Monday, January 28, 2013

Mistaken Identity: December 3, 2013

The first Sunday in December is the Vero Beach Christmas parade, a much bigger deal than it sounds.  It was one of our first outings with three kids last year.  The girls slept the evening away in the double stroller, and Devon watched and cheered. It was SO nice to get out of the house and spend some time outdoors.

It was one of the reasons we decided to walk in the Vero Beach Halloween Parade with our twins group.  Thomas the Tank Engine Stroller made quite a splash, earning the kids a little bag of treats and lots of compliments on our creativity.  We even decided to add a little extra to the decorations to get Thomas ready for Christmas.

Christmas Thomas sported a matching blue car.  Since the parade begins at dusk, we strung colored, battery-powered LED lights to make it stand out.

As we were lined up and getting ready to start, a weird thing happened.  Two months later, I'm still shaking my head over it.  The only way that I can make sense of it is to call it mistaken identity, pretty common among twins.  Ironically, the key players in the mixup were NOT twins.  

When we arrived at our line-up site the road was already barricaded. I hopped out of the car to signal to the coordinators and ask them where to drive in so we could drop off our float.  I approached an older woman in a long, red fur dress and hat with a coordinator's nametag.

"NO MORE CARS CAN COME IN HERE TO DROP OFF CHILDREN.  THE CHILDREN NEED TO BE LET THROUGH ON FOOT.  IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN JOINING YOUR PARTY, PLEASE LET THEM KNOW THAT!"  she said, red-faced and louder than needed for me to hear her from two feet away.  I repeated my question, saying that we had gear to unload and she agreed to let us through. 

I looked back for Craig, and the minivan was gone.  He had seen that the parade coordinators were under a lot of stress.  He thought it better to just unload elsewhere.  We parked and assembled the float a block away.

It was a pretty chaotic scene when we found our place in line. Hundreds of people needed to be separated into eighty groups.  All had to be ready to move when the time came.  Several floats also had children walking, playing in bands, or doing gymnastics in the street.

From twenty feet away I saw the woman in the red fur dress running towards me, carrying a clipboard and looking pretty steamed.

"YOU!"  she yelled, red-faced, shaking a finger at me.  "I thought I told you to move your car!  Now you're blocking the parade route and nobody can get out!  MOVE YOUR CAR IMMEDIATELY OR YOU'RE GOING TO BE OUT OF THE PARADE!"

I'm a veteran teacher. I have found that the best way to deal with people so angry that they're unreasonable is to be calm and excessively polite.  "I don't know what you are talking about.  Our car is parked two blocks away from here."

"You!  You!  Stop saying that! You know exactly what I am talking about!  Don't you tell me you don't know!  You're going to hold everybody up!  MOVE!  YOUR!  CAR!"  

Devon stopped watching the Vero Cheerleaders and was sitting quietly beside me.

Carrie and Melina busied themselves with their shoes and seemed oblivious to the drama unfolding around them.

"That is NOT my car.  My car is not here.  I'd be happy to help you find the owners of these cars if you need them moved, but you really shouldn't be speaking this rudely to a total stranger!"

She stormed off, glaring at us from a block away while the cars were moved.

Craig looks tense in this picture. Devon perked back up after some attention from Mommy and Daddy, but how would you feel if you were two years old and you saw Mrs. Claus chewing out your parents....

The rest of the parade went very smoothly.  Fifteen thousand people turned out to watch.  Devon waved at every single one.  The girls amused themselves by grabbing at the LED string and placing different colored bulbs in their mouths, watching each others' cheeks glow in festive colors.  After we reached the end near Jaycees Beach, the rest of the floats streamed past while we watched from the curb.  Devon enjoyed seeing the Piper jet mounted on a big rig and pretty much anything with lights.

The next morning, the girls slept in and Devon and I conversed as we ate our oaties.  I've waited for him to be old enough to talk to me and express what he is thinking and feeling.

"We went in the parade yesterday!" I said.


"Devon and the girlies rode in Thomas again!"

"YEAH!"  Devon's eyes got big and serious as he thought for a long moment.  "The man was talking to the parade.  He was yelling.  He was sad.  He was crying."

