Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Surrounded


It seems like the only time I write these days is when something big happens - vacation! broken tailbone! confessing to my Facebook problem! oh my! Otherwise, things are pretty quiet here around these parts. It’s like as though the Landed family life ceases to exist outside of these momentous occasions.
But the opposite is true. Ever since I made myself admit to my social media issues, I’ve been pushing myself to live more fully, to be more present with my family, and as a result, the living has taken over the writing of it. I continue to blog (although not as often as I’d like) because my wish is for my girls to have glimpses of their two-, four-, six-, eight-year-old selves when they’re older, but truthfully, it’s been a struggle lately. I have full-time work on my part-time schedule, which is a good thing, but at the same time, I’m mostly in catch-up or guilt mode because when I’m not completing deadlines, I’m feeling guilty about them, and when I’m working the two days a week from home while the girls are at preschool and some nights when they’re in bed, I see the myriad things around the house that I should be doing instead. My balance is a little off here, and I would like to find that again. But the good news is that my tailbone is healing nicely. I started running again after taking three weeks off. I’m not happy with what that injury has done to my own fitness, knowing that there was no way that I could be in shape for my half-marathon on October 19, so I had to let that go and began preparing for the 15K race that’s coming up on November 3 instead. Before this, a five-mile run was my short distance run for the week. Now, I can barely make it to a 10K (6.2 miles) without losing a lung and many out-of-breath expletives along the way. But I know I have to be patient, remember to be grateful that I’m running at all, and just keep going. Last week, I was rewarded for my perseverance with my first trail run. We went as a family to experience Fall in all its colorful glory in a forest preserve in the outskirts of the city. While My Guy hiked over three miles with happy little girls who didn’t utter a single complaint, I ran five in the woods.




That morning, I was out of breath not because of the running, but because of the scenery that knocked the wind out of me. For an urban family, we’re not completely immersed in nature very often, but when we had the chance to hike and run along the north branch of the Chicago river, pick vibrant, gorgeous red-orange-gold leaves for our Fall project, we couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.


I didn’t run very fast that day, choosing a more meditative experience as I listened only to the sounds of my breath and nature while my pounding feet were muffled by the leaves on the ground. I now know why some people are fanatical about trail running. If this was more accessible to me, I would be doing it all the time too.
But the thing is, running by my house is not all bad either. On a crisp, Fall day, I can just as easily find my serenity here as well.




In other news, Little Miss will be turning five in less than a month, and already the promise of “they get better at five” seems to be on the horizon. She was a late-bloomer because she wasn’t difficult at two. We were secretly relieved and proud that we didn’t have to deal with the Terrible Two’s with her, except she more than made up for it at three, and then at four. Her constant clamoring for attention is occasionally sidelined by her need for her own space, whether in a corner play-acting by herself or reading a book. And when she’s asked to do something, she fights us a little less and complies with a sweet “okay, mommy” or “okay, daddy”, which, before this, have rarely escaped from her lips. At night, I read her her first big chapter book, "The Tale of Despereaux", by Kate DiCamillo, a gift from her favorite aunt and my best friend, and she’s rapt. “Three more chapters tonight mommy?” she’d ask each evening, and we’d snuggle under the covers as I read them aloud and explain concepts like revenge, abuse, and ambition to someone who had previously no notion of them. We are now at page 266. Not quite five, but Little Miss can already read this book quietly to herself, but I realized, after her first three chapters on her own, reading and comprehending are not the same thing. I had read the book myself earlier and remembered the concepts that were difficult for a preschooler to grasp, and that’s how this book became our special time together while her daddy read board books to our two-year-old before bedtime each evening . I have to say, I look forward to it myself because when I see her putting the story together in her head and remembering details I’d read two weeks ago, I’m in awe. Kids are such sponges aren’t they? In other, other news, Little Miss started whistling two weeks ago, and it’s always startling to hear that around the house and realizing that’s it’s coming from my four-year-old. I whistle, My Guy whistles, and when growing up, my dad did it all the time. I know it’s just whistling, but Little Miss, who went to school not knowing how one day and came home sucking in her breath to whistle (which was how I started myself), is especially proud of it, so I thought I’d mention it here, too. Pickle is both impressed, “When me a big girl, me want to whistle,” and sad, “Daddy can whistle, mommy can whistle, Missy can whistle, but me can’t do it…Me sad, me can’t do it.” Yes, that’s my emotionally intelligent toddler. She tells me when she’s sad, mad, excited, happy, and frustrated. These are all words that she uses, and she even uses them correctly. I love how she is so articulate with her feelings, and at the same time, I continue to relish her toddlerese, “me don’t want to go to sleep; me not tired!” secretly hoping that it will take her a looooong time before she eventually corrects herself and removes the last vestiges of her babyhood.
Here, we're at mommy and baby brunch. She can't whistle yet, but she can wink!
Already she’s losing her lisp, and both My Guy and I try to console one another as we watch her baby self slowly diminish as the little person - or imp, as we like to call her - appear. The imp isn’t just a cute little nickname though. It’s really what she is, because unlike her sister, she has no problems owning her Terrible Two’s.
As much as we love how well she talks, there’s certainly a major drawback as she now uses words to argue her point or to insist on getting her way. Two going on Tween - we have, in our hands, an overachiever. I can’t tell you how many times a day I have to hear her protest, “No, no, me!” with every little thing we try to do for her. Her fierce need for independence, which no doubt stems from trying to quickly catch up to an older sibling, detests our help, so she fights us each time we attempt to brush her teeth, zip her coat, put on her socks, buckle her carseat - she wants to do everything herself. “No, no, me do it!” And more often than not, she does, which explains how she’s been using a spoon to scoop out avocado to eat by herself since she was about 20 months old, putting on her own shirt, pants, shoes and socks before she turned two, and eschewing the training potty for the regular toilet without our aid. Another favorite retort of hers is "But me…", as in "Please don't disturb the sleeping cat," - "But me not disturbing him, me only kissing him. And he likes it. Macky looooves me…" But her favorite response by far is “Me just…” as in "Hey, Pickle, don’t jump on the couch," - “Me just kneeling down and bouncing; me not jumping”. These days our requests and reproaches are always met with a "but" or “me just” reply to push and find the limits of her boundaries. Like, “Don’t run around the house while you’re eating” is met with “Me just skipping, mommy…” as if that’s so much better. And man, does it get exhausting. Even Little Miss gets tired of it and yells back when her little sister doesn’t comply, “NO “ME JUST”!!! Stop saying “me just”! Just. Don’t. Do. it!” I hear you on your frustration, Little Miss. Welcome to my world. You do it too, only you’re grammatically right, “I just…” but it’s no less difficult for us.



