Spring

Apple pie
Sweet whipped cream
Birds a chirping
Squirrels picking
Nuts out of the trees.

Dresses swaying
Boots a kicking
Boys and girls
Dancing ’til
There’s no more light.

Lanterns glow
Pretty dresses
Colorful shirts
Music festival
Dance, dance, dance!

Dance ’til Spring is done!
Tired, tired, tired
People go to sleep.

– by Poppy H. (age 7)

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Snippets (4.10.12)

4.10.12

Mary Hazel has mastered the use of the phrase *thumbs up” in every context. When she puts her toys away, she asks for approval – “Thumbs up, Mommy?”. When I leave for work in the mornings she reassures me – “Thumbs up, Mommy!”. When she’s pleased with herself, she grins and whispers – “thumbs up, baby”. The other night, I rocked her until her little body became heavy and her breathing rhythmic. I slowly got up and inched toward her crib. I tucked her in and sneaked toward the door. As I reached for the knob, she raised her head briefly and exclaimed, “To the moon and back! Thumbs up!”. 

***

MH recited the whole alphabet from the back seat of the van on the way home from school today. I celebrated and did the happy dance for her. (I think she might already be embarrassed by the happy dance like her siblings.) She still stumbles a bit through “L,M,N,O,P”, but I’m going to give her full credit. I ended up doing the Elaine-from-Seinfeld-happy dance another time today when Mary Hazel told me she needed to go “potty like a big girl”, marched to the bathroom, pulled the stool over to the grown-up potty, climbed aboard and tinkled right on target! Woo Hoo! Woo Hoo! Woo, woo, woo hoo! (That’s an excerpt from the happy dance song, by the way.) She enjoyed the positive reinforcement so much that she got up and down from that potty about a dozen more times before she realized she had nothing left to give. Big fun.

***

Yesterday I was alone with Mary Hazel and needed to take a shower before going to work. I lured her to the bathroom with books and toys and told her to stay close. Of course, the moment I stepped under the hot water, she took off. I called her name several times to see if she would answer. She didn’t. I rushed through my shower and barely got the soap out of my hair before I grabbed the towel and went searching for her. I found her sitting pretty as you please in the middle of her sister’s bed surrounded by broken plastic Easter eggs and wadded up pieces of shiny tin foil. Her mischievous little hands and face were smeared with warm chocolate and she was rather pleased with herself. Back to the shower we went.

***

My dear friend and her lovely family of five spent the Easter holiday with us last week. When the big, tall daddy first walked through the door, MH wasn’t quite sure about him. I said something like, “Who is that man coming into our house?”. From that point on, she referred to him simply as Man. Hey Man, read me a book. Hey Man, come here. Hey Man, hug? He responded in kind by affectionately referring to her as Girl. Something about that exchange just made me smile every single time.

***

I had to take poor Charlie to the Minute Clinic Easter morning. Here is the conversation between the nurse practitioner and my son. Her: “So your ears hurt?” Him: “Yes.” Her: “And your throat hurts?” Him: “Yes.” Her: “And a bit of a fever?” Him: “Yes.” Her: “And anything else bothering you?” Him: “Well, sometimes my sister does.”

***

When my son revealed something rather embarrassing to me today, I told him he was honest to a fault. Charlie, who often pronounces r’s as l’s, cackled hysterically and reprimanded me for saying an “inappropriate” word. Took me a minute.

***

It is so fun listening to the kids read real books. (I consider Hop on Pop a real book in case you’re wondering.) Charlie seems a little more comfortable sounding out the letters and figuring out words in context. Poppy is so nervous about saying something wrong that she holds back a little. Bless her. If she hesitates too long, Charlie swoops in and gives her the answer (even though it makes her SO mad). It’s hard enough practicing our reading without the baby climbing in between us and stealing the book from my hands, now I have to make time to read with them individually so one doesn’t feel overshadowed by the other. It’s times like these that I feel there isn’t enough mama to go around.

