How a Migraine Teaches

Yes, the headache came.

Just as I expected, the headache came, knocking around the corners of my congested temples, undeterred by the Excedrin.

I taught, as usual, forging my way through the usual morning classes. Reading, math, spelling, handwriting, list (required) reading, rest time, play time, recess.

I gave up sometime around eleven, calling the Professor, who was at the office, to make sure he was actually coming home for lunch on time. Exam week, summers, days the college is not in session, our schedule tends to drift, unmoored by not having to dismiss the 10:30 class or return in time to teach the 12:30 class.

Half an hour ‘til the cavalry arrives. I set my plates in motion, first making sure that Jester is soaking safely in the tub where he’s been since approximately nine-thirty. I feel nervous, uncertain about leaving a child unsupervised in the bath, even if they are already six. But this is the calmest he ever is, marinating in serenity, drifting calmly, murmuring to his Ariel mermaid doll, immersed in some complicated pretend story of his own invention.

I heat up my rice sock and return to the schoolroom, where I tear out Math worksheets, sketch some adding tables, explain the instructions to Princess. Since she finished Singapore early, we’ve been using “the Orange book,” which relies heavily on worksheets and manipulatives. I tell Princess she’s checking to make sure the math facts are actually true. She loves it. In fact, I probably would have just turned on the TV except Princess started sobbing when I said no Math today.

I take How Things Work away from Dr. the King who has been intently studying the diagrams of pulleys, levers, and gears, and hand him something appropriate he can read to Duchess. Something with lots of pictures intelligible to a two-year-old. Something with simple sentences. Something about a fox.

I lay down on the sofa, curl on my side, place my rice sock over my eyes, and gather these last two children around me. Dr. the King sits behind my knees, Duchess in front of my stomach, near to where she used to live, and we have Oral Reading. Dr. the King reads to us, something about a fox wrecking his bike and looking for a job so he can fix his bike. Duchess seems entranced and I don’t seem to have to correct any of Dr. the King’s pronunciation. He reads clearly, loudly, and with enough feeling to make the story interesting, even if he won’t win any Radio Drama awards.

So, my plates spin, and my head spins, but it is so nice, so lovely to lie down and the heat feels so good on my eyes. Princess comes to me, to check her work, and first I begin pointing out the good things, the wrong answers, without taking off my rice sock, and we giggle together. Silly Mommy!  Okay, then. I push the rice sock up onto my forehead as I peer nearsightedly at her work and make some suggestions while Dr. the King drones on about Fox’s attempt to be hired as a pizza delivery boy. I send Princess off to make sure Jester hasn’t drowned. She reports back – it doesn’t sound like he’s doing anything any differently than fifteen minutes ago – and sits down to finish her work. All this while Duchess sits and snuggles and listens to the story which honestly I lose the thread of as I drift away, snuggling with my baby and listening to Dr. the King’s voice and Princess talking Math to herself.

It isn’t always hard to teach four children, all at once.

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Zucchini Brownies: The Cure for What Ails You

So, none of us have been well.

The Professor succumbed first, last week. He felt perfectly fine, the night before, but by morning he couldn’t hardly crawl out of bed, canceling classes as a result. In the fifteen years we’ve been married, he’s canceled classes only a handful of times, testament partly to his hardy constitution, but mainly to his ability to stave off illness until grades are turned in or the holiday begins. By now, Exam Week, he is upright enough to grade madly, crippled only by long, deep coughing fits.

Princess stumbles downstairs, eats a little breakfast, and retreats back to bed, complaining of a sore throat. She revives midmorning and moves onto the couch, where she lapses into what I call a reading coma, rousing herself once to exclaim, “Old Timothy is his father…? I didn’t see that coming!” By midafternoon I can’t tell if she is actually sick or simply engrossed in the latest escapades of the Incorrigibles.

Duchess has what we call a cold in her eyes, which the pediatrician says is perfectly normal – or at least not an indicator of a serious problem. But her hair is sticky and tangled with what is either pancake syrup from dinner last night, or crusts of mucous from overnight. Or both. Definitely, this child needs to sleep in a nightcap. And pull her hair back at the table.

