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Words

May 26th, 2009 by Joyce

Since they were old enough to listen, C&D have been learning the music of language, with all its rhythms and pitches and meanings and double meanings.  Some oranges are yellow.  Oranges yellow.  Yellow oranges.  What is difficult?  How long is twenty minutes?  What is late?

David, dallying past his bedtime sometime in April:  What is late?

Mommy:  Um, late is when the sky is very black.

David:  It’s not black, it’s brown!

And so it is most nights, as the city’s lights reflect on the clouds and haze above.

They need these words.  Words give C&D to power to ask questions, and even better, the power to form and define their own conclusions.

David:  The rain is the cloud’s peepee.

Carmen:  And the thunder is the cloud’s froggies.

Yeah, something like that.  “Froggies” are their word for um, flatulence.  They were three, I think, when they said that about the rain.  Maybe two.

Until very recently David had decided that after he is old, he will be a baby again.  Very Shakespeare.  Or Shirley MacLaine.  You were a beautiful baby, David.  And you are a beautiful boy.

But back to words.  I have in my black book a scrap of paper from Christmas. 

Carmen:  Hi, I’m Mary.  This is Baby Jesus.  Were you digging for gold?

Mommy, cleaning or something:  I was.  I am a wise man, and I’ll give you some later when I ride by on my camel.

Carmen:  He needs something special.  Like raisin cookies.

Mommy:  I don’t have any.

David:  How about ice cream?

Carmen:  Yes!

Mommy:  I’m sorry, I don’t have any.

David:  How about some peppermint?

Mommy:  I do have some peppermint.

Carmen:  Yes!

And then they went on with their evacuation to Egypt, or whatever it was they were doing. 

Last summer Carmen reported her leg hurt. It looked fine, and I wondered to Matt if she was already experiencing the kind of “growing pains” I felt as a kid.  One Saturday a couple of weeks later, at Maxine’s house, Carmen said her stomach hurt. Because she’s three I of course asked her if she needed to use the potty. “No,” she said, “it’s just rolling pins.”

Words are good for setting facts straight.  Carmen, to a little girl last summer:  “David is three, I am three, and Daddy,” she inserted a big sigh here, “is a LOT of years.”  Carmen couldn’t sleep in the bed one afternoon because “the bed was for Jesus.”  David, right before my birthday:  “. . . thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-five.”  And then he laughs.  “What’s after thirty-five?  That’s a BIG number!”

Thanks, kid.  I’ll make sure to not let you know when that happens.

Words have rhythm and pitch, like music.  Mo-o-o-meeeeeeee!  Cho-co-late.  Co-co-nut.  Bun-ny.  David especially will beat out the rhythm of his speech on the table, wall, floor, trash can. Mom-my.  Mom-my, two eighth notes.  Mom-my can-I have-a fork?  Three pairs of eighth notes, and a quarter at the end.

Words, their words, are full of movement and meaning and proof that they are thinking, learning, wondering people.  Full of wonder.  And after I thought about this in my bed while rising, after I had in my early-morning dreams laughing conversations with many of my friends, after I saw in my mirror David’s question about lateness written in a red marker above the sink, it only made sense that in looking for a Langston Hughes poem (Theme for English B), I find this, instead:

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Five movies

May 25th, 2009 by Joyce

I am already on my fifth movie of the day.  Some of them have been short, of course.

Yesterday I maybe did too much; in between lying around and watching movies I cleaned the bathroom, vacuumed, and tried to catch up on paperwork.  Overnight my fever returned with a vengeance, to 102*F.  This morning I resolved to do and think as little as possible.  What’s more mindless than sleeping and watching old movies?

I’m trying not to think of all the things I should or could be doing.  Maybe I should take a shower and find another movie. 

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Lemons out of lemonade

May 25th, 2009 by Joyce · 3 Comments

Pictures of making the best out of an off week.

The answer to David’s request:  “A soft excavator like my bunnies so I can sleep with it, because an excavator is my favorite tractor.”


And a butterfly for Carmen:

A train built (with some assistance) while waiting for Carmen to feel better:

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List

May 24th, 2009 by Joyce

After lying low, zoning out on old movies, and napping all day, I thought I had the worst of the Carmen flu licked.

Until a little while ago.

