Friday, September 17, 2010

Chock full of chocolate chips

Photo by =-.0= 

In our gluten free days, I learned a secret: sure, the cookie dough might not be the perfect texture, it might be a little crumbly, BUT if you add enough good chocolate chips to it, it will be yummy. Chocolate covers a multitude of sins.

The last few weeks have been a bit stressful, and my cookie has been rather crispy around the edges and crumby in the middle at times, but I have been blessed with some lovely chunks of dark chocolate in there, too:

* an unexpected date night with Carlos, thanks to a gift certificate to PF Changs from SIL and BIL, and my mom and dad taking care of the kidlets. Time alone with my Beloved and the Great Wall of Chocolate--how wonderful is that?!

* tender "I love you, Mami"s from all the kidlets. Last night, Elena, who has had a rough time lately, kept snuggling and smiling at me with the most loving, trusting, expression and repeatedly told me how much she loved me.

* "Thank you"s with radiant grins and shining eyes from the sweetlings for all kinds of little things, like going to the park or expected things like fixing lunch. Sincere thanks for something routine and expected is always a gift for a mom!

* Maturity, steadiness and general lack of drama from my darling four year old. His gentleness and joy, his delight in caring for his baby sister and constant desire to give her little gifts.

* Flowers (picked from our yard) that my sweeties brought me, because they smelled so nice and they wanted to share them with me.

* Seeing Amaya break into a beautiful smile when we make eye contact. There is nothing more precious than a baby who seems to smile because of you!

* Healing hugs and massages. Ariana can sense whenever I am tired and achy, and without any prompting will come up and start rubbing my back. Even though she is only 6, she has a gift of healing in her hands.

* Carlos holding my hand every chance we get. :)

* Coffee and visits with friends who fully understand. It is wonderful when someone close to you gets it without it having to be explained.

* A lovely sunset as I was leaving work.

* Spontaneous playdates with our bestest friends. :)

* Comments, love and encouragement from friends and family. I am always so humbled by the support from the amazing people in my life. So many are facing challenges far greater than mine and still take the time to build me up.

I really am living the sweet life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Save the Day

It began last night. Amaya was ominously fussy. Not anything scary, such as getting sick, just tummy bubbles and growth spurt nursing. She woke up every two hours to nurse, which is to be expected. Elena, being two and dealing with allergies, also woke up every two hours. She considerately alternated them with Amaya. Joel woke up at five AM when the alarm went off and wanted to come into our bed. Between them all, I did not get one hour without waking up to take care of one of them.

I woke up (the last time) groggy and with a headache. As I stumbled to the coffeepot, Ariana called out that she wanted snuggles. Knowing that I would be swarmed as soon as I went back to the bed, and that the baby needed a diaper change, I suggested that she come into the kitchen with me instead. Major six year old drama ensued. Elena was climbing everything in sight, Joel was upset because he wanted help with his game, and the baby did *not* want to be put down.

I knew that I was on the verge of losing it. I also know that the kids feed off my attitude, and the only way to keep the day from becoming a disaster was for me to somehow save it. So, I gulped down coffee and rounded the kids up for a day at the park. Once we were all safely in the van, I mentally patted myself on the back for recognizing and averting the total shipwreck of the day. At that moment, Elena vomited profusely all over herself and her seat.

I pulled over to clean her up as best as I could with a clean shirt and wipes. Elena is easily carsick, so I decided to keep going. After pulling into the left turn lane, I noticed it wasn't moving. Cars were whizzing by on the right too quickly to get out and change lanes. Joel was complaining that he was too cold, but I didn't want to turn off the AC and have the smell of vomit in a hot car provoke another round of puking. We spent a good fifteen minutes in that lane thanks to a stalled car. But I refused to be daunted! We finally made it to the park.

Despite some minor mishaps, the park was a lot of fun. We were there a few hours, most of which was spent in the sand pit. Elena had tremendous fun pouring sand all over herself over and over. Since she wasn't throwing it at anyone else, I let her go. She was absolutely filthy by the time we left, but she needed a bath anyway.

Once we were home, I turned on the sprinkler and let the kids loose in the backyard. I nursed and played with Amaya while they rinsed off the day's accumulation of grime. I was really pleased at how well the day was going. Sure, we had gotten off to a rough start, but look how much fun the afternoon had been!