Jester’s anxiety levels ratchet upward to untenable, unbearable levels. He is either convinced we are all dying – which, to be honest, it feels like we might be – or coming down with something himself. Given the rate at which he sucks snot back up into his nose, the latter is quite possible. However, his sensory integration issues leave him unaware of his body’s signals to slow down, rest, recover, and so he continues to race, frenetically around the house, bouncing from one foot to the other, and speaking in a high, infantile voice. It would never occur to him to relax on the couch with a book. Here, blow your nose. With a Kleenex.

Dr. the King seems like the last man standing – except his mouthy attitude and his total inability to resist distraction. I know he will be sick, blowing his nose constantly, motoring through Kleenex box after Kleenex box, within twenty-four hours. He complains, frequently, loudly, about Jester’s excessive sniffling – which, yes, okay is gross. But, you know, you don’t have to blow your nose constantly. Give it a couple of minutes to collect. In the afternoon I catch him reading, almost reading, parked on Page 11 of a Magic Tree House book for fifteen minutes at a time, meditatively moving a Hot Wheels car back and forth. Hot… Wheels…

Yes, the cold is coming for this one. The cold is coming. Just you wait.

And me, yes, me also. I have the first stages of a serious head cold, weepy eyes and runny nose. I’ll have a headache, vertigo, and sneezing fits soon.

Definitely, it’s an afternoon for a brownie.

I feel I must tell the Professor first, even though he is really more of an enabler than an accountability partner. He eats Brie and crackers before bed, borrows Famous Amos cookies and Starbucks Frappuchinos (the ones in a bottle) from his mother, who has cheerfully continued to buy him treats during the entire course of our marriage. And given the fact that it’s Exam Week, I’m almost positive he has a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips in his office.

When I tell him I’m going to eat a brownie, he jumps in his chair as if someone poked him with a freshly sharpened pencil. “We have brownies?” he exclaims. “I didn’t know we had brownies! Can I have one?”

We eye each other for a moment. I decide to respond to the first half of his statement. “They’re the foil-wrapped packets in the freezer,” I explain.

He nods, conceding potential defeat. “I was wondering what those were.” To be fair, there are many mysteries in our refrigerator, some known to nobody.

On the way to the kitchen I press my hand on Dr. the King’s shoulder. He is deeply immersed in a computer game, practicing his math facts. If I’m going to extricate him, I have to give him some warning. “I’m going to defrost a brownie,” I tell him. “When that’s done, we’re going to have a Grammar lesson.”

“A brownie!” he practically shouts. I have his immediate attention, unusual when he is playing. “Can I have one?”

“They’re the zucchini brownies,” I remind him. The reason we have so many left over is because the children helped me make them, and thus discovered they had zucchini in them. Then I had an entire pan to myself, and, in an unusual burst of self-control, I decided to freeze most of them.

“Oh,” he replies, deflating a little and turning back to his game. I can tell he thought about taking a no-thank-you bite and then reconsidered.

I rummage through the freezer. Somehow it seems there’s been a lot of churn through there lately, and nothing has a particular place and most things aren’t in the same place twice. I pass over a two-pound bag of corn I can’t remember why I bought, three boxes of chopped spinach that’s been there since before my sister died, a Tupperware full of a mystery red substance – possibly marinara sauce – and several loaves of bread with just the heels remaining. It seems wasteful to throw away the heels even though nobody eats them, and I’m always just about to come up with a great recipe for bread heels, but never get around to it.

Finally I find the zucchini brownies – or actually the zucchini muffins. I made some of each, because there’s always more zucchini than one needs. The muffins are round, not square, and I put all of the muffins in one gallon Ziploc bag, and all the brownies in another.

Then I find the zucchini brownies.

Or – brownie, as the case may be.

“There’s only one brownie left!” I call over the bar into the dining room. Dr. the King doesn’t look up from his game. The Professor shrugs, picking up another paper. “You can have it, dear,” he replies. He knows what kind of day I’m having, and how badly I want the brownie.

He knows I’m not in the mood for sharing, although I confess I do break off some of the white chocolate chip crust coating for Dr. the King, once we are tucked into our Grammar lesson.

And, here, I don’t mind sharing the recipe with you.

They’re good for days when everybody’s sick.

