Thursday, June 16, 2016

Letting go of the swap

I just finished packing up the last of KidSwap. The first bag I started packing was one I knew had been dropped off recently enough that the clothes hadn't even been hung up yet, so I wasn't expecting to recognize anything... except I guess this swap has been going on long enough, and her baby was young enough when it started, that the bag was full of Steven's first baby clothes. A few others came in and helped pack through the week, and somehow, when I went in to finish today, the last rack left for me to do was the one with the rest of those same tiny first baby clothes, all the ones I remember so well.

I've always had a heart for this particular form of... community? Ministry? I'm not even sure what category it falls under. Just last week, I walked past my very first swap: a used-book swap I started 14 (yes, FOURTEEN) years ago at a coffee shop I was working in. The coffee shop has changed names at least a dozen times since then, but the swap has grown from one tiny little shelf unit of children's paperbacks bought by me at Half-Price Books to a huge built-in unit that the church the shop is housed in obviously uses constantly. I'm proud of it every time I see it (and the coffee there is *great*).

I know that every ministry and organization has its season, and right now this swap's season is at least in hiatus - I have faith that there will be a space for it again and it will bounce right back as fast as it grew this time - but it was surprisingly hard for me to box up all those first clothes that belonged to my babies and know that I'll be taking them to a consignment store and won't be seeing them again.

When the kids were first born, they had so many monitors and IVs, and their body temperature was being so closely monitored and adjusted, that we weren't able to dress them in real clothes for the first several days. Steven, in particular, was on a CPAP machine, which made it even harder.

The NICU had particular little gowns with snaps in just the right places and just the right easy access for all the wires they needed, and then they'd be wrapped up just so in the specifically-washed NICU-provided blankets.

When we were finally able to dress them in something we chose, it was so special - we still hadn't been able to really shop for anything since they were so early, and anything we already had was way too big, but some friends of ours brought up a box of their preemie-sized gowns from their twin boys, born not too long before. 

It's a tiny thing I've never taken for granted, really - being able to dress my kids in something that shows that I care about them. Maybe it sounds shallow, but I think of those first weeks of having so many considerations around each item of clothing - does it allow access to the wires? is it adequate for what they need to help them start regulating body temperature on their own? will they be swimming in it? can Eleanor finally wear something pink? - and the relief as they grew and the wires and tubes were taken out and their temperature stabilized and each restriction went away, when I look at each of those tiny onesies and pajamas as I pack them away.

There's also the other thing. See, I've packed away these clothes before. All of these tiny things were packed up and passed on, almost as soon as they were outgrown, to our Little Man, the foster nephew we thought for a long time might be a forever nephew but ended up getting to go back to his bio family. And that's the joy of swaps - I've kept seeing those loved little outfits, over and over, on loved babies. It's a joy hearing in the hallways, "Oh, that dress! That was my daughter's favorite dress, I'm so glad your daughter loves it too."

So yes, these empty racks might seem like a strange thing to get a little teary over, but they represent so much. They'll be full again some day.

And I did grab both of the little blue safari-animal gowns. They'll make a great teddy bear.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Decisions and Life

The kids are growing up, and it feels like the world is all about decisions now. They've reached an age where they want to make their own decisions about things - what to eat, when to sleep, what to wear, how to play... the list goes on and on. The decisions we have to make for them have gotten bigger, too: somehow, it's already time to think about applying for elementary school. Yes, they're only 3 1/2, but our first-choice school for them starts with Pre-K. In fact, as we found out at the open house we attended a few weeks ago, getting into Pre-K is virtually the only way to go to the school; it's so well-regarded there are rarely any openings in later grades.

We always used to laugh about "those people" who would get so stressed out about schools that they'd be writing application essays and getting on waiting lists for 3-year-olds... now, somehow, we've become them. Fortunately, even if this option ends up not working out, we do have several other school options that look good - and we found out just last week that our neighborhood school, which has been off the table since we moved here because of its low scores, has pulled off an amazing turnaround and is now one of the best in the district! One of the driving forces in our school discussion has been trying to stay within the public system - even if our neighborhood school wasn't one we wanted to send our kids to, we wanted to do what we could to be part of the overall solution in our district and have private school be a very last resort. Now it seems like we've got quite a few good options *including* our neighborhood school, and that's a great feeling.

This lovely girl has become quite the performer. She loves to dress up and pose and dance, and really got the ballet bug after we saw a youth-ballet prequel-version of the Nutcracker recently. She begs to hear "the Arabian girls" whenever we're in the car, and hums snippets of Tchaikovsky all over the house. We're hoping to get her started in a dance class in the spring.

