Happily Ever After (the real kind)

Today is our 9th anniversary.

Nine years ago in the aftermath of a super typhoon, we said the eternal vows ::

to have and to hold … for better or for worse … for richer or for poorer … in sickness or in health … to love and to cherish

The traditional vows have stood the test of time because they truly are the formula of a marriage.

There is lots of better, but there is also some worse.  There has been richer and there is poorer.  There is sickness, there is health.

There is having and holding, loving and cherishing.  These all inherently come with joy, but also with enormous responsibility, a large margin for error, and the dawning realization that joy can be unbearably painful.

If you’re looking for Happily Ever After, this is it.  The real kind. 

Children, I want to say to our small flock, this it what it looks like. 

Cinderella works hard.  The Prince works hard. Both do dishes.  Every day.

Sometimes people cry.  Sometimes people are angry.  And it’s OK.  Good, even.

It is possible to be both one and separate (and they are equally important).

Here kindness rules over irritation.  Here grace overlooks mistakes.

Great hopes and great fears live in tension, both increasing with the passage of time.

Love is safe and secure, but it also stretches and challenges you to develop into the self you were created to be.

There is no arrival, only the day to day details that somehow turn into swiftly passing years.

Love in a committed relationship is something that must be worked out with fear and trembling, with courage and abandon.

………………………………………………………

I’m at a loss every year on our anniversary.  What to say, how to celebrate, what to give.  I cannot find anything worthy enough to acknowledge the life-altering wonder that is our marriage.

What can I do but to say, I receive your love as grace and return it as love.

Four Thoughts

One. We left brunch at Somer’s house today as the proud hostesses of a stuffed moose bride and a stuffed moose groom.  By hostesses, I mean that they’ve come for an indefinite visit (Somer thought they’d see more action over on this side), and they are in the custody of two small girls.

Amelie has taken the bride, complete with red smacking kissing lips.  Lia has adopted what Amelie refers to as “the broom”.  Both are frequently stripped of their wedding finery, and then (surprise!) re-dressed.  No, they do not know what goes on during a honeymoon.  Thankfully.

Two.  Levi was very engaging this evening while skyping with Grandma Patti and Great-Grandma Ruby and Great-Grandpa Bob.  He ran through most of his ‘tricks’.  Including the ever-cute “peas Mom” and “peas Pop”.  (How can you deny anything to a little angel who says “peas Mom?”)

He even joined his sisters in their piano concert by bowing, climbing on the bench and playing his “composition”, climbing back down, and bowing again.  He knows the drill.

He did not, however, exhibit his (relatively) new trick of pulling a chair to whatever contraband is out of reach and helping himself.

Three. It’s raining here.  I realize that after weeks and weeks of gray drizzly rain I would probably get tired of it, but at the moment I can’t imagine it.  It’s perfect weather for reading and cuddling.

Lia thought it was perfect weather for a fire, a movie, and some hot cocoa.  Which was a great idea.  She was disappointed that we didn’t do all three concurrently, but we didn’t think the living room carpet could handle the hot cocoa.

Four. Tomorrow is our 8th anniversary.  We plan on celebrating in fine style…a babysitter, dinner, and possibly a movie.  Not creative by any means, but satisfying.  And that’s what counts.

Somer’s Wedding

Flashing back, post 2.

My dear friend Somer FINALLY got married!  And the wedding was worth waiting for, let me tell you!

In honor of her wedding, I sent more emails and text messages in the space of three weeks than in my entire former life.  Now, I know I’m prone to slight exaggeration for the sake of the story, but I’m really not exaggerating about the texts, and I’m only slightly exaggerating about the emails.  It was intense.  I was organized.

Somer is a college dorm friend, one of a small circle of close friends, so it was absolutely delightful to spend time with all the girls.  Aimee came down from northern California, bringing her new baby for us to smell and bless and cuddle and admire.   Emily (my roommate/bestfriend/cousin of college years) flew all the way from Virginia, bringing her five year old Ella with her.  Cousins!  Emily’s turned into a dedicated seamstress (I almost typed ‘sewer’, but that doesn’t look quite right, does it?) – and we spent most of our time together talking about sewing and crafts.  She had brought matching flannel kitty nightgowns for the three girls.  Darling.

Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous.

But being that Lia and Amelie were flower girls, Levi was Bible Boy (although he never made an appearance as such, he was decked out in full regalia and adding to the general craziness splendor of the day), Devo was emcee at the reception, and I was in charge of pulling together, rehearsing, and singing in a small choir….I didn’t get to really soak much of it in.  Really looking forward to the video.

Of course a wedding means a rehearsal dinner.  Not shown is Ella, under the table cloth, conked out on Emily and Jenn’s lap.

And a rehearsal.  Amelie and Liana took the greatest pictures.

And late night snacks of minestrone and cottage cheese.  In kitty nightgowns.

And cousinly snuggles in bed.  Didn’t last long, but it was sweet while it lasted.  And amazingly quiet.

Wedding day!  The first wedding among our close friends in which there are many small children running amuck and adding to the joy of the day.  I never got a moment to finish my hair and makeup, so here I am, half-baked. Presentable, but half baked.   Still kind of irked about that.