Snippets (4.4.12)

3.7.12
We finally have everyone nursed back to health. (Knock, knock.) I was so relieved and ambitious this morning that we walked to school for the first time in a week. It was a crisp, clear morning and the children were happy to be helping me with my Kindness Project du jour. At least I think they were. We ran into a bit of a dilemma halfway to Main Street when we realized that Blackberry had followed us all the way from home. She’s only been camping on our front porch for a week or so, but I’ve grown quite attached to her already. The thought of her approaching one of the busiest streets this side of town had me breaking a sweat. I called Russell to come fetch the kitty. He was about to leave for work, so he wasn’t exactly thrilled with the distraction. But he obliged. When he approached our location, however, he somehow drove right past us. Boy, does that husband of mine have tunnel vision! Just when the kids and I started returning home to safely deposit the shadowing kitty, our neighbor let out her dozen or so barking basset hounds in their fenced-in backyard. Blackberry first jumped straight up in the air and then, from what I could see, actually flew halfway home. A blessing in disguise. Poppy was not happy that we were officially one minute late for school, but I think it was worth it.

When I picked up MH from school today, she gave me her signature bear hug and then grabbed my cheeks in her hand, made sure I was looking at her, and then proudly boasted, “I potty! Ms. Carol! No diaper!” She repeated this several times until her teachers nodded and vouched for her story. I don’t think she actually produced anything, but she asked to go and went through the motions. How exciting! I don’t think the twins were interested until they were closer to 2 ½. Of course, they never went to “school” to see how the big kids went about their, er, business. It’s fun to see the baby doing new and different things, but I will miss the diaper stage. Seriously. I think the potty training time is pretty challenging. You have to visit every bathroom at every place you even thought about visiting. You have to wash hands at every one of these locations. You have to pull off the interstate every 30 minutes because you don’t want to assume they can wait when they tell you they have to go. You have to travel with a potty in the trunk. And so on. The biggest reason I’ll miss the diaper stage, though, is I really love our cloth diapers! They are so pretty and pink and soft. Weird, I know.

3.30.12
It has become part of our driving-to-school routine to count. Mary Hazel is a very enthusiastic student. We always start with 1 – 20 in English. (It’s cute the way she always stumbles over “thwee”.) We’ve added to our repertoire a little Spanish and French for variety. My favorite part is when I get to the French seven. I say, “Sept” and she enthusiastically responds, “Go!”

Poppy and Charlie were very excited to let us in on a little secret over dinner last night. They whispered that there was going to be quite the event at school in a couple of weeks but swore us to secrecy. They hopped up from the table (which we normally discourage) and broke out into a dance routine that looked like a cross between The Robot and The Funky Chicken. Poppy finally broke the suspense when she revealed, “We’re going to have a flash mop!”

Project Kindness (Day 34)

My heart is heavy. Baby Noah passed away this afternoon. I hear he was surrounded by his loving parents, his twin brother, and his dog. I hear he was comfortable and in no pain. I hear that his mom and dad have been brave throughout this unimaginable ordeal and were at peace with Noah’s transition from this world to the next. I cannot stop thinking about him. About them. About the whole awful awfulness. Other than offering my constant thoughts and prayers, there is little more that an acquaintance like me can do to help diminish the pain of this family. There are so many others, like me, who desperately want to make things better, but that’s really silly, isn’t it? There is nothing that we can do to lessen the blow, to heal the wound, to turn back time. The love of family and the passage of time are probably the only things that will eventually swing the pendulum of suffering the other way. Words really do fall short.

With this grief weighing so heavy on me (and all of us who knew of Baby Noah), I wanted to do something to help some baby, somehow. Something that was actually within my power. I wanted to offer something life affirming. Something that is tangible and vital and nourishing. When I thought of my own babe, I was reminded of the one thing I knew I could offer to her upon her own recovery from cancer that immediately started the healing process for both of us. I gave her my milk. Of course, it was more than just the milk. It was the bonding that goes along with it. The eye gazing, the skin-to-skin contact, the snuggling. The indescribable relief. For me, being able to provide that nourishment to my daughter, both physically and emotionally, was exactly what I needed to feel like I was contributing to her recovery. And that’s when it hit me. I could do the same for another child. Well, not all of it, but provide the milk at least.

