While Aaron takes a two-week training in Orff for music education up in the blue grass state of Kentucky, Clara, William, and I visited my family in Tampa. We are establishing some traditions, I noticed during this visit.
One new tradition I hope will continue is a date night for sisters. Sam and I left the kids for an evening at Starbucks. It was the one day this week I put make-up on.
Clara always has a slumber party with Aunt Sam, Uncle Tim, and Baby Jack. She saves her most embarrassing family conversations for Aunt Sam, like girls have you-know-whats and William has a you-know-what. She is really into taxonomies—simple ways to make sense of our big, huge world. In many ways, Clara is Sam—she’s super petite (according to Baby Center’s height predictor, she won’t be any taller than 5’2”); she loves to run; she can be a little shy around strangers.
During the sleepover, she and Sam shared a nice dinner of conversation, lima beans and shrimp.
Every visit, we go swimming at my Aunt Maryann’s house. My Aunt Maryann loves Clara so much. I find that all I really need from anyone is that they love my children. I had a really nice talk with my aunt tonight as we remembered my mom’s mom, my Grammie Elaine, who died when my aunt was just 33. Her father, my step-grandpa, died just four months later. I can’t imagine. I’m about fifty years away from being ready for that.
Here are me, Aunt Maryann, and my handsome boy.
Every visit, at some point, my dad will chase the kids around the living room. He will bring out at least one of my old toys that he fixed up for the kids. This time, he pulled out my old tricycle, which was, of course, much more sturdy and well-built than the Radio Flyer we got Clara off Craigslist.
We always go down to Papa’s, my grandpa’s, to feed the geese. Every visit, Clara gets more and more comfortable; his chocolate stash is very persuasive.
I have heard it said that having children will bring out the child in you. I think this is true, but for me, Clara and William’s childhood transports me back to my own. And, I’m one of the lucky ones because when I feel my childhood swell up in me, I am made strong by those memories.
Clara and Papa take a walk every visit to feed the geese.
And here they are in 2013. I look at my grandpa’s yard and remember how he would let me ride the nice cows and how he would run around the chicken coop just to catch the little chicky for Samantha and I to pet. He taught us how to make turkey calls.
Every visit, my mom makes something for the kids—this time, travel pillows so Clara doesn’t get head-bobbling in her carseat. Every visit, my mom does everything I ask—sometimes nicely, sometimes impatiently. She does a craft with Clara. She is, right now, sleeping in the bunk house with Clara. May is the busiest month at school and this year, I didn’t get a Mother’s Day card out to my mom. I often fail to devote an entire blog entry to her like I might to my grandpa. But I want to go on record: my mom is everything to all of us. I will never live up to her as a mom and the only reason I’m okay with that is because she doesn’t expect me to.
After making our Tampa rounds, it was off to the beach for a week. A true vacation. We spent mornings at the pool and beach, afternoons relaxing during naptime, evenings cooking, late evenings on a walk. All in a condo shared with us by my mom’s friends—a condo with wonderfully old carpet and furniture I didn’t have to worry about.
Clara’s a waterbug. She could live in the stuff. Now, when we go anywhere, like on vacation with Sam and Tim over Memorial Day or to my mom and dad’s, Clara’s first, most urgent question is: “Do they have a bathtub there?” I think the big Rubbermaid tub we use at home for baths is getting a bit tight.
Also, she loves to participate in conversations but, of course, doesn’t always know everything she thinks she knows. Lately when she doesn’t know something or can’t remember it, she says, “I can’t show it.”
She also likes to blame her friends for things almost to the point that she believes it was Blake or Brody who scribbled all over the condo’s chair upholstery or who pressed the alarm button on the elevator—not me Clara! When each of these horrible, no good, Clara-had-a-bad-day offenses happened and she got herself a pretty serious talking-to, she said about fifty times, “My friends press the button. I didn’t press the button. My friends press the button.”
And, my dear, darling William. The boy loves his mom. He hasn’t allowed himself to be passed around as much as we all would like. In the event that Grandma or Aunt Sam will hold him while I do things like apply sunscreen to my face, he is prone to some serious wailing. I take him back—instant quiet. Like a switch. He’s my last baby. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it just a little bit.
At the beach, I treasured my girl. We took long walks, chatting a little, looking for shells, and I saw us doing this years and years and years from now at every stage. I am so, so filled with gratefulness that these are my children. We’re working on Clara’s listening, which sometimes means I have to be firm, tough Mommy, but I’m finding it easier to put toughness away when toughness is done with its job. Clara loves mints, and a few days ago, our secret stash in the car ran out. At the time she asked me to get her some more, and I remembered to do so last night on a formula trip to Walmart. This morning, she saw the replenishment and asked, “Why did you get me mints, Mommy?” And, feeling it even more than usual, I said, “Because I love you.” There was the most perfect moment when I saw her understand that. She said, “I love you, too.” I’m not sure how one comes to understand the meaning of pure without the love of a child.
On our walks, we picked out all the boats.
Checked out all the wildlife.
Ran ahead for fun. I like this shot below of Clara because one of my favorite things is to see her from a distance. Also, I feel like my heart is covered in her footprints. She’s growing up, becoming her own person. I feel like we need our moms and dads and aunts and grandpas to get our footing—something strong to push off from. I feel Clara leaping into her own little life and meanwhile, leaving her marks always on mine.