On a whim (and for the bargain price of ten cents), I picked up Madeleine L’Engle’s Everyday Prayers at our local thrift shop a couple of years ago.

EverydayPrayers

I love it. Yes, I’d prefer it if it only used “God” instead of “Lord,” but even as is, with its 70s illustrations (by Lucile Butel) and orange cover, it’s worth a read (both for its intended audience – children – and the grown folks who love them). It’s a reminder that prayer can be like an informal conversation, full of observation and wonder and whimsy.

“My Bath”

My bath is the ocean
and I am a continent
with hills and valleys
and earthquakes and storms.
I put the two mountain peaks of my knees
under water and bring them up again.

Our earth was like that-
great churnings and splashings,
and continents appearing and disappearing.

Only you, O God, know about it all,
and understand, and take care
of all your creation.

Tonight, Boy decided that he’d take on the role of the creator or perhaps that of the earth, one who creates the churnings and splashings. He picked up the book (it’s one he goes to again and again – he also loves to pick up Sophie’s World!) and, instead of turning to a page, he flung it into the tub. The tub which was full of water, ready for a Boy, not a book. For a brief moment, it was an island, a quiet place of prayer in a stormy sea. I quickly rescued it from the tempest. He did not seem sorry.

Boy is sweet at night, adding prayers for everything from the grandparents to the clock to lots of things in between.

from “Bedtime”:

Good night, God.
Take care of us while we sleep,
and you have a good night, too.
Amen.

Everyday Prayers now sits beneath a heavier book, drying back into what I hope will be something close to its previous form. The boy sleeps, and I have to hope that God understands the nature of little boys – and is, as Madeleine L’Engle wrote, having a good night, too.

*****
L’Engle, Madeleine. Everyday Prayers. New York: Morehouse-Barlow Co., 1974. Print.

Sometimes there’s so much going on, I don’t know which way is up: our parents’ health, our parents’ moving, travel plans, possible moves, events in the lives of family and friends, and so many other odds-and-ends of things that in the end it all seems odd and up in the air.

It’s usually pretty clear which way is down, though. Down is the direction of the toilet – and we stopped in a UGO bathroom THREE TIMES today. We weren’t even going to go there (although the fact that we did explains the popsicles, chocolate-covered strawberries, and cashews now at our house), but Girl needed to potty. We shopped a little, then Boy needed to potty. We finished shopping, then Girl needed to potty again. Not to be outdone, Boy used the facilities twice more before we left the bathroom that third time. (His diaper remained dry for about two hours! Sure, it was wet after the half an hour drive home, but it’s a start.)

But that’s not even the best of our toilet stories for the moment. Two days ago – or was it three? – Boy announced, “I peed like Daddy!” He’s taken to standing on the little stool in front of the big potty, which is a big change from all the sitting he’s been doing. After finishing, flushing, and washing hands, he came out, grabbed his daddy by the hand, and said, “I need help getting my undies!” and pulled him to the bathroom. Boy’s getting better about dressing himself (“I like to do it my own self” is a favorite line when putting on a shirt), but sometimes he needs help. The undies in question, however, were nowhere to be seen. No undies on the floor, no undies on the stool. No undies in the bathroom, period. “I want my undies!” he cried. He took Matthew to the toilet. And that is where they’d gone, taking their final journey, may they rest in peace: down the toilet. “Even if they could come back, you wouldn’t want them,” Matthew told him. Nope, he wouldn’t.

Sure, we told him not to flush things down the toilet (last week, he unrolled nearly a whole roll of toilet paper, said he’d roll it back up, but instead started putting it all in the toilet. Yes, it clogged the toilet, even after the not-so-wet bunch was transferred to the trash can). No, we don’t support the idea that clothing is disposable. Yes, parenting can be tiring.

What we do appreciate at this point, though, is that they TELL us. I could have done without the extra bathroom trips this afternoon. I’d prefer to keep our clothing in the house and not somewhere in a pipe outside (not very useful as extra storage). For now, however, I take comfort in knowing that our children share their experiences, let us know their needs, and don’t really keep things from us. If we can keep what should go down down and what should stay up up, then we’ll be doing OK.

