Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Teaching Babies to Swim and Other Summer Things

::It was a really festive weekend: My birthday, our Anniversary, and then a holiday on Monday to boot!  I don't remember the last time my birthday was on Memorial Day weekend.  It felt like the best present!  Both Ben and my Dad gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers, which means I have rotating vases through the house.
::The key to a hot and muggy Virginia summer is staying wet, and I think that these babies have caught right on!  Some of you might remember that last summer we started working on making the babies really comfortable going under water.  

Basically, it goes something like this: when your baby is about three or four months old, you can start working with them in the bath.  Take a cup of water bath water, say a key word (ours is "Dive in!"), and pour the water over their face.  It sounds kind of crazy, but believe it or not, our babies didn't cry a single time.  Babies have a natural reflex to "turn off" their breathing when they go under water (after all, they were in water the whole time they were developing in the womb), so it's really less about teaching them something new than about helping them remember their natural instincts.  Do this every day for a week, and then you're ready to move to the pool.  

Now, just get in the pool together, hold them up in front of you, and say your key word ("Dive in!") before dunking them under water, just for a second or two at first.  In all likelihood, your baby will look a little surprised and confused, but will remain quite content (and will not inhale water). Continue doing these little dunks every now and then (maybe just two or three in a day).  As they become comfortable with this over the coming weeks, you can put them in for more and more time, ultimately even letting go of them under water.  This is when they can start to experiment with swimming towards you.  Skeptical?  Check this out!

After a long break this winter, we were curious to see if the babies "remembered" their diving instinct again this summer, and with the pool opening up, we've had the chance to observe.  Dorothy (pictured above holding the hose) is obsessed with going under water, you guys!  Immediately after you dunk her, she says "Again!" grins, and starts trying to dive under.  Clara tolerates it, but is sort of meh, whatever about the whole thing.  We'll see what developments this summer may bring!  Obviously, we are going to need to take some videos of our little swimmers in training!

(And if you try this at home, I would say the key is to make sure your baby is happy throughout.  If you have a baby who is sensitive to any of this, just hold off and try again later!)

:: All of a sudden, the babies are (not quite) 18 months going on 18 years and request to sit in a regular chair, eating all of their meals with utensils.  This is really amusing to me, but I would say that slightly more food ends up in their tummies than on the table, which makes it mommy approved!

::What's Memorial Day without a little time working in the yard, and a fire in the outdoor fireplace?  Hugo and I were determined to offer a helping hand together, although I did not plan on putting down my coffee (which I was sipping on, thankyouverymuch), and Hugo couldn't quite hold up his end of the wheelbarrow.  That's okay, we got it done eventually.  Our deck, front step, and bathrooms are all draped with drying pool towels and bathing suits, Hugo is at a little summer camp as I write, and if you stand outside for more than five minutes, you will break a sweat (and the gnats will find you).  I dare say summer is here!  I just love it!

On the days that I am out and about with kids, I tend to be a little bit more reliable snapping and posting pictures on my phone-- find us over here for more of the day to day!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Here, There, and Pioneers

These past few weeks have felt like we're living between two places.  On one hand, we are spending all of our free moments preparing to move to California.  There are things to be sorted, and papers to be filled out, and plans to be laid.  I have a babysitter coming regularly (queue Alleluia chorus!) which has allowed me to start working through each of these things, or just calmly prepare a dinner without children underfoot, depending on my mood.

Ben went out to California this week, and while we obviously missed having him here, it was thrilling to be able to see everything through his eyes.  Our new house, a school for Hugo, the neighborhood we'll be living in.  It's all so exciting!  Ben would send me little texts and notes through the day like, "Just had breakfast at a diner that I think you're going to love," or "Went for a run and saw some kids riding bikes to school!" just to help me imagine everything.  There are so many things I'm already excited about, the top two being that 1. We are a short walk from a Crepe place and 2. Our house has a finished attic which is magical.  I mean, I think I would move to California for those two things alone!

