(9/19/14) Eleven. He has exactly eleven teeth: the eight in front (minus the bit sacrificed to the rock in the front yard) plus three molars, the top right one deciding it would wait just a bit longer to put in an appearance. It’s not a full party without it.

No canine teeth yet, although he does love to see dogs.

It shouldn’t surprise me that things happen differently with him than with his sister, but sometimes it does. She ate solid food more readily than he does. I feel like she had more teeth sooner. You could pat her to sleep, even if it took a long time; he’s not so willing to lie down and be still. She was – and is – a passionate girl, but she’s found her rival. She could be loud, then she could be louder. With Boy, though – well, let’s just say he goes to eleven, just like his teeth.

Only, now that it’s 10/10/14, his half-birthday, he – weighing in at 28 1/2 pounds – has more teeth (that’s what happen when you start blog posts but Boy wakes up). No more eleven for him! As of last week, or maybe the week before that, he had four more teeth (those canines were barking!), with a fifth new tooth pressing through his gums. The tightness is not unlike a pregnant belly, skin taut, covering the motion and growth it covers, the start of something new.

Tonight, as he was winding down for sleep, Boy roused himself, saying, “Dada. Dada. I luhv-oo. Hug. Down.” He climbed off the bed, said, “Hand,” and held my hand as we walked into his sister’s room, where Dada was, in fact, reading to Girl. Boy hugged them and told them he loved them, just as he’d said he would do.

I went along with it. Really, it doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

But I also knew that resistance was futile. If I’d stopped him, he’d have gone to eleven – one louder – and who needs anything more than a ten?

Photo from yesterday, after fountain splashing

Photo from yesterday, after fountain splashing

 

 

Maybe something funny, like, “I’m moving out!” or “Ready for vacation?” But in this case, no. Just exactly, exactly what you’d hope for, if you were a mama, or at least this mama.

“I love you!” he proclaimed yesterday for the first time. Maybe he really proclaimed something like “I luhv-oo!” – but either way, it was enough to make a mama’s/daddy’s/big sister’s heart warm and swell and become sappy like a maple in the spring. While we’d been working toward bedtime (reading a new favorite, baby loves by William Lach, which pairs simple text with the art of Mary Cassatt – he will “read” lots of it to us!), he wanted to tell “Nannie” (his nickname for his sister) good-night and headed toward the edge of the bed so he could go to her room and see her. I told him “I love you,” and he told me, then Nannie, then Daddy with such inflection that – well, a maple in spring, I was.

His sister had a big day, too – from playing with her friend, a seven-year-old neighbor, she learned to flip over on the swing. She’d already mastered the “put-your-legs-above-your-head” move, so flipping over added a new (but very exciting) step to the process. Gravity? Head pointing away from the center of the earth? Those rules don’t apply to her – at least, not all the time. A new kind of freedom – and lots of cheering from her fan club.

Their mouths and bodies learn to contort themselves, to wrap themselves around new phrases, ideas, and motions, and we cheer, we applaud, we hug, and we revel in all the new things they’ve done, all the new that’s yet to come.

“Huhmp,” he says, holding his arms up and asking for help scaling the ladder-like side of the couch or chair or the bathroom cabinet. “Huhmp,” he says with an accompanying nod, a statement of what you will freely offer, not a question about what you are willing to give. We hold his hands and he leads us where he wants to go, walking vertically or horizontally as his whim dictates, his tucked head and body toboggan-like as he races up a ladder of wicker.

Perhaps we, his trainers, are too slow. He leaves our assistance behind to complete the circuit himself.

Hold the arm of the chair; step up; lean forward; mash your head into the seat of the chair, catapult-like, to launch the rest of your body forward. Rise from the chair and climb across the other arm and onto the table. Stand. Perhaps climb to the top of the record player atop the table and stand, back pressed against the bookcase, and smile in triumph, surveying your world from a great height. Descend to the table top. Stand at the edge, looking like someone about to plunge into a swimming hole on a hot day. Listen to the admonishment to sit and, for a moment, obey something beyond your ambition and personal drive. Sit or squat at the table’s edge. Scoot or slide to the floor, face-forward or on your belly. Save the plunge for later.

Smile in triumph again.

Do not rest on your laurels.

Back to the beginning, and begin again.

It’s like flying.

Without going very far.

The earth disappears below you, and you rise skyward, your vision filled with cerulean and white and scalloped edges so bold and bright in front of you that it’s difficult to tell whether the blue frames the white or the white frames the blue.

