Monthly Archives: March 2009

25 things I hope for.

Keeping with the theme of spring and the hope it brings, here is a list of things I hope for….

  1. I hope my kids will always want to hang out with me even if they don’t have to.
  2. I hope I will never lose hope.
  3. I hope #4 will one day sleep in a bed other than my own.
  4. I hope, if nothing else, my kids grow up to be compassionate and grateful.
  5. I hope she never lets anyone take away her sparkle.

    Nobody puts baby in the corner.

    Nobody puts baby in the corner.

  6. I hope my extended family will remain close (and that forgiveness doesn’t mean you say it’s ok, it just means we can all spend Christmas together finally).
  7. I hope my girls will always respect and love who they are, and that they are worthy of being treated with respect and love.
  8. I hope that I will never be able to drive Ever-Patient away once and for all because of my momentary lapses of sanity and rationality.
  9. I hope my parents – my mother, my father, and my step-father – are happy.
  10. I hope this one will learn to take risks.

    Miss Comfort Zone

    Little Miss Comfort Zone

  11. I hope the girls outgrow High School Musical very soon…or Mama will have more momentary lapses in sanity.
  12. I hope the girls NEVER outgrow family time in the basement.
  13. I hope I never have all the answers.
  14. I hope, 40 years from now, I can look back and say I lived a life that I am proud of.
  15. I hope these yahoos look out for each other…always.

    The Gang.

    The Gang.

  16. I hope I never lose sight of what is important.  (Whenever I am bothered by something, I ask myself if it would still bother me so much if I knew I only had a month to live.  This is a good way to maintain a little perspective.)
  17. I hope Ever-Patient and I are BFFs….and ever and ever and ever.
  18. I hope to one day fit into my size 24 skinny jeans.
  19. I hope to complete a triathlon…one day.  (Completing this would probably help in fulfilling hope #18.)
  20. I hope I will continue to document both the banal and significant details of my life and that by reading all of it in the future, my girls will understand the source of their neuroses and complexes.
  21. I hope my kids will finally give up on the idea that we will one day get a dog.
  22. I hope she will slow down the whole growing up thing.  It’s KILLING her father.

    Her feet are the same size as mine.

    Her feet are the same size as mine.

  23. I hope for peace.
  24. I hope to have a deck and a finished backyard for the summer…which would be a fantastic birthday and anniversary gift (hint hint EPO).
  25. I hope that jean jacket and flip flop weather arrives soon.  I hate socks.

There you have it.  (Although some of these hopes sound more like desperate prayers.)

Happy Friday.  Hope it’s a good one.

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hello spring.

“Mama, can I splash in the puddles?”

“Only if you have your rain boots on!”

“Oh, right.”

We heart sidewalk chalk.

We heart sidewalk chalk.

It’s finally here and all the signs are pointing to its long-awaited arrival: rain boots, inaugural trips to the playground, and buds on our magnolia tree.  But for the first time, I am keenly aware of how the warming weather is accompanied by warming attitudes.  It’s funny how a little sunshine (without wind chill) can change the moods of those around you.  The return of spring is like the return of hope.  So…here is my argument: I propose that we have the season of spring 365 days of the year.

Case #1.  The last few months of winter have been particularly trying for my family due to the unfortunate incident with my ankle.  Apparently, the general mood in our house is largely dependent on my mood.  A happy mama equals a happy home.  My mood is directly related to the amount of physical activity I am engaged in.  So being sidelined in the dead of winter, with 4 children who are normally accustomed to two active parents, was a major test of my mental stamina.  But the entrance of spring, and all its possibilities for change and renewal, has done wonders for my ankle.  Not to sound overly dramatic but I feel like a phoenix rising from the ashes – although with a slight limp.  I’ve started a yoga class to re-align my mind (and my back), and the kids are excited that we are starting to go on some short walks.  Funny how spring works.

