The last time my friend Amanda came to town was 3 years ago. Charlotte was Winnie’s age at the time and called her “Dowwow” (something I had completely forgotten). The girls loved having her around, and every morning upon awaking, she was roped into playing “Family” with Charlotte. This time Amanda spent most of her visit being referred to as “Mom.”
We picked up Kyle for a quick adventure to enjoy the pre-spring weather and explore a new trail. I’m ever so thankful for friends who will roll with you and your kids, who won’t bat an eye at the tantrums, the disruptions, and the messes. The friends who will carry your bags and carry your children, and who will give them attention when you’d rather not. We may not have gone the way we were supposed to on the Yellow River Trail, but we enjoyed what we saw, and we didn’t get lost.
And for the record, I take no responsibility for the fact that Charlotte is wearing a choker.
This has been a hell of a week. I’m going completely 3rd trimester pregnant crazy, and I’m bringing the whole family with me. Due to winter break, I found myself with 3 days of nearly no extra childcare responsibilities (beyond my own children) and no photography need-to-do-nows. So, I made some calls to arrange for some help, I fought off James the ultimate naysayer and crusher of my somewhat impractical and physically backbreaking timeline for accomplishment, and we worked without much sleep all weekend. The living room has now been mostly repainted and the kitchen backsplash is mostly done. Something about the idea of adding more chaos to what already feels like chaos is clearly frightening me, and the only way I can feel like I have any control over the situation is to make my living areas feel less chaotic. The gutted and newly drywalled playroom can stay behind closed doors, but the paint in the living room that I was hoping to have repainted before Charlotte’s birth was going to be surrounding me and taunting me in the early days of being stuck under a newborn on the couch. We have had the tiles for the kitchen backsplash since before Charlotte was born, and it all had to be done now (cause nesting and hormones). We seized the opportunity, and it worked. Monday came around forcing a break, which was needed, especially since Winnie has been on a sleep strike and Charlotte has been very whiny and needy. I’ve been trying to set some boundaries around Winnie’s pacifier use, which has been going not well at all (I’m also a little reluctant because I know that I’m going to give in on those boundaries as soon as the baby comes). But, I noticed her chewing on her pacifier today instead of sucking on it, and I asked her to open her mouth. Sure enough, a new molar was popping through. I wish I didn’t need any sort of evidence to give my children more empathy for their challenging behaviors…but it always helps.
So here we are, trying to get ready for Valentine’s Day. Charlotte and I had cut a bunch of hearts out of old paintings we were going to recycle, and she wanted to hang them all up. We got started, and Winnie was looking through photo albums. Then the girls saw Daddy coming home, and we all just ended up on the couch together. The girls and I looked through the Chuck and Fred photo book I made for the girls for Christmas of snapshots celebrating the time they’ve had as just the two of them. No more hearts got hung up, but we just sat and snuggled instead. Sitting there next to the people who are driving me crazy these days, but who I have an endless amount of love for I realized that was all I really needed to do to prepare for Valentine’s Day anyways.
Charlotte and I have been organizing all of our art supplies this week. Progress is slow because we get distracted by the need to use them mid sorting, discarding, and finding new systems for their keeping. Winnie had this new finger painting set she got for Christmas that definitely needed trying out, and Charlotte saw a picture of a heart from the Artventure Instagram page that she wanted to try making. I tried to remember if Winnie had ever finger painted before. She has painted of course, but I think she has always used a paintbrush. It took her a minute to be okay with the paint on her hands. At first, she had to keep going to the sink to wash her hands (which she loves doing anyways). After awhile, she embraced the mess and went with it, until she kept wanting to just squeeze all the paint out of the bottle. The meltdown after I wouldn’t let her squeeze it all out reminded me that lunch and a nap were needed.
These pictures remind me a little of this time almost exactly two years ago. I love having these memories that are starting to connect their way through our little history.
Well, I promise I was not intending to document our play in the backyard again, really. But, James took the girls outside to build a fire, and then they started doing wheelbarrow rides, and I decided to play with a lens I never use.