*****

recipe from Simply In Season
(yields: one 13×9-inch pan of brownies)
Ingredients
1 c. flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. baking cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 c. zucchini, shredded
1 egg
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1/2 c. oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. semisweet or milk chocolate chips (I used milk)
1/2 c nuts, chopped (optional)
Instructions
Preheat oven to 350*.
Combine dry ingredients (flour, wheat flour, baking cocoa, baking soda, salt) in a large bowl.
Stir in the shredded zucchini.
In a small bowl, combine the wet ingredients (egg, sugars, yogurt, oil and vanilla). Once combined, add
the wet ingredients to the zucchini/flour bowl. Stir until thoroughly combined.
Pour batter into a GREASED 13×9-inch pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips (and nuts if using) on top of the
batter.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean.
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NTYBs and Trapezoids

We have picky – excuse me, choosy – eaters at our house.

Which is, I suppose, okay if there were only one of them, but there’s two, and two others with different preferences, and suddenly meals become very complicated.

We have, for a long time now, instituted the No-Thank-You Bite (NTYB).

Which is, I think, pretty common for most families with complicated food preferences.

Lately, though, we’ve changed it up. Made it more difficult – excuse me, challenging.

The children are now required to each take four – yes, four – NTYB of their least-favorite food on their plate. What the dietician calls their challenge food.

And – what I meant to say – the challenge here for me is providing everyone with food that everyone will eat, more or less. So it’s a mix and a balance. I have a standard menu that I serve from, and then once every week or two I’ll offer something new. It only makes it on the regular, rotating menu if it wins what we call a 4 or 5 out of 6 buy-in. Meaning, at least one of the picky – excuse me, choosy – eaters likes it. That’s a bonus.

So, anyway, four NTYB. Four.

And, even worse, I – The Mommy – rations out the four NTYB, so they are rather slightly larger than microscopic, which is always the size our choosiest eater ate.

For such Herculean efforts, we reward the children with a treat – their choice – after dinner. A dessert, offered, not taken away if they don’t eat. The difference is slight but the children seem to understand.  It’s their choice, and often Dr. the King decides it isn’t worth the suffering. That’s fine then – just take one NTYB and I’ll leave the ice cream in the freezer.

But then, well. If it is worth it, if the NTYBs are seen as surmountable, if one can choke down four bites of pork chop in exchange for ice cream, well – I am happy to offer assistance.

Dr. the King likes my Sports Announcer Voice. Which, if we did actually record it, would make great video at the wedding. I cup my hands over my mouth, speaking in a loud distorted, crackly voice – you know, like the voice you hear at the stadium: “And in this corner, folks, we have a third grader examining his pork chop carefully… he’s adjusting his glasses, thinking through his strategy… he has a lot of experience with this… he may go pro next year, he’s won so many NTYB challenges lately… I wonder if he will consider the Ketchup Approach – it may cover up those nasty spices and dry, cardboard texture… YES! Look at this, folks! He has his pork chop on his fork – he’s going for the ketchup – a good, generous dollop – he’s making the approach – I think he’ll make it – the pork chop’s IN HIS MOUTH – he’s chewing – he’s swallowing – ALL RIGHT!! WE HAVE A SUCCESSFUL NTYB!! AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!! Take a drink of milk, buddy – you deserve it!!!!”

Yes, that’s pretty popular. It’s always fun to see your mother acting like a complete fool, even criticizing her own cooking, which is otherwise verboten among the general populace.

But another strategy which seems have more staying power is the Synchronized NTYB. At some point during the meal, while the Professor and I are eating and enjoying scintillating conversation, a downcast child will break in, “Mommy, can you help me with my NTYB?”

Why certainly, honey. I am always happy to help.

Usually, the others pile in, and we all do the NTYB together. Teamwork, family unity, all that.

We load up our forks (or spoons) and assume the Ready position.

“Ready?” I wait, fork poised above my plate, in front of my mouth. “Here we go. Up… down.. left… right… center… and… IN!!” The children follow my directions, moving their forks (or spoons) in the movements I dictate.

Another time, I got kind of crazy and led the children in making a square shape.

I don’t recommend this for two-year-olds trying soup. Or, at least, you can expect a mess and a smaller NTYB than what the child started with. But, hey, it’s fun.

And, it occurs to me that this technique is, roughly, what young parents try when introducing solids to their baby.

