mommy eyes

One Mile

I wake up rather blearily at 6:30am.  It comes after another late night of creating but those are my favorite ones to burn the candle for.

I lay in bed a little while, savoring the warmth while it lasts….read a few words in Leviticus and try to make sense of them in my foggy state, check my email on my phone….and ….I hear the unmistakeable padding of footsteps approaching my bed.

My first little wide-eyed thing joins me in bed to tell me about her dreams and that she’s hungry, really hungry, for breakfast.  And we barely make it through plans of pancakes before we hear Bea shouting to us.  She sounds angry that she’s the last one up today.

I glance at the clock, trying not to be too disappointed that my best laid plans of beating them out of bed didn’t work today.

Still smelling of sleep and popped dreams, we make our way downstairs and to the breakfast table.  MG wants dry toast (still recovering from a stomach bug), Bea wants peanut butter toast and a clementine.  I make her an egg but she won’t touch it.

Breakfast doesn’t last long, but emptying and refilling the dishwasher, starting a load of diapers in the wash, wiping down the counter and table, prepping chicken for dinner in the crockpot, and sweeping the floor always seems to exact no small fortune of time from our day.

I mentally go through my plans and feel a small wave of anxiety.  It’s Wednesday, house cleaning day.  Which means we don’t have any agenda to leave the house and it also means I have two main objectives to accomplish with the girls underfoot: cleaning and exercise.

Cleaning for me always begins in the heart of the home, the kitchen.  All is right in my world, it seems, if my kitchen is clean.  I gather my supplies and begin to scrub; I beg the girls to find something to engage in.

MG is easy.  She has planted herself at the bar and wants to play with “soft sand” (kinetic sand) .  I take a break from the sink to gather some kitchen utensils for her to make the play time more fun.  Meanwhile, Bea has dragged over a chair and is begging to join in.

MG doles out a small portion of sand  for her along with a few unwanted utensils to play with.  I make the most of these 8 minutes to wipe down the stove.

“Mommy, Bea’s eating the sand!”  I wash my hands, wipe out Bea’s mouth, wash out Bea’s mouth, wash my hands.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.  Bea continues to return to the scene of her crime, undeterred by the grittiness in her mouth and the disapproving warnings of her mother and sister.

This last time requires yet another hand washing and I feel the pain shoot through my fingertips as I subject them to the steaming water, lye soap, and a rough cotton towel.  They crack and bleed, tiny red rivulets in protest to their harsh environment.  Soft, feminine, pretty hands have been sacrificed to winter and making and child-raising.

I put my foot down and send Bea away from the counter.

“Mommy, is it time to watch a show yet?”

“Nope, not until I do my exercise. You’ll need to find something to play with until then.”

But I don’t know what to do.  

I suggest 3-5 things.  All are met, predictably with negative responses.

“Okay, well I just have to clean the bathroom, vacuum & mop the floors, and clean upstairs and THEN it will be time to watch your show.  I’m sure you can find something to do until then”

I resume my work, but it seems mere seconds before I hear, “Mommy, Bea’s coloring on herself.”

Which is followed by, “Mommy, Bea’s got the scissors.”

&

“Mommy, Bea is eating play-doh”.

How silly I am. Where do I get off thinking that a 22 month old would need anything less than constant supervision?  With little time to reconsider, I shimmy her up to the table, open a yellow can of doh and buy myself just a few more seconds.  I realize it will mean another pass of the vacuum, another wipe of the table, and perhaps even a few pieces “disappearing”, but in that moment,  it’s an exchange I’m willing to take.

Finally the main floor is clean and I move on to the second floor, brigade in tow.  MG has joined me in the fun and is “dusting” directly underneath my feet.  While we focus our efforts on the master bedroom, Bea opens MG’s sock drawer and pulls apart every single pair and then throws them around the room.

As MG and I are piecing this misfortune back together, Bea uses to her arms to counterbalance her bodyweight and slides herself triumphantly onto the bathroom counter.   Pleased with herself, she climbs into the bathroom sink and turns the water on, all over herself.  From this perch, she opens a clear plastic tube of tiny hair elastics using her teeth and exuberantly pours them out, raining them victoriously all over the floor.  When the shower stops, she examines the tube carefully to see that a few dozen still remain in the container, globbed together at the bottom.  She forcefully gives it another shake, emptying it this time, to her satisfaction.