Instead of a unity candle, or sand, Somer and Curt planted a tree with soil from the different places that have been significant in their relationship.  While the cello played Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.  It was just beautiful.  I took the picture from the back balcony, where the choir had sung Ubi Caritas as the bridal march.  If I hadn’t been all keyed up and trying to corral a squirming wild animal in a Bible boy disguise, this is where I would have cried.  Can’t wait for the video.

Ah, there he is.  Did I mention that he never took a nap on the Wedding Day?  Put him down twice (three times?), but to no avail.  I leave the results to your imagination (or experience).  But he looks cheerful and angelic here, doesn’t he?  I made two darling bowties for the occasion, pattern from CrabAppleAttic on etsy.  I’ve made a handful of bowties now, including one for Amelie.  Because she needed one, too.

Lia sending off the newlyweds in their getaway car.

And I have no pictures from the beautiful reception, except at the very very end where the children are dancing on stage after most of the guests had departed.  The rest of the time was a concentrated effort in survival.  Devo had been in charge of getting them through pictures and through the wedding, whilst I warbled with the choir.  Then he passed them off to me and went to fulfill his emcee duties.  Thanks to friends around the table who carried plates, fetched popcorn, and didn’t expect much lucid conversation out of me, we had a lovely time.

The photo booth pictures were supposed to be of the bride and her friends.  But it was the end of the night, children were clinging and/or over-excited.  So we crammed in and posed and contorted…until Levi stepped on the power outlet and turned the whole thing off.

Fitting, somehow.

Wild Times

Today is officially our day of Return to a Sense of Normalcy.  At least, I’m hoping hoping hoping it is.

It’s been wild around here.  Our church has just added a second service (‘contemporary’, for lack of a better word) and the first two weeks were awesome in the most literal sense of the word.  But as you can imagine, it has also been a lot of time and alot of work and a lot of anxiety for the pastors.  To put it mildly.

And then <BIG ANNOUNCEMENT>, it has been officially announced that Devo has come to the end of his (NINE YEAR!!!) tenure as youth pastor here and he is going to transition to a new position.  To be very clear…same church, new position.  It’s not exactly clear yet just what the new position will be, but all the options look promising.

And it’s all great and going to be great, but that, also, obviously, has taken lots of time and work and anxiety.  To put it mildly.

Devo and I fell into the habit of having serious conversations…several hours after a normal bedtime.  And then he’d often work some more after that.  I pretty much threw up my hands and let our daily life run very very loosely.  If we were going to be in a time of fluctuation and change, then by George, we were going to embrace fluctuation and change.  Besides, otherwise we might never have seen Devo if we hadn’t arranged ourselves somewhat around the 15 minutes here and there we could see him.

So there was the new service launch, followed by week of prayer at the academy, and it was all pushing us right to the very brink of insanity when the girls and I came down with the stomach flu Thursday night.

It wasn’t pretty.

WARNING :: GROSS SUBJECT MATTER…skip bulleted items if possessing of weak stomach…

Some thoughts after a night and a day of a stomach bug ::

  • Words for vomiting are actually pretty cool :: vomit, emesis, puke, throw up, hurl, retch, up chuck, barf.
  • I have never before shared an emesis basin with another before, but it’s quite a bonding experience.  And that’s what happens when the chain reaction is set off and there are only two receptacles for three people.
  • I love how encouraged Lia was every time it became evident that another person had joined her in sickness, it really cheered her up.  Guess misery really does love company.
  • I heard it said once that you know kids are “big” when they can make it down the hall to throw up in the toilet all by themselves.  I guess Lia’s a big girl now.
  • Premarital counseling question #657 – Who will take care of children when they have the stomach flu?  Does anyone have a weak stomach that would preclude them from Puke Support Duty?
  • Devo’s week of prayer theme was “7-Up”…What’s Up, Fess Up, Own Up, Listen Up, Stand Up, Show Up.  And Friday he facebooked that he had indeed completed the 7th “up” … throw up.  Hahaha.

I was so thankful we are a one career family and I had nothing else to do but take care of my family.  Oh, and survive.

Friday we recovered, Sabbath we were raring to go again, and then Saturday night Lia’s stomach rebelled against the day’s culinary offerings. And her stubborn streak made one of its (blessedly) rare appearances.  She planted herself next to the toilet and refused to budge.

She was determined to spend the night at the toilet, and yes she was very comfortable, thank you very much.

And she did look quite comfortable.  And I did think seriously about letting her just stay there and go get some sleep myself.  But I just couldn’t do it, so after a couple of hours (and a number of chapters in my book), I finally coaxed her off her perch and we snuggled together on the couch, our handy puke bowl ever at the ready.

And lest that sound too calm and nurturing, I think I ran out of calm and nurturing some time around 1am, and was ready to plead with tears and threats…but luckily was not driven to do so.  That would have been a mess, wouldn’t it?  I can just see myself whimpering, limping in to wake Devo up and beg him to rescue me, puke notwithstanding, with Lia crying hysterically as she clings to the toilet.

It could have happened.  It very nearly did.