Except, this hasn’t occurred to my children so the Syncronized NTYB is still fun and still cool.

The children like the Syncronized NTYB because it gives them some control. I lead the first NTYB, and then one of the others will lead the next. Jester seizes control as soon as he can, wildly waving his fork back and forth, up and down. “Left! Right! Up! Down! IN!”

He’s having so much fun I’m not sure he notices he’s taken a NTYB at all.

And, I must say, it has occurred to me that this might be an effective way to teach right and left.

Princess’s turn next.

She starts slowly, “Right! Left!” she directs. Then, a gleam in her eye. “Circle… Oval… Square…” A piece of lettuce flies off her fork and lands on the floor. “Triangle…” A giggle. “A rectangle… and IN!!”

“You forgot the TRAPEZOID!” Dr. the King roars, laughing.

Ah, well. Next NTYB.

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Party like it’s 1985!

“So… I guess… I just have to be a big girl and try to deal with it…” I concluded.

I was talking to the Professor on the cell phone since, apparently, both the Internet and the landline had gone out for reasons our provider wasn’t able to tell us. Their customer service number was also not working “due to technical problems.”

The Professor very graciously tried calling customer service himself, from his office. Nope, not answering. We were totally in the dark. I tried to quell my panic: I use the Internet to maintain an (admittedly false) sense of connection to others. I don’t use it to get my work done, but it helps me feel like I don’t live in a post-apocalyptic world populated only by short people with endless demands for more snacks, and long involved stories about… well, I can’t exactly figure it out.

So what to do?

Wait for service to be restored and, in the meantime, party like it’s 1985.

(At the very least, I can’t pay the bills.)SAM_1851

I organize a few binders, keeping at bay the paper clutter that is forever haunting us.

We watch network television, without Amazon prime.

We go barefoot in the grass.

We talk to our neighbors, porch to porch.

We talk to our neighbor’s friends, without any fear of stranger danger.

SAM_1852

We play baseball in the front yard, me pitching, Dr. the King batting, Jester collecting balls for me since I haven’t been able to find my baseball mitt. The girls sit in plastic chairs, in the near-outfield, watching the action. If there were any danger of a line drive from Dr. the King, I’d make them move back a ways.

When the Professor returns home, we go to the local park, running and slipping and sliding through the mud, fetching our shoes SAM_1854again when we lose them.  I take a million pictures of the girls dancing in the forest.

We return home for baths and dinner together around the table, talking and laughing and joking about our day.

Just another unconnected day without the Internet.

SAM_1866The Professor tries to call his mother, discovering that the Internet and the phone are working now.

I check Facebook, distracted and distant. I surface, finally, realizing that it’s time for Duchess’s bedtime. I find her, fully dressed, a soaking-wet towel wrapped around her shoulders, standing in a bathtub full of water, shower running full blast. “It raining, Mommy!” she exclaims.

Just another connected day with the Internet.

I have to confess, I didn’t miss it very much.

Although I do have bills to pay.SAM_1865

SAM_1857

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Happy Mother’s Day to Me!

(Ed. Note: I’m writing this on Friday night, while watching The Office with the Professor. It’s probably the only one-on-one time we’ll have together this weekend.)

The Professor offered me the day off for Mother’s Day this year.

Instead, by the time you read this, relaxing with a cup of coffee or reading in snatches while cooking dinner for your family, I will be spending even more time with my children.

I often have these brilliant ideas which probably – most likely – would work better with fewer children.

So, I don’t know, I could have been eating with two hands, or using the bathroom without an audience, or having some alone time, or sleeping in, I will – instead – yay! – be spending extra-special, special time, one-on-one with each of my four children.

Because, you know, Mother’s Day is sort of about being a mother, and mothering my children. Celebrating them, and our relationship, and celebrating the things we enjoy together.

Saturday, I’m waking up early, taking Dr. the King out for breakfast at the pastry shop, and then down to the airport for – I don’t even know what – a Young Aviator’s event. Something about planes. And Dr. the King likes planes. We’ll get to fly in a plane, and the whole time I’ll be praying 1) that we don’t die; and 2) that Dr. the King won’t decide to be a missionary pilot.

