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.
Because it's been far, far too long without an update on her hilarity, hmm? She never stops being awesome, of course, but I suppose that the way her body and brain grow in different little fits and bursts does result in some slight lulls in the Eva-isms. Just kidding, it's probably just me not paying attention all the time.
Several of our discussions have been about the presidency. Having the Washington Monument just a few miles from our house and so regularly visible, and being season pass holders to Mount Vernon, we've certainly discussed George Washington a bit. And then because she was starting to grasp that, I tried to teach her the name of our current president (mostly for the reasons that you bundle your kid up in coats even when they don't really need them but when everyone else is doing it: so you're not shamed in public.). Because when I started teaching her presidents' names I felt a strong urge to also teach her about Congress and the Supreme Court, and quite frankly that just sounds exhausting and I don't just want to say "he's kind of like a king", even if it may be true to an increasing extent.
But I digress. So she knows about George Washington and Barack Obama. So of course she started referring to President Obama as "the second President!". And, due to a little word confusion, she's been known to refer to George Washington as "the first prisoner!!"
One morning recently at some hour before 6 am she came flouncing into my room and queried, "Can we go to Washington D.C. today?? The little house with the little animals was so fun." (Those things are actually in the museum at Mount Vernon.)
Occasionally I'll have to disavow her of some dearly held notion because she's gotten confused (see above references to the second president and the first prisoner) and sometimes that's how I explain it: you got confused, honey. So one day she asked, "Mommy, what do YOU get confused about?" It was one of those special 4-year-old questions that I find quite...confusing...so I answered, "Um...I don't know." She looked at me knowingly and asserted: "Daddy knows."
Warning: this one is not funny and I nearly cried. We've been discussing our upcoming move, mainly because she's starting to learn French. (We're supposedly moving to Belgium some time this year, btw. Neither orders nor RFO are in hand, however.) So she knows we're moving to another country. One day out of the blue she asked, "After we move, are my Gammi an' Pawpaw an' my Gramma an' Grampa still gonna be MY Gammi an' Pawpaw an' Gramma an' Grampa?"
And because we're grouping all the heart-tuggers together: "I still love you, even if you're frustrated at me."
Mom's Choice Award: One night we were having soup and she would not touch the solid bits, only the broth: because it was "beautifuller, golden." As she gazed into its shimmering depths and brandished her spoon she spoke to it, and it spoke back: "OK, who's next? Meee! In the deep end!"
While engaging in some kind of silliness: "SO MUCH LAUGHNESS!!!"
A little while back she got into the idea of numbers and measurements. Immediately after Christmas she started asking how long until her birthday (yeeaahhh....) I actually kind of counted up the days and told her, and she started re-asking every day. She is fixated on the idea of 11 being the ultimate, highest number. So when I told her "more than 200" days til her birthday, she crowed, "200 days is 11!!"
Asking about some animal's speed: "Is he four feet fast? Ten feet fast??"
Talking about music: "Mommy this is 11 FEET loud!"
"I wish I was a bird and I could stay underwater. But if I was in a bird movie I would talk."
Reflecting on her past (she and Oz share a room in this house): "When I was free an' Oliver wasn' in my room I was SO alone an' I was SO afraid of the dark."
Out of the blue: "Mommy when people are alive it's more fun to have a tongue. It helps me swallow my food in my mouth." Well, I can't say no to any of that.
After learning that a piece of chicken was called a drumstick: "A DRUMSTICK?! I will bang the table like a serious man!!"
"The mailman came!" Goes to pick up the junk mail and sort it. "Oh, that's interesting."
Those bangs? Currently getting grown out. She wants "to look like old Eva."
At 3 am, from the midst of our bed: "Do you renember the movie called Dinosaur Train?"
At the Paterfamilias: "Your ears are so fuzzy!! I can feel the fuzz!"
Seeing the columns outside the National Gallery of Art: "I like those sticks!"
Having recently been corrected: "Netflix. Not Nutflix. Because it's on the In-ter-net."
Searching for some toy: "What in da hey in da world where is it?
She still narrates her life, but now it's more like dispatches from Neverland. Things like, as she chooses a marker: "She picked out a color called cotton candy." Or, just going about her business: "It was a wintry day..." They then trail off into mumbling so I can't hear, but oh. The story does go on.
In the pool locker room shower: "This is the warmest water I never ever saw but this is the first time I saw it! ...gotta get my armpit... [spots me snorting] What are you laughing at, silly billy?"
An update on the Good News Girl, and some pictures from the trusty phone.
This girl. We found a tree by the river the other day. Apparently it was cold. No, I'm sure if I'd asked "Oh, is that tree cold?" she would have said "No! I'm just making it pretty!"
