This is a boring hi-we're-really-still-here post.
It's March. March, I tell you. And we're still slogging through ice and snow and reading weather predictions for ice pellets (didn't pan out, thankfully). At least our first winter back from Okinawa was a good, solid one, with lots of coats and boots and snow-eating and just enough days with frostbite warnings. But I can't keep enough lotion on these hands and pretty soon my finger tips are just going to up and fall off so we're kind of ready to move on, too. Evangeline has moved from "When is it going to snow??" to "Why is winter soooo looooong?" so yeah. And I've obtained a hobby of losing my chapstick and making the Paterfamilias buy me more and more and more. I just feel like we're ready to put a check next to winter.
I had a minor existential crisis the other day when I realized that I'm hitting the big 3-0 this year and, more importantly, my baby girl is turning FIVE. I may or may not have teared up in the middle of choir practice when I realized that.
I've been reading Afghan Post by Adrian Bonenberger, and though to be honest my main motivations for picking it up were obligation (since we know him, and I feel obligated to read books by people we know) and curiosity, I am finding it really interesting and even enlightening, since he had some very similar experiences to my husband. More on this one later. The other book that recently arrived in my life that I'm excited about: Sally Patrick Johnson's A Book of Princesses, which is going to keep both mom and princess-daughter happy.
On the menu: slightly less coffee. Yes, in this house! Thanks to a family-wide bout of the stomach bug followed by a parent-wide nasty sore throat, we've taken our consumption down from two French presses per day (and more) to one, and I'm feeling much healthier.
Speaking of healthier: I just joined the local Masters Swim team and it feels ridiculously good to be back in the pool. Even if 5 AM and freezing freezing weather on my way to the pool does not feel good. I'm already wondering if they have it in Belgium. (Every time I say something about "in Belgium" I have to consciously un-Doctor-Evil my speech pattern.)
Eva and I have officially started homeschoolingish. She's four and a half and we're starting in on an easy kindergarten curriculum. With our next 8 months of life really up in the air (and the possibility of putting her in Belgian school looming) it felt like the right time for some consistent book-learnin', and she is eating it up. Now I finally have an answer for all the DC metro-area moms that ask "But isn't she in school yet??"
We've been doing the "Sonship" study with our church, and let me say this: if you have the chance, do it. (I guess it's a Presbyterian/PCA thing, but at least our church will let you come if you don't attend.) I've been lulled into complacency with many of the studies I've traipsed through in groups recently, but this one gets to the heart of so many matters. The main focus is on grasping what it means to truly be adopted by God.
In the CD player: The Great God and His Big Story by Brook Hills Music. Kids' music, but I love almost all of the tracks (and Eva has assured me that she loves *all* of them.)
The fact that we're leaving in a few months is really starting to set in, and we're hoping to pack in some local sight seeing and history learning and family visiting. And yes, the sadness is setting in too.
Oz is completely obsessed with animals. Bao Bao was what got it started, but now he's into "borillas" and chimps and giraffes and horses (we encountered a mounted policeman at the Lincoln Memorial the other week and Oliver asks to see the picture of him with them all the time). We've realized he probably thinks his stuffed cow that he adores so much is a panda, and I dread the day he realizes it's not the same way I dread the day Eva realizes that "The Fox" is a satirical song.
And finally: we've spent many hours trying to track down the snowy owls that settled down locally as part of this year's irruption. I got a couple of glimpses but nothing to post pictures of. It was exciting and frustrating.
Shock and disappointment that we are not chasing down this horse.
In our family, months 7 - 12 generally consist of a lot less snapping and a lot more chasing. Dark corners, don't-touch-thats, what's-in-his-mouths, and THERE-HE-GOES!es get in the way of the camera's view. Never fear, I still had too many to choose from.