But maybe we’ll need to go underwear shopping soon.

Up and then down

Up and then down

Yesterday was Tuesday. Seven days of swim lessons were behind Girl – this year. Last year, after two weeks, I was ready to sign her up for the next session to further her progress.

“Wait ’til next year,” Coach Max said then. “She can’t do anything else until she’s ready to put her face in the water.” He might have said it would be a waste of time to sign her up for another session, but memory can be a strange and fuzzy thing.

Oh. Scratch that plan. One round of swim lessons in 2014: yes. One swimmer: no.

She’s five now. I wish I could say that she’s taken off, that she dips her head below the water like an ice cream cone being dipped in chocolate. I can’t. Or if I can, it would be a disappointingly dunked cone, one that would make a little kid sad. However, she did touch the bottom of the pool yesterday, fully submerged, before popping above the surface. One fully covered cone!

I told her that she was doing great, of course, because she was. “Only two more days left!” I said on our way to the car.

“Tomorrow is our penultimate day!” she announced.

“Yes, it is,” I agreed. “Yes, it is.” Leaps and bounds, this girl, leaps and bounds. Make that splashes and bubbles.

Progress!

Progress!

“When geeses aren’t honking, they cry,” Boy informed me tonight as he was going to bed.

“Why do they cry?” I asked.

“Because they have to leave the sea.”

Oh.

“I’ll bet they miss it.”

“Miss it. They’re sad.”

How could he know that the geese feel that way? I don’t doubt it. We saw two Canada geese fly overhead today. Maybe he heard them honking to each other and knew what they were saying? Either that, or he misinterpreted his bedtime song tonight; instead of hearing “When I am king, dilly, dilly,/You shall be queen,” perhaps he heard “When I’m honking.” The chances are close to 50/50.

Tomorrow, as I turn 41, I leave the sea of my 30’s even further behind. Maybe I’m a little sad about that – but with such a thoughtful Boy and an equally thoughtful Girl, I guess I’ll choose to spend my time honking instead.

“We walked down those steps,” my daughter said, gesturing to the opposite side of the car.

“And did you cross the street in the crosswalk?”

“Yes. And we had a really short recess.”

Today, she and the other kindergarten-bound preschoolers in her class walked across the street with their preschool teachers for a visit to the elementary school. Each was paired with a kindergarten buddy, played outside, and got to eat in the cafeteria (for $2.25).

For such a short physical journey, it feels like the start of a very long emotional one.

“They paired me with a boy.”

“What was his name?”

“I don’t know. He didn’t play with me. He was supposed to play with me, but he didn’t. My friend didn’t play with me, either – I said we didn’t just have to play with our partners, but she wouldn’t play with me.”

Ooph. Let the blows to the gut begin. So much of what she’s experienced so far is what we’ve arranged for her – and, since she’s only in preschool three mornings a week, most of what happens in her life is something I experience and witness as well, an observer and frequent participant, protector and guide. When kindergarten begins in the fall, the twelve hours of school will morph into thirty-five. She won’t be the only one transitioning.

“You had chicken nuggets?”

“Yes, but I didn’t have time to eat my broccoli.”

“What?”

“Or my cookie.”

“Oh, no! So you had chicken nuggets and chocolate milk?”

“I didn’t finish my milk, either.”

She’s a bit of a dawdler at meal time – unless she’s eating some salty meat product like bacon – and bolting down your food isn’t really good for you, so we haven’t minded. Kindergarten, apparently, will require more lupine-like behavior – but not on the playground, I hope.

“I heard they only have twenty minutes for lunch.”

“But I got to eat my orange cup,” she said. She sounded slightly satisfied with that admission.

“And he got me a spork.”

I assume and hope this was the not-play-friendly partner doing his duty.

This is probably what we have to expect of the coming years, isn’t it? Times of growing autonomy, of new experiences, of hurt feelings, of being rushed, of gratitude. I hope the years will also be filled with kindness, with hope and anticipation, with satisfaction and pride. With learning, too – and more of the creative, inspirational variety than merely the worksheet-driven sort.

