we said goodbye to john, karen, sarah, and katherine on friday. they're in switzerland now for a couple years.
before they left, we got the cousins together nearly every weekend (gram was helping watch the girls while john and karen packed). the little ones, hazel and katherine, won't remember, but for eva and sarah, who are so close, it's all a bit harder.
eva mostly understands -- but at her age she's still somewhat fuzzy on time. so, i had to explain that no, we won't be visiting them in a couple weeks or months. it won't be until way past winter (the farthest thing she can generally conceive of is "winter" or "your birthday" depending on what time of year it is :). so, now she is announcing "we're going to visit sarah in switzerland in the winter!" um, not exactly, but i closer.
the extent to which logical connections don't just fall into place was hammered in this weekend. we were at work day at grammie's house, and we were discussing eva's upcoming birthday party at gram's house. eva casually mentioned that sarah would be there.
when she would mention her birthday and sarah a month ago, i just dodged the question ("we'll see") because there was no point telling her that far out that sarah was leaving. so now she knows sarah moved away, but somehow it didn't connect in her head that (therefore) sarah wouldn't be at her party. she was crushed. but, she's okay now, she was just surprised.
when they said goodbye it was a lot like any other goodbye, the "see ya' later!" sort of thing. but then i noticed eva was just standing there totally still, looking over at sarah in her bed. i crouched down, caught her eye, and asked,
"what are you thinking, baby?"
she smiled just a bit and looked back over in sarah's direction as she said, in that way only kids can, that is both matter-of-fact and conveys a ton of emotion:
"that i will miss her."
we said goodbye to john, karen, sarah, and katherine on friday. they're in switzerland now for a couple years.
today, as told to me on the drive to the first day of summer camp(!) -- she's going every afternoon for two weeks to an arts camp -- visual and performing arts, including dance, drama, and singing, so i think it's just the wright thing for her for the moment. her story:
charlie invented a brand new kind of rocket. it's the fastest rocket ever, and it can go really far into space. millions of miles into space, like past the sun! all the way to the top of outer space! it's different from other rockets, because it's so powerful that instead of having lots and lots of fire that comes out of the back when it blastes ("blast-es") off to space, it only needs a little bit of fire. and that way, it's safer so no houses get burned. then, it shoots out most of the fire once it's already in outer space. and then, a computer tells it if there's an astronaut nearby, and if there is, it just sucks the fire back in to keep the astronaut safe. isn't that great? and also this kind of rocket is really good for the earth.
that charlie, he's so clever. good thing he (as eva often says) "teaches her lots of interesting things".
"eva, can i hold your hand? not because you *need* to hold my hand on the sidewalk -- you can walk along this busy road by yourself -- but just because i like to?"
"because then our hearts will be connected?" (i must have said this to her one time.)
we were walking to a trial dance class at the rec center down the road. there was a pause.
"mama? can we pretend there's a string that attaches to my heart, and goes all the way over and connects to your heart? and then we'll always be connected?"
"sure! hmm, i wonder what happens if i went... all the way across the street! then what?"
"well, it would still reach, because i'd just make it longer."
"what if... what if i was at home but you were at school?"
"then i'd just make it super long! but we'd still be connected."
"does it stretch, or grow, or, how does it get so long?"
"no, it's automatic. you see, i just have these buttons..."
she went on to describe the buttons -- there were three, one to make it short, one to make it medium, and one to make it long. oh wait, she decided after some thought, there's one more button to reel it back in when we go closer to each other. also -- she was very clear on this -- each button makes a different sound (she went on to demonstrate them as we walked).
"eva, what is this whole system called?"
"it's called the Automatic Super String of the Heart Connect."
be still my heart. and i love that it's mechanical, with buttons. when it comes to this sort of thing, she generally reports that charlie taught her about it.
so she had a big long day of too many new activities, with some intense emotions (accompanied by some insight, "i'm having a lot of trouble today, it's a really hard day!" she said through her tears -- usually that realization comes not until she's calmed down).
as i was working on painting her room late tonight, she woke up and needed more water, but mostly wanted to snuggle. i told her i was working on her room, and said i was curious whether she thought she'd choose to sleep in the big bedroom or in her new bedroom.
