Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It was the potty training

Have you ever heard my reason for not having more children? It was the potty training. Specifically, it was potty training the twins. They turned nine yesterday. And I'm still traumatized from the experience. It's been seven years. I shudder as I recount it for you here.
We'd been living in the house for about a year or so. I was feeding all three children lunch and, as part of my potty training regimen, was preparing to take the twins to sit on their potties after they'd finished eating. This was the same routine I had with their older sister years before and it had worked pretty well.

I would sit with them, encouraging them to use the potty and reading our potty book. Sam was catching on, but Sara was too prudish to cooperate. Still, she was compliant with the sitting and I figured at some point she'd give in.
On the particular day in question, as I led them to the bathroom, my son informed me that his cousin had instructed him to have 'pie vet see' in the bathroom. 'Boys need pie vet sees in potties,' he said, 'Meme said.'
'Wha? I don't care what he told you. You cannot eat in the bathroom!'
'No, no,' he protested, 'Pievet. See'. He was speaking to me slowly. Irony dripping.
I'm a doe in headlights. Blink. Blink.
'Privacy,' Lucy translated, with the heavy sigh she's perfected over the years.
I told him that he and Sara always went together, thinking he was trying to rid himself of her company since she wasn't much of a pottier. No. He informed me that she was no intrusion on his privacy, but I was. Fine. Not the first nor the last time I was going to get shoved off by one of my darlings.
I got them both situated, left the door slightly ajar and went back to the kitchen to clean up.
A few minutes into my cleanup, the radar went off. Too quiet. Got that crinkly feeling on the back of my neck. Figured, at worst, they were sitting on the sofa with no diapers getting ready to introduce my bought-it-when-I-was-childless-fabulous couch to strained carrots and boiled chicken, the impolite way. I figured that'd be the worst because I hadn't yet seen the worst.
I approached the bathroom and heard them gibbering in there. Good sign. Couch safe! I stood in the hallway between the dining room and bathroom, peering in to check without disturbing the privacy I'd been instructed to respect.
There were my two adorable babies... they were naked from the waste down... staring down at their respective potties.... bellies full, hands on hips... but... what was that?
"No, Sam," I heard Sara say sternly. "That's not enough. Put mas [the Spanish word for 'more'] in there."
Whereby Sam dutifully stuck his hands in one potty, and scooped his waste from it into the other potty.
"Is that good?"
I came into focus. The horror swept over me in waves.
"I think so," Sara mused.
"AAAAAAAHHHHHHH," I barged in, saying the only intelligent thing I could think of.
The rest of the scene becomes a blur again.
"Look, mommy!" Sara beamed, "I made caca in the potty!"
"No, Sara. No you did not!" I screamed, "that is Sam's caca. You put your caca in her potty?!" I demanded of him. Whereafter my beautiful boy took his hands out from behind his back where he'd tucked them when I stormed in, smeared them all over my freshly painted peach walls, held them up, full of poop he'd forgotten about and looked at me with those eyes. "No, mommy, I didn't. I swear."
"AAAAAAAAHHHHHH," I screamed again. Not the first nor the last time words have failed me in the process of parenting.
I grabbed them both by the waist, hoisted one under each arm, Sara giggling, Sam starting to whimper, marched them up the stairs to the full bath, bathed them thoroughly, redressed each and put them to bed. By this time, they'd all sensed the situation had become dangerous enough where Lucy actually put herself down to nap and the twins said nary a word as I barged back down the stairs to clean the scene of the disaster. I was well into it when I heard the front door. I can only imagine what I looked like when my husband walked in. Smelling of pine sol, feces and furor I approached him.
"The babies are upstairs," I said through clenched teeth. "It is my Christian upbringing that has kept them alive this day. I am going out now. You're in charge." I paced slowly past him. He just stood there, nervously, not saying a word. "Oh. And there's poop on the walls in the bathroom." And I walked out.
I honestly can't say where I went. I don't remember. I do remember rinsing myself off with the hose outside and I remember coming back to a pretty clean and stable house. We never spoke of it that night, nor in the days after. It took me a long while to recompose myself. But there are still scars. I have dreams. I can't walk down the plastic potty aisle at Target without shivering. And, of course, I can never potty train again. Never. AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Searching For the Right Word

I attended the funeral services of our neighbor yesterday, the woman who taught my children how to say sunshine in Polish. It sounds like 'swonechka'. (I just know I'm mangling the spelling.) She taught it to them because that's what she called them. "Hello sunshine!" she'd call to the babies as they came spilling out of the house. She'd dig in her pockets for lollipops and pass them out like, well, candy. They loved her.

