Wednesday, July 18, 2007

story time with Miss Elaine

Elaine (of wannabe hippie) mentioned she was hosting story time for the first time today at Java Mama Cafe. I'd never been, but I thought it worth a trip to check out.

Unfortunately, we had a hard time finding it and arrived late, missing most of story time. Eliza was overwhelmed by the new situation and froze up, but the other kids were really into it. I wish I could summon up as much enthusiasm as Elaine having read The Napping House a zillion times.

Afterward, Eliza had fun playing in the supervised play area for awhile until she announced she was hungry. Outside food is not allowed, and the only thing on the menu we could eat was a PBJ (I'm reluctant to pay for something I can slap together in 5 seconds at home).

Eliza happily agreed to go to a restaurant, so we stopped off at Sipz Fusion Cafe on the way home where we shared orange "chicken" and pad Thai. I ordered a Thai iced tea because I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't drink this peach-jasmine drink I'd ordered at Java Mama because I thought it was an iced tea, and it turned out to be a milk shake. (I told the guy at the counter to give it away since I didn't want it to go to waste.) He offered to remake it with water but said he didn't know if the peach mix had dairy. I thought to myself, "you could look on the label, or show it to me," but I'm not a complainer and don't like to trouble people, so I reassured him it was alright - after all, the fault was mine for assuming.

Eliza was well-behaved at lunch and eagerly devoured the pad Thai. Good restaurant behavior is one of Eliza's few easy traits (although it wasn't always that way). I dare say, she behaves a good deal better in restaurants than she does at home, being a diva of a food critic, flinging what she doesn't like - a habit that infuriates her father more than any other.

Afterward, I asked Eliza if she'd like to go pick up our fruit order or if she'd like to go home, knowing what her answer would be, but I asked because I figured we'd be out of there in under an hour and only live a couple miles away. However, I didn't count on getting horribly lost in my own neighborhood. And here I was just talking with Jenny (of wildwood cottage) yesterday about my geeky love of geography - shame on me. After driving around for a half hour, hoping I'd happen upon the street, I told Eliza I was sorry but that we had to go home because I was lost. "No, no, no, no, no!!! I need to pick up the fwuit!!!" she yelled and started bawling. It figures that the one page our local Thomas Guide is missing is the one I needed. Then I had another thought. I pulled over to check whether my cell phone had a mapping program on its web function. I had to agree to be charged $4, which may have been worth it to avoid a meltdown.

I didn't have any luck getting Eliza out of Lorien's (of wilson silverleaf) after an hour, then two hours. I became more anxious as the afternoon wore on, knowing we were all in for a heap of trouble and tantrums if Eliza didn't get her nap. Fortunately, she did go down for a nap just after 4, which is highly unusual, so I thank my lucky stars.

Someone just woke up and is playing the obnoxious demo track on the piano keyboard next to me. I hope she'll want to go downstairs so we can listen to decent music instead. :)

(My apologies for the photo quality - that's the best I can do with a half-broken camera and dim lighting.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

chalk hearts

"Look, Mommy, I drawed hearts!" It was her idea to draw a heart (I never direct her art), and she said they were for me. It was the sweetest thing and I thanked her. As far as I know, that was the first time she tried to draw a heart. I noted aloud the curves on the top and points on the bottom but made no judgment. She looked very proud of herself.

She must have had hearts on the brain after playing a sorting game a bit earlier. I found a package of wooden shapes at the arts-and-crafts store and thought she might enjoy those. So I turned it into a Montessori-inspired activity and placed a heart in one bowl. Eliza went about picking out all the other hearts and placing them in the bowl, but once that was done, she thought it would be even more fun to dump all the shapes into the bowls and pour them back and forth. Hey, whatever works! :)

She's going to kill me . . .

. . . if she doesn't kill herself first. I'm not a paranoid person, but I find myself wondering on days like this if she'll make it to adulthood.

We were upstairs cleaning the bathroom when Eliza wandered away from me as she often does. Three minutes passed, and I went to make sure she wasn't making a mess. I went through the house calmly, room by room, calling her name, and she didn't answer. My heart started to beat faster. Something was wrong - I knew it - she always answers no matter what she's doing. I ran through the house yelling her name. I nearly vomited.

The locks on the patio and garage hadn't been undone, so I could only guess that she had gone out the front doors although they were closed. I ran out the door to the right and saw a mother and her preteen sons playing in the driveway. They hadn't seen her but promised to split up looking. I ran back to the house thinking maybe she was lying unconscious somewhere, but she was nowhere.

Back outside again, by that time I was on the phone with Chris, crying and nearly hyperventilating. He was trying to keep me from completely losing it, but I was imagining the worst - being the mother of a dead child. I went all the way down the road to the left, looking behind every bush and car.

As I was rounding the bend, I saw the neighbor with Eliza and fell to my knees crying harder from relief. The neighbor found her at the side gate in the process of turning the handle to go out onto the main road. Eliza didn't look worried in the slightest, and in fact, seemed baffled why her crazy mother was crying in the middle of the road. In her arms were a stuffed cat and snowman, and around her neck were the fabric balloon wall decorations that had once hung in her room (before she ripped them off the wall last week).

Once Eliza was at home safely tucked in bed, I e-mailed a friend: "I hate what she does to me. Why?? This is the dark side of having a too-smart and too-adventurous child. I hate wondering whether she’s going to make it to adulthood."

