Saturday, April 23, 2011

For Posterity's Sake: Weeks in Review 117 and 118

I listen to the radio twice a week as I drive home from dropping Audrey off at preschool, switching the radio back to whatever our CD of choice is (lately it's been Dr. Jean songs, remakes of childhood favorites like "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" transformed to "We've Got the Whole Globe in Our Hands" to teach the names of the continents, etc.) when I pick her up. Last week, driving home, the deejay was relaying a story about a nine-year-old hero. While visiting their grandmother, the boy's two-year-old sister had fallen into the pool. She was discovered and pulled out by her mother, but was no longer breathing. The brother performed CPR, resuscitating his sister. When asked where he had learned CPR, the boy replied, "from watching TV."

It's the sort of story that makes my heart stop as I imagine the panicked mother and grandmother. It's also the sort of story that reminds me of the qualities of childhood I love and admire. Only a child would leap to act saying, "stand back, I saw this on Nickelodeon,"* without hesitating to second-guess his abilities. As adults we plan, we fret, we take classes that provide certificates to prove our competence. Then we act.

Two weeks have slipped by here without a Week in Review. The last, especially, has been a week of fretting and attempts to plan as we thought we might be meeting our little guy waiting in the wings. Wednesday morning brought with it back pains and labored breathing, followed by an evening of an often-contracted (although, without pain) stomach. Wednesday night, "just to be safe," we sent the kids to visit their grandparents. Thursday, a stress test confirmed that my contractions were 7-8 minutes apart, where they seem to be happy staying. Now (kids back at home), we wait (with mama trying not to fret about the possible logistics of days to come). There's one thing we've come to learn about kids: they don't come with a plan; they simply act.

The actions, and thoughts, witnessed around here the past two weeks:
(April 10-16)

Lately, we've been meeting up with some close friends on the weekends. With the exception of a two-year-old, Audrey is the only girl. Monday, at dinner, she was talking about our recent get-together and wanting to have more friends over.

"I want to have a lot of friend boys over," she said.

"I don't think I like you having a lot of friend boys over," Jason said.

"I won't have a lot. I'll just have a little."

Wednesday, while playing outside, Audrey got a splinter. It was still in her hand when Jason got home. "This is very disappointing to me," she said as she showed it to him.

While outside, she had created a batch of "dandelion soup," which had apparently gone missing. She wondered aloud what happened to it.

"Maybe dragons ate it," Jason said.

"There aren't any dragons in this whole world (pronounced whirl - Ed)."

Later, at dinner, she turned to Jason. "Daddy, you have a sweet voice."

"I do?"

"Yeah. Today."

Thursday, Nathan moved one step closer to boyhood as he laughed at the sounds of his own farts.

Friday morning, Audrey sent the following text to Jason:

Dear Daddy,
Audrey has sent a lovely message for you. Help Daddy to be welcome for the message. Help him to be the papa. Help him to take his phone to work and help him to bop-a (she paused her dictation to laugh and tell me, "that's silly"). Help him to work and eat his food. And help him to take a bear to work.

Jason's response to me: Darn, I forgot the bear.

Jason's text to Audrey:

Daddy loves his pancake. Help her play with her friends. Help her have a good lunch. Help her earn a sticker. Help her to bop-a! Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side, silly! Roses are red and violets are blue!!!!!

After I finished reading the message, Audrey began to laugh. "Silly-headed put two jokes (pronounced joke - ez) on it."

(April 17-23)

Saturday, I bought an end table at a garage sale to use as a night stand in Nathan's new room. The table has a small pull-out drawer and a door on the front that opens to reveal a storage space big enough to fit a dainty preschooler once the drawer has been removed (creating the perfect peep hole). It was $5 of weekend-long entertainment as the kids took turns crawling inside and laughing at each other peeking out of the drawer hole. Monday, Nate found a new use for the end table. He moved a stool to the right side, positioned himself on the stool crouched on his knees and proceeded to use the table as a block-building desk.

Tuesday morning, Audrey came into my room saying me her stomach hurt. She crawled into bed next to me and pointed at her stomach. "This belly."

As I worked at the kitchen table that morning during a rain storm, Nathan rolled around on the rug underneath, acting like he wanted a nap. Unable to get comfortable, he raised his hands to be put on my lap. He quickly changed his mind, finding my belly not to be the soft pillow it looks to be, and wiggled back to the rug where he attempted to burrow his head into Emmy's backside. Emmy obliged for a few moments before deciding she was better off braving the storm alone rather than serving as a toddler's pillow.

