Split Sunday

Today is the last Sunday of the month, which means Polish Mass. It’s not much of a Polish Mass as much as it’s an English Mass with responses in Polish. Finding a replacement Polish priest is not all that easy, it seems. Yet L’s recent involvement in the children’s choir has energized and interested her: she doesn’t want to give it up. So we went to Mass in the morning, the three of us, and K went in the afternoon. Kind of like we used to do when one of us was sick: one stays home with the kid then goes to Mass later in the day.

It’s been a real benefit to the Girl, children’s choir. It keeps her focused in Mass for thing. It’s hard to fidget about when you have to pay attention and be ready to sing. It’s also helped her make new friends with girls who seem to have their heads looking forward and their priorities straight. It’s a constant worry we have: what kind of friends is she making at school? What kinds of behaviors are being modeled at school? We’ve met her best friends, of course, but she comes into contact with so many other children that it would be impossible to keep up. And so we’re happy to have some more positive influences in her life.

After lunch, it’s the same old Sunday tradition: exploring. The Boy and I headed to the other side of the creek to the neglected, overgrown portion of the lot of the all-but-abandoned house. The owner of the house died in his backyard a few years ago — we heard the cries of anguish in our yard when they discovered him — and I guess they moved his wife into assisted care or something. At any rate, someone comes and mows the yard a few times a summer, but the long triangular off-shoot of the lot has been completely neglected. There is now a stand of Sweetgum trees there that just makes me shudder.

But we were after something else, something sweeter.

Honeysuckle. When I was a kid, finding a fine of honeysuckle was a rare and wonderful treat. Our neighborhood didn’t have any wild areas, and I don’t think many people cultivate honeysuckle.

Later, in the early evening, E and I went back down to have another snack. The Girl joined us, bringing a small bowl to bring back some blossoms to enjoy during the movie.

I love the simplicity of that.

Mid-March Sunday Afternoon

Every day has a story in it. That’s what writers will tell you. “You just have to find the thread of the narrative and follow it.” Something like that. If that’s the case, the threads of our Sunday afternoon stories area always the same. They always weave about our little recreation area down at in the corner of our property.

First, there’s the green swing. “I call green swing!” one of our children — usually L — we shout when we head down the hill. Yesterday, before the kids went down (our Saturday evening threads are often the same as our Sunday afternoon threads), while the Girl was still getting ready in her room, the Boy whispered, “I call green swing.”

Growing Older

The Boy’s on a slightly different schedule at pre-school because of the lack of Monday sessions, so today was the 100th Day celebration. I’m not really sure why, but everyone was to dress up as an old person. E borrowed a cane from our neighbor and put on some new-to-him dress clothes (passed down from friends whom we gave L’s old clothes — it’s a circle) and looked positively dashing.

The Girl, while completing her chores tonight, slipped her tablet into an old purse and danced the floors clean.

“She’s almost a teenager,” K said.

She’s starting to look it and act it.

Thursday Afternoon

How do you lose the gas cap off your mower? Fairly easily it turns out, as I discovered Saturday. So when we were talking about what we’ll be doing this weekend over dinner, K suggested I work on the leaves in the backyard again. Great idea, but I’ll have to get a gas cap before I can do that. In the meantime, to get a little exercise and outside time after dinner, we searched for the gas cap.

For a while.

Soon enough, though, the boys decided it was time to play. We captured K and tried to pull her to our lair, but she’s a strong one, that K. But turnabout is only fair, and so the Boy turned traitor and jailed me in the hammock, taking a brief break to get the Girl swinging.

Mikołaj 2016

There are times when it seems the Girl’s frustration with the Boy is simply going to overwhelm her, take over her mind, body, and soul. “E!” she cries out, stretching his name into a several-second yelp. When she’s talking to her cousin in Poland, she can be positively cruel, trying to shove him out of her room so she can have “peace and quiet.” When he gets into her Legos, it’s as if he’s managed to snag a Ming dynasty vase and is attempting to juggle it.

Of course he can give it as well as he gets it, and sometimes the Girl comes and complains that E is being mean. “Well, he’s only following your example: you taught him how to do that,” K and I remind her.

Some days, it’s like playing Whack-a-Mole: one gets calmed down just as the other decides it’s about time for a little provocation. Reverse and repeat. Reverse and repeat. Reverse and repeat.

When they’re in such a mood, it brings out the worst in them in another respect, too: they become the worst tattle-tales. I guess this is just another form of provocation, though.

