The powerful moments in life

I am FINALLY feeling somewhat better! Yippee Skippy! It also helped that today was beautiful, almost genuinely warm.

I had a blissful morning with the twins, reading to them. Joanna likes to lean back and snuggle hear head into my shoulder, while Emily leans forward, eagerly pointing at the book and making the various animal noises. I have not yet found a way to talk about my love for my kids, and the delight I find in their company in a way which has not been said a billion times before, and which consequently doesn’t sound cliché. But this morning’s snuggle/read-fest was one of those times in which you feel your body ringing with joy, your heart vibrating with the love that fills every cell and flows through your limbs. I have had a few of those moments in my life, when the love and connection is almost tangible. It’s the sort of thing impossible to convey in a movie, but that a few of the great books have somehow captured. Those moments shine, persisting even when I’ve forgotten the surrounding events. And it’s not always pure joy, but the emotion seems so clear and strong, and the feeling of connection to other people so direct. I treasure those memories.

I remember the first time I heard cello, when I was four years old. I remember the sound ringing in my heart and mind, being entranced.

I remember the first time I saw the ocean, when I was a little kid and my family went to North Carolina for vacation. I remember holding onto my dad’s hand, a bit freaked out as I felt the sand shift under my feet with the outgoing tide, but absolutely entranced by the sun glinting off the water, by the water rising to cover my feet, my legs.

I remember an afternoon with my four closest friends in high school, a day we spent together, bonded and close.

I remember a morning from college when I was falling in love with my boyfriend, coming out from the dorm and heading for the dining hall. I remember the sunshine feeling sunnier and the sky seeming more vivid, and laughing at myself internally, and yet feeling the genuine power and delight of that moment.

I remember an afternoon, the summer after my freshman year, when I was sitting in the back of a car with my friend, coming back from the beach. It felt to us, inexplicably, that the air was lambent and the love between us flowered and flowed all around. The two guys sitting in the front were unaware of our magical bubble, in which we experienced our connection without words but with such sweetness. We talked about it later and confirmed that we’d both felt it.

I remember playing a quartet the summer I spent at Chautauqua, one of those incredible times that the music and the musicians gel and unite, and you find yourself singing together through your instruments, part of something so much larger than yourselves. Those moments in chamber music are, for me, not replicable anywhere else.

There have been many others, of course. Since I have had kids, I’ve had them more frequently. I wouldn’t say they are necessarily more powerful, because life is full of intensity and beauty with and without children. But certainly I have felt that lip-trembling, overwhelming happiness more frequently, and my children have a line into my heart not quite like anything I’ve experienced before.

When Hazel was a year old we had a little party for her. I sang my re-written version of, “You Are My Sunshine” to her (lyrics minus the icky co-dependency), and wept as I sang. I could barely get through it. I cried that way at my wedding, too. At those times it feels like I’m connected to past, present, and future, and the energy of life is flowing through me with an intensity I couldn’t handle all the time, I’d burn out. But in the moment, I glory in it.

When the twins were babies, there was a day when Emily slept on my chest, right over my heart, and I felt it expand to fill my entire body, felt the joy of it bring tears to my eyes. I wanted to promise her that I’d never let anything bad happen to her. I knew I couldn’t make that promise, that life will happen with its complexity and difficulty and joy. But I could promise her I will always love her.

This morning was like that. I am grateful for my kids, for the inner work I’ve done and continue to do, that has allowed me to open more to life, to joy, to gratitude, to see and appreciate all the things, great and small, which contribute to its beauty.

Gardening, learning to lose

We did a bunch of work in our front yard garden today, moving a jasmine to a different location, edging our hill with brick, weeding, planting two roses, adding more gravel to the path that leads to my studio, and digging out along the side of the house where the earth is too high. Tonight, when we were doing highs and lows, Hazel said it didn’t look like much had changed. We laughed and rolled our eyes. Our bodies are sore enough that we know we did.

I played “Sleeping Queens” with Hazel tonight. (As a joke last week I called the game, “Sweeping Cleans”, and of course now I cannot get that out of my head.) She has usually beaten me (that’s just the way the cards have been), but tonight I beat her pretty thoroughly, and she got very upset about it. I explained that sometimes I will win and sometimes she will, and sometimes it’ll be not by much and sometimes it’ll be by a lot. I know that billions of parents have faced teaching their kids this lesson, and there’s a lot of wisdom out there on the topic. In the moment, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do, though.

“I don’t like to lose!” she said, tears spilling from her eyes. I told her I know, that everyone has to learn how, and nobody likes it.

Life lessons. Boy oh boy. It’s hard enough to learn them yourself, and super hard teaching them to your children. But then, it’s not really me who’s teaching her, but the situation and how she responds to it. I can offer her guidance, but I can’t program her like a robot. (And that’s assuming I could program a robot, something I doubt.) She was very upset that she only had two queens left, and I had a lot. I thought about giving her some of mine, but that didn’t seem right. I asked her if she wanted to stop playing, and she didn’t.

