Sunday, February 22, 2009

Scents without Sensibility

This weekend has whirred by... I'm not actually sure if I got anything I intended to do DONE. Of course, I was partially felled by my dang tonsils. Officially diagnosed this morning by a doctor dubious of the negative results from the fast-check strep test. My tonsils, renamed "something alien" by my astounded husband, who stuttered, "Oh, good, God! There's something alien in there... are they supposed to be tiger striped?" Funny thing is, they don't really hurt, but they are swollen and pressing on my uvula, therefore making swallowing quite difficult.

My children were just thrilled that I brought back "Mr. Da-donald's" for lunch. I chugged the vanilla milkshake I'd ordered with Scott's food on the fifteen minute drive from the golden arches to my brown house. Who am I kidding? I drank it in about five minutes flat. The toast that I'd eaten for breakfast didn't have enough protein to anchor my blood sugar for an entire morning, I had foolishly expected to get right in at the doctor's. Nope, not so much. I had a two-hour wait, long enough, in fact that the receptionist had suggested I come back in a couple of hours to wait for my name to be called. So I spent 9:00 - 10:30 prowling Target. And returned at 11:10 to fill my prescription -- for pills so large I couldn't think how I was supposed to swallow them with my angry swollen throat. I guess it's a good thing that I have next to no gag reflex. The only time I've ever been gaggy was when pregnant with Violet. And, after the nurse swabbed my toes through my mouth, I'm happy to report that I am, once again, in control of my gag reflex.

I'd say that it is delirium that has me wandering all over, describing a simple case of tonsillitis in such detail, but it's really boredom. After the doctor and the shopping and the brief sushi interlude called lunch -- don't tell me you thought that I fell off the diet wagon and ate McDonald's? Nope, I splurged for a half-moon combo from the Target sushi counter instead. Anyway, now I'm in hour 4.5 of proctoring a practice MCAT exam. I've read Water for Elephants -- and enjoyed it, for the most part. I checked and updated facebook. I wrote an email to a friend. And now I'm sitting here, really needing to use the bathroom, but hanging out while two students remain focused on their computer screens, calculating and recalculating, editing and re-editing their practice tests, breathlessly waiting practice results.

My children have been extra sweet and extra funny lately. Violet is downright demanding when it comes to her state of dress. She's taken off and put on shoes enough times that she can balance on one foot while holding the door frame as she slips her tiny foot into a fur-lined snow boot. She doesn't always get tops and bottoms on the right halves of her body, but socks are tugged appropriately onto her feet and hats perched carefully on her head. I did get a great laugh out of her skipping around the corner wearing a pair of Scott's clean boxer briefs. She'd stepped into one leg and pulled it up over her shoulder, toga-style. She beamed and declared herself to be "unna-lella." Cinderella. She chirps excitedly about her clothes, her hair, her baby and several other things that SHE clearly thinks I understand, though I cannot decipher all of the words she says. She tips her head and nods when I look her in the eye, mesmerized by the gray-green-blue-brown iris. Though her personality is forming, her eyes haven't picked a color yet, they waffle chameleon-like with her clothing and surroundings. Although the color isn't set, the intensity of her gaze is powerful. She is precise, she is strong, and she is clear in her ambitions and goals. She will become a force...

Milo has been playing daddy's birthday present -- Lego Indiana Jones Wii game. He's alternately proud and crushed as his skills are tested. He is boisterous in his success, coolly crowing, "Yeah, baby! Wock and Woll!" and equally desperate when he can't make the avatar jump the stones in the right succession, hopping madly, crying, "I can't DOOOooooo it! I can't DOOOoooo it!" until he can do it, then he's cool as a cucumber, with a little swagger in his step.

A funny one, he is. I can see hi battling perfectionism already -- his tender little heart takes entirely too much too seriously and his expectations for himself are higher than our expectations for him. He is embarrassed if he can't get something right, and more embarrassed if he's corrected. His sensitivity to correction makes discipline hard -- he understands too much and he views correction as personal failure. I remember those days, myself -- sitting in class, trying not to make any mistakes, frozen in my spot if I answered something incorrectly. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, yet it is staring me straight in the heart, growing up right in front of me. It's not surprising, that relentless perfectionism is a trait shared by both of his parents -- and the intensity of emotion that goes with it. It is difficult to be bright, to understand more than your emotions can handle. I know this, Scott knows this, and Milo will learn it. It's not a lesson that I have wanted to teach, though, nor is it a lesson learned from instruction -- only from experience.

