Thursday, March 28, 2013

Half Naked Family Yoga

It was snowing.  Again.  By the time I got over my guilt of taking them to the gym, I realized we wouldn’t be going anywhere, not while the snow was getting thick, not while schools were closing, not while my car was making that noise.

So, while we were shoveling in our French Toast, Finny asked, “What are we doing today?”  The usual question for his tour guide.

 “After breakfast, we’re going to do yoga in the family room.  I have a DVD we’re gonna put in.”

 “What’s yoga?”

 “It’s exercise.  It’ll make us stronger.”

 “Okay!”  He got excited.

 I picked up the toys, moved the coffee table off the rug, took off my socks.

 “Why are you taking off your socks?”

 “It’s easier to do yoga that way.”  Finny took off his.

 And then we waited for Rodney Yee, our Power Yoga teacher to appear on the screen.  And suddenly, there he was, looking serene, strong, vibrant, standing in mountain pose on his mat perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean.  Where was he?  Hawaii?  St. Lucia?  Curse you, Rodney Yee.

 “Why is he all alone like that on that cliff?  Isn’t he scared?  A lion could get him.”

 We moved into forward bend.

 For a second, I imagined that, what an unexpected twist it would be if Rodney Yee suddenly got mauled by a lion while balancing in tree pose and they decided to go ahead and market and sell the disc anyway.  I smiled.

 “Finny, he’s not alone.  There’s a camera crew with him videotaping.”

 “Where are they?”

 “Well, you can’t see them because they’re behind the camera.”

 We moved back into mountain pose.

 His long, black hair was styled in a neat French braid.

 “Is he a boy or a girl?” Finny asked.

 “A boy,” I said, “He just has long hair.”

 Back to forward bend.  Inhale.  Exhale.

 He was shirtless, wearing only a pair of tight blue biker shorts, for emphasis, you know, during bridge pose, when the thrusting begins.

 “Why is he naked?”  Finny asked.

 “Well, he has shorts on,” I said, “I think he wants to show us how strong his muscles are.”

 “Oh, well I can do that.”  Finny began stripping down.  All the way.

 “Leave your undies on, Finn.” 

Charlie followed suit.  Zipping down his fleece footy pajamas and asking for help when he couldn’t tug them off his feet.

We moved into down-dog, three out of the four of us now shirtless.

Charlie was beside me, inverted in a two-year-old down-dog.  “I Silly Sally,” he said.  (Silly Sally went to town walking backwards upside down—our new favorite library book by Audrey Wood.)

“Do I have to do everything he tells me to do?” Finn asked, “Why are you doing everything he tells you to do?”

“Because he’s the teacher.  He’s teaching us how to get stronger.”

“Oh, well I just want to dance.  Can we do the Wii?”

“I want do Michael Jackson,” Silly Sally chimed in.

“I need a boo-boo brick.  Come on, Charlie.”  They retrieved ice packs from the freezer, needing a cool down after two poses.  I continued in Warrior One, Warrior Two, Down Dog, Up dog, Triangle pose, while they swirled around me, jumping off the couches, hurling stuffed animals. 

It was when I was laying on my back about to move into back bend that I saw the ice packs in their hands raised above their heads.  They were standing above me on the couch, in their underwear, ready to hurl frozen ice at me.  It was then, when the final scenes of Lord of the Flies flashed before my eyes, that I decided to wrench myself away from Rodney Yee’s island paradise and parent again.

“Whoa!  Whoa!  Do NOT throw those ice packs.  You could hurt me.  Get down.”

“I pooping,” Charlie grunted, gripping the couch. 

“Of course you are,” I said and closed my eyes.

“Why are you closing your eyes?” Finny asked.

“I’m relaxing,” I whispered.

“Why?” Finny whispered back.

“Because he’s telling me to.”

“You don’t have to do everything he tells you to do,” Finny responded, still suspicious of Rodney Yee’s dictatorial air.

“I want to relax, Finny.  Want to lay down and do it with me?”

“No.  I’m taking my little sister to ballerina class.  Come on, Charlie!”

“Yah,” said Charlie, eager to play whatever role Finny casts him in. 

The DVD ended and Finny’s little sister needed a diaper change, so I stood up, in a jolt, not at all emanating the peaceful, one-with-the-earth air that one is supposed to emanate after Savasana relaxation.

“Do you feel stronger, Mommy?”

“I do.”

“Can I see your muscles?”

