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Good days

Yesterday, Spouse took the girls to Louisville. Before they left, however, I went to the grocery. As I was leaving, the Beeb (still in her pajamas) said, “Me too!” and started putting her shoes on. So I had a bit of help at the grocery, where we chatted all the way through every aisle. (By the way, this “me too!” is a thing I don’t want to forget about this time, nor is her occasional request “hand, Mama, hand” in the car, where I’m supposed to reach back and hold her little hand. It’s all I can do not to weep while driving.)

Done with the grocery, they left for Louisville. I did some house-cleaning, then stopped by the farmer’s market, where our CSA farmers had strawberries and green garlic waiting for me. 

I went straight from there to the pool on campus, where in spite of being really tired I cranked out 1750 yards of a workout, including 5×200 at 4:20ish. That is slow by any reasonable standard, but I’m so excited about the gains I’ve made in speed and endurance in the water! I have hope instead of dread for the swim leg of June’s triathlon, and that is a big deal.

After the pool, there was Target and lunch and a quick stop for a couple bottles of wine, then home to clean more and start food prep: roasted tomato and goat cheese tart, green salad, chocolate cake with whipped cream and strawberries, cheese/salami plate, etc. for a book club gathering. I got to eat good food, drink good wine, and talk about one of my very favorite novels (Gilead) with some of the loveliest women I know.

And even though I got a short night’s sleep because I went to bed late and always have a hard time sleeping in, I’m spending my Sunday morning enjoying a cup of coffee with leftover heavy cream while watching a cooking show uninterrupted. After breakfast I’ll get to do my last workout of the week (1:30 ride followed by :10 run). And the house (at least downstairs) is clean so I might just lie in the middle of the floor enjoying the silence before Spouse and the girls get home.

Happy early Mother’s Day to me!

I’ve been sick for what seems like forever (all-time worst sinus congestion this time, although my lungs are making a play for bronchitis again). I have not been at my personal best physically, and I think an emotional flatness due to fatigue is a workable but not ideal substitute for patience and kindness as a parent. I didn’t really want to work Saturday (who does?) but it’s incoming freshman orientation season and I had to spend most of the day meeting incoming students and their parents, allay fears, encourage excitement, etc. That afternoon, just before Spouse caught a 15-minute nap with Nuala playing on the Kindle, she said, “Daddy, dream about mommy coming home and feeling better.”

How does she break my heart? Let me count the ways.

Old tree

Mom and Dad had a diseased oak taken down at the homestead. I did some counting and marking today.  

She sings!

Someone has heard the Happy Birthday song a few times recently. I captured this on the way home from Target–apologies for the poor visual but I was driving and trying to be safe.

Memom

It’s hard to know what and how to feel about losing your last grandparent when, either because of age or distance, you’ve never been particularly close to any of them. Dad’s mother died five years before I was born. Buster died the week I turned nine. Mom’s dad died when I was seventeen, but he and Memom had lived everywhere but near us for as long as I’d known. And now there’s Memom, who lived to an older age than any of them but spent most of the last fifteen years, maybe, in a slow decline with dementia. The last time I saw her I was just barely pregnant with Bebe and sobbed most of the way through our visit at the nursing home in Florida. It was the first time I’d seen her since she’d become nonverbal.

Most of my memory of Memom is encapsulated in her smile and the sound of her voice. A huge, beautiful gap-toothed smile that found its way to many grandkids’ (and great-grandkids’) faces, mine included. If you mashed up the voices of a couple of my aunts, you’d have its unique timbre, and if you got them to say “herro” instead of “hello” and “wosh-nin” instead of “ocean,” I think I’d hallucinate her presence on the spot. One of the things I remember most about Memom: long before dementia showed up, she was a great correspondent. I loved writing letters as a kid and she always wrote back–a few lines here and there, but don’t you remember how great it was (and is!) to receive an actual letter? She loved crafts and so did I. I did a little tin-punch candle-holder with her initials on it and sent it to her when she and Grandpock lived in Marblehead, Ohio. She sent me back a thank-you note with a photo of her hanging it on the wall. I got to see it on her wall when I visited on what was probably the most exotic trip of my childhood–a road trip in a rented minivan to northern Ohio with my aunts and cousins but no immediate family. For an incredibly shy homebody, it was a very big deal. My first view of Lake Erie and the caves on Put-in-Bay island were etched in my brain forever, as was the experience of my older cousin crying because the baby cousin was crying nonstop, and the older cousin throwing the baby cousin’s pillow out the window of the minivan as a result.