She's so outgoing and talks about "new friends" all the time - she can make a new friend anywhere she goes. It doesn't matter if they're fellow three-year-olds or kindergarteners or Santa, she'll strike up a conversation and find common ground...

...or just offer a hug.

Steven is growing into a sweet, clever, funny little man. He's an absolute whiz at puzzles and putting things together - he has a gift for spatial reasoning that blows me away. He's still crazy about Thomas the Tank Engine - he has a Thomas pencil bag that he fills with his favorite engines and sleeps with every night. 

When I took up the carpet in the playroom recently, we discovered that the padding underneath had been held down by hundreds of staples. He was delighted to get out his toy toolbox and help me pry them up with his pliers - he even made a little kneeling pad with a blanket, just like mine, so he wouldn't rip his pants on any we might have missed. He was such a good helper - he pulled all the stuck foam from under each staple to make it easier for me to get a good grip. He loves to be able to really *do* things - to really help with household chores, to really put on his own socks and shoes, to make things all by himself. I can't wait to see what he's capable of as he gets older and his abilities grow into his eagerness.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The experience of parenthood

Today's my birthday, and it's been... a mixed one. After a lovely morning of excellent pancakes and bacon and a fun family photo session, we had a plumber out for what we thought would be a routine small leak repair that turned into... more. A lot more. And then, while we were sort of reeling from writing the checks for that, this happened:

and really, that's kind of everything, right there. The mess, the potties, the carpet that desperately needs replacing (and yet, somehow, managed yet again to escape the water damage so it won't actually *have* to be replaced with everything else...) - and a beautiful girl doing a lovely little dance to pretty music in the midst of all the chaos. She just goes around it all, over it all, through it all, and does what she does, with a giggle of delight.

The house will be better than it was before, we'll eventually get new carpet, and through everything we will always have this amazing family. I wouldn't give that up for the world.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Day Out With Thomas

For the kids' birthday, we got tickets to ride the REAL Thomas! They each picked a favorite Thomas shirt from our sizeable stash, and we headed over to Grapevine. They were excited to spot Thomas from down the street, and wave Hi as we passed to find a parking spot. We saw all kinds of fun activities on our way to the boarding area, and then waited in line to get our boarding passes. The kids got to wait on the edge of the platform and watch for the big guy himself - Eleanor was super excited, Steven was a little nervous.

Boarding the vintage train was fun - we got to go through the "party" car and into a nice coach with reversible seats so we could all sit as a group. Steven was still a little skeptical...

...and Eleanor had fun listening to the show's songs they played and presenting her ticket to the conductor to be punched.

Thomas did eventually get a smile out of him though.

After the ride, we went to the front to say "thank you" to Thomas, but they were both a little overwhelmed to "meet" him.

In the end, the scooter corral was a little more Steven's speed.

And Eleanor loved the big bubble machine.

It was a really fun Day Out!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

3 great things about Eleanor as she turns 3

Eleanor is so confident. She'll tell anyone who asks: she is a princess, she is a doctor, she is a good mommy to all her babies, she is a good sister to her brother. She's already ready to take on the world, and we can't wait to see how she does it. When we went to the zoo, she was at the front of the crowd at the snake show to see the snakes up close, and the first to the giraffe area to try to touch a giraffe. She's eager to take chances, eager to experience everything she can.

Eleanor loves to teach and explain. She's always telling us about what she's learned, or what she's watched, or what she's pretending, or what game she's playing, in a very professional, professorial tone. Our car rides to and from school every day are punctuated liberally with a very pedagogical "So." (And yes, I know EXACTLY where she gets that one.) I love hearing the let's-pretend games they come up with together in the back seat, where they decide which character they're each going to be, and what situation they're going to be in, and how they're going to help each other get out of it. Ellie has also been, this week, very into donning her doctor coat and explaining the checkups she's doing (on me, her brother, her baby dolls, the dog, etc., etc., etc...) in great detail. Her details may be a little mangled, but they certainly sound official!

