Bath Paints, Two Ways

A tale of parallel universes.  Or, “On the Facebookification of Motherhood.”

Version One: Pinterest Super Mom.

With Day Light Savings time shortening our evenings, our days are cut short and so the kids and I aren’t able to have our evening adventures. Where we once enjoyed neighborhood strolls to check out neighbors’ Halloween decorations, or last minute jaunts to the playground to run off our energy the good old-fashioned way, now we have dark skies and limited options. It’s a cozy, but also somber time of the year.

Tonight, I wanted to do something special. Find a way to bring the outdoors in, and create a sensory experience we could all enjoy. Both of my little ones are getting over colds, so a long, warm bath seemed like a good plan. But how could I make it grand? I made a mental checklist of my well-stocked craft shelves, and pondered.

Bath paints! That was it. It was a project for which I had both easy components on hand: foamy shaving cream and liquid watercolors. And its set up would be almost as fun as playing with it in the bath, to boot. Edie, my four year old, clambered to help me mix the paints. With only a bit of supervision, she was able to squeeze out the liquid watercolor into the plastic bowl of shaving cream and then stir it up. She watched as the color turn from white, to psychedelic, and finally to a solid and vibrant shade. We made four colors in all.

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Our Paint Station

We then took our wares to the big bathtub, where dad and baby brother, Eli, were waiting. Then, the kids each got a “palette” and they set to work! They painted the tub walls, themselves, and of course, each other too. We played until the paints ran out, and then turned it into dishwashing fun. I piled all the dishes and spoons we’d gotten dirty, along with a couple clean rags, and they rubbed and scrubbed, much to their delight. After a quick rinse, they were both ready to get out.

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Loving it!

Even a quiet Friday night at home, where everyone gets to bed on time, can be an event to remember!

Story 2: Straight Talk.

Thanks to Day Light Savings time, I no longer stuff my gremlins into the stroller for a walk pre-dinner, to get some fresh air, exercise, and sweet sweet peace. That 5 p.m. hour is no joke, and being trapped in the house with them then can be harrowing. It’s the time of day they start their tortured dance of staying up in each other’s business until one of them snaps, and smacks the other in the face. And repeat. The screaming would be sad if it wasn’t so utterly unnecessary, essentially, self-inflicted.

Tonight, all screen time limits were off because I have a raging head cold that one of them bestowed upon me through some fateful and unbidden exchange of bodily fluid. Have you ever had a little kid ask to tell you a secret, and then when you are one millimeter from their face, they sneeze into all of your head’s orifices? It’s unpleasant, but super efficient, if you are a virus. More so, though, because Will and I had an architect over today to discuss plans for potentially adding onto our house. The central goal of this project, by the way, which, if it indeed comes to fruition, will involve ripping off the roof, is motivated primarily from my desire to sleep much further away from my children than I currently do. So, in short, Frozen was playing from 4 to 5 pm so that we could talk to an adult in our own home.

Then we ate really early since both parents were actually home at 5 pm for once. The kids each only hated part of the meal. Plus nobody cried. Or, if they did, I blocked it out. Success! Edie wanted a piece of Halloween candy, so they each got a mini bag of m&ms after managing not to gag through dinner. Job well done, entitled little American babies. I tried to show them that the proper way to eat m&ms is to make a bar graph with your colors to assess what you’re working with. Apparently this is a personal idiosyncrasy because my husband seemed alarmed, and the children were entirely unimpressed.

After no one wanted to graph candy with me, I got to thinking. It’s really early still. And they really haven’t done much this afternoon.   What if … what if they won’t go to sleep? Will kept chanting “Time for a bath!” to two uninterested children because he is nothing if not stubbornly optimistic that he can make bedtime happen if he wants it bad enough.

As I am the real brains and inspiration behind this family, I knew it was up to me to take charge. The kids were antsy, and I felt a little bad about their lame afternoon. In order to bridge the gap between a single minded husband who was stuck on repeat with this whole take a bath thing, and two kids who were bored, I thought of bath paints. It was not divine inspiration. It’s something I’ve done before for rainy day playtime, with varying success. I went through a period of compulsively buying art supplies, books, educational toys, all as some kind of therapy where I could tell myself, as I filled that Amazon cart or basket at Michael’s, that this would be the key to ending nonstop sibling infighting. End result being, I have a lot to work with.

