28 April 2009

Charis' Excellent Adventure

My baby girl. It seems minutes ago we were figuring out a feeding schedule for her, watching her learn to walk, and changing her diapers. Somehow, in the blink of an eye, she has grown into a pretty self-sufficient kid who feeds herself, runs around at warp speed, and fetches diapers for her baby sister. And who is on the cusp of beginning school.

This first picture was taken from the drivers' seat (duh) while we sat at Sonic and waited for our treats after Charis' Kindergarten screening. I was so proud of her, I even let her get a toy. Here's how it all went down. That morning, we dropped my aunt off at the airport. She had been visiting with us for a week, and the kids were wired with excitement to be able to see the baggage return belts and climb on the airport chairs again. Charis, in particular, was everywhere, completely ignoring all of my instructions and admonitions and running amok. I was already a nervous wreck thinking about her testing, and not sure how she'd do; though I've tried to prepare her well and give her plenty of opportunities to grow socially, emotionally, and intellectually, we didn't send her to a formal preschool, and I was afraid that would be to her detriment when it came time to be tested. Seeing Charis running wild, my aunt suggested I have a talk with her about how important it was to follow her teacher's instructions and obey. I assured her we'd have a long, long chat about that on the way there.

I dropped off Judah and Ruby at a friend's house, and Charis and I headed over to the school. On the whole ride there, I was trying to quiz her and prepare her for the evaluation. The only problem was that I myself didn't know what to expect from it. Charis has a knack for knowing when you're trying to elicit information from her, and loves to thwart your efforts; she'll do things like insert an L into her numbers when counting or toss a 7 into her alphabet, just to be funny and to give me gray hair. So we talked long and hard about obedience and cooperation, and about how it was a day to show the teachers how very smart she is. "No being funny, Charis. This is serious, and you have to answer all of their questions as best you can," I said. We arrived a few minutes early, prayed, and marched into the school.

She's so confident, is the thing. In my personal opinion, she's brilliant and charming and funny and beautiful, and I can't imagine a world where she wouldn't be invited into Kindergarten with open arms. But I am her mother, and so I realize I have a certain bias and that professional educators might want to put my still-four-year-old, who will just have turned five this summer, into the Young Fives program to give her a chance to mature a little more. I tried to give myself the pep talk wherein I convince myself that admission into the Young Fives program is not tantamount to parental failure (because it really isn't), and handed her over to the teachers for the evaluation.

Several people have asked me about what sorts of things they asked her or required her to do, and the real answer is that I do not know. There were six tables set up: four tables were occupied by the teachers doing the screening, and two tables were activity tables for the children who were waiting to be screened. Then there was a semi-circle of chairs set up for the parents--all of of whom looked terrified. We were given a packet of information and a checklist to fill out with our child's abilities and told to wait there while our kids were being tested. I fruitlessly strained to hear what was going on at the teachers' tables. Charis had a few minutes to wait between teachers, during which I tried to ascertain what they'd asked of her. Mostly she said things like, "Don't worry, mom. It was really easy."

And just like that, it was over. "Is that it?" I asked.

"That's it," they answered.

Charis beamed. "Mom, I didn't even say anything funny! I did a good job!"

I glanced at the folders, a pile of which was sitting on one of the tables. I noted that Charis had comparitively high-ish scores, but I had no idea what the numbers actually meant, so it was little consolation. I knew we'd be notified by mail what decision they'd reached, so my anxiety didn't subside for a while. Treats at Sonic helped, as did some one-on-one time with Charis where I realized that it really didn't matter a whole lot whether she was assigned to Young Fives or regular (all day! everyday!) Kindergarten, because she's a happy, well-adjusted kid who will bloom well wherever she's planted. (All the same, I was glad to learn, two days later, that she'd been accepted into the Kindergarten program. I'm still human.)

Twelve minutes ago, she was a little spitting up, diaper-clad, rice cereal-faced bundle of joy. Four minutes ago, she was a walking, potty training toddler. And tomorrow, she'll be off to Kindergarten. Just like that. But she'll always be my baby girl.

