Monday, September 28, 2015

"That's MY shadow on the moon!"

The "Super blood moon" of 2015
When I got home from catachumenate they were all upstairs, recently bathed and all jammied up, watching "Madeline." Sean gave me a look to let me know that getting to that peaceful moment had been a struggle. Lately, it seems like everything with both kids takes so much energy.  They are at the peak of their defiant powers and we're not entirely sure what to do about it.

I have found that saying things like "You need sleep to live" and "If you would just cooperate, everyone would be happy and the world would be a better place" are NOT, ultimately, helpful.

Sean told me he didn't want to make any more decisions that night and I said, "Not a problem.  I have a plan, and I will drive. Just help me get the kids in the car."

Walter was wearing one of my old t-shirts for a jammie, and threw on a pair of slip on shoes.  Sean carried shoe-less Sally out into the night.  "It's dark. It's late." she said.  I filled two sippy cups with ice water.  We stood in the driveway for a minute.  The view of the moon was pretty good there, but I thought viewing from the van would be better for mosquito avoidance.  That, and there's something special about driving out into the night to go watch the moon.

Really, there's something special about being up late and looking up at the sky together.  Walter immediately thought of fireworks.  Sean helped us find a great spot to park not too far from the house but in a nice dark patch of clear sky ... there were a couple other moon viewers (lunatics, if you will) out there, too.  Sean brought Walter up into the front seat to sit on his lap.  I squeezed in to the space between Sally's seat at the door, where we casually held hands.  We listened to classical music on the radio and watched the shadow on the moon get bigger and bigger.

We talked as we watched, an almost constant stream of Sally and Walter commentary on the situation. Sally was quite pleased when we affirmed her observation: "That's MY shadow on the moon!" Well, yes, in a way, it is.  The rest of the night, she referred to it as "Sally's shadow."  Walter careened between rather brilliantly correct observations, "You can't see the planet earth, but you can see its shadow on the moon" to observations we weren't sure what do with "The planet earth is above the sidewalk, now" to the downright poetic "The stars are shining on the road!" to the unintentionally earth-centric "I don't like it when you call earth "a planet." You should always say, "THE PLANET EARTH!"

I think Walter and I are a lot alike.  We fall in love not just with an event, but with all the sensory input and everything else surrounding the event. So, the lunar eclipse itself was quite wonderful, yes.  But for Walter, it was also a night to celebrate the classical music on the radio ("that's good, because I'm learning violin") my choice of beverage for them ("cold ice water, my favorite!") and his spot on Daddy's lap ("I really like this seat.")  All in all, the excursion received Walter's highest praise: "That was a good choice."

I don't think I realized how difficult the choices of parenting would be. I think the hardest ones are the choices we make when we don't feel like we have a choice: when one of the kids is doing something dangerous and we have to raise our voices or pick them up to get them to stop; when we're running late and we can't gently coax them into putting their shoes on anymore ... we just have to do it for them, muttering unhelpful things about the fleeting nature of time and the possibility of greater happiness through independent shoe putting-on.

That said, the choice to take my 2-year-old, who has a cold, and cold-induced-asthma, and my almost 4-year-old, who is testing the limits of every adult he knows and needs every minute of sleep we can get him, out into the night after their bedtime to see a lunar eclipse they probably won't remember ... that was a pretty easy choice.  We sat in the dark together, holding onto each other with that easy, comfortable grip of people who love each other without question.  We listened to the violins and looked up at the sky.  "The next time this happens," Sean said to Walter, "You will be the age that Mama and Daddy are, now."** "And if you have kids," I said, "You can bring them out after their bedtime to watch the moon." "Yes!" said Walter excitedly. "Let's do that right now!" 

**This turns out to be in error ... the last #superbloodmoon was 30 years ago, but the next one will be 18 years from now. 

I like to be with my family

Un-posed moment of sibling sweetness.
A few weeks ago, back when September was new and Sally was just starting to come more fully into her two-ness, we took a week of family vacation. We spent the first part of the week at Barb's House in Osh Kosh, the second part in Baraboo/Wisconsin Dells, and visited with my parents before, in between, and at the end. We did some more celebrating of Sally's birthday with dear friends, we did some poor sleeping and questionable eating.  There were fits of great sadness and defiance and moments of unbearable sweetness.

