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Fall 2013

It took four days in my week off for Thanksgiving, but I made it. I made it back to you.

We’re enjoying a quick stay in Covington (Kelsey, if you’re out there, what are you doing this Saturday?) with Aunt Anne, Uncle Ray, and Grandpa David.  It’s been a great visit, and you can’t beat a Thanksgiving dinner that comes with two different kinds of stuffing.

Clara cracks us up, three-year-old style. We still make a big deal about her poops in the toilet, mostly because they are a big deal, emphasis on “big.” They clog our toilet every time . . . when no other bowel movement from no other member of our family will. So, the other day, she came singsonging from the bathroom, “Oh Daaaaaddddeeee! Something in the potty for you!”

Lately, when we tell her “no” or “not now,” she’ll pout her lip for a second and then say, “It’s okay. I’m not mad at you.”

We’ve all gone through about three rounds of the flu over the last month, so Clara has grown accustomed to taking all the coughs out of my mouth and putting them in hers, in an effort to make me feel better. Sweetheart.

And William definitely says “Dada” and “I’m done” and “more.” He waves good bye and follows all sorts of directions.  His pet name from his sister will be “baby” forever, we hope.

Right now, we are working on getting him out of our bed and into the crib. It has been the year of exhaustion and we’ve gotten into the habit of crashing when the kids fall asleep. As a result, William has become very comfortable in our bed, but now he’s like a kicking water buffalo (I imagine) in the bed. After a minute or two of crying, he’ll fall asleep in his crib now and wake up every hour on the hour until I succumb and bring him back to his happy place around 1:00 a.m. Sleep with Clara was never easy; we can do this.

Now for some pictures. Here are my bumblebee and his Dr. Sister for Halloween. Clara had her heart set on being a doctor for Halloween and all we could find (in the one store where we looked) was some Disney dress-up doctor outfit. But she loved it. She’s easy like that.

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Cruisin for candy.

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Clara is really into her letters. Makes a momma proud. She loves practicing all her letters and can recognize all of them in print.  She sings the ABC song when she’s crying and trying not to be sad anymore. She can write all the easy ones, still fumbling over M and R.

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Oh, my blue eyes. William’s favorite game is still “I’ll give you everything I got, even my best popsicle.” More than once we’ve issued a half-hearted, “Clara, give that back to your brother” only to find he’s moved on.  We just drove six hours to Louisiana and that boy slept for three and stared out the window for three more.  The one-to-three-year old phase is a hard one for me—for us all, perhaps, and although he must put his life in danger at least two times a night, he’s still an easy-going little guy.  Exactly what I needed at 33 years old with two kids under five.

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Sometimes Aaron falls asleep at story time and Clara has to say, “Daddy, read!” But most times, he’s constantly present with the kids. One Saturday morning when the morning crew came toddling into the living room around 5:30 a.m., Aaron kept Clara happy with all sorts of Daddy tricks. Here, they are painting an airplane craft my parents left behind on their last visit.

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6:30 a.m.—Make pancakes.

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6:45 a.m.—Wear William in the backpack.

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Later that day, he and Clara planted our winter garden of mostly herbs.

The next weekend was a Fall Festival at a church. It was wonderfully nostalgic and homespun with a pie prance, bean bag toss, gone fishin’ booth, and free candy apples.  The kids had a great time. We love our church.

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Clara was concentrating on climbing this wall thing. She likes concentration. She’s my serious, earnest, never-met-a-rule-I-didn’t-like sweetheart.

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Monday

Aaron and I both have had a good start to the new year. The longer I teach in Wakulla “Will Kill Ya” County, the more I seem to discover my inner Southern girl.  To explain, I am currently sitting in Tallahassee’s very hip co-op. The girl behind me in line had long dreads and smelled like patchouli. A much older man followed me to the cashier, took the other line, and with a wink, said, “I’ll race you.” Now my coffee-drinking neighbor, he sees that I am suppressing laughter at pictures of my kids, and with scathingly overt disappointment says, “I thought you were a student.” Nope—just a regular mother-of-two who spends her time away from her kids looking at pictures of her kids. Anyway, my cashier (I could stick three fingers through the loops that once were her earring holes) says, “Is this it for you?” And, I can’t believe it, but I say—to a girl at least eight years my junior—“Yes, Ma’am.”

I also do something I never thought I’d do. I say curse words.  Afterschool with my English teacher friends.  As soon as the bell rings we run to each other with some story about some student and swap a couple “I mean, what the hell?!?”s.  It feels fantastic.

Meanwhile, life is the perfect combination of mundane and magical at home.  In these hectic days of two-kids-under-four, Aaron and I have learned to be careful with each other. Today, Aaron says, “Do you have a plan for dinner?” instead of “What are we having for dinner?” because “do you have a plan” suggests that if I don’t, then he will help think of one while “what are we having” assumes dinner is my exclusive responsibility. And, these are, if anything, the days of non-exclusive responsibilities. It’s a “your turn, my turn” kind of life.  Likewise, if I want Aaron to set the table, I am wont to ask, perhaps less subtly, “Do you need me to set the table?”

