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.

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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.

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.

ode to my husband

In the words of the great Ron Swanson, “….find someone you like and roll the dice.”

This year marks mine and Matt’s nine year wedding anniversary.  I’ve read a lot of blogs about “how to stay married 50 years” or “best marriage advice ever” and I thought about writing a blog post similar. and then I realized I wouldn’t know what to write.  Tips such as, “don’t go to bed mad” and “forgive and forget” are great nuggets of wisdom.  But they don’t keep two people together.  I don’t actually know what keeps two people together.  In my best guess, two people stay together because they stay together.

Matt and I are in our infancy of marriage.  Not quite ten years, we hopefully have 40 some years left of sitting on the couch, watching reruns, and sharing ice cream (which he hogs and eats WAY too fast, and then makes it worse by accusing me of hogging it and eating too fast).  So I feel silly offering any marriage advice.  Who can I advise? Those married 8 years and 10 months?

I will say this, we’ve been together long enough to learn certain things.  We now know that sometimes it is better to go to bed mad, sometimes it’s better to just NOT SAY ANYTHING ELSE.   Sleep on it.  Get over it.  Move on.

We’ve been married long enough to gauge between Big Things and little things.  And to learn to completely ignore the little things.  and to seriously NOT ignore the Big Things.

We’ve been together long enough to truly know the importance of saying sorry.  and that the quicker you do it, the faster you can get back to sitting on the couch sharing ice cream.

We’ve been together long enough to realize that you don’t really forgive and forget, you forgive and get over it.  and that’s better (and harder) than forgetting.

We’ve learned that we don’t always like the same TV shows, or movies.  But we watch them anyway.

We’ve seen each other through the death of a parent.  Through three children.  We’ve seen each other’s darkest side.  and we stayed.  we rolled the dice, we stuck it out.  but yet, we have so much to get through.  So much to learn.  I pray the years will be good to us.  That we continue to find our way back to each other, despite the chaos and the craziness that settles in.  I pray that we continue to listen to each other, to support each other.  and to always see each other.

an Aunt of mine works with the elderly and asks each of them the secret to a good marriage.  Their answer? “Stick around.”  Seems slightly unromantic.  But that’s the truth of marriage.  The hard times often outweigh the easy.  The anger sometimes seems louder than the laughter.  But you pull back the covers, and you climb into bed.  and you stick around.  for another day.  another fight, another apology.  and more ice cream.

Matt and I met when we were 15 and 17.  We couldn’t be more different.  A vegan and a carnivore.  He DVRs rock concerts and I prefer silence.  I ‘fold’ the laundry by smashing it into drawers, he literally folds the laundry.  But it works.  I have no idea why.  Maybe because we are like a pair of old jeans.  or maybe because we truly are soul mates.  or maybe we just lucked out on the dice roll.

 

 

 

dog days are over.

“hey, can you guys get up?”  Lincoln runs back and forth from my side to Matt’s side to my side.

“what time is it?”

“It’s 46.  46 o’clock.”

“really?  are you sure?”

“um, actually it’s 65 o’clock.  it’s 65.  that means time to get up.”

“well, it it’s only 65 o’clock then that means we get to sleep for another hour.”

 

I really can’t complain about sleep at all at this point.  Last night no one woke up until 4:30, and that was Lincoln asking for a cup of milk.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.  After about four years straight of being up every 2-3 hrs, a night of 6 hours straight is comparable to a Fuji vacation.

Life has actually gotten quite fun lately.  I remember with each kid how easy and fun they became once they hit a year.  Right now they are all three at good stages.  Stella is coming out of her rough spot of ‘The Twos’.  Jack is at that adorable Still Baby but Almost Big Kid stage.  and Lincoln is coming up on four and had become quite the companion.  Matt and I both agree that going somewhere with just Lincoln is better than going somewhere alone.  Mainly because Lincoln usually serves up an amusing commentary for whatever trip or errand you are on, making even the dullest trip to get milk or gas fairly enjoyable.

I’m actually shocked in general how easy life has gotten with them.   we can leave the house now.  and not have every trip end in screaming and tears.  I can usually manage a trip to the grocery store with all three, even during the busy after work hours.  Stella walks by my side and *gasp* stays by my side.  Lincoln and Jack sit calmly in the cart.  We’ve gone swimming solo and have plans to go to the aquarium and go hiking.  Yeah, hiking with all three. That’s how easy they’ve gotten.