Devon doesn't understand men and women.  He says 'man' for both.  I understood this comment to be him processing what happened the night before.

Deep breath.

"Devon, the lady last night was very angry.  She thought Mommy was being mean.  She misunderstood," I said.

"Yeah," he replied, thoughtful.

"Sometimes people aren't very happy.  They get hurt by things that happen, and they don't get better.  They get an ouchie in their hearts that won't go away, and it makes them want to hurt other people.  Jesus wants us to love these people even when they aren't very nice, but it's hard."  Satisfied, Devon went back to his sippy.

Two weeks later, we went to see the lights and trains at McKee Gardens.  The trains were a big hit.  Not so much Santa this time, although Devon hadn't been upset by him before.

 Devon took one look at Mrs. Claus sitting next to Santa and refused to approach.  It was a different Mrs. Claus, of course, but still.

I've wondered why she was so mad, and I have a guess.   My friend Michelle was also yelled at over moving her car.  Michelle and I look nothing alike.  Different hair color, eye color, and build.  I have three children, and she has two.  However, we do have one striking similarity.  Her identical girls were born only two weeks before mine, and to strangers the four of them look similar enough to be quadruplets.  Her twins are my twins' twins, if that makes sense. 

Mrs. Claus got us mixed up.  She spoke to one woman with two little girls, and then saw another one with two girls and elaborated on the previous conversation.  By then she remembered speaking to me in the street, and she started to get frustrated as she doubled back and forth between us, lecturing us and getting angrier and angrier as we got more and more confused.

Oops.  The whole thing was probably a case of mistaken identity.  I'd think it's pretty unusual for one SET of twins to be mistaken for another set, although twins are often mistaken for each other.  The plot of an entire Shakespeare play rests on the confusion created when twins are separated by shipwreck and then mistaken for each other when they show up in the same coastal town (Twelfth Night).

I'm an adult and I've handled thousands of tense confrontations with rude people, developing a rhinoceros hide that can shake off a verbal skirmish and go back to whatever I was doing.  I'm thankful for it, because it helps me remember to be there for my kids at all times, not just when I'm calm and having a good day.

I had several sets of twins in class for the eight years I taught, and I remember it causing some confusion.  One year we teachers discovered that Bronson and Brandon would occasionally decide that one was more prepared in a particular subject.  They would change places in class so the twin who studied the most could take both tests.  This was a pretty good gig until Bronson got a detention in Brandon's seventh period science and confessed.  Bronson was currently posing for him in math class.  He asked to serve his detention himself.  One wonders why he didn't just let his brother get the detention and then pose as his brother to serve it.

The answer:  Mom.  One person couldn't be fooled by their shenanigans.  She would get mad at the wrong twin for getting the detention, and if she picked up his brother from school after serving it, she would know the difference.

I don't want my girls to use their easily interchangeable identities to get away with things.  I also hope they grow up without too many adults in authority around them who see childish irresponsibility as an excuse for meanness.  My girls could get caught in many situations where they are mistaken for each other and expected to know things they don't.  They could be recipients of some very undeserved rudeness over the years.

I really don't like it when people are mean to my kids.  Last week I took advantage of family in town and took Carrie to Sam's Club with me.  We took advantage of the Mommy Date time by walking hand-in-hand through the parking lot together.  Carrie smiled and waved "Hi!" at several charmed onlookers.  We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves until halfway through the crosswalk in front of the store, when someone got tired of our slower progress and honked at me to hurry up.

SUV driver, meet Momma Bear.

I stopped and whirled around to face him.  With one arm I lifted Carrie up until she was facing him across my chest and we both stared him down.  With my other arm I lifted her arm and waved it slowly at him, a cool look of disdain on my face.

A few seconds later I put her down and we resumed our slow progress out of his way.  The poor man really wasn't that bad.  He was probably in a hurry, and might not have seen the eighteen-month-old clinging tightly to my fingers.  Even so, my heart rate speeds up a little just thinking about him.

The hard part is, I can't allow anger to get the best of me.  Acting out and ruining someone's day won't help me feel better.