I hit the 30 week mark, and everyone is kind of panicking. Charlotte has had significant meltdowns daily. Significant. James decided to tear out a room of the house, and luckily got the drywall up before throwing his back out. This has been the routine of every pregnancy. I’m sure running around with the girls in a wheelbarrow was a really great way to help it heal. Winnie is actually doing fine, I think she will struggle more after the baby comes. She’s only upset here because she wanted to take some more pictures, and I would not let her hold the camera on her own. I’m losing it too. The third trimester is always when I’m most hormonal and tired. I’ve definitely lost my patience, had to escape to go cry so the girls wouldn’t see me, and have been yelling orders around with very little effectiveness. There have also been many moments where I have had patience beyond what I could ever imagine having while handling all the intense emotions around here. The waves of distraught seem to be matched by waves of calm. I keep just thinking that we’re going to have to just ride out the next few months…and then I realize that it’s really going to be riding out the next few years. Realistic expectations.
Anyways, Winnie was the cutest outside with her little hands in her pockets, they both had pigtails that had been in for a couple days, and Chuck wore my old hat and helped put Winnie’s shoes on (the wrong feet…but still). They love helping their dad with any and everything he does, and they can be entertained for hours by throwing sticks into the fire. We played until the last light, exploring the back part of the yard to remember to keep clearing it away. The girls served James dinner in the tiny play house (real great for the back, I’m sure) before we all went inside to have popcorn for dinner. Even when every day feels like a disaster, they are still the best part of my life.
We spend a lot of time in this backyard, and the kids have worked hard to make it their own special space. Most of the time, I am told to go inside, as they are really loving the independence of developing their play schemes without nagging supervision. Lucky for them, and for me, there are windows to all the backyard views. I was really hoping they would be working on their fort this afternoon, but instead they were having band practice. They took turns playing the different instruments and being the lead singer. They’ve been really into that Grace Vanderwaal girl and her song that starts with “I Don’t Know my Name.” Chuck’s turn also included her renditions of “The Little Drummer Boy” and “The Friendly Beasts.” After being asked to leave them alone, I putzed around with my tiny diva. Winnie had found a little purse in Ella’s room with sunglasses in it. She was carrying around a stick that she had taken from the tree that had fallen on our neighbor’s house and was wearing my favorite boots that had been her uncle Chad’s when he was a little boy. She wanted to swing, but she only wanted Ella to push her. They had finished band practice, so Ella pushed her for awhile. They looked at Pokemon cards in the fort they had built, sitting in the seats they had made out of bricks near the toilet, fire pit, and stove they had constructed. Ella got her camera out to take some pictures, and I had her snap a couple of the girls and me. Chuck couldn’t be bothered to get off the swurfer, but we managed to work her into the frame anyways. Charlotte climbed the tree, and then we all went inside for some resting and reading time.
I sort of unintentionally took pictures in our backyard again, but in the last three weeks, we have had ice, rain, and sun. The temperature has changed 50 degrees from the beginning of the month to now, so we have spent more time in our backyard than I would expect for January. Papu stopped by with warm cookies and hung out with the kids so I could run an errand BY MYSELF! When I came back, they were all playing in the backyard and asked if they could keep playing. The girls were making cookies and pies and preparing tea, ginger ale, and beer (Chuck’s idea) for us with their mud kitchen. Winnie was trying to mow the lawn, and Charlotte was trying to make a seesaw. Their attention turned to the playhouse which became a slide for a bit. Winnie has to do everything that everyone else is doing, so Papu and Charlotte helped her have a turn. James got home, and the girls wanted to hang out with him in the shop. Chuck had big plans to make something using the toolkit she got for Christmas, but we had dinner to make and work to do. It was a typical day made magical with some sunshine and unexpected company.
It’s now 70 degrees as I look back through these pictures I took just days ago. We were really hoping to wake up to a layer of snow, but the ice that clung to the trees was a pretty enough substitute. We layered up, put on our insufficient coats and boots, and wrapped our heads, necks, and hands in some protective wear we had to dig out of the closet. Chuck spent some time trying to chip the ice off the lid of a bucket, and then we went down to explore to see what all had frozen. The sand felt frozen, some mud from our rain soup was frozen, the top of the water in the wheelbarrow was frozen, but the creek was not frozen. It was pretty magical seeing our familiar world crystalized. The girls didn’t last too long in the cold, but they outlasted our dog Atlas who was born in Chicago but has apparently forgotten what it feels like to be cold.