 I gave him my best body builder flex.

“Oh, yeah, I feel stronger too.  See!”  And he showed me his skinny little arms while squinching up his face and growling with an intensity that made his face turn red.

“Oh, you look very strong!”  I said.  “You too, Silly Sally.”

“Let’s do yoga again sometime, Mommy!”

“Ok, Finn.  Any time.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Gym Guilt

I think about Pioneer Women a lot.  And Indian squaws.  Sometimes I go back to the dark ages when streets weren't paved and forty was considered elderly.  I think about how cold and dark and bare things were.  I think about the lack of modern day conveniences—no electricity, no cars, no phone, no hot water.

And then I think about their children.  Their children who started working as soon as their legs and arms and minds would let them.  Their children who did not have Ikea floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with baskets of plastic playthings.  Their children who did not wake up to sit on the couch and watch Penguins of Madagascar, but instead woke up to get dressed, eat a piece of untoasted bread, and then head out to the fields with their dads to plow or shuck or haul or feed something.

I think about these women and their children when I’m overcome with guilt about dropping my kids off at the gym child care so I can go to a yoga class and take a shower for an hour and a half.  “The gym is boring,” Finny whines.  “I no lika gym,” Charlie pouts from the backseat as he sees the parking lot approach.  Can I really do this? I wonder.  Shouldn't I be taking them to the Mall of America or the indoor playground or the Children’s Museum?  Shouldn't I have scheduled a play date?  Is this really fair to them to drop them off in this play room so that I can get some exercise?

And then I conjure up an image of a four-year-old climbing out of a tee-pee to get his breakfast going or a farm child getting up with the rooster to go feed the chickens or a puritan kid who was not allowed to play or talk or smile.  And the guilt dissipates.  I no lika gym!  Ha!  Charlie, you could be hauling buckets of water from the well in your thin-as-paper shoes, buddy.  You could be scrubbing down pig troughs.  You could be hosing the manure out of the barn.  The gym play room is heaven on earth.  You have no idea.

I use the same technique when I see Charlie eat a dropped Goldfish cracker off the grocery store floor.  I shiver a little bit and then conjure up the dark ages.  He hasn't died of the black plague yet, but he may have gotten diarrhea from the gym child care.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Dusty, Old Blog

As I clear away some of the cobwebs, I can start to see this old blog again.  If I take out my oil can and give it a few pumps, I may be able to get it to move and bend some of its rusty joints.  I started this blog when Finny was ten months old as a gift to him and a gift to myself, a way to process the miracle that was unfolding, a way to connect with other mothers, a way to share the most challenging, most rewarding experience of my life.  There were times when I’d blog daily, more often I’d try for weekly, and lately I’m lucky if I get a chance to sit down and slow down long enough to write something once a month.

A funny thing is happening to me and my boys—they’re growing and I can’t keep up.  As they’re mother, I’m also their historian:  the keeper of the finger-paintings, the camerawoman, the videographer, and the record-keeper all in one.   I have taken thousands of pictures of them, but I haven’t printed a single one from last year.  With a 35 mm, I used to have fewer pictures and some of them captured blurry faces, red eyes, and a blink or two, but after I took 24, there was the guarantee that I could drop them off at Walgreens and pick them up in an hour.  Now I have thousands of digital pictures that require cropping and editing, uploading and ordering and so I share them in an instant on the World Wide Web, but they never make it into an album that Charlie can paw through with his sticky fingers.  I have lost wonderful videos that I never took the time to properly store and organize on the PC.  And this blog, well this blog has become a list in my head of things I’d love to write down, if only I could muster the time and energy to do it.

But I have to cut myself a little slack because the only reason us mamas get so behind in keeping up with the past, is that we’re so completely immersed in the present.  There are mouths to feed, bottoms to wipe, batteries to replace, books to tape, clothes to fold, and bonked heads to kiss.  There are pictures to color, play dough to roll, grilled cheese sandwiches to grill, bellies to tickle, and a dishwasher that always, always needs to be emptied…again.

And the nap, it’s vanishing before my very eyes.  The nap and I have had a good run.  I recall certain days when Finny the baby would nap for up to five hours, and in the past couple weeks there have been days when I could still get three hours out of Finny the four-year-old.  But he’s too old for that now.  A three-hour-nap often means a 10:30 p.m. bedtime, and the past couple days there has been no nap at all, just quiet play time, which generally lasts about an hour.