In the summer, he got to meet his great-grandparents and great aunt and uncle, and of course go to his first airshow. He was...well...sort of a champ on the drive to upstate New York. He and the GNG made sure we found some beautiful roadside parks to stop at in Pennsylvania. 7 months was also the age at which he took on a lovey. Eva generously and permanently gave him Copper, the chosen doggie, because he was one of her zillions of stuffed animals
Geneseo, New York
He's had a love affair with ceiling fans, lights, vacuum cleaners, and any sort of large machinery since he was old enough to notice them. He's much more interested in stuff than his sister was. He loves objects first and pointing them out to you second, but she has always been all about relating to people first and using objects to that purpose second.
By eight months, he had eight teeth, then he finally took a breather for a little while. At that age he also learned how to throw a ball. His cheeks...oh, his cheeks:
His senses of humor, adventure, and mischief are unrivaled. His determined brow somehow manages to get a certain twinkle to it when he's got something up his sleeve.
Somewhere around 10 months he started pulling up on furniture and diving from the standing position into a waiting person's arms...usually. He also started nodding for yes and shaking his head for no, hilariously slowly and deliberately but always accurately. I was convinced he was a genius. Then he quit. Now a head shake could mean anything, but usually "yes".
He took his first steps at 11 months, and took the next month uncharacteristically slowly and cautiously. But by 12, he was walking. It was the exact same timing as Eva's, except he then proceded to learn to dribble. (That's soccer dribbling, not basketball, but if I have to clarify that for you don't even know us.) He was an amazing mimic for a couple of months. He could repeat any word you said back to you. Then, once he was walking and figured he could just grab whatever he wanted, he quit that as well.
Now he has a rather wide vocabulary, consisting of: Nn? Nn! Nn. Nnnnn...... Dada! (Daddy.) DAduh! (Doggie.) Ah!! (with wide open mouth, if he wants the food you have in your hand.) Actually, his grunts are remarkably intelligible. The other day he was doing his usual point-plus-"Uh-duh!" which, of course, translates to "Dearest Mummy, may I have indicated object, please?" And Eva said, "He said "uh duh! He was saying 'un deux trois'!" Um, you go ahead and think that, sweet girl.
Dam Neck, Virginia
His birthday happened to fall on a Saturday, and much of the gang was able to make it up for pizza (his favorite food since he was 7 months old...should I admit that in a public forum?) and cake pops (he viewed them with suspicion). How spoiled are we? An Army brat, spending the very day of his first birthday with both sets of grandparents, all his cousins, and an aunt and uncle. It was sunny and warmer than it had been, but cool enough for him to wear the brand new monkey hat his sister picked out for him. It was a good day.
All second babies get their first-birthday-blog-posts after they're at least 13.5 months old, right? Wait, since when is the birthday-blog-post a thing? Apparently it's not for Eva, at least not this year. Big whoop, girl, you're four. Now do something with your life and impress me! (Just kidding.) I know, you all are not here to read me havering. I'll get on to the good stuff.
I'm just going to try a bit of a recap, because this guy--as babes are wont to do--has had a big year. First, he was a monster when he was born (hence one nickname: Ozmonster). Must have been the 11 months he spent in the womb. Actual true fact and mini-birth story: induced at 41 weeks, pitocin worked like magic and epidural worked hardly at all, 4 hour labor and 10 minutes of pushing, and while I felt guilty at the time for not eking out another week of waiting, after his bulk was revealed I felt not an ounce of guilt. Like everything I bake, he was a little overdone.
Camp Lester, Okinawa
He got to meet his Gammi & Pawpaw right away, and his sister could not have adored his "widdoh tiny hands" and "widoh tiny feet" any more.
At two weeks, he had a bit of a misadventure. By the grace of God and some good doctoring, he got better. He got to meet his Grandma and Grandpa soon after. He had a subtropical first Christmas, at home in Yomitan. His eyes turned from deep, deep blue to light brown.
He got his first two teeth--center bottom--at three months. He was good at hiding them.