Edie yelled after me and spastically demanded to help. I’d planned to make them myself, but, sure, actually this seemed like it would be a good project for her. So I let her climb up and participate. I did not let her dispense the shaving cream, because it actually requires a bit of finesse to do it right, and it was a hail storm of anger last time I let her try. I did let her squeeze the liquid watercolors. Until her impulse control got the best of her and then she was banned. We had a good three minutes in there.

After we got them in the bath, they were legitimately excited. It was cute. And they had a lot of fun. In between begging Eli not to eat it, and trying to convince Edie to just, please, take our word for it that she would regret getting shaving cream in her eye. The bath water actually got monumentally gross looking pretty fast. But they didn’t seem to mind. So we let them play in their grey bath for sometime. And when everyone had a meltdown about their paint running out, I dumped all the dishes on them to change the conversation. Win-win.

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“I can eat it, the bath paints?”

After I had my little Cinderellas scrub the tub, I was relieved to see that the liquid watercolors did not stain the children or the grout. I should’ve really confirmed this beforehand.

And now my pretties are sleeping, and I am on my fourth cup of tea due to what I am sure is the common cold, and definitely not Ebola.

The End.

Today’s Lesson in Zen

If you ever get the chance, eat lunch with your two year old outside, in the warm breeze. Split a delicious egg and biscuit sandwich with him.   And even though you already finished your piece of the egg sandwich while he is talking half-intelligibly about something or another, letting his portion just get colder and colder, do not, even once, tell him to hurry up and eat. Because there is no hurry. Let him listen to the birds, sing to himself, and ask you if you drive your car and if your coat is soft, and crumble leaves in his small hand. Take deep breaths and allow him to take his time. Eventually, he will finish. And the effects of slowing down will stay with you.

At least until you shove the rest of his egg sandwich into your mouth.

Rachael’s Truth Bombs

Today is day four of my promise to self to write every day for the remainder of the month. Not surprisingly, my well is a little dry, and it’s a lot late, and I just ate dinner with friends who make a mean margarita.

And so, here are some very subjective truths, or, perhaps more aptly, random thoughts and opinions on my life.

  1. Dance parties are the worst. Why do all of these mom blogs tell me to “STOP! And have a dance party!” with my kids? They claim it get their energy out while putting a smile on our faces, and thereby restore all harmony to the house. I’m not a monster. I do like music, and I like dancing. So I have tried this. Here are a few representative results. I dance enthusiastically, and both children beg for me to pick them up and dance with them. They weigh, collectively, 80 lbs. I can rotate them for about four minutes and then I give up. Which brings me to scenario two. They both cry. Maybe because I don’t pick them up. Maybe because they hate the song. Maybe because they hate my dancing. All of these have been scream sobbed at me in the past. A third and also common response is to stare at me like I am a mad person, and that they are entirely proper little children who wouldn’t dream of spazzing out to Top 40 hits. Edie once looked at me during one of my dance attempts with a mix of embarrassment and revulsion, and said “Mom. Do you have to go to the bathroom? … Because it looks like you have to go to the bathroom.” Dance parties for the pffffffffttt.
  1. Frozen isn’t great. It isn’t terrible either. I don’t love Disney movies. I attribute that to a couple things to this. First, I wasn’t raised on Disney. Disney to me reminds me of babysitting or hanging out with my nieces. It’s not nostalgic for me personally. And then there’s the whole I don’t like their messages. And I really, really don’t like the consumerism.   This, I know, is all a totally killjoy way to be. I don’t preach on it. Have your fun. Enjoy your Disney. Vaya con Dios, man. I’m all for finding your bliss. But it ain’t my bag, so forgive if I politely ask you to stop telling me what I MUST watch. That said: Frozen. I don’t think the music is as catchy as the Little Mermaid. I still think there is troubling gender representation. But it’s a big improvement. And my kids love it. And I can’t even tell you how my heart explodes hearing them sing “Let it Go” together.
  1. Last weekend I threw out Eli’s umbilical cord, because what exactly am I supposed to do with it anyways? That’s more or less all I have to say on this. I was organizing. Came across a bag in which his dried and packaged umbilical cord had been preserved for me, not at my request. I finally just admitted that I did not want this. And I tossed it. Sayonara, Cordy.
  1. Working ladies, there is no reason to deal with waistbands any more. I have discovered, to my absolute delight, that since my last time in the work world, clothing makers have made huge strides in comfortable business casual. Namely: dress pants with elastic waists. They feel so. damn. good. Nearly like yoga pants. But they’re dress pants all right. And I dare anyone to tell me otherwise. There is just no reason to wear pinchy or inflexible pantwear, women. Get thee down to a Nordstrom Rack or a Ross Dress for Less, and do it right.
  1. My kids gross me out. I can withstand a lot of ick from my kids. But that doesn’t mean their snot glitters for me, or their rank diapers hit my nose like so much fresh dew. Kids are gross. I get it. Part of it is just a baseline shift. You get used to it. And a lot of it is deliberate behavior to not body shame your kid. That’s important. But once in awhile, you’ve just got to say “No you cannot use my water bottle. Because you are a horrible backwasher. And I am a human being, so I don’t like that.”

