New Year’s Eve, 2013

Today started out rather prosaically, when Ted took the car over to the shop to get it fixed. It’s been having transmission-related issues lately. Of course, when I talked to the guy working on the car, there were a number of other issues, including brake pads that needed replacing, a part for the overdrive that was failing, in addition to the general tune-up and oil change. That all ran in excess of $780, so we got to end the year on a cash-out sort of note rather than the reverse. But it’s a good car with a lot of life left in it, and we haven’t had to spend that much on maintenance in the past decade, so we have to count our blessings. Next, we need to take it to a body shop for repair post-accident, but at least the insurance company is going to pay for that.

Ted decided to nap during the kids’ nap, and I went downstairs for some alone time. Of course, for the second day in a row the twins woke up after only 40 minutes or so. I took them downstairs so Ted could nap a bit longer, and called my mom. We had a good, long talk. I’m really glad I can talk with my mom, that we can share an adult relationship where we can lend each other an ear, and give one another support and understanding in a context of good communication. She’s loved me since the day I was born, something I understand and appreciate these days on a whole new level now that I have my own children.

This afternoon we had a few hours of childcare, so a friend of mine came over while Ted went off for an appointment and then to pick the car up. My friend is living in NYC now. I love to hear about her new life. It’s so radically different from mine, and we’re at different life stages, but it’s easy for me to picture it. I can readily relate, perhaps partly because we’ve known each other for so long, since she was a kid and long before I had my babies. We laughed about the fact that the stereotype of young people working service jobs while they pursue opportunities in the arts is so grounded in reality. We talked about the difficulties of balancing a rent-paying job or three with the necessary expenditure of time and energy into the development of an artistic career. I admire her for her courage and initiative, going off to the big city to do what she wants while she’s young enough to make that more possible. I consider her a great role model, and plan to keep all this in mind when my kids are old enough to start taking bigger risks. I need to remember my admiration and appreciation of my friend, and replicate it in my interactions with my kids when they start scaring the crap out of me with their desires to be independent and movers of their own destinies.

I also admire the way in which my friend and her parents have negotiated her growing up and consequent detachment with grace, respect, and mutual support. I hope I can manage it too, as my three get older. Because it’s a bit too easy to get caught up in spending the majority of my time telling my kids what to do all day, I need to remember to focus on them as people separate from me, from being my children. Inspired by that idea, I told Hazel the other day that she has lots of good ideas. A friend posted this cartoon (number seven on the page) on Facebook a week or two ago. It has resonated, caused me to think about my interactions with Hazel ever since. (It says, “Honey, when you grow up I want you to be independent, assertive, and strong-willed. But while you’re a kid I want you to be passive, pliable, and obedient.”)

This evening we decided to get some Indian food to go as our New Year’s Eve celebration (I know, we live on the wild side). It’s a bit off-program for us, but not too far. It was a hit. We got Saag paneer, a veggie Korma, and a chicken Tikka masala. The babies loved it all. Hazel gobbled up a bunch of the saag and rice. Then it was bedtime, about 45 minutes later than usual. Joanna was asleep by the time I took her off my breast and laid her on the bed, and Emily went down without a peep after we did our usual singing and reading. Ted and I are going to go upstairs to crash in about five minutes. More living on the wild side. But that’s ok. That’s our current life stage, and I am fine with it. There will be other years for staying up late and ringing in the new year.

Besides, the Google Doodle has already changed (poor little crying 3). We’ll just pretend we’re on the east coast.

Happy New Year, all!

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Cello lessons, evening activities

This morning I had three lessons to teach. The last of them went over by almost 45 minutes, and we were all tired by the end. But we got some good and necessary work in, so it was worth it. That was followed by practicing piano with Hazel, during which I only partially managed to switch gears sufficiently from cello-teacher mode to practicing-piano-with-my-own-little-kid mode. We got through it, but I had to get up and walk around a few times to keep my cool and to pull back energetically from expecting too much of her. That was followed pretty soon thereafter by a piano lesson (for Hazel). During her nap our babysitter played with the twins, and I got a bunch of necessary administrative work done. That was followed by three more lessons. Today feels like it’s been full.

