Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's MINE.

The girls are 7 now. I really would have thought that, having reached this age in development that we would be blessedly passed certain, shall we say, undesirable behaviors.

It would seem not.

Given two toys, which are exactly the same in every single way, these two will fight like gladiators.

"She took mine!" Ashlyn growls.

"No. It's MINE!" screeches Caedance at a tremendously high pitch.

("Girls, please let's not fight over the doll. You both have the same one.")

"Give it to me. Now." Ashlyn is sneering now; lip curled, eyebrows furrowed, stance widened and ready for attack.

"It's mine, sister." Caedance straightens herself up to her full height, which currently falls just 1/4 inch shorter than Ashlyn. Chest out. Shoulders back. Poised to intimidate.

("Girls. You are fighting over two dolls that are exactly the same. If you must fight, choose something that at least makes sense. This doesn't make any at all.")

Did I mention the toys in question are identical? I'm not stupid, you know. I know better than to order or purchase two different anythings right now. Nope. These two Peach Dolls (from Mario Brothers) are the same. Twins, you might laughingly say.

But I dare not laugh. No I do not. I am watching the epic battle gearing up in front of me. Who will win? Will it be the curly headed one with the snarl. Or perhaps the curly headed one striking the pose?

Really. It's the SAME toy.

I could sit back and let them settle this. Duke it out. Swat at each other till it's all done. Maybe bite. I don't honestly know what exactly they would do.

I do know that they are 7 years old and I had really hoped we'd be somewhat past this incredibly banal stage of Mine-No-Mine. But I was wrong. So I shall settle the mess in the only way I have patience for in this exact moment in time.

I swoop in to the battleground, firmly planting myself between the troops. Ashyn is still stooped with the snarl on her face. Caedance is still taking the walled approach. Both are emitting some strange growling sound, although Caedance's is much higher and whinier. In one mighty motion I reach forth and sweep both Peach dolls from their grasps, swooshing them up and out of sight.
Both girls drop the snarls and look at me in disbelief.

Perhaps they thought Peach had grown magic and flown away.

Perhaps, with their prey out of sight, the predator forgot what the fight was about.

Perhaps they were just stunned for a moment to have mom intervene.

But I did.

("Peach will be going away now, my cherubs. Both of them. Like your mother, they tire of the fighting. Especially since, like me, they have no clue what exactly you're fighting about. They agree that they are EXACTLY the same. So they are off to a land where children don't fight over them and will return, perhaps, some other day.")

Goodbye, Peach. It's been real.....well...loud having your here.

So now the Peach dolls sit and wait.

We'll try it again another day.

Really, they are honestly the same doll. How do they even KNOW which one they've got?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Away For The Night

The girls are up in bed.  They call it being "Put Away For The Night". It's an odd title for certain, one come up with on some long ago nightly trek up the stairs. I can't remember how long ago now.

There must have been that last sippy; older still, perhaps a last bottle. Surely there would have been the last trip to the bathroom to brush teeth, etc, etc. Most definitely one final story. Followed eventually by the Okay-This-Is-Absolutely-The-Last-Book-Do-You-Understand-'Cause-I-Mean-It-This-Time-I-Really-Do story. And of course the last call for hugs all around. Everyone involved in this no-holds-barred tangle of family that is and always has been our Night Time Hugs. One last round of "Good Night" and "Sweet Dream" wishes all around.

During one of those countless and precious evenings, it was titled "Putting The Girls Away For The Night". And it has stuck. In some off beat way, it has become our family vernacular for nighttime.

Highly progressed from the days of yore, the days when The Routine took nearly an hour and had to be very dutifully adhered to under threat of non-compliance by our munchkins. The processional of today is a streamlined version, everything abbreviated and shortened. Except for the hug; that still remains the raucous family event of its ancestor.

 When the announcement heralds "Time to put the girls away for the night!" 4 feet march to the kitchen for that last slosh of water; 4 feet go marching loudly up the stairs to the bathroom; 2 feet go bounding into the bottom bed while the other set prefers to creep quietly to the top bunk. There is the round of "Good Nights". The sweet sounds of "Sleep Tights". The story. The last story. The Really Last Story.

All quickened. Deviations from the procedure go forgiven now. An oversight in the production go forgotten.  It's a different time. Different children in some ways.

But it's still the same title. The same name.