I'm just going to have to pray that God can heal the ouchies in my heart.

Just like he will for Devon, Carrie, and Melina.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Messies: January 26, 2013

I love this picture of Devon enjoying the fruits of our first baking attempt in weeks, yet it still makes me cringe a bit.  Oh, Buddy-O.  My messy eater.  Must it make all of those crumbs to eat just one cookie?  I get a rag and wipe them off the table that was just wiped after lunch, and before that craft time, and before that breakfast.  Sometimes I feel it's how I spend my whole day.  Picking up crumbs.  Pre-treating laundry.  Putting away the pile of Thomas trains in the hall that Devon inexplicably calls his "dirt".  Later they reappear in the very same spot.  Wiping three sticky faces, and (yes!) one newly potty trained little bottom.

Just to be clear, I can't lay blame at the feet of only one of my children.  These little darlings are just as messy, whether they're disemboweling a fresh box of diaper wipes, or finding discarded crayons to chew up until the colored wax froths out of their mouths and down their chins like Technicolor Rabies.

Children are a little like wild animals.  They go best in their natural habitat, and I am convinced that it is NOT the house.  Definitely not our house, a 2100 square foot rental with flat paint that rubs right off the walls if you use a Magic Eraser.  Perhaps it's the pool, where they can flip and spin and splash and never leave a mark.  Or the beach, unless you have THREE little kids with no fear of the water. 

I'm thankful for our house right now.  I think it's God's way of telling me I need to relax my standards on housework for the next few years.  I like a freshly painted wall, a freshly steamed carpet, a garage that's as neat and cobweb free as a room of the house, and a car that's free of trash and crumbs and smells like a Yankee candle.  I just don't think it's doable right now, at least without losing my mind.  You know the saying:

Kids-->  Clean House-->  Sanity

You can't have all three, so pick two.

Craig and I marvel at the forty-five minute mess any of my children are capable of making if left alone for a good ninety seconds, mentally checking off the positive traits that will manifest themselves in more appropriate ways down the road.  Problem solving.  Critical thinking.  Zest for life.  Inquisitiveness.  Eye for color. Creativity. 

"Look at that!  I would never THINK to spit milk from a sippy into the back of the dump truck and drive it around on the carpet!: Craig says, looking on the bright side. 

I get the rags and the 409.

Sometimes by the time Craig gets home I'm ashamed to say I've got a bit of an attitude, coming up with precious little witty sayings to impress him:

Craig: Wow!  The house looks great!  Where did you find time to do all this?

Krista:  You like it?  Heh heh.  Well, take a picture to remember it by, because it's going to look just as bad as it always does in TEN MINUTES!

 As moms, we're exhorted to not be so rigid about housework that we sweep and scrub away a childhood.  We've all heard the following lines:

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

They're actually the final stanza of the poem "Song for a Fifth Child" by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton, and the rest of the poem is just as delightful as the ending.  Sometimes I, always a quick study, repeat the memorized lines in my head as I'm gulping down the last of my coffee and getting up the nerve to start on the dishwasher.  I allow myself a few extra cuddles in the comfy chair or one more game of "I'm Gonna Get You".

And sometimes I just want to find the mom speaking in the poem and slap her.

I mean, really.



Someone's been waxing a little too poetic and overtrivializing the messes kids can make.  I don't think the poem would be quite so endearing if she was refusing to clean up a REAL kid mess.  Pungent nighttime pee in the bed of a child who sleeps with three special blankets and fifteen stuffed animals.  Crayon hardening on the wall, the desk, the floor, and the table.  Cherry cough syrup that someone spit out and walked in.  A sated child in a high chair with cake on her face and pieces of Chinese Rice stuck to her behind.  Maybe finished off with some peach yogurt smeared on the cat.  The kind of mess that is only going to get spread through the house begetting more messes if you don't drop everything and clean it up right away.