Hotel on Kadena Air Base, waiting to PCS from Okinawa
He did not spend all of his time in Exersaucers--they just showed off his lovely legs so nicely that I had to include them! Oh yeah, and at almost five months he was party to an international move. Back home in Virginia he met the rest of his aunts and uncles and cousins and great-grandparents.
At six months, he had six teeth. As you can tell from the legs, we had a successful nursing adventure this go-round. He utterly refused baby food, so we did Baby Led Weaning by default. (I don't think I'll go back to mush again, but kids have a way of messing with your expectations!) At six months, he also developed a mean low crawl. He's a boy with places to go.
He's a ridiculously good-natured baby. His world revolves around his big sister, and he's highly motivated to emulate her. He is not into admitting it when he's felt pain--sucks it up and moves on!
To be continued.
Is she up to date on her immunizations? - Uh, ish,- I havered.
The doctor was considerate, attentive, and her hair was so neatly braided back from her pretty face. We were talking about Eva even though the appointment was for Oz. We'll try the allergy medicine for a week and see if she stops coughing (coughing, coughing, pause, coughing, coughing). (Coughing.)
I was trying to ask questions to make sure I understood everything, or at least to help me remember it since I didn't have a hand free to write it down. Eva was making MRSA-dust-angels on the floor and Oz, in the vicinity of my lap, was faunching to go taste some bit of medical equipment, arching his back and shrieking. Of course he was spunky and fine, although earlier he'd been a howling writhing thing of misery, sprouting angry hives from face to foot sole. I could feel patches of my neck and face turning crimson in that special way that makes doctors either test me for lupus or offer me Xanax, and this time it was happening because I was wrestling my baby Hercules and it was hot and - Eva, please get up!-. I worried the doctor could smell my unshowered, organically deodoranted self from across the office.
The Zyrtec might make her moody, said the doctor ( - Please God no! - I panicked, thinking of straws and camel's backs and her little heart that is already so big it can't contain her emotions) and if so it's not the drug for her; we will try another one.
And Eva was wearing her Disneyest commercialiest Cinderella jelly shoes, with heels no less, bought in a panic the morning of Halloween. If I'd seen me four years ago I would have judged me so hard. Last night, in the dark with the crowds and the lights and the candy, she was a sparkly store-bought cobbled-together Cinderella marching through a hand-crafted Pinterest world. And she was beautiful. She designed most of her outfit herself from what we already owned.
In line for our shiny new drugs, my princess met two other princesses and they princessed around the kids' table in the waiting room. They were so sweet to each other and I didn't have to interfere once. Then we stopped at the Shoppette for ice cream because Oz hasn't eaten in days, and there was princess drama like you wouldn't believe. I drove home with one Cheez-it muncher and one car banshee, and pulled one camel's-back-straw too far into the spot we share with the motorcycle. It rocked gently on its stand but obligingly settled back upright.
Then we were inside, and within moments Oz was slamming the cupboard door repeatedly onto the sticking-out edges of dishes I can't get to fit, and Eva had her dad's motorcycle helmet stuck halfway on her head. And during his third nap of the day she got lots of movies.
At dinner, He's feeling better! I texted to a friend. Then he happily vomited and carried on with his baby business.
And there was one moment before bed where I was trying to pin his arms down to get some Benadryl in him, because the hives creep up when he's sleeping, and my girl walked up to me out of nowhere and slowly, softly kissed me on the cheek. - Why? - Because I love you, mommy.
Later, Benadrylled Oliver stomped unsteadily around the living room like a chubby geriatric drunkard. Then he'd lose his grip on uprightness and shoot me that helpless look from his dark brown sugar eyes as he fell, and I would catch him, usually.
After the kids were solidly in bed, I was carrying a heavy basket of laundry down the spiral stairs and it somehow swung out into empty space and took me with it, til I remembered I could just drop the laundry and save myself. Too late for the bruised sole of one foot and swelling marthritic knees, but overall could have been much worse. Took a whole 6 months to have a true near-death experience on those things, which is better than I expected.