Putting The Children Away For The Night.

I smile at that. So much changes as they grow up. So many things learned and altered. Even amongst the complexities and completeness of those changes, some of the most basic things stay the same.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Choices, choices, choices.

I had the strangest thought today. It popped into my head at some odd moment or another, lodged itself in there, and refused to leave. Ever have that? You just can't seem to shake it. For better or for worse, it stays with you for the rest of your day. For me, it ruminates in the old gray matter, stewing until I sit down and give it free run of the place, through my fingers and onto this page.

My mental fixation today, 2 days after Christmas, has been the paths I've taken (or not taken), and choices I've made (or didn't make, if that were the case). And how those actions shaped me into who I see in the mirror today. Pretty heavy stuff, huh? I'm not really one to focus on existential thoughts of being who I am versus becoming who I am meant to be. I leave those gems for the philosophers, and quite frankly I just don't have the patience for it.

But every once in awhile I can't help but wonder......

I was just 2 easy classes and an added Praxis away from getting my Kindergarten certification. Did you know that? At the time I really didn't think having that additional certification was necessary. First through the Eighth grades was plenty. And yet.....and yet when I got out into the world of education, starting off as a very busy substitute teacher, I spent most of my time where? Ah yes, in Kindergarten classrooms. Which I adored, by the way. And when the position I had been subbing opened up, could I be considered for it? Alas, no. Because of 2 short classes and a test.

Would I be a stay at home mom now if I had taken a different path then?

Then too there is the question of my husband. We met at a summer church camp. I attended the church, but he didn't. Yet we both made choices to work there. That summer. Our paths hardly ever crossed, our circles spinning very distinctly in different directions. He spending his every single hour with his duties as a camp counselor, and me in the roasting heat of the kitchen. And yet.......and yet by the end of that summer we were dating, and just months from that we were engaged. What if one or both of us hadn't decided to work there? I am a self-described home body who never had any desire to leave home or strike out on my own. Besides that, I was miserable on the few occasions when I actually attended said camp as a camper myself. What on earth made me think I wanted to work there all summer?

Would I be who I am today if I hadn't? Would Dan and I have still met, somehow?

These are just 2 of the millions of choices I've made. Any of us, all of us, have made millions of decisions just like this, and they each shape our lives in some way. Stay or go? Left or right? Here or there? Yes or no? Every day is an onslaught of This or That choices that we make whether we're aware of making them or not. And I think they all have some impact on us, or those around us. And it's all too easy to sit back afterward and wonder if it had all been done differently, would the outcome still be the same.

Some people look at all this as so many random occurrences. A whole lot of nothings that may possibly add up to a monumental something. But it's all random. Or is it?

I feels things quite differently. When I look back to those moments where I was conscious of having a real choice to make--a yes or no---I can honestly say that I have felt led to make whichever choice I did. I've never felt alone. Never felt like I was the victim of some random act of who knows what.

Each choice, for better or for worse, was the one I was supposed to make.
Thinking back to those 2 classes and a test, I remember that last semester of course planning. I remember seeing the titles of the classes in question and seeing that they fit into my rather easy (for once) schedule that Spring. I had them both on my list. I almost registered for them. But it didn't feel right. I can't explain it any other way than that. It wouldn't have been right for me to take those classes, and I knew it. So no classes, no extra Praxis, no Kindergarten certification.

And that's okay.

Same thing with my husband of 13 lovely years. Time may be speeding away, but for some odd reason I still remember applying for that camp job. (I can't remember what I made for dinner last night, or what color my socks are without checking, but I can quite vividly remember that. Go figure.) I can still feel that sense of anxiety over the prospect of being away from home and the uncertainty of how that would be. All those nagging little worries that went along with that choice to submit that application. But it felt right. It was the right thing for me to do. And so I did. And you know what? I think it was quite right for me. (Somehow I think Dan would agree with me on that point.)

For me, things aren't random. I truly feel in the deepest parts of my very being that God has led me down a path. This path. It's not always the easiest path. There are bumps and stumbles along the way. There are the times, like today, when I mentally wonder about all of those countless little and big choices I've faced. They've made me who I am. Who I am right now.

And that's okay. I see myself quite clearly. I am at this place as the result of a million or more choices and daily decisions, but I wasn't alone in making them. Never once. I know that beyond a doubt.