Case #2.  As I watch the kids dust off their sidewalk chalk and play hopscotch outside, I see how they feel alive again.  I watch how #2 tries to explain the rules of hopscotch, only to have #3 and #4 collect as many rocks as they can and then throw simultaneously onto the hopscotch board.  If this were to happen indoors during the winter, where #3 and #4 totally disregard the rules of a game, #2 would become exasperated and some sort of meltdown would follow.  I don’t know if it was the sun giving her sisters a warmer glow, or just the smell of freshness in the air that softened her outlook, but instead of getting impatient with her sisters, #2 simply smiled and started throwing rocks at the hopscotch board too.  Spring has worked its magic yet again.

Spring fever.

Spring fever.

Case #3.  My grandfather, Lolo Harv, hasn’t been quite himself the last month or so which has been worrisome to all of us.  The best way to describe it would be as if to say #3 had lost her sparkle and is now seeing gremlins.  The bright side is that he knows that something is off.  He is conscious that his appetite has waned and that he just simply isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed anymore.  I understand that he is 90 and with aging, he is expected to feel its effects.  What worries me most is his lack of purpose that he feels – what I assume we all will feel once we have reached a certain age where our perceived sole purpose in life is just to simply exist.  What happens when we just go through the motions of living and not truly live?  This is what has saddened me as I watch my grandfather slowly lose a little bit of his luster.  Of course, the good ex-Catholic I am, I immediately start inflicting self-flagellation with my thoughts and feelings of guilt.  Have I done enough?  Could I have visited more during the week?  How do I let him know that his purpose is not to just merely exist but to provide clarity, wisdom, and a good laugh using his unparalleled wit and sense of humour?  Upon further investigation, I came to the conclusion that more could be done, but I definitely needed reinforcements.  The lunch with Lolo was already scheduled for Sunday with the usual suspects already confirming their attendance – aunts, uncles, a few cousins, my parents, my brothers, and of course,”Team Lopez.”  I extended the invitation to the rest of my cousins who haven’t been abreast of the situation with my grandfather and hoped they would answer the call.  I cannot tell you how proud and how touched I was to see most of them show up at the restaurant.  We all spent the rest of the afternoon with Lolo at my mom’s house.  Towards the evening,  I asked Lolo if there were any gremlin sightings that day.  He replied, “None.  This was a good day.  I even had something to eat.”  For the first time in awhile, I saw a faint glimmer in his eyes (although I am unsure if the sparkle had in fact returned or if it was a tear forming).  Either way, I began to hope again.   I credit my family for making a difference just by being there and giving an old man a reprieve from enduring visions of mythical creatures.  Spring, and the positive actions it inspires, strikes again.

Obviously, I am aware of the laws of nature and know that the physical manifestation of spring cannot exist in perpetuity in our city.  Part of the reality of living in a Canadian climate that I have come to accept is the winter experience and all the “joy” it can bring.  So as corny as this may sound, I will try to carry forward the mental disposition that spring brings all year round:  the hope, the new beginnings, the warmth.  The cycle of the winter doldrums being shed only when spring rears its lovely head ends here.   Normally, just before the arrival of spring, my grandfather gazes out the window, searching for any sign that winter is almost over.  He repeats the story of experiencing his first winter after immigrating from the Philippines, “After a long winter, the song of the robin red-breast became the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.”  I will hold on to that.  With every hardship that seems unrelenting and unbearable, I will hold on to the hope that I will undoubtedly hear the most beautiful sound of that robin red-breast, signaling that the worst is over.

Even Frankie's hair looks less disheveled and more groomed in spring.

Even Frankie's hair looks less disheveled and more groomed in spring.

(Or…All this warm and fuzziness is due to the fact that I can walk again and that winter is finally over and I am just feeling uncharacteristically optimistic and euphoric.  We’ll see how this “eternal spring attitude” fares next winter as I need to get 4 kids ready and fed at the crack of dawn or if I can really stop cursing the birds that insist on waking me up prematurely and appreciate them as symbols of spring… )

25 things I ask myself.

Most days there is a constant inner dialogue running in my head.  I find that most of these mental conversations consist of questions – some rhetorical, some hypothetical – that are among both the trivial and profound.  Here is a brief glimpse into my murky grey matter.