The most anticipated event of Audrey's week was scheduled for Wednesday, the day I woke up feeling as if early signs of labor were underway.

"Is it your birthday today?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Yea! The Easter egg hunt is today!" (Our church was hosting an Easter egg hunt that evening.).

I told Audrey that we might not get to go if I had to go to the hospital.

"That's okay. The Easter egg hunt is at night. You can go to the hospital during the day."

Later that day (as she does most days), she asked if anyone was coming over. I told her that her Papaw might if I went to the hospital.

"No," she said. "I have to go to MOPS (the group hosting the Easter egg hunt). He doesn't know where the church is."

As we prepare for Easter morning, and what I am sure will be one more day filled with requests for egg hunts, I'm reminded of the unexpected: the concealed goodies inside of colorful eggs; well-intentioned women with thought-out plans arriving at their destination to find it abandoned; and unlikely heroes, willing to act. Wishing you a happy Easter, and the joy of being surrounded by little ones adamant to make you celebrate, regardless of your plans.

*This quote is a complete dramatization. I have no idea what the child was actually watching or really said during his heroics.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

For G on His Birthday

Not all the projects around here have been of the practical sort. Some are soft on the hands and warm up the heart like this little crown, made for a dimple-cheeked boy quick to walk and easy to hug, who knows his way around a hearty laugh. These are the projects that you can't help but smile while making because while you wish you could be there to squeeze the intended recipient on his special day, you know that at least this little felt hat will be hugging his head. This, hat (ahem, "modeled" by Nate) made a trip cross-country to help my nephew, Greyson, celebrate his first birthday. Greyson, we couldn't have imagined you any better. And, one year later, we can't imagine this world without you. Happy birthday, sweet boy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Name is Kristin

and I might have a problem. I have yet to search the web to discover if a clinical term exists for my condition, or if quirky suffices. What I can tell you is this - I've developed a bit of a habit. The first time, the incident occurred innocently enough. I was pregnant with Audrey, somewhere between second-trimester carefree and get-your-bags-packed-Junior-is-on-her-way, when Jason informed me he had to leave for a business meeting. At a ski resort. In the mountains. With little chance of cell coverage. I was a first-time mother and one of my mother's three preemies, all determined to surprise the world and our relatives by arriving 5-6 weeks early. I had heard metaphors about apples and trees. I knew approximately 7 people (two of which had drivers licenses) in our then hometown outside of Richmond, Virginia. While there seemed to be plenty of time and odds were surely in our favor, I was varying shades of nervous, and in absolute need of distraction. And, we had an untouched guest room.

After Jason's car pulled away from our townhouse headed toward the mountains, I hopped in mine and drove to the hardware store. I bought two cans of paint in similar hues, a mask, and some blue tape. Once home, I pulled out our stud finder/level with a red laser and penciled a horizontal line midway down the guestroom wall (for those of you wondering how someone with only two hands tackles such a feat, the answer is simple - secure the stud finder with duct tape) and began a three day project of two-tone painting our guest room wall. I remember pulling my mask from my face long enough to assure my mother (as I stood atop a folding chair, roller in hand) that, of course, I was taking it easy. Three days later, Audrey was still right where I'd left her and Jason came home to a new room.

I'm not really sure at what point something outgrows quirky and turns to down-right addiction. What I do know is that each time I'm pregnant and Jason's car steers him toward a mountain or airport, my car finds itself in the hardware store parking lot. So, it should come as no surprise that this January, as Jason embarked on his first transatlantic trip, I embarked on an adventure of my own. It began at Home Depot. While Jason boarded a plane wearing a just-purchased winter coat for the damp London weather, I had another article of clothing on my mind - a little sweater we bought for Nate
the night we found out that he'd be having a little brother. It was striped. It had tiny brown buttons. Its bottom edge and sleeves rolled in the teeniest bit. The only thing that made it more perfect was Nate wearing it. Then, one day, I found myself looking at the sweater thinking, maybe this sweater is actually a bedroom. And so it began, at a Home Depot with two buckets of Freshaire paint in Organic Garden. The color is a gray with the perfect hint of blue, the kind of shade that makes me slow down for just a minute every time I open the door to Nate's new bedroom.

