May 01, 2013

    1.  About ten days ago, Evelyn cut her first tooth.  It took us completely by surprise, but after a series of rough nights there it was, spiky and sharp and pearly white.  Yesterday morning she cut its twin.  Side by side, her right tooth ever so slightly taller than her left.  I will miss the pure adorable that was my baby’s gummy toothless grin, but I am absolutely smitten with the new one that has replaced it.

    2.  Grandma is visiting!  Charlotte is beside herself with excitement.

    3.  For the first time ever, Donald and I tried grilling asparagus with just a little bit of olive oil.  It was unbelievably delicious.

    4.  We recently purchased six one-month-old turkey poults from a turkey farmer (rancher? breeder?) in the desert.  We are hosting Thanksgiving this year and I cannot wait to see one of our birds on the table.

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Dear Charlotte,

If I had to pick one word to sum up your personality at this stage in your life, it would be “fun.”  Your father and I are constantly swapping stories about the clever things you say, the silly things you do, the adventures you get up to.  We so thoroughly enjoy being a part of your life and watching you grow that it’s hard to imagine that there was ever a time when you were not a part of our lives.

For whatever reason, you LOVE to hear about this.  To you, it is a great wonder that we existed before you were born, much less that we DID things or KNEW people.  Interesting things.  Cool people.  And to you, these mystery activities and relationships are the makings of fascinating stories, stories that you simply cannot get enough of.  Over and over you repeat these stories.

This, Charlotte.  I LOVE THIS.  People ask me sometimes how it is that I know so much about my family.  The answer is that we told a lot of stories, kiddo.  Every night we sat down around the dinner table and we ate and we laughed and we shared stories, and all these years later I remember them.  Those stories give me a sense of orientation and I love passing them on to you (and watching you dress up later and act them out).  I wonder endlessly at what sorts of stories you will help us create, which ones will become family lore and which ones will fade and be forgotten when we’re gone.

But we’re having fun outside of storytelling too.  You especially seem to be having quite a bit of fun with your sister.

Charlotte, you are too young right now to grasp the meaning of this particular family story, but when your sister was born, your voice was the first thing she responded to.  She was a silent and unhurried baby at birth, but then she heard your voice.  She heard you come into the room exclaiming about her new baby, and she picked her head up off my chest and wiggled about as though she were looking for you.

And from that moment, you have been her very favorite person.  For nearly a month, you were the only person who could make her smile, and she still makes your father and I earn her laughs but will give you great peals of laughter at every opportunity.

I watch the two of you together and am just left in awe at the relationship you are forging.  The two of you are building a friendship that I sincerely hope will endure for many, many decades to come.  When I hear both of you giggling together as “Evelyn the Flying Baby” and I chase you around the house or pull you along the floor together on a blanket, I find myself thinking about my own sisters and our relationships.  I remember your Auntie E pulling me and a gallon of milk in a wagon on the way home from the corner dairy.  I remember having a nightmare once and waking up to your Aunt R tucking me back into bed so that I’d stay warm.  I remember climbing in trees with them and pretending we were Olympians on the balance beam our father built and doing cartwheels in the front yard.

And as I remember these things, I look at our relationships today.  Your aunts and I sometimes talk very frequently and sometimes do not talk much at all, but there is something about sharing a childhood that creates a bond between two people which cannot be broken.  It is a precious relationship, this one that you and Evelyn are growing together, and I genuinely hope that you enjoy experiencing life together for the rest of your days.

Speaking of fun with babies, by the way, you are also very much enjoying this:

I found that old pink scarf in a cabinet the other day.  The next weekend your cousins handed you down an old baby doll that you instantly fell head over heels in love with.  And boom!, ever since I’ve spent half of each day helping you wrap up your baby the way that I wrap up your sister.

Cutest.  Thing.  Ever.

May you always enjoy storytelling.  May you always appreciate your sister.  And may you never lose your creativity, sweet child.

We love you more than bears love honey (and everyone knows that’s an awful lot),
Momma and Daddy

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One morning last week, I was just settling in to read a book or twenty to Charlotte when I heard a cacophony of desperate clucks in the backyard.

“Wait here,” I told Charlotte.  “I’ll be right back, I just want to make sure the neighbor’s dog isn’t hassling the chickens again.”

And I grabbed the baby.

And I went outside.

And I walked toward the backyard.

And at the very same moment that I realized that my birds were being attacked by coyotes, I heard a very deep growl behind me.

Slowly, cautiously, I turned around and came face to snout with a large, young male coyote.  He was lean and dusty and his teeth were bared.  He stood between me and my open kitchen door, the door that lead to the house where my three-year-old was lying sick in bed waiting for me to read to her, and time.stood.still.

I was suddenly acutely aware of my surroundings.  I felt Evelyn shifting her weight toward me, tensing her body, and it dawned on me that to the coyote in front of me, she was seventeen pounds of delicious.  My mind felt like it was processing every possible option at the speed of light – could I stuff the baby in the tree? were there any rocks for me to throw? would shouting for help put Charlotte in greater danger because she might come to see what all the noise was about?