  1. What day is it today?  It definitely feels like a Tuesday.
  2. Am I spending enough time individually with the kids, with Ever-Patient, and myself?
  3. Can I just get 5 minutes of absolute quiet?  How about 2 minutes?  I’ll take 30 seconds just so I can take a few deep breaths.
  4. Should I answer the phone today?
  5. Do I get angry or let it go? (This is a recurring one throughout the day.)
  6. What kind of world will my children live in?
  7. Where is my other shoe? (After awhile, this is actually asked aloud with offers of a reward to whomever can find it.  The cheeky one will then grab the one that has been found and wave it around victoriously.)
  8. What is on the agenda tomorrow? (Usually asked as I lay in bed right before I fall asleep.)
  9. When can I finally break out the flip-flops?!?
  10. Do I need to wear lipstick? (Ever-Patient and the kids say no.)
  11. Do I spend enough time with my grandfather?
  12. Am I enjoying my children enough?
  13. If I die tomorrow, have I said everything that I needed to say and lived every moment the way I wanted?
  14. Is there any better feeling than knowing your children are safe, happy, and so loved?
  15. Do I live too much in the past or the future?
  16. Where does #3 get her sparkle from?  (Still can’t figure out where she gets her penchant for the performing arts from.)
  17. Why can’t broccoli taste like chocolate croissants?
  18. Do I thank my children enough? (Thank them for the way they ground me and remind me of what I truly value.)
  19. Am I really happy or just delirious because of extreme exhaustion?
  20. Do I take away the trip to the Science Centre because the kids are fighting for the third time in less than an hour or do I give them one more chance to make-up? (We eventually gave them one more chance in which #2 and #3 came down the stairs hand in hand, and as if previously rehearsed, they turned to face us and embraced stating they were best friends once more.)
  21. Does Ever-Patient really not see the pair of dirty socks beside the bed?
  22. Do I make enough effort to spend time and get to know my younger brothers?
  23. Will my children appreciate my efforts at being a good mother when they become adults?
  24. Why are jogging pants so wrong yet so right?
  25. Am I a good _____(insert: mother, wife, sister, daughter, cousin, aunt, friend, neighbour, person)?

Sometimes just asking the question gives you the answer you are looking for.

Have a great weekend.

march madness.

It’s that time of year…March Break-down.  I’m not sure which has contributed more to their meltdowns this week: the loss of an hour due to daylight-savings so they can’t sleep till past their bedtime or being out of routine due to March Break.  Either way, I haven’t posted lately due to this “break” in our regularly scheduled programming.

Everyone can rest easy now because Ever-Patient has returned home, along with the massive hero-worship.  Ever-Patient then proceeds to bask in the glow of appreciation and overwhelming gratitude.  At this juncture, I can’t resist breaking the news to him that he will be taking the kids to the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Ontario Science Centre by himself on his days off during March Break.  I hadn’t decided yet whether “my ankle” was up for the task.  It would definitely be a game-time decision.

This past Monday, the first day of the break, we decided to go the indoor playground route as per the request of the little ones.  This was a perfect way to ease our way in to the week, like dipping our feet into the water to test out the temperature.  With my eldest away at sleepovers, there is no other activity that is more age-appropriate than a trip to the indoor playground which has an area for the toddler and safe playground equipment for #2 and #3.  This is the first trip to the playground with Ever-Patient so I take him on a tour of the grounds, detailing favourite areas while recounting memories of past visits.

Queen’s “We Will Rock You” is blaring over the speakers and #3 looks at me from across the room, atop a structure that can easily be mistaken for a mini-stage no less, and with an expression that can only rival Freddie Mercury’s original fierceness, does she start singing, “We will..we will…rock you!”  #2 and #4’s explorations are interspersed with #3’s solo performances.

As #2, #3, and #4 build a fort with these massive soft blocks, High School Musical’s “Soarin'” starts to play.  As if an imaginary stagehand has cued her, #3 rips off her ponytail, shakes her hair out, and begins her musical number.  With squinty eyes and a smoldering look, she reaches out to an invisible “Troy.”  Our family is quite accustomed to her sudden breakouts into song and dance so her behaviour comes as no surprise but still entertains us nevertheless.  But then I realize we are in a public place.  I look around and everyone, I mean EVERYONE, has stopped what they are doing and are now mesmerized by #3’s solo.  I prepare myself to run to console #3.