How do you teach your kids about losing, and how to lose with grace? Thoughts?

And now, off to sleep. Here’s hoping that tomorrow is going to be the day that I wake up sore-throat-free!

movies, sleep

Saturday nights are Ted’s night off now, and so after I got the kids down to sleep I had some time to myself last night. I decided to watch a movie rather than play Scrabble and write a blog post and surf the web. I have been doing too much of the Scrabble and surfing combo lately.

It was great. One of the greatest benefits of movies is their ability to take you somewhere else for a while, to show you a vivid picture of another place. Books, of course, do that too. But with books I am much more likely to wind up staying up way too late to finish them. A movie ends after an hour and a half or two hours. It’s easier to have some measure of self-control.

So I sat in bed by myself, and watched, “The Holiday”, a flick I’d seen a bit of at the gym earlier in the day. It was not exactly high-brow, pretty predictable, and pretty fluffy, but it was fun. Ted got home when I was about 15 minutes from the end. We talked for a bit, he went to sleep, and I finished the movie.

Once Ted was back and could take over being the parent in charge in case of night-wakenings, I took some NyQuil (I was back to feeling pretty awful yesterday, and desperately needed a good night’s sleep). And then, at the end of the movie I lay down, felt sleepy, and went to sleep. What a gift. I need to learn how to retrain my body to do that without the NyQuil. I almost never feel sleepy, as I have a decades’ long resistance to it. And so I can be so tired I’m barely functional, but unable to feel sleepy and therefore have great difficulty in getting to sleep.

Last night I slept through the night, and the wonderful result of that is that yesterday feels like yesterday. I have some distance from it. It’s not just that I’ve been living today for an eternity. When I don’t sleep, or when I wake up multiple times during the night, I don’t get that separation, that border between yesterday and today. That means less time to process what happened each day, more stress, and less downtime.

So, I think I need to work on getting in touch with sleepiness at night, so that each new day can be a new adventure, rather than an endless coda to the day before.

Family life

The streamers we taped up for Hazel’s birthday two weeks ago are sagging. I have gotten so used to ducking a bit when I walk through the living room, I don’t even think about it. But today, a friend and her son came over for a while. She is taller than I am (not hard), and watching her crouch her way through the room made me take notice. I think tomorrow we’ll make a game out of ripping it all down and playing with the cats with the many feline-entertainment toys thus produced, seeing how much of it we can scatter through the house (a lot, I am sure). Looking at the room from my current vantage point of the comfy chair in the dining room, I find it hilarious that we adapted to crepe streamers sagging halfway to the floor with no irritation and no comment.

The most amusing way to take them down would be to invite my friend A, who is quite a bit over six feet tall, over, make him close his eyes, and spin him around in the middle of the room. He could become a human May Pole in seconds flat. I am not sure he would agree to this use of his height, however. The visual of the cats running up and down him to snag the flying ends makes me giggle. This probably means that I am a Bad Person.

I just realized that aside from going to the gym and Hazel’s soccer class, there is nothing on the calendar for this weekend! Perhaps we’ll all spend some time upstairs, where the kids can play and Ted and I can once and for all deal with the laundry, so that there are no mountains of clean clothes on the table in the laundry room, no piles of difficult to match socks on my bedside table, no heaps of dirty laundry on the floor in either bedroom, and most importantly, so that if we want clothes to wear we can open the drawers and find them there, waiting for us. Joy! Rapture! Bliss!

And maybe if the weather cooperates we can go somewhere outside as a family, look at some spring blossoms.

Emily’s new words include, “Beeps” for beets, and, “Yes!” She’s also started to sign, “more” sometimes. Joanna’s signing for more has gotten very clear as a request for food. It’s so nice to be able to communicate with them.

hot water, gratitude

One of the crucial factors which make me an unsuitable candidate for time travel back to pre-20th Century America or Europe is my love of hot water. A hot shower ameliorates, at least temporarily, a variety of symptoms. Beyond that, it provides pleasure when I have been feeling those symptoms acutely. In a hot shower I can be alone, attend to my own needs, and smooth the transition to bed, making it more possible that I will be able to sleep.

Even when I’m not sick, a hot shower or bath is a place of relaxation, enjoyment, and solitude that can be enjoyed to the fullest whether I’m in it for mere moments or many minutes.

I have always loved the paean to hot water sung by Pippin in “The Hobbit,” by J.R.R. Tolkien. It runs so closely to my own sentiments, that I have thought for a while that I should print it up on nice paper, frame it, and put it in the bathroom for my amusement and comfort in moments joyful, mundane, and difficult.

Bath Song

Sing hey! for the bath at close of day
That washes the weary mud away!
A loon is he that will not sing:
O! Water Hot is a noble thing!

O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain.
and the brook that leaps from hill to plain;
but better than rain or rippling streams
is Water Hot that smokes and steams.