Two seconds later, one of the smaller coyotes nipped at the large coyote’s tail as it loped past.  The large coyote stood silent for a moment, looking at me, then turned and trotted away.  In no time at all, they were gone.

I ran inside, shut the door, then rushed back to the bedroom to check on Charlotte, and came pretty fucking close to melting into tears of relief on the spot.

“I want to read the pirate book,” she told me.  So we did.  We read the pirate book.  We read and my heart slowed and I thanked the heavens for my daughters, for these moments, for our lives and our health and our lack of coyote mauling.

A few hours later, the coyotes came back.

This time I was ready for them.  I set the baby in the bouncer and I locked my daughters in the bedroom so that the coyotes could not, under any circumstances, reach them.  I dialed 9-1-1 so that if I were injured all I needed to do was press the call button.  Then I looked around for something to throw at the coyotes to scare them off.

The nearest thing was a package of cookies left behind by some relatives after a family gathering the weekend prior.  So I grabbed the package of cookies, took two steps outside, closed the door behind me, and chucked the sweets at the nearest coyote.

That wimpy little Nabisco package got the job done.  It hit the coyote right above its back and all three of the flea-ridden suckers took off.  And none too soon because as soon as the package hit the coyote, all of the cookies inside went flying.  And as soon as the cookies went flying, every chicken in my yard went off of predator mode and into FREE FOOD! mode.  They started running toward the cookies before the coyotes were even out of the yard.

So in summary: unless you want a heart attack, do not ever walk into the middle of a pack of hungry coyotes with a baby on your hip.  And also, chickens are dumb.  The end.

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A couple days ago, Charlotte asked me if I could take a picture of her singing to her sister.  These opportunities do not present themselves very often – and, truth be told, lately I have been acutely aware of how many fewer photographs (and blog posts) there are of Evelyn as compared to her sister at the same age – so naturally, I acquiesced.

Then she asked if she could take some pictures of her sister on her own.  Giving Charlotte the camera is one of my favorite things to do; I love to see the world as she sees it.  So I secured it around her wrist, reminded her not to touch the lens, and let her have at it.

I am finding parenthood with two children to be immensely challenging.  I feel like I am always a step behind.  Several of my neighbors and close friends have three, four, five, six children and they somehow seem to have their act together.  Then there’s me, always twenty minutes late, always a few hours behind on sleep, one child or another seemingly always sick.

But when I see these pictures, I don’t see any of that.  I don’t see the time Charlotte was traumatized by my complete oblivion to Pajama Day at school.  I don’t see the time I downplayed everyone’s concern about Evelyn’s symptoms, then took her to the doctor and found out she had bronchitis, a raging ear infection, and strep throat all at once.  I don’t see the time Charlotte told one of her friend’s parents that Momma and Daddy “like to watch adult movies” (and sadly, she informed them, we don’t let her join in) or the time she screamed so loud that passersby on a walk stopped in to make sure I wasn’t killing her (I wasn’t, I just didn’t have the right color hairbow available when she wanted it) or the time I didn’t notice that Evelyn had thrown up while being carried on my back until long after it was dried and crusted into my hair.

No, all I see when I look at these pictures is joy.  My babies laughing together, cooing together, enjoying one another’s company.  And when I see that, the failures don’t seem quite as bad.

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April 03, 2013

My pregnancy with Evelyn was filled with a persistent fear that I would birth her and find myself incapable of loving her.  It seemed inconceivable to me that I might love another child as fervently as I loved Charlotte.  I also worried that I might resent her because she interrupted our adoption and was conceived while I was still actively mourning our loss.

And then she was born.  And she was perfect.  And she was mine.

Evelyn will be five months old this week.  I have loved her more quietly than I loved her sister.  I have loved her more steadily.  I have loved her more reverently.

When Charlotte was born, I often spent long hours watching her sleep and longing for the days when she would walk and run and jump.  What color would her eyes be?  When would she crawl?  What would her voice sound like?  I have always loved Charlotte exuberantly.  I love her big personality, her loud voice, her fearless nature, her fierce curiosity.

But Evie, my Evie, is a different bird.  I love her silence, her husky growls, her cautious nature.  And, oh, be still my heart, the look of utter contentment that comes across her face as she sleeps pressed against my body.  I often spend long hours sleeping beside her, enjoying the moment, reluctant to let it pass.  We are still getting to know each other, the two of us, and I am appreciating every second.

Two different girls.

Two different ways of adoring them.

But in the end, I love them equally.  When I cradle my daughters in my arms, I am holding my everything and I cannot help but love them both with every fiber of my being.

It really is true that parenthood expands your heart in unforeseen ways.  I have never in my life been more thankful to find that my fears were unfounded.

** Charlotte is three years and eight months old.  Evie is (almost) five months old.

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