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Good night!  From the #nofilter face of tequila-induced writer’s block.

It’s Complicated

Two separate sets of midwives, on two different continents no less, have told me upon the arrival of each of my children that I make a fine broodmare. In other words, I’m built to birth babies. One said that I must be born of “good European peasant stock.” Which is a direct quote. It’s something you don’t forget, especially when it’s eerily accurate from a genealogical perspective, given my Icelandic roots. (As an aside, true story: after both births, I was highly praised on my placenta. One said it should be in a text book.) And so it is. That’s my gift, and it’s a great one. But after the whole unmedicated childbirth feat of strength? Like, the child rearing part? My peasant ancestors left me with nada. But I’m trying.

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Four hours old.  I did good that day.

Edie is my first-born. My four year old. And today was her first parent teacher conference. It went well. Her teacher gets her. She told me not to take offense, but “your daughter is complicated.” Well said, lady. Edie’s teacher also remarked that one doesn’t need to wonder what Edie will be like when she’s an adult, because she already acts like one in so many ways. Equally astute.

But, I should clarify. She’s not an adult in the impulse-control sense. In the voice-modulation sense. Or in the knowing her audience sense, which means I hear just as many fart and poop jokes as any other parent. And so she screams and hits and generally freaks out, just like most kids her age. All from my mini grown up.

The thing that I think her teacher is getting at is Edie’s apparent discomfort in being a kid. There are times when her adult-nature is lovely. She’s a fabulous conversationalist. She loves to help around the house, and to tend to babies. But, that’s all assuming you can do things on four year old time, and that she has the capabilities to satisfactorily or at least safely do what she is trying to do. And that’s the catch. There are a whole lot of things a bitty kid just can’t do.

For instance. Back in 2012, I’m me, but super pregnant with my second kid me. I am home with Edie full time, and when I need to go far away, I need Edie in her car seat. She is less than 2 ½. I know this because of the pregnant thing. Edie asks one day if she can drive. I gently decline. She loses her mind. And we have weeks of her clammering to the steering wheel every time her waddling mom goes toward the car, apparently banking on my laziness for her success. “Well… I didn’t want her to drive… But she’s already there…” Finally one day, I wrestle her into her seat and she screams and kicks and implores me, WHYYYY can’t she drive? I told her that it’s the law.   You have to be sixteen years old before you can drive. So, for the next several months, any time someone says “And how old are you, little girl?” my smug little daughter states, in her baby voice “SIXTEEN.”

When she was an infant, I believe about four months old, my blunt and not-so-snuggly German pediatrician informed me that “Your daughter… she does not know how to turn off.” I got his point, as my 8 pound daughter stared wide-eyed and wild, seemingly unable not to follow every shape and sound with her head. Until then, I didn’t really grasp that her manner was anything unique. But that’s how she’s remained. Hyper alert, breathing in every person, every interaction, every sensation around her. It’s kind of a lot.

The other day she accidentally saw roughly three minutes of NCIS or Law and Order, or something of that ilk. Will, my husband, had taken the kids to get take out and there was a TV mounted on the ceiling that apparently she noticed, though Will can’t recall. I’m pretty sure she did, though, because that brief encounter with a show she’d never seen on a TV placed feet and feet above her, inside a bustling restaurant, led her to come home, crumble into my arms and tell me that she just “saw the police and they were beating everybody and killing them with guns! Why would they do that, mommy?” She was shaken badly and maybe a teeny bit traumatized. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about, and I had several questions for Will. There’s just no sparing that kid trauma, though. She’s still that four month old, head whipping around, trying to make sense of absolutely everything. But nowadays, she lets so much get to her heart, too.