Eleanor is a facilitator. She's glue. She's the person in a group who will make sure that the natural leader isn't getting too far ahead of the natural loner, and that everyone's playing together. She's the one that makes everyone want to play nicely, and if they don't, she'll come up with some rules and get everyone to follow them. I think that's why, when she talks about her (and every other 3-year-old's) favorite movie "Frozen," she associates herself most closely with Anna, rather than Elsa - she doesn't care so much about the cool (pun intended), flashy power; Ellie's priority is family and bringing people together. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

3 great things about Steven as he turns 3

Steven is so full of joy. He has an infectious laugh, and frequently has his whole class rolling on the floor. His parents, grandparents, and teachers love to find activities that will get him excited because it's so much fun to see the way he nearly levitates with glee when he sees a toy car launch off a ramp or blows a particularly big bubble. In ballet class, he's remarkably good at mimicking the teacher's movements, but occasionally feels the need to take off on his own for an impromptu jazz/funk solo around the room.

Steven is a wonderful brother. He loves spending time with his sister, and one of the most common things to hear around the house is "Ella! Come play with me!" - that is, if they're not playing together already. A recent favorite game is to play "going to bed" on the stairs - each stair is a bed, and they find pillows and blankets and babies (or pretend pillows and blankets and babies) and tuck each other in and sing songs and tell bedtime stories, and can keep their game going for hours.

Steven is such a sweet, sensitive kid. He picks up on everything (a liability sometimes - we have to be careful what we listen to on the radio) and processes everything and understands so much more than we realize sometimes. Somehow, at the same time, he's beautifully unselfconscious. He has so much innate confidence, once he decides on something he'll carry it through with no consideration whatsoever to what anyone else thinks of it - as long as it makes him happy, it's good. He has this very particular, wonderful way of speaking - there are still a few baby-isms in it, like "wallypop" and his cousin "Ay-vwee" - but there's also a funny adult precision sometimes that almost sounds like he picked it up from an old silver-screen movie star. "Cost-yume" and "SOW-lad" - really, he's so careful and precise about even his "baby" words, they sound very grown-up and considered. "Can you put the swob-bies in dee-air?" (the strawberries in there) Steven always makes you want to stop and listen to what he's saying and make sure you understand.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Playing catch-up

So, as it turns out, the more you have going on, the less you have time to write about it. Funny how that happens. Since the last time I blogged, we've done quite a bit!

We were (almost) all in Aunt Suzy and Uncle Jim's wedding, which was absolutely gorgeous and fun. The kids were wonderful, even if they were a little nervous (Eleanor ran up the aisle to Grandma and forgot to drop any flowers),

and I was glad that Chris was sitting where he was with them so that he could get such great pictures of some special moments during the ceremony.

The food was the best I've had at a wedding - they booked a couple of gourmet food trucks to park outside the venue - and I think the kids enjoyed it quite a bit too.

Oh... did I mention that the men and boys wore kilts? Because they did. Wear kilts. And it was ridiculously adorable. On the boys at least. And ridiculously... manly on the men. Yes. Manly is the word I'm looking for, not adorable. Nope. Not adorable.

After the wedding, as promised years ago, we had our Wizard of Oz Halloween.

Don't tell Steven, though - my gentle boy is terrified of the Cowardly Lion and refused to dress as him for Halloween. He did, however, run to this costume while I was looking for a grey Tin Man-suitable sweat suit at the store, shout "LION CUB!" (what they call Simba) and refuse to take it off the rest of the day. Whatever works, I say...

We had a gorgeous Christmas season this year. All of the grandparents and Cousin Georgia came to the kids' first school program, where everyone sat and waited for them to start singing and then realized that the recorded songs we'd just listened to were the songs they were supposed to be singing along with... it was fun, though, and the kids were all dressed up and adorable, of course. We took them out to lunch after, and to see Santa. They were SO pumped to see him until the time came to actually sit on his lap, at which point, well...

you'll notice who's not actually sitting anywhere near Santa, or anywhere that he could conceivably possibly even touch them. Oh well. Ellie's waving at Georgia, who was making a valiant effort to at least get them to both look in the general direction of the camera.

Christmas Day itself was a lot of fun - we got to see lots of family and friends, and the kids kept very busy with some pretty high-level toddler engineering.

We also made it to Northpark to see the trains (and hey! Mommy made it into a picture!):

Since the new year started, we've started a new semester of school, and we took a weekend trip to San Antonio. I was so impressed with the kids - we did a lot of walking, and they were such good sports! They loved the Riverwalk and the Children's Museum (and especially, once we kind of figured out how to use it, the Daniel Tiger-style trolley we took to get to everything), and Grandma Lindy and Grandpa Buz came down to have lunch with us and see the Mercado.

It's hard to believe we're coming up next week on our third Unbirthday, and shortly after that, their third birthday! It's been almost-three amazing, action-packed years with two little people who keep me on my toes every minute. I can't imagine life without them.