"mom, i have the perfect solution. i can start the night sleeping in here with you guys, then if i wake up in the night, i can just move to my own room."
huh. odd that she hit upon the usual arrangement, but in reverse. i offered the more standard order of bed-moving, and she would have none of it.
"oh, mama, i just prefer my solution, okay?"
fine, then. she rolled over to go back to sleep.
"you know what eva? i think if you choose to sleep in your bedroom, i might miss you a bit."
(honestly, i'll miss her a lot, but my point in telling her this was to let her know it's okay to be happy and sad at the same time about new things... she's had several changes to cope with lately.)
she rolled back to face me, smiling, and with half-asleep eyes.
"oh mama!" she said in that clearly-you-jest voice she has perfected, "you wouldn't miss me. because of our heart-connector strings!"
oh right. how could i forget?
back in january (when i planned to start working on her room, before i knew i'd be half or more sick all spring) i asked her if she might like to sleep in her new room. i asked just like that, very casually. she immediately started crying and protested, "but i'll miss you guys if i sleep far away by myself!" i reassured her she didn't have to sleep anywhere else if she didn't want to. what a change, five months later, when *she's* reassuring *me*. i always trusted that we'd collectively know when she was ready, and i guess she is. (or, i should say, ready to give it a try... )
[i can't resist adding: she even helped me paint earlier, until she decided it wasn't "as interesting ("inch-rest-ing") as i thought it would be... it seems like painting a *whole* room is annoying!" sorry to burst your bubble.]
remember that old sesame street bit about the two aliens (apparently called the geefle and the gonk) who are trying to eat some nectarines from a tree? the gonk is too short to reach them, and while the geefle can reach them, he can't bend his arms to get them to his mouth (never mind that this seems a terrible evolutionary adaptation on a planet where the only available food is nectarines, and the tale doesn't explain how the geefle managed to survive as a species thus far without previously establishing some sort of symbiotic relationship). they hit upon a solution wherein the geefle tosses nectarines down and the gonk in turn feeds both of them, and decide to give this process a name. the gonk says "let's call this 'cooperation'", and the geefle responds, "no, let's call it shirley." (video)
this story, and specifically the phrase "let's call it shirley", are firmly entrenched in the lore of my family growing up. (this, along with "duh stephanie" from full house, "johnny five is alive", any reference to the benniker gang, and of course, jokes about the lennox man.)
a few weeks ago, eva gave me a great hug. one of those hugs where the kid actually squeezes you rather than just flopping across your body, squeezing so tightly that she is compelled to let out a "ungh!" sound. she nestled into my neck and sighed. i squeezed back, and rocked side to side, supporting most of her body weight.
"mmm-uh. wow, that was a great hug, eva! maybe we should give that kind of a hug a name so we can remember it."
"okay! um... let's call it 'huggers-buggers'." [she's into rhyming endearments, gee wonder where she gets that. emma-lemma. hazel-basil. or larry's: eva-boliva-conceeva-bohneva. yes, really.]
"no," i said, reflexively taking my 25-years-old entrenched cue, "let's call it shirley!"
thus "huggers shirley" was born. we discussed that maybe at times when we were having trouble with each other, instead of arguing or yelling, one or the other of us could say "stop! let's do huggers shirley!" so that we could remember how much we love each other. (a few months ago we were into rubbing noses for the same purpose -- it's hard to stay frustrated with someone when your noses are touching. or, i know of other moms who will stop and smell their preschooler's head mid-breakdown to reestablish that connection.)
it's great. now she has specific (nonsensical, but effective) language to say "mama, i need to reconnect to you", and asks for it probably every other day. when we're having a hard day, when she's feeling anxiety about something (recently, school/social stuff), when i'm putting her to bed at night, when hazel's monopolizing my attention:
"mama, can we do huggers shirley?"
and i know never to turn her down. even if the food is about to burn or hazel is trying to teeth and nurse at the same time. it's a little contract of sorts, and we're both really enjoying it.
let's call it reconnecting! no, let's call it huggers shirley.
hey... want part of my nectarine?