I have had a little experience with this type of donation in the past. Just over a year ago, a lifelong friend of mine was blessed with the unexpected opportunity to adopt a newborn baby boy. She is as good a mama as there ever was. I had more milk stored in my freezer than I had mouths to feed. I offered. She accepted. He is a very healthy, happy, much-loved (almost) toddler today.

I don’t know of any adopted newborn babies this time around, so I knew exactly who to ask for help. When I was pregnant with Mary Hazel, I wanted to try my hand at a natural childbirth experience. With the twins, I had the dubious distinction of delivering Charlie the “traditional” way and Poppy via emergency c-section. Long story. With Mary Hazel, I had a hard time finding a doctor who would allow me the trial of labor. They wanted to schedule me for a c-section right after they confirmed my pregnancy. I didn’t like that. Not a bit. I started Googling and asking around and seeking alternatives. That’s when I found the great, the wise, the Super Doula, Julie. It was through my relationship with her that I started really believing I could have the birth experience I wanted to have. I even signed up for her Hynobabies class where I learned techniques for interpreting pain as pressure and trained my mind to only have positive associations with my birthing time. I must admit, I was a little skeptical in the beginning. It sounded too good to be true. However, I knew from personal experience (i.e. I was hypnotized several times to hilarious effect in college), that I was very open to the power of suggestion. I went for it. Lo and behold, it worked! I arrived at the hospital in full transition and delivered sweet Mary Hazel just a few minutes later (while holding squeezing the ever-living life out of the hand of another friend and doula). It was all I could have hoped for and more. The point of this story is that Julie is good people. She helps mamas. She guides them. She wants them to be successful and happy and empowered. I knew she could help me again. I asked her if she happened to know of a local mom and baby who might be in need of breastmilk donations. When she returned my e-mail just a few minutes later with a hearty ‘yes!’, it seemed like it was meant to be. I contacted the mama and within an hour’s time, we had worked out most of the details. Since I am a (clears throat) rather busy person these days, I didn’t want to overextend myself. We agreed to a few ounces a day with a delivery once a week. Her husband works down the street from my house. It was a match made in Heaven.

I am under no illusion that I am saving anyone’s life. I know that I cannot cure cancer. I know that Baby Noah was dealt an incredibly unfair hand that nobody could change. I’m still plenty sad and know that I will not soon forget how this experience has made me feel. I do feel hopeful, though, that when we feel our lowest, we can still offer someone something of value. Something that might very well be perceived as a blessing. And I do believe that is what this ‘paying it forward’ thing is all about.

Project Kindness (Day 26)

Russell and I left for our honeymoon on April 14. This is also the date the Titanic hit the iceberg almost a hundred years ago. Once I made that connection, it was kind of hard to forget. Perhaps this is why my daughter responded so deeply to the transatlantic tragedy that she just recently learned about.

