Sun kissing their cheeks
Wind ruffling their hair
Grass tickling their toes
Laughter drifting through the air
Hurrahs and groans each taking their turn
Mouths smiling from ear to ear
Springtime and Sundays were made for this
Today we’ve checked a bunch of stuff off our to-do list. Swapping out of the lingering winter decorations. First and second coats of paint above and below the chair rail in the nursery. Washing and folding of baby items. Selecting a contractor to replace our sidewalk and stoop and to pour a patio out back. Time outside with the boys. Groceries. Packing up items to donate.
But as I look around all I see are boxes and piles, and somehow this wipes out the feeling of accomplishment. Boxes of decorations to go into the attic. A stack of paint waiting for bedroom #2. Bins of washed baby items that can’t go into the nursery until the paint smell disappears. Donation boxes waiting to be picked up.
I feel like I’ve spent the day tackling the list, but also just shuffling stuff from one place to another in our house. Counting down the days until it’s all back in its proper place or out of the house!
Those funny little words that come into existence on their own or are molded to mean something specific to your family. Some come and go, while others remain a fixture in day to day speech. Six years in with kids, here’s where we stand:
If you ask Nathan how we fix clothes or make costumes, he’ll tell you that we ‘zew’ them. I gave up about a year ago, when after a 30 minute discussion I couldn’t convince him it was ‘sew’ with and ‘s’, not ‘zew’ with a ‘z’.
AKA side cramp. This word was coined when Nathan was about three years old. I had picked up running after having my second, and Nathan was convinced he could run with me alongside the stroller.
A word used in general as a nickname. As in “Hey, Chachi.”
How our kids refer to my husband and I together. Mommy + Papi = MaPa
A word used to refer specifically to Honey Bunches of Oats. Adam knows three cereals. There’s Cheerios, Fruit Loops, and then Cereal. And heaven help us all if he asks for Cereal and you bring him Cheerios. Because he means Cereal, which is Honey Bunches of Oats. Obviously.
Today was the first day in 371 days I have had students physically present in my ESL classroom. Sure, it may have only been one student at a time. Yes, it may have been for ACCESS testing. Absolutely, there were safety measures and extra protocols in place. But it was marvelous. And I soaked up every minute.
A typical drive to daycare.
Me: Yes, honey.
A: Mommy… I think… Mommy, I think that it looks like the sun is hiding.
3 seconds pass.
A: Mommy… Mommy.
Me: Yes, bud.
A: Mommy. I saw a bird. Mommy, I saw a bird out my window.
A: Mommy. Mommy. Mommy, do you think that bird is cold?
Me: I think he isn’t cold. What do you think?
A: I think he is cold. Mommy. It’s windy today and the sun is hiding.
Me: Yes, Adam?
Me: I’m listening.
4 more seconds.
I breathe in. And out. Slowly.
Me: Yes, Adam.
A: Mommy, I think that bird is going to Ms. Kerri’s house. Just like us. And when we get there. Mommy, when we get there he is going to be in a tree. Mommy. And, Mommy, I will say, “Hi Bird!” and he will look at me.
Me, smiling: I’m sure you would like that. Maybe he will be waiting for us. You keep looking, okay?
A: Mommy. Mommy…
23 Mommies in. 11 minutes of driving to go. This is three years old.
It’s dinner time, I’m in the kitchen. The school bags and lunches have been unpacked for the day. The dozen tupperware that have stacked up are washed and set out on the drying rack. I’m standing at the stove, coordinating the meat, veggies, couscous, and bread. Laughter trickling in from the other room filters into the kitchen.
I smile. These nights are easy. These nights the boys find something nice to play together. No pestering. No bickering. No interruptions to walk through problem resolution between a three and five year old (No, you cannot hit your brother just because he pushed you first. Yes, you should apologize even if it’s an accident. Why is it exactly that you’re smashing each other’s toes?)
I soak in the moment, silently praying it’ll last until dinner is on the table and Fausto is home.
Stir. Drain. Check those golden brown rolls. More giggles.
Child #1 streaks through the kitchen. “Come on puppy, let’s go!”
Brilliant. They’re playing pet owner. An excellent choice.
Child #2 bursts through. “Let’s catch them!”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see said puppy whiz past on his side, rolling and bouncing his way over the carpet, around the corner, and onto the kitchen floor. He sounds loud as he moves across the room, but I turn my attention back to the stove.
I smile again. Let it last.
Puppy and child #1 come through for lap two. I do a double take.
Trailing behind Nathan, tied to a yo-yo string is a gallon of paint. The brand new, filled to the top, recently opened and mixed since we just purchased it on Sunday can of Blue Horizon Clark and Kensington paint.
Albeit unlikely, visions of stormy blue paint spewing forth onto the living room carpeting flash through my mind. I see the near empty can trailing from living room to kitchen to family room, down the hallway past the front door until Blue Horizon has covered the entire first floor. Because who would even notice that the can of their paint puppy had burst off? I snap out of it.
“Great creativity turning paint cans into puppies,” hoping to maintain the cheerful flow of our night. “Let’s find something a little less disaster inducing to drag through the house, shall we?”
New puppies (actual stuffed animals) tied to their yo-yo leashes, I return to dinner. I roll my eyes. Paint puppies. Why not?
It’s one of the tasks I loathe: the changing of the clothes.