Then, home, for lunch with the rest of the crew and then out, shopping with Princess. Her skirts are all two sizes too small, and all of her shoes (the ones that still fit) have holes in them. So I can sort of justify a shopping trip, and throw in dinner at her favorite restaurant. She’s already decided what she’s going to eat.

And then – well, I’m sort of making this up as I go along.

I’m not sure what, if anything, I’ll do with Jester or Duchess. They’re both young enough to not really be aware of what’s going on, not really aware of special days or special times. And they’re both high maintenance enough that I spend a lot of time with them, as it is.

 

(I think this is the age range for which taking a day off might be justified.)

But, of course Princess, who is really into fairness and equality right now, wants to know what I’m doing with them. And she’s already told them that I’m going to do something with them so I’ll have to come up with something. I’ll probably take Duchess out for a cookie Sunday afternoon. Jester and I already spend every Wednesday morning together – I was going to do something with him last week but it was my birthday and he was busy playing on the Kindle – so maybe we’ll skip the grocery shopping next week and go to the park.

Or something.

Stay tuned.

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Happy Birthday to Me!

“This is your forty-first birthday?” Dr. the King replied incredulously. Turning to the Professor, he continued, “Boy, Mommy is old.”

Old enough, I suppose, to not expect much on my birthday.

Old enough, I suppose, to let my children be themselves on my birthday.

Old enough, I suppose, to let the day be what it is – one more in a string of ongoing days, a day to relax, enjoy my life with my children and my husband – but not expect everyone to suddenly behave themselves, to suddenly serve me instead of the other way round, for a change.

This is simply where I have been today.

A usual day, a regular day.

I took Jester to his occupational therapy appointment in the City. With his therapist, I discussed anxiety with foreign-language speakers, possible dyslexia with switching letters – the usual “issues of the week” conversation. Just whatever comes up – some weeks, lots of weeks, lately, it’s nothing.  Jester, of course, didn’t remember or neglected to mention my birthday. Others of my children would have announced it, first thing, but I have learned not to compare Jester to the others, and so it doesn’t bother me.

Grocery shopping, on the way home. I buy chocolate chips, to make my birthday cookie. Earlier, there had been of course the conversation about what kind of cake I would get. Jester and Dr. the King angled for an ice-cream cake from Dairy Queen – something I really don’t actually care for very much. I suggested buying a cake, but Princess really wanted to make a cake with me. At which point the Professor intervened to remind everyone that it’s Mommy’s birthday and *I* get to decide what kind of cake I get. So I’m making a cookie cake with Princess. Because, really, I do like baking with Princess, even if it is my own cake.

For lunch, I eat a protein shake on the way home; I am tempted to buy my favorite breakfast sandwich from Starbucks, because it’s my birthday, but it’s my birthday and I know we’re going out for dinner. I’m willing to bake for my birthday but not cook. So I save the Weight Watchers points and drink the protein shake.

We pick up the other kids at Ma’s and transfer the groceries into the van (don’t ask) and head home. The children help carry groceries inside: Dr. the King picking dandelions (aka blowflowers) in the yard, Jester hauling more than he can manage, Princess pulling individual items out of her bags for Duchess to carry.

But, inside, we find something different, something unexpected: wrapped presents on the table from Daddy, and – surprise! – a cookie cake from the local bakery.TheProfessor tells me later that the idea of baking your own birthday cake seemed preposterous.

I am pretty sure I’ve baked my own cake in past years, but I’m grateful for his thoughtfulness. It’s Wednesday and I’ve done the grocery shopping and I’m tired and I can feel a headache coming on.

A nap; yes, a nap is more in order than baking. As I’ve said or thought many, many times in nearly nine years of parenting, “Thank goodness for nap time!”

The children simply cannot believe I am willing to leave three – three! – presents and a cake on the table, but these of course must wait until the Professor returns from school.

After nap, we have just a little – just a little – school. Because, it is, after all, a school day, even if it is my birthday. The children are at first incredulous but quickly snap to order. It’s Mommy’s birthday, after all, and I sense that they don’t want to cause too much trouble.

I shouldn’t admit how much I am enjoying teaching grammar right now. It’s one thing that’s going well, so we work on that for a little while.

I check Facebook while the children are watching Curious George. Thirty-plus birthday greetings on my Wall, including a message from the Professor: Happy Birthday, Dear. Look in the back of the refrigerator when the kids aren’t around.