Oh, my boy... I hope that you can let go of some of this and enjoy life the way you do when you are playing with your Star Wars guys, oblivious to anything around you, anchored in your extensive imagination, creating worlds. Or when you nest in the crook of my arm, feet pulled up, small as an egg, your head tucked under my chin. I can smell you, then, and you still smell to my heart the way you smelled as a newborn. I can smell you and I can smell Violet and in your scents I am transcendent, open to the universe, connected to history, woven into the fabric of time itself. I grow dizzy smelling you. It turns me inside out, stops my thoughts, catches me still, unbreathing and whole. Something awakens, something primal that screams, "my babies, my babies, my babies!" I know that this is the way it is supposed to be.

I know this as I sit, now five hours into the test, missing you... missing my family...

Friday, February 13, 2009

I got the blahs...

There are so many things I should be doing right now. Blogging isn't necessarily one of them, but here I am. I have a to-do list a mile long for work and the house is a pit, due mostly to sick kids the past week. I haven't been able to properly clean as the dining room catch-all went to Hades when I was in Denver -- it is simply not a priority for Scott to keep things orderly. But I have always known that bout him, so I have little about which to complain. I married him knowing that he doesn't like to put stuff away until he suddenly can't find something important.

We have been watching Battlestar Galactica (the new version) and it makes me want to act. I haven't been onstage since fall of 2000 and that's a really long time for me. But the idea of rehearsing a show in the evenings whilst working all day seems cruel -- I'd be losing precious time with my babes. The time is so short that I don't want to miss any minute of it. So my creative energy is stifled right now.

I've fallen off the exercise wagon and can't seem to get back on it. I'll force myself to run tonight before the kids go to bed. It's important and I need to do it. Half an hour and the treadmill is right there in the room with them.

I've also been browsing house plans. I think it's sort of nuts to think we can afford to build a home right now. Like, really nuts. I don't think Scott has a good grip on exactly how expensive it will be. Concrete and HVAC cost moolah and a lot of it. Yes, we can do most of the rest of it, but I don't know that it is the right move for us this instant. On the other hand, I think we can fit three kids in the nursery if we have to -- Milo will love sleeping in a loft above Violet's toddler bed, I just know it! We're not expecting a third yet, but one of these days...

Speaking of the kids, Milo will start preschool next year, yay! And boo because he's getting older and behaving more and more like a real kid. Although he was asking me yesterday what would happen as he gets older and I said, "Well, you may not believe it now, but when you get older you won't want me to kiss you goodnight and you'll think everything I say is stupid."

His eyes widened and he clutched my hand tighter, "No, Mommy, you're smart! You are always smart! I love it when you kiss me good night!"

I do, too, baby...

Friday, February 6, 2009

My Princess

My favorite thing about toddlers is the so-called "language explosion." Both of my children have been early walkers and early talkers, but, unlike Milo, Violet has never been one to speak on command. As a result, I know that she says lots more than I actually hear.

Case in point: Yesterday at pick-up from daycare, the sitter was commenting on how when she says melon and Cinderella, they sound very similar. I said, "I've never heard her say EITHER of those words!"

So the sitter brought out the Cinderella dress and asked, "Who wears this dress?"

Naturally, Violet just smiled and pointed to the Cinderella face on the dress's brooch. After a little prodding, she finally answers "unna-la-la!" Cinderella, indeed.

My darling is also quite the critic. As I was singing "A Bushel and a Peck" to her while she was nursing the other evening, she sat up suddenly, pressed her soft little hand to my lips and said, "Bop!"

"Did you just tell me to stop?"

"Uh-huh." And she ducked her head back down, back to nursing. Well, OK, then... I'll stop singing, but I've got to tell ya, babe, I can carry a tune. Sure, I'm no American Idol, but I don't sing that badly -- at least not badly enough to warrant the cane...

It is often hard to hear my lil' princess as the prince has a royal motor-mouth. Milo can out-talk just about anyone, particularly now that he's become so interested in relationships between people and in trying to figure out how things work. He has "Great Ideas!" and explanations in abundance, so the fragmented babble of a toddler on the verge of a verbal sometimes blends into the background of the tapestry. But she's getting there, perhaps more quickly that I realize.