I figure that once she realizes she is being watched by both parents and kids alike, she will crumble at all the attention and run to me in tears.  She continues to dance and re-enact Troy and Gabriella’s duet in a more stirring manner than Troy and Gabriella themselves and I am amazed that she is oblivious to the stares.  But then I see her throw a subtle sideways glance to her growing audience and it dawns on me that she is fully conscious of people staring at her and it does not bother her in the least.  I still think to myself that maybe she really doesn’t see them all watching, but as the song ends, she turns to bow to her father, myself, and the rest of her adoring fans.  Unbelievable.

Multiple times during the day, Ever-Patient asks for the run-down for the week.  Bless his heart.  I think he just keeps hoping that somehow the excursion to the Ontario Science Centre is dropped from the itinerary.  It’s a perennial favourite.  It is also a place where your day is filled with lines and waiting.  Lining up to get into the parking lot, lining up to buy tickets, lining up to see an exhibit, lining up to get into a show…

Well, this is the adventure lined up for tomorrow.  And as much as I want to wade through crowds, have my heart skip a beat when all my children aren’t in my line of sight, and be a placeholder in the lines for the kids, I will not be participating in the festivities.  #4 has come down with a cold and my ankle is sore from today’s excursion to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario)….a post on this particular outing is in the works.  So for now, I leave you with this:

Riff-raff at the AGO.

Riff-raff at the AGO.

25 reasons Ever-Patient should never go away on business…

Apparently, there are many things that Daddy does that Mama just can’t do.  There are also things that I hate doing which he normally is responsible for.  Here is my list of why it is just beneficial for all of us if he just doesn’t go away on business anymore.

1.  You knew it was going to be at the top of the list: Cooking.  Although he has prepared sauces for me to warm up and left simple instructions on how to cook pasta, I still cannot enjoy cooking food.  There is a tightness in my chest followed by irregular heart palpitations when I approach the stove top.  It’s like getting a  bikini wax.  I know I need to do it.  I can get through it.  I just hate the pain associated with it.

2.  Mama does not fix boo-boos the way Daddy does.  The Ever-Patient Nurturer kisses the pain away and applies band-aids to both imaginary and real ailments.  Mama’s pain relief recommendation:  “Shake it off.  There’s no blood.”

3.  Daddy’s bedtime routine with #4 is sorely missed.

4.  Daddy can carry everyone up to bed.

5.  I have no one to share glances with when #3 says something ludicrous, or when I catch a tender moment between #2 and #3, or when I realize how big #1 has grown.

6.  Daddy tickles more.

7.  At the end of the day, when the dust has settled, and there is nothing but silence, there is no one to hear my long exhale.

8. All 4 of them cannot fit on my lap at the same time.  (And boy, did they try.)

9. There is no one across the dinner table who is as tired as I am.

10.  If I hear one more “I miss daddy so much” cry-fest, I will hurl.

11.  According to #3, Daddy gives big bear hugs and I only give small itsy bitsy hugs.

12.  If I hear one more “When is daddy coming home?” I will hurl.

13.  #3 has no one to movie kiss….

Me:  You can give me a movie kiss.

#3:  I can’t.  I can only kiss my prince charming Mom!

14.  I have started talking to myself.

15.  Daddy doesn’t get mad when the kids jump on top of him.  (After my deafening shriek and a lecture on residual back pain from almost 11 years of childbearing and childrearing, the kids now know to NEVER jump on Mama unexpectedly.)

16.  I am now faced with the daily dilemma:  Do I blog or take a shower?

17.  We bake cookies every night.  (Really NOT a good thing.)

18.  #2 and #3 miss their favourite makeover model.  (Eyeshadow and lip gloss are not as funny on Mama.)

19.  I miss our conversations on the ordinary and the inconsequential.

20.  #2 misses getting proper accolades for holding a plank….