"mama, at night sometimes i dream about what my life will be like when i'm a grown-up. sometimes in the mornings i do that, too, when i'm awake. i was just doing that right now."
we were in the car, about to pull in to a parking space at target. we sat in the car, a/c running and hazel sleeping, so i could take advantage of one of these moments when she feels like sharing her big thoughts. here's a basic synopsis of what she told me about her dreams for her future (my neutral probing questions omitted, a lot of "oh reallys" and "i'm curious to know more about thats"):
"i am going to have the most wonderful children in the whole world. i'm going to live in a beautiful house. there will be flower vases in every room. the one on the table will have honeysuckle in it, and then at lunchtime, we can suck on the honeysuckles. i wish that my children will never get into fights with me, but if they do i'll just go to a different room until everybody calms down and maybe they will say 'i'm sorry'. i want my house to look similar to gram's house, with the rooms in similar places but smaller. everyone will have their own bedroom, but the babies and kids will sleep with us. [who is "us"? i asked]. the mama and the papa. i'm the mama, and i will choose who will be the papa. i will have a job, so i will not be around my children as much. that will make me feel sad, but if i feel sad, i'll just order a necklace like yours and i'll feel better if i have to be away from my children [the one i have with a charm with both girls' names -- i told her once it makes me feel happy when i'm away from my girls, because i can touch it and feel like they are near me.]. i wish for my children to be brother and sister. or if i have two boys, brothers, or if i have two girls, sisters. or twins."
in the past couple weeks, she has for the first time stated What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. the verdict? a "photographer artist". she's mentioned it several times, sort of elaborating on the concept"when i'm a photographer artist, i'll make art that people can buy. it might have paint and photos and other stuff all mixed up." she also added that she might like to act, but that was immediately after we were at the children's theater. i reminded her that in a few weeks, she starts summer camp at arts center, which is visual arts combined with dance and drama.
wow. mama's so smart. (i.e., sometimes i get things right! :)
today was her first day of school having switched to mornings from afternoons. she went to morning class twice in the week when larry was abroad and i was having trouble, say, standing without leaning against available walls. she loved it, minus some trouble with the foreign concept of napping. well, i sort of forgot that it would be a big deal, her first day moving to mornings. same school, same teachers, some of the same kids... plus she'd been to mornings twice.
well yesterday she was sort of insane all day, then at bedtime, it all came flooding out.
"what if the morning kids are mean to me? last time at morning class, i asked if i could play with them and they said no. only the all-day kids [who already know her] would play with me. and i don't know how to do the dancing class that they do at school and all the other kids will know how. and i want to play with the boys, but they only want to play firefighter and i don't like playing firefighter. i could ask them to play race [which she used to do months back with boys when she tired of princessy stuff for a spell], but i don't have any racing shoes that fit me anymore. my sandals run faster than my feet so i can't race in them, but i don't have any good race shoes!"
after a surprising amount of back and forth, it became clear she was referring to tennis shoes. ah, tennis shoes! well, my dear one, that we can fix. we can go get you some tennis shoes. i wish i could fix it so that no kid was ever mean to you and you never had to have your feelings hurt, but that's not how it works (nor should it be). but shoes... check. i've got that covered.
she was excited and apprehensive this morning, and there were a few tears when i dropped her off. by the time i left (after chatting outside the gate with another mom), she was on the playground, chatting with a "new" (morning) boy and a girl she already knows. hazel spied her all that distance away and repeatedly waved bye-bye. at pick up, hazel saw the playground and begain waving again, though it was empty, looking for eva. eva was tired and cranky, but i think that's to be expected after a big new experience. so, i think it's going to be a good switch for her in the end.
but this growing up stuff, whether making new friends or planning for your future as an artist who lives in a flower-strewn house with your kids, is hard work. here's hoping some appropriate footwear can help a little.
my baby is one. in fact, she's been one for ten days already, but i'm just now writing this. that's in part due to the fact that i've been sick again (since roughly january, but was basically non-functional for a couple weeks there, coinciding with larry's trip to qatar --but frankly i'm sick of thinking and talking about all that, so the less said the better at this point). but i've also not written about her turning one yet because it took me a while to process it.
it sort of snuck up on me, as i was doing my best to get through the minimum level of daily tasks until shortly before her birthday. and then it felt bittersweet -- she's amazing and i love seeing all the new things she can do, love bearing witness to the person she's becoming before my eyes, but it's also a little sad that she's not a tiny baby anymore. she's likely my last, and i already miss it. and i worry at times that i wasn't present enough, because i already can't really remember her first year. i worry it happened while i was busy dealing with life, and if so, that's sad, too.
but really, i think i don't remember it because i was living it rather than recording it all as it happened. i was far more present this time around, that whole living-in-the-moment thing. i spent more time just being with her (and with eva, and as a family with larry) and less time worrying about whether or not i was doing everything the right way. i guess that's the gift of being a second child. the drawback is that your mama's memories are foggy -- but hey, hazel doesn't remember it either, so we're even.
we had a lovely little party to celebrate her big day -- postponed a day with a venue change due to rain, but happily most guests were still able to make it. she looked like such a kid in her puffy party dress, running around with all the kids (who were really basically eva's friends and younger siblings, but at the tender age of 1 hazel is already starting to roam around in the pack of preschoolers and toddlers -- i love that). she really liked her cake and would light up when she saw the dragon (signing for dog, because what baby has a frame of reference for a dragon, right?) and doing her best to get her hands on it and, i presume, eat it.
she is so fun at this age. she has been walking with assurance for a while now, so is trying out new tricks like climbing and "running" when excited (which tends to end with a face plant as her center of balance gets ahead of her feet). she copies *everything* we do, especially eva, and is watching and absorbing everything. yesterday, eva had a doll, so hazel went and found a doll (uh, more accurately, hazel had the first doll, eva snatched it away, and hazel found a new one). eva wrapped her doll in a blanket, so hazel disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a scarf, holding it out for help wrapping up her baby. hazel holds the baby up to her neck and twists back and forth just like eva. eva set hers down on the coffee table (for a diaper change or something), so hazel followed her over and did the same. this morning, hazel walked over to me after i fixed eva's hair for school, hairbrush in hand, wanting me to brush her hair as well. the other day i implored eva to get her shoes on so we could go somewhere, and there's hazel, walking over to me with her shoes in hand, ready to go, too.
it's those sorts of behaviors (as much as size, or walking, or the like) that has totally shifted my perspective. she's not a baby now, she's a small kid. she participates in our family life. eva and hazel play together, they snuggle up when they need a break, they wrestle each other (eva may find they're evenly matched before long!), they play games of chase. the other night before bedtime, the girls got us started in some crazy running around giggling game (good ol' RUSD as larry has termed it -- rile them up to settle them down (before bedtime). he claims it works, i claim it makes bedtime harder but is fun so i go for it anyway). hazel was gigging like crazy, running at one then the other of us, diving at us, wanting to roll around and be silly. i chased them in circles around the pathway through the kitchen, they flew in the air, larry tossed them on the sofa. stuff like that was always fun with eva, but is exponentially more joyful with two, since they feed off each other.
hazel has also reached the stage of having very strong opinions. no longer the happy-go-lucky laid back infant, she now will let you know what she thinks. if she wants to drink out of your water and you decline (or stop after you get bored of helping her after 10 minutes), she might scream. or plop down on her bum, tilt her red face up at you, and cry. or, if proximity allows, scratch you on the face. at this point it's mostly cute (mostly), but it is definitely a preview of toddlerhood to come.
happy birthday, my sweet hazel penelope. we are all thrilled beyond words to have you in our family. and while i will always remember your babyhood (and probably bore you to death recounting it when you are a teenager), and though i look forward to getting to know the person you will become, right now, i'm so happy and thankful to simply be with you. (i'm sniffing your head as i type this. you're nursing on and off, interspersed with roaming around carrying blocks in a bag, putting the phone in papa's (empty, phew!) coffee cup, and climbing in and out of the rocking chairs. busy as always.) i love you, little one year old baby. forever and always.