It’s awfully hard to get a good night’s sleep when you’re coughing your throat raw.  It’s even harder when your fever, just about gone all day, is back to a 101*F per C&D’s nifty ear thermometer.  Its measurements aren’t exactly the same as an oral thermometer, but it doesn’t matter–fever is fever. 

Good thing:

  • tomorrow is Memorial Day, and Matt is off for kid duty.  Today he made David a stuffed excavator, and Carmen a butterfly.  Per their instructions, of course, and with the fabric they chose themselves; then C&D stuffed their creations to their specifications.  Take that, Build-A-Bear Workshop.
  • the night has been unusually, delightfully quiet.  With the frogs and crickets and mourning dove nesting just outside my window, and the soft ceiling fan on my arms, I can almost pretend I am in the Big Thicket, sleeping in the cabin at Weird Woods.
  • some things are just a hop, skip, and a jump away; Matt and the babies walked to Whole Foods to buy me my favorite sore-throat tea.
  • I have a Netflix account.  When I’m sick like this, even reading (or typing) can be a strain.  Thankfully a good old movie is a few clicks away.  Tonight I will watch with one eye open, studying the clothes and shadows, and listening to Audrey Hepburn’s lovely purr of a voice.  The night I left the ICU at St. Luke’s after my AVM surgery, I remember staying up late with my mother, both restless from our own kinds of pain, and watching an old movie on the set in the hospital room.  I don’t remember what it was about, and I’m not entirely sure it was even in English.  But I remember the cars, and the silky sound of the actors’ voices.  Tonight when I am up feverish and coughing, and everyone is sleeping, and I don’t want my mind to wander off to uncomfortable places in the quiet, the old movies will hold my silly head in their laps until I am ready to sleep.

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First thought

May 23rd, 2009 by Joyce

A few weeks ago, right before bed, I logged into Facebook to browse through a friend’s photos.

I really don’t like using Facebook (for a variety of reasons that I won’t discuss here), but friends sometimes post their photos in their Facebook account and in order for me to view them I, too, must hold a page in this so-called book.

I looked at the photos and just as I was about to close my browser window, I realized I had received a message via the Facebook chat feature.  It was from my most important English professor.

In the spirit of this clever haiku, she asked, what could you come up with?

Haikus can be fun
But sometimes they don’t make sense
Refrigerators.

The letters on my screen had begun to blur long before, but no way could I sleep without completing my assignment.  I dashed off a response, and then another, and then another.

First thought:
Mommy I’m hungry.
Mommy help me wipe my butt.
Crap.  Five o’clock yet?

Nonsense haiku:
Blubba, flubba, spit.
Nonsense as I brush my teeth,
Jabberwocky talk.

One last:
Sleep deprivation
Makes everything seem funny.
Time to go to bed.

My haikus didn’t have the same surprise as the refrigerator haiku, but I still like the first best.  The haikus for today would be something like these below.

From this morning’s car ride:

Mommy!  I need snacks!
Mommy!  I need my water!
AN EXCAVATOR!!!

From later today, when I started to feel really, really yucky:

I have the (swine?) flu
Nice Carmen gave it to me
Someone is coughing.

After Carmen and David’s ear thermometer indicated a fever I drove to a small clinic in our Walgreen’s to get tested for H1N1/swine flu.  If I tested positive, I might be able to make my recovery a little easier and quicker with a course of Tamiflu.  After the chaos and sleeplessness of the past couple of weeks, I really feel like I need to catch a break.  The NP was very helpful and supportive but unfortunately, at the time of the visit my nose wasn’t runny enough for a reliable swab and test.  So, I’m just going to rest well, eat well, and spend a few days cloistered from the rest of society as my body fights this nasty little thing.  Carmen is much better after last week’s illness, but a less-than-productive cough still bothers her at night as she falls asleep.

I feel like my brain is made of porridge.  Time to go back to bed.

Edit, 24 May:  The brilliant thing about staying up late is that I can make the most amazing errors.  Late at night I am apparently unable to count syllables!  The last lines of the first thought and sleep deprivation haikus have had the extra syllables removed.

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It’s 2am,

May 11th, 2009 by Joyce

Do you know where your children are?

I know one is next to me here, wide awake and watching a DVD on mute.

Why?