We all went to Barnes and Noble this afternoon, because it is Sunday and that’s just what we do on Sundays. We love to have a decadent snack in the cafe (split five ways now) and then essentially camp out in the B&N, Jr. section until someone displays behavior that suggests a nap is needed. Sometimes, that is my husband. Anyway, during our marathon visit this afternoon, Poppy was drawn to the dozens of books on the shelf written just for children her age to understand the fate of the unsinkable ship and the 1500 people who died in the chilly waters in the North Atlantic ocean so many years ago. While I think it’s important for the kids to know about the Titanic, of course, I wasn’t prepared to have to go into so much…detail. Since the glossy books had so many beautiful illustrations, such as life boats swinging precariously from the sides of the ship, Poppy had lots of questions. She wanted to know, but she didn’t want to know. The proverbial train wreck from which she could not avert her eyes. She sat on the bench with her little hands folded in her lap looking solemn and attentive. Several times, I had to get up and chase Little Bug around the entire perimeter of the store while she happily and loudly narrated, “Running! Running!”. When I finally corralled the baby back into the confines of B&N, Jr., I found Poppy still sitting in the same spot, still studying the same pictures in the book. She picked up right where we left off. “So, why didn’t the captain want to get off the boat? Why did they want to play music at a time like that? Did all the babies make it off the ship?” I assured her that most of the survivors were women and children. This was not good enough. “But, did all the children get off the boat?” she pressed. I replied, “The mamas and the daddys made sure to get their children off the boat first.” I dared not read aloud the page that explained only half the children made it off the boat because so many of them were in the third class cabins below. I dared not. She and I were both haunted by the images of that tragic night. Page after page, she asked difficult-to-answer questions. I didn’t want to lie, but I didn’t really know if I should tell her the whole truth either. She was able to piece most of the story together herself just by looking at the detailed illustrations. We sat for a long time just looking at those pictures. It reminded me of a long moment of silence. I could tell that she was really moved, perhaps in a way that she had never felt before. By the time her brother and father joined us on the bench, Poppy was quietly sobbing. She was overcome. She kept saying, “I’m so sad, Mommy. This makes me so sad, Daddy.” She elaborated, “I keep wishing this was some kind of story, but it really happened. All these things really happened to real people.” I hugged her hard and agreed that it was a terrible, awful thing that happened. Then she started to get kind of angry. “Why did they use cheap rivets? Why were the binoculars locked away? Why didn’t that man reading the telegraphs stop the boat?” She was genuinely mad that this historic tragedy could have been avoided. I wasn’t quite sure how to channel her emotions, but I thought it was healthy for her to have them. I’m proud that she feels deeply and that she is empathetic and compassionate. I would certainly rather her exhibit these traits than not. I felt like she wanted to do something for the people who didn’t find their way to a life boat, but she and I could hardly think of what.

When we got home from the store, I got online to do a bit of research. I found the website for the Titanic Historical Society, the world’s largest Titanic organization, located in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts. They are planning a memorial service next month to remember and honor the victims of the ill-fated Titanic. The kids thought it would be nice to draw pictures and write a note to send to the families who will be in attendance. I have no idea if their efforts will be opened, read, or shown to anyone outside the mail room, but I think they felt good about expressing themselves on the matter. They each drew a picture of how they thought the Titanic looked during those last few hours and then wrote a brief note on the back. Poppy’s says, “I am so sad for all those poor people.” Charlie’s reads, “The Titanic was a good old ship even though it sank.” I promised to put the letters in the mail tomorrow.

Project Kindness (Day 25)