Last night I decided that we have to start employing a new set of questions at night. That is, to ask ourselves what we’re contemplating, and then subject those activities to the following test: is it necessary, is it a would-be-good-to-have, or is it want? Tonight there’s another growing pile of laundry on our laundry table, but since we have the next two days off, that pile has been transformed from a necessary task to a would-be-good-to-have, and I have jettisoned it from our list. We can do it tomorrow. In the meantime, I am tired and want to relax.

Hazel and I did a super quick cleanup of the living room before we took them upstairs for bed. I accomplished this by helping her, and making it a race to see who could get more Lego’s in the box. Adding fun makes everything faster (for kids, anyway). I have to keep reminding myself of that fact.

So, the household clutter has been reduced to a dull roar, and now I’m sitting in the living room across from Ted, who is per usual wearing the monitor as he surfs. I’m doing more administrative work (this time for my business), and writing my blog. But soon we’re going to share some sweet potato puffs, and then I want to go upstairs and read. A book. In fact, a YA book (relevant to what I’m supposedly doing, which is to learn how to write fiction by reading and writing it.) I might also play a few Scrabble games while nibbling on the puffs, but I’m leaving the computer down here.

Swimming, studio curtains

This afternoon we took the kids swimming at a rec center that has several pool options, one of which is meant for little ones as it’s very warm and has a bench all along one side where they can walk. And walk Joanna did, with a grin and many an accompanying giggle.

We started out in the pool that has a zero depth entry. And that is cool, but there are also a myriad of other water features, including many sprayers and a huge bucket that dumps every few minutes, as well as kids and their parents running around and shrieking with glee. That was altogether too much for Emily, whose lip stuck out, started to tremble, and then her eyes filled with tears. We sat down in a relatively quiet corner, but people kept running by, as they do, quite reasonably, in a pool. But every time Emily got splashed, her lip came out again and my inner mama tiger growled. Not worth it. So we retreated to the other room with the very warm pool. She cheered up immediately and started to giggle and splash. We put a life vest on Hazel so she could have a degree of independence. She got better and better at navigating the water in it, and soon could swim from one side to the other. She even voluntarily put her face in the water a few times. She had an almost non-stop smile on her face. An awesome time was had by all.

During the kids’ nap and then after we got them down tonight, Ted and I got the curtains up in the studio. They look great, rich and warm. I want to find a couple of wall hangings to intersperse with them, too. Because the entrance to the studio is the only entrance to the basement, for now, the room is necessarily going to have to answer multiple needs. We’re going to have to keep our cargo bike right by the door, and yes, it will look odd there. But it’s such a huge room I don’t think it’ll be an issue. And if I get too twitchy about it we can hang a curtain or put a screen in front of it.

We’re also going to have two pianos in the room for a while, until I can give my old piano to my friend, once she’s got a house she can put it in. This is another measure of the incredible bigness of the room, that two pianos in it aren’t going to matter.

I am psyched. When I do cello camps, it’ll be easy to fit six or seven or eight cellists in my studio. Piece of cake.
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Reclaiming space, playing fetch, Emily’s first word

Yay, our front porch is no longer covered in boxes, plastic storage bins, and other crap! We are starting to look a bit more respectable, bar the detritus that is still left in our back yard.

Today, though most of our time off was taken up with house-related work plus another joint session, we did stop off at a place where you can get gluten-free burgers for a bite to eat and a chance to just chill together. That was nice.

This afternoon when we came upstairs after working in the basement, Hazel and the twins were playing happily with our babysitter. Hazel had initiated a game in which she was a kitty who fetched. She’d come up to our babysitter on all fours and meow. The babysitter would say “Fetch!” (apparently at Hazel’s insistence), and throw the rubber ducky, which Hazel would then go crawling off to get. She’d bring it back in her mouth to the babysitter, who would then say, “Drop!” (also at Hazel’s insistence), and Hazel would drop the ducky. Lather, rinse, repeat. I was bemused, slightly disturbed, and amused, all at the same time.