I would love to say that Jason came home from a week in England to a freshly painted bedroom. But circumstances have changed since my first foray in pregnancy-induced painting five years ago. The days of painting two-toned rooms uninterrupted are gone. Now, my painting consists of forty minute pockets of time as long as the nap is holding. So, a mere two months after I began, this project was complete (at least that's what I'm calling it, I ran out of paint regardless of what imperfections might stand). Nate has moved into his new bedroom. I daydream of curtains, bedding, art, and a few little boy touches that remind me of my sweet little man in his striped knit. But we've reached that in between time, the would-be calm before the storm, if the time before a new baby's birth were ever calm. More precisely, it's the debate-from-within time when I try to decide the best use of what time I have left before sleep deprivation and lack of free hands hits an all-time high. I would love to say that personalizing curtains or creating artwork are on my list of "will-get-dones" before the next little mister arrives. But they're not. However, a few more moments of slow, taking in my little guy's new backdrop and those first moments of his days and last snuggles of his nights - those are definitely on my list. And, that seems to suit us both just fine.

*I think this post is going to appear two-toned, just like my old guest room. That was unintentional. Before posting, I noticed an italicized "i" at the start of the post. Upon erasing it, I turned part of the post a different color. Go figure. It seems like every space has its own idea as to what it should be...

Monday, April 11, 2011

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 116

Last week, Audrey donned her safety goggles before heading out the door to draw pictures with chalk. Safety first. She never told me why she felt she needed the goggles, but I suppose we each prepare in our own ways. This morning, I prepared for the day by retrieving the calendar from a desk drawer to double-check our schedule. What happened next was atypical at best. I began counting days - the number we have left until our due date, to be precise. I don't know what got into me. I won't post the number here. Denial is a procrastinator's best friend. A more practical person might have marched herself straight to the garage to clean out the car and see if that third car seat will indeed fit across the back row (okay, a more practical person would have probably done that months ago). I loaded the kids up and went to the gym, instead. Like I said, we all prepare in our own ways. I do have a mental running list of tasks to accomplish this week - preparations for the events to come. But, what I've found is this: no matter how much we prepare, each of us comes into being and learns to be in his or her own perfect time.

Our cases in point, from the week past:

(I apologize in advance for including this first story. All I can say in defense of myself is that it made me laugh). On Monday, the kids and I were gathered inside and just outside of my bathroom in varying states of readiness. Audrey had popped into the water closet and shut the door. A few minutes later, I hear, "Eww, I smell poop!" As the mom of two little ones and a dog, my first thought was, great, where? As if reading my mind, she responded, "From me, going in the potty." I breathed a sigh of relief. Nathan, playing right outside the bathroom with his sister's dollhouse (a gift from her Grammy, complete with buttons that make noises like a doorbell, washing machine, and toilet) had other ideas in mind. He followed her comment with a toilet flush as if indicating that, perhaps, a courtesy flush were in order to protect the noses of the rest of us.

Tuesday, Audrey was continuing work on an elephant picture she'd been drawing for a couple days. Its details were extensive: a spray of water coming out of the elephant's trunk, a source of water from which the elephant had drawn the water being sprayed, grass, and clouds. She added some worms, rain, a butterfly, and a baby elephant. Then, she pointed to a small pink outline drawn in the grass, "and here is a dead foot. Are you surprised?"

"Where is the rest of the body?" I asked.

"God already took it up." (Naturally).

Wednesday morning, Audrey asked for toast. The toaster's lever sprang up with a bing. "It hatched!" she said.

That afternoon during lunch, Nathan kept trying to pull his bib off. Unable to master the task, he began laughing at himself and his failed efforts. I just love a baby who has mastered self-deprecating humor.

Preschool mornings are always a bit rushed at our house. The kids wake up wanting to play with one another rather than get dressed. Audrey wants to talk or work on projects rather than eat. Thursday was no exception. In a feeble attempt to get Audrey, who was more interested in telling me a story, to eat breakfast, I said, "I'm not talking to you anymore until you're finished eating and we're in the car."

"Okay. I still love you, though."

Thursday evening, Jason was getting Nathan ready for bed. I told Audrey where to find a diaper and pajamas and asked her to take them upstairs to her dad. "Thank you, big girl helper," I said.

"Thank you, big mama helper for trying to tell me what to do."

Friday morning, Audrey asked if she could help get Nate ready. I told her she could try to take his pajamas off of him. She began with the shirt. She kept pushing his sleeves up toward his elbows rather than pulling them down and off. Realizing her tactic wasn't working, she stopped to regroup. She paused for a minute, in thought. Then, she began pulling at her own shirt as she would to take it off, realized her mistake and used her newly-gained knowledge to get her brother's shirt off.

