An unconnected series of photos of the evening.
Perhaps we could search for a theme, like “growth.”
Then again, that’s a catch-all theme when you have a six-year-old and a twelve-month-old.
Growth is every day.
Blooms happen regularly.
When you have a toddler in the house, you have to let go of some of those little OCD ticks, like making sure all the books are neatly arranged on the shelves.
There’s a certain point, I think, when an older sister becomes a big sister. It might be soon after the birth of little brother; it might take a few years. Really, it all depends on the age of the sister, I think.
But at some point, sooner or later, older sisters begin taking on themselves some of the responsibilities of looking after little brother. It might begin with playtime: “L, keep E in your room for a while as I start getting dinner ready” might be a first step.
That’s a relatively easy step. Big sister can half do her own thing, half entertain the Boy. The fact that they’re in her room adds a degree of security: she certainly won’t let E get into all that much because he has a tendency to mess things up.
The real transition comes when big sister begins fulfilling some of the lower needs on Maslow’s hierarchy.
These are the responsibilities that aren’t just fun. They’re not low-engagement responsibilities.
And when the older sister begins taking on those kinds of little jobs, we say, “Welcome, Big Sister! We’ve been waiting for you!”
It can be a joyful experience, with smiles and giggles and obvious relief on the face of the starving Boy. He opens his mouth wide; he waits patiently for the spoon; he closes his mouth slowly and seems to relish and inhale the food at the same time.
It can be a tragedy, with fussing and battling, with a head jerking back and forth in an almost desperate attempt to say “No!,” with hands flailing and pushing away the spoon to make sure the message gets through.
Whatever the case, the cleaning that follows can be Herculean. Food smeared here, there and everywhere. Dried caked food on the chin, the cheeks, the forehead.
But it always ends the same.
Food is joy for the little man. All food. Any food. He tries it all, rejects almost nothing, and seems to relish even the most exotic offering.
Truth be told, that’s a bit of a relief compared to the Girl, who still squawks and squeals whenever we try to get something new in her.
Change is good.
You’re decidedly less cute at 2:30 in the morning.
Apparently, there are four sinus cavities.
And while that’s three more than I was aware of, they are obviously of a limited volume. Today, though, with the Boy sneezing constantly, they seem more like they’re portals to dimensions in which mucus is the dominant substance. In that dimension, scientists are trying to understand the ever-expanding nature of mucus, its uncanny ability to reproduce seemingly ex nihilo.
Fortunately, Babies ‘R’ Us provides the solution: a small battery-powered vacuum with nostril-sized tip and lovely clear reservoir that sucks. Literally. Graco, the manufacturer, was also kind enough to design in a little electronic distraction: the push of a second button turns the little snot sucker into a music
And so we fall into a routine:
The Boy is sick — trapped in the house, in short. Two ears, both infected. Talk of tubes. Worries about effects. We’re all caught, I guess. Home from the doctor this morning, though, there was only one thing catching E: sleep.
After a fitful night, I was surprised at how long he lasted before the fists began digging in the eyes, before the fussing began, before the first yawn. When he’s sick and fussy, the first morning nap is always a blessing: some coffee, a bit of news on the internet, a chance to catch a moment of calm. But the calm never lasts: I look around and see what a mess a little boy can make in only a couple of hours, and I begin cleaning.
Soon, I’m interrupted: a terrible squawking and fluttering just outside the kitchen door tells me that we have our first victim of the season in our raspberry bush netting. No matter how carefully I hang the netting, with such deliberate overlaps that I then secure with various extemporaneous methods, it never fails: the birds somehow get in and then, unable to get back out, just about destroy the netting in their panic.
Last year, I tried various methods, including going into the netting myself with a tennis racket and herding the bird down to a corner where I can then pick it up and carry it out. (I quit doing that soon after an unexpected turn from a bird resulting in a fluttering pile of feathers beneath the berry vines. I suppose I didn’t think things through all that carefully with that method.)
Eventually, this one finds its way out.
Not unlike the Boy’s dreams: he is desperate to head out after so much time inside. At dinner, he sees his jacket I left hanging on the back of a chair when we returned from the doctor’s office. He grabs it, smiles at us, and begins waving bye-bye.
A rough few months: someone always missing. Papa, K and the Boy — the family always seems divided.
Now, having them all together again, it’s a lovely way to welcome the coming summer.
