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Give Me Your Hands

I know I have mentioned in the past that unless you are a gifted storyteller with a richly nuanced subconscious nobody wants to hear what you dreamed last night ("...and then I was back in the house where I grew up but it wasn't, really, because there was a roller rink in the attic and Lorne Greene was there and I could fly but I could not speak...") and no doubt that goes triple for recounting what your son dreamed.

However, I don't care. Do androids dream of electric sheep? Do midget astrophysicists dream of midget astrophysics?

Over breakfast Patrick said, "I had the weirdest dream last night."

And I said, "Really?" and sat down across from him with my hands on my chin because, frankly, every little thing he does is sometimes magic and this morning happened to be one of those times.

"We were on a bus going through a forest. It was a long bus ride and when we got to the end we were at a dock and we let the kindergartners out because they were going swimming. Then the bus turned around and we started to go back through the forest but by then it was very late, probably midnight. I looked out the window and saw the moon and then I realized that rather than normal" (fingers rounded like a quarter) "it was huge" (hands cupped like a bagel) "and I thought 'Wow! It's like our moon is as close to us as Phobos is to Mars! I MUST be dreaming.' So I woke myself up."

He was laughing and shaking his head.

"Wasn't that crazy? I mean, when we got to the water in my dream it looked normal but if the moon was really that close... I mean, just think of the tides! "

I thought, "Someday you are going to make some high school science teacher very very happy."

I said, "Wow! That IS crazy!" and went back to making his lunch. I stuck a note in with the Nilla Wafers saying "these cookies are more like Enceladus" and I freely confess that I had to google "tiny moon" in order to get the name right.

++

Caroline Edward and I started communist playgroup this week. We were supposed to start last week but I am far flakier than I realize and as a result we missed it like a train. For some reason I was convinced that our Wednesday morning class took place on Thursdays; so much so that I made special carpool arrangements weeks in advance to accommodate Thursdays. I wrote "C&E Play" on every Thursday until Christmas on the laundry room calendar and I added "Thursday Class" to the electronic calendar that Steve has finally (after two years) bullied me into using through his unremitting failure to accept that the laundry room calendar is the main iron-clad calendar for the family. I LIKE normal calendars. I LIKE things that hang from a thumbtack and have a different photograph for each month (2009 features pictures from the Hubble - you'll never guess who selected it) and little squares filled with scribbles like "9:?5 P dentst apt". However after months and months of Steve breezing through the kitchen looking like someone who has some place to be just at the moment I was about to ask him to watch the children for a few hours; only to be told that he is leaving for x and that it was clearly marked on his calendar... I gave in.

But, Thursday. I thought the class was on Thursdays.

Last week we went through this ridiculously complicated exchange so that Caroline and I could make the first class despite the fact that Edward was going back to the doctor that morning for his fevers. My theory was that I had failed to bond with the other mothers in almost every communist playgroup I joined with Patrick because somehow I missed the critical first day friend finding period. I didn't want that to happen again. One of the reasons I have been looking forward to doing this class...

Sorry. Let me stop. I have gotten ahead of myself.

Communist playgroup is what I have always called the state-sponsored, state-funded early childhood education classes of which Minnesotans are (justly) very proud. Through the school districts the program offers a huge variety of child, parent and child-parent classes to serve ages birth through five. They have day classes, evening classes, mixed ages, newborns, multiples, single parent centered, father centered... they cover the gamut and they are held all over the freaking place. For Caroline and Edward I had debated between a multiples class and a toddlers class. For what it is worth when I asked you guys the majority of you thought I should go with the toddler group but a significant subset - namely all of the mothers with twins older than mine - thought I would get a lot from the multiples group; so in the end I applied for both. However what I really wanted was to be able to take the one class that was offered at Patrick's school. I thought he (and the bumbles) would get a kick out of driving together once a week. So that was my first choice and we got in and it is a toddler only class.