Tonight while slightly reducing the pile of dishes I heard on a podcast about a goddess who loved a mortal, and something about Zeus and Hera's jealousy and a death and resurrection-reunion as kingfishers, the birds of legendary loyalty in pairing (who knew?). And there's a time when the goddess-mortal-kingfisher-pair flies over the sea to calm it so they can nest there, and those days when the water is tame glass are the halcyon days. (This was a language, not an ornithological podcast, mind you.) That's where we get the term.
Halcyon days. It feels like it has something to do with me, but right at this moment I can't tell just what. I hear this story and then I trip on another laundry basket. These are the hard years. You'll miss them. They won't last forever, they tell me. And some moments that's a threat and some moments more of a promise, and I guess it's really a bit of both.
I'm in the mood for a little verbal incontinence today.You should probably only read this if you actually like me. (Skip to the bottom for the quotes if you like my kids.)
I think relatively often about how I'm not great anymore about recording the hilarious daily happenings around here. Mostly because I'm too mentally exhausted to remember them. I tell people a lot that we were lulled into complacency by what people said about having a second kid--Oh, it's a cinch! So much easier than going from 0 to 1! (True in some senses. None of that first-time-parent self-doubt and terror. But say goodbye to sleeping when the baby sleeps.) Now when we tell people how we were lulled into complacency, they agree that going from 1 to 2 is the absolute hardest. Both parents are occupied. If both kids are sleeping when I get home from the grocery store, one HAS to get left out in the car while I take the other one in, and then after carrying 65 collective pounds of dead weight-with-crumbs-falling-off into the house I need to get the groceries. With two, you think you know what you're doing but--let's face it--you're really only an intermediate-level parent. And yes, I've assigned parenthood levels. Pregnant with 1st - guppy. 1 kid - beginner. 2 kids - intermediate. 3 kids - professional. 4 kids - expert. 5 and up - whale shark, and my brain just gave out because I'm a tired intermediate parent (apologies for lumping you 5-and-uppers into one group, and to everyone I just labelled a beginner/intermediate-for-life--totally facetious). But anyway, people always used to say that going from 2 to 3 is the hardest because you have to switch from one-on-one to zone defense, and for the parent at home there are officially way more bodies than she has arms. (The other day someone said that going from 2 to 3 was the easiest because with 2 you're already kind of outnumbered. I sympathized. Mentally, we're outnumbered.) So basically, the hardest and/or easiest thing is going from 0 to 1 to 2 to 3 but regardless, everyone agrees that going from 3 to 4 is the easiest (leaving this open to the person who wants to comment and say that going from 3 to 4 is the hardest).
What I'm trying to say is that my brain feels like a puddle of mush these days. I have to remind myself that this age that Oliver is is the age where, with ONE FEMALE CHILD whosleptthroughthenight, I seriously considered trying to find someone to come live with me in Okinawa to help while the PF was travelling willy nilly about Asia. (Beginner!) A lot of people already read this, but I love what this blogger (Whale Shark!) had to say about how the number of kids you currently have is the max you can handle right now.
So here are some Evaisms:
Out of the blue: "But be careful, OK? There's a monster going potty. In our house. So be really careful, K?"
Figuring out whether her new Playmobil set is outside or inside: "Unicorns live outside. Like lions do."
Observing: "Mom, what does your tattoo say?" (She used to call them "Your yetters" which was my absolute favorite thing ever.) Tracing her finger over the print on the top of my foot, she says "I thought it said 'fooooot.' Foooooot. Fooooooot." Clearly she has such a high opinion of my mental abilities that she thinks I've permanently marked by body parts with their names.
And some Ozsomeness (he's 9 months now):
He's at an age where he's not very quotable--well, I feel like the "Nanana" that means he's hungry" or the "Gheeee" that means he saw a picture of Daddy & Eva show up on the TV are supremely quote-worthy, but hard to put on paper, you know?--but he is seriously the light of our house right now. Uh, no offense, Eva. She adores him too. The way they play together is beyond sweet.