And with this walk across the street, with this toe-dip into kindergartenhood, it (so much to hold, those two letters, i-t ) has begun.

“I get to go in the attic!”

Yup. For her birthday, she got to go into the attic. (It’s right up there with getting gum for her Christmas present when she was two – what terrific, but unlikely, things to anticipate!) That was what she was excited about today. She got to roam around and poke in boxes and bags, standing at full height – unlike us – and looking like Alice in Wonderland, taller than real life. When asked at dinner if it was as exciting as she thought it would be, she said, “No.” We looked at each other, knowing how great anticipation can lead to great disappointment. But she wasn’t done yet. “It was funner!”

Climbing up

Climbing up

Alice - in Wonderland

Alice – in Wonderland

That – and her new fishing pole – might have been the highlights of this, her fifth birthday.

“…in that party dress.
Balloons and cake,
Two kinds of ice cream –
Guess [yes?] you’ll be a mess!

“Share the fun with your [little] brother
As friends go, he’s your best.

“Make a wish; it just might come true –
Blow those candles out.
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I won’t forget the day that you were born
Five years ago
We were happy and excited
and we loved you so
You’re growing up so quickly
Now, I feel a little sad –
That’s to be expected;
after all, I am your daddy [mommy].”

Five years ago

Five years ago

Loudon Wainwright III’s “Five Years Old” – it’s the song for today.

And she DID have two kinds of ice cream – but she said she didn’t like the first, and she didn’t eat much of the second. She did eat her birthday dinner – she’d asked for bacon and hotdogs, and she got bacon-wrapped hotdogs and lima beans. Chocolate cake, white frosting with sprinkles – and a party dress, the kind she’s wanted, with a flouncy under-layer and a sash around the waist. And we did go out and get balloons, like we have every year. It was a full birthday!

Like Alice, she’ll continue to grow – but, we hope, at regular speed; these five years have already sped by, and I am not prepared for it to go by any faster than this. Happy birthday, Girl!

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday!

“I love you as much as there are fish in the sea!” I told Girl, having been inspired by Prehistoric Monsters Did the Strangest Things, her favorite book of the moment. (We’re going to need to start digging for fossils soon…)

“I love you infinity weeks!” she said. “That means my love for you will never stop.”

“I love you to infinity, too.”

“Everyone loves everyone.”

I like the idea of all this love floating around, all the time – tied to each other but untethered, too; here with us but outlasting us. If you’re feeling a little low, stop for just a moment and feel – that little bit of warmth, that something? That’s love. There’s a lot of it at our house, and we hope you feel it, too.

“I will be two!” Boy said tonight, holding up one finger on each hand.

I gave a sentimental sigh, the kind that whooshes out of you when you look at your child and realize that he is nothing like the baby that once, well, whooshed out of you.

“You are two,” Daddy corrected him, as most of his birthday lay behind him, a montage of meals (he requested noodles for his birthday dinner) and family and outings and napping.

Unconcerned, he hopped on his new ride-on airplane and zoomed away, naked as the day he was born. Maybe he does have more in common with that newborn babe than I thought…

Happy birthday, Boy!

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Isn’t it funny that we write things on checks that we rarely write during the rest of life? Where else would you find yourself writing out “ninety-eight one hundredths” (even if you usually write it as “98/100″)?

And where or when else would you find yourself writing out – or listening to – things like “I’m not a pretzel, I’m just a boy!” than as the parent of a small (soon to be not-so-small) boy or girl?

The feeling of heart-swelling-burstiness has not reduced, and there are so many great lines that Shakespeare or Brecht or Ibsen or SOMEONE should want to come back and be inspired by them.

Auntie Em visited the other week, and she and Girl went to the Post Office, among other places, and returned with two heart-shaped lollipops. These inspire madness and begging, and if someone could find a way to harness the build up of desire in small children when candy is mentioned (shown, offered, hinted at), we wouldn’t need to search for any more alternative energies. We’d fuel the world.

