My husband’s favorite month is October, and for the longest time I thought mine was too.  But strangely, I woke on November 1, 2014 feeling more optimistic than I have in months.  While LittleMan and Babygirl staggered through the morning-after-Halloween in their various states of exhaustion and sugar-fueled bursts of energy (or tears), I blazed around the apartment, tearing down the paper bats and skeleton bunting, tossing out tired-looking pumpkins, and eventually re-arranging all the toys and purging yet more “baby stuff” that no one plays with or wears anymore.  Practically whistling while I worked, I pondered the grocery shopping for the week, planned smoky chilis and roasted squash and baking projects for the kids.  I anticipated the changing of the clocks and the mellow, dark evenings at home now that Fall soccer is finally over and the baseball season’s climax gives us permission to turn off the game already.

In other words, I realized last weekend that November is actually my favorite month.  After the dead sprint that is back-to-school, the wild anticipation and week of candy consumption that is Halloween, November is a month of respite: a time to reflect, be grateful, sleep in on dark mornings.

More madness waits just around the corner, but for a few wonderful weeks we can just…be.

The being has been missing for a while.  Since our return from Tahoe at the end of August, every single member of our nuclear unit has undergone a life transition.  Individually and collectively, this process of becoming — a kindergartner, a preschooler, self-employed, promoted — has utterly consumed us, and I’ll be honest: it hasn’t all been lollipops and rainbows.  (It has, however, involved a great deal of ice cream, which I pretty much deploy on a daily basis in order to keep the troops happy.  A spoonful of  sugar (or ten) and all that jazz.)

The nature of things is that during tumultuous times I sit in the eye of the storm — even though sometimes, admittedly, I am the storm — and try to keep things from spinning off into space.  LittleMan has an anxiety attack every day he has to go to after-school care; Babygirl starts climbing into LittleMan’s bed every night; my husband develops temporary insomnia; I get pinkeye.  But we soldier on: I place myself steadfastly at the second tree to the left in front of LittleMan’s school every single day at precisely 1:50pm and ferry him to various afternoon programs, taking conference calls at the edge of the soccer field.  We eliminate Babygirl’s nap when we can so that she will be more tired at the end of the day.  My husband does more yoga.

A new routine develops.

Later in the day on November 1 my husband had to go to the office for a bit and LittleMan craved “some space” (as he does), so I decided to make cornbread.  Babygirl, in her Buddha-bellied glory, has lately appointed herself my sous, which means that cooking has become a highly effective way of interrupting my children’s keen desire to disrupt each other’s lives at every opportunity.

“Mommy, I wanna make with you.”
“Perfect!  Let’s make cornbread.”

I dump the flour!  I hold the spoon!  I crack the eggs myself!” she admonished me, smashing an egg and several shards of shell into the mixing bowl.  Cooking with Babygirl is not what one might describe as a tidy activity, but the good news is that she ALSO loves to strip off all her clothes and sweep the floors.  The gift that keeps on giving.

“Can I eat it?” she inquires, stirring the lumpy batter.
“The eggs aren’t cooked, Lovey.  They’ll make you sick.”
“I needa egg.”
“You just cracked the egg.”
“I needa NOTHER egg.  I needa egg I can crack and eat.”
“A hard-boiled egg?  You’d like a hard-boiled egg?”
“Three.  I need three hard-boiled eggs.  Can you cook them?”
“Can you say ‘please’?”

LittleMan paused his Legos to opine from the living room floor.  “YUCK.  I hate hard-boiled eggs.”
“Of course you do!” I responded cheerily.  “Don’t yuck her yum!”

Attention spans being what they are on the Saturday afternoon after Halloween, the waiting game of baking proved too much even for my budding chef.  LittleMan gave in to Babygirl’s prodding and the two of them moved on to pretend play, leaving me alone in a warm, bake-scented kitchen with 14 corn muffins and two hard-boiled eggs cooling on the counter (the third having been discarded when Babygirl cracked it too soon and the oozy yolk smeared all over her shirt).  The floor was gritty with cornmeal flour and the counters slick-sticky with a sheen of egg white and oil.

I commenced the clean-up, silently monitoring the sound of the bare-chested lasso-versus-lightsaber battle underway in the back bedroom.  I thought about how much I love it when the kids play together, so much so that I am sometimes willing to ignore the fact that they might actually be trying to kill each other with their various ropes and swords and helmets.  I thought about the mercurial nature of childhood affection, how hot and cold they run, and how fast they can switch.  I thought about the journey we’ve been on these past 10 months of 2014 and how good it felt — like really, really good — to feel optimistic again.

Suddenly Babygirl yowled and LittleMan made a pre-emptive sprint down the hall, hollering “It wasn’t my fault!  It was AN ACCIDENT!”

This is what happens when you let your children play with swords and lassos on their bunkbed.

I kissed the owie, insisted on shirts and shoes, and shepherded my little crazies out the door and across the street to the park, where they sprinted like wild beasts until the sun dipped behind the buildings.

Later that night my husband and I sat on the couch, decompressing from the day and from the Fall sprint in general.  Sometimes we just get so…tired.  But then my husband leaned his head back and closed his eyes and said “Be honest: would you have it any other way?” and then he got up to change the clocks for Daylight Savings.

Sitting there alone I suddenly realized — not for the first time, but it’s good to remember — that THIS IS LIFE.  The sprinting and the growing and the stopping and the baking and the learning and the letting things happen sometimes.  This is life.  And that is why it’s so damn perfect.  Right there.

Happy November, folks.


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