#2: Mom!  Watch me hold a plank!

Me (changing #4’s diaper and listening to #3 tell a story):  That’s great, Sweetie.

A minute passes…

#2: Mom!  I think it’s passed a minute!  I’m still…holding…it!”

Me (now helping #1 with a homework question while #4 is tugging on my pants whining for Cheerios):  That’s great, Sweetie.

21.  We miss his optimistic outlook.  Sitting at the dinner table, with #4 covered in pasta sauce, and #3 suddenly deciding she does not like sauce on her pasta anymore, #2 makes the observation that at that moment, Daddy would have said, “I love family time.”  And then a 10-minute “I miss daddy so much” cry-fest began.

22.  Batting eyelashes and pouty lips get you nowhere with Mama.

23.   #2, #3, and #4 have missed first breakfast that Daddy prepares before he leaves for work in the morning which is usually oatmeal or eggs and sausage.  (Except for this morning… thanks Mom for cooking breakfast!)  2nd breakfast, which is eaten later in the morning, that I make is not so exciting: yogurt, fruit, and cheerios.

24.  It’s tough being good cop AND bad cop.

25.  Our family just isn’t complete.

Daddy-#3 time.

Daddy-#3 time.

Special shout-outs and many thanks to my brother-in-law, my mother, and of course, my father, for all the help this week.  And my apologies for the late post…another reason why Ever-Patient should never go away on business.

Have a great weekend.

love this.

a tale of two sisters.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

The most volatile relationship in our household is the one that exists between #2 and #3.  Only two years apart, these sisters are inseparable at home even when they are waging war against each other.  I, myself, do not have a sister, nor do I have a sibling who is close in age so managing this dynamic is quite the learning experience for me, but even more entertaining to witness.

In the beginning...

In the beginning...

Much to my surprise, #2 exhibited zero signs of jealously when #3 entered the picture.  No regression back to diapers, no desire to breastfeed again, and no fighting over mama’s love and attention.  However, the above picture is deceptive.  #2 was not overly affectionate and was completely indifferent to the new addition to our family.  (Occasionally, she would be found riding on top of her new sis as if the baby were a horse which I took as a positive gesture since at least she was now acknowledging #3’s existence.  In actuality, #3 didn’t mind it so much. Little did I know that this scene would fore-shadow the nature of their future relationship.)

It wasn’t until our family trip to Disney when the almost 2 year old and the almost 4 year old ultimately found camaraderie and an instant bond.  #1 was old enough, and more importantly tall enough, to enjoy the thrill rides with her aunts and uncles which left #2 and #3 as ride-mates in the magic kingdom (and #4 was in utero).  They held hands as they sported their matching mouse ears, skipping from attraction to attraction.  They shared a Disney extra large double stroller where they could both be found lying down looking up at the clouds as they settled in for their afternoon nap.  Initiated by #2, they even started coordinating their outfits each morning.  I watched them play together patiently as we waited and waited and waited (in hundred degree weather) to meet the princesses.  They became inseparable.  This was the start of a beautiful friendship.

Dynamic Duo.

Dynamic Duo.

My mind immediately formed idyllic images of these new best friends playing nicely together, sharing their belongings (and eventually their clothes), and supporting each other through thick and thin.  As I share this fantasy with Ever-Patient, he looks at me incredulously, sheds his optimism for a brief moment, and proceeds to explain how the sibling relationship works in reality and what to prepare myself for, with him having a younger brother himself.  He recounts childhood memories full of sadistic instances and physical conflicts that would pale in comparison to any wrestling match.  Say “goodbye” to camaraderie, he says, and say “hello” to competition.  My bubble is burst but I try to convince myself and Ever-Patient that the girls are different.  They hold hands and share a bed.  They adore one another.  Ever-Patient looks at me as if to say, “You have much to learn young Grasshopper.”

Fast forward almost 2 years.  2 years of developing personalities, adjusting to a fourth sister, and being home with mama.