In a way, it’s a whisper of what’s coming for L and me: the cool evening today, the local libation, the soft sunset all are similar to summer in Poland, where L and I will be spending several weeks once school releases. We won’t all be there: there will be someone missing from both sides, and that will cast a hue of hollowness at times. But only at times, for when we let it, joy can almost always overcome sadness.
“Tomorrow, we go to pick up Mama and E from the airport,” the Girl virtually squealed last night as she got ready for bed. It was one of a long line of such excited proclamations: as we made breakfast; before lunch; when we finished watching a movie together; before brushing teeth; while brushing teeth; after brushing teeth. It was, in short, L’s mantra.
Of course that meant a day of waiting. A day of “How long” questions. How long until we leave? How long until we get there? How long until Mama’s plane lands? How long until Mama comes? How long until we get home?
How long until you realize that how long doesn’t help things go any faster?
The last time K returned from Poland, by the time we walked back upstairs at the airport to double check the arrival time at the Lufthansa desk and made our way back to the international arrival hall, K was standing, waiting. Today, we arrived when the plan was scheduled to land only to discover it was to land now a half an hour later. Add to it that K’s baggage was the last to make a circuit around the luggage carousel and that customs picked her for a “open your baggage and take everything out” inspection (I guess travelling with an exhausted toddler is a fairly common scheme among international smugglers), and it was past five, almost two hours after our arrival, when K and the Boy appeared at the far end of the arrival hall. Disregarding all “No Entry!” signs, L and I virtually sprinted to her. Hugs. Tears. An emotional return to the States after an emotional time in Poland.
On arriving, K disappeared and we soon heard the sound of water running. She came out of the bathroom with wet hair and in pajamas, smiling at me exhaustedly and explaining sweetly that the children were all my responsibility.
A quick bath, a quick bit of fruit and cereal for the Boy, and before we know it, everyone is asleep.
The Boy, not used to falling asleep with me, was soon fussing, then crying, then outright panicking. It was not the right shoulder, not the right voice, not the right pulse, not the right surroundings. It will take some time for us all to get back to the right everything.
A Sunday morning that begins like this is likely to end as a somewhat sad Sunday. Not enough baggage for the whole family. Someone’s staying. In this case, the Girl and I as K and the Boy head to Poland.
We try to make the best of the morning. There’s more tadpoling — it’s a new term for us — and some experimentation.
We try our hand at making a dam, but it is only moderately successful. The child in me begins scheming how we could reinforce the dam, make it more nearly water tight, soon enough the Girl loses interest and we begin looking for flowers.
Some day. Some day, we’ll build that dam.
I never really played baseball as a kid. Due to various other commitments, Little League in all its guises was always out. Except for softball for the men, the church league in which I often participated didn’t really offer ball/stick sports.
Riding a bike — I did a lot of that. I lost a lot of skin in various wrecks and came to accept the fact that strawberries are always in season. The Girl, bless her heart, has not yet come to accept the fact that skinned knees are a part of the bike riding experience. The dreaded turn at the park notwithstanding, there really have been few occasions for the Girl to get bloodied up. In a sense, I’m thankful for that. Still, a bit pain, some skin left on the pavement — what doesn’t kill us and all that.
The Boy gets a hefty dose of pain on a daily basis, with slips and bonks, miscalculated head motions, blind ignorance. It all comes with the job of being a normal ten-month-old. His pain is a little more difficult to deal with as a parent: we can’t simply explain, “Rub it out — it will make you stronger. Just tough it out.” In fact, we might not even always be sure what is causing the pain.
Pain and baseball (finally) don’t often together either. Unless you count frustration — the steep learning curve that’s necessary for even simple catch. Though I biked more than I baseballed, I always enjoyed a game with kids of the neighborhood. Some of them played real ball — and were good — and I often felt a bit out of the loop. If we were picking teams, I was almost always selected last, for I was as ignorant of the concept of a strike zone, swinging at most anything, as I still am about the infield fly rule. But I enjoyed playing catch with Dad, and I enjoyed play baseball well into the late darkness of a summer night, with both teams taking occasional timeouts to catch new fireflies to smear the ball with florescence.
Now I’m on the other end of things, the teacher, not quite sure if I can really teach something I don’t know how to do well myself. I can at least teach the Girl to throw overhanded, to snatch a ground ball, and to pound her fist into her pink and purple “Girlz Rule” mitt.
And we can share the evolving joy of a game of catch after dinner.