Archive for August, 2011

Something to ponder

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

I learned today that the previous rector of my parish wrote a monthly column for the church newsletter in the voice of her dog.

It was apparently wildly popular.

I’ve just been writing columns as my boring human self. I feel so … disappointing.

Maybe I should get an iguana?

6y & 21m

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Writing about the trip a little reminded me that I used to use this blog as a way to record some notes about my growing and changing kids. And after vacation, when I’ve had some time to really soak them in, is a good time to jot down some memories and observations.

About our Zag, now 6 and as clever as clever. Zag is discovering the delights of being a big kid. In the final two months of kindergarten, he went from sounding out three-letter words to reading at a second-grade level. It’s hard to tell how much he reads to himself – I think he does a lot of “coasting,” reading bits here and there and enjoying the pictures in whatever he’s working on – but anytime he gets serious about it, he’s got the skills. Any month now, maybe any week, he’ll turn that next corner and start reading by himself in earnest, and we won’t see him again until he gets interested in girls.* The reading is just a piece of it, though. We stumbled into geology as sort of a running theme of our recent vacation – gathering interesting rocks in several creeks, visiting two different geology museums – and he really took to it, not just following along but taking it in and working it over. He had a summer school course on bugs, and now he spots bugs and tells us what they are. Tonight he was telling me about the geology and history displays he wants to set up in his bedroom. He’s always had phases of intense interest in something or other – Egypt, mining, ninjas – but it seems like he’s owning it intellectually in a new way, enjoying knowledge and inquiry. When we baptized this boy, we prayed, as we pray whenever we baptize a child in an Episcopal church, that the Holy Spirit would bless him with an inquiring and discerning heart, and the gift of joy and wonder in all God’s works. It’s lovely watching those gifts unfold.

About our Bean, 21 months old, bright and imperious and utterly charming. Oh, those big brown eyes just melt me. She has a lot of words (one of the most recent: “Pod game,” meaning she wants to play a game on my iPad), but what’s striking is how much she understands – and thinks, and plans. We stopped at a big water park one afternoon on our trip. We didn’t tell the kids about it till a few minutes before, because the weather was dicey and we weren’t sure it would work out. So I told the Bean, “We’re going to a water park, where we can swim!” When we got there and I got her out of her seat, she held up a doll (”girl”) and a blue dino and said, “Water?” I said, “Oh, do you want to take those in the water?” and absentmindedly stuck the dino in our bag and the doll back in the car. In the dressing room, while I was getting her suited up, she found the dino and immediately started looking through the bag for the doll: “Girl? Girl?” I hadn’t really taken her seriously – but she had, in fact, understood that we were going swimming, and picked out two toys she wanted to take with us. (Fortunately, she took the lack of the doll fairly well.) I am learning not to underestimate my daughter; she knows what’s going on and she knows what she wants. She hustles us out of bed in the morning: “Up? Glass(es)? Dress? Up! Come!” She fills us in on her agenda: “Dada. Sit. Book.” She defends her turf (as a little sister must): “MINE,” sometimes pointing at herself to make things crystal clear. She gets mad at us for doing things for her instead of helping her do them herself, and sometimes even gets mad that she needs help at all. Lord help us, she’s starting to have opinions about which parent does things for her: “MAMA push chair!” But this all makes her sound bossy – which she can be, but she’s also quite even-keeled, and so sweet. I got a little weepy about having to leave to go to work, the first morning back after our trip, and she noticed I was crying, and patted me on the head, and said, “Happy.”

About both of them together. Oh, those two. They play off each other. They’re definitely close enough in age to have a real, robust sibling relationship – they can make each other laugh like nobody else, and they can make each other mad like nobody else. We’ve started occasionally calling the Bean “Me Too,” because whatever Zag does, she wants to do. At a park on our big drive, Zag needed to empty gravel out of his crocs and I sent him over to a nearby bench to do so. The Bean witnessed this and refused to proceed to the picnic table for lunch until she, too, had gone over, sat on the same bench, and had me make a show of emptying out her sandals. It works the other way, too – whatever the Bean is playing with or doing suddenly becomes very attractive to Zag. This is a little frustrating if, say, we’ve hauled her off to play with Duplo so that he can do Lego in peace – and suddenly he wants to play with Duplo more than anything else.