But then on the other hand, plain old life is continuing around here.  As many things as need to be done, we still have our basic needs for nourishment and rest.  There are sandwiches to be made, and clothes to be pressed, and noses to be wiped.  All these little children are great at reminding us of this!  And so, even while packing and planning, we are pretty much just continuing life as usual.  We are in particular relishing the things we love about Virginia in the spring (and summer!), like running through the sprinkler whenever we want to, azaleas that erupt in flashy colors every May, and time with all of the friends that we hold dear.

The big girls and I have been watching the "Little House on the Prairie" series for the first time, after reading the books enough times that we can recite the storyline.  I love these shows, and they have been the ultimate motivation to me.  Here is a family that relocates every few years, often due to some big disappointment, from one challenging life to another.  And yet they preserve family unity, manage to find a community, and accomplish great things amid their failures.  There's something so incredible about that pioneering spirit, and I see it echoed in the hardships my own parents faced to immigrate to this country.  It is a beautiful thing to hear the stories of those who came before us and succeeded in doing hard things, because it makes us realize that we can do them, too!  How's that as a pep talk for your week?  Happy almost Monday, friends!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On Laying Plans and Imagining the Possibilities

I year ago, I would have never believed you if you had told me that in one year I would be planning a move across the country.  Life can be an unpredictable thing, and that is one of the many things that makes it so beautiful.  For a planner like me, embracing the adventures of life requires a good bit of relaxing about the details, because there are a lot of logistics in a cross country move.  When will we go? Where will we stay? How will we get there?  There are cars and moving companies (thank God for this!), and all the little things like preschool for Hugo and figuring out school for the girls, etc. etc. etc.  Whew!  Even with the great deal of help we are getting from Ben's new job, there are many moving parts! My hat goes off to anyone in the military, or the foreign service, or anyone else who moves around frequently with or without a family!

Up until now, I have been focusing my planning energy on trying to find replacements for all of the important parts of our life in Virginia.  How can we maximize our time with grandparents?  Can we find a parish that is vibrant and loving and living out the Gospel message?  Can we find a school is nurturing, encouraging inquisitiveness and exploration of the world?  Can we find a neighborhood that is down to earth and community focused, where the neighbors know and hang out with one another?  These are all good things!  I certainly hope that we will manage to accomplish each of them.

But yesterday, I had an epiphany.  As we are setting up our life in California, we are not just trying to duplicate our existing life.  We are journeying forward and trying to find purpose and calling anew, even if that might mean that might mean finding new activities and interests and friends. In other words, we are not limited by the stencil of our life here, as wonderful as that life has been. A big move provides a fresh start, and we have a few extra years of experience, wisdom, and guidance of the Holy Spirit under our belts informing our choices.  This might seem obvious, but it was a major shift in our thinking!  

Of course we still need to figure out some basic things: we need to have a house, for example (check that box).  Or a way to get around, or some meaningful activities, or a church community.  But even as I'm slowly working towards figuring out some of these concrete logistics, I'm shifting from a box checking mentality to one of creating space: for good things, new things, and ultimately for the Holy Spirit.

And in the  meantime, that leaves me with more energy to enjoy all of the lovely and beautiful things all around me, like those three little triplets (Clara, Dorothy, and their cousin Grace) enjoying some bathing time in the nude on a hot day.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Blessed Day

Saturday was Zosia's First Holy Communion.  It all started in the morning, when the two of us went on a special date to get her ears pierced (which those of you with daughters probably know is a major event).  Two pearl earrings later, Zosia put on her dress, I curled her hair, and my dad brought by a wreath for her to wear-- a traditional Polish custom on the day of your First Communion.  