The summer after Carmen turned one, I remember staying up late with her.  My mom happened to be at the house, so she was up late, too.  We took short shifts or kept each other company as we rocked Carmen, pottied her, sang to her, fed her snacks.  We took her outside, inside, outside, inside.  Finally in the kitchen at nearly 2am I held her away from my body and looked at her, all cheeks and light, downy tufts of Lyle Lovett hair, then asked in exasperation, “What?!???”

“What?” The little babe answered back, and then she blinked.

What?  Who knows. 

I snuggled with her on the couch and inserted a DVD–Rachel of Signing Time, we’ll love you forever–and Carmen watched the smiling faces and signing children until her eyes finally, slowly, dropped.

I see now that once in a blue moon Carmen has nights like this, although it’s been a long while since she’s been up so late.  When the late nights happen we notice that Carmen is suddenly different, restless from the vitality of new discoveries and ideas.  Tonight she wants to talk but I hush her, hoping that she will discover sleepiness from monotony of sitting in the dark at 2am watching, on mute, one of the more uninteresting DVDs in our collection.

Well over an hour into the experiment, she’s still awake.

It’s not that she isn’t tired; she is.  Lying in the bed, surrounded by darkness, she kicked her feet and cried out of frustration.  She scratched her mosquito bites and threw the blankets.  In the chair now, she holds a cup of warm tea while she slouches lower and lower.  “Can I watch another DVD?” she asks.

Sleep, baby, sleep. 

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It started with a picture

May 9th, 2009 by Joyce · 2 Comments

It started with a picture, cut and glued Wednesday morning.  David was so excited to see it that he could barely pay attention to our violin lesson. 

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By Thursday we HAD to go to the only known playground in the Houston metro area with an excavator in it.  So, even though Matt had just come from there, that evening after dinner Matt drove us all back to Sugar Land. 

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The playground had a train, too.  Of course.

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Suburban paradise!

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By Friday we needed excavator underwear, drawn to specs.  (A few days ago, for kicks I drew a steam locomotive on David’s underwear, complete with side bars, whistle, and bell.)  First I drew the template under direction on a piece of paper.  When I was done, David grabbed my pencil and drew in the smoke.  That part is apparently very important.  Then I drew the picture on some David-sized underwear with a permanent marker (NB, I should have used a real fabric marker or laundry marker, as the permanent marker bled a bit later).

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David found it satisfactory, and put it on right away.  (He has aimed to wear it every day since.)

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On Saturday morning, Carmen needed special underwear, too.

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Burned out from drawing heavy equipment, I also drew a longhorn and horse for balance.

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I had one more underwear left, and David requested a bulldozer.  It’s so easy to make him happy.

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Then after some consideration, Matt took David out to Northern Tools to buy their last sand excavator.  We thought it was well worth the $20 to not have to tell him multiple times a day no, we love you, but we are so NOT driving out to Sugar Land right now so you can dig and redig a bunch of pebbles, and well worth the $20 to not have to drive all the way out to suburban paradise every time David had the urge to dig (which this weekend is about every five minutes).

Carmen and David were very happy with the purchase, especially David.  He and Carmen took 10-minute turns digging up the mulch.  (That project in the background is the new playhouse and storage closet, a.k.a. David’s tractor garage.  A bigger garden is next.)

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I went back to work, and Matt started warming up dinner.  Carmen came downstairs to see me, and put her hands on her hips.  “Daddy says we can go to the beach now,” she said.

Oh, really?  Hrmm.  That didn’t sound like a half-bad plan.  I was tired from working, and needed to get out of the city a bit.  The beach after dinner is very pleasant, with the light pleasant and the breeze refreshing.  Plus I missed the spontaneous drives that Matt and I used to take before babies, before AVMs, before life got so serious.  I closed by book and ran upstairs.  “Let’s go!”

He was warming a big stack of tortillas on the stove.  “Carmen said you want to go the beach now?” he asked.   It was already late. 

“She said you said . . . “

“No.”

“Oh.”  I looked around.  “Well, let’s go, anyway.”

“We have to leave in ten minutes, then.”

And off we scrambled.  C&D put on their swimsuits.  David got so excited he put his legs through the arms of his and got stuck.  We threw the food in casserole dishes, loaded up and the back with the wagon and excavator, and zoomed south.

That is how we got to try out our excavator in the sand

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while Carmen and Matt took a dash for the water.

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We found hermit and sand crabs

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and played until the breeze died down, and the mosquitoes chased us away.

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Happy Mother’s Day.

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