Momentous occasion today: Emily’s first, distinguishable word apart from the strings of, “Da-da-da-da-da” and “Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma” that are turning gradually into “Dada” and “Mama”. The word? “Bubble”. We gave the twins a big heavy glass paperweight that acts as a magnifying glass for Christmas. They love it, and Emily likes to carry it around play with it. Hazel called it “Bubble”, and Emily started copying the word today. It was totally understandable! We all clapped and cheered, and she grinned and giggled.

Childhood is full of magic, in overlapping but different ways for the kids and for the parents. I appreciate today’s special moments.

Organized basement!, friends, Pilates, piano practice

Today Ted and I just about finished up getting the storage space done in the basement. We also cleared out the family room, in time for guests to come over, wahoo! We were going to put one of the old workbenches back into the new workshop area, but they are covered with lead paint, and so we decided that we’ll just wait and get a new workbench when we’ve gone through another round of stuff and made some more room. We were a bit bummed about that, but nonetheless, we have accomplished a ton, and are very proud of ourselves. If, a year ago, you’d said that we’d have the whole basement cleaned out, the storage space reduced to a sixth of the basement area, a good-sized family room and a huge studio, we would have laughed and stared, then gone to hide our heads under the covers. So, though there is a lot of work left to get the whole thing to where we want it, we’re now to a stage where what we have is organized, and we can proceed methodically rather than in a series of chaos-induced frenzied actions. This is good.

We had friends over this afternoon, and talked about houses, cats, kids, and other things. It was great to see them. Hazel spent quite a bit of time with V when they were younger, and I loved hearing them giggle and run around together. When dumping stuffed animals in the middle of the floor provides you with buckets of fun, you know life is good. Or at least, simpler.

When we were downstairs, Ted got out a small section of track and set it up with a transformer and engine. Unfortunately, after not having been used in decades, the engine sparked and then died, and we’ll have to get it fixed. But, it was so fun to make that start, and after cleaning and looking after the rest of the train set, we look forward to more fun with it later.

This morning I had a Pilates session. It went well. I was able to do more than I could a couple of weeks ago. I could still feel it in my back, but I wasn’t feeling immobilized in the way I was before. This is progress!

And tonight after our walk/wagon ride, Hazel and I went downstairs to practice piano. I started out asking her if she could show me C, D and E on the keyboard. This is something she learned almost two weeks ago and hasn’t practiced in a while. She remembered! And then she was willing to work pretty hard. She learned her new song, plus made improvements on her old one. Then wanted to play several other songs for me. In fact, I eventually had to call a halt so we could go upstairs and do our bedtime routine. Seeing her small, strong hands moving with increasing facility across the piano give me such a feeling of delight and wonder.

Another good day.

Boxing Day, communication with pre-schoolers, bedtime

The day after Christmas is Boxing Day. This much I remember from having lived in the UK twice as a kid, but no more. Here’s the Wikipedia about it. Apparently there is a multi-century tradition of giving money and presents to people in need. There is also, of course, a more recent “Black Friday”-esque tradition of shopping. We didn’t follow either tradition. We had a pretty quiet day, the high point of which was that we all napped for about an hour and a half in the middle of the day.

We did get out for another wagon ride for the kids, during which Emily walked nearly a quarter-mile with very few breaks. She was eager and happy the entire way, and very cleverly stayed on the sidewalk, except when being distracted by a cat (for which, of course, I do not blame her). Walking along with her brought back memories of doing the same thing with Hazel when she was a little tiny person. I appreciated both today’s lovely experience, and the reminder of the hours upon hours I was able to spend with baby-Hazel and toddler-Hazel.

This evening I took Hazel grocery shopping. Before we left I asked her if she could agree to only asking me a question once, twice if I didn’t respond. She said yes. And she stuck by her word, which I deeply appreciated. There are times and moods in which I feel my hair roots vibrating with irritation after the seventeenth repetition of a question. This also goes for the insistent “Mommy, Mommy,” that she sometimes employs. I have taken to saying, “Hazel, Hazel, Hazel,” when she does the latter, and it usually causes her to stop. The only thing is that I have to be careful not to load it up with unexpressed irritation, because then it’s not funny, just hostile. And that neither works nor is kind.