The other day, Scott was in the shower and she pulled the curtain back and peered in, announcing, "Want get a bath." Since the top half of her was already wet, Scott stripped her down and brought her into the shower for one of her most favorite of activities -- washing her hair.

Early last week, she even told me, "poo-poo pobby!" and when I put her on the little potty chair, she sat still as a sinner in church until she did, in fact, tinkle on the potty. Two nights ago she was stripped down before a lasagna dinner and skipped away naked into the bathroom, where she almost made it to the potty chair -- she left a little puddle right in front of it. What made this pretty amazing was that no one had taken her in there -- she went in all on her own without prompting.

I am continually amazed by her confidence, her persistence, and her ambition. She is rarely thwarted by frustration and possesses an amazing amount of patience for one so young. I know that she will be able to become anything that she wants; I recognize her drive. Who knows, she could be "unna-la-la" herself one day...

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I have returned from a much-deserved break to Denver to visit my baby sister and her baby boy. Luke is a cutie-pie and a sweet little snuggler. And lil sis is doing a great job as a new mom.

I missed my kids like mad, though. As in craved the smell of their hair and the tickle of their laughter. There is nothing better to me than my morning snuggle. I do not look forward to the day that begins with an empty lap.
The longest minutes of my journey were the ones after my plane had landed in Cedar Rapids as it was pulling ever so slowly toward the gate, cautious in its approach like an inexperienced tightrope walker climbing an endless ladder. I knew that Scott and the kids were waiting for me in the airport. I imagined them: Scott trying to entertain a curious Violet, Milo tugging at his hand asking if my plane had landed yet and where was I and would I see him. It is winter here in Iowa, but in my imagination they were without coats, dressed as only a daddy can dress a kid – basically in the stuff that looks comfortable, regardless of wear or fit. I imagined their sweet round faces lighting up as they ran to me, music swelling in the background – clearly a very cinematic moment.

After an eternity, the plane stopped inching and I could hear the alarm of the moving gate as it was reeled out to kiss the plane. The plane rumbled as the baggage handlers cracked its shell; it shrieked like an injured monkey as the cargo hold door descended. The small craft rocked gently as its belly was boarded and the luggage was unceremoniously extracted.

Finally the flight attendant opened the door. The first class passengers stood, stretched, and casually reached for their carry-on luggage. As they ambled off the plane, I wished silently that the coach class passengers would steamroll a path through them. I wanted off the plane – I could practically hear my family, so strong was the pull on my heart.

I snatched my purse from the storage compartment at my feet and saw an opening in the column of people deplaning. I pulled my arms into my jacket; they slid against the lining as I shrugged the coat up. My carry-on was waiting on the rack with the other over-sized carry-ons that were towed through the Minneapolis airport and then tossed into the plane. The handle responded quickly to my tug, but the balance was off and the bag listed for a moment as I sped up to the gate, then it tipped over on its side, anchoring me to the spot. I cursed, righted it and nearly skipped away in my anticipation.

Naturally, every person walking in front of me wasn’t walking as fast as I was – obviously they didn’t have my babies waiting for them at the end of their journey or they would have been nearly running. I came to the top of the escalator, ready to bounce down it with my bag, when, as it crested, I caught sight of Scott. I began waving like a star-struck teen at a Hannah Montana concert. He returned the wave with warmth, though he did not mirror my own spastic excitement. As I got to the bottom of the wobbling escalator, Milo saw me and waved, too.
I dashed through the security door – an imaginary gate separating passengers from spectators – and as I did, the tears that had been welling in my eyes since I boarded the plane in Minneapolis spilled over. Scott was beaming, Milo had gone shy in his excitement, and Violet, who hadn’t seen me yet, was scanning the other deplaned passengers looking for me.

Kneeling by Milo, I opened my arms and he quickly tucked himself into my right arm, nearly tipping me backwards with the power of his hug. Violet then realized that I was right in front of her, she gave a quick squeal, then launched herself into my other arm. I was a goner… I sobbed, “I missed you! I missed you so so so so much!”
Milo, sensing that this was an unusually emotional reaction from me, held on tighter and whispered, “I love you mommy!” Violet alternated between putting her head on my shoulder and picking it up to look at me, as if I was an apparition and she wasn’t sure if I was real. I am real; I am home.

Yes, getting away was nice, but coming home was better.