It’s been a little over two months since the store closed.  Two months of agenda free days.  Two months of sunscreen and swimsuits.  Of a laissez-faire lifestyle.

Somewhere in June I turned off all notifications on my cell phone.  The constant chirping and dinging was driving me nuts.  My life is no longer ruled by emails.  I no longer have vendors or employees that contact me hourly with ‘must answer now’ questions.  Suddenly the only person that text me is my cousin and my husband.  It took me awhile to adjust to a silent, dark phone.  I kept wondering why no one was emailing or talking on Facebook.  After hitting an app I’d realize that the internet world was alive and well, 20-some facebook notifications and piles of emails.  I just simply wasn’t being inundated with them all day.  I had built up a wall between myself and the wireless world.  A peaceful wall.  I forget about my phone often now, it’s chirping gone silent-I use it mainly as a camera that has the special ability to text daddy and tell him to bring home more milk.

I resigned from a few community organizations.  I’m basically ‘Leaning Out’ as far as I can go.  I spent over a week of the summer playing with legos for 8 straight hours every day.  And I even shared a little with the kids.  We’ve painted, we’ve hiked, I’ve seen more of the Bay Area in the past two months than I have in my past 10 years of living here.  I’ve read a stack of books and we’ve worked our way through most of our children’s books for the 30th time as well.

When the store closed I joked and called it an early retirement.  But it was really a reprieve.  We were granted some time to soak up our days together.  To hold sticky, chubby toddler hands while we walked slowly, instead of rushing through the world-late from one appointment to another.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved and cherish our days at the store.  I loved how the kids turned the displays into imaginary worlds.  But, it was not an easy life and I don’t miss the stress of the juggle.  I don’t miss laying awake at night trying to figure out how to fit it all in.  I sleep soundly now.

Life isn’t without stresses.  My house is often filled with 5-6 children.  Children that are usually dressed up in some form of Batman, lions, or knights (or a combo of all three) and they run through the house ‘saving the world’.  Legos are EVERYWHERE.  I find toys in every nook and cranny.  But it’s a good stress.  It’s a stress that comes with growing children, noise that equals glee and creates memories.  My phone is silent, but my life is loud.

Schools are starting back up and this is probably one of the last true weeks of summer.  We are going to go to the pool today, and will eat ice cream cones until our cheeks are sticky.  This is the last time that August doesn’t mean Back To School for this family.  Where Fall merely means cooler weather is coming.  Next year we will be standing in line buying school supplies and attending Back To School events.  Our lives will become busy again and we will have schedules to keep.  Til then we are going to play with Legos and build car ramps.  I’m going to concentrate only on the little faces in front of me, and I’m going to Thank God everyday that I have the luxury to do so.

1412 Park.

We spent over 1,000 days at the store.  Over a thousand days of memories.  Early days of baby Lincoln napping in a basket in the closet.  Our booze soaked Lemon Tree customers.  The bright RED of the first location, the long steps to the loft that taught Lincoln how to go up and down stairs.  The loft at the first location where Lincoln, Stella, and I learned to co-exist as a trio.

The Park St location where Lincoln would ride his trike around and around and around.  Where he would sneak his bottles and police cars into my window displays, because he wanted to add his prized possessions in with mine.  The silver line of the doorway where he would line up his little green stool and cheer on firetrucks and shout “Hi!” to people as they walked by.  Where they all learned their fine motors skills by helping me pay the meter every three hours on days we drove.  And our slow, slow, SLOW walks home where Stella would smell every flower and Lincoln would pick leaves and tell me to save them forever.  Some of those leaves are still in the stroller cups, brown and dried.

Memories of days when Lincoln learned the term “work in the window” and learned the basics of merchandising at age 3.  He’d follow me around asking why I was putting a certain item in a certain spot, memorizing my method.  Telling me how pretty I make the store.  Where Stella learned to approach customers and announce, “Hi STELWA!”  Where she would hide under tables and giggle if a customer looked under at her.  (or scream depending on her mood…)

For the thousand days we spent at the store I probably read Go Dog Go 2,000 times.  I probably took 4,000 pictures.  We probably cried for over 3,000 hours.  (and laughed closer to 8,000) Spent more money at Starbucks and the toy store next door than I even want to add up.  We napped, we potty trained, we destroyed and created and had bike races and learned the logistics of hide and seek.  We had parties and play dates and made friends.