Having just injured my ankle, and mellowed out on pain medication, I regrettably turned on the TV for a day or two.  #2 and #3 had never really watched an episode of Sesame Street so they are mesmerized by a particular segment with Bert and Ernie.  Bert and Ernie travel to Mars where Ernie is eager to meet Martians and immediately dances with them.  Bert is hesitant and watches from afar, always cautious with respect to his surroundings.  Ernie tries to loosen up Bert and get him involved in the dance.  After much humourous persuasion, Bert finally participates in the alien two-step.  After the segment is over, #3 turns to me and says, “I really like Ernie.”  And #2 shakes her head and says, “I like Bert.”

ernie and bert.

ernie and bert.

#2 and #3 are now individuals with very different characteristics and personal attributes which lead to both the most tender exchanges and the most frequent arguments.  The two sisters share the double bed on the bottom portion of the bunk bed.  #2 cherishes her personal space and having alone time.  #3 relishes physical affection and an audience.  One night, shortly after tucking the two into bed,  I hear #3 sobbing.  I ignore the initial outcry, thinking this is a theatrical ploy in protest of the early bedtime, but the sobbing turns into what I can only describe as a form of hysteria.  I rush upstairs, assuming she is in some physical pain.  #2 is curled into a ball against the wall, covering her ears and head with a pillow, and #3 jumps into my arms as if it had been an eternity since being reunited with her mother.

Me (in a rapid fire): What happened?  Are you hurt?  What’s wrong?

#3:  She won’t hug me.

Me: What?

#3 (sobbing starts to get heavy again):  She won’t hug me.  She won’t even let me hug her or even let my foot touch her foot.

#2 (tossing the pillow in frustration): I can’t sleep if anyone is touching me!  I just want to sleep!

#3: But I can’t sleep unless she hugs me!!

(I am completely taken off guard and ill-prepared to solve this dilemma.  How do I solve this without causing one of them to sacrifice who they are?  Do I force #2 to embrace her little sis and risk #2 resenting her for having me coerce this artificial affection?  Do I tell #3 to sleep without the physical contact, implying that her desire to embrace her sis is wrong?)

In the end, I am exhausted and sleep in between them, hugging #3 tightly, while being careful not to have any body part touch #2.  The next night #3 was content hugging Joaquin, her large stuffed dog.  But as #2 casually asked when she could move to the top bunk, #3’s lip began to quiver.  I braced myself for another meltdown only to be pleasantly surprised by #2’s acute sensibility of the situation.  #2 looks at #3 reassuringly and says, “Actually, I like it down here.  It’s too hot at the top anyway.”

This is NOT staged.

This is NOT staged.

Now my days at home are filled with the two partners in crime playing pretend for hours.  #3 encourages #2 during charades since #2 struggles with performing.  #2 helps #3 keep focus as she helps her learn to write her name.   Upon careful observation, #3 is always a few steps behind #2, an unconscious demonstration of follow-the-leader with an intermittent push on the back by #3 on #2 resulting in an argument: accusation – denial – appeal to mom – mom gives lecture on taking care of each other.  Before the lecture is even over, their arms are linked as they doh-see-doh to “Farmer in the Dell.”

#2 and her shadow.

#2 and her shadow.

I always have to break up the party and take #2 to school for the afternoon.  I hear a collective “AWWWWWWW!” as both are disappointed and dejected at the thought of parting.   Everyday, as #2 heads to her kindergarten line, #3 buries her head in my side and says sorrowfully, “I miss her.”  And everyday, I tell her it’s only a few hours until they’ll see each other again and offer #4 as an alternate playmate.  #3 scoffs at this absurd notion as she observes #4 turning in a circle until she is too dizzy to stand over and over again.  #3 reads to herself and waits by the window.  Next year, #2 will be in school full-time and #3 (and I) will undoubtedly lament over her absence and go through some serious withdrawal.  Until that day comes, I will savour the ‘best of times’ and the ‘worst of times’ between these two frenemies best friends.

homies forever.

homies forever.

I am optimistic that one day soon #3 will acknowledge #4 as a companion and #3 will assume the role of leader and big sister.  (Although I hope that this does not entail any type of riding on top of #4.)