Mother’s Day

Little scurrying sounds rise up the stairs from the kitchen. Moments later: “Mom, I have your breakfast!”

With Daddy gone on a two-month business trip, Maggie not participating (Maggie shows her love perfectly in her own time, her own way, and on her own days, uninterested in manufactured holidays), and Minna too young to know better, Moira has taken the responsibility of ensuring a good Mother’s Day upon her shoulders. I can tell she’s feeling the responsibility, though I would never have pressured her to deliver. She has delivered breakfast in bed: an Eggo waffle, which she toasted herself after climbing onto the counter to plug in the toaster; a bowl of dry Rice Krispies, because “I was afraid the milk would slosh out” and she didn’t want to make a mess; and a baby yogurt.

I tell her that it’s a beautiful spread, and that while I’m not fond of yogurt, that’s a good thing because I would love it if she would share breakfast with me. Moira happily accepts. We talk about the cereal, and she decides to run downstairs to put milk in a coffee mug to pour over the cereal. She comes back with her own bowl and a mug of milk.

Between homeschool co-op and her preschool, she has made complimentary gifts: earrings at one, and a little clay pinch-bowl (painted her signature pink) at the other. The earrings are in a plastic clamshell container that once held blackberries, and has been decorated with glue, beads, and construction paper. I accept the gifts with real joy. Moira has worked very hard indeed.

“Oh! Are you thirsty, Mom?” I tell her a drink would be nice–perhaps some ice water? I suggest this knowing that this is the simplest drink