If the day was nice, we'd stand on the sidewalk for a bit and watch the kids sugar up. While we did, we'd chat about this or that. She'd fret about the condition of her grass, I'd sympathize. She'd gossip about neighbors, I'd gossip back. And now and then she'd tell me little bits and pieces of her life story. Before she came to live across the street from the house I'm now raising my family in, she'd lost her family in a war. She suffered time in concentration camps (including Auschwitz), faced the prospect of death more than once, served in the army, participated in an uprising, and survived. She lived in Poland, in Italy and then England. She married a suave young man, a singer, and started a family.

She arrived in the U.S. in the late 1940s and went about the business of being normal, whatever that means. She raised a son and a daughter here, worked hard, tended her garden, cared for her husband until the day he died, loved her grandchildren dearly, and through it all, maintained close bonds with all the Polish friends who joined her in the states. She kept faith with her church, got her hair done every Saturday, and never left the house without makeup. She was powder-scented, soft-cheeked and fine, with restrained elegance and a ready laugh.

I know I'm not getting it right - the picture of her that you must have in order to know who she was - resiliant, beautiful, steady, weak sometimes but always trying, lovely and full of life. She was a surprise and happy greeting, she was what lifted you when you were down, she was strong and constant and good. So then, perhaps the only way to describe her is by using a word she might use herself. Teresa was 'swonechka'... sunshine. And, oh, how I'll miss her.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

No Fish, A Wish, and Delish

We've discussed here before how important it is to make someone happy. I'm sure we've also touched on how darn hard that can be. And then, some times, it all lines up just right and it seems so simple. We have had several difficult weeks at work and the constant pitter patter of doomsday's feet coming down the hall at us has taken its toll. I spent the last week posting morose daily ditties on facebook about how each day of the week was as agonizingly bad as the one before. But a gal can be miserable for only so long.

So I spent all day yesterday wondering how I'd turn the page, so to speak. Before I left for work I promised the kids we'd have a little treat when we got home. As I sat at my desk, I reviewed my options and settled on the idea of some late afternoon fishing at the harbor. I pictured us all lined up on the wall, feet dangling, poles in the water, lakefront scenes providing a backdrop to a happy summer evening for our family. Perfect! Then I pictured all the schlepping of equipment and chairs and snacks and the rest. I pictured my husband swearing under his breath as child after child dropped his/her worm into the water and asked for a new one. And I pictured trekking back and forth to the port-a -potty where child after child would insisit he/she could 'hold it instead'. Not the picture I was looking for. So I decided.

No fish.

After I felt like I'd scanned all the other possibilities and discounted them for one reason or another, I was starting to feel a little helpless. My Facebook status update blinked at me expectantly. My husband's moping became near-neanderthal in appearance as bad news reached epidemic levels in the office. Kids called, sounding so full of fun as they awaited our arrival for the big family night I had yet to plan. Seriously a "Calgon, take me awayyyyy" moment. But we don't have a tub at the office and it'd been a little weird for me to disrobe and put flowers in my hair for a bubble bath anyway.

So, I made a wish.

'Lord, please let me find a way to make this happen.' No bushes set aflame, although in fairness we don't have those in the office either, so I figured it was no luck but worth a shot. I continued to perform the manic task of mentally evaluating all options and then ticking them off the list as quickly as they appeared. It was frantic and exhausting. As we got in the car to go home, I had nothing.

Then, a few blocks from home, I blurted out to my husband, "We're going to Millenium Park!" Don't ask me where that came from; I've no idea. Oddly, he asked "Why? What's at Millenium Park?" Ack! I hadn't thought of that. Why would he want to know that?

If you ever hear me complain about my new cell phone (which sucks, but I'm not going there right now) remind me of this. In mere seconds I had pulled up the schedule for the park and discovered they were having an open-air performance at the pavilion. Score! We went home, packed a few things to eat and a cooler, got the kids ready and off we went. Parking was pretty easy and we found a spot close to the stage. We all sat down, bits of music tinkling in the air, the city starting to twinkle as dusk set in, all the colors and flavors represented. Then it started.

Have you ever seen Handel's Acis and Galatea? I began to panic. The mangificence of the venue aside, I've probably experienced more delight in the performance of wet socks cycling through a laundromat dryer than I did at that show. A few minutes into it I thought I was going to cry. The kids were entirely focused on eating, my husband was growing irate with their constant crinkling of packages and bouncing out of seats, and I was mortified that my lovely evening was going up in flames. And then it happened. The Lord took time away from his busy schedule to cast his favor upon me - upon all of us - and it happened.

As the orchestra played, my husband turned to me and whispered gravely, "Be vewwwwy quiet. I'm hunting wwwahhhbbit." I almost lost my full bladder. What a night! We stayed for the whole thing, the kids alternately listening and then giggling to themselves, my husband and I sitting a row behind them, arm in arm, taking in the air and sound and sparkle. After, we all went for a walk through the park, exploring exhibits, stopping to gaze and amaze, joking, laughing, holding hands. We ended with a splash-walk through the Crown fountain and back to the car, where losing our parking ticket was no match for the night we had.

Quite simply, delish.