OK, I know she doesn't do these things to give me a heart attack. She just thought it sounded fun to go exploring outside the house.

In order to get out the front door, she had to unlock the deadbolt on the main door and unlock two locks on the metal mesh security door that turn in opposite directions. I found the doors unlocked but closed. What a thoughtful child she is to carefully close doors behind her, something the cat resents, having been locked inside rooms so often (damn those paws without opposable thumbs!).

I thought about installing a fourth lock on the front doors, one at the very top - six feet off the ground. But then I tried to look at it through Eliza's eyes and saw the distance from the top of the love seat to the top of the door is right around her height. That might buy me twenty seconds, I thought. I spoke with a friend on the phone who suggested an alarm on the front door, something her mother had done many years ago. I feel a little better hearing stories about her older sister, who was just as adventurous as Eliza; they make me think maybe I'm not as horrible of a mother as I feel on days like today.

Three minutes. That's all it took. The time I spent searching through the house for her calling her name was time she used to get farther away. I hate to think what could have happened to her if she had gotten out to the main street.

Monday, July 16, 2007

training for the Olympics?

Our house now has two fewer towel bars than it did a few days ago. Yesterday, Chris found the towel bar and towels on the floor of the hallway bathroom, but no one saw Eliza do it. Then this morning, I was in the master bathroom when right in front of my eyes, Eliza grabbed the towel bar and started swinging: Wheeeeeee!

"Please let go! It's not . . ."


". . . a toy."

Eliza fell down on her tush, bar still in hand. "Uh-oh. I fall down!" Indeed.

blue funk

"Just say OK. All they want to hear is OK."

"But what if I'm not OK?"

"It doesn't matter. Just say OK."

My husband and I had this conversation a number of times over the years. I used to answer "how are you doing?" as if it were meant literally and not as a small-talk convention. No one wants to hear that your back hurts or that you have three research papers due the same day, he would say. It came naturally to him with his buttoned-up upbringing, but it felt culturally alien to me. After enough years of startled looks that said "that's not how it works - you say you're OK, I say I'm OK" I finally gave in.

Although I still have to fight the urge to say what I'm really thinking, I've grown used to the convention. The hard part is when I'm scared or desperately sad. When I'm hurting, I withdraw. If not for Eliza begging to go somewhere every day, I wouldn't have left the house these last few weeks. I'm grateful in a way - her insistence on getting out sometimes keeps me from dwelling on my sadness for a short time. I laugh. I smile. Then alone with my thoughts once more, I ache.

Twice in the last few weeks I broke character with the same person. I'm not entirely sure why - maybe there's something about her that made me less scared about feeling vulnerable. In any case, I didn't say OK for once, which brought a moment of relief followed by regret - I wished I could take it back. Was there anything she could do, she wanted to know, and I sensed she meant it. There's nothing anyone can do, I thought to myself. But what she said next, each time, stayed with me. What I had offered was just the tip of the iceberg of my despair, but that tip started to melt. I debated about whether to tell her that her gesture meant a lot to me. I lack the courage and articulateness to tell her in person, so I thought about sending a short e-mail, but again I hesitated for fear of sounding shmaltzy. Early this morning, I read something she wrote that spoke to me, and it has been rattling around in my head in the hours since. I never intended to post about my blue funk, preferring to stick to emotionally safe topics like Eliza's mischief, but after reading that, I knew I had to write this. If she happens to be reading this, just know I am grateful.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled food, books, and mischief posts.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

rise and shine

I woke up this morning to the sound of the upstairs gate slamming shut. It took a couple minutes to become fully awake, but my first thought was annoyance that Chris (the last one up last night) had forgotten to lock the gate behind him, and who knows how long Eliza was downstairs alone. A little later I heard, "the hands are yucky!" and went to help her clean off whatever she got into, which was clear and somewhat viscous. C soon was up and cursing, wanting to know if I'd seen the mess. I hadn't - I supposed she'd gotten into lotion or such and that I'd find the bottle soon enough. In the washer and dryer nook (located on the upstairs landing) was a slick of our eco-friendly laundry detergent on the floor, more on the clean clothes in the dryer, and one of her stuffed cats was covered as well.

It took the two of us together at least 20 minutes to get it all cleaned up. The hallway bathroom sink was filled with suds that would take a bit to go down, but wouldn't you know it, Eliza couldn't keep her hands out of that and had the chutzpa to complain that her hands were yucky again.

Hours later, I finally have a few minutes to myself while C is watching E downstairs. What a start to a Sunday morning.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

scene of the crime

She strikes again . . . twice in one day. These were just the two major messes (there were several minor ones including the pile of cat barf - it appears both my "kids" are conspiring against me). Any time I set about cleaning up one mess, she'd run off and make another while I was busy.

The first photo shows my carpet blanketed in calendula flowers (used for baths, balms, and such). Also scattered about are empty bottles for essential oil mixes (the full ones are hidden up high in my closet - shh, don't tell her).

A little later, she made a mess in the kitchen while I was tending to another mess. She emptied out a bottle of rosewater and bag of salt; the resulting paste was thrown in Nikita's bowl, apparently. All these items were 4 shelves off the ground. I can't win.

I am determined to install Tot Locks this week (they're supposed to be more fiddle-proof than standard child locks) for my sanity if nothing else. I really should be doing it right now, but I'm so exhausted from this morning that I need an internet break while Eliza naps.