We were at the library the other day and Eva noticed an N in the letter set (libraries are all about toys now, not books, apparently). Oz was chewing on a book or something, staring into space. "That's Daddy's letter!" she said. Oz snapped to attention and looked at me with a huge smile on his face and said "Dada!" It would have melted the iciest heart.
There is a nightlight in our house that I thought would be a more attractive outlet cover than the ugly white baby plugs. (The first thing Oz does when he enters any room is stick his finger in the nearest electrical socket.) I thought he would ignore it, or maybe not be completely obsessed with it. So of course the stupid thing is like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There's always one when you've got a crawler, right? It is the object of his affection and endless attentions. I put him down on the ground and he crawls right over to it, yanks it out, and throws it to the ground with a fantastic clatter. So we've been working on the word "No." (For this and the biting. Oh, the biting.) Anyway, the other day I put him down on the ground, walked away, came right back because I saw where he was headed, and told him "No." He dropped his arms away from their hopeful grasping, said "Uh-oh," and crawled right away.
I feel like this post should be profound, since I'm once again using beautiful photos taken by Kristie...but it ain't. Babies fry your brain (temporarily) (no seriously, it's temporary. It's science. Once they're not needy little finger-biters anymore [Oz seems to be teething...] mom brain goes away!) Please note: Oz is now 4 months older than he is in these photos!
They say motherhood is made up of a series of precious moments that you can never get back or something. As Oz has recently stopped nursing himself to sleep (of his own accord), I thought I'd record his new bedtime moments for posterity.
Moment 2: Oooh, what's this safely-firm-yet-squishy thing She's putting me down on? This is nice.
Moment 3: I see bars...
Moment 4: SUDDEN INTAKE OF BREATH
Moments 5-7: PANIC!!!!!
Moment 8: Despair.
Moment 9: ...z.
On March 23, 2010, I undertook the most surreal trip of my life thus far: Los Angeles - San Francisco - Tokyo Narita - Okinawa. I knew little to nothing about the place, though through no lack of effort on my part. "It's just like Hawaii," they said. "It'll be fun," they said. My only travelling companion was this 7-month-old mulletted cutie:
On March 30, I stepped into one of those fabulous Japanese bathrooms for one last time. We were a party of 5: me, the Pater Familias, our 3-year-old wearer of non-mullet, one chunkalicious 4-month-old boy, and one swiftly-to-be-disowned dog. (He is living it up at my parents' house, by the way.) (We weren't all in the bathroom, by the way.) One more unbelievably long trip, one more running-into-people-we-know-in-the-airport, one more bathroom picture:
(True, I could have called this "There and Back Again" like a certain hobbit's book--but is it not cooler to call it the same thing as my sister's fabulous song?)
It's naptime again, his irritated squeaks and frantically kicking legs tell me. I fight the frustration that he can't soothe himself to sleep the way Eva could at his age--no sterile, rubbery plastic in his mouth, thankyouverymuch!--and walk around with him in the front pack, doing the slightly bouncy walk just as he likes. I go for the top rack of the dishwasher, then turn away. There are so, so many things I need to be doing right now, but I decide to savor this. Pretty soon he's going to be all arms and legs and verbalized opinions instead of rolls and drool and merely vocalized opinions.
The washing machine is filling and I scootch into the laundry room next to it. The soothing water noise begins to win and his wiggly head slowly drops toward my chest--oh, he's a fighter!--and he stares at the window, perfect rectangular catchlights in each liquidy brownish-bluish-greenish eye. Auburn lashes droop toward under-eye-wrinkle and bounce back up like they're on bungies. A dollop of curdly spit-up lingers in the corner of his perfectly pink, perfectly puckered lips, and his chubby fingers clutch desperately at my necklace. He has a wrist roll.
The washing machine stops filling with a clank and in the sudden silence he jerks awake, looking up at me with a question. It begins to spin and he's asleep again. His head relaxes back against my cradling hand, his soft feathery mullet brushing my thumb.