The classes are divided in half. For forty-five minutes the parents stay in the room and help the kids paint or play with toys or use the sensory table or playdough or whatever. Then the kids are left with a cadre of teachers and the parents go sit around a conference table for the next forty-five minutes with a led discussion on some age-appropriate parenting topic. It's the last part there that has always, always made me want to drown myself in the bottom of one of their tiny styrofoam cups. I remember once when Patrick was about two and a half we were in a class and the day's topic was potty training. As far as Patrick and I were concerned it might as well have been Driver's Ed; that's how remote the idea seemed at the time. So the class facilitator handed us a little sheet of paper with a drawing of a baseball diamond and asked us to mark where our child was in terms of toileting - first base, second base etc. I drew a fence and then a parking lot and then a road running behind the parking lot and then a farm on the far side of the road and an apple orchard on the back forty of the farm and on the tallest part of one of the trees in the orchard I drew a small Patrick. In a diaper. It took me ten minutes and by the time I looked up again I had missed the whole discussion and everyone was walking out the door. No wonder I suck at potty training.

With Patrick I thought the classes were important because we knew no one and we never saw anybody and he was growing up kinda weird. I thought he needed to be able to play with other kids and although that did not actually happen for the first few years (he would go find a toy or read a book) I figured that although I loathed it I could take a couple of parenting seminars for the team. Caroline and Edward are much more social (a pet rock would have been more social than Patrick - he was a late interacting bloomer, our Patrick) but I still think it is important for them to get out and see other children and maybe make some friends next to whom they might parallel play. And, frankly, I have been really excited about the idea that I might make some new friends too.

-- I really did not intend for this to segue like this but since we are here... my essay on the many ways I failed to win f's and influence p's over the past decade is in the October REDBOOK and can be found online here. I am 100% convinced that the lovely editors at REDBOOK have made an effort to use me for freelance projects (I am working on another piece contracted by them with two more maybes - one funny one! - in the works) in large part due to the (extremely touching) outpouring of support you guys offered when they laid me off from the Mom Moment last winter. I know I said thank you at the time but I want to say it again. You left comments and you emailed and... wow, I am actually sitting here getting full-on teary... it made a huge difference in my life. So thank you again. If you read the piece and you like it and you want to shoot REDBOOK an email to that effect I would really appreciate it. Or not. No worries. --     

Going back now. One of the reasons I have been looking forward to doing this class...

...is that I was hoping to meet some new people.

I'm not sure why I am only able to connect with people during periods of obvious transition (new job, new school) but I am. Like, I was once trapped in an OB's waiting room for an hour and a half (he was such a good guy and/but he couldn't manage his patients worth a damn so by the late afternoon his waits were ridiculous) and I struck up a conversation with the nicest woman. Even as I was talking to her I thought it was a pity we would never see each other again and yet there was no real reason why we wouldn't other than the fact that I would have felt strange asking her out. Oh, you know what I mean. Haven't you ever talked to someone while you are waiting to get your oil changed and wished you could know them better? Or I remember the late (late as in no longer blogging) and much-lamented Getupgrrl writing about her mad friend-crush on her veterinarian, which I completely related to because at the time I had an OB who was just about my age and so cool and I kept trying to figure out how we could become best friends. Stuff like that, you know?

Anyway, Caroline and Edward and I went to communist playgroup. Edward found the corner with the cars and sat down to play with them. Then he noticed the dinosaurs and, although we are not a dino family per se, he intuited that cars plus dinosaurs equal a sum greater than the parts. He was calm and a little serious and he did not smile until the very end of the class by which time he had grown comfortable enough to try to hide as we were leaving. He laughed when I said, "Oh no! WHERE is Edward? Where can EDWARD have gone?" but - just between you and me - holding a piece of elbow macaroni in front of his eyes wasn't that great of a hiding place. Caroline was like a caricature of herself all morning. She was all over the fucking place. She used the easel, played with the playdough, drew another picture, went down the slide, played in the puppet house, took down every toy from a shelf near Edward, and had most of the adults in the room pick her up. She sat down for a millisecond during snack. Edward, in twinly contrast, was the last kid still eating. He slowly ate through his portion of Teddy Grahams, accepted seconds, noticed that Caroline had not even touched hers so he ate those too.  