Ooh!

Another surprise!

I rummage, surreptitiously, while the TV drones, through the groceries I just bought, and find a white paper bag. Truffles from the bakery! They are cold, too cold, of course: whether or not chocolate goes in the refrigerator a point of difference between the Professor and I. But they are truffles; their location inconsequential. I thaw them on a plate on the counter and eat them when the children aren’t looking.

We go to the neighbor’s playground; Santa’s playground, Duchess calls it. She can’t quite pronounce their last name. When the neighbor’s children were younger, they built their own playground, a hazardous, haphazard collection of lumber that I’m not sure is up to code. Now that their children have survived to adulthood, they’ve very generously offered it to our children. Oblivious to any danger, they enjoy playing while I hover, praying under my breath and thinking of our health insurance deductable.

Slowly I realize that today is about more than just me, more about savoring the life we lead together, enjoying our time, giving to them as I give to myself.

We go out for dinner, for pizza, the children’s favorite – I choose my favorite pizza place. The Professor goes to the kitchen to order my favorite specialty soda, presented secretly in a Styrofoam to-go cup, so Duchess won’t figure out what it is and want to drink some.

Jester sulks, because the Professor cut up a piece of pizza for him before he had a chance to pick what slice he wanted. Duchess eats a little and then stands up to dance in the booth. Dr. the King, who will be nine – nine! – next month, wants to crawl in my lap. Princess, no matter how many times I remind her, seems incapable of eating without slumping in her seat, knees well-visible somewhere in the vicinity of her ears.

But they are mine, they are my children, and we are out for my birthday and we are celebrating and while I can’t help but remind them how they should behave, I am not bothered.

Grandma Linda and Uncle Ginger call while I am attempting to convince the children to do their evening routines before eating the cookie. Even though I’m not with them, they’ve gone out for dinner together to celebrate me. Some Middle Eastern restaurant with hummus, Mom says.

Personally, I think it sounds better than the usual neighborhood pizza joint.

SAM_1795Then, finally, cake and presents. The children help me open them: the second season of The Office, a book by Aldis Purs entitled Baltic Facades, and another by Karen Pearce, Being an Aroma of Christ. The latter book I opened on delivery from Amazon before I remembered my birthday was coming.

And – that’s it.

Another day, another year, another birthday. A day which has fled as quickly as the others seem to lately.

It’s time, now, to put the kids to bed.

And then, maybe, I’ll curl up on the couch for a while and watch The Office.

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Jammie Walk!

Early this morning, Princess’s face peered over the bottom of the screen door, excited, eager, welcoming.

I confess she startled me, a bit. Or, a lot.

“Sweetheart, what on earth are you doing, awake, already?” I asked.  She didn’t reply but retreated back to bed, fifteen minutes to Wake-Up Time, wailing, disappointed.

(Wake-Up Time is one inflexible, unbreakable Rule in our house – while most everything else seems up for negotiation in some way, Wake-Up Time is not. Our attitude is, if you don’t hold the line, eventually they will be waking up at three o’clock in the morning. Three o’clock in the morning!)

Duchess and I had been outside already, Duchess strapped into the umbrella stroller, a jacket buttoned up over her Cupcake Sweetie jammies. Short sleeves, shorts, Crocs. I probably should have put long pants on her, but we were out, quick, for our Jammie Walk.

When I first began rising early, when I first began thinking of having some time to myself, I thought I’d also like to take a walk, enjoy some fresh air, some space outside my house. I thought I could take Duchess, who, as the baby, wakes earlier than the rest. I thought I’d just change her diaper, throw her in the stroller, not bother getting her ready for the day or anything. Just – go.

Thus – the Jammie Walk!

Yes, yes – a walk in your pajamas.

That first morning, we had to set some rules: she could walk, of course; she could wander and explore and pick flowers or rocks or stop to watch a bug on the sidewalk. But I want some exercise, too, so that first day I put her in the stroller, in her jammies and we go, fast. The breeze ruffles her hair, she watches the moon set, the sun rise. The birds sing their early-morning songs and the world comes awake. We see a few – but just a few – neighbors, out for their own exercise or driving to work or walking their dogs. Two-year-olds are always cute, even – or especially – in their  jammies. I feel no shame, no embarrassment having her out in her jammies.