27 April 2009

Judah Picture Page

Ah, Judah. There's something about a little (big) boy that just warms a mother's heart. Yesterday afternoon, Abe was washing a few dishes. While I will assure you that that is not a frequent occurrence, it is not completely out of the ordinary. Mostly. So there he is, sudsing away, when precious Judah gave him what-for: "Daddy, boys aren't supposed to wash dishes! Only girls!" Abe laughed and immediately sent Judah to tell me this piece of breaking news.

I shouldn't have been surprised, then, when, upon seeing his Auntie Moriah in a t-shirt with a picture of a tractor on it declared, "Girls don't like tractors! Only boys!"

Ah, Judah. Sweet Judah. I couldn't even get it together enough this year to write you a Happy Birthday post. But it's not because I don't love you, or that it's not important to me; it's because every time I sit down to try to write about you, I am at a loss for words. I'll sit down to type a glowing review of you and a list of the thousands of reasons why I love you, and then you hit Ruby over the head with a truck, and I find my praise a little bit derailed. I catch myself saying, "Where was I again?" and I give up on the post and decide to write about you when I am in a better frame of mind. You are in one moment totally obstinant, and cuddly and compliant in the next. One minute, you're laying down the rules for gender roles (which I will teach out of you), and when next I catch a glimpse of you, you've put on your sister's dress up princess shoes. You will pour yourself a glass of milk or juice without assistance, but balk when I suggest you select your own apple from the fridge.

You used to be quite timid. And there are situations when you still are, and that's okay with me. But I'm delighted that you beg me to let you go to your class at church. And I'm thrilled that you have a sense of adventure when you're playing. I love a boy with abandon, and boy, you've got it. Especially when your cousin is not pushing you around.

You are at times obsessive about having clean hands, and you're always the first to request a napkin when we're eating. But it does not bother you in the least to walk around with food on your face. Can you not feel it? At any rate, in most of my recent photos of you, you've got some sort of chocolate mustache. At least we won't forget it.

And the whole hitting-your-sister-with-a-truck thing? It really happened. In her crib. You went in to "keep her company," which is not out of the ordinary. You love that baby like no other. But when, minutes later, she was crying after taking some lug wheels to the head, I was a bit miffed. And mystified. At what point does "I love my Ruby" turn into "...so I will now throw this Tonka at her."?

But I suppose it is your slight unpredictability--I say slight because you really are quite a joy most of the time--that makes you so intruguing. While I would never say that Charis was a high-needs baby, parenting you was, by comparison, like parenting a marshmallow. People would ask, "Is he always this content?" And we'd sigh and gaze lovingly at our brown-eyed boy and beam. You were always that content, and remained so until you turned two, at which point you developed the tiniest stubborn streak. Now you're three, and while we still catch glimpses of that streak at home, I am happy to report that you're still that content, compliant little boy when you're in public. People are still amazed at how laid-back and easygoing you are. I am so proud to be your mom.

And that is why I am typing this post while you're still asleep. When you're asleep, I can write away and not encounter one of those contradictions that makes it so hard for me to stay on-task. I know that soon, you will wake up and start being a typical three-year-old boy, but for now, you're just my sweet, lovable little marshmallow.

Oh--you're coming down the stairs. Good morning, child. What's it going to be? Guns blazing, or cuddly mama's boy? The fun thing is, right now? I can't wait to find out.

I love you, boy.

(But you will wash the dishes someday.)