This new freedom is an odd feeling.  I’ve kind of gotten used to feeling like I’m constantly on house arrest.  In any of the previous years or months the thought of running to the store for milk would give me a headache or a panic attack. Most people reading this probably think I’m a pansy.  The whole “Get Over Yourself Babies Aren’t That Hard” mentality.  yeah, one baby isn’t.  Two babies aren’t so much (kinda).  But three are.  And it was even harder when two of them were in various stages of ‘The Twos’.  aka random, unpredictable bouts of screaming and throwing things.  It generally takes us 25 min to just get everyone buckled into their carseats.  That alone is usually reason enough for me to not go anywhere.

But it’s over.  Thing 1 and Thing 2 are out of ‘The Twos’.  Thing 3 will hit them soon, but when he does, he will be the only one.  and the rest of us are pretty good at diffusing bombs at this point.  He’s out numbered.  Life is opening up.  We can confidently go to the store.  the farmers market.  take a trip to the city.  We still spend a lot of time at home, but that’s mainly because I am antisocial by nature and prefer my solitude.  (as solitary as my life is with my traveling circus).

Three kiddos in less that 2.5 years wasn’t exactly the easiest way to go.  There were a lot of tears, a lot of struggles.  But I wouldn’t have done it any differently.  Even now when I realize with nostalgia that all my baby days are over, I also immediately rejoice that ALL MY BABY DAYS ARE OVER!  and then I start packing for our next adventure.  because yeah, we can  leave the house now.

dinosaur kisses

“Only women think this age is cute.  Everyone else knows it’s annoying as hell.”  Matt said last night as he searched the house for a remote so we could turn the sleep timer on the bedroom TV.  (It’s our compromise. He can fall asleep with the TV on as long as he sets the sleep timer so it doesn’t wake me up all night long.)  All the remotes are gone because Jack has an obsession with remotes and puts them in his special place.  Along with keys, DVDs, pan lids, and anything else shiny or important that catches his 14 month old eye (like bills-or my toothbrush.  now Stella and I are sharing her Mater toothbrush.  If that’s not gross I don’t know what is…..)  Most things seem to oddly resurface in the toilet a few days later.

Matt’s right, this age is challenging.  He can’t be left in a room alone because he attempts to jump off the couch, swim in the toilet, play with the stove, eat the fish, etc etc etc.  He’s constantly losing or breaking things.  everything seems to be covered in a goo of some sort.  Communicating with him is similar to speaking to Chewbacca, everything is a tonal series of the word “DA”.  the phrase, “ohh JACK!”  is heard often in our house.

But there are aspects of this age that are intangible.  He chases Lincoln around the house growling like a dinosaur.  When he catches him he dogpiles him in a fit of glee and giggles.  When he hears a motorcycle or loud car he mimics the way he thinks the noise sounds, to us it sounds similar to an old man clearing his throat or perhaps dying, but to Jack it probably sounds EXACTLY like that cool motorcycle.   He empties the recycling bin on the kitchen floor and then starts throwing cereal boxes, old cans of beans, and waffle boxes at my head while shouting, “hot!” “ack! HOT!”  Chewbacca for “feed me! make me hot food!”  Annoying and slightly gross?  yes.  incredibly adorable?  extremely.  It’s his first attempt at communication.  I have to give him points for being innovative and using props.

The best however are the dinosaur kisses.  Remember that irresistible urge to grab a baby and blow raspberries on their skin until they cry from laughter?  To bury your face in their chubbiness and soak up their smells?  Jack has started to return the favor.   He will come up, dogpile you and then seek out any exposed skin.  He will then start growling like a dinosaur, start half chewing/half licking/half blowing on your skin until you laugh from joy and fear (fear that at any second he’s gonna BITE!) During the first couple dinosaur Jack attacks I couldn’t figure out what exactly was going on.  But at one point he stopped the growling and just started breathing heavy.  Smelling me.  Soaking me up.  and I realized, he’s doing to us exactly what we’ve been doing to him for 14 months.  He’s loving us.  Every last inch of us.  He might not be able to say, “I love you.”  but he can tackle us and lick us, and smell us.  and that’s worth a thousand first words.