Wednesday, August 29, 2012

QT with cutie

It's 9:30 pm. Zippy is sitting up in his bed, "reading" loudly to his blankie and assorted Hotwheels cars. He refuses to lie down, and he refuses to be quiet. He's punishing me, you see, because I did not read a book to him tonight; this was his consequence for continually throwing cups of water at me during his bath, despite me telling him to stop. This happens often. At least the me telling him to stop part. And the him just doing whatever it is anyway part. (Usually doing whatever it is at full speed and without a care in the world for his own safety. I mean, he's two, after all. Safety-schmafety.) And the ineffectual consequences happen often, too, mostly, I think, because he's smarter than me.

The kid frustrates me to no end. And he wears me out. But I can't stop giggling at him. In general, even when he's being a super-fresh-freshie, even when he's throwing food at me or climbing the retaining wall and leaping onto his face or chasing the cat under the car in the neighbors' driveway, even at my most exasperated, I just can't help but giggle. Look at this face, the mischief in those eyes: How can I not giggle?

This week I'm home with the Zipster. His daycare is closed, so I took a week's vacation to spend time with him, a rare chance to be one-on-one with my littlest monkey. Most weeks we spend our time schlepping back and forth in the car; most evenings I keep telling him to find a toy so I can make dinner or help Happy with homework or weed the garden or clean up. But not this week. This week we're playing in the yard, taking walks looking for squirrels, exploring fairy gardens at Winterthur, reading lots and lots of books, and eating drippy nectarines and goopy ice cream on the deck. We're riding the escalators and throwing pennies in the fountains at the mall, testing all the display beds and couches in department stores, and laughing our fool heads off at our reflections in the mirrored ceiling.

And every day we're taking naps. Together in the sunlight that pours through the window onto the bed. We read a book, and we stretch out with the cats -- him with his binky, me with my book -- and we rest.

"I run, Mommy, I run!" is his motto.
This child is a bundle of energy -- and because of that, I often feel like I'm a bundle of raw nerve endings. I don't have many photos of him that aren't blurry; he never stops moving long enough for the lens to focus. He's smart as the dickens, recognizing letters and numbers and words on signs already -- and he's fiercely independent. He doesn't like to hold my hand when we walk, but he struts confidently a step ahead of me (when he's not running away from me, that is). He's covered in scrapes and bruises and scars. We joke that we can't call it a day until Zippy falls on his head...but really, it's true, and it terrifies me; he falls on his head or face at least once a day, and I'm constantly reminded how fragile he is, how easily he could be taken from me.

Today I watched him play with his big brother and some friends on our street. I saw the little boy he is becoming, as he chased the older kids fearlessly -- no longer the baby or toddler, but a full-fledged boy's boy, laughing and screeching and rolling in the grass. He is happy-go-lucky like his brother, but edgier, maybe a little old-soul wiser, too.
I love, love, love this boy.

I'm so grateful for this week, this chance to hang out with this little imp, to see the world through his gorgeous blue eyes, to smell his sweaty, puppy-dog, outdoorsy hair while we nap. I'm certainly sleeping well at night, after running after him all day. Which reminds me, I should go to bed now...right after I tell him for the last time to stop chattering and go to sleep!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Uglies

I think to the rest of the world, I seem like a pretty pulled-together, confident thirtysomething-year-old woman. I dress neatly, I stand up straight, I smile at strangers, I joke with friends. I make it to appointments on time (mostly), I pay bills on time (mostly), I feed my children fruit or vegetables and dairy at every meal, and my cats are (finally) up-to-date on their shots. I work all day, race home to collect my children, and cook a real meal every single evening. I go to church regularly. I volunteer with the PTA. I take my children to the library weekly. We walk around the neighborhood, looking all rosy-cheeked and sun-tanned.

But most of the time, I feel as if I'm about three seconds from a complete breakdown. Like all it will take is for my husband to criticize the way I stack dishes in the dish drainer, or for Happy to shriek like a banshee one more time, or for the cat to jump up on the table while I'm trying to set it...and I'll just explode apart into a million tiny springs and sprockets and gears -- so many that not even the most meticulous assembler or fabricator could reassemble me. "Ayep," he'd say, with his ratchet set at his side and a soldering iron in hand, "sell this one for parts."

Truth: I am always self-conscious about my intellect, my talent, and my weight. My hair is too short and too kinky, my glasses hide my best feature and leave indents in the bridge of my nose. I hate being a foot taller than everyone in a room. I live my life in 30-minute increments; even when I'm sitting still in my office chair, my brain is running a marathon. I yell at my children too often, even that cute little one -- especially that cute little one! -- and I expect too much of them. I go to bed too late, I don't exercise enough, and I don't make enough time for my friends and relatives. My bank account is a joke; I'm constantly freaking out about our finances, sending e-mails to Honey with the subject line "DON'T USE THAT CARD!" or "WHAT THE HELL DID YOU BUY?!" I say snarky things about people who don't deserve it. And about 90% of the time, I can't take my mind off of ice cream.

Ironically, all of these uglies are what make me feel most closely connected to my mother. She was strong and straight to the outside world, but to those of us in the inner sanctum, many days she was rushed and frazzled and short-tempered. I am sure she would weep if she heard me say that, but she can't hear me because she's dead. And I'm really pissed at her about that -- again, we're telling the truth here. She died way too young, and I often wonder if it's because she worked so damn hard to seem like she had it so under control. I wonder if that eventually just turned into the cancer that ate her up.

At her memorial, one of her closest friends commented, "Carol had it all figured out...and maybe that's why He took her when he did." Although I feel that was a complete bull-pucky statement, it will always sit in the dark, spooky corner of my brain -- that corner where the cave-crickets dwell eating lima beans and mocking my frizzy hair: Once you figure out how to cruise through the muck of day-to-day living, you'll die.

So here's the most hideous ugly of all: I'm my most anxious on the rare days when I look around and notice everything is going well, when the kids are calm and Honey is healthy and the bank account is flush and my work deadlines are met. Those days I panic because I think, oh shit, I've got it figured out!