At 1412 Park we had a childhood.  We became a family of four, and then five.

Today I cleaned out the closets.  Mopped the floor one last time.  Found all those lost marbles from the marble run in the deepest crevices and corners.  Took our tattered books to the used book store and the some toys back to the toy store for their used department.  I dismantled that childhood and shoved it in a van.

One last time I turned off the lights, dragged in the store sign, and locked the door.  Tomorrow I unload that van and I begin a new phase of our childhood.  A phase filled with adventures and explorations.  Of new lessons and empty days waiting to be filled.  We won’t have firetrucks to wait for, windows to merchandise, or customers to practice our talking with.  But we have each other and we have a thousand days worth of memories.

Big decisions tend to make themselves.  I read that this morning.  I also read that Americans are about to have a spending spree, that they have been holding their money too tight for too long and everyone is about to go gungho in shopping.  Seriously?  We open a business in the recession and close right before the shopping spree hits?  Then I read the line about big decisions making themselves and it made sense.

We were pulled into opening the business.  And we are being pushed into closing.  Both times it felt like there was a force beyond us doing the pushing and pulling.   Sure, we could hold on and wait it out.  Take out a loan to pad our pockets and see if the spending spree happens.  But what happens when it doesn’t?  or what happens if does and I start working even crazier than I did before?  And suddenly the kids are in middle school and I didn’t take those last few years to connect with them and explore the world?  The decision was made by someone that can see a lot farther into the future than I can.  I’m kinda glad that some of the big ones are taken care of, that all I have to do is be around for the ride and stay resilient.

That being said, on our way to work this morning I realized I was excited to get there.  That I was doing what I normally do and going to work 2 hours early.  I realized that I look forward to working.  And then a slight panic feeling set in when I realized that I won’t have any ‘work’ to do soon.  Sure, I will have the work of the ‘moming’ as a good friend calls it.  The laundry, the dishes, the play dough, reading and wiping and creating and explaining and all those damn sippy cups to fill and find.  but I won’t GO TO WORK.  I won’t, for the first time in 15 years, oversee something (other than my backyard).  I won’t have a little section of the world to create and control.  For a creative control freak, that’s a hard pill to swallow.

I have three more weeks until ‘summer vacation’ hits.  And as much as I am looking forward to playing with play dough and reading Peter Pan, I also know that closing the store doors for the last time will be one of the hardest things I will do.


Three and Four.

We celebrated two birthdays this week.  Thing One and Thing Two turned Four and turned Three.  For anyone that missed the beginning of their story, they have back to back birthday.  They are a year and a day apart.  Technically a year and 12 hrs apart.  I’ve always been punctual.

Anyway, every year it’s a little crazy when September hits.  Parties!  gifts!  cakes!  everything times two.  They don’t know any different and in a way it’s nice that the sibling rivalry of birthdays, the jealousy of the gifts and the attention, doesn’t last long…..because as soon as one birthday ends, the other BEGINS!  This year I actually felt the worse for Jack, who got no gifts and was promptly WHACKED every time he tried to touch a new present.

Birthdays are bittersweet.  Lincoln is FOUR.  Man on man.  How did that happen….I have to say I enjoy him more now than as a baby.  I’d love to go back and cuddle and hug Little Lincoln again, but 9 times out of 10 I’d choose to spend my afternoon with Current Lincoln.  He’s a pretty funny guy.

Now Stella.  She’s been hard.  She was a challenge as a baby, and as a toddler.  I’m hoping Three is kind to us.  All of us.  Don’t get me wrong, she is the Queen of the Castle.  She is the Love of our Lives.  But she also brings us to our knees daily.  in prayer.  Dear God, Save us from the Queen.  Teacher Carla told me today, in amazement, that she was very impressed at how well Stella will sit and look at books and make up stories to herself.  But yet, doesn’t want to participate with the classroom activities.  We talk about feelings.  We talk about talking.  Maybe someday she will comply.  She makes me think about that movie, “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken.”  She’s like the horse that you can’t tame.  ‘They’ say it’s a good thing, a strong will.  We will see…..