At one point a little boy and his mother were sitting on the floor. The boy was arranging large colored beads on pegs. Caroline came over and flopped onto her tummy next to him. "Hiiiiiii!" she said. Then she picked up a bead and put it on a dowel. The boy had been carefully sorting the beads by color and he gave what I considered to be a very Patrick-like groan and said, in Spanish as that is his first language, "Amarillo! Amarillo! No! Aqui!" His mother said the soothing things about sharing and goodness that you say to toddlers as you attempt to cram them into civilization by force if necessary and Caroline cheerfully ignored his angst as she put blue on red, red on yellow and yellow on her finger. The whole time he muttered darkly about colors and she beamed at him as she "shared".

"Buh buh!" she said a minute later - much to his relief - and moved onto her next victim new friend.

Meanwhile I tried to be in six places at once and fielded questions about how many months apart my two are ("They're twins." "REALLY? You're kidding!" "Nope." "She's much smaller than he is!" - she isn't really) and about whether I have my hands full (during circle time the kids were given something to stick on the storyboard as we listened to a song. I literally walked on my knees with Caroline tucked under my elbow to help steer Edward and his fish in the right direction.) Oh and do you want to hear embarrassing? I have no official diaper bag (we don't really go anywhere) and I forgot to bring anything with me. I had to borrow diapers and then wipes. Twice. FLA-KY. 

I started talking with a woman who I immediately liked. She was very friendly and breezy and Southern (she moved here three weeks ago) and about a minute into our conversation she said, "How is it with twins? We did in vitro for [her daughter] and when we transferred two I wasn't sure what I should be hoping for."

I was charmed. I said the twins have been very easy so far; and I added that one of them was my morula and the other had been a blast. She smiled in understanding and I gave her my email on a piece of construction paper at the end of the class. Not that I only want to befriend people who have gone through infertility, just that her openness made it very easy for me to feel comfortable in general.

If you are one of my infertility compatriots do you talk about it like that? Personally, I never mention miscarriages or IVF although if someone asks if twins run in the family I generally say "Oh we had help" which answers their question. I thought after meeting this woman, though, that maybe I should be more forthcoming in the future. It was really pleasantly disarming.

++

Caroline is finally tall enough to climb onto chairs and nothing is safe. She found my checkbook on the kitchen counter and threw it in the garbage (Steve saw it and called, "Julia! Did you mean to throw the checkbook away? It looks like there are still checks in it... ?" Really Steve? HONESTLY?) She turned on... something... on Steve's Mac that made it vocalize everything for him as if he were visually impaired and we couldn't figure out how to turn it off for an hour. In the space of the last twenty-four hours we have had to rethink our baby proofing entirely. It less about protecting her from stuff and more about protecting stuff from her. Menace Girl flies again.

The sweetness of this smote me between the eyes and I was, like, oh damn it when she moved at the last second because prior to this photo she had been lying with her head on Edward's lap while they watched a video together. I mean, while they watched me instruct them in the ancient art of kabuki. Because every moment is a teachable moment at my house. Ahem.

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I have long attempted to capture on film a trick of Caroline's that we call her Vampire Eyes. She tilts her head down or sideways and then slides her eyes over or up and peers at you from between her lashes. We are pretty sure she thinks she is being coy but the effect is actually kinda creepy. As my mother said, "Oh no no sweetie pie that is not a good look for you."

The first one is not it exactly but it is pretty close. The last two are just cute I think.

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And in conclusion

I said, "Smile Caroline! Smile please!" and she did this:

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So I said, "Fine, Caroline, look mad." And she did this:

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She's atomic.

It's Friday night and I have had a glass of wine and am feeling thoughtful and chatty. So my question is: when was the last time you made a new friend and where was it and how?

For me my last new friend was Noelle and I met her through preschool but it took a couple of years for me to feel comfortable enough to pick up the phone and say, "Hi I'm calling for a consult" if you know what I mean. Her willingness to act as Patrick's back-up mom while I was on bed rest has made me her lifelong devotee. That and the fact that she is funny and wise and knows her food and she has the most sublime ability to listen, validate and then offer useful counsel - in that order. It's a rare gift.  

PS You can tell that Caroline has a split lip in one of these pictures. She fell off a chair and landed on her face. She seemed unfazed. I was horrified.

PPS In the spirit of both full disclosure and sheepish apology... I had no idea that Susan Boyle was so FREAKING CUTE.

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