We survived the night.  We survived the week.  We survived the last month.

And now I’m hoping that we are shifting back into a normal life.

Please.  Please.  Pleeeeeeeeeease.

I’m ready.

 

 

 

 

Really it’s all about church

Time has flown!  Where have I been?

1) watching World Cup Soccer, and now Wimbledon. Devo’s wondering why he had to preach THIS week of all weeks.  But never fear, I’m sure he will watch all the important matches AND manage to write a sermon.  As well as taking the kids to the park, reading stories, and taking them swimming.  Because he’s Super Man.  And he’s mine.

2) Sewing. I got a remnant of this cute green and white stripe canvassy fabric at IKEA, came home, and promptly sewed it into a valance for my kitchen window.  Said kitchen window has been dressed for the last two years in a repurposed white eyelet skirt.  The skirt is now being repurposed into a cape or dancing dress, as needed by the imaginations of small girls.

I also sewed a beach/picnic blanket.  She came, she sewed, she conquered.

Dumb thing took way longer than it should have.  Mostly because I was piecing together scraps.  It’s hard to feel like a domestic goddess for hours on end when you know you should have been finished hours ago.  But now it’s complete, and only cost the batting – which I got on sale.

3) Cooking. Buttermilk pancakes.  Hummus, tzatziki, and Greek salad.  Homemade pizza.  Vietnamese spring rolls.  Roasted garlic.  Roasted potatoes and yams with garlic and rosemary.

4) Reading Little House in the Big Woods with the girls. We’re over halfway through and we just started this week.  I’ve decided to skip over all the parts where Laura bemoans her ‘ugly’ brown hair and glorifies Mary’s blond hair.  We are at an impressionable age.

5) Reading soulemama.com. Do you find that you focus on certain blogs at certain times?  Sometimes I’m all about thenester.com.  Or bakingbites.com.  (I’m always about testosterhome.net).  Other times I can go days without looking at them.  Right now it’s Soule Mama, with her bright colors, four children, and creative life.

6) Debating the church problem.

{Hi, my name is Leilani and I have a problem with church.}

I have reached a crisis point.  So let me confess, for confession is good for the soul::

I am incapable of getting my three children bathed, dressed, fed, and shod, going to Sabbath School, to the potty, and to church, and then to the potty, and then after church playtime.

The bathed, dressed, fed, and shod part isn’t so bad.  Usually.  In fact, we are almost always early.  (My philosophy : Get out the door as soon as you are ready or risk disaster.)

It’s the NAP.  Daily nap at 10am is great…except on Sabbath morning (Sabbath School starts at 9:45).  Levi won’t sleep at church and he just gets wilder and noisier and wigglier.  Until I feel as though I’m on the rack, being tortured.

So instead of enjoying the one day a week I get out into the wider world and interact with people, I ‘run the race marked out for me’, and it’s truly a heruculean effort.

Two weeks ago I was determined to stay and hear the sermon by one of our great (female!) religion professors.  We did alright until two minutes into the sermon.  And, people, you know how it goes.  When we melt, it’s instantaneous.  There was no time to gather the toys, the shoes, the girls, the bags, and the shrieking baby.  I just grabbed him up and fled, leaving the rest behind.

Lia and Amelie happily migrated to the pew behind where a friend from Sabbath School happened to be sitting. Having people watch my children without even the courtesy of me asking their consent is a great exercise in letting go of pride.  Let me tell you.

So Levi and I stood in the hall (he wasn’t getting down to run and think it’s all a lark, no way Jose), and peeked in the door at the girls in one minute intervals.

The logistics are simply impossible.  One me, three of them, innumerable opportunities for trials and temptations, difficulties and disasters.

No matter how much I gird up for the fray beforehand, each week is just getting harder.

Devo has been so busy – I don’t even know what he’s doing, he’s so busy – we don’t even get to wave at him.  Or shriek, depending on our sensibilities.

I’ve been real tempted to whine.  But how would that sound?  Why can’t you sit with us in church?  Why do you have to do your job? Good ones, Leilani.

I started seriously thinking about the pressures of church a few weeks ago when the Sabbath School pianist didn’t show up and I played for the first few songs.  Another lady kept an eye on Levi and Amelie.  And I sat there on the piano bench and thought I can’t believe how much easier this is!  All I’m doing is sitting here! It was literally a shock to my system to realize how much strain and stress it is to take shy Amelie and wiggly Levi to Sabbath School.  Frankly, the hardest part is managing the baskets.  I have taken away their ability to handle their own baskets.  For the sake of my sanity, I put all the stuff into one basket and dole it out at the proper time.

I’m sure people look at me and think that I’m not allowing my children to learn responsibility, but frankly I don’t really care.  Let them fill my shoes for a day and see if they can keep all the stuff inside the baskets.

Sometimes I look at these families who have two people to share child caring on Sabbath mornings and do one of two things : sit up straighter, thinking loftily of my prowess in navigating the morning alone.  Or, slump a little and wish my child caring partner could be around to share the load.

I don’t like admitting defeat, but I think that sometimes the time arrives when I must admit that I can’t do it all alone.