Anyway, there aren’t words for the birthdays, so I will do what I do best and just give you photos.   It was a great weekend, great parties.  Zoo Brunch on Saturday, Football Party on kicked off on Sunday.  Seeing how much Stella loved having her own party made me realize that separate parties are a must.

cold coffee.

around 5:30am I hear Jack playing with the toys in his crib.  “Toot! Toot!  This is the ABC train!”  I try to mentally will him back to sleep, or to play with a quieter toy so that he doesn’t wake up Lincoln.  Doesn’t work.

Lincoln comes in.  “Jack woke me up.”

I try to mentally will both of them to go back to bed.  Then Stella wanders in.  “I want some mow milllk.”  I lay there.  She shoves the cup closer and closer to my nose until it’s wedged under my cheek.  I still lay there a bit longer willing them away.  It doesn’t work.

Once up it’s diapers for Jack, diapers for Stella.  shut off music.  Lincoln feeds and lets Toonces out (taking care of her is his job and he takes it very serious).  I start the series of waffles.  Trader Joes frozen waffles are what get me through.  It’s all I can do to put them in the toaster and press down.  Most days it seems like anything more would actually kill me.  I wish they’d stop wanting to eat every. single. morning.

Once drinks and food are dispersed I start my coffee.  as soon as it’s ready someone needs something.  or a fight breaks out.  once that is solved I sit down and try to relax for a second and take a sip.  another fight.  more milk is needed.  or juice, really, they want the opposite of whatever I’ve just poured into the cup.  I usually just walk away.  there are only so many games a mama can play.

attempt three at a sip of coffee.  someone wants me to come look at a train.  or a dinosaur. or to listen to them roar.  or to watch them walk.  or to look at a bird out the window.  birds out the window are miraculous EVERYDAY.  they never get old.  for some reason they are amazed EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. a bird flies by. “I JUST CAN’T BELIEVE IT!  ANOTHER ONE!!!!”

attempt 41 at a sip of coffee.  someone stinks.  I let that fly, but then Stella pulls out the Ace in the Sleeve.  “I want to sit on the potty!”  no she doesn’t.  she wants to go in there and get her pjs off and then convince me to give her a bubble bath.  it works.  while distracted with Stella in the bathroom, Jack climbs onto the table in the dining room and flings my coffee to the ground, takes a few photos of himself with the laptop computer and pulls up an email account I haven’t used in ages.  I clean all that up and make a new cup.

Lincoln wants to blow bubbles, I agree and hand him bubbles and tell him to go outside.  Stella’s in the bath, Lincoln’s blowing bubbles, Jack is…..somewhere.  I sit down and again attempt to take a sip of coffee.

“I’m ready to get ouuuuuut.”  Stella’s done.  Suddenly Lincoln appears, apparently the bubbles are broken.  He needs help, I have to come outside RIGHT NOW.  Stella is yelling.  Jack is still quiet and has now hit the ‘too quiet’ mark.  I go find him first.  I find him in Stella’s room licking her cds and shoving doll house pieces into the cd player while at the same time standing on the rocking chair and rocking back and forth.  (not kidding.)  I take him down and shut her door.  He screams.  Stella is yelling louder about needing a “towrell” so I go give her one.  I suggest getting dressed or perhaps brushing her hair and she screams and runs.

I sit back down.  Please, just one little tiny sip of coffee….Suddenly Lincoln is by my side.  oh yeah, the bubbles are broken.  I grab my lukewarm coffee and everyone heads outside.  I try to explain that the bubbles aren’t broken but no one listens.  They all appear happy and content so I go back inside with my cup.  I sit down.  a fight breaks out.

I set my cold coffee down and start to get ready for work.  It’s not even 8am.

throwing up butterflies.

We were sick all weekend.  It was brutal.  Three kiddos with a stomach virus at the same time.  Lincoln puking in the bathroom, Stella simultaneously puking all over her bedroom.  Jack literally crapping out his pirate pajamas.  Matt and I could barely keep up.  At one point we just looked at each and shook our heads.  Lincoln and Stella both were up sick, throwing up every 30 min or so until 3 am.  Absolutely no sleep for either of us.  and then I got sick at 5am.

Lincoln, in a moment of pure beauty among the horrid brutal, mentioned that he couldn’t see the butterflies.  His exact words were, “I just don’t see the butterflies when I get sick.”  In an attempt to teach Lincoln to run to the potty when he felt sick, Matt had told him that he would feel ‘butterflies’ in his tummy right before he got sick.  In his lovely and magical 3 year old mind he thought there would be actual butterflies in his stomach.  And wondered why they weren’t coming up.  He, however, never questioned WHY there would be butterflies in his stomach.  I guess that’s the true beauty of the 3 year old mind.