I’m dreadfully out of shape. I haven’t been running in weeks. When I heard about the St. Patty’s Race downtown, I wanted to run it. I didn’t, however, want to pay $30 to participate in something for which I was dreadfully ill prepared. When I saw that the race was to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I felt a tug that I should really try to participate. When I saw that there was also a Kids Run, I decided that I would delegate the running duties for the morning to my children who never seem to lack in the boundless supply of energy department. They seemed excited about running around the ginormous baseball stadium with the Jumbo Tron. Poppy, my overachiever, wanted to know what kind of St. Patrick’s Day bling there would be. Charlie kept telling me over and over that he was going to be “super fast like a Ninja”. We set out early this morning and got to the stadium in plenty of time for the Kids Run. I wanted to make sure the possums got to see the presentation honoring the kids in the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I wanted them to appreciate what the event was really all about. Poppy was naturally full of questions. “Are they sad that they are not running in the race? How in the world could you pick just one wish? What would you wish for? Do you think they would let Daddy make a wish since he has a boo-boo leg?” We watched a video on the Jumbo Tron about the foundation and several of the wishes that had recently been fulfilled. One child met a professional athlete, one was a policeman for a day, one drove a train, and one got her very own pony. The little girls who were being honored this morning were awarded with a trip to Disney World. Poppy and Charlie were beyond excited for them and, perhaps, a little jealous. Pretty soon it was time for their race. They were brimming with nervous energy. Poppy kept saying that her tummy felt weird and that she was scared of being last. Charlie, who was working his way up to the front of the line, said over his shoulder, “Don’t worry about winning all the time. Just be glad your legs work.” Indeed. When the electronic starter pistol sounded, my son took off like The Flash. His sister wasn’t too far behind. I thought he was going to burn out halfway around the track, but he seemed to only get faster. His style is not what I would describe as graceful. He keeps his back completely straight and sort of flings his arms from side to side, like an awkward little propeller. Maybe he has inadvertently stumbled onto some magical formula for aerodynamics. He finished the race 20 yards ahead of his closest competition. He was smoking! When he crossed the finish line, his face was lit up with pure joy. He sought me out and smiled when he found me. I remember thinking how blue his eyes were at that moment, the way they were catching the sunlight. It was one of those snapshot moments. Poppy wasn’t far behind. She made a great effort and was the second girl in her age group to finish. I was so proud of them both! After getting a hug from me, she confessed that she was sad that Charlie won and she didn’t. I gave her the requisite mommy response, “You did your best and that’s all the matters.” And I really meant it. Charlie was listening. When they went to the awards table to pick up their participation medals, Charlie took his off and gave it to Poppy. “You seem to really want it, and I don’t really need it.” I watched with pride as Charlie shrugged his shoulders and donated his prize. (All the kids got the same shamrock medal, but now Poppy got two, which made her day.)We stuck around to enjoy some balloon-animal making, bouncy house time, and shaved ice (which made everyone really cold). By the time we found the facepainting line, we were all shivering as big, fat raindrops fell on our goose pimple flesh. Nevertheless, we persevered and waited for at least 15 minutes, when Charlie complained, “I just wanna go home. I’m cold and tired.” I expected a stand-off between them as there is little Poppy enjoys more than sparkly, pink, fairy face paint. Instead, she surprised us all when she chipperly responded, “OK. Charlie. We can leave. Since you gave me your medal, I won’t make you stay.” Wow.

I do believe I saw kindness at work today. It made my heart feel good. In fact, I asked the kids to please write about their acts of kindness so I could include them in my post. Consider them the second (and third) guest bloggers for this project.

Charlie: “I GAV MY SESTR MY TROFE.”

Poppy: “I GOT AWT OF THE FASPANTENG LIN FOR CHARLIE!

That pretty much sums it up.

Project Kindness (Day 18)

I noticed the “Sold” sign yesterday. I saw the sporty red Honda at the curb this morning. The power company truck and the cable guy were on the scene directly. Yup, they sold old Mr. Dodson’s house across the street. We were all lying on Charlie’s bed, peering through the blinds at our new neighbors. Poppy was the first to verbalize how we were all feeling to a degree. “It’s not right,” she pouted. “Those people didn’t even know Mr. Dodson. They aren’t going to remember him and they’re living right in his house!” It was a bit unsettling to see strangers go in his back door, park in his driveway, throw away all his kitchen cabinets in the giant dumpster parked temporarily between our houses. Time had marched on and now there would be new neighbors. It’s a funny thing when someone you care about passes away. You don’t want to move anything out of place or even eat the last bite of cake that was there when he was alive the day before. You worry that with each small change, the memory of the person who was here might fade a little around edges. You worry that you will forget the details. Well, now someone is moving into Mr. Dodson’s house where he sat for hours a day by the kitchen’s fluorescent light in front of his computer working on his stories. Where he lit his wood burning stove at the first hint of fall. Where he spoiled his dogs. We were feeling nostalgic. And that’s when Poppy said it before I thought it. In classic Phineas and Ferb style, she proclaimed, “Mom. I know what we’re going to do today!” Even though it was a very full day for us (haircuts, grocery shopping, dance recital pictures, and so on), we baked. Well, I did, but with the full support of my family. After dinner, the twins, the baby, and I walked across the street with a basket full of blueberry muffins. We knocked loudly on the door so we could be heard over the loud Americana-style music (which we liked) blaring in next room. A cute young couple came to greet us. We introduced ourselves one by one and told them we were glad they were our new neighbors. She’s expecting her first in June. Seems appropriate that while we say goodbye to Mr. Dodson, we welcome a sweet newborn babe. I think he would like them living in his house. I think he would be happy indeed.