Clara is apparently being taken over by her body parts. Yesterday, she tells me, “My belly wants to drink your coffee.” Then, she scolds, “No, Belly, no! You are not an adult!”  Also, her toes want to get polished and her hair most certainly does not want to get brushed.  Clara is teaching William how to share, except her version of sharing is taking whatever William has and exclaiming with pride, “I’m sharing with baby!”

Here are a few excerpts from the pictures I most recently downloaded to the computer:

I like the next two not because it’s obvious my hair needs to be washed but because William is being such a William.

“Hey, where’re you going with that?”

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“Who’s birthday is it, anyway?”

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Oh, poor William.  I promise we do sometimes make your sister be nice to you. This may or may not be one of those times.

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Precious little thing Clara has definitely discovered jewelry.

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I may have mentioned that when we go anywhere, Clara’s first question is, “They got a bathtub there?”

But, it ain’t so bad in the Rubbermaid.  They love each other.

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Show me your mad face, William.

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I’ve caught Clara a couple times reading George in bed.

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I took a shower on Saturday. This is what happened.

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Clara and Aaron have been going to Sunday School together. I might join them soon once I can be sure that William can hang at the church nursery for two.five hours.  Here she is, all purtied (yeah, Wakulla) up for church.

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Finally, William can pack it. I found a recipe for homemade cream of corn and he bathed in the stuff. Literally rubbed that junk all over his body.

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Alright, Blog, I’ll Level With You

If you are reading this right now, there is a good chance you’ve noticed I have not written in, oh, about three months.  The pressure was building—there was suddenly so much to cover with our trip to Illinois, our trip to Tampa, William’s first birthday, Clara’s first day at her new preschool, another trip to the beach, every cute thing the kids were saying and doing. 

But, as I was writing my dearest friend Kelsey, it occurred to me that the blog will do as I tell it. I could, foreseeably, write only a sentence or two a day. I could post one picture at a time. So, that is the new goal—one or two sentences, one or two pictures, here and there.

I already loaded these pictures from our last day in Louisiana, weeks and weeks ago.  I went a little snap-happy on William’s cute face.

Oh, and William is now walking.

And, here are some things Clara has said that I hope never to forget.

When I or Aaron ask for a kiss goodbye, she will sometimes tell us she doesn’t have any more kisses in her mouth. Then, suddenly, “I do have a kiss in my mouth!”

A week or so ago, we asked Clara where she learned something. At your new school? At your old school? Neither. She said she learned it in her eyes. Apparently, it was something she saw somewhere?

Lastly, we are slowly brainwashing our child.  For awhile, she was watching The Fox and the Hound every day; recently, she’s taken to her old friend Anna’s favorite Caillou. She could watch that show for hours. When we told her it was time to close the laptop and pause Caillou, and we were asked the inevitable “whhhyyyy?,” we told her that tv slows her brain down if she watches it too often. (Oh, the things parents can put into the cute little brains of their kids.) So, yesterday, when it was breakfast time, Clara closed the laptop with gusto and announced her brain hurt because it was slowing down.  She really does believe everything we tell her.

Now, without sequitor, explanation, or apology, to some cute pictures of William:

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Give Me All Your Money

Just a warning that if you go to the French Quarter in New Orleans you will very likely have to pay most people for even accidentally looking their way. With all the horsey rides, cable cars, and street performers, it really is a fun place to take young kids so exhausted by the heat they can do little more than stare at everything from a stroller. But, it is an authentically crazy place. We were trailed by a guy who twists balloons for a living until we stopped long enough for him to tell us that if we don’t carry enough cash on us, we’re asking to get shot. The musicians that play at restaurants will take their break, hover at your table while you eat your French fries, and ask when and how much you plan to tip. On the other hand, we saw the sweetest proposal ever as a guy had organized one of those flash mob dance things where one person starts dancing and people join in.

Here are a few glimpses of our visit to the place where it’s hard to tell if people are living or dying to the fullest:

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Street performers paint themselves to look like statues. They stay unfathomably still until you, of course, give them a little money.

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Clara loves her Uncle Ray . . .

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. . .because he spent a fair amount of his weekend playing “keeper of the living room” with Clara as she tried to sneak in and out for hours at a time.

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Florida Living

Last week, on the one sunny day of the summer here in Tallahassee we left at 1:00 p.m. and headed south for 1.5 hours to the beach.  We finished the day off at Beef O’ Brady’s since it happened to be their Kid’s-Eat-Free-and-Jump-on-a-Moonwalk Tuesday Night Special.