Somehow Matt made it out alive, never being taken down.  Jack rebounded the fastest (was the first to go down) so Saturday was mainly a day of laying around, rehydrating, attempting to keep liquids down, and barely surviving.  I was in bed from 10am-7pm.  That hasn’t happened since 2007.

Laying around is hard for me.  For some reason I’m programmed to be productive.  I.  Must.  Be.  Doing.  Something.  So the worst part for me was waking up from my foggy, bacteria induced haze and realizing that more hours had gone by where I wasn’t able to even move my legs.  It was brutal.  I work 40 hours a week with my kiddos in tow and live and dream for my Saturdays.  I love being able to fix the house up, get all the cleaning done, take a million pictures, discover things with the kids, bake, and play, and read.  I don’t like laying around.  But that’s what we did.   At one point when Matt brought me in more ice water I said, “It’s crazy, there are so many good movies on!”  He laughed and said, “It’s Saturday and it’s cable.  Welcome to the way the other half lives.”  I won’t lie, there was a small piece of me that LOVED laying in bed and watching back to back chick flicks.

Now that Monday is approaching I kinda feel like the weekend didn’t even happen.  That I went from Friday to Monday without any of that bliss that pulls us through.  The house is still a mess.  The laundry is still piled on the washer (27 loads later after pukefest 2012).  No snacks baked or prepared for the week.  No crazy wonderful fun.  Just laying there.  Surviving.  (barely).

But today the kids ran around with Matt, chasing bubbles and building train cities.  Fixing old remote control cars and racing them through castle houses.  There were squeals and dog piling, and movies.  Lincoln fought bed, not because he wasn’t tired but because he didn’t want the day to end.  A day of nothing but laying around.

It was a brutal weekend.  Painful most of the time.  But sometimes there is a beauty wrapped up so tight in the brutal that it’s almost too hard to see.  There were moments through the weekend where the beauty poked through.

Lincoln standing at the toilet in his monster pajamas, Matt’s hand on his back.  A true moment of a father supporting a son.

Lincoln coming up to me in bed and gently touching my face and asking, “you okay?  you feeling better?”  Forever our thoughtful child, always concerned about others.

Matt and I working as a team, even in the mad chaos, knowing that We Got This.

Sometimes you can’t see the beauty in life, sometimes you can just barely barely feel it.  But it’s there.  Just like the butterflies that fly around in your tummy….right before you vomit them all up.

she’s only two for a year.

When you try to dress her she either rolls into a kicking, screaming ball OR magically turns her body into jello (screaming jello).  Have you ever tried to put a pair of shorts on jello legs?  It’s probably easier to dress an alligator.

Her answer to everything is NO.  doesn’t matter what you ask.

She refuses to eat anything that isn’t a cracker.  or a cup of milk.  I’m still trying to figure out how she hasn’t fainted from lack of nutrition.

Buckling her into the car seat is like pinning a drunk gorilla down.  An angry drunk gorilla.

She literally just walked up to me (she’s supposed to be sleeping), handed me her diaper and said, “there’s my poop!”  and grinned.  followed it with, “ok now, better wash my butt!”

She’s only two for a year.

She sings songs at the top of her lungs.  “WE BUILT THIS CIDDY.  WE BUILT THIS CIDDY ON WOCK AND WOLLING!”

She carries plastic animals with her everywhere and whispers to them, “oh you are so coot.  you are my coot new best friend whale.”

She will look at a handful of sand for over 15 min.

She will also eat that same handful of sand.

When I’m working in my garden she comes up and asks how my planets are doing.  That makes me giggle every. single. day.

When she laughs her whole body shakes.

Every morning she exclaims, “I stay in my bed all night!!”  even if she wakes up in our bed. or even if it’s still bedtime and she’s only been laying down for 15 min.

She once wore Buzz Lightyear inflatable wings everywhere for a week.

When she sees a dog, she pants in their face.  I’m pretty sure there’s actual communication going on.

Her tummy is tan from swimming, her legs are constantly bruised from playing, her hair is a mess of tangles no matter how much leave in conditioner I use.

She’s only two for a year.  and it isn’t long enough.