In fact, at this exact moment my beloved is playing one of those strange video games that, to an observer (and uninterested party) like me, appears to blur the line between reality and fiction. Is this a movie? Is it a game? What is this? I could stay and watch. (And be confused). I could. But I'm going to execute one of those daily choices and move my little old self upstairs to my waiting nook and a Stephen King diddy. I'll admit that I am making this one on my own. Fully on my own. But I'm feeling pretty clear about it.

Good choice.

Friday, December 23, 2011


It's an interesting thing to see the relationship of my daughters change over time. They each came into the world with a Beloved Other right beside them; from that single moment they've shared a bond that I do not dare assess or too closely investigate.

It goes beyond my understanding to see them do the things they so innately do and feel. The times when they finish one another's sentences as if the word trains jump from one curly head to the other with seamless ease. Their ability to share a look that seems to encompass an entire conversation just between the two of them. The ability each has to sense distress or upset in the other, and rush to her twin, dropping everything and hurdling over any obstacle, to give comfort.

I do not understand this bond. Can't come even close to it because it seems to burn too brightly.

But I can watch it. Everyday. And be amazed.

They seem to be in a constant state of minor restructuring within it. It's as if even though they were born with this bond, it didn't come with an instruction manual and they still need to tweak the boundaries a bit. Get it just right. For them.

Occasionally I'll hear them conversing in a way that sounds as though they're just meeting each other for the first time, comparing likes and dislikes, adding up what they share and where they are different. In this stage of their lives, there are still more check marks in the Alike column, it would seem.

Perhaps sometimes it IS a bit like they're meeting anew. In a sense. They're changing as they grow, becoming someone slightly different. Maybe those subtle changes don't always come with a smooth transition in their bond. Maybe there are things that need to be evaluated, weighed, considered, and placed accordingly.

Or maybe they just like to stop from time to time and catch up with one another.

Who knows.

I may never truly be inside their bond; never have a complete understanding of how it works and what it feels like to be that connected to another human being, but it is glorious to watch it.

It is amazing to watch it, actually. A daily blessing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

This Christmas

I'm sitting down and taking my first break on this utterly grey and gloomy Monday. I'm trying to refocus,
           trying not to look at my To Do List, which seems to have grown longer
           (probably when I wasn't looking),
           trying to just sit here quietly and enjoy this moment.

Easier said than done.

What is it about Christmas that seems to shorten days? Suddenly I find myself scrambling amidst tinsel and trimmings to get too many things done in far too little amount of time. I just want to throw my hands up and scream, "STOP!"

Again, easier to wish that than to will it.

As I get wiser (notice I did not say "Older"), I find myself learning to slow down a bit, and take things one day at a time. And to that end, it's a lot easier to observe this wonderful Season and actually enjoy it.

My baking will get done. Eventually.
My house can wait another week or so to be cleaned. I hope.
Those To Do Lists will be full of check-offs. At some point.

And in the meantime, we have two very eager 7 year olds awaiting The Big Day around here this year. Seeing their excitement grow every year, their anticipation starting a bit earlier each year, is pure joy for me.

And seeing Christmas through their eyes is a miracle. Each year they show me something different because they are a little bit different. A little bit older, a little bit changed. And they share that with me.

I keep a running record of  it in my heart, filing it all away in those secret places Mother's have in there, just for memories that are both seen, felt, and relived. The Year I Held Them In Their My First Christmas Outfits. The Christmas They Toddled About With Their Dress-Up Pig & Tiger Tails Tucked Into Their Pants. The Year All They Wanted Was A Choir Of Sing-A-Ma-Jigs. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Every year, a little bit different. Each year special in its own way and for its own reasons.

It's a gift in itself to be able to sit back and observe it all. And I will make time for it. I will.

This is the year.
No more fussing.
No more worrying over what is done and what isn't.
No more trying to do more than I can.


Not this year.
This year I watch.
I observe.
I laugh.
I smile.

I take mental pictures of it all and store it.

Because it's all precious.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

And another thing..

Today I'm trying to remember all the things that don't really need to be finished right now. Right. This. Second.

I'm trying not to add to my list of TO DO's that needed checked off yesterday.

I'm really, really, really attempting to keep in mind that I am, in fact, just one person.

Just little old me.

It's okay to let that laundry sit in the laundry basket another day. (It's folded, after all.)