They call to me for weeks, as I slowly notice (but don’t acknowledge) the shortening hems, the tightening waistlines, and the wrists sticking out of sleeves. I kid myself into thinking that I’m making note of what still fits and what doesn’t, but truth be told, I despise this task.
It requires the patience to pack up the old and pull out the new. It demands a high level of enthusiasm to coerce either child to come try on new pants. Because Murphy’s Law states that if I pack up the old without trying on the new, we’ll end up with pants that don’t stay up, even though the last size have turned into boy capris. And then it requires convincing my husband the heaviest bin in the world needs to be carried up into the attic to await its recall in 2 years.
The clothes sit, or are worn rather, day in and day out. Until finally I cave and begin the arduous task, inwardly chiding myself for dodging it for so long. And then, sweet relief, I can soak in the clean rooms and relish the display of new clothes that parade on little bodies throughout the week.
You’d think it would inspire me to stay on top of this task. It’s an enticing thought. And yet, let’s be honest, I already know... I won’t.
Two Marches, so similar, yet so distinct.
One March with the final days of normalcy warping into routines have screeched to a halt.
The other with vaccines smattered throughout and preparations for 5 days of in person learning.
One March whose days were a hamster wheel of early morning work hours, breakfasts and toddler cheer, virtual check-ins and child distractions, nap times and cramming in feedback, late night hours setting up asynchronous lessons and parent phone calls, collapsing into bed - exhausted.
The other whose days are filled with a stronger sense of routine, albeit one we would not have anticipated.
One March in which I embraced the ever changing Chicago climate that awarded us with a steady cycle of snow, sun, and rain, in which our daily excursions were never repetitive.
The other in which I hope for winter to finally part so we can grasp onto the feelings of renewal that spring brings.
One March with more outdoor, family time than ever before and complete isolation from friends.
The other with a better balance for our sanity, an appreciation for the time we can spend safely with family or friends, and the interactions that work, school, and daycare provide.
Two Marches, still similar, but also distinct.
Grandma is spending the night, so one of my kids gave up his bed. Is it the older one? Of course not.
“Don’t you remember that one time two years ago when las primas were visiting from Ecuador and I slept on the floor in a sleeping bag? I had that nightmare about a monster coming through the wall and trying to take me away.”
I do remember that one time. (In all fairness, it sounded like a pretty terrifying dream.) How he remembers it though is beyond me. He was three. He’s also slept on the floor countless times since then. I roll my eyes.
Still, I know the value of choosing one’s battles. I move child one to child two’s bed (because bed number one is more comfortable), and set up shop for child two on the floor. As long as he’s surrounded by all the fuzzy friends, he’s happy.
Here’s to hoping no monsters vaporize through the walls tonight.
I have a friend who years ago titled her blog “A Beautiful Mess.” Her phrase often comes back to me in the midst of the crazy moments of our days, where time also somehow stands still. Having read another slicer’s reflections on their morning routine yesterday, I was especially attentive to the slivers of beauty that run through our crazy mornings.
* * * * *
“Mommy, rub my fuzzy friends on my face,” Adam says with eyes squeezed shut. I willingly oblige, soaking in this cuddly part of the first moments of his day.
“Buenos días, Mommy,” Nathan adds as he rolls over stretching to his full length.
“Alright, which friends are reading with us today?” I ask, knowing it will be the same as every other day this week. Sure enough, wooly mammoth, snow leopard, tiger, and taggie are hand selected from between the twisted sheets.
* * * * *
I hustle the boys off my bed, urging them to the next (and always the slowest) part of the morning.
“Potty and clothes, boys. Let’s go.”
The game I play daily with Adam to get him from one room to the next is not one I particularly appreciate. But the hug he rewards me with upon bending down to put his shirt on is.
“Do you like my tight hug?” he asks.
I squeeze back a little tighter, “Son mis favoritos.”
* * * * *
“Adam, your zapatos aren’t on right! Izquierdo, Derecha. Let me help you,” Nathan says bending down by his brother.
I pause, soaking in the brotherly love, knowing at some point they’ll be back to bickering, teasing, and taunting each other.
* * * * *
We rapid fire our way through Nathan’s checklist.
“Water bottle. Mask on your lanyard. Ipad in your backpack. Lunch box attached to your bag. Shoes? Coat? Alright, grab it all. Off you go. Hop in Papi’s car. Have a great day!”
He tugs his backpack into place and heads to the door. I turn my back, packing Adam and my lunchboxes for our ride to daycare and work.
I pivot to see that Nathan has stopped at the door and turned to face me.
“I love you.”
I freeze the moment in my mind.
“I love you too, Honey. Have a good day. I’ll see you after school.”
He waves and bounds out the door.
* * * * *
I usher Adam out to the garage, bags in my hand, his friends in his. Opening doors and shoving bags into their designated spots, I watch Adam run to the driveway.
He breathes in and blows out. Huge grin on his face, he twists to face me.
“You was right! It’s a Dragon’s Breath Day!” He turns his face back to the crisp air, exhaling and watching his breath form clouds. He is consumed with pure delight.
“Alright, into the car, Pumpkin,” I say and he comes running. He jumps and chops the air with his friends, all joy and energy this Friday morning.
* * * * *
They are long, repetitive mornings. Alarms, wake-ups, wardrobe changes, struggles over the bathroom, breakfasts, bags, lunches, the mad dash to make it out the door to four different locations at once. But many days, I’m reminded just how beautiful this mess called life is.