A few minutes later, she told me she wanted two Audreys. She's mentioned wanting a sister several times since discovering she's having another brother. I assumed this was another attempt at telling me how much she wished for a sister. "Do you want a sister or another Audrey?"

"Another Audrey."

"Would she be a baby or be four."

"Four." Upon further questioning, I discovered that she would also look and act just like Audrey. This could be one interesting play date.

Nathan had a new skill of his own to show off Friday evening. As it turns out, he can now blow his nose, which he demonstrated by pulling out and blowing his nose into each bib in the kitchen bib drawer.

Oh yes, each little one comes into his own or learns to be in her own good time. And no amount of time, no matter how well-prepared she might think (or hope) she is, is enough to prepare a mama to watch it all unfold before her, which might just be one of adulthood's great gifts. That, and a self-cleaning car. Where do I get my hands on one of those?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Practical Stitches

This space has been a little sparse in the project department lately. It's not that projects aren't in progress, I just haven't had much time to record them. But, like most things of the last month, these projects lend themselves towards the practical. My knitting needles were feeling a bit rusty last week. I was about to hop into the passenger seat for a fifteen minute ride with my hands empty when a household need (and project that's been on my get-around-to list) popped in my head. I grabbed a couple needles and a ball of garden twine and hustled to the car. Several months ago, I ran across this blog post giving instructions on how to knit a dish scrubber using garden twine. Our dish scrubber had seen better days. We had garden twine (okay, I had just purchased garden twine a month ago with spring and this little project in mind). I had a weekend with a couple of car rides in the passenger seat and a few spare moments at the kitchen table with the kids. I had idle hands but a mind too busy to focus on a project of much complexity. All told, I had the makings of a perfect rustic rectangle - and it is: rough around the edges, glitz-free, but getting the job done. It's a little like us right now. I kind of like it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 115

Do you remember the scene in Pretty Woman where Vivian finds herself staring down a plate of escargot and a line-up of forks that seem completely inappropriate for the task?

"Where's the salad?" she asks.
"Uh, the salad comes at the end of the meal."
"But, that's the fork I knew."

Some days, I worry that I've set Audrey up for such a scene, she desperately counting tines, trying to remember what their numbers mean. It's not that we're an etiquette-free house. I'm simply partial to the salad fork. It feels better in my hand (for those of you picturing me with dainty, smaller-than-average hands, you'd be mistaken), or perhaps, I like that due to its shorter length, I have the illusion that the food has a shorter distance to travel before reaching my mouth. Touch or semblance aside, when Audrey sets the table, I ask for a salad fork. Every time. Our table is a mish-mash of cutlery, toddler-sized forks for the kids, a salad fork for me, and your standard dinner fork for Jason. Audrey doesn't stand a chance.

I could make this simple and change my fork. But sometimes, regardless of etiquette or principle or want, you use the fork that fits. Those have been our weeks of late. As I have spent my sleeping hours up with a teething toddler and my waking hours trying to prepare for the next baby (or recovering from missed sleeping hours) this space has been a quiet one, lying fallow until energy returns and this ground is ready for a fresh turn of the fork.

In the meantime, here are our moments to savor from last week, the ones that filled us up, no utensils required:

Sunday morning, Audrey was running around the family room with a ball "doing tricks" to make Nate laugh. With each new laugh, her tricks became more elaborate. "When he laughs, his face is brand new," she said.

Nate likes to play peek-a-boo. Sunday, he added a little twist to the game, covering his nose with his hands rather than his eyes and smelling his fingers before tossing both arms out in a "ta-da" gesture.

As I'm able, I try to make it to the gym for a workout, which at this point involves pushing Nate around an indoor track in a stroller while Audrey plays or does crafts in the children's area. A couple months ago, no one took note (at least verbally) of my belly, perhaps thinking I simply hadn't lost the baby weight from Nathan. Now, well into my third trimester, note has been taken. On Monday, a man stopped me. "Is that what you call walking for three?" he asked. I believe this same man asked me a little over a month ago, "Is that what you call walking for two?" That day, I almost answered that I was actually walking for three. When I relayed the story to Jason, he informed me that no, when I'm walking to take care of myself, I'm really walking for five.

