Friday, August 15, 2008

Musical Beds

The original plan -- a plan that was much anticipated by Ander and Zaza -- was for all four cousins to share Tutu & Grandad's "Kids' Room."*

Two children would take the bunk beds, and two would sleep on an air mattress on the floor, and they would rotate each night or so, so that everybody had a chance to sleep in the coveted top bunk.

A romantic, children's summer adventure story sort of a plan it was. I think we all had visions of the kids telling each other stories and playing with flashlights and giggling until they all fell asleep in a happy exhausted pile, with sun-pinked cheeks and salty curls.

But I was dubious about the air mattress from the get-go.

About its fitting in the room so tightly, right up against the bunk bed and the toy box, forcing one child to sleep with their head up against the desk leg, and the other to sleep within bonking distance of the door, leaving no room for parents to tiptoe in or out without stepping right on the mattress.

About the daily chores of inflating and deflating and setting up and putting away linens in sauna-like conditions with four impatient children wedging themselves under my elbows.

And I was dubious about Ander and Zaza actually being able to sleep on the mattress without me in the middle, the way we slept when we went camping. Without me in the middle, Zaza was almost guaranteed to roll into her (heavier) brother over and over. And Ander is just not a sleep-anywhere kind of a guy. Plus, it takes him a good half an hour to an hour to fall asleep after he's been kissed goodnight.

We quickly discovered that -- just like his daddy did when he was a boy -- Cousin A talks in his sleep, suddenly, startlingly, conversationally, and loudly ("I think I'll have the raisin bread," he announced one night). And often his little brother, Cousin J, will answer him, while also sound asleep. This usually happened between 3 and 5 AM, and then Ander would lay there, awake, waiting for the next goofy outburst.

And then everybody got a nasty, mucous-y summer cold, and the whole idea of the rotating beds seemed like a big ol' germ-swap.

Plus, we didn't factor in that all that constant time together would necessitate some time apart, time to regroup and retreat to the original shape of their family units.

The whole air mattress thing got old fast, for all the reasons I had pre-fretted about.

We tried cots. That worked for a few nights. Ultimately the non-bunk-bedders preferred to just sleep on a pile of folded quilts.

We made the bottom bunk into a magical bower with a pareo curtain and a book light and a pile of throw pillows. Again, attractive and sleep-inducing for a night or two.

More often than not I ended up with one or both of my children sleeping in my room. Aliza was so worn out by day's end that she fell asleep on my bed in the middle of bedtime stories, and then Ander just refused to leave us. So I switched off the light, turned on my book light, and read until he was softly snoring too.

Sleeping with Ander in anything smaller than a King-size bed is like sleeping with a colt or two or three Weimereiners in a Volkswagen bug: all knees and elbows and loud breathing and random kicking. So if Ander ended up in my bed, I ended up on the floor.

I didn't really mind though. I kind of love sharing a room with Ander and Zaza, and I flat-out adore waking up during the night all entangled with their long lovely limbs and sweet-smelling hair and stinky breath. When everything else is topsy-turvy and slip-sliding-summer-scheduled, reconnecting with each other in dreamland is so so sweet.

*This room used to be Grandad's teak-shelved office. But after the third and fourth grandchildren came along, it magically evolved into a colorful, bead-boarded, bunk-bedded room stocked, nay, crammed with the creme de la creme of Uncle Alan's and my childhood toys. He and I didn't do much growing up in this house (our folks bought it when I was in college), but this room is chock full of memories: there's a Fisher Price castle, a Fisher Price farm, a Fisher Price yacht, all with those wonderful, pre-Little-People, choke-able, kokeshi-like Fisher Price People; there's My Friend Mandy, and the Sunshine Family, and an enormous bin of Star Wars toys; there's a whole bookcase of Scholastic Book Order books. My childhood dresser has been painted for the umpteenth time, but still has its psychedelic floral drawer liner. The old toy box holds dress-up stuff and doll clothes. Uncle Alan's collection of wooden toys sits on a high shelf that runs above the window.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Two Booths in Two Days

The first strip is from the magical booth at Balboa Park -- only one strip (in contrast with last summer's booth-binge), as both cash and ZaMeAndad's patience were thinning out. This year they have a trunk full of props next to the booth -- though I'm certain the folks who set it up didn't realize they had provided the necessary items to fabricate both a knife-wielding-psycho-beaver and a hawaiian-fairy-princess.

The second strip is from the digital booth at Corvette Diner in Hillcrest. The shouted directions were: 'SMILE!" "CRAZY FACES!" "SLEEP!" and 'HOORAY!" Zaza is -- as was typical this summer -- trying very hard not to be shoved out of frame by the boys, and Cousin Jack -- as was typical this summer -- is a doe-eyed, bed-headed, sweet and silly presence, a bit eclipsed by the older folk.

And the last one is just a frame from the first strip. But dang, huh? I like how her hand holding the fan doesn't even seem attached to her, and that the whole picture might have fallen out of someone's wallet in 1938...

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Kids in the Hall

So as not to completely annihilate my folks' morning routines, Auntie N and I try to keep the Cousins upstairs in the morning. Which has actually worked out very nicely, as they just wake up and start playing together, allowing Auntie N & I to occasionally sleep until 8AM, or even to take a morning shower.

With my brother and Auntie N's room crammed with the detritus of their cross-country drive and impending move, my room designated as the 'chill zone' for time-outs and alone-times, and Tutu and Grandad's room completely off-limits, the kids have expanded their playspace from the playroom/bunk-room into the long, zig-zagging hallway.

Most mornings when I stumble out of bed, this is what I find (Ander and Zaza are the lighter sleepers, and are up earliest):

And here's what I found when I came out of the bathroom this morning: