In Color

The scene: at home on a Friday night, trying to gauge interest in a Disney World trip by seeing how the girls reacted to Disney promo videos on YouTube. Maggie got bored and brought me a book, and then pointed to the main character.

“What’s her favorite color?”

The question piqued my interest. Maggie asks questions and has speech, but a lot of it is scripted. She has asked what we are doing, what we are wearing, where are we going, but never about our personal thoughts. I still wasn’t sure if this was a rote question, but I answered.

“I don’t know, but she is wearing a lot of blue!”

“It’s white.”

My breath caught again. I looked at Tom to see if he was paying attention. He was. And then…Maggie asked me. “What’s your favorite color?”

“It’s purple. What’s your favorite color?”

“White. Purple. Pink.” (Later in the evening she told me “black.” She just loves them all, I guess.)

“What’s Daddy’s favorite color, Maggie?”

“Blue!”

“It’s green, sweetie.”

“Oh, green! Right!” The “right!” I recognized from “Mickey’s Clubhouse” as a reassurance that she knew the answer was correct. She looked at the television, where Mickey and Minnie were frolicking. “What’s Minnie’s favorite color?”

“She wears red and pink,” I said. “What do you think it is? Red or pink?”

“Pink.”

“Maggie, what’s Mickey’s favorite color?”

“It’s red.”

Tom and I looked at each other, both aware of how in awe we were of Maggie. The scene changed, and her attention redirected to something else. And that was all.

And that was everything.

Swimmingly

Something that’s been on my mind recently is how unaware the girls are around water. My childhood and Tom’s childhood were spent marinating in chlorine and saltwater; we had easy access to pools at home and neither of us lived more than fifteen minutes from the ocean. By the time I was four, I could swim confidently with an inflatable waist tube and thought nothing of jumping off the side, and I assume Tom was similar.

Maggie got off to the proper start:

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Maggie had the advantage from her Hawaiian birth and and Florida-based grandparents, but she had gotten out of the habit of swimming since we moved to England–Yorkshire is cold, and our little borough is surrounded by rivers but nothing really appropriate for a young child to swim in, and some early water lessons when she was about a year old had made her wary of both pools and strangers. And while she’s been in one (!) hotel pool, poor Moira has never been in a natural body of water at all.

Two weeks ago I decided that strictly from a safety standpoint, having children who don’t know how to swim is irresponsible. They’ll still need constant supervision until they’re older, of course, but they need to know the basics. Luckily, there’s an inexpensive indoor pool in town with a shallow-depth teaching area meant just for small children, so I bundled us up and went.

At the reception desk, I was instructed to the changing rooms and locker area. “It’s mixed-changing.” Well! Isn’t this a progressive establishment, I thought. Then I saw that the changing area was full of fully-enclosed and lockable cubicles with extra-big baby/family rooms, thankfully limiting our exposure to anyone else’s pool noodle. Unfortunately, an automatic hand dryer went off just as we walked in and Maggie began to cry and quake with fear–it was a new, weird environment and it had one of those noisy obnoxious things? UNACCEPTABLE. I hustled her into a quiet baby/family room and convinced her to be brave and try something new while Moira bounced off the walls in her new swimsuit. To my delight, she agreed.

The shallow-depth pool itself posed no problem–heated, with nice wide stairs and a pleasing nubbly-textured bottom, and full of floating foam toys. At that point, my girls switched roles: Maggie remembered her early water training and walked right in, while my poor English rose clung to me like a barnacle. Her reticence was easy to understand; as far as she was aware she was being asked to float in an extra-large tepid chlorine bathtub full of strangers–fully half of whom had just peed, were peeing, or were about to pee.

At one point while Maggie had gone to investigate the hunter-orange water-wings (“I will try something new!”) I held Moira away from me so she could kick her legs freely in the water. Alas, I did not have a camera to capture Moira’s face at this moment, but this shot of her from a few months back is pretty close:

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That was the first week. Today was our second round, and eventually Moira started to recover some of her natural fearlessness. She allowed herself to be spun and swayed in the water, and then…oh, then…she decided to dip her face in the water.

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“Ma? Ma? MAAAAAAAAAAA!” That was pretty much the end of the day for Miss Moira. She got out and pointed out the large windows to the parking lot, where she could see our car: “Ousside? Ousside? MA! MAGGIE! OUSSIDE!”

Maggie, on the other hand, had strapped on her water wings and was holding on to the side of the pool, teaching herself to kick. I KNOW, RIGHT? SO COOL.

Upon exiting the pool area today, we noticed that there was a full-body dryer. Maggie was nonplussed: these stupid dryer things come in EXTRA LARGE so you can physically get inside one and let air blow at you? Not for all the mini-marshmallows at the store, Mommy. Moira, on the other hand, was more than happy to stand and have hot air blown at her backside. 

And the best part of last week and today:

“Maggie, you tried to do something new today!”

“I tried something new! I feel proud.”

Kid, you ain’t kiddin’. I feel proud of you both, too.

 

 

Chronicle of a Business Trip Foretold

Perhaps once or twice a quarter, Tom has to jaunt off on a business trip within the country. These trips are usually rather easy–leave on a Sunday morning, return late Friday night, and remain in the same time zone for easy Skype sessions with the girls. Our weeks are full and exciting (for the girls; I find the sand table at the local special needs playgroup unfulfilling) and so with a fridge properly stocked with healthy convenience foods, I sail right through.

Maybe it was the full moon. Maybe it was because it was the week immediately following a long road trip vacation. Maybe it was the separation anxiety typical for Moira’s age and her tendency to upend anything that isn’t firmly nailed down (up to and including her sister). Whatever it was, my children totally and utterly lost the plot.

Sunday: This is easy! Delicious fresh pasta and sauce left for us by Daddy in the fridge? No squabbles? A call with Nana and some quiet movie time? Simplicity itself, all. I’m mother of the year.

Monday: Moira discovers her upper body strength, launching herself onto the bay window ledge and scaling her toy kitchen. Maggie takes solace in her new yoga practice, but they begin to irritate each other. Overheard on Skype: “Are you smirking? ARE YOU SMIRKING AT THEM SCREAMING?”

Tuesday: Everything goes swimmingly well until the post-nap/pre-bedtime hour. What is it about then? Lots of families report issues around this time; they’re the little-kid-witching hours. Blood sugar amiss? It’s just endless bickering and crabbing and sniping, with lots of hitting and kicking for good measure. Nobody eats a proper dinner. Finally at 6:45pm, Maggie announces “I need to put on my pajamas.” In the immortal words of Mrs. Tweedy from Chicken Run, “Finally, something we agree on.”

Wednesday: Longtime readers of this site know that I have a condition called optic nerve hypoplasia, which in layman’s terms means that the optic nerve in my left eye didn’t develop correctly. It doesn’t connect to my brain; I don’t even have light perception in that eye, rendering me effectively half-blind with limited peripheral vision. I tell you that so you’ll understand why I no longer can use checkouts at the grocery store that make me face right: Moira figured out how to undo the strap on the shopping cart, stood up, and LEAPT into my arms…which were not waiting for her. I didn’t even realize she had stood up until the cashier screamed, but managed to catch her before she hit the ground. This was after we got sucked into a conversation with an older woman who was also named “Margaret” and whom I didn’t realize was quite racist until well into our talk. Maybe I should have named Maggie something modern and new, like Madysyn and older racist women won’t talk to us.

Later that evening, Moira sprang from her tiny potty, ran into the hall, peed, and then ran into Maggie’s room beelining for the pillow. Let’s add “DO NOT RUB YOUR GENITALS ON YOUR SISTER’S PILLOW!” to things I never thought I would, but have now, said.

When I got into bed myself, I discovered a flashlight, Maggie’s favorite book, and a personalized Scrabble-tile pendant emblazoned with “Maggie” in my bed. Child, if you want to illicitly sneak out of your room at nap time that’s your business, but watch an episode of “CSI” next time to avoid rookie mistakes.

Thursday: Today was our day of mystery. Somehow, without using a knife or scissors and with me in the room and her father on Skype not noticing, Maggie made two vertical tears in her t-shirt of equal length and of perfect straightness, going straight through the hem. Maggie doesn’t put things back where she found them, and all our knives and scissors were accounted for. “Did you use a knife or scissors?” “Scissors.” “Which ones?” “The red ones.”

We don’t OWN red scissors. Asking for a reenactment is pretty sophisticated at Maggie’s language level, so I didn’t bother. A friend theorized that perhaps cuts or tears were made at an earlier time (perhaps at school) and Maggie just exaggerated them with her fingers. It is the most plausible but doesn’t account for the cleanness of the cuts, nor the slice through the hem stitching.

In other news, Moira is climbing on and subsequently falling off everything, and refusing to eat any of her meals in favor of throwing her dishes to the floor in great splattering crashes.

Friday: After a week of smashed dishes, climbing children, and shirts torn to ribbons, I post this status update: “The kids haven’t destroyed any furniture or electronics yet, but there’s still a full day left to this ridiculous business trip. Aim high, my children. I have faith in you, and we could use a new TV cabinet.”

5:45p.m.: Moira, in an attempt to scale the dollhouse, cracks part of it. Good job, kid. I knew you could do it.

6:30p.m.: I no longer care. Bounce around, children! Daddy will be home to handle the morning shift.

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You know, they have totally worn me out this week, the little feral devils. But I haven’t stopped laughing for a second. They just crack me up. I adore them shamelessly.

…Even if I still can’t find the knife and/or scissors used.