Tuesday evening I had plans to meet up with two of my favorite ladies. Both celebrate their birthdays in February, but we were finally able to coordinate schedules to honor the occasion in March. Audrey saw me preparing a couple little gifts Tuesday afternoon. She wanted to include a little something of her own and asked me for a couple of blank cards that she could decorate. I struck up a deal. I opened the kitchen cabinet that serves as her art storage. A ream of loose-leaf paper fell at my ankles. "Pick out ten sheets of paper for me to recycle and I'll give you two cards," I said. Audrey agreed. She picked out six. She began bawling. She asked me to photograph one picture for posterity's sake. I snapped a shot and told her she had four more papers to go. "I want my Daddy!" she said.

Wednesday afternoon, Audrey came to me carrying a big plastic pig. "Mama pig has a big snot," she said, pointing at the pig's nose.
"Snout," I said.

That night, Nate and I had a bit of a late night party when he awoke at 4 am, crying inconsolably. I brought him downstairs and spent two hours trying everything I could think of (changing him, feeding him, giving him Tylenol) to calm him down, until he passed out at 6 am and began laughing in his sleep.

Of course, the Law of Averages states that if your youngest child stays up well into the night whittling away at your energy, your oldest will awaken bright and early with energy to spare (okay, the Law of Averages states something entirely different, but in my very scientific study, n=1, the outcome is completely accurate). Audrey began Thursday morning by asking, "Mom, are there fish farmers?"
"Can you teach me about them?"

We spent the morning perusing the Internet, looking at pictures of shrimp farms and catfish tanks and learning what tilapia eat (for those of you wondering, tilapia eat ANYTHING).

"Can we build a fish farm in our backyard?"
"No, honey," I said (followed by a brief explanation of what an HOA is and that our particular one would most definitely not allow a fish farm in our backyard).

By complete happenstance, twenty minutes later a couple of our neighbors walked past our fence carrying fishing poles toward the retention pond. Audrey raced outside to badger them with fishing questions. I saw it as the perfect window of opportunity to sneak Nate upstairs for a nap. Unfortunately, the window wasn't wide enough. Audrey came inside, and unable to find me, began shouting through the house, waking her brother. Wide awake, he skipped his nap until late afternoon, right as we pulled into the grocery store parking lot. As I carefully maneuvered him out of his car seat, Audrey discovered a spare handmade Valentine tucked under one of the seats. She carried it into the store. Hoping to give Nate a much-needed nap, I carried him through the store, maneuvering my cart with my spare hand and asking Audrey to walk right beside me. Five minutes into our trip, she brushed past a potted orchid, knocking it to the ground. As I turned to pick it up, a store employee stopped me and said she'd take care of it. We walked away and I leaned down to Audrey, "I know it was an accident, but can you go tell the lady you're sorry?" I asked. Audrey headed back, talked briefly to the woman, and then bent down placing the Valentine on the ground next to the overturned flower. "I gave her my Valentine," she said, "because she told me it was okay."

Back at home, Nate still safely strapped in his seat sleeping in the garage, Audrey ran upstairs to change into some dress-up clothes. She came down wearing a pair of clown pants - and nothing else.
"Why don't you go put a shirt on under that?" I asked.
"No, my dance group told me this was one without shirts."
Just as I began wondering how she'd gained admission to a topless club at age four, she criss-crossed her straps in front of her, creating a zig-zag pattern and began performing superhero poses.
"I'm a superhero clown!"

Rested, and ready to show off some super moves of his own, Nate practiced spin moves against me, lowering his right arm to the side as he does when dancing, to juke away from the Tylenol dropper - my weapon of choice for lowering his fever.

Saturday morning, Jason had planned to play an online video game against a friend. I was hoping to keep the kids at bay long enough to let him finish uninterrupted. I hoped Audrey would forget it was the weekend and would assume he was already at work. But, she raced downstairs asking where he was. "I want to look for him," she said, pausing by the basement door. "I heard 'ding it!' (dang it) so I think he's downstairs."

I don't remember the last time I wore a cocktail dress to dinner. I've never learned to drive anything other than an automatic, and know about as much about a car "cornering like it's on rails" as I do about aquaculture (actually, after last week, I know more about aquaculture). But Vivian and I both know something about dealing with a week of unlikely circumstances. Sometimes, you just have to stick with the fork you know. Or, when all else fails (or life throws you a plate of "slippery little suckers") just dig in with both hands. And enjoy the ride.