She got a long-overdue haircut the other day: her first bangs. I finally know what it's like to really feel like she looks like me. Maybe one day I'll find a picture of little me with bangs to prove it to you. Don't worry though, Auntie T, she is still very much your twin.
She's gotten a little bit more into crafts recently. Or maybe I've gotten a little bit more into providing crafts. I'll get us all set up to do it, and her imagination will catch fire and she'll just go bonkers playing with the craft supplies. And goal-oriented me is all, "We WILL glue the puffy thingies onto the paper!!" and she's all "But first they have to take a nap and go into this cave and get bitten by this crocodile and this one is disobeying his mommy and they need a snack and PIXIE DUST and..." And then I take a deep breath and remember that if she's entertained and using her gray matter, that was my whole goal to begin with.
She puts her own twist on everything. I'd say she marches to the beat of her own drum, but it's more like she flounces to the beat of her own imaginary flautist.
She adores her combination ballet-tap-gymnastics class, and she is still all about fancy fancy princess things, and she loves her swim class while steadfastly refusing to let her face get besmirched with water. Many of her playmates right now are a little younger, and she is so sweet and maternal with them. Whenever Oz has been asleep they act like their reunion has been years in the making. Such joy! Such peals of laughter! Such rapid-fire cheek kissing! (On her part. You're still as likely to get a bite as a kiss from him.)
Today she was thinking about one of her favorite songs, "Five Little Ducks" off of the Wee Sing Animals CD (you know it, right?...) The ducks keep going out to play, and one refuses to come back every time until none come back. And the mother quack-shouts at them, and they all come back. She said, "At the end, it's funny AND sad. It's bofe. It's bofe funny and sad." Four years old and she already knows the secret of life.
Over dinner when I was laughing at something she said she got all crazy-eyed and tight-fisted in fake exasperation and exclaimed, "WHY AM I BEING SO FUNNY THIS AFTERNOON?!"
She says "betend" instead of "pretend". I realized during a very strange disagreement the other day that she thinks that a flock of geese is a "Canad of geese." She still says "lellow" instead of "yellow", and her lisp is hanging on by a thread. I don't want those things to go.
A blog post. This is so happening right now, you guys. A photo blog post! With actual pictures taken with an actual camera!
We had a cold-ish night. It snowed yesterday, which was supremely exciting for a certain four-year-old. Then we did the usual Virginia thing where it stayed right at 32-33 degrees while it kept raining, so we got a few icicles and a whole lot of kids (ahem, husbands) got the day off of school. Oh, Virginia.
And before the grandparents ask: yes, she has a real winter coat (it was soaking wet from playing in the snow yesterday) and she has on a wool sweater and a fleece vest under there! And yes, I got a picture of her actual real face but it was not salvageable. More snow and wishywashy temperatures forecast for tonight.
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.
All of these gorgeous photos were taken by Kristie Coia a few weeks before we left Oki.
I was alone in my parents' kitchen, emptying the dishwasher and microwaving a sweet potato for Oz, creating with my own tinklings, drawer closings, and aromas that gentle pre-dinner commotion. The Welcome Wagon was playing tinnily from my cell phone.
Up on a mountain, our Lord is alone, without a family, friends, or a home / he cries ooh, ooh, ooh, will you stay with me? / he cries oh, oh, oh, will you wait with me?
Max trotted in and I figured my sister must have let him in from outside, where she was playing with our kids. I looked out the window and saw Eva's fuscia-clad back, determinedly hunched, the hands at the ends of crossed arms just poking out from under clenched elbows. I could feel the attitude before she turned around to say something to those behind her, her brow furrowed and nostrils flaring. I know her so well, I can tell in a 2-second glance that something is up. I almost went out to "fix" her attitude until I remembered that my older sister is, in fact, an adult and mom of two and can probably handle it.
Jesus, help me find my proper place / help me in my weakness - my cell phone sang on.
A wave of the bigness of raising a child washed over me. I think I know her so well. I do know her so well. Her favorites and least favorites, what overwhelms her and what she thinks is cozy, what she's going to think is totally amazing (she doesn't know it, but she's going to have her dream come true and get to go fishing for her birthday!). But every day she grows and surprises me with what she's learned, how she's matured, what new aspect of life she can observe and what subtle change she will notice. My temptation is to think that I'm the world's resident Eva-expert who can always tell whether she or her playmate is in the wrong. Well, OK, I mostly am. But she is more than my idea of her and more than the sum of her parts. She is not just me and Nathan all blended up and rebaked; she is not just a beating heart and a head of dark golden hair and an attitude; she is fearfully and wonderfully made.
She is her very own person. Always has been. Now that she's almost four she's just showing it more. She is not a vanity project for me to shape up into my idea of perfect, and it would be awfully presumptuous of me to act like she is. All I can do is teach her the best things that I know, pray that her heart grows to love the truth, and equip her as completely as I can to choose her battles and fight them well.