Saturday, March 31, 2007

Secrets and Heroes

Dear Baby Girl and Lady Bug:

I have a secret. Once a week, after you have been lulled into sleep by the caresses of my fingers down the sides of your faces, after I softly brush my hand down your arms to your fingertips and then gently place your blankets over you, I high tail it out of the house.
Yes, dear girls, I do leave you once a week.
You see, when you’re sleeping, I try to do something, anything really, to remind me of the woman I used to be – the one who had the energy to climb mountains instead of the one who can only look at pictures of them.
Usually, my escapes from the house are to the grocery store to pick up more fruit and yogurt or to one of those Big Box Stores for diapers since we always need lots of those.
But, once a week, I head eight blocks west to our local library to write.
You see, besides being Mama, I long to be a writer. Sure, I write, professionally, for newspapers, but I want to write.
So, this class I’m taking while you are sound asleep in your cribs – Baby Girl probably nestled on your side-back and Lady Bug on your belly, with your feet tucked under your butt – is about letting go of the day’s worries, letting go of what holds us back from really writing.
It’s called contemplative writing, but since you don’t utter any words, yet, I won’t bore you with those details. All you need to know is that it is a place where I go to meditate, take a breather and try to write. We’re supposed to write whatever comes to mind, without thought, without intellect.
But, for some reason, I have trouble with this. I cannot relax enough in this class to write. Most of what ends up on my notebook pages is literally the words, “This is crap.”
And, despite my efforts to be away from you for two hours a week, all I can “not think about” is you.
So, last week, when the instructor had us write a self-portrait of a hero, I wasn’t sure what to write. Of course, the instructor would say, don’t think, just write.
After a few – well, several -- lines of “I’m not a hero,” I ended up with this:

My heroic efforts began today as I fixed peanut butter toast and banana slices for my twin toddlers. I could have yelled as they methodically – watching me with one eye and their sister with their other – dropped piece after piece of their toast onto my freshly cleaned floors.

Instead, I stooped to pick it all up, again and again. “Was that a shoe that just kicked my head?”

I breathed. I smiled. I took their plates away.

I saved you, floor.

By lunch, my heroic duties doubled. A short stint on our front stoop could have easily led to mass consumption of tiny bits of twigs, crushed over the last few winter months.

As each small hand slowly lifted a miniscule branch to their drool-covered lips, I gave them my “I’m a hero” look, and said, “No eat.” And, after a mere eight or nine times, we went inside.

There you go, twigs. I saved your lives.

With the rush of bedtime in my head, I did it yet again. Crying had begun; fists were rubbing eyes. Tantrums over little things, like getting a diaper on or staying still long enough for an arm to go through a sleeve, had begun.

I stroked their little foreheads, brushed their hair with my hand and softly brushed my hand down their arms to their fingertips and then gently placed their blankets over them.

Thank me later, world, for bringing these two little girls here.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Work-at-Home Mama

Dear Baby Girl and Lady Bug:

I sit down at my desk chair in the kind of relief one feels after doing an hour of yoga. I take a long, deep inhale and my tense shoulders drop away from my ears.

Really, I just finally got you to settle down enough from your partying to take an afternoon nap. It’s been a solid three hours of caretaking and noisemaking and toy throwing and, frankly, I’m exhausted.

And, so, it’s time to get to work, writing. Another deadline looms in the air like a tiny iridescent fuzz that catches my eye here and there as I finally hunker down after diaper changes, messy meals and kisses on new boo-boos.

Really, I just want to curl up on my office futon with remote control in hand and sleep.

After nearly an hour of staring blankly at my computer’s monitor, typing and retyping the same sentence nine different ways and with my freshly washed fingertips falling numb atop the keys, the words start flowing, finally. I’ve hit a rhythm like no other – at least this week. I barely stop to catch my breath it’s going so well. A smile crosses my face. My fingers dance across the keyboard.

And, then, I hear it. It rumbles like the earth’s core shaking just before an earthquake.

Wwwwha! Whaa! Whaaa!

By the sound of your terrifying cry, Baby Girl, you would think my computer, too heavy from all of those 217 words I just typed in, fell on top of your little head. Like an ugly, fat green monster jumped on top of you and squished you. Like your leg had gotten twisted up and stuck between a couple crib slats.

But, no, you just wanted me. The second I wrap my arms around you, and hug you tight you sigh heavily and collapse against my chest. Your little fingers pinch my skin as you try to nuzzle closer to me. I breathe in the smell of your hair. Suddenly, reality pulls at my heart and commas and pronouns mean nothing. Choosing the right words, though, is a task that will continue all day.

“Shhh,” I say in your ear. “It’s OK. Mama’s here.”

A minute later, Lady Bug, whimpers “don’t forget about me.”

And then it’s time to change diapers, tie shoes and carry you both downstairs to resume the rest of our day: Snack time, play time, dinner time, bath time. The day is coming to an end all too quick.

Tonight, after you are sound asleep, I will face the computer screen again, knowing that my little girls most likely will not wake calling for me. This time, I might actually get something written.

But, really, I’ll just want to curl up in my bed with a good book and fall asleep, dreaming of tomorrow’s peanut butter and jellies, goldfish crumbs and tug o’ wars.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Science Experiments

Yes, Baby Girl. Yes, Lady Bug.

Plastic spoons do fling quite well across the kitchen floor.

Peas squished so eloquently between your hands do turn to a watery, mushy mess.

Milk does make a nice paint color on the blue rug, the terra cotta tiles, your clothes.

I also like how the milk dribbles down your chin, down your chest and onto your pants. That is why I take the cup away so often.

No, I didn't know that metal dishes made such a loud noise when thrown three, four, five, ten times!

I never saw anyone fling Cheerios quite that way before. It's neat how they scatter all over your tray and onto the floor.

Yes, it is funny how when you eat a blue crayon that you get that wax taste on your teeth. You should see what it looks like, too.

It is neat to see how you try to defy gravity by standing on toys you shouldn't stand on. I agree, it wasn't neat to see you fall off.

I didn't really want those dish towels and wash cloths in the drawer anyway. The floor is a much better storage location. Thank you.

I suppose I should have known that when a plastic sippy cup is thrown at just the right angle, with just enough baby force, it will explode onto the floor. Even better when there is milk inside! And, it's on the carpet.

No, Baby Girl. No, Lady Bug.

I didn't learn any of these science experiments in school.

That's what you are for!