Or just a lot of stickiness. Girl chomped through hers, but Boy lingered over his. When I had had enough of his lollipop, I took it away – roughly when his sister was done, so they were both empty-handed. He took it well, and life went on. Hours later, he began to pretend-cry, and we wondered what he was going to say: “ah-hunh-hunh-hunh…[he continued in his “I’m being funny” voice] I’m so sad – I can’t eat my lollipop anymore!”

The other day, looking outside, he said, in his sweet serious voice, “I don’t see any birdies anywhere!”

At dinner, he dripped water from his water bottle onto his feet and said, “I spilled some water on my piggy wiggy toes!” (Much like with Girl, we laugh about how a two-year-old should be able to use two to four word sentences. Check!)

This is all a far cry from these favorites from just two months ago, when words were often repeated within a sentence and lots of words had “uh” added at the end, like “Daddy-uh”:

1/18: I will get boogie out nose.
1/19: Let me peel baleema self! (baleema=banana, except when baleema = vitamins)
1/20: Daddy sit you us.
Nannie has tiger, too.
Mama turn on light on, Mama!
In response to “What are you doing?”:
1/21:  Just picking nose out boogie-uh.
2/6: I’m busy day. I’m just doing puzzle, Daddy-uh.
I’m just working this, Daddy (about Daddy’s knee scooter, which was a great source of fascination and requests for rides, while it was needed).

But my favorite, one that’s been around a while, is usually said with joy, with a wee-boy head rested on a mama shoulder: “My mama hold-ee B– Boo!” He often asks to be picked up that way, and he says it with great satisfaction and contentment when he’s been picked up.

Lest Boy get all the glory here, Girl has been holding her own, language-wise. The other day, she told me that Boy was “trudging into the living room.” She also told Daddy that Boy was “gazing up at your foot!” when he was, indeed, lying on his back on the floor, looking up at Daddy’s becasted foot which stuck off the aforementioned knee scooter.

And finally, from 1/20, too: “I love you as much as the stars are bright!” My heart blazed extra that day.

It’s too bad there’s no memo line for life. I’m ninety-eight one hundredths sure I’d remember to use it.

He likes blocks – Duplo and wooden – although he doesn’t seem to love them like he some children do. Throwing them, yes. Building with them, only sometimes. But the building blocks of language? He’s totally in love with those.

“I do.”

We heard a lot of this last November or so. Trying out what may have been his earliest sentence, he exuded confidence, determination, and a strong independent streak. Of course, what child doesn’t want to do things himself? Sure, he wanted to feed himself soup, which sure as soup wouldn’t stay on the spoon. Sure, he wanted to run the bath himself, or climb into the tub alone, or put on his own shoes. Sure, he wanted to get into his car seat himself – never mind that he was as likely to just get in and sit down as he was to drive the car. (Now, he says “Own!” when he wants to do something on his own, like stand on the four-wheeled toy to pull the string of the lamp, for example…)

His vocabulary, which has seemed (to us, as the glowing, proud parents) quite large, continued to grow, and so did his repertoire of sentences.

To help soothe him to sleep while he nursed I’d often murmur repetitive sentences: “Boy goes night-night. Girl goes night-night. Daddy goes night-night. Mama goes night-night. Maria goes night-night. Pepper goes night-night.  K-K goes night-night. Autumn goes night-night….Everybody goes night-night.”

This applied to other bodily functions, too: peeing, pooping, burping – lots of things were listed. (There’s a lot that we all do!)

And he began repeating them.

Sometimes, Daddy would drive him around to get him to sleep, and he’d chatter himself to sleep. “Daddy goes night-night. Mama goes night-night. Nannie goes night-night. Pepper goes night-night….Eveh-body goes night-night.”

He’s still a lister. The other day, he did one of his own creation after seeing a small, round, candy-coated chocolate. “M & M! Mama have M & M. Nannie have M & M. Daddy have M & M. Autumn have M & M….”

He’s built on his foundation.

For Christmas, they got a Duplo block base and an animal set – and brother and sister alike have been engrossed by this new way to create, the possibilities before them.

With language, too, the possibilities stretch before him (and her, of course!). What can we say to this, the march of language that pulls a small boy from babyhood to childhood?

I do.

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014

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