Into that blue, birds fly head first, but our feet lead, no longer the leaden earth-bound weights they usually are.

We swing up, up – then back in the prescribed arc so that we can fly forward again. We are both free and bound.

“Push me!” plea the small children, with eyes or words.

“Push me!” pled my daughter last week, as I stepped away from her to push her brother’s swing.

I stopped and looked at her. Her brother slowed but she swung as high as before, then higher still. Her legs propelled her forward then back.

We realized at the same time.

“I’m pumping!”

“I don’t need to push you!”

I cheered her and she flew, as happily as if she had wings, as if the chains themselves were made of cloud.

DSC_0119

A cheery fire in the fireplace on a day heavy with snow.

Blackberry cobbler, straight out of the oven.

Mushrooms, meaty and juicy, coming off of a hot grill.

Water from the kettle when you’re brewing tea.

Texas in the summertime.

The plastic slide on a swingset on a late May day.

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An order of forty pizzas would involve a lot of pepperoni and could feed a soccer team or two. A bouquet of forty flowers would rival a small garden in beauty and splendor, with dahlias and tulips and lilies all vying for attention. Forty pairs of shoes would take up a healthy chunk of closet real estate (but nothing like Imelda Marcos’ 1200 – or was it nearly 3000? – pairs!). Forty kids would be more than even the Duggars have. Forty cats would totally make you the crazy cat lady. For the record, I am not one of those. Yet.

Forty years…would land me here, in this town, with this family, with this life. I can’t believe the number’s getting so big, but I can’t believe how lucky I feel to be living this life, either, or how I suddenly feel the need to ration my time, to be more cautious and yet more free, to use it as I see fit and not just in a way that makes the days pass.

Forty may be getting on, but, to paraphrase a song from the musical which was my musical debut (and swan song) in high school: there’s still a lot of living to do.

Besides, forty pennies wouldn’t get you far, so forty can’t really be that many, can it?

40+1 day

40+1 day

 

 

You never quite know what will stick, what comments made in passing will be repeated (coming back either to elate or to haunt you), what thoughts or lessons shared will root themselves deeply. You throw lots of darts at the board, but if you’re like my sister and me when we were kids, the wall and the floor each suffered unduly.

This makes it all the more surprising when you hit the bullseye.

We’ve been signing – inconsistently – with Boy. I’d used the sign for “sad” with him maybe twice, choosing the version in which you trace a tear down your cheek with one finger. Once he was ready for bed tonight he wanted to be picked up;  I lifted him up, and he rewarded me by slapping me in the face. “Hurt,” I signed. “That makes me sad,” I said. He looked at me, then traced a finger down his cheek.

Not quite so sad as I had been before. That one had hit its mark!

Bedtime, however, was long, and I did feel a little sad. As Girl was finally winding down after worrying about hearing thunder (“That was just the sound of the wheels of Daddy’s truck on the gravel,” I assured her), her mind roamed as it so often does.

“What did Daddy have before his truck?” she asked.

He’s had his truck since 2007, I think, so any “before” is also pre-Girl. What makes her wonder such things?

“He had a green car, and he had a red car before that, and another car…but I don’t know what color that was.”

“Oh.”

“We can ask him.”

She was silent for a little while, and then she made her final comment of the night before rolling over on her side to go to sleep: “I hope we all die together.”

For someone who has never thrown darts, her aim is impeccable – and darts are piercing. I gave her a kiss, but really, if I’d learned anything from my own lessons, it was time to trace my finger down my own cheek.

Sad.

“Is there going to be a tornado tonight?”

This question as part of our bedtime routine for nearly two weeks.  Two weeks ago today, there were serious storms here. A tornado touched down in the valley below us. The Weather Channel said a tornado was headed our way. The four of us spent time in our windowless hallway, but then we headed to campus and went to the basement of a stone building. This, of course, was around bedtime, and there’s really no way to wholly cover your fears when faced with the possibility of a tornado. (Why are we hurrying out the door into the green-skyed night and carrying a bagful of things with us to campus when we should be putting you calmly and quietly to bed? Well, hmmm….) When we entered the basement hallway of a building on campus, we found that we were not the only ones with that idea. After tracking the weather online for a while, we deemed it safe to go home – and headed out into a major downpour. Well, it was better than a tornado.