For example:

The kids and I attended the ladies craft time and shared meal in the clubhouse of our housing development this week.  Besides pointing at nearly everyone who walked by and announcing "The Ladies Who Lunch!" (my fault for saying it first, I know) I was constantly dragging Devon away from the buffet table where he tried to stick his hand in everything from a pot of rice to a fondue.  Meanwhile the girls decided to make up for a finicky breakfast by eating a huge lunch much faster than I could prepare it for them, chucking everything healthy on the floor and bringing the words 'feeding time at the zoo' distinctly to mind.  As I announced naptime and started wheeling for the door, I spied a squashed meatball embedded in the tread of the wagon that I hastily plucked off and stashed in my purse before anyone saw.  The Ladies Who Lunch, holding their glasses of wine and looking on with interest, had already gotten an eyeful. 

Devon's coloring skills are improving.  Just not on paper.  Anything but paper.  Even our newish flatscreen monitor bears a ballpoint squiggle that Devon penned when I got up from writing a letter to answer the phone, leaving pen and paper within reach. 

This is what Devon did to his window blind.  I'm not sure how.  It's OUR window blind and not our landlord's but I was still taking a deep breath and counting to ten when I discovered it. 

Devon found it exhausting.

He seems to need to fiddle with something while falling asleep.  Lately, it's been arranging about sixty of his Thomas trains on the bed, but I love these two November pictures of his empty toy shelf...

...and what happened to ALL of the toys kept on it.

We hit Sam's Club on last week's shopping date.  This probably because he started crying loudly and sincerely for no apparent reason every time he was put into the cart.  I finally decided to give in and let him walk, even though his shoes were still in the car.  Several people probably got to the checkout with items they didn't remember selecting, as he amused himself by running up to people's carts and tossing in a box of sports bras or a few tube socks.  His stamina lasted just long enough to get us through the store in twenty minutes, and then he had to rest his weary bones and black little feet on every single one of the display chairs.

Carrie and Melina love to ride in race car carts so much that I can't deny them. The useless safety restraints always fail and leave me pushing the huge cart at full speed through the store trying to scare them into not climbing out.  Last week they instead amused themselves by picking the colored sprinkles out of their cookies and smearing them in each others' hair.

It's amazing how careless and downright destructive small children are.  I can't believe I've had to tell Devon to stop licking the salt shaker, and found Carrie running away from the Froggy Potty with Devon chasing her, exclaiming "Oh no, she's GOT my poopie!"  By the time eight o'clock rolls around and they're all in bed, I can either clean until my bedtime and STILL not have the house looking the way I want it to, or just give up and make myself some tea and sit down.  

I usually choose the latter.

 About once a week I really clean the house.  I try to start with the kids' rooms an hour before naptime, cleaning them so I can tuck kids into bed and cribs and shut the doors to run around like a madwoman vacuuming and mopping floors until the moment they wake up.  Sometimes the best of intentions still don't get me off the ground and I'm beginning again just after bedtime.  These aren't wildly popular nights for my family because I'm tired and trying to stay awake.  I turn on loud music and bang down the mops and the lid to the washing machine, unsettling everyone and keeping them awake until I finish around midnight....or later.

It's one of the few times I allow myself to listen to secular music.  I have to be angry to clean.  Not angry at my kids, mind you.  Angry at the mess.  I can't be angry when my Pandora station is on Hillsong United and I'm singing along to the beautiful, calm-inducing worship songs I hear in church. 

So I change the station to Taylor Swift and push the broom as I sing along with what I sarcastically call "teenybopper music".  It helps get the job done.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger....

Then Carly Rae Jeppson's song "Call Me Maybe" comes on.  The kids, lying in their rooms listening to me work, have been waiting for it.

"It's our Dance Party Song, Mommy, Dance Party Song!" shouts Devon, high-kicking and clapping his hands over his head and running into the living room.   I grab the girls from their cribs and pirouette after Devon with one in each arm.  His dance moves are a parody of mine, which are a parody of someone who actually looks good dancing.  It's never been a strength, but my kids won't know until they're older.

Now, while they're little, we dip and spin and sing at the top of our lungs:

Before you came into my life
I missed you so bad
I missed you so bad
I missed you so bad

Before you came into my life
I missed you so bad
I missed you so bad
I missed you so so bad.... 