After I got back I put together a curried shrimp and spinach dish. It was yummy, but I forgot to drain the shrimp, and so it was too watery. I solved that by removing the shrimp and cooking several sliced sweet potatoes in the sauce, to which I added the second bag of shrimp, a bag of spinach, and now the original dish. What we have now is even yummier, has a great consistency, and will last a lot longer, too. Sometimes improvisation works out very well. And everyone loves this dish, which is as simple as you can imagine, just onion, curry powder, coconut milk, chicken broth, shrimp, and spinach (and now sweet potatoes).

Tonight at bedtime we started a new tradition. That is, while Ted was getting the babies changed into pjs, I read to Hazel in the other room. This gave her time with me, which is something that these days she always and without end wants to have, and gave us a chance to settle down and calm down before bedtime. We’ll see how it goes, but it feels right. We’re heading upstairs earlier so I can do that and we can still get the kids down a bit earlier than we have been. An hour never feels like enough time for us to get what we need done at night, and still have some downtime. We’d like at least 90 minutes, if not a couple of hours. One step at a time….

Christmas Day

We had a wonderful day. Ted got up with the babies first, and then Hazel and I came down about half an hour later. Due to our late night, Ted and I were dragging a bit, but we had a nice breakfast of eggs with mushrooms, beef sliders, lox (salmon, which Emily devoured), and tea for the adults.

Then it was time for presents. We’d planned to take turns and be civilized, but that degenerated fairly quickly, though didn’t get into the free-for-all that I’m sure will take place in later years when the twins are older and diving for their gifts too.

My friend J sent a plush stuffed doggie for Hazel that was an immediate and sustained hit. Emily’s eyes locked on and her arms reached out as soon as the present was unwrapped, and she held it as much as she was able to for the rest of the day. I was astounded by Hazel’s patience and generosity. She let Emily keep the dog much more often than she got it herself. Joanna loved it too, but has a pattern of allowing Emily to take things from her, so she didn’t get to hold it very much. We will see what happens over the course of the next week or two. If it becomes a loved object that all three always want, we may break down and buy another one or two.

The kids’ uncle C bought them a Radio Flyer wagon. That was another huge hit. We took the kids out in it several times today, and Hazel also pulled her sisters in it until she got tired. What a great gift. Thanks, Uncle C!!

There were so many other wonderful presents, including an owl backpack for Hazel from her Aunt A, books, other stuffies, and a great game from my brother.

Possibly due to over-stimulation, Emily woke up after only a half hour nap, and bawled herself silly, absolutely refusing to sleep any more. Ted and I had planned to sleep during the kids’ nap, so we were bummed about the nap-failure. He took her downstairs, and after about half an hour I came down and took her for a walk in the Ergo so he could relax for a bit. Not ideal, but I did enjoy the Mommy-Emily time.

After dinner we took the kids for a night-time wagon ride. We wrapped each of them up a blanket and did one go-round of the block with an additional stop in front of the neighbor’s bright holiday lights for a picture. I’m really glad I got my new Samsung, because the camera on it is so great, can handle pretty low-light conditions. On an earlier stroll, Joanna fell asleep on Hazel; tonight, all tucked in as snug as a bug in a rug, they looked around with interest, and did some pointing and ooh-ing.

Later on, when we were having supper/evening top-up, we got the tall skinny shot glasses our friends had given us for the twins (they’re easy to hold, heavy glass, and a good way to train toddlers how to handle drinking from a regular cup) and put a little bit of spiced cider mixed with water in them. They went to town. Emily got the hang of it immediately, and after Joanna figured out not to bite the glass or try to engulf the contents all at once with an open mouth, she did well too. Until the end, that is, when she neatly upended her glass into my cleavage, causing cider to run down my tummy almost all the way to my waistband.

I believe I uttered some undignified word like, “Eek!” After getting her settled with Ted I went to take a shower. Apple juice is sticky!

Tonight the kids were wound up, and we were shaking in our parental boots that they would never go to sleep. But they did! Fairly readily! So here’s hoping we’ll have a good night tonight. We’ve done the dishes, and now that I’ve written the blog post, we can go hit the sack.

And we still have four family days together to look forward to. I am loving this vacation!