It's acceptable to fore go steam mopping today if it means I have a 15 minute break to sit and breathe and think amidst this otherwise hectic day.

There's nothing absolutely wrong with having a mishmash of books and errant toys covering most solid surfaces of the downstairs. (At least, for right NOW there isn't).

It may not be on par with who I am, generally.

But on this day---this one right now---

     it's who I have to be.

Here's hoping that tomorrow will have an extra couple of hours added to it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ball Pit Joy

I packed up the girls' Ball Pit today; rescuing it from its dreary resting place in our attic, and sending it forth to an exciting new life in the land of Younger Cousins. If toys can have feelings, I believe I sensed a sigh of anticipation wafting off that carrying bag. An air of excitement for being played with once more.

Ball Pits. You know, if ever a toy had been the embodiment of a past childhood memory, I think this would be it. How great are ball pits? Either you've had a grand experience with them, and thus want to recreate it with your children, or you've been deprived and seek to save your own offspring from a similarly dire fate.

My situation was the former. Glorious memories of Ball Zone Happiness abound in my mind's eye. Having children was like a green light for trying to relive those days of yore and not seeming to be completely and utterly insane along the way.

When I was a kiddo, knee high and a bouncy, happy little mite, my favorite place in the entire world was Cedar Point. More specifically, I adored a long gone treasure inside Cedar Point called King Arthur's Court. Anyone else remember this? It still semi exists today as Kiddie Kingdom, but it's been upgraded to a mass of Snoopy inspired rides and games. But back in the day, it was  home to Ball Pit glory. There were two different ball pits to choose from. There was a little kid pit where in the average 4 year old could pounce about under the watchful eye of the parent, completely seen and observed. And then there was what I adoringly called The Big Kid Pit. This pit was bigger. It was deeper. In this pit, it was possible, should one desire it, to disappear completely in a sea of multi-colored bliss.

How I loved that Big Kid Pit. I eagerly awaited the growth spurt that would graduate me from the little kiddy pit to the place Where The Big Kids Play. And when my head at last tipped the measuring line and I was finally able to take that first joyful leap at the sound of the whistle, oh how tremendous it was. Just as I had hoped.

For 5-7 minutes it was just me, and 9 of my closest non-acquaintances, and what had to be a squajillion multi-colored, hollow balls. I remember the sound of them all; the bumping of the ones nearest to me, and the overall rumbling of that huge mass all moving as one. I remember that odd feeling of being suspended if I held still, supported by a solid rainbow; and the fluidity I felt while running straight ahead, launching myself and crashing down on a prismatic sea. There was, of course, the Other Child Hazard that always loomed; that risk of either smashing into a hidden person who chose to slink in the under layers of the balls, or to be smashed upon as you lay semi-covered and an eager leaper launched himself onto your person. But as with most of the happy games of childhood, I was fairly oblvious to the danger and just had fun anyway.

And of course the bacteria. (You know I was going to go there eventually). Can you even imagine how disgustingly microbial coated those things were? What if some kid dropped a number 2 in there?? You know it happened. Had to have. So what did they do? Did someone go in there with a rag and wipe each of the bazillion balls down with bleach? One by one? Was there some vacuum operation that sucked all the bacteria out of the entire area? I think no.
I shudder.

But of course, as a child I cared not for worries of germicidal nature. I just saw a Pit of Joy. End of story. From whistle blow to whistle blow, I was carefree and loving every micro second of it. After my turn had ended, I remember begging my parents to let me wait out the line again. Back in those days, it was actually safe for them to leave me there while they went on with my much more adventurous brothers, getting them on and off the (gulp) roller coasters and coming back for me shortly after.

Flash forward 20 years or so, and enter two little girls and a first birthday party that we weren't sure we'd even get to have for them. What better gift to celebrate the smoothing out of what had been a rocky start and usher in the start of childhood then with the hero of my OWN childhood?? Hello, Ball Pit Ball Zone. You rock.

They loved it. I loved it.

Did it recreate my joyful memories of Kiddy Land? Nah, not really. (We were short several squillion balls, it turned out). But it sure was a blast playing with them and watching them have a blast in it. And now that they've completely outgrown it, it's a pretty awesome thing to be able to move it on to a new group of kiddos to enjoy as well.

Memories are good.
Seeing your children get a glimpse of those same memories is even better.