adventures in airplanes

“in the event of an emergency two oxygen masks will drop down.  make sure that you put your mask on before your baby’s because you have a really small window before you pass out, and you can’t really help your baby if you are laying on the ground unconcious.”  I stared at the flight attendant to see if she was serious and mentally thanked her for the wonderful visual.  she kept smiling and nodding at me.  “she’s a doll by the way, super cute.  thanks for flying with us.”  really? 

flying with babies in general is not for the weak or faint of heart.  it’s just not fun.  at all.  babies are high stress on ground, shoot them up in the air a couple hundred thousand feet, contain them in a small metal tube and it just plain sucks.  first off i always have a freezing fear, like it’s okay if i subject myself to near death-but to put my children at risk scares the daylights out of me.  i would much rather stay on ground where oxygen masks don’t drop from the ceiling and people don’t potentially pass out.   

 because there are only so many oxygen masks per row there can only be one baby per row.  meaning that matt and i could not sit together.  that made trading babies, distributing snacks and toys nearly impossible.  the first leg of the journey (from oakland to salt lake city) was seemless.  stella slept while i watched a rented movie on my ipod, matt and lincoln were two rows in front of us and sat and read books and looked out the window the whole time.  i breathed easy, so far so good.  maybe adventures in airplanes wouldn’t be that bad after all. 

then we hit utah.  problems started the minute we hit the ground.  we has about a 30 min layover and the plane parked on the tarmac and we had to walk miles to get to the terminal.  once there we realized that we barely had time to change both babies’ diapers before our next plane left.  we could forget about eating even though we were both starving since we left the house before breakfast.  i had packed plenty of snacks for lincoln but of course he was having a  ‘i won’t eat anything you brought day’.  the four of us boarded the next plane hot, tired, stressed and hungry.  as soon as we sat down lincoln started whining and the whine quickly escalated into a yell and the yell into a scream.  i told matt to switch me babies so that i could attempt to calm lincoln, i spend a good portion of my days calming him down so i figured i might have a better chance.  right.  there would be no calming him.  he continued to yell scream at the top of his lungs, began thrashing about, kicking and spitting.  he arched his back so that he was impossible to hang onto and i lost my grip many times.  he hurled my ipod halfway across the plane, kicked at the lady next to us, and rolled his eyes back in his head like he was possessed.  the stewardess hadn’t even shut the door to the plane yet.  the other passengers were looking very nervous and i felt like i was going to cry myself.  it was getting really hot.  i gripped onto lincoln as tight as i could, which was hard since he was twisting, turning and thrashing, and rocked back and forth and back and forth.  finally, he started to calm down.  and that’s when i heard stella start to scream.

we finally hit omaha and we bolted off the plane.  i can’t really place any fault or blame on the babies, being in a small, confined, hot metal tube isn’t fun.  skipping meals and naptimes isn’t fun.  i don’t blame them at all.  one of the best aspects about babies is that they have the luxury of expressing themselves 100% honestly.  lincoln simply was doing everything all of us on the plane wanted to do.  we were all hot, tired, hungry and stressed.  we have just learned over the years to contain all of our emotions.  to not express them.  to sit there, pretend to read SKY magazine and ignore the person next to us even though we’d rather kick them in the face.

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free baseball.

anyone with kids knows that the hours between 4-6pm are tough.  they are the so-called ‘witching hours’ or meltdown hours as i personally call them.  nothing against the kids, life is hard when you are little and the day is long and by the time evening rolls around they have had enough.  and being kids they express all emotions as honestly as they can.  with that knowledge in mind i decided to have the store close at 5, which i hoped would save us from any public meltdowns.  we usually make it.  most times the walk home isn’t as relaxing as an evening stroll should be and last night stella decided that she was done.  she was hungry and tired and did not want to be in the stroller.  unfortunately for her we still had blocks to go.  so i stepped up the pace and racked my brain for baby calming ideas. then i did what seems to come naturally to mothers.  i started to sing. 