That time would be now.  I can’t do it all alone.

Except, of course, that I have to do it all alone.

So there you have it.  Prime time for coming up with a new solution. And, lucky for me, I have a new solution.

I have decided to try week swapping.  Sabbath School one week, then come home for the nap, then go back to church to chat afterwards.  Next week, stay home for naptime (skipping Sabbath School), and going to church.

I have actually garnered the consent of the girls for this new proposition.  If, indeed, they actually understood the proposition.

So this week, being that Devo is preaching, we will try skipping Sabbath School, and go to church.

Last week, when I left potluck after 20 minutes of chasing baby, mopping up spilled water, cleaning up spilled food, and herding children apt to scatter like the winds, I told Devo that I wasn’t coming to church anymore.  (Does that constitute a whine?)  Ignoring the possible slight on his work situation, he instead promised to think inventively about how to make Sabbaths enjoyable for me.  Because it’s important to him that I enjoy Sabbath.  And gave me a hug (which was observed by that other group of people…all of them…as they were getting into their car).  Which made me feel a whole lot better.  A little bit of love can do alot…

Mama

Happy Mother’s Day, past.

I wish I had a (good) recent picture of me with all three of my children – but miracles are in short supply these days.  But I like this one, and all the ones that go with it, because when I look at them I just see me as Mommy-Happy.

I love my life.  I love my children.  I love the man who has given me this happy life and made me a mother.

He got me chocolate for Mother’s Day.  Dark chocolate.  Made by the world’s first farmer-owned chocolate company – in Ghana.  Fair trade.  And incredibly delicious.  It’s best if you chew it up right away and then let it melt in your mouth.  Oh, glory.

And he got me a bowl/fruit bowl from the same company – made in Vietnam.

This assuages some of the residual pain from the demise of my last great Mother’s Day gift.

These are some of the things that I love about him.

And an amazon gift card.  About which I have spent many minutes agonizing over what to spend it on.

And three meals, a trip to a youth circus (thanks, Karen!), and an evening with friends over our yummy pizza.

I believe the children were suffering from a reaction to drastic changes in barometric pressure.  In other words, they were bouncing off the walls at high-speed and high-volume the entire day, for no discernable reason other than that the weather changed.  But, hey, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy, I love you!” sounds just as good at high-speed and high-volume.

at the end of the day….

I was thinking at yoga (yoga + thinking = no-no) that I would come home and write about how much better things went with the kids today.  The last few days have been so intense, with so very little listening and responding and so much sneaking and meannesses.  But today we seemed on an even keel, comparatively.  And then I got home to see that the four dishes from dinner (PBJ, baby!) were still sitting on the counter unwashed, and my heart fell.  Sure enough, it had been a rough bedtime for Devo and the kids.  So lookee, I didn’t even get a chance to ‘speak too soon’…I guess I just thought too soon.

At least, at LEAST we are not having a repeat of Lia’s night-time scaries that she had for a few weeks before the Fam came.  Ugh, that was miserable.  But because of that, the last seven or so weeks have conditioned the girls to expect someone to sit with them while they are going to sleep.  Devo and I are so done with that.  Time to get back to happy bedtimes and sleeping through the night.

Amen.

The lame thing is that we actually have like 5 rooms to put people in.  Three bedrooms on the bottom floor, and then a loft and an extra room upstairs.  But with the layout of the house, there is only one bedroom we’re comfortable putting the kids in.  So there you have it – bedtime sardines.

I really should rename this blog “the account of how we are or are not sleeping”.

In news from the happier part of the day, Lia finished her first piano book today.  We’ve been really booking on through – a unit a week – and we were both very excited to reach this first big milestone.  She also learned her entire piece for the upcoming spring recital this week.  It is two hands, playing together in parts, and on the grand staff – and she was able to understand and read the notes.  She really has an amazing grasp on sight-reading – even in her books she usually plays the pieces through correctly on the first read.  This is amazing to me as I played mostly by ear and finger numbers for years (“Teacher, can you play it once for me?”) before really getting started on sight-reading.

Amelie is soaking up almost as much as Lia.  She sits (wiggles) on my lap while we practice.  She does Lia’s exercises in her own three year old way – the wrist technique of down-up is especially cute.  And she is picking out more and more tunes by ear.

I’m just very proud.  And I’m very proud of myself.  We have practiced probably 30 minutes or more five to six days a week since the end of January – and then sat down to play some music games I have from the years when I taught lessons.  Devo often walks in and makes comments like, “You’re still practicing?” or “You’re not done yet?”.

I take this as a compliment.

In other news, I think that the majority of the clutter has been put away and what hasn’t been put away has been neatly stacked upstairs and is awaiting my leisure.  We are hosting a baby shower here on Sunday, so that’s keeping me on the straight and narrow and focusing on what really needs to be done (yes, the laundry room closet is not a top priority).  I’m currently discouraged, despite my efforts today with my handy new steaming tools (thanks Mom!) – there is just still so much to be done before Sunday.  And I’ve been working so hard.