“I love Jammie Walk,” Hannah said to herself. We had come home, now. I was fixing breakfast and she sat in the livingroom, on the couch. Yes, we both love it: the peace, the quiet, the new day starting, but especially the time together. Undivided attention, a chance to speak and be heard.

Duchess loved it so much, that first day, that she asked for it again after dinner. Clearly, if she is her jammies, it must mean that we should go for a walk. Princess wasn’t feeling well, that night, so the Professor stayed home with her, but the boys were eager to see what a Jammie Walk was all about. When they were getting dressed, before they knew we were going for a Jammie Walk, neither of them were able to find the matching shirts to their jammies, and so they clash horribly: Jester, in two discoordinated colors of green; Dr. the King’s red Star Wars bottoms doing battle with blue sharks top. Yes, going out, leaving the house in your jammies is a little dangerous, a little risqué. Certainly not something we’ve allowed before. But, they are all ready for bed: when we return, it’s a story and a snuggle and down they go, exclaiming over how fun the Jammie Walk is.

Easter morning, Duchess awakens, asking, “Jammie Walk? Jammie Walk?” We can’t get ready quickly enough for her.  I take her out again, just the two of us. The boys are already awake, more excited and about Easter I had expected they would be. I remind them to lie quietly in bed, rest, until Wake-Up Time, just fifteen minutes awake. I take the cell phone to help me keep time. A Jammie Walk isn’t long, just fifteen minutes, usually, out and back along a particular route.  I cut a couple of blocks off, but the boys’ clocks is a little faster than mine, and John greets me at five after seven, fully dressed in his Easter finery, right down to the straw fedora.

We go for a walk together, all together, after supper Easter evening, a long wander on our feet through the woods. We return home, late, exhausted, but, as she dresses for bed, Duchess asks, “Jammie Walk?” hopefully.

“Honey, we just took a long walk! We can take a Jammie Walk in the morning.”

“Ah!” she replies, mollified. “Jammie Walk a-morrow!” She holds up an index finger, nodding seriously as she does when she is declaiming a True Fact.

But, I stay up too late and we are all over-tired from our holiday. We oversleep and miss our window for a Jammie Walk. So we eat breakfast first, all of us, not including the Professor, who had gotten up early with Duchess to let me sleep and has now gone back to bed.

But not for nothing am I missing our Jammie Walk. After breakfast, we all pile out the door for a Jammie Walk together, especially since none of us have dressed for the day.  Dr. the King mounts his bike, and the Jester races to keep up. I push Duchess in the stroller, and Princess walks with us placidly, wearing her Easter shoes, since those were the only ones she could find quickly that didn’t require socks.

“This is nice, Mommy!” she exclaims. “I like just walking along with you, and talking!”

It is early enough – just a little after eight – that I feel bad for yelling directions to the boys, who lead us by a block or two. Perhaps there are a few neighbors still in bed, still recovering from Easter, not yet out for their own Jammie Walk.

This morning, after our surprise finding Princess at the door, awake before Wake-Up Time, we return from our Jammie Walk to find Princess hovers at the bottom of the stairs.

“I went back to bed, Mommy,” she explains tearfully. I pull her into my lap for a snuggle and a chat. She doesn’t understand why Duchess’s Wake-Up Time is earlier than her, and my explanation – that Duchess is  still a baby – doesn’t satisfy.  Princess wants to get up earlier, she says, because the rest of the day I’m grumpy, and she wants to be awake when I’m not grumpy.

At first her remarks sting, but on reflection I’m not sure how she knows what mood I’m in when she’s still sleeping. I suspect that the Jammie Walk has much to do with it. Who really can be crabby when walking in the early morning in their jammies, and how, really, can a day go wrong when it starts with a Jammie Walk?

I’m reluctant to move up Princess’s Wake-Up Time – talk about grumpy when overtired – and I’m reluctant to give up one-on-one time with Duchess; besides, there is some early-morning shine on the Jammie Walk that it doesn’t have after about six-thirty. But, perhaps, Princess will come to see Mommy isn’t as grumpy on the days she’s had a Jammie Walk first thing.

Try it and see.

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