i had recently gotten a toddler tunes cd for the kids and we had been listening to it fairly often, so one of the many songs always seemed stuck in my head .  so,  as stella started screaming louder and louder, and i started walking faster and faster, the song this old man started to come out of my mouth.  ‘this old man, he played one, he played knick knack on my thumb…’  lincoln of course started laughing and stella, thank the heavens, stopped crying.  so here i was, pushing a double stroller down the street at an unnaturally fast pace singing at the top of my lungs.  i don’t think we went unnoticed.  and sadly, i didn’t know the whole song so i mainly repeated the chorus over and over, ‘with a knick knack, patty whack, give a dog a bone.  this old man comes rolling home.’  fact is, i don’t even know for sure if those ARE the words.  they are just the words that came out of my mouth.  and as i sang it i realized how ironic what i was singing was.  this old man comes rolling home.  all day long i had been on the phone with family in iowa and on the computer researching last-minute tickets because matt’s dad is very sick. 

losing a parent is like wrestling a bear.  you might not survive it.  and if you do, it’s a fight, and you are forever changed by it.  my best friend lost her mother a couple years back.  and it was a hard fight, but she won, and i know by looking at her now that she  knows something we don’t.    i’ve stared into the eyes of the bear, but luckily haven’t begun the fight.  my husband on the other hand, he’s been wrestling it most of his life. 

without getting into all the dramatics, matt’s father had many near death experiences.  there were fires, heart attacks, car accidents, and then a couple more car accidents.  matt has been told twice already in his life that his dad is dead.  he met his bear very young.  because of all this, matt is probably more prepared for this weekend than most people would be.  and even if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t let anyone know any different. 

matt and i have this saying, ‘free baseball’.  we are avid sport fans and go to as many games as we can afford.  we poke fun at the fans that get up and leave early because the score is bad or it’s getting late.  you buy a ticket for nine innings you watch nine innings.  and if you’re lucky, if you are really lucky, then they tie and you get extra innings.  innings you didn’t pay for, innings you didn’t plan for.  free baseball.  and free baseball is the best baseball. 

this game was supposed to be over long ago.  but we lucked out and we all got free baseball.  now the only thing i can hope for and pray for, is that he can finally be done fighting that damn bear.

bedtime.

i have spent countless hours in the past year and a half trying to convince lincoln stibbs to go to sleep.  and the little vampire fights it like i’ve never seen anyone fight.  i once witnessed him slapping himself in the face in order to stay awake.  not kidding.  then i saw him once hide all his bottles, as if him having to nap without a comfort object would punish ME.  lately we have turned a corner and i almost hesitate to talk about it for fear that it will fall apart. 

at night after we run the gament of bath, pjs, book, goodnights, and everything that falls in between i simply do one thing.  i take him by the face and look into his eyes, i tell him it’s nighttime.  i tell him i will see him in the morning.  and that i am going to leave.  and then i run like hell.  kidding.  kind of.  i leave.  i really do, i don’t pretend leave like i used to by hiding near the closet ( i seriously used to do that) or stand outside the door.  i really truly walk away.  and he whimpers, but usually he nods off fairly quickly-only once did my jumping rope in the living room wake him up and i had to start over.  yes jumping rope. 

somedays it works and everyone is happy, other days he goes down swinging and fusses and fusses until i end up back in there patting and patting until my arms are numb, my eyes are blurry, and my back is aching.  makes me think about myself and the fact that i HATE going to bed alone.  i almost always make matt come in at the same time.  matt insists that it’s because i am scared.  but that’s not it.  just for some reason i don’t want to lay in there alone.  so i can’t fault  lincoln for wanting me to stand there until he drifts off.  he will periodically peek to see if i am still there and when he sees me i see a little smile glint across his face and he shuts his eyes with glee.  to all the ‘cry it out’ advocates, it’s those moments that make me pat backs until i get carpal tunnel.  i tell myself that it’s these moments, the really hard bedtime ones, that i will miss the most when they are 16.  or 6.  what age do they stop needing you to stand there while they sleep?  i hope i never find out.

art day!

after a quick trip (and $70!) to beverly’s lincoln, stella and i were ready to have the first of many art days.  i wanted to introduce them not only to the texture and feel of paint, but of the wonderment of changing a blank canvas.  

lincoln at first seemed skeptical of my idea.  i dipped his hand into the paint and tried to show him how to place it on the canvas.  he was too disturbed by the feel of the paint on his hand to really enjoy what he was doing.  i wiped his hands off and handed him a brush and then he went at it, banging and dragging it around the canvas.  i poured some paint on another canvas and held it up to stella who promptly began hitting it with her hands and running her hands all around it.  i tried to assist her in getting a foot print on it but she would just slide right off the canvas (it quickly became a 12×12 acrylic slip n slide) and soon she was covered in paint.  i let her lay there and bang on it some more with her fists but when those little fists started to make their way into her mouth i decided to call art day to an end for her.  she ended up in the kitchen sink, hosed off and wrapped in a towel.  maybe it wasn’t the best activity for a 5 month old.  but really who’s to say? 