So, I think I’m going to go drown my sorrows in another PBJ (I didn’t get to finish dinner before yoga), the last of the oranges, and maaaaybe a glass of ovaltine with a chocolate dipped biscotti. But what about entertainment? (Devo’s playing tennis – that’s our exercise routine…I go to yoga while he watches the kids, he goes to tennis while I watch the kids).  Should I read Anne of the Island or watch a movie?

I’m sure things will look cheerier after all that.  And if they don’t I’ll take a bath and crawl into bed.  Maybe I should do that anyway.

Coming towards Spring

Forgive me if I don’t sound quite like myself.  I just finished reading Under the Tuscan Sun, and her writing style is so pervasive, I even dream like she writes.  Which definitely isn’t a bad thing.  Unless it’s that chapter on weird Southern and Italian religiosity.  Spooky and creepy.

My little angels are all tucked into bed, with visions of apple turnovers dancing in their heads.  This week we made apple pastries twice.  Galettes (also known as ‘rustic tarts’) and, tonight, turnovers.  Minimal sugar, maximum yum.  I’ve been reading, again, Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  This time it’s the pies and galettes that attract me.  The savory ones, particularly.  Doesn’t that sound like yummy winter food, something baked in a crust?

The farther I get into this local eating bit, the more I wish I could reorganize my cookbooks into seasons.  A few are, but most require much paging through to find these winter and early spring dishes.  But, hey, what a great way to waste time, paging through cookbooks!

So I’m not sounding like Frances Mayes, good.

I began reading The Secret Garden to the girls this week.  I was going to start with Laura Ingalls Wilder (we started a year or more ago, but didn’t finish), but Little House in the Big Woods just seems like more of a fall/winter kind of book.  And here it is, coming on to spring.  So Secret Garden it is.

Lia is loving it.  With not too many questions on why the movie and the book are different.  Note to self: don’t let them watch movies of classic books until after reading the book.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, to get them interested in sitting still and listening to a long story, but now I’m second guessing.

It puts Amelie to sleep.  Literally.  Every time.

Tonight for our Sabbath dinner, we celebrated the Lord’s Supper.  (I like that better than the more churchy word, ‘communion’).  I had gotten little tiny wine glasses for the girls at community services, just their size.  I love taking it out of church and into the family, into real life.  When we were ‘remembering’ Jesus, Amelie remembered, “He got owies.  On His left foot.”

Speaking of meal times, we’ve been saying this prayer before meals.  I got it from a great book called All Through the Day, All Through the Year: Family Prayers and Celebrations by David Batchelder.  By day two, the girls already knew their part.  One person leads, the others respond in the bold.

I was hungry:

and you gave me food.

I was thirsty:

and you gave me drink.

I was a stranger:

And you welcomed me.

I was naked:

and you clothed me.

I was ill:

And you comforted me.

I was in jail:

and you came to see me.

Lord Jesus Christ,

may our Lenten fasting

turn us toward all our brothers and sisters

who are in need.

Bless this table, our good food,

and ourselves.

Send us through Lent with good cheer,

and bring us to the fullness of your Passover.

(together) In the name of the Father,

and of the Son,

and of the Holy Spirit.

We bit the bullet, took the big breath, and let Amelie sleep at night without a diaper.  Starting right after coming back from the youth retreat (didn’t want her peeing in the lodge bed).  And, lo and behold, no accidents!  Ironically, yesterday she wet her pants twice (once in bed, after a nap).  But not at night!  No more diapers for Amelie!  Hooray! <small celebratory hop>

Levi has been happy happy this week.  Practicing his three steps, standing and balancing, standing and dancing and balancing, and generally laughing as often as possible.  He thinks he’s so funny.  Because he is.

We’re starting to look forward to the arrival of Grandma and Grandpa, my mom and my sister, in late March.  I hope and pray (O God, won’t you answer my sleeping prayers!!!!) that Levi be sleeping ALL night with NO waking and NO crying, IN the girls room…before they come.  Because if he’s not, all of our hard work will go down the drain.  Because it’s one thing to let the baby cry when it’s just you around, but you can’t do it when he’s sleeping outside your grandparent’s bedroom.  You know.  But I’m optimistic.  We’ve come so far in just one short month.

Devo sensed an impending breakdown, I think.  He shoved me out the door to the farmer’s market this morning, and stayed home with the kids.  Then he (literally) shoved me to the bedroom after lunch to take an hour’s nap.  I think we’ve had three weeks where he’s been very busy, and with him preaching next Sabbath, next week promises more of the same.  I just need a little break every now and then, and I’m so thankful he made me take it!

Now if we could only find some time when we’re both home and both not busy.  Not tonight.  Not tomorrow.  Not tomorrow night.  Sunday?

The neighbors are playing beer pong (hit the ping pong ball into the beer cup, have to drink the beer).  The swiss chard bed is planted.  The leftover apple galette is tempting me.  It’s supposed to rain this weekend.  I really do love my life.

Catch-Up

My 29th birthday has passed.  I wrote something about it, but it’s in the other room and if I get up from my chair, Levi will notice and stop playing happily, and that will be the end of my time on the computer.  So.  Later?