That’s our Edie. She wants to skip ahead so badly. “Mom, when I’m a grown up, can we drink wine, eat salads, and chit chat?” “Mom, why do I have to wait to have a baby?” “Mom, I just wish I was you. I wish we were twins and I could always be with you and do everything you do.” I know, Edie Beans. I know. Will and I were laughing tonight because Edie is in piano classes these days. They are group lessons, and they learn a lot, but it’s light-hearted, with signing, and movement. Edie has taken to eschewing practicing finding where the different keys on a piano are, instead preferring to use her piano practice time to compose her own songs. Of course, she wants to move past the learning, the memorizing, the playing, and go straight to conducting her own works. Just like she adores writing, but has many times threatened that she will never learn her lower case letters, because she just wants to write cursive like me.   From A straight to Z. Always.

Not anything we can do to change her, and we don’t try. Her temper is fierce, and we have to take measures to protect her brother now and again. Our motto is to work within her parameters when possible, and don’t give into the drama when it’s not. A lofty goal that we achieve some days more than others. But, as Edie said to me the other day, as I was mumbling about people parking badly which was making it hard to drive down the street:

“Mom, life is life. Sometimes, people just do stuff.”

There you go. She’s already skipped past college and self-help books all the way to spouting watered-down appropriations of Buddhist wisdom. Life is life, indeed.

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Dishing on her classmates.  Oh I know exactly who had to go to time out, everyday.

How’s Work?

It’s the question du jour! After a nearly five year hiatus from real office work, I got back at it this fall. I did it because I wanted to. Which is just a massive privilege that I know I can’t begin to appreciate. But though it was of my own volition, it wasn’t something I was 100% certain would go well. I had this gut feeling, basically, that it was time to shake things up. And if I was going to hate it, I wanted to get hating it out of the way and then see where my road led.

In any given week for the past year, my daydreams of the future have vacillated wildly. I have envisioned myself a full time homeschooler. A house full of kids who learn because they just love life. And that vision is beautiful. But it contradicts with my “yellow wallpaper” side; i.e. the part of me that is bored and frustrated and feels like the walls are caving in. So maybe I can work to pay for a private school, one that will give them all that hippie-dippy freedom, but not require a fount of patience that I have not yet discovered within me. Then there’s me the would-be but never-truly-has-been community activist, all helping better our schools and immersing my kids in the true community around us, and not the lovely but hyper protective bubble they generally stay within. And I like all of these visions, to a degree. Their common thread, which I am noticing with some small horror, is that they are all driven by what I want for my kids. Not for me.

I don’t know exactly what I want for me. But I don’t do well at sitting around, ruminating. I mean, I love to ruminate. Just while running around, making rash life decisions. Like going to law school. Or getting married at 23. (Whoops, did I say that?) The latter has worked out well. The former, so far, has been more about loans than legal practice. The law school part I liked. It was so challenging and stimulating. I learned a lot. But the what to do with it, I’ve never really nailed that down.

So, anyways, I just decided to look for a job. Because I had a nagging sense that I needed to try. Even if the end was a failure, it was something. And I had many visions of failing, to be sure. Hot of the heels of failing at a home business, plus having failed at getting a job back in 2009 when we lived in California, in conjunction with daily mini-failures as a parent, I view myself as nothing if not so, so fallible.

What was the question? Oh, I was saying how work is. Well, it’s a contract position, meaning not permanent. The work is nit picky and pretty dry. I don’t envision doing it as all of my job forever and ever. But. It’s great! I really mean it! And a big part of great about it is that it is mine. It is about me, and my skills, my concentration, taking on projects and seeing them through to completion.  I didn’t quite predict how much the experience of just going to an office would be cathartic. Historically, offices were not my jam.  But where the quiet and often serious atmosphere once spooked me, now it’s this balance that is helping me with my home life too, as my home life has all the drama and intrigue I need and then some.