They drive each other nuts sometimes, but very clearly, they really love each other. And I really, really, really love them. My kids.

Lancelot Andrewes (alt):
O God, not of us only but of our seed,
bless our children among us,
that they may grow in wisdom as in stature,
and in favor with you and with all.

Amen.

* Or boys, of course. But my guess, FWIW, is that it will be girls.

Home again, home again

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

I am approaching the end of my first honest-to-goodness vacation from my first honest-to-goodness job as Person In Charge. We will be away a total of twelve days, plus an extra day out of the office to pack, prep, and load the car – which was awesome; it was great to have time to do that right and not have that panicked chaotic rush to get on the road. I wish I had a day off at the other end for unpacking, resting and re-entry, but it just didn’t work out that way this time… Ah, well, at least we’re returning midweek so it won’t be long till the weekend.

It’s been terrific. I haven’t heard a peep from my church, God bless them. Tilt and I, and many of the people we’ve been visiting, sort of like talking about liturgy and churchy stuff, so I can’t say my mind has been entirely away from my work. But such conversations have been recreational, not professional, and haven’t broken my sabbath. I’ve played with my kids, and shopped, and talked with family and friends, and done art projects, and read, and chatted with my husband, and eaten a lot of good food, and drunk a quantity of good beer and wine that, while not by any means embarrassing, is far greater than I would likely consume in any ten-day period that was not vacation.

We are, this moment as I type, alomst 18 hours into 30 hours of total drive time on the trip, and knock on wood, it’s gone pretty well. The kids have been troupers. We’ve been experimenting with having some of the driving happen between 7pm and 11pm, putting the kids to bed in the car and using the time when they’re asleep and we’re still up & alert enough to drive safely. That works well with Zag. The Bean isn’t crazy about sleeping in the car; it was really bad th first time, and so-so the second time. We’ll see how it goes this evening, our third big drive day.

Five days into this vacation, I was so happily detached from work and so-called “real life” that I really didn’t want to think about going back. I was counting the days, reassuring myself that I still had plenty of vacation left. But inner process is a wondrous thing. A night or two ago, I noticed that subtle inward shift where the heart turns homeward. I miss our house and our garden. And my sewing corner. I’m not itching to get back into the office – though I know I’ll re-engage happily enough when I go – but I am sort of, provisionally, almost, kind of, ready for this trip to draw to a close.

It’s been sweet and a bit sad, this trip, that our Bean, now 21 months, has started naming and identifying people – which also means she can be sad about leaving them. She’s currently in the back seat chattering about Sadie (”Dadie”), our almost 4 year old friend (daughter of the Bean’s godmamas) whom we just parted from this morning. The Bean spent much of our last long drive, from my parents’ to the godmamas’, asking if we could go back to Gamma and Gampa. It’s a blessing to live close enough that when we need another visit, we can just plan one, without plane tickets having to be involved. But still, it’s so lovely to see our kids building closer relationships with all their grandparents that it perversely makes me long for even more time together.

Speaking of time together… When I have some time away from work and with my family, one of the things that percolates up to the surface – maybe the Big Thing, really – is that I desire and need more focused time with my daughter. It feels so good to be around her, with plenty of time to talk and play and snuggle. It feels so good to have enough free time to spend some focused time with each of my kids. That’s a lot harder to achieve, in the average work week. Zag is, as he has always been, so closely bonded to me. I come home from work and he wants my attention and my time – and those are legitimate needs. The Bean is more ambiparental, if you will – she wants time with me too, but both because she’s the little sister and tends to get drowned out, and because she’s also so close to and at ease with her daddy, it’s easy for my home time to be more focused on Zag. I remember the dynamic from when I was being primary parent to Zag, while Tilt was working full-time – even while he was home (and even though he wanted to spend time with his son), it took conscious effort for the person who usually meets the toddler’s needs not to go right on meeting the toddler’s needs when the other parent is around.

I want to give the Bean more time – and give myself more time with her. But it’s going to take some attention and intention to figure out how to do that without taking time away from Zag, who also needs and deserves it. I’m sure these are elementary issues for people who’ve parented two (or more) children for longer than we have, and I welcome advice and encouragement.