One of our family resolutions this year was to watch sporting finals together.  Like the Super Bowl.  Lovely resolution, don’t you think?    I napped through the first half, watched the exciting after half-time sideways kick, and that was it.  The girls were playing PBS kids, Levi was sleeping, Devo eventually left to watch the end at our neighbor’s house.  Wouldn’t want the internet streaming to flicker during those important, tension filled moments. (Anybody remember from the movie Amelie where she gets revenge on her neighbor by disconnecting the cable at crucial moments of the game?)

Well, we’ll try again next time.  Olympics?  (We also missed the tennis Australian final…Devo was the only one devoted enough to watch from 1-4am).

Today was the church Valentine’s social at the Spaghetti Factory.  The day of my public humiliation.  Remind me never to say yes to public humiliation.  We were one of three couples in the Not-so-Newlywed game.  And if I had known that it was basically like Apples to Apples, which I ALWAYS LOSE, then I would have known we had no chance of winning.  So we lost.  Rather spectacularly.  I think I’ll put this on our married life profile — loses couples games in spectacular and endearing fashion.

<big cheesy grin>

We had our offer on the house with the chicken coop accepted.  But we declined, chicken coop notwithstanding.  It was kind of wild having to actually make a decision beyond, yeah, I like that one.  You know, decisions like, can we pay for it? and do we really want to risk our children’s lives with a pool? We definitely made the right choice and both feel relieved. So, on to the next exciting episode.

GREAT NEWS, Levi is finally learning to SLEEP.  He slept 11 hours twice last week and decent intervals the other nights.  It’s so exciting to have evenings to myself, I’m not going to bed until late.  But that is stopping this week.  I’m going back to the straight and narrow.

Devo and I watched Julie and Julia last week.  Cute movie, until we googled the author and saw how her second book was a tell-all about the affair she had post-book.  Rather dispiriting.  But I was so inspired to cook.  And read Julia Child’s cookbook, something that has never interested me before.  French food, what is that?  So we had delicious bruschetta with tomatoes, just like in the movie, Friday night.  Oh. My. Yum.  (Ironically, that was the first meal all week that turned out tasting good.  Everything else I cooked was unusually yuck.)

I’ve also been practicing making omelettes like Julia Child.  Although I’m starting to feel really guilty about the butter.  But my technique is getting better.

Seven Happy Years

Sunday was our seventh anniversary.  And since we got married on this side of the dateline, it actually was seven exact years.  Seven happy years.

Yesterday we were officially launched into our eighth year, and I was so relieved to find that we’d already finished our seventh year, because I’d been wigged out by all these voices of mature foreboding, telling of the Seven Year Slump.

Well, sure, it was a great slump, and now we’re on to the next round.

I am now able to cross off #13 on my list of 28 things to do in my 28th year.  We spent our honeymoon anniversary in the same place we spent our honeymoon.  We had requested the same room (#438), but they were redoing the fourth floor, so we were reassigned up three floors.  Seventh floor for seven years.  Fitting.

We were alone together for more than three hours for the first time in 5 years, 27 days.  (Since Lia’s birth).  I was away from my children for the longest time since each of them was born.  And we survived.  And it was wonderful.

We walked on the beach, swam in the pool, watched the sunset, watched a movie, ate a delicious buffet brunch and a delicious celebratory chocolatey dessert.  I took four baths, two showers, with candles (thanks Mom!).  And we spent a long long time talking about the last seven years, how we’ve changed, looking at pictures on the computer, having our annual marriage evaluation discussion.  On our balcony overlooking the ocean.

The only slight cloud on the horizon was that I never fully relaxed because I was so eager to MAKE THE MOST of our time away.  But I was relaxed enough to enjoy myself thoroughly, so I’m holding no grudges.

On my mom’s side, everything went very well with the children.  They went caroling, baked sugar cookies, watched movies, and hardly missed us at all.  Levi gave her a bit of a scare by drinking half of my milk supply before 6pm.  But luckily Liana’s bellchoir was playing that evening at our hotel, so we just dropped some more milk off with them to take home.  They came before check out time to see our room and we all drank a toast of Martinelli’s to celebrate.

Because even though I didn’t cry when we left our children behind, and I was able to not really worry about them or think about them too much…my body did.  The night of uninterrupted sleep didn’t really materialize due to an overabundance of milk.

I was sitting in my hot, luxurious bath Sunday morning, the balcony door was open and I could hear the ocean and feel the soft breeze, the candles were lit.  And as I sat there with my milk pump, I suddenly came to my senses and chuckled.  With a bit of a snort.

No Sleep for the Weary

There is a certain, predictable, but no less harrowing cycle that comes with baby-induced sleep deprivation.  Was it yesterday or the day before where I had reached that low of lows where I could do little other than pretend I wasn’t about to cry.

Oh, yes, that was Sabbath, our day when Mom and Liana take the children to church and we have a few hours to enjoy together.  Yes, that was that day.  What a sad, sad waste of those glorious hours.  Although, it was really sweet to be consoled (cajoled?), soothed, and ushered off for a nap by an attentive and loving husband.