Watching them in these moments, it might be hard to see the love they have for each other, especially when L’s all worked up. But it’s there, strong and bright and clear. Most clearly, it comes from E, who’s not afraid to show his love and admiration for his older sister. She is everything to him, and he imitates her as much as he imitates K and me.

The Girl shows it in little surprising ways. This morning, “Polish Christmas” as they call it, she was up first. That in itself is a rarity. Still, there she was the first one up, with a little prodding. She had the first meeting of Battle of the Books this morning, and she had to be at school a little early — with chorus, that means early starts Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for the foreseeable future. It’s always hard to get her out of bed, but I thought I had the silver bullet today: “Mikołaj came — I think he left you something.” I expect her to bolt upright and start asking, “Where? Where? Where?” with a crazed expression. It would be a typical L action in many ways. Instead, she simply answered that she wanted to open her present with E.

“He’s still asleep,” I explained, thinking that would put an end to it all.

“Okay, I’ll wait.”

It was worth it.

L led E to his presents and celebrated with what Mikołaj brought him. (The prized present: a light and siren set to turn his bike into a “police vehicle” as he explained it.) Then she demanded that he lead her, with her eyes closed, back to her room to check out her presents. (The prized present: a new pair of pajamas emblazoned with L’s morning mantra: “Five more minutes!”)

In the evening, it was time for more holiday preparation: Saturday’s a big smoking day for me, and we put around twenty-five pounds of pork loin in a brine to get it ready. The Boy, who’s always wanting to cook, helped out. I taught him how to test the brine (“It should taste as salty as the ocean,” I explained) and then spit it out.

Of course the spitting into a pot was the highlight. He was not at all disappointed that we didn’t have the salt level correct the first time and had to keep adding and testing, adding and testing.

Afterward, a little work on the couch together.

What did Mikołaj bring K and me? This beautiful day.

The Real L

Monday evenings, we get that rare chance to see the Girl in her element, to see her without her being aware that we see her, that we’re watching. I say “we” but it’s really only one or the other of us: one stays with the Boy, the other takes L to gymnastics, then does a bit of shopping while she bounces about.

I arrived back to pick her up tonight about ten minutes early, so I sneaked to a spot I could watch without her being aware. They were doing something on a bar roughly the width of one of the uneven bars but only about two feet off the ground, placing their hands on the bars and jumping on the bar before extending both arms upward. The Girl completed the exercise, got a high five from her teacher, then went to an aerobic ball and began bouncing up and down on it. The other girls were sitting still, waiting their turn and watching the other girls go, and L was bouncing, bouncing, bouncing, looking here and there, in her own world. They got up to do something else, and when done, L returned to the ball. Bounce bounce bounce. Up down up down up down up down bounce bounce bounce up down up down up down up down up down up down up down up down up down up down up down up down up down up down up down up bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce down up down up down up down up down up down up down up down up down up down up bounce bounce bounce bounce down up down up down up down up down with such abandon and joy that I realized that she could probably just do that during the entire hour and be satisfied with time spent. I thought what a perfect metaphor this simple action, that in some ways I found annoying because I sensed that the other girls around L found it annoying, could cause her so much happiness. It was another of those “just let her be — don’t worry about what other kids think about her” moments. So they might have been annoyed — so what? So they might in some way reject her because they might think that’s childish in some sense — so what?

“You seemed to have a lot of fun bouncing on that ball tonight,” I suggested in the car on the way home.

“Yeah!” she said with her typical excitement.

“Don’t the other girls want to do that?”

“We take turns every week,” she said, looking out the window.

“And tonight was your turn?”

“Yeah — not everyone wants to do it. Some of the girls think the mats are more comfortable.”

I wondered at that. Perhaps some of the other girls just don’t care enough to put up a fight, because I can see L running for the ball to claim the first turn. That’s how she is with us, and with people she feels comfortable with. But these girls? Virtual strangers? I worry at times that she might not have the best social radar, that she might think she’s closer to some people than they themselves think they are to her. I’ve noticed little gestures from others at times, things I wonder if I should point out to L or just let her learn. Reading body language. It’s a skill that sometimes has to be taught, doesn’t it? And then there are those autistic souls who can’t pick up on those things to save their lives.

So no big epiphanies tonight. No big revelations. Just more wondering.

But not about the Boy: he was in perfect E-form when K started cleaning the oven tonight.