Snippets (3.6.12)

3.1.12
When I brought Mary Hazel her soup for dinner last night, I noticed that she had her tiny little hands folded under her chin and was whispering, “Goddafadaa, Goddagadda…” When she saw me smiling at her, she smiled back all proud and stuff. She repeated the blessing about 32 more times and told me that her teachers “Anchoola” and “Choody” (Angela and Judy) sing it before lunch. Even though this is a blessing we used to say with regularity at dinnertime when the twins were little, we have been sadly remiss in remembering to give thanks for our food since we became a busy family of five. I consider it a huge accomplishment to serve everyone a hot meal without one person being finished before another one has even started. Charlie is a tornado of appetite and wiggles. Poppy picks at her food and begins bargaining “How many bites before I can have dessert?” before I even sit down. Russell is usually still washing his hands (again) and putting on his slippers. Mary Hazel has often already eaten as her bedtime is earlier than the rest of ours. I am lucky to remember tasting my food at all. So, sometimes that blessing gets overlooked. Thank you, sweet baby, for reminding me how important it is to be deliberately thankful.

3.2.12
When Russell was helping Charlie make his bed this morning, he discovered a little critter snuggled under the covers. He picked up the little bug with some toilet paper and headed to the bathroom. Mary Hazel spotted the puffy fluffy package and said, “Oooooh! Pretty!” Poppy replied, “You really think everything is special, don’t you?” This made me smile.

3.3.12
Today Poppy had a play date with a new buddy from school. We overlapped for a few minutes at the playground outside her classroom when I picked up Charlie. She gave me a giant hug and said, “I’ll miss you, Mama!” She then turned around in her grown-up clogs and chased after her buddy to ride to a brand-new place. She was so happy, grinning from ear to ear, and skipping the whole way. I was happy for her, but also a little wistful. I had a flash forward to leaving her on the freshman quad upon her first semester at a university far away from here. My heart skipped a beat and I lingered to watch her disappear into the car that was not mine. Before long, the baby needed me to help her go down the big slide which was a welcome distraction. We played for a long while and then Charlie walked up to me and casually said, “I don’t miss Poppy, but I don’t have anyone to chase. Can we go home now?”. Aw.

3.4.12
We enjoyed a day in Abbeville celebrating Gammer and Papa John’s 39th wedding anniversary. The kids were thrilled about spending time with their uncle who tickles them, gives them piggy back rides, and knows more about cartoons than they do. Poppy also adores her aunt who always spends special time giving her a sweet little mani/pedi/makeover. They both agreed that the chocolate cake provided by the Mennonites was pretty worthy of a celebration. It’s always nice to spend a lazy Saturday talking about small town gossip, feeding the neighbor’s baby burro, and actually relaxing for a few minutes while doting grandparents take turns entertaining the baby. One of my favorite Russell stories is from the wedding day all those years ago. He was a precocious five year old with an undiagnosed ear infection. While standing next to his mother at the front of the church, he had finally had enough of the suffering which had been falling on deaf ears. I cannot seem to get the straight story, but all parties agree that the event culminated in young Russell swatting at his mother and throwing a tantrum during the wedding vows. Somehow, there was a picture taken at this very moment to prove it. Poor baby. Is it wrong that I think this is so funny? Another family story to be told for years to come happened today. Mary Hazel told me that she wanted me to change her diaper. Usually this means that she is wet. When I removed her diaper, I noticed that it was bone dry. Instead of allowing me to dress her, she ran away and took off her remaining articles of clothing along the way. She escaped to the den where everyone else was watching television. After a few seconds, she ran back toward me yelling, “Wet! Wet!” I inspected the carpet but found no evidence to support her claim. She escaped again. A few minutes later, I heard a collective shout from the den. “Ewwwww!” Then, hysterical laughter. Then from Russell, “Hello?! Did you know that Mary Hazel is running around the house pooping everywhere?!” And so she was. Luckily the six relatives in the den thought it was pretty darn funny. I escorted her to the tub where she rinsed the poo of her foot. When she got out, she dried off and then asked to “get up here” and pointed to the potty. Gammer and I helped her up where she sat like a queen until the big moment where she finished the job. Most impressive. We did the happy dance. We gave her high fives. We clapped as she hopped down and waved goodbye to her solid effort. What a proud and memorable moment!