I read 2.5 pages while Aaron kept William from eating too much sand and helped Clara dump buckets of the stuff into a pile resembling a sand castle.

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In a moment of profound weakness we stopped at the gas station and bought sodas all around at five times the price and a bag of chips. The sun makes you do crazy things.

This is Clara’s “okay, I’ll look at your stinkin’ camera for you” smile.

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Off to post some of our New Orleans trip before I hear the faint “wah” and/or “Mama” coming from the back rooms . . .

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Moving Forward

We just returned from a visit to New Orleans to see Aaron’s dad, Uncle Ray, and Aunt Anne.  On the seven hour trip west from Tallahassee, Clara asked me often if we were on our way to see Uncle Anne. 

I downloaded 99 pictures to the computer tonight—some from another trip to the beach and many from our trip to New Orleans. I have something like 30 pictures just of William’s face.

For now, because now is always too close to 10:30 p.m., here’s a few that capture the highlight of our visit.

I think Aaron’s dad said it had been twelve years since the last time he did it. He had a dream he was running again. Something about the dream, something about Aaron, something about the new shoes from the Academy sports superstore– something got these boys doing what I think Aaron has wanted to do together for a long time. They went for a jog and came back two, sweaty, happy messes.

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No, There Are No Lions at Petco

We are living in a time warp. Time has been warped. We are entering week two of the bit of summer within summer that comes without obligation.  We grocery shop on Tuesdays and shower three times a day and drink a beer with lunch.

The kids continue to ooze cuteness.  A couple days ago, we turned a trip for dog food at Petco into a real outing. We told Clara there would be animals. Goldfish, guinea pigs, gerbils—your general array of animals that swim and scurry. She said there would be lions. We said, okay, maybe, because you soon learn when and when not to correct a three-year-old. Whether there are alligators in the vent system or lions at Petco—those are when-nots. Once the fact of the lion was established, Clara insisted we bring band-aids. If we were off to visit a lion, we would need them, she said.

At Petco, we saw bearded dragons and lizards—all of which have tails. Clara then exclaimed, “I don’t have a tail. I have a vagina!” Yes, let’s make sure all of Petco knows that in the process of bathing you and your brother together, we have had the same conversation many times about the difference between boys and girls. Boys have tails and girls have vaginas.

Now with the pictures:

Below, I wrap up the visit to Tampa with a shot of Clara doing what she does best—manage her little brother.  She will often be playing in her room and suddenly shout, “Get my baby!” so that she can hide under the covers while he looks for her.

 

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Clara is potty-trained. She is. I mean, she pees in the toilet. And, she poops  in there once a week or so, too. Like, huge poops that clog our toilet and make me want to take their picture. She goes to school in her underwear. But . . .  the girl’s got a real thing for pull-ups and diapers. She now knows how to diaper herself, and likes to “be like her baby,” especially at night when we’re all exhausted.

Here are the still-in-size-four diaper twins. 

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It hasn’t stopped raining in Florida since May.  To work around the onslaught, we’ve been going to Tallahassee’s equivalent of Soldotna’s Jumpin’ Junction. Clara loves it.

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Last Wednesday, I had more than one person at once come to the house. I hosted our book club, and did silly little book club things like buy fancy crackers and completely impractical punch bowls. But, then they all come over, a lot of them with their pregnant bellies, and we talk about the book for five minutes before we talk about other things. They tell me my house looks great, I tell them they look great, we swap stories about our kids, we betray small reservations, we drink wine and eat strawberries. I love women.

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And I love that guy down there, too. He is five or six times wrapped around the finger of his sweet girl. She is going to be so strong, so giving, because of her daddy’s love; I see it already.

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The rain stops for nothing and no one—not even for independence. The fireworks shows were cancelled, so Aaron did a last minute run for the “Just for Kids” firework set. We swatted mosquitos and lit sparklers. A fuel-efficient SUV with a dog gate. A pretty little girl who has everything she needs. A baby who doesn’t stop smiling. A camera with a good lens. It’s taken awhile, but I am comfortable with my freedoms.

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Still swimming in rain, we had no choice but to go underground.  We went to the Florida caverns and did not see bears.

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Clara is wearing one of my old sweatshirts here, back when unicorns were cool.

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Aaron has been working with Clara on writing her name. He picked up some preschool books and they spend thirty-minutes or so a day working through opposites and letters. My mom also ordered the Highlight magazine for Clara, which she adores (thanks, MomSmile)

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Oh, and my little dumpling. My little makes-every-cliché-make-sense little boy; the apple of my eye; the twinkle in my smile. William loves fruit and yogurt and noodles and graham crackers and not vegetables.  I remember being really worried about what Clara would and wouldn’t eat around a year old, so I’m trying not to worry that William won’t eat snow peas even when he can chew them.

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To round off the weekend and just about every night, Clara has to do dishes.

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