there are books upon books of how to raise children (i know this for a fact, i’ve read most of them) there are ‘experts’ and advice givers.  but having two kids has shown me one thing, every single kid is different.  so an expert for one kid is a novice at another.  that even holds true in the same family.  lincoln was a totally different 5 month old than stella is.  i am an expert at lincoln.  i am a study in stella. 

i think the hardest part of being a parent (besides the constant worry) is the underlying feeling that you don’t know what you are doing.  who knows, maybe it’s just me.  maybe everyone else sails through it without an ounce of self-doubt.    but i worry.  about everything.  if she sleeps in my bed will that create confidence or clingy-ness?  if i get frustrated at bedtime and leave the room to let him cry is he going to think i abandoned him?  is 5 months too young to lick up some non toxic paint? lincoln's first artstella's first art

i recently had a spa technician tell me that babies that didn’t get an infant massage every night from their parents were bound to become drug addicts.  i understood her underlying message, spend time with your kids, show them affection, and they will be okay.  ignore them and you will deal with their issues later.  i tell myself that my doubting and worry is proof that i am a good mom.  i care enough to worry about my actions. 

but at the end of the day, after patting lincoln the appropriate amount so that he falls asleep.  and after wrapping stella up and ignoring her so that she can fall asleep, without distracting herself by giggling at me, i know one thing for sure.  i may not be the best mom, i may not write how-to-books.  but i am their best mom.  even with my faults and even if i let them eat paint a little too early, i am still exactly what they need. 

they are my blank canvases, and i am theirs.  and yesterday as we sat, a trio covered in primary colors, with paint in our hair and in between our toes we discovered one thing: there is no right way to create a masterpiece.

spring showers.

so it’s raining. again.  it’s been raining for two straight months and looks like it’s going on three.  i am sick of wet feet, wet baby heads, mold mold mold everywhere.  we need the sun to shine, to dry everything out and to make the world bloom. 

i am starting to feel slightly overwhelmed, the store is moving and soon.  i need to pack it, move it, display it, and advertise it.  i know that it will all fall into place, i have opened enough stores that i know a store with clothes on the ground the night before opening day will be shiny and sparkly by the time the doors open.  we signed the lease today.  it’s official.  we own the spot until 2015.  seems so far away.  it will be good to move.  moving is always a very cleansing act, like spring showers i suppose. 

the babies are behaving nicely, which helps me get tasks for the store done quicker.  lincoln has entered the ‘mine’ phase and informs me that everything is his.  stella? “mine, ” he says.  shampoo, his.  food, his.  my phone, for sure his.  i dropped five dollars the other day and he grabbed it instantly and mumbled “mine” as he ran off with it. 

stella is blossoming more and more everyday.  she shouts if lincoln plays too far away for her to join.  she scours the floors for any type of food and then bawls when it’s taken away.  i actually had to fish a chocolate chip out of her 5 month old month today.  she was very upset. 

i’m ready for spring.  i’m ready for the rains to stop.  for the cleansing to be done.  i have flower pots with dirt but no flowers.  outdoor table and chairs set up but to wet to sit on.  a life that feels like it is in limbo.  but i know that the rains will stop and the sun will come out and life will resume, at a faster pace than i would prefer.  the store will move and the kids will grow up and suddenly it will be 2015.  what happens then?  it will be spring then too.  and probably raining.     lincoln will be 7 (SEVEN!!) years old.  i can’t, don’t want to, imagine that.  stella will be six.  the thought of them growing older really saddens me.  i will cry the day we can’t spend all day together.  but i guess everything has to grow eventually. 

but the news of the day is the signed lease, the upcoming move, the tasks at hand.  we have a store to recreate.  mom and i are getting the keys friday and will map out the floor plan.  saturday will be spent packing and the next few weeks will be mindless details.  the thing is, no matter how much we stress about something, it will get done.  it will happen.  the day will come and go and soon be forgotten, or become a memory.  and even whether it’s a good or bad memory will eventually dim.  everything is relative and nothing is nearly as important as we make it.  except the babies.  they are actually more important than we realize.   now, i am going to stop working so that i can introduce stella to peas and retrieve a ball from behind a stone buddha for lincoln.  oh Lord.  he broke another vase.