Project Kindness (Day 11)

Congratulations and Happy Anniversary to the best in-laws a gal could have! We spent the entire day celebrating their 39th year together. When I told the kids where we were headed, Poppy remembered, “Didn’t we just celebrate their anniversary last year?” Yes, well. Anyway, I cooked a casserole, cut some fruit, arranged some tulips, commissioned Poppy to make a card (which featured two bananas having this conversation: “You are apeeling!” and “Happy Bananaversary!”). I was happy to help Gammer and Papa John celebrate their marriage and would have done all of these things and more with or without a thought of Project Kindness. Therefore, none of these gestures counted toward my daily kindness quota. Once we got to small town Abbeville, SC, there weren’t too many accessible opportunities. When my sleepy husband suggested a caffeine run in the middle of the afternoon, I was relieved that someone was leaving the house to perhaps perform a good deed or two. I tasked my accommodating spouse to step in and be my ambassador of kindness today. (I was pretty busy cleaning up the baby’s latest potty training endeavors from the family room rug. That’s a story for another day.) 

Without further ado, please welcome my guest blogger for the day (aka Russell).

Today I got to experience Project Kindness first-hand. While visiting my parents, my sister and I decided to go out for coffee at the local cafe, and while taking beverage orders, I got the order from Erin — You get to buy someone’s coffee, and then you can write about it as the guest blogger.

Suddenly, I was responsible for the daily dose of generosity. I immediately started working out how to make this a meaningful experience so I could do a good job of blogging about it. Those who know me are aware that I’m not much for just kicking back and enjoying something, especially when there’s an assignment involved.

So when I stepped up to the counter, I was keenly aware of the extra item on my list. As I ordered, I stressed that we weren’t taking this coffee with us, because it was a gift.

The young man taking the orders was pleasantly surprised. Oh, really? That’s cool! So far, so good. He wrote down the orders, ran my card and started heating the milk. That was it? That was fast. I wasn’t disappointed exactly, it was just kind of…abrupt. I considered this and stepped to the end of the counter to wait for the drinks I had ordered, and also the one I had not. Two cups out of three appeared on the counter, and as I was picking them up, the barista said, “So who should I say paid for the coffee?”

I told him that I thought she’d want to be anonymous, but that he could say it was courtesy of Project Kindness. He reiterated that this was cool, nodded as though making a mental note of the name, and told us to have a good day, come back soon. As I turned from the counter, I saw the next patron and wondered if she would be the next person to benefit from Project Kindness, even if she was wearing flip-flops and sweat pants. I felt sort of bad for already judging this person against my ideal Project Kindness recipient, and thought about how Erin had wrestled with the same question on Day One. Then I realized what was more important than the nice, but temporary satisfaction I got from being the Project Kindness ambassador — thinking about how a simple good deed changed the way I felt about myself and my relationship to my fellow travelers, no matter how undeserving, oblivious and poorly dressed they might be. That’s a lot of introspection for $1.55. 

Thank you, dear.