24 April 2009

Ruby Picture Page

Look at how big I'm getting! I can pull myself up on furniture and stand for hours. This picture was taken on Easter. Look how proud everyone looks! I can even sit back down without falling. I know, I know!! I'm amazing. I'm also starting to eat table food. I love cheese. And potatoes. And cheerios. Really, anything is better than those mushy green beans my mom keeps trying to feed me. Those things are disgusting. On Easter, my mom fed me some homemade noodles, and they were a taste sensation. Why didn't I know about those sooner?
And look at me! I can take a real, live big-kid bath! Sure, I require some close supervision. But just last week, I took a bath with Charis and Judah, and it was FUN. Their bath toys are way cooler than mine, and their bubbles smell like watermelon. Word to the wise, though: don't eat the bubbles. I tried them, and trust me, the watermelon essence is just a scent. They tasted terrible.
Here I am soaking up the sun in the back yard. I love to swing in the baby swing. I try to keep from cackling--I mean, I don't want to appear as if I'm enjoying a baby swing too much--but I just can't help myself. Baby swings are exhilarating, and don't let anybody well you otherwise. I feel so ALIVE when I'm swinging through the air. And those moments when Charis lets me swing out of control...wow. Talk about exciting.

All in all, I'm a very happy baby. I hesitate to call myself baby, though, because after all, I am TEN MONTHS old. Really--crawling, standing, waving, clapping, eating, SWINGING? I'm nearly grown up! Now, if only I could get some teeth...

22 April 2009

Easter Picture Page

Can you tell which one of these objects is an Easter egg? I'll give you a hint: it's made of white plastic. Easy for an adult to find, difficult for little kids. That's what Yia Yia was banking on this year when she and Moriah hid 32 plastic eggs for Charis, Judah, Gideon, and Elise to find. This is the second year she has organized a hunt for the kids, and they really enjoy it. (Duh. There's candy involved. They'd hunt down rabid wolves if there was candy involved.) Last year, the hunt took place inside the house, but this year's weather was nice enough--and the kids are old enough--to move it to a larger area.
Never underestimate the bloodlust--I mean chocolate lust--of a three year old. These kids had their egg territories STAKED OUT.

My sweet girl has the advantage of age and height, and she ended up with an inordinate amount of eggs. Thankfully, she is pretty kind, as almost-five-year-olds go. Here she is donating an orange egg to Judah's cause.
Here she is keeping some for herself.

The beauty of 32 eggs is that they are easily divisible by four. Not only that, Yia Yia had the foresight to fill the eggs strategically so that when all the eggs had been located, their contents, too, would be easily divisible by four.

(Side note: I cannot for the life of me keep my train of thought on this post. Charis is fighting sleep even now, at 10 pm. First, she was distressed because I'd been at choir practice late and hadn't tucked her in. Then, she was distressed because earlier, on the way to church, she'd accidentally inhaled a triangular piece of confetti into her nose and it hasn't resurfaced. The latest protest was so laden with whines and sobs we still have no real idea what's wrong, other than extreme fatigue. Now, she's up in her room fake-sobbing, but we are not going to crack. And I am GOING TO finish this post, if it's the last thing I do tonight. For pete's sake. I have no fewer than six drafts of posts I was unable to finish, all dated within the past eight weeks--something's gotta give.)

So anyway, here's Charis, keeping tabs to make sure everything is tallied up fairly.

And here's Egg Inspector Number 1, Judah, in a coat that used to belong to his uncle. Or dad. Someone in that era, anyway.When it was all said and done, the kids did pretty well. Yia Yia included some candy in the loot (Peeps. *shudder*), but there was also fruit leather ("The other kids always got Fruit Roll Ups, and we always had nasty organic fruit leather. Gross." -Abe) and miniature baby animal toys and the like, so they weren't completely hopped up on sugar on Easter. Of course, we did eat Blueberry Peach Cobbler and Homemade Chocolate Pudding with Fresh Whipped Cream and Strawberries when we went back inside, so I suppose they probably had a little tiny hint of sugar buzz.

You know, it's important to me that my kids know what Easter is really for--celebrating Jesus' resurrection and the fact that He conquered death so that we might have eternal life in heaven--but a little Easter egg hunt with some candy never hurt anyone.

(Though I might hurt someone if Charis keeps carrying on like this.)

Goodnight, everybody. Happy Belated Easter.