The mass was beautiful: each child played a special role in the mass, whether bringing in the altar linens, or presenting the gifts, or reading the Gospel, or reading the prayers of the faithful.  I know that Zosia felt incredibly loved to be surrounded by both sets of her grandparents, a beloved great aunt, her Aunt Irene, cousin Grace, and her own little family.  And I know that she understands the incredible truth of the Eucharist: that Jesus came to be with us, not just once in history, but always, whenever we need him, just as he promised us.  It is a beautiful thing, and I am so thankful that it is something that I can now share with her through the mass.

We went out for lunch afterwards, on a perfectly beautiful spring day.  And then we came home and all the kids ran around the yard like crazy (after having changed out of the First Communion dress, thankyouverymuch), because that is always a perfectly appropriate activity.  But all fun aside, the thing I will carry with me from this sacred day is a deep gratitude for God's grace and love.  I can still feel it, all these thousands of years later, and I pray that my intelligent, beautiful and kind Zosia will always feel it, too.

Friday, April 24, 2015

On Parenting One Year Old Twins

Having one year old twins has definitely been the ultimate challenge of my parenting career.  There are things that I could never have planned for: Dorothy knows that Clara is the fearless one, so whenever she gets a hold of a dangerous object, she immediately runs up to Clara and hands it over.  I can understand the thinking: Clara's into that sort of thing, right?  Where our other children have had a natural circumference of about 100 feet away from us that they will travel before they want to head back to their home base, Clara and Dorothy have a circumference to one another.  As long as they're walking in the same direction, they're good to go.  Indefinitely.  Yikes!

There are those moments that feel utterly impossible.  When one baby is fussy, and I think of just the perfect distraction, and as soon as I hand it to her, her sister becomes fussy because she wants one too.  Or the moments that both babies desperately want me that very minute, but will not settle for being held at the same time as a sister.  As a parent who has derived so much purpose and satisfaction from nurturing attachment with each of my children, these moments are the hardest.  When I feel like I'm giving my entire self and it is not enough.  It feels like I'm drowning without any life preservers to be seen.

I am ever so slowly learning the things that help make this a sustainable phase for our family.  Everyone is happier outside.  The twins need to spend some time contained-- whether in a high chair, a stroller, or a carseat-- every day, if only so I can get a bathroom break.  Clara and Dorothy also seem to really crave and need one on one time with us, separate from one another.  This is the hardest one to accommodate, but possibly the most important.  We are still trying to figure out how to carve out consistent time for each of them to get undivided attention, and have found that when we can make it happen, it makes everyone happier.  Oh, and it is absolutely essential to get a break.  Can you find a way to make this happen regularly?  Whether from a loving husband or a skilled babysitter, this is necessary for survival during what I have learned is a high needs phase of twin parenting.  

Every now and then I feel a surge of creative energy that takes the form of cooking an exciting meal, or organizing a part of the house, or embarking upon a game or project with the older kids.  These are the activities that I love, which give me deep satisfaction and joy, and yet they have often been set aside out of necessity during this busy season of parenting.  When I utterly lose myself to one of these activities, when I'm cooking up a storm, or organizing the girls' closet, or making plans for the coming year's schooling, or reflecting upon my experiences here in this space, those are the moments that I know I have moved beyond the most intense phase.  I am breathing calmly, I am immersed in something I love, surrounded by my children, including a very adorable set of one year old twins. It is a good feeling.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lily's Six

Our darling Lillian turned 6 yesterday.  As many of you know, she is an aspiring chef, and takes every possible opportunity to get to work in the kitchen.  When she asked for a cooking themed birthday, we knew it was the perfect thing!  She invited the girls from her class over to decorate pizzas and cupcakes.  As with all good gatherings of six year old girls, it devolved into playing dressup and running around outside.  It was just the perfect day, and right before we tucked her into bed, we took turns telling her things that make her special. She is brave.  She is generous.  She is thankful.  She is really fun to be around.  Having her in our family feels like the biggest gift, and I will forever remain grateful for that beautiful spring day that she joined our family.

Happy Birthday, darling!  We just adore you.