Friday, April 10, 2015

Hey you.

Quick show of hands -- how many of you managed to go a decade or more without ever addressing your mother-in-law directly as anything?  Like, you'd wait until she was looking at you or would make enough noise walking into the house to get attention and then say "Oh, so, did you want this on the table now or after dinner?"  Rob and I were married 14.5 years when his mom passed away and I think I called her by her first name about 3 times and "mom" one really awkward time.  Rob is the same way with my parents.  There's lots of love in all directions there, but no actual names.

That's where we are with Maryna. Once, when she was still in Ukraine, we managed to Skype.  Her director was in the room and told me "Maryna Mama?  Maryna big love mama."  Maryna came on and said "Hi Mama.  I love you." Then blushed a lot, got uncomfortable, and shortly after that we said our goodbyes.  In retrospect, that was probably horribly uncomfortable for her.

Mama is a loaded name for her.  I get that.  I've told her she can call me mom or mama if she wants, but she can also call me Aunty or Tetya (Russian for Aunt) or Mama-J or Julie or really anything she wants as long as it's respectful and kind.  But she doesn't call anyone anything.  Ever.

Last week she labeled a photo of me and Rob as "mama and papa" when she posted it online. That, my friends, is the kind of teeny tiny itty bitty baby steps we celebrate.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Small things

Walking the dog with her brother on a gray morning.

Sharing jokes with dad after watching JAWS and JAWS2 together in the past few weeks.

Discussing the possibility of a cat.

Expressing real concern and helping search for the youngest when he was crying somewhere in the house (turns out it was in my bedroom closet)  (I have horribly bad "sound localization" which is identifying where a sound is coming from.  I can hear things, I just rarely have any sense of if it's above, below, behind, to my right, left...  This means I'm REALLY easy to startle.  It also means I'm useless in Marco Polo.)

I was reading a children's book out loud at the table this week--and old favorite we bought to send to my sister for her new son -- and she predicted the upcoming words and said them out loud as I read. Then she flipped through it a few times.  The fact that it's a book about loving someone in every extreme was intentional and my little victory of delivering that lesson was much celebrated in a quiet dance done far off-screen.  Language is ready to burst out any moment.

Smiles.  Eye Contact. Voluntary engagement.

Baby Steps have moved us so far in 6 months.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Babies, Birthdays and Easter

Late March and early April is always a rush of birthdays.  This time we also added a trip to Ohio for my youngest sister's baby shower which was on my dad's 65th birthday.  My niece and nephew also have birthdays in mid-March so we did a baby-shower+triple birthday party in one day.  Rob's dad's birthday is the next day.  Then home and my birthday, Rob's birthday which fell on Easter, and now, finally, the two week long celebration of frenzied cake eating is slowing down.

Did I mention that all 4 kids are off school this week for spring break?  Naturally, Rob and I have work all week.

Some photos

Sunday, March 15, 2015

More Aug-isms

In response to him telling me Katie and Jorge were bossing him around
Mom: Well, who is in charge in this house?  Mom and dad? Or Katie and Jorge?
August: me.

Driving into school one day, in the exact same impatient and expectant tone he uses for "when will we go to the zoo again?" or "when can we get ice cream?"
When can we fly to Neptune?

On the most logical explanation to everything:

1. Jorge walks into the bathroom while Auggie is brushing teeth
Jorge!  You scared me!  I thought you were a skeleton.

2. His shoe is missing.
Dad?  My shoe is gone.  Where do you think a ghost would hide it?

3. A minor noise heard anywhere in the house--with 6 people and a dog that's every moment.
There's a ghost!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Auggie-ism: Skin Chap

Previously covered: lip-chap is the stuff you put on to prevent sore lips.

Skin-chap is the soreness that happens when you don't dry your hands well in the winter cold.

August is obsessed with drying his hands.  He rubs each little space between his fingers and howls if you rush him out of the bathroom before he's had his two solid minutes of drying-time.  "No!  I'll get skin-chap what will make my hands hurt!"

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Admission of guilt

If Rob goes to bed before me while I'm still working downstairs, I then totally justify that he has to get up early with the kids while I rest, because obviously he had more sleep.


If I go to bed early because I'm exhausted and Rob stays up to read or play video games, I ALSO claim sleep-in rights because, obviously, if he's tired that's because he chose to stay up late rather than go to bed like a responsible person and clearly I was tired and am still tired.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Life as we know it.

I'm mostly silent here.  I don't know what to say.  It's hard.  Some days are so hard that I just pray that bedtime will come soon, and everyone will go to bed without throwing things, and that the night will feel long and restful.

It's nothing specific. Some days, August is just a whiny, bull-headed, hurricane.  Some days he's a whiney, clingy, baby.  He's 4.  Some days Katie is an emotional basket case--4th grade comes with some big projects and Katie comes with high self-expecatations.  Many days Jorge is a sassy-mouthed, boundary-pushing, punk; most days he's a distracted klutz that spills paint or cuts curtains or leaves a pile of uncapped markers on the couch.  Many days Maryna is homesick, culture-fried, and frustrated.  Some days she's just a typical emotional 16 year old girl.  Many many many days they are each lovely, creative, funny, helpful people; but as luck would have it, there's almost never a day when all of them are just feeling happy.  I am grateful we very rarely hit the storm of all of us on high-alert, but we also rarely get the glorious day of 6 happy people.  It's like rolling a Yahtzee.

I've had insomnia for weeks.  I can go to bed at 7pm or 9pm or 11pm, but I will lay awake until midnight.  I pop awake at 3 and stay that way until 5:45.  Then, blissfully, like a bubble popping, I drop back to sleep.  Life starts at 7.  This does not make life feel easier.  Sleeping medications aren't helping.  Cutting out caffeine doesn't help.  Exercise or lack of exercise or foods or oils...I know every knot in the bedroom ceiling's wooden beam.

It keeps snowing.  Snow on snow.  22+ days in a row below freezing, 8 in a row with snowfall (dozens over the course of the month).  More snow than Buffalo.  More than Boston.  101.3" so far this year.  The drifts at the end of our driveway are 6 feet tall at least--and we turn out onto a 30 mph road that is heavily traveled by semitrucks, buses, and snowplows in addition to cars.  Windchills in the -30* F ranges.  I've given up.

But there are good moments.  Today,, at church, Maryna was smiling and making eyes at her two friends that were sitting across the aisle.  There's no English (still) so it's just body language, but there's a pretty sincere interest in friendship on all sides and a fair amount of facebook contact, so smiles and side-eyes make me leap for joy.  Better, she sat with Auggie and sewed on his big cardboard sewing cards with him, played with the string as she "fished" for him, caught him as he almost lost his balance once, and played a little game with him as they held hands during the Our Father.  I could feel the older women behind me being judgy at the 16 year old not paying any attention to the mass.  I, meanwhile, was singing prayers of praise and gratitude for this moment of community, family, and sisterly affections.  Katie and Jorge can sit piously and recite each prayer and learn their gospels.  For the other two, learning to trust and love and appreciate each other's interests is the most God-given mercy I can imagine.  I wanted to stand up and shout "Miracle in Pew 55" (Our pews aren't numbered.) There's been a turn in the last 3 weeks where she seems to genuinely like August most of the time.

Katie's growing up so fast.  I'm so glad that she shares her fears and worries and questions with me, and I do my best to answer them honestly and respectfully.  I feel like her window of trusting me and turning to me is closing fast.  I treat each of these opportunities to talk to her as a way to plug her core with the basics of what it means to be a good member of a relationship--be that friendship, work, or romantic.  And whenever possible, I try to have these conversations near Maryna, so she will overhear my advice, overhear that she can ask hard questions and I will give them the weight and response they deserve. Until then, she won't ask for it, I don't know that she'll even listen to it, but she can hear it.  Maybe she'll absorb some bits.

Jorge.  Oh that boy.  I just can't use my words right now.  He's struggling so much to find what he wants his life to be.  Is he the respectful, studious, clever, smart, guy?  Or the sassy-mouthed, brave (foolish), class clown?  He's quite sure he can't be loveable all the time so he might as well not try at all most days.  We butt heads.  A lot.

And August.  His teachers comment that he spends a lot of time "in his own head", and is very opinionated and stubborn.  This is a wild understatement.  He's so preciously sweet and clever but so very very very set on whatever he's decided is the way it will be.  He climbs into bed with me every.single.night and talks about "our bedroom" and "our bed", despite removing him to his bed multiple times each night (see also: I only sleep from 12-3)..he just wanders back in and says "why did you put me in there?" as he shifts a pillow over for himself.  He's never so happy as when he's cuddled between me and Rob.  "Snuggle Sandwich!" he'll say, sighing.  Tonight at bedtime he did this--he nearly always falls asleep in our room because Jorge is so often throwing a noisy fit at bedtime. And, if not that, it's because Jorge is hearing a Hardy Boys book from Rob so August and I snuggle elsewhere.   So tonight, snuggled in to his snuggle sandwich, he waved one arm out of the blanket.  "The jelly is leaking!" another arm flew into the air: "so is the peanut butter!"  I mean, tell me you could close the door and lock that sweetness out.  And yet, this same child will announce he's going to have a birthday party for his stuffed turtle as we're leaving for school and will peacefully ignore all efforts to guide him toward shoes, coat, and the car.  Actually intervening will result in complete shock at the interruption. Life in Auggie's head is very different.  I'm thinking it's something that occurs around the 48" mark.  Low altitude brain.

Rob and I are fine.  Working, busy, tearing our hair out, insanely busy and never alone, and yet bored and lonely as we run from one fire to the next.  Sleep 12-3, lay awake until 5, Rob wakes Maryna at 5, I finally fall asleep at 5:45, Rob gets up at 6, kids and I get up at 7 (as Maryna walks to the bus stop). I leave with the 3 littles at 7:45 after 45 minutes of both parents shepherding August and Jorge who lose focus instantly.  Rob leaves at 8:30 to go teach his classes on his work days.  He's home to greet Maryna or picks up the kids or runs errands and keeps everyone alive for a few hours.  I'm home at 6.  We eat (always an ordeal--I can't eat wheat, Jorge can't eat dairy, Maryna dislikes most non-Ukrainian food, Katie dislikes anything with flavor, August is always a wild card, and Rob can and will eat almost anything.  And now it's Lent. We eat a lot of potatoes.), it's already 6:45.  We get the 3 elementary kids to bed.  It's 8.  We pay bills, pack lunches, grade papers and write exams and try to interact with Maryna.  It's 9:30.  We're falling asleep at the table.  Maryna's bedtime is 10.  Rob usually reads in bed for an hour. I lay awake.  Repeat forever (but add a snow day for the kids or sick kid or winter break week or any number of other quirks at random).  Saturdays I sleep late--9, maybe 9:30.  The kids, of course, wake up at 6:20.  We clean the house, do projects, and maybe watch a movie just to get people off of the internet for a few hours. We can't go outside, it's dangerously cold.  We can't go anywhere, the roads are too hard to manage. We muddle through another dinner and bedtimes (now with showers) and maybe a movie for the over 15 crowd. Sunday: church, skype, grocery shopping, again with the dinner drama, kid bedtimes, and repeat.  repeat. repeat.

Nothing blogworthy.  Just life life life.