Carlos called and asked if we wanted to come pick him up from work and go to a bookstore. I confidently told him that there was just enough time to have everyone dry off and get dressed and be there in time. As I went to tell Joel and Ariana, Joelito turned around with the hose in his hand, soaking my pants, which happened to be the only clean pair that fit me at the moment. We got inside and dry, and while I was looking for something to wear, Elena went climbing again. She is truly part monkey.

I came into the kitchen and heard an "Uh oh". She smiled nervously at me, the look of one who fears a reprimand but is hoping for the best. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out *what* she had smeared all over her face. She had been fingerpainting with something, but what? It looked black, like motor oil, but I couldn't imagine anything like that being accessible. She pulled her hands out from behind her back, and they, too were covered. So was the counter. So were the cabinets. So was our mail. She held out a jar of my super-duper ultra-concentrated food coloring gel. You know, the kind that you use because it would take so much liquid food coloring that it would water down whatever you are making.

I managed to get the worst of it rinsed off. She is still green, and I found green splotches in a variety of unexpected places, including my bra. ???? Thankfully, the carpet was spared. Somehow, we all got relatively presentable (except for Elena's green face and hands) and picked Carlos up on time. The bookstore was very nice, the kids had a great time and behaved well, I was able to read a little, and both babies fell sound asleep on the way home.

Saving the day sounds good, but boy, does it ever take persistence! This wasn't a *bad* day, just a normal one. I think of friends and family members who have to face far more daunting challenges every day with the health of loved ones, and am in awe at their ability to save each day, no matter how bad it seems to be. You are my heroes.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Terrible Twos

When my oldest was passing through two, I really couldn't imagine what the stereotype was about. It was a delightful year, unmarred by tantrums or tempests. Then three hit. Whoa. In all of the parenting boards where I have posted, if a mom is overwhelmed, chances are the child is three. I have since found the deeper, sinister meaning of the equation: six equals three, times two. But six and a half has been extremely pleasant and peaceful.

Alas, Elena seems to be having a terrible time being two. Yesterday was miserable, and was spent mostly in tears (mainly hers). She wasn't sick or running a fever, although I suspect allergies. She had slept pretty well the night before. Her molars are in. But every. little. thing. resulted in prolonged meltdowns, and every place she passed by turned into a disaster area as she climbed or attempted to help and sent objects flying off of whatever surface she approached.

Property rights are confusing--she is still grasping the whole concept of ownership and possession (note: possession in this context does not refer to anything demonic, although I have frequently heard that attributed to two year olds). Anything that someone else has instantly becomes more appealing than what she has, until they offer to trade, and she wants both.

Her speech is improving daily, but to her intense frustration, she is not always understood.

She is so tender and loving, but has little understanding of her own strength with the baby, and with others sometimes her impulses get the better of her and she hits or kicks. I can sometimes see her trying to reign herself in, but when she is tired or overwhelmed she lashes out. She always wants to comfort anyone in distress, even if she is the (at times, unwitting) cause of that distress.

It is a tough age. She wants so much to be independent and do it herself, but things like the getting underwear on with the legs in the correct holes are just complicated. Physically, she is constantly pushing the limits of her capabilities, and isn't always able to do or reach what she wants, or misjudges (like yesterday, when she dumped a large bowl of deep red enchilada sauce all over the place. I was mentally paraphrasing Lady Macbeth, both in "Who would have thought that small bowl had so much sauce in it?" and "Out, damned spot!"). Somehow, the sauce covered *everything* within a five foot radius. But I needed to mop and do laundry, anyway, and the homemade sauce that I had to improvise turned out well.

She can't quite keep up with her siblings, and they are getting to an age where they prefer to do more solitary activities, like reading, and aren't quite as inclined to play with her as before. Having a new baby sister, who at this point is quite clearly here to stay, takes further time and attention away from her. We are also working a lot more.

Yesterday, she was sobbing in the car, and though I sat next to her and tried to comfort her, she was inconsolable. Her eyes showed such a deep sadness. Her emotions are so strong--she is either jumping for joy (literally) or in the depths of despair. It would be easy to dismiss her feelings, but they are obviously very real.

There really isn't much I can do to change things--she will continue to be two, with all its inherent challenges and frustrations; her sister is not going to leave; we aren't going to quit our jobs. She is strong, smart and resilient, and I know she will adapt. I've seen her older siblings go through similar challenges and come out just fine. But like adolescence, the process is painful, both to experience and watch. My little sweetie desperately needs those mercies that are new every morning, and so do I. And I refuse to even *think* about three or six right now!