Yes, this is the point when I remember fondly those days when Levi only woke up three times a night (and I complained!!!????!!!!).  The last week or so he’s been waking every hour or less, with his longest sleep being between 6am and 8am. And as soon as I lay him in his bed, he wakes up, wanting to nurse and nurse and nurse and nurse.

This is the point when I hear of other people whose babies are sleeping longer (or worse, have advice for me and my dilemma…as if we haven’t already tried everything) and I am overcome by an violent inner impulse to tear my hair out or smash something.

And then I sink into hopelessness.

This is the way it’s always going to be.  I’m always going to be half a person, the rest of me submerged somewhere in the murky waters of tiredness.  And when it goes on long enough, I begin to think that maybe there is no more to me other than this zombie-like creature.  Maybe the brighter, more enthusiastic me has been obliterated in the struggle.  Maybe it never existed at all, who knows.

<sigh>

Yes, this is the point where I don’t even want to go to bed.  It’s just too much of an undertaking.

Oh, how glad I am that this is sabbatical time.  That it is a workable solution for me to take the night shift and Devo to wake up early with the girls and let me sleep in a little.  We’re looking ahead to our honeymoon, I mean, anniversary,Sl this weekend when we will sleep uninterrupted and get to sleep in as long as we want.  I’m sure Mom is not looking forward to it quite as enthusiastically.  Bless her.

You know, it’s really too bad God doesn’t answer prayers about babies sleeping.  Why didn’t Jesus think to say, “If you ask for your baby to sleep through the night, it will happen”?  Maybe because then all the parents of the world would convert just for that.  I would.

So, no advice tonight, please.  I currently don’t have any goodwill to receive it with.  Maybe another night.  But for all of you who know what I’m talking about, or can just imagine it…if you could send some sleep my way, I’d really appreciate it.

A Soprano of a Mother

Did I ever mention that I’m a soprano.  I mean, I was a soprano.  I mean, I think I’m still a soprano.  I hope I’m still a soprano.  I want to be a soprano.  Still.

Four years of college and fairly regular practice, as well as one year of a master’s in vocal performance at a fairly prestigious music school.  Operas, oratorios, the works.

And then I became a mother and used it as a wonderful excuse to excuse myself from another year of school and another $15K of student loans. It was absolutely the right choice.  On all accounts.

I sang for church a time or two post-baby.  Not the easiest thing maritally when your spouse is paid to show up and work hard on Sabbath morning.  Because three minutes of singing takes several hours of focus and focus doesn’t come easily in the midst of spit up and oopsie diapers.

So when asked when I am going to sing for church again, I say, “Either when our children are older or my husband finds a new job.”  I tell myself that it’s just not the season in my life for singing, and that Sabbath is a time to be together as a family.  One family member otherwise occupied is enough.

But as the years (did I say years? am I old enough to say years?) slip by, I am beginning to second-guess myself.  That maybe all the hard work and blood and sweat I put into overcoming my terrible case of stage fright might just fizzle and disappear.  And so I’ll be a 40 year old soprano who can’t be taken out in public.

Which would really be too bad.

I’ve been practicing.  A little.  About once every three months.  On average.  I started working on Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock when I was pregnant with Lia.  Still working on it.  I think that in my heart of hearts I don’t really want to finish it because it would be kind of like being all dressed up with no where to go.

A few months ago I was starting to sink into a perpetual state of glumness regarding the whole thing when, out of the blue, people started asking me when I was going to sing again.  And not just Jim L., who is a professional percussionist who played with an opera company for years (and soothes my soul with his compliments).  But really random people.  Really.  Random.  People.

So I perked up and made a list – a recital program of sorts – of my favorite art songs (read: new repertoire!).  With a few of Lia’s favorite songs.  And made a folder.  And more recently, shelled out the dollars for accompaniment CDs and internet downloads.  And put a copy of all the texts and translations into my notebook that contains all the vital information about my life.  And put all the songs and accompaniments onto Devo’s old iphone, in lieu of my dearly departed ipod.

I got it all ready to go…and promptly got sick.  And lost my voice.  Finally got fed up (I still sound scratchy) and started practicing anyhow.  While I do dishes.  When Devo takes the kids and I’m supposed to be napping.  Or, like tonight, with Levi in our borrowed ergo-carrier after putting the girls in bed.  And as Levi nodded off to sleep, he would jerk his head up and look at me with that what-on-earth-are-you-doing-Mommy-it’s-kind-of-freaking-me-out look whenever I sang anything over an F.

I’m hoping to overcome all the fear and bad habits I’ve accumulated by thinking about singing instead of actually…singing.

After Levi went soundly asleep, I crept into the girls room to see if Lia had gone to sleep.  (She likes to “sleep” with her “eyes open”.)  My Lia who loves Shepherd on the Rock (she should, she’s been hearing it since she was in utero), and Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate.  And who’s newest interest is opera…specifically The Magic Flute (it has a princess – and the Queen of the Night).  She was still awake.  She hummed for me her favorite song from the evening’s concert.  And my little Mommy heart went wooshy gooshy.  And then she asked why there are no songs in English.

I guess I should probably add some songs in English.

I love singing for my children.  They’re so non-judgmental.  Unlike their mother.  But I’m working that.