Finally it is time to vacuum, which is the final step in the cleaning process, and I feel the tension hinging on this last item.  MG is about to break with the anticipation of her show.  Bea is crumbling under the pressure of having to entertain herself.  I am just dragging myself to the finish line in the hopes  that this will ever be done.

As I’m vacumming our bedroom, I glance down and see a stray Color Wonder marker peeking out from underneath our bed.  I briefly consider assuming the posture of the three other bodies who live here and passing it by unaware.  But then I realize with a sinking feeling that I am the mom now and being the mom means that no one else is going to come behind you and clean up the things that you don’t want to.

In duty only, I pick up the marker and put it in my pocket with a mental note to return it to its rightful home.  “If not me, then whom?” I think.   And that question takes me down a really short and winding trail that reminds me of how exponentially weighty my role in this family is.

At last I wind up the vacuum cord and alert MG that I am finally done cleaning. At the sound of my voice, Bea comes bounding towards us, suspiciously covered in Tinkerbell stickers.

It’s 11am and I glance down at my Fitbit…and I realize…you have now walked a mile in my shoes.

-smk

 

 

Vignettes

Today was a work-out center day.  Which means that instead of waking up at 6:30am to run before the girls were awake,  I didn’t get up until 7am. And we all go to the work-out center together where I will run, shower, and get dressed by myself, or something humanizing like that.

It was also Tuesday which means that the pool is open and I try to take the girls there after my workout is done once a week as a sort of bribery/good job you survived the childwatch program today.

Tuesdays are slower days and usually it’s just us and a collection of our gray-haired friends there.   How they cluck over MG & Bea.  “They are just so sweet.”  “I look forward to seeing them here.” “They look like they could be twins!” <–this one always baffles me, but I smile with pride anyway and use one  of my saved up responses like, “well people say that about their daddy and me.”

We go to the locker room first to hang up coats and drop our bags.  One of our special friends is in there.  She has her cellphone on her this time and shows us pictures of her granddaughters who are the same ages as these sisters.  She talks to the girls like one of the good grandmas..getting down on their level and asking them pertinent questions, about Disney princesses and the like.  She’s one of our favorites.

The girls walk confidently into the kidzone.  No hiding behind my legs and barely even a goodbye.  They know the place (and its toys well). The older of the two teacher exclaims, “hi girls!”  and puts matching clips in their hair while I’m away.  I like her too.

I run on the indoor track.  I developed a fear of treadmills when I started experiencing lightheadedness during runs.  The fear of fainting is gone, but I haven’t been on a treadmill since.

I run long enough to block out the noisy basketball players and sink deep into my thoughts.  I pray over a few key things on my radar and let excitement wash over me as I think about some future endeavors.

Just as I’m starting to sweat and become out of breath, my time is up.  I go to the fitness center to lift some weights. Today is arm day.

I try out a machine I’ve never used before and realize that I still have the extremely self-centered middle school phobia that everyone in the room is watching me.  I fumble through it and figuratively pat myself on the back for doing it anyway.  A quick glance around the room tells me there might have only been maybe one person watching me.  I think they were trying to figure out the machine too.

It’s been an hour since I dropped the girls off and it’s time for me to shower.  The locker room is filled with old ladies in swimsuits and in various states of undress.  There is something about being old, and nearly nude and vulnerable that brings out the sisterhood of friendship.  One woman who I swear is 80 was offered an extra towel by one of the staff (and they are s-t-i-n-g-y about extra towels).  I witness another pair help each other out when one’s shirt becomes stuck behind her neck.  It reminds me of my little ones.

As I’m wrestling with my combination lock (which always brings a bout of anxiety, thank you middle school gym class), I see in my peripheral vision, a lady round the corner, stop, and walk back by me.  She opens her mouth and I assume she is going to ask me a question about a class or directions to the gym.  She says instead, “I’m just wondering where you get water shoes.”  She’s looking at me, but then she’s looking past me and I too turn to look, now involved, by proxy, in this conversation. Another gray lady, decked out in polka-dotted swimwear, is reaching into her locker and answers, “Oh anywhere.  Kmart, Meijers, Walmart”.  I know she is a state native because she pluralizes Meijer.

After the inquisitor exits, she confides in me that her water shoes are really old and she doesn’t remember where she bought them.  I realize that when she says really old,  she means they could be really old.  Like older than me old.