I took notes. 
  • "Salad noodle cricket." Those were Walter's first words to me as we woke up at Barb's house Tuesday morning. I made him repeat it. "Salad. Noodle. Cricket." he said. "What is it?" I asked. "Something very yummy."  Silence for a bit.  "Would you mind saying that to me one more time?"  It never changed, and he continued to insist on it the rest of the morning. 
  • "That was a good choice." That's all I wrote in my notes, and I don't remember what exactly it referred to, but it's something Walter's been saying quite a bit lately when he's pleased with a family activity and how it goes.  He likes to affirm my good choices. "Mama, that was a good choice."  I think in this case he might have been talking about going to the Appleton Children's Museum, or to the coffee shop for a snack after we played at the museum, or maybe it was the day before when we rode the train at the Oshkosh zoo with his dearest ones (Sally, Henry, Bennett, and Anna and the moms of same.)  When he enjoys something, he really enjoys it. Which leads me to ...
  • "I think they did that for me." Another fairly common recent Walter-ism, which he says when something really delightful happens, like a violin piece coming on the radio while he's listening, or an especially beautiful sunset. 
  • "All my toes are asleep.  Let's wake them up!" This is Sally, now. She is HILARIOUS.  And she seems be fairly intentional about it and aware of it. Other funny Sally sayings from vacation week: 
    • "Look at that doggy, he can drive!" (On seeing a dog in a parked car.)
    • "I'm gonna eat your pizza, Mama! Om nom nom nom nom nom!" (With great menacing flair, a gleam in her eye, and seriously wicked, pizza-stealing intent.) 
    • "I'm standing. I'm a lamb." (I have no memory of what the set up was for this one, but it was one of the best and most brilliantly-delivered punchlines in the history of comedy.)
  • Wandered Off: The Musical. Both kids sing almost constantly.  Two musical moments stand out in my memory of this vacation week.  One was the song Sally wrote while we were swimming one morning: "Swimming swimming where's my shoe? Swimming swimming where's my shoe?"  The other was on our last day in Baraboo, as we finished up lunch at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum and started to think about heading out to Umma and Baba's.  Walter found a giant tree stump and declared it a stage.  He got up and started to sing, and told Sally to dance; she complied. Then he started to sing her story: the story of a little girl who wandered off into the woods one day. "Wandered off!! Into the woods!!" Eventually, our hero makes it back home. Whew. 
    I like capturing the moment right before they zonk out.
  • "That's what I'd been planning on." Walter's plan, every day we were at the hotel, was simply to maximize our time in the hotel pool.  Eating the deli meat we'd brought with us in the hotel room was great, because if we ate in the hotel room, we were closer to the pool. I think we swam a minimum of three times each day.  Our skin and hair will never be the same.  
  • "Where's the duckies?" Excursions that took us out of our hotel room and into the gorgeous September days were met with some resistance: Walter only wanted to swim, Sally only wanted to watch movies. But we did manage to get them out and about.  My favorite outing was a ride on the Original Wisconsin Ducks.  The ducks are amphibious vehicles from WWII re-purposed as tourist carriers. I loved holding little Sally on my lap as we zoomed through the woods, the wind blowing in our hair.  I loved watching Walter walk very confidently up to the front of the duck when the driver asked for a young volunteer: we were out on Lake Delton, and Walter got to drive, and he did so like he'd been born doing it.  As we were walking through the parking lot to the van to head back to the hotel, Sally sleepily said, "Where's the duckies?"  All this talk about ducks ... well ... where were they?
Vacationing together is pretty exhausting.  Separated from their usual routine, the kids had some sustained moments of genuine misery.  They missed their friends, their teachers, their regularly scheduled programming. We started the week with a house full of friends, and when they went home and we four stayed, Walter was very lonesome for them and asked, repeatedly, as young ones do, "Can we just go home, now?" But we persisted in our vacationing, and the kids had fun, and so did we.  We watched a new Daniel Tiger episode while we were getting dressed and going one morning, and the theme seemed to fit just right with what we were doing, so we sang it often, usually led by Sally: "I like to be with my family!" Sometimes we'd sing it as though we were trying to convince ourselves. Other times we'd sing it and I'd know that there's nothing more true in the whole world.  
I like to be with my family!