O! Water cold we may pour at need
down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed;
but better is Beer, if drink we lack,
and Water Hot poured down the back.

O! Water is fair that leaps on high
in a fountain white beneath the sky;
but never did fountain sound so sweet
as splashing Hot Water with my feet!

And indeed, a shower this evening helped me get to a better place. I have been feeling abjectly terrible, fighting the worst and most persistent sore throat I’ve had in years. This state was further enhanced by my falling down the stairs this morning and adding bruises and soreness to the rest of my bodily ills. So, I have taken some NyQuil, not my usual course, but I am hoping for some reasonable sleep tonight, and a chance to get better.

Nonetheless, it was wonderful to come home and see my family, to hear Emily say, “Mama! Mama!”, to nurse my twins, to snuggle with Hazel (who fell asleep on me), and to talk with Ted. I am going to try counting my blessings after I turn off the light tonight, to at the very least cultivate a more peaceful state of mind.

And the first one is, my family.

Sick-leave, oops!, kids and pets

Next year (in terms of the academic calendar) Ted and I are going to try to set aside some sick-leave money for me, so that when I’m sick and would rather cancel lessons for the day, I can do it without incurring a financial penalty. Today I had five lessons scheduled. I was feeling sufficiently crappy that I cancelled the last one. As it turned out, teaching revitalized me (it does often do that), and by the middle of the second lesson I was feeling quite a bit better. Nonetheless, I think having the feeling of flexibility that paid-for sick time and vacation time can bring would be quite a nice thing, whether or not I used it.

Today I took Hazel to her swim lesson. My first clue should have been that there were plenty of available spots in the parking lot. My second clue should have been all the trucks in the parking lot, and unusual equipment. My third clue should have been the guy up on the roof, hosing it down. The pool was, as it turned out, still closed for its annual maintenance. And of course we’d been running late, and had pushed hard to get there, and really, I would have preferred to be in bed. It was that kind of day. grrr, argh.

Hazel has also been having a hard time lately, possibly because I’ve been sick and less available. At any rate, today she kicked Pepper, not hard, but deliberately. I had her go sit in the yellow room in timeout, and she didn’t protest. She knew that what she’d done was wrong. I also told her that it wasn’t right to keep cats in an unsafe environment, and so in order to have pets she had to treat them with care and respect. I think she heard and understood. I was not mad, just very serious.

The challenges, they just keep on coming. Whee!

Partnership, parenting while sick, sisters, twins, beauty

Let’s hear it for supportive partners! Ted took a half day off today so he could spell our nanny and give me the day to rest. I slept better last night, knowing that I wouldn’t have to get up and parent this morning. It makes such a huge difference. Last night Hazel asked me about my sore throat as I was roasting chicken & veggies, and baking some fish.

“Does it hurt to talk?”
“Yes.”

Talk, talk, talk, questions, questions, questions. She is only 5 years old, after all. She wanted to help cook, and asked if she could peel the garlic. I said yes, and we passed a pretty enjoyable three-quarters of an hour together in the kitchen.

Nonetheless, not having to take care of anyone else when I feel like death warmed over certainly facilitates the healing process and makes it a lot less likely that I’ll have to offend my abraded throat tissues any further by talking.

I went to see my doc today. She did another quickie strep test, which came back negative. She’s sending off a swab for them to culture and grow out in the lab to make sure, because the quick test can produce false negatives. We decided against testing for mono, given that I still have sufficient energy to function (sort-of). She gave me a bottle of goldenseal, which fights both viral and bacterial infections, and told me to go sleep for two days if I could manage it. And so this afternoon I spent some time in a hot bath, and then snoozed. When I came back downstairs I gave in to temptation, and drank a few swallows of cider and ate a bag (a small bag) of Pirate’s Booty. Both of those are definitely off-program, so to speak, but when you’re sick sometimes you have to just coddle yourself. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway. I augmented my self-indulgences with some Throat Coat tea, and am actually feeling somewhat better. Yay.

——

The twins play differently when it’s just the two of them, I’ve noticed. One thing they’re more likely to do is play hide and seek with each other. They toddle around after each other like two little inebriates, and giggle non-stop. Joanna is also starting to put up more of a fight when Emily wants to take something she has. I’m glad about that. Since she is starting to be able to move faster, she’ll turn her back and toddle off when Emily is reaching to grab the toy or other desired object she currently has in her possession.

Hazel has started playing the “I’m gonna get you!” game with her sisters, crawling around on the floor in pursuit of them. They giggle madly and try to get away, laughing all the time.

This afternoon when I’d come back from seeing the doctor there was a hard squall complete with driving rain and wind. It passed very quickly and was followed by beautiful sunlight and glistening trees. And Ted said, when we were doing highs and lows tonight, that he and Hazel saw three vivid rainbows this afternoon, the brightest he’d ever seen, complete all the way to blue. The world is full of many things, but one of them is beauty.