Babies don't keep.  Neither do almost-three-year-olds, or eighteen-month-olds.  Not even the one snoring on my shoulder right now, stuffy with a January cold. In just a minute I'll tuck her in and curl up next to my husband.  He works just as hard as I do, and still comes home and finds the energy to clear the dishwasher, help keep the laundry moving, and fix the screens on the porch so the wild animals can't escape. 

I'll put her down in a minute, but not just yet.  Eighteen months old is a hard age because they almost never sit still.  Devon will climb into my side of the bed and cuddle in the morning, or snuggle in the comfy chair before naptime to read Sammy the Seal and One Kitten for Kim.  Carrie and Melina don't sit still and let me hold them much.  Sometimes Melina wakes up an hour after going to sleep, and I pick her up and her arm snakes around my neck and holds on tight as she curls into my neck and sleeps. 

When this happens, time stops.

But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

Friday, January 18, 2013

Christmas Morning: December 25, 2013

On Christmas Eve, the kids opened up their Christmas PJ's.

We read them their Christmas stories,

and as soon as they were safely into bed, we set to work.  It was daunting enough to keep three kids under three safe around a Christmas tree for two weeks.  Adding a single present would've been sheer insanity.  We even debated putting out the presents before morning, because Devon often nightwakes and comes into our bedroom a few times into the middle of the night.  Sometimes we wake to find a few thing's he's used the opportunity of some alone time to rearrange.  Just this morning I was grinding the coffee when I looked over and discovered a small pile of peas and beans carefully stacked on the leather ottoman in the living room.  We were afraid of the mess a toddler with privacy could make of a pristine Christmas tableau.

The magic of Christmas is that presents appear on Christmas morning.  They aren't trotted out from the spare room while everybody looks on.  We risked it and it paid off.  Devon was ready to start in pretty early.

We started with our traditional Christmas breakfast of Norwegian rice porridge (Rommegrot).

Then it was Devon's turn to open his stocking.  Out popped Iron Bert and Iron Harry, the engines he'd spied in Mommy and Daddy's room, along with all his other treats.

The girls excitedly reached into their very first stockings.

"Wow, Carrie and Melina, you get BRAND NEW ENGINES!!!"  said Devon.

"Wow, Grammy and Grandpa, you get BRAND NEW ENGINES!!!"  said Devon. 

"Wow, Mommy and Daddy, you get BRAND NEW ENGINES!!!"  said Devon.

After breakfast, we gathered around to read the Christmas story and open presents.  It was fun, but a pretty hectic time, as "wait", "take turns" and "slow down" are not easy right now.  We want the kids to take time enjoying Christmas and not rush through it in ten minutes.

Everyone outdid themselves in thoughtful giving this year, but especially Craig.  He ordered me a Mythbusters homage t-shirt and customized it at a screenprinting shop in town.  Not only do I do my own stunts, these days I do them with an audience of three.  It's perfect.

At our house we always wonder what will become "THE Toy of Christmas" for each of the kids every year.  It has nothing to do with greed or materialism.  It's just that each Christmas when we look back we can remember a special toy that was really exciting to receive and play with.  Devon's was Tidmouth Sheds for his Thomas Wooden Railway.  Mommy found it on Craigslist and saved it in the closet for six weeks.  It was the one toy this year that he didn't find before it was time.

The girls loved their Disney Princess Castle, sent from Uncle Tim.  Mommy picked it up at Walmart late one night with teething Melina.  As soon as Melina saw it she forgot her angst and dove from the basket into the bucket of the cart, throwing her scrawny arms around the box and giving me a big smile.  It's been waiting in the pack-and-play for Christmas Day ever since.  They love putting the princess dolls on the pedestal and listening to them play their songs.

Mommy:  Look!  What is Princess Rapunzel going to say?  placing her on pedestal

Princess Rapunzel:  THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!!!!!!!!

Mommy: YAYYYYY!  Let's try Snow White!

Carrie: Ooh.

Melina Ooh.  pointing

Hmmm.... I wonder what Mommy's "THE Toy of Christmas" is this year.....