The next day looked dicey, too, but nothing came close, and if there was rain, there wasn’t even too terribly much of that.

But every night until the 9th, last Friday, our girl would ask, as we were putting her to bed, “Is there going to be a tornado tonight?” She asked this in the same way that she asks, “What do I have tomorrow?” or “Can I watch Diego?”, like it was an everyday question, like it was something that might be on the horizon at any moment. When would we be rushing out the door next, trying to avoid the whims of the weather, its violent vicissitudes? How prepared did she need to be? How prepared DO we need to be? It’s a different matter, looking out for yourselves, just adults, during a storm. It’s another thing entirely to know that your decisions could – and do, and will – affect these small people who are under our care, who make our world seem fuller and brighter and sharper. Scarier, too, sometimes, when we look through their eyes.

Since then, we’ve watched a little about tornadoes and talked about how they don’t happen all the time. We talked about their color. “Tornadoes are red,” she said definitively, “in Chewandswallow.” She pulled out Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and sure enough, she was right! (It might have had to do with tomato sauce. I don’t think most tornadoes involve kitchen staples, however.) Tornadoes are not red in real life, I had to tell her. She talked about a tornado picking up Farmer Ben in her big book with the Berenstein Bears, and she’s right on that count, too – The Berenstein Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature DOES include tornadoes in its section on wind. And it picks up Farmer Ben! “That’s when the big wind lifts poor Farmer Ben. It lifts him, cow and all, and then…It whirls him round and round again” (35). How does she remember these details from books, books we may not have read in months?

The bedtime question has dropped away. Now I’ve been wondering, though, what other storms we should watch for, what tempests of nature’s or our own making? I hope that we will always have a basement at the ready, the comfort of cement block walls surrounding us, of stone rising above.

*******
Berenstein, Stan and Jan. The Berenstein Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature. New York: Random House, 1997.

2:30. Two thirty. Tooth-hurty.

That’s Matthew’s joke (that came from somewhere else), anyhow.

Yesterday, it was at 11:00. Not that I wanted to go. Not that I wanted to have a reason to go.

But I did. Rather, he did. Small Boy.

We’d gone outside and literally one minute after being out, he tried to step over a rock, didn’t make it, stumbled, and hit his tooth on a rock. Oh, I thought, I hope he didn’t cut his lip. He didn’t, or at least not much.

But what were these little white bits on his lip? What could he have fallen on? Tiny rocks, weird lint out here, what?

Bits of his teeth. *heart sinks, panic rises* BITS OF HIS TEETH! HIS TINY, PERFECT BABY TEETH!

Just the day before, on Girl’s birthday, I’d seen his seventh tooth, another bottom tooth, the one on his left of the two middle bottom ones. Just as I was celebrating his new tooth, he lost a chunk of an old one – and I use “old” in disbelief. He rarely even shows his teeth – no toothy smiles for this one – and now, his perfectly-imagined toothy grin is gone. There was much crying on his part, and I imagined all sorts of terrible things, the way parents do. (Why is it that parenting often leads to a worst-case-scenario imagination?)

In brief, the dentist said that the damage was limited and the tooth itself is OK (although trauma to teeth may, sooner or even years later, result in the blood supply being shut off to the tooth, resulting in a grey tooth). He said I didn’t need to worry; it’s not loose. The adult tooth wasn’t harmed. To me, it looks like a third of his tooth is gone. *shiver*

Today, he was eating a carrot. It seems to be OK. For now.

This parenting thing is not for the timid, as Matthew’s said before. Or the squeamish.

Door.

That’s what she said just weeks ago when asked how old she would be on her birthday.

Yesterday, when it really was her birthday, and she wore her very favorite twirly dress (because only twirly dresses will do now), she put her teeth to her lips and, very carefully and slowly, said that she turned “fffour.” (Diego also swings from a “vine” now and not a “dine.” It’s both exciting and sad, at least to this mama. Probably easier for Diego, though.)

When her daddy told her that she’d be four at 10:31, she told him no.

No?

No.

She wouldn’t be four, she said, until she blew out the candles.

She did, and now she’s four. FFFOUR! Happy birthday, sweet girl. We love you.

Swinging into her 4th birthday

Swinging into her 4th birthday

Here’s what I want to know: Can I put off my next birthday if I just let the candles burn down? No, probably not. The resulting fire would bring a neighborhood bucket brigade, and I’m pretty sure that would ruin the cake.

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