Just another day at the park.

In my last week of summer vacation, we’ve finally settled into a nice little routine. After breakfast, we clean up a little, then head out to Lazarus Park at about 9:45 or 10. Except for a few rainy days here and there, the weather has been absolutely stunning in Chicago lately — especially today. Blue, blue sky; fluffy, white, movie-ready clouds; and a balmy temperature that is just right. Your whole body just relaxes the minute you hit the breezy air.

When we hit the park at about 10, sometimes there’s a daycare there. The first time this happened, my heart sank. There are probably 15 or so kids, and it is not a big park, and I am a giant freak who worries that either my kids are going to bully another kid or another kid will bully mine, but it all turned out just fine. The caregivers are amazing. Very attentive, very hands-on, and the kids are really cute and, though rambunctious and much older than my kids (6-8 range), very kind to the younger ones. And Jack and Emme adore watching the older kids run around. Seriously, Jack doesn’t need any other activity — he sometimes just stands there for 15 minutes and watches. Emme, meanwhile, elbows her way into a group of 7-year-olds as if she’s the team leader.

We practically had the park to ourselves today, though, which is strange as it’s such a gorgeous day. But it gave me lots of time to get shots of Emme on the big kid slide, which she now climbs up and slides down herself, with no assistance from me. I’ve been wanting to document it.

First, the bottom platform:

(Little shout-out to Grandpa on her shirt there.) Victory! Then the next level, which makes me nervous, because she sometimes fumbles with that top rung and if she fell from there it would be pretty bad.

And then she’s at the top!

Those of you with kids probably think I’m crazy, being so impressed that she’s doing this on her own. In actuality, I’m more impressed at myself, letting her do it on her own. I am so anxiety prone — I hate seeing her climb.  With every increase in altitude, all I’m seeing is the tragedy of what would happen if she fell. But this is me trying to let go of the anxiety and let her explore, so I’m quite proud of it.

She loves being at the very top — and truth be told, this is where I feel she’s safest, since it has bars all around and the walls of the slide itself are pretty high.

But, naturally, once she had mastered the big slide she started looking around for more dangerous things to play on. Like this.

She can scamper right up this thing, no problem, but it leads to a platform about 6 feet high that has no railing around it at all. DEATH TRAP. So I let her climb up to the top rung then pull her down, which spurs screaming.

Um, NO. I don’t know which macabre park planner thought this thing was a good idea. If she fell on this, she would knock out a few teeth and possibly break her neck on the way down.

So, of course, we had a few idyllic park visits where she was content to do the slide over and over again, then started looking for somewhere else to get her thrills, which leads to arguments. Meanwhile, poor Jack gets hauled around the playground with me as I run from place to place, peeling her off things she shouldn’t be climbing on.

That’s okay, he’s usually just busy eating bark.

(Seriously, this makes no sense to me. He’s chowed down on this bark a few times now — enough to know it doesn’t taste anything close to delicious. Yet he continues to put it in his mouth. GROSS.)

No, really, in fact, Jack is getting more and more brave himself. He likes the balance beam on chains that shakes when you walk on it, and even Emme won’t do that.

He also can climb up this barrel thing, almost by himself.

And when I can get them both in the same area, he loves going up the little slide. I just don’t like to let him do it without being somewhat nearby, and she’s usually doing some death-defying trick across the park.

He’s been so good-natured lately. Unbelievably good-natured. He’s perfectly happy to be carted around the park with me, chasing after Emme. Maybe his teething is finally done, and that was the cause of so many of his bad moods in past? I don’t know, but whatever it is, I’m grateful. He is cuddly, sweet, loving, and generally, compliant.

Not so his sister. We had to cut our park visit short today when she hit me, flat palm swinging wide and fast, smack in the head when I pulled her off the chain ladder. (Currently, we don’t spank. We’re not vehemently anti-spanking, just have decided not to go that route right now. And I get the argument that you can’t teach a kid not to hit by hitting the kid yourself. Theoretically, it makes sense. Emotionally, my palm was itching to spank that kid in front of everyone in the park. People, it was practically a roundhouse punch in its impact.) I feel bad that Jack’s day has to be ruined by her bad behavior — maybe I should have strapped her into the stroller and let him continue to play? But that seems almost too cruel and man, she would have brought the apartment buildings down with her screams of rage. Someone would have thought I was killing a child. So we packed up and headed to Gethsemane, the nursery that’s about a mile or so away, to shop for some plants for my office. It’s all part of my plan to try and make me more cheerful about going back to work.

The babies loved looking at the flowers.

Gosh, that place is beautiful. But you pay for the beauty, believe me.

My little selection of plants cost $48! And I will probably kill them all by the end of the first quarter. 🙁

Then, back home around noon, lunch, a little playing, and nap time. I’m experimenting a bit with nap time. I usually put them down about 12 but Her Highness has spent the past week shrieking, laughing, and playing in her crib for about an hour and a half after I put her down. Since they’re both in the same room for nap time now, that is NOT COOL at all. I feel so bad for Jack, but on Tuesday, after about forty minutes of this, I marched in and yanked her up to put her in the pack and play in our room and Jack had a meltdown of colossal, epic proportions. Seriously. Usually I’m pretty hard-hearted about these things but I felt so sorry for him that I went back in and put her back in her crib. She was all, “Whatever, mommy, I can make noise anywhere,” about it, but Jack made it abundantly clear that he preferred her in the room with him, noisiness and all. So I’m trying to weather the storm. I don’t hear her right now, so I’m thinking she gave up the ghost about twenty minutes after I put them in, which is good progress.

It took me all summer, but I’m truly enjoying being at home with them. I love walking them to the park in the mornings as the neighborhood goes about its business — men fixing the sidewalk, parents pushing children, older kids riding bicycles, delivery trucks making their stops. No rush, no hurry, a list of chores to do but there’s always tomorrow if I don’t get to them today. And being with the babies every minute of every day, while, occasionally excruciating — like yesterday, when it rained and we were indoors all day — is…illuminating is the only word I can think of for it. I feel like I know them so much better than I did at the beginning of the summer. Which is only natural — during the school year, I see them for about a half hour in the morning, then from about 4:20 until bed time at 7:30. And weekends, but I’m often out of the house for hours on Saturday. Most of what we know about them — their nap times and duration, what they’re eating, what they’re not eating…and, most heartbreakingly, what new words they might be saying or activities they might be doing — all of that information comes to us from the babysitter. Sometimes it feels so wrong to have children and hand them off to someone else to take care of for the majority of their days. And I find myself wondering if we could make do on one salary.

Moot point for now, as school starts on the 27th, for real, and I have meetings and orientation for three days of next week, so after today, this lovely little respite is over. I am left with the feeling that I need to make the time I am able to spend with them more purposeful and meaningful.

Robert M. Hightower - August 17, 2012 - 5:13 pm

Another wonderful, narrative accompanied by fantastic pictures. The opening picture is great, as are the ones of the plants at the nursery. The pictures of the twins are absolutely fabulous. It feels like they are in the room with me. Great job Lara.

Richard Ragsdale - August 18, 2012 - 9:42 pm

Yeeeek, they’re so gosh-darned CUTE!

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