$7,000 preschool.

it’s march.  almost a year ago i felt like life couldn’t get more stressful (i hadn’t encountered july and august yet).  i remember i got a fortune cookie that said, “in three months you will recieve good news”  i remember counting down the days of the three months, my superstious self anxious to find out what that great news would be.  nothing really ever stuck out.  damn fortune cookie.  they always get my hopes up.  i have old fortunes taped to my fridge, some stuck in my wallet.  i don’t throw the promising ones away, sometimes i think if i discard them they won’t come true.  one time i got one that said ‘you are almost there’.  i didn’t know what race i was about to win but i got really really excited.

i am a perpetual skeptic and i didn’t quite believe this little plan would work.  starting a business and raising two babies there.  but it is.  the three of us figure it out a little more everyday.  we have our daily routines down and life is not only painless but quite fun.  i wouldn’t trade the moments of playing catch or chase or reading book after book after book for anything.  some days end in tears and some days begin in tears, but they are babies so crying is expected.  as for me, i’m not a baby so i shouldn’t cry as much as i do.  but i guess my tears just show that i am human.

the store has been open almost  a year and we have been received quite well by the citizens of alameda.  so much that we are taking a leap of faith and moving to Park Street.  Park Street in alameda is like 5th ave in New York City.  we are big time now people.  the new space is perfect size wise, location wise, and soul wise.  by that i mean, it fits, it feels right.  i think you can tell if something is meant to be or not and this feels true.  nothing was forced, things fell into place.  the landlord is a soul sister of my mothers.  she reminds me of my mother when i talk to her.  i like that.  it makes me trust her.  she picked out my favorite colors.  she is making the space look like a art gallery for royalty.  it will be gorgeous.  only i could have done it better.  there won’t be a store on Park Street, or in alameda, like it.  that scares me.     

 i guess i am like my brother in the fact that i worry incessantly about anything and everything.  and the more precious items you have in your life, the more things to worry about.  my list of precious items seems to be doubling by the day.  but i remind myself that none of this is of my doing, i am not doing it for myself, nor did i create it.  God did and therefore i have to trust that He will take care of the details.  He will take care of my precious items.  “where there is God there is food,” says Pastor dave.  

so the babies and i are preparing for a move.  we are saying goodbye to this little loft.  it seems sad, this was our home, this was our oasis.  we have become a team here, we have learned how to co-exist here.  it’s like cats, when a new one is introduced it’s best to lock them in a small room until they accept each other.  i suppose the babies and i have grown to accept each other.  we can come out of our small room now and enter the world.  we not only know each other, but we have banded together.  we are a unit, a trio, best friends.  we have reading time, naptime, lunchtime, snack time.  we play and play and discover.  shiny rocks, puzzles, toys, soon to be music (once amazon.com finally gets it together and ships my toddler tunes CD).  we are in fact a self made preschool.  we even take turns being the teacher. 

i have been reseaching preschools and every one i find costs thousands of dollars a year.  it blows my mind.  $600 a month for imagination play and naptime.  why don’t families save that money and simply spend saturdays together playing in the sand at the beach or taking a family nap together?  don’t get me wrong, i am not against social interaction, and i do believe kids benefit from it and need it.  but $600 a month doesn’t insure your kid learns to share.  all of our kids will be thrown together soon enough, they will go to school for 12 years.  they will learn the basics of sharing and social situations.  until that day (a day i DREAD by the way) i will pocket my $600 and we will continue on in our little self made preschool. 

we learn patience by taking turns at the toaster in the morning.  we learn social interation by welcoming customers into our store everyday, sharing by letting them take items home with them.  we learn respect by throwing balls safetly around glass shelves.  we learn to discover in a world of textures and objects, artifacts and scupltures. trust and love is taught by knowing that even if we hit our sister in the head, we still get hugged at the end of the day.

last march i never would have believed how perfectly peaceful this march would feel.  maybe my fortune cookie was off by a few months, maybe a piece of paper absentmindly shoved into a sweet has no control on my life. maybe believing in fortune cookies is just as silly as spending $7,000 on preschool.