also don’t worry about anybody else’s parenting style either.  We’re all doing the best we can, and we’re doing it on the fly.  On the job learning experiences ad infinitum, my friend.    I do check in with friends about potential Facebook over posting, and I still read a lot of parenting material, but the difference is, I don’t worry about it.  too much.

Worry is best suited when it’s real, like when you’re in Siberia meeting with government officials who have control over your future life.  During our first trip, our facilitator said gruffly to me, “Rachel, come here, I need to ask you a question.”  Gut clench.  These trips are grueling and anything could go wrong, plus she asked for just me and not both of us.  What now?

We sat down and she said (gruffly), “Rachel, I want you to bring me a refrigerator magnet from your state.  I don’t have one from Louisiana.”  Eyes squinting and blinking, I had to make her repeat it.

It’s just how she talks, how they talk, how they parent, how we parent.  Who the hell am I to judge?

… says the magician from Frosty the Snowman, Professor Hinkle.

Says we, the parents of very active kids.  Here are some things we do to keep them busy and organized on the weekends.  Variety, newness and structure are key.  Inadvertently slip into unstructured play time and and you’ll soon find yourself pulling dvd’s out of the chandelier and asking rhetorical questions like Why are you standing in the sink and Why are all 16 puzzles mixed up on the floor?

Saturday AND Sunday mornings

Cartoon watching starts around 6am. (from the bottom of my sandy eyelids I worship and thank you, cable television)

Jim makes pancakes and eggs as witnessed by the bountiful array of dirty dishes, pots, pans, drips and schmears as far as the eye can behold.

If I’m not on FlyLady time, then scummy floor maintenance, laundry, and repetitive pick up activities.

Out of the house by 9 or 10am.  Sometimes our back yard.   I’ve been getting lots of great backyard art activity ideas from Play at Home Moms.

Colored rice with Grannie

Playing with shaving cream and colors – Clifton

Sometimes one of the parks in our neighborhood.  Art likes to do my pre-park speech now:  “No running away; when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”

  • Peters Playspot – walking distance to our house, bring balls and bikes and then fight over them
  • Danneel Park – two-parent park as it is so spread out and higher than other parks
  • Wisner Park – almost perfect size and variety, also can bring Bucky (4th needy man-child in house)
  • Washington Square –  lots of good shade and usually run into someone we know here.

Home by noon for lunch (ask Art what it’s going to be:  hot dogs, carrots and apple sauce)

Wrestlemania – aka naptime struggle from 12:30 – 1:30  (for night time we let them work it out on their own, but naps are critical to the rest of the day’s happiness to let it go to chance)

1:30-2:30 – sweetness sleepytime snuggle boys – continue to nap with me in recliner, watch non-kid tv, read, play with toys

3:00 – 6:00 – Get out of the house again!  Lots of options in our fabulous city

  • Children’s Museum (“shopping park”) – totally worth the membership – different favorite activity every time we go.  I love seeing how they learn and what they’re interested in.
  • Zoo – totally worth the membership and we haven’t even gone to the aquarium & insectarium yet
  • Children’s Wading Pool in front of zoo – free!  (“swimming in the ribber”)
  • Monkey Room – should get a membership here – good for 1.5 hours plus a few snacks
  • Parenting Center (boo hoo – grew too old for this wonderful play area)
  • Library, Children’s Resource Center – only last 15 minutes here, but it’s up from 10!
  • City Park – Story book Land ($3), or mad chaotic playground with one contraption that you have to sprint half a mile around to catch your child dangling from the bars.  Also, don’t look away or attempt a conversation because there’s a big lake.  with ducks.

Dinner out!  Picnic at the fly or restaurant one night a week, only these places

  • Chick Filet in Metairie – clean play area and good food
  • Piccadilly on Jefferson Hwy – strap them into the high chairs on wheels and roll them down the middle aisle away from the food selections.  In the oncoming traffic pretty much.  Get help bringing cornucopia to table and get things you like to eat too.
  • Dat Dog on Freret Street – the new location is so loud nobody notices the screaming kids
  • To go!  Cafe Nino on Carrollton (aka Portion Control Problems), Ted’s FrostTop on Claiborne, Reginelli’s pizza on State Street, one time Greg brought us sushi but I think he was scarred by the experience as he hasn’t offered again.

bath

books

bed

….. for everyone.

It’s a blurry early morning, and the boys’ bedroom door bursts open. Clifton comes stomping through the kitchen carrying the over-sized red train book under his arm like he’s been up reading for hours.

He’s two, almost three, and he’s wearing the red Spider Man print pajamas: long pants, button down top with long sleeves. His hair is sticking straight up, and he gives me the biggest smile as he walks past to the family room.

Have I ever been that happy at 6:00 in the morning?

Oh yeah, that would be today.

I love the language peculiarities that mark us as from a certain place and a certain time. My brother says “silver bells” instead of “Hershey’s Kisses” which is a holdover from Dad’s vocabulary. He doesn’t realize that he collects these phrases, but I do. I relish them.

Mom says “lavatory” instead of “sink.”  Could be crossword puzzle-itis.  She just said it to me the other day, telling me the things she cleaned in my house while I was taking care of sick kiddos.

You can mark Jim and I as older parents by what we call “baby wipes.” You know what those are, right? Wet napkins that our society apparently purchases by the caseload to wipe up all sorts of … accidents, baby-related and not.

In a rush, I will ask for a “Wet One” instead of a baby wipe which predates the current moist towelette phenomenon by about 20 years.

And Jim will ask for a “Wet Nap” which may be either a sign of his generation or his compulsion to collect any and all travel-size amenities.

In any event, the wreck gets wiped, the unclean become sanitized, and nobody lobs a scimitar in the process!