On my way to blog about this topic, I passed by facebook and saw that my friend Scott had posted a link to a video Laundry and Tosca about a woman (a soprano!) who worked a 9 to 5 for years, while practicing and dreaming her dreams.  How…fitting.

Edited to add:  I just finished watching Laundry and Tosca and it was amazing.  I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  If you have half an hour…

The Changing Landscape of Daydreams

We put an offer on a home a few weeks ago.  We were the 33rd offer out of 80-something. We didn’t get it.

Which was good, because we didn’t really want it.

And we put an offer just yesterday on one we like a whole lot more.  Much more character.  But it has a pool.  <thumb down>  And beautiful, original wood floors.  <thumb up>  But we’re not holding our breath on that one either.

The only house I’ve held my breath on, I finally passed out from holding it so long.  And we still haven’t heard back for all of that.

It’s my house.  My dream house.  I’ve only been in it once, but I remember it like it was…my own house.

Oh, it’s soooo beautiful.  The kitchen, dining room, and family room all open up into one another.  (One of my top-of-the-list requests…next to sunshine and four bedrooms).  And it’s on an empty half acre lot.  Just half a mile down the road from our current house.  Out of the suburbs, into the country in half a mile.

When I was in high school (okay, and probably college, too), I day dreamed about boys.  When I was engaged, I daydreamed about marriage and homemaking.  When I was married I daydreamed about babies.  When I had babies, I daydreamed about sleep.  Haha.  No, now I day dream about houses.  This house in particular.

I have the landscaping all planned out.  Badminton/soccer field on the right of the house.  Garden on the left…raised beds or in ground still to be decided.  Parallel lines of fruit trees all along the front fence.  Grape arbor over back patio.  Bougainvillea spilling over future stone wall.  Lavender and white roses under windows.  Herbs next to patio.  And eventually a grove of trees in the front yard.  Shade trees with grass underneath.

Room for the chickens.  Room for the goats.  Room for the children.

And inside, oh, inside.  Soaks in the jacuzzi tub in the master suite.  Me cooking gloriously while keeping an eye on everyone at the same time.  Ping pong in the three car – completely drywalled and carpeted – garage.  Large office for Devo.  Front formal living room for guests and music.

Ahhhhhh.

When there are no other adults in the car, I drive by the house and pull over and gaze at it longingly.  Unfortunately, Lia is old enough to wonder why on earth we are here AGAIN.  But she’s a good sport and allows me 15.3 seconds of wishfulness before politely requesting that we return to the day’s planned activities. Devo wonders about that little commandment about not coveting thy neighbor’s house.I’ve been drooling over it for probably six months.  It pops on and off the market (currently off, after two days of being on early last month).  If someone would just buy the house, then I could let it go and move on.  I think.

Amoebas and Super Heroes

Today I think, at last, that I am human.  Oh, glory, it’s good to be a human.  And not an … amoeba.

An amoeba whose every ailment seems to somehow lead back to that thyroid problem.  Anxiety attacks?  Thyroid.  Inability to sleep during the half hours when all other family members are sleeping?  Thyroid.  Unusual trouble with asthmatic bronchitis?  Thyroid.  Jitters when not using sudafed or albuterol?  Thyroid.

I wonder if I can blame my dry skin on that, too, or if it’s really just a logical result of running out of Aveeno Baby.

So far (and I hope this is a grand total) I’ve been to Kaiser (our HMO) 5 separate times for 8 appointments and one blood draw.  Not including phone calls.

And now I’d like to pause for a moment to make a tribute.  To my husband.

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marbles

Not only are you the Love of my Life, my Best Friend, Confidant, and overall Favorite Person, you are also my Super Hero.

I’d asked for one sick day and you’ve given me nine.  Nine days where you shooed me off for naps twice a day and didn’t even begrudge them when I re-emerged announcing that I couldn’t sleep (stupid thyroid, I begrudged it).  You held down the fort while I took three solo trips to the doctor, once leaving you for three hours with no milk and a fussing baby – and you didn’t scold me when I got back. And all this with you yourself still being sick and generally under the weather.

You’ve played umpteen games of marbles (or, narballs, as they are called locally) with the girls.  You can get the baby to sleep faster than I can.  And speaking of Levi, he thinks that you are his new best friend and he says he’ll be glad to watch tennis with you anytime.

I’d especially like to say thank you for that dinner you planned and cooked (I was really impressed), and for offering night after night to get up and take care of Levi if I’d pump some milk , and for caring about me and how I feel even when doctors don’t.  What means the most, though, is knowing that I haven’t run out of sick days–knowing that if I need more days to take care of myself you will provide them for me as long as I need them.

So now I’d like to raise a toast to better days ahead.  To days that will eventually include an occasional smackerel of something sweet as well as lots of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables.  To days when we can kiss on the lips without worrying about contagion.  To days without naps (or rests).  To days where we don’t cough in chorus (although, it is kinda romantic).  And I think we should think of something to do to celebrate the first day we make it through an entire day without using any technological babysitting.  Then we’ll really know we’ve put this whole thing behind us.

Love you.

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