It’s a shame we can’t pluck our own memories out of our heads and share them with others, especially our own kids. I wish she’d known Memom a little better…I wish I’d known Memom better…but I’m glad Nuala got to meet her even under the circumstances. Time and again, Nuala sets the bar for deep-down goodness of heart. She has always spoken of missing Memom and loving her in spite of having met her only as someone with the most tenuous of connections to the outside world. I suppose the logic is that because Memom is her great-grandmother, she is therefore a person she knows and loves. I would have been utterly freaked out by a visit to the dementia unit of a nursing home at the age of 4, but she took it in stride. Like many with dementia, Memom was very excited to see a little girl and reached her arms out for a hug. Nuala still talks about how nice Memom was. I doubt she will remember that visit for many more years but hopefully, that’s what this blog is for.

Obituary

 

 

Bebe at 2

Dear Bebe,

I wonder whether I’d have done a better job chronicling your babyhood if you, like Nuala, had been born when I was in grad school, or if you’d still get short shrift as the second child of parents with too much to do all the time. I suppose we’ll never know; however, I can assure you that the lack of documentation means nothing about how much we treasure you every. single. day. There is simply too much goodness and delight to even begin to capture in words or photos or videos.

DSC_0107

So I might as well begin anywhere.

The other day, I had gone upstairs when Daddy had fixed you a snack. I heard some things hit the floor, followed by a warning of a timeout, followed by more things hitting the floor, followed by a cry that was a bit too forced to be genuine upset. I came downstairs to find you on the bottom step (your timeout spot) trying to moan convincingly. I sat down beside you and asked what happened.

“Dwow.”

“Did you throw something?”

“No. Daddy.” [You looked at Daddy, whose face said, “I don’t think so.”]

“Did Daddy throw something?”

“Weh [yes].”

Daddy threw something?”

“Weh.” [Pause] “Bebe.”

“Did you throw something?”

[Pause] “Weh.”

“You’re not supposed to throw things, are you?”

“Nuh-uh.”

Satisfied that you’d reached the resolution phase of our conversation, I suppose, you got up from your step. I asked you to say you were sorry, and you went to hug his legs and lay your head on his knee, and we were done. It may not look like much until you get some experience with toddlers, but it’s pretty typical of how complex our conversations have become. You still use one word at a time, but you string them together in a sequence that makes sense logically and syntactically. “Wah. Go?” for “Where did Nuala go?” and “I dot!” (I got it!) when you’ve found something you’re looking for, and “In nyeh!” for “[Put X] in here,” like “There’s milk in my cup. Put juice in there instead, would you please?”

When you’ve communicated something clearly and get what you were asking for, you’re thrilled! You literally laugh out loud. And when you don’t get what you were asking for, you are apoplectic. It’s a very special age that involves not only new intellectual powers but also enhanced physical powers. You can curl your limbs around anything to prevent me from picking you up and transporting you to the bath, from the bath, onto the changing table, out of your seat, into your seat, and so on. There are bloodcurdling screams alternating with red-faced breathless sobbing. We do what we can to talk you through roadblocks without provoking these brief fits, but this is 2, man. It’s real.

You adore your sister and she adores you, most of the time. You want to play with–or at least near–her and the big kids next door, and she and those kids are more patient than anyone could hope for them to be, so it usually works out brilliantly. We run into snags from time to time, though, like when Nuala closes her door or someone has gone into the bathroom without your say-so and left you behind. That exchange usually sounds like this:

Me: “T, I have to use the bathroom”

You: “Meee!”

Me: “Honey, I want to use the bathroom alone.”

You: [tantrum]

Same goes for “I’m going to take out the trash,” or “I’m going to run to the store,” or “I need to go upstairs and get something.” “Meee!” You expect to come along everywhere, which is great most of the time, but sometimes a parent wants to use the bathroom without an audience.

All that said, I love that you and your sister are our regular companions, our buddies. I’m exhausted by it, and I hope I hope I hope you don’t remember me as The Mom Who Was Always Tired, but I really do love it, and I love it every day a little more because of all the new things you can do with me, with each other, and by yourself.

These past two years have been challenging in ways I wish they’d rather not been (we’ll tell you stories when you get older about bats and home projects and the effects of challenges placed on the relationships of full-time working parents), but you, and your sister for that matter, have been pretty constant sources of joy. Thanks for being awesome, and keep it up. (As though you could do anything else.)

Love,

Mama

Sneaking up on 2

  
At the Montessori school, this would be a version of the “pouring water lesson.” I think she’s aced it, although I sure wish she would pour it back in the tub so I didn’t have to go through towels sopping up the water that drips down the side.

  
I was trying to capture some of her excellent and sometimes weird pronunciations on video. One day she’ll stop calling Nuala “Wah,” and that will be a sad day.

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