I make my way down to pick the girls up from their designated room.  MG is sitting at a table, playing with a princess castle (surprisingly not in front of the tv).  Bea is in a box of blocks. The older teacher says, “why do you have to pick up the good kids?”  I smile and say, “were they good?”  “Oh they are always good.  This one (pointing to MG) is the quiet one and this one (pointing to Bea) is the busy one.”  Yes, that is my observation at home as well.

MG has a forlorn look on her face as I approach.  “They turned Sofia on.  I tried not to watch but I just kept looking.” (we had asked her not to watch this show at home because it has some things that have negatively influenced her).  I am proud of her effort and can’t help but smile at her honesty.  She can’t let it go, “I just kept looking.  I tried really hard but I was interested in what Sofia was doing.”

“How was your hang-out?” she asks.

We head back to the locker room (third time if you’re counting), this time to put on swimsuits.  An elderly friend approaches the girls as we are about to walk out and says hello.  Bea walks to her with arms outstretched in a hug invitation.  The friend can’t resist.  Not many people can.  “I bet she would go to anyone”. she says approvingly.  MG has to be coached to say “hi” to people.  When she does, the word sounds like “hi” but the tone sounds like “goodbye”.  It doesn’t matter, Bea has smoothed things over.

The girls hold my hands as we walk by the pool.  There is a water aerobics class in session and Bea waves unabashedly as we walk by.  There are audible coos and awe over the girls.  We are the only ones under 50.

We stay and play until our stomachs and beds beckon us home.

I counted on three separate occasions, “you are such a good mom” spoken to me today.  How could you not love this place?  Good for your body and heart.

-smk

The Quandary of sleep as a mom

You stay up too late now.

The house is so quiet after all. There is a peaceful stillness about it as if it is in a state if rest too. Besides, you feel so much more productive with nary a chance of being interrupted. The ten-to-eleven hour is your most golden. It is then your hands brim with creativity, your machine gallops the fastest over printed cloth, your newest and freshest thoughts come the most rapidly. There is something about giving your brain a quiet resting period that allows shiny thoughts to pop to the surface like an effervescent glass of champagne.

You find yourself alone and it is glorious. You pluck, you preen, you scrub, you clean, you bake, you watch that show you can’t stop thinking about. This is your best hour. This is you, uninterrupted.

You wind down slowly too. You take your time, savoring the luxury of a schedule on your demands. You draw a hot bath. You read two extra chapters in that new novel. You put pen to paper and just write.

Sometimes you stay up so late you find you need another bite of food to guarantee a restful night free of pangs. Just a small wedge of cheese with some crackers, you promise yourself. But you always slip in some dark chocolate chips because it feels good to eat in silence and without the constant inquiries about the contents of your mouth.

As the hour wanes, you check on your sleeping chicks one last time like a fussy mother hen. Tucking in blanket corners, adjusting fan speeds, kissing sweaty foreheads. You imagine there is nothing more peaceful than a slumbering child. “What do they fear?” , you wonder. “What ails them as they drift off?”

Finally, having exerted your last rites of creativity, savored the fruits of relaxation, and gathered your chicks beneath you, you, too, slip beneath the sheets.

It is there you soon discover your body is at rest but your mind isn’t. Your thoughts drift immediately to your phone. You linger over Instagram. You chase rabbit trail after rabbit trail. It doesn’t matter where you end up, you just enjoy the process of getting lost.

At last your eyelids have become heavy. The lights are out and you allow them at last to close. You have purposely drawn these last minutes out in the hopes that sleep will abide you quickly, but rarely does it. There are grocery lists to think through, imaginary meals to pack, clothes to pick out, and arbitrary fears to work through. Half of a mother’s work is done on her pillow at night.

As these lists are checked, you find your breathing at last to temper and you know sleep will be upon you soon.

But what’s that? You startle to a noise in the next room. Just a cough. Your eyes close again.

And then suddenly you start from the bed. It feels as if you were moving even before the sound pricked your ears. You are the only one who has heard it but no doubt there is a little voice crying for you. You rush before the little voice becomes large.

There, there. Little voice is soon quiet and you return to your bed to start the process over again.

But now your heart is racing and your breath is uneven. Your body is wired to do this. The thought of 3am used to make your stomach turn. Now it willingly, obediently rises at the midnight, 2, and 6am calls. It is in those desperate hours you feel the adrenaline coursing through you, propelling you forward because surely you don’t have any energy left in reserve.

This potent serum was a necessity at one time, but now, a year later, it is a curse. It will be another hour before you are fully asleep. That is, if you are not needed again. You are a mother now and this is your bedtime.

-smk