Snippets (2.26.12)

2.24.12
I realized today when Charlie hugged me (while I was drying my hair) that his head no longer rests on my belly. His crown, instead, lays comfortably on my chest. When I looked down to give him a squeeze, his hair actually tickled my nose and I could smell the Burt’s Bees shampoo he applied all by himself in the shower last night. Realizing at once that this was the kind of spontaneous hug I might be missing dearly in a very short time, I risked having ‘chicken head’ for the rest of the day. I stopped fluffing with and cursing at my hair, knelt down, and waited until he was the first to let go.

We have all accepted into our household vernacular the very commonly called out phrase, “PoppyCharwo! PoppyCharwo!” It is all one word and it is always spoken with much enthusiasm and volume. I find it hilarious that Mary Hazel refers to her beloved sibs as one unit. When it’s time to pick them up from school, she observes that it is “PoppyCharwo Time”. When we rouse them out of bed on weekdays, she bursts on to the scene singing, “PoppyCharwo seeping?”. When the day is done, she makes the rounds giving bedtime kisses to all. “Mwah PoppyCharwo! Mwah!” It occurred to me the other day that Russell and I used to do the same thing when the twins were babies. Not to diminish their individuality, they definitely project a specific tour de force when they are together.

The kids got their progress reports at school this week. I was not surprised in the least that the only area in which dear Poppy needed improvement was in Raising Her Hand. While she is generally a very well-intentioned child who aims to please her mentors, the girl has been talking since she came out of the womb. I saw a note in her baby book the other day that reminded me she first recited the alphabet at 18 months old. I remember it clearly as she hopped up and down on the giant green arm chair, grinning like the Cheshire cat. As much as I love her, I do look forward to quiet time in the evenings when she is chattering away in her dreams. During bath time last night, we practiced raising our hands before we spoke. At first I thought she was joking when she immediately opened her mouth and started talking before her hand was even all the way up in the air. I asked her to try again and wait until I called her name to start speaking. She absolutely could no do it. “I have a question…”, “I was wondering if…”, “Could you tell me…”. We didn’t seem to be making much progress, but we had a good time laughing about it. Mrs. Ryals, you deserve to be teacher of the year.

2.25.12
Today I took Poppy to see Darrell Scott at The Bohemian. She is always game for an adventure with me. The boys were content to stay home in their PJs and graciously agreed to watch the baby for a while. It was a special outing. She loved having my undivided attention and sitting in my lap on the floor. Most of all, though, she loved the music. She really loved the music. She was tapping her foot and swaying to the beat the whole time. In between songs, she would lean back and whisper, “I really liked the words to that one,” and “Sometimes his voice can be really deep and sometimes it goes way up in the air.” She was paying attention and noticing the details because she always has enjoyed a troubadour. I have our bass-playing babysitter, Lou, to thank for a lot of that early interest. The icing on the cake was when I agreed to purchase Darrell’s newest CD and let her get his autograph. She is usually pretty shy about these kinds of things, but she seemed to regard Darrell as a kindred spirit from the start. When we got to the front of the line, she looked him the eye and thanked him when he complemented her on her camouflage army hat. She also smiled from ear to ear. I asked him if he would be so kind to have his picture made with Poppy. He answered, “Of course. Would it be OK if I picked her up and got a hug, too?” She giggled and obliged. She is in LOVE. She hasn’t let her prized possession out of her sight since we got home. Good memories made today.

2.26.12
Mary Hazel continues to change and grow and totally crack me up. She is starting to make the most ridiculously endearing sentences in her toddler-ese language. Tonight she brought “DanDaddy” a cup of water (in a plastic IKEA baby cup) and forced him to accept it. She loudly insisted, “Drink water…in your mouth…please!” No doubt about it, she got the Charlie gene. The one where they can teeter in a chair positioned in front of the kitchen sink for hours upon end filling cups, emptying cups, drinking from cups, spilling cups, and getting soaking wet from head to toe. Since it’s a given that I will be changing her clothes for one reason or another several times a day, I don’t mind a bit. In fact, don’t some fancy schools call this behavior sensory learning? Or Montessori work? Or Reggio-style exploration? Yeah, we got that.