Sure, things are crazier at home right now. Without a doubt. And fixing that will require letting go. Meals will be simpler. Farewell to playdates for now. My to-do list will have to shrink. Aspirations for an all pinterest holiday season are fading away. In my experience as a wretched control freak/perfectionist, though, once my temper tantrum is over, letting go is amazing. I am a pretty intense person. Like, really. I am hyper and emotional, idealistic and obsessed with authenticity. I am, basically, the worst. But I’ve got to give myself a bit of credit. Because going back to work has shown me that I have grown up by a good measure since those pre-kid days. Expectations have lowered, and contentment has increased. I still don’t know what the years will bring, but I feel calmer. (Not at 7:55am when it’s time to leave for school and work, and I just want everyone to GET YOUR SHOES ON BEFORE I LOSE MY MIND, but, you know, calmer on average).

Basically, this endeavor turned out to be mostly for me. It’s not merely a vehicle to impose a perfect childhood on the kids. I’m actually liking it for me. I reserve the right to completely change my mind. For now, I’m pretty good.

So, right now, I am learning to stop planning my life in order to attempt to plan theirs. A fool’s errand, in any case, to think my efforts will make or break them, or that I have the key to unlock their happiness. But I am a fool. And you know what I never expected? My kid, my four year old, who broke me in as a mom and nearly broke me on the whole, she is so dang proud of me these days. That wasn’t even in the master plan.

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Our Little Wonder

Spending any amount of time looking up “doll hospitals” is an odd experience. Because you will find information. And it will be from people for whom gussying up ghastly dolls is a passion. Then you will realize that, in desiring of their services, you are looking to get into their circle. When you post to a local moms group, asking for feedback on a local doll hospital, because no online reviews exist, and then you are met with deafening silence, you may wonder if you should not have outed your dark needs. If nary even a Yelper dare speak of such a thing, should you really knock on its door? Because you are a licensed attorney, and you are creating an electronic record of madness which is not so good for your livelihood.   That is, in any case, my anecdotal experience with it.

So why go through this hassle and potential future as a social pariah? Because:  Caitlin. Or, Katelyn. I’ve never really written it out. She is a somewhere around fifty year old Madame Alexander doll, having belonged to my daughter’s great aunt. Caitlin was named by Edie, my four year old daughter. This doll is beloved, cared for, moved about the house. And, she. is. terrifying.

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“Oh.  Hello, there. I am Caitlin.  And I have seen so, so many things….”

I am currently looking to give Caitlin a bit of a makeover, such that she haunts my dreams a bit less. Also because my husband is a good father and partner, and if Caitlin seems to appear out the ether next to him on the couch once more in her current state, we may lose him for a time. That would be sad and inconvenient. And if Edie can style her hair, that would be a big bonus.

Wish list includes:

  1. New hair that is soft and brushable, and lacks bald spots and/or plastic protrusions that give the appearance of being somewhat mangled, in perhaps a combine accident;
  2. Clean-up discolorations and reapply nail polish to chipped finger and toe nail beds, so as to liven her complexion and reduce the impression that she has crawled forth from a grave;
  3. Reinforce limbs, since they are half a century old yet played with in a new world manner, and also because if I find one of her arms or legs poking out from under my couch, I will cry a million tears of fright; and,
  4. Lastly, dip in holy water and screen for need of an excorcism. Conduct if necessary.

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“Sleep tight.  I will see you soon.  Sooner than you’d like, in fact. Tee hee!”

Ah, but even so. We love this creep-tastic doll. Insofar as I love how Edie loves her. And I want her to last. Plus, she’s a family relic, which is special. And I like the idea of taking care of what we have instead of buying something new. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and the greatest of these is reuse! No, wait. The greatest is reduce. Well. Mine’s a close second.

The question remains as to how I get Caitlin out of the house for her rehabilitation, as I would like her reveal to be a Christmas surprise. I don’t think “Santa took Caitlin” would go over well, since Edie refers to her dolls as her “children.” The story of Santa Claus: Kidnapper seems like a real buzzkill. I will have to brainstorm about that. If, in fact, I ever manage to get to the inner circle of those who stare into the eyes of broken dolls, and hum to themselves, in a minor key, while they Dr. Frankenstein their little monsters back to life.

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I must gird my loins.  For this is the coven whose expertise I seek.