And that’s just Finny.  Now that Charlie’s in his toddler bed, he performs circus acts in his room unless I go in and pin him to the bed while I fall asleep on his rug. 

And after all that, there’s just about enough time to respond to a couple emails and pay a bill or two.  But to compose a blog entry, to process the big picture?  That’s a luxury of a bygone day. 

So, here’s my chance.  Aunt Celeste is keeping an eye out, so I can sip some coffee and eat a muffin, while I try to conjure all the joy and wonder that is right now.  Here’s a small piece of our big picture:

Charlie, you run through the house in your PJs and rain boots wagging your strawberry curls.  You smile at us with big teeth and say, “I gonna getchoo!” and then you dive head first into the couch cushions and wait, giggling.  I want to swallow you whole and then lick my fingers after. 

Finny, last night while I was doing the dishes, you suddenly dashed into the kitchen wearing only your undies and snow boots.  You wrapped your arms around my legs and kissed my thigh, and then you ran away again.  You told Daddy and I we’ll be your valentines forever.  We know these are the inexperienced promises of a four-year-old.  We grip them tight and stuff them in our pockets.  We’re holding onto them for a rainy day ten years from now when you hate our guts.

Charlie, when I ask you if you love me, you smile and say, “No, I love Daddy,” and when I ask you again, you say, “No, I love Finny.”  At Target last week, you taunted me from the cart, saying “Ah, come on, Man!  Come on, Mommy!” to the great delight of the other shoppers.  You were incognito in your superhero cape with Daddy’s old Notre Dame golf hat falling over your eyes.  You were hassling me about riding the escalator and pushing the triangle on the elevator.

Finny, at four-years-old, you still run from me any chance you get.  I have to wrestle you to the ground to get you dressed everyday and I have to bribe you with Flintstone vitamins to put your coat on in the morning.  If Charlie is doing something he shouldn’t like unroll all the toilet paper from the roll or throw markers all over the floor, you don’t stop and redirect him.  You throw your head back and laugh.  And then you join right in.

Charlie, you have a mild obsession with the “Mumber 2” which is in more places than I ever would have realized without you in my back seat wherever I go.  “I see Mumber Two, Mo-mmy!  I see Mumber Two!”

You know where every handicap accessible doorway button is around town.  You call it “the bwue button” and you put in your request to press it before I even put the car in park.  “I press bwue button, Mo-mmy!  I press bwue button!”  You also repeat everything you say at least twice until someone repeats it back to you, “You wanna press the button, Charlie?”  If I repeat it back to you, you say, “No, I telling Grandma” or “No, I telling Daddy.”  Fine, then.  I’ll assume you’re telling Grandma when you want me to pick up your dropped graham cracker, toy car, sunglasses or water bottle from the backseat.

Finny, you are pointing out rhymes and patterns and pulleys everywhere we go.  And you memorize lines from movies and repeat them at the most unexpected times.  You’re latest is “Yeah, Baby!” and we’re all wondering when you saw Austin Powers.

Charlie, you hide in my leg when we’re meeting new people and if I try to take off your boots, open the door or hang up your coat, you scowl and say, “No, I do it myself!”

Finny, you make friends with the monkey bars if there are no kids at the park and if I try to ask you to do something for yourself, you change the subject and tell me I am supposed to be Kitty Softpaws or you kick and scream until I do it for you.  This week, I have been everything from a baby lion, to Gertie from ET, to Dorothy, to Superman’s mommy.  Yesterday, you were Zoltra-Zon, a superhero of your own creation who can turn into any animal or sea creature he wants, and Charlie was Zoni, Zotra-Zon’s sidekick.  You pulled Charlie around the house and he bobbed his head and followed, just happy to be beside you.

We are busy now.  We are tired.  Daddy and I are always looking for more time to ourselves and with each other, and we are behind in all the things we need to do, meant to get to, wanted to organize, figure out, clean up.

But we delight in you.  Four and two.  Destructive, but funny.  Annoying but precious.  We’re exhausted but still talk about maybe…maybe…just one more.  This can’t be over yet, our little lovers.  When we get enough rest to enjoy you, we actually start to remember that we’re really glad we had you.

And if I don’t get much time to write it all down these days, I’ll just have to scoop you up and tell you right there in the moment.  And I hope that even though you likely will not remember our days together at four and two, you will still have this overwhelming sense that you were loved...


by your mommy and daddy,

who are incredibly tired

and unbelievably blessed.