Partners in crime, apple picking/eating

Ah, sisters. With language comes the bickering, of course. I knew this was my fate, having to constantly hear the arguing, yelling, whining, crying of two equally headstrong, equally articulate kids with screeching as their super power. I think I’ve lost 30% of my hearing since Pickle was born. On the flip side however, there is also love. Last Friday, all four of us slept on the same bed for the first time. Not because we  had  to, because they sleep on their respective big-girl beds just fine, but because it seemed like a fun Friday night thing to do. After watching a late-evening movie in our bed with them, they were supposed to sleep first on this Family Slumber Party Night except there was more party and less slumber with giggling, chatty girls who took a good hour to succumb to sleep. When we were ready to turn in ourselves, I crawled in between them, and My Guy slept on the other side of Little Miss. By the first hour, I was already pinned inside the covers by both girls who kicked off theirs and slept on top of the comforter, rather than below it. It was both uncomfortable and lovely, as I’ve longed for this very occasion for awhile now but could never really do it when we had our queen-sized bed as I’m a light sleeper who suffers from RLS (restless leg syndrome) that’s exacerbated by tight sleeping quarters, and it would keep me up for hours. That night, despite our new king-sized bed, which we had invested in specifically for occasions like these, I was afforded little room, and I was awakened each time some kid coughed or made their very dramatic tossing or turning in bed, but somehow, it didn’t matter. In the middle of the night I witnessed the little one sit up, look at both sides of her and call out for her sister when she didn’t see Little Miss by her side, and Little Miss, still heavy with sleep merely responded, “I’m right here, Pickle; I’m on the other side of mommy.” And just like that, Pickle fell back to sleep on her spot, comforted, knowing her sister was there too. When she woke at seven the next morning, the first thing she did was to gently, sweetly plant a kiss on my face. Then she crawled across the bed to My Guy and did the same for him, saying only “good morning, daddy…”
We could get used to waking up like this every day. Except we won’t. We are firm believers of the notion that grownups need their space to do grownup things, and kids also need their space to do kid things, each essential for so many reasons, so while this was wonderful, it will remain only as a special family night for us, which is still nice as it’s something we can all look forward to. People with disparate needs, growing and learning different things, all piled up in one bed - gangly arms and legs in faces, messy, warm bodies touching and shaping other warm, sometimes sweaty bodies. And me in the midst of it all, completely aware of each movement, each sleep-soaked muttering that wakes me from my own slumber, realizing in the quiet darkness of the night that I’m fully present, for the first time in a long time, for all the love that surrounds me.




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