Here is a quick hello and an almost-summertime update. The crush of the spring semester is over, so we are all relaxing a bit – except that mom is rushing full tilt into organizing mode now that there is more time. The picture above struck me as perfect for the boys’ activity these days; they have been planting seeds (apple and kiwi, and others, I believe) and watering them, and digging holes to the center of the earth, and digging up treasures in the driveway. I have been keeping out of the garden this spring but I did promise the boys that we could ask Gramp if he would help them to plant a few things when he and Granny come to visit soon.
Here is a lovely little painting by my five-year-old, of a storm at sea, seen from the beach. The pink is sand blowing around, and the teal at top is the wind.
“Stay away from us if you don’t want to get sick! We have a viper!”
The day before the snow came, two of the boys came down with a “viper.” Poor boys; I found one draped motionless and silent on an armchair, and another fast asleep and rosy cheeked on the sofa.
“Dad says this viper is really catching.”
As usual, Dad was right – the next day, when the snow hit, three of us fell one after the other, like dominoes. However, two of the boys were already better, and two of us weren’t sick until the evening, so we got some good sledding in on the first day. The snow was too cold to pack to make a snowman – that was the very first thing our four-year-old wanted to try. But the sledding was awesome.
Our back yard is a hill of four tiers – that is, it slopes, then levels out briefly, four times before you hit the woods. I wasn’t sure whether a sled would stop at each tier, or just keep going – it turns out it keeps going, and fast! It was fun, for the oldest and I, but not safe for the littlest ones, so they sledded down the side yard.
The littles reacted differently to sledding. I brought the two middle ones on a ride down the hill and into the driveway. The smaller hopped out ready for more, but the other was silent and a little solemn.
“Did you like that?” I asked him.
“Y-es,” he said uncertainly. Then he looked at me with a troubled expression, and said, “But I wasn’t having fun.”
“Oh! Was it too scary?” I asked. He nodded. “It is a little scary,” I said.
That little one left to set off stomp rockets (a wonderful invention, and a present from Gramp and Granny for Christmas) in the back yard, while the littlest ones and I kept on.
They loved it. Both spilled out once; and another time, the bigger boy in front spilled out, leaving a pile of snow and his two-year-old brother in the sled. I looked at the latter, to see how he’d taken this latest ride. He beamed up at me.
“We crashing!” he said happily.
While the boys were busy in the snow I took a ride or two solo down the big hill. The first time, I ran into a couple of briars that had looked more harmless than they proved to be. But I thought I’d smashed them down pretty well, so that they wouldn’t hurt me the second time. What I didn’t reckon on was that the second time I went down, I’d go much further than the first time, since the trail was packed; and I ended up in a much worse briar patch (see above.) Ouch.
We were snowed in for five days. When I told my brother in Minnesota how many inches of snow it was that shut down our fair city in the mountains, he laughed loud and long. We hardly ever get snow here, so when we do it’s a big deal. As a North Carolina parent pointed out to me when we first moved here, “They may laugh at us in Minnesota. But there, if you slide off the road, you aren’t liable to fall very far. That isn’t the case here.” A good point.
Now the warmer weather is back again, and we don’t need to light the stove anymore. The warmer weather is nice, but it really is lovely to build a fire and feel it warm the house – and to smell woodsmoke outside from the neighbors’ chimneys and our own.
The scene: two brothers at breakfast, one with his face in his eggs.
“He is eating with his mouth. Maybe he’s going to turn into a beast.”
“I would like to turn into a whale.”
“Most definitely not. Most likely you’d turn into a pig, because pigs eat with their mouths.”
“Mommy, what do whales eat?”
“Pigs eat mostly vegetables. Squished up vegetables.”
“Mommy, may I have honey on my toast please?”
“Stop eating with your hands! Stop eating with your mouth! Maybe we should sign him up for polite class.”
“With a collar on my head.”
Although it is summer vacation, things seem busy, but partly that is because things are a little disorganized without a school schedule. It is hot, not dreadful, but we are indoors more, and the boys are doing lots of drawing. Gramp and Granny (that is a portrait of them, above) came for a wonderful visit last week. My husband and I got to go on a mini vacation. We sat by a lake in rocking chairs – I did nothing but look at flowers and geese and clouds and trees for simply an age. I haven’t done that in years!! It was lovely. Gramp and Granny, you are the best.
“Oh, I look old.” I cringed at my reflection in the rearview mirror. “Do I look old?” I asked my oldest, regretting asking him even as the words came out.
“No,” he replied solemnly. “Not at all.” He thought a bit and added, “People in their thirties are not old.”
“You’re right, of course,” I replied hastily. But still – it is jarring to see oneself growing older and wrinklier.
“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…” I guess I am not too old. And our house is unique but it’s not even remotely like a shoe.
We had a quiet day, blissfully free of incident. We’ve been playing “family” a lot lately, my four-year-old and I. He plays the dad, I’m the mom, and the baby is the baby. Yesterday we began by taking many family naps. We piled up on the sofa, dad, mom, and baby, kissed each other goodnight, and slept until the rooster crowed, then we got up. We repeated this process several times. After that it was time to go into town, which is downstairs.
Once in “town,” the baby wandered into the guest room (there is an alarm clock radio in there, and he loves to turn it on) and “dad” declared, “All right. Let’s go to the kid store and get a kid.”
The guest room is the kid store, as it turns out, and I thought (like a grown up) that the “kid” to be procured was the baby. But shortly after, outside by the swings, J informed me that he had a son of his own, whom he was swinging in the baby swing.
“That’s wonderful!” I said. “What is your son’s name?”
“Canoe,” he replied. “He’s really cute.” I said I could well believe it.
“He has the power to transform into a fish,” he added, in an offhand way.
“Well, that’s handy,” I replied.
After a while he and baby and I wandered to the top of the hill. It must be nice, being a baby. All you have to do is point to a little bike, look up, and say “Ma!” and you get gently rolled all around the yard, with your little feet resting on the frame. Rough life.
After a while I saw J twirling under the trees. “Where’s Canoe?” I asked.
“Oh … he blew away,” he replied.
“What!? You can’t just let your baby blow away!” I made as if to “catch” the imaginary blowing-away baby, but J objected strenuously to this. I objected myself, saying that he wasn’t being much of a father.
We’ve been watching Bugs Bunny and other Loony Tunes lately, and one of the episodes introduced the boys to the term “poop deck.” To their glee, this provides a loophole to be exploited in the face of the household prohibition on potty language. I ignore their frequent and gleeful references to poop decks. Things like this make me long wistfully for a child rearing handbook. But, all will come out all right in the wash, I do firmly believe.
Today I asked our oldest to draw me a picture from Christmas. “Midnight Mass, opening presents, your light sabers – something like that,” I suggested. “OK,” he said – finished a word in the comic book he was writing, and pulled over a fresh sheet of paper.
It _was_ a memorable occasion, midnight Mass. My husband and I debated whether we should try bringing the children, and decided to give it a go. I reasoned that the specialness of the occasion would make up for the loss of sleep. At any rate, it was worth a try.
We dressed the boys in their church clothes, then settled them down to get some sleep. The boys fell asleep quickly, except our six-year-old, who was too excited; but even he fell asleep on the floor just as we were waking everyone to go.
There was a brief chorus of wails as we put everyone in the car, and I felt truly sorry for the boys, feeling their interrupted sleep. But they soon dropped off again. When we arrived at the church parking lot my husband said, ‘Here we go,” in a tone which conveyed, “Let’s hope this works.”
The boys were soon awake and alive to the novelty of going to church at night. When we went inside, there was just enough space for all of us in the very back pew, and the congregants had their candles lighted already. Two enormous Christmas trees with bright stars on top flanked the altar, and on the gradine behind were cascades of poinsettias, interspersed with candles. The boys were silent and wrapt, listening to the chant which sounded like heaven on earth. (Asked his opinion about the music afterward, our oldest said, “It was creepy and mysterious. It sounded like monks.” I think that by “creepy” he may have meant “spine-tingling” or something similar.) After a minute or two our six-year-old stretched himself out on the pew, put his head on my lap, and promptly fell asleep.
The boys were quiet and still, as good as gold. Even the baby was very quiet – at first. As the Mass went on his level of activity increased. First he discovered to his glee that the pew had a ladder back, and set off to climb it, until prevented by his parents. Next he found that it was necessary to go from his mother’s arms, to his father’s arms, to his mother’s, many times in succession, stepping on his sleeping brother; but the kabosh was put on this fairly quickly. Finally at about three-quarters of the way through Mass he decided that there wasn’t enough singing being done by the congregation, and took it upon himself to supply the remedy. A fifteen-month-old singing solos is of course adorable, but not appropriate during Mass, so this, coupled with the fact that his next oldest brother had been asking repeatedly to go to the bathroom meant that it was time for mommy to take the two youngest out. But for all that things went marvelously well.
The boys slept in to the late hour of nine. “Mom! Mom! Santa was here!!” I kicked myself later, for not managing to drum up more excitement over Santa having come; but I was feeling like death warmed over, having woken up at 7:30 and found it impossible to go back to sleep. My husband had put the presents under the tree, after the boys went to sleep following Mass, but I spent another hour fussing over them with bows and whatnot before finally retiring at an early hour.
When the baby woke up, a little after the boys, it was time for opening presents.
“A light saber!” cried the first.
“A life saber!” cried the second.
“A light savior!” breathed the third.
Finally everyone got the words right (though the three-year-old’s version was a very good one for Christmas) and there have been many doughty battles since. Also a few bonks on the head, and tears, and wry admonitions from parents about sword-fighting being an activity that is inherently dangerous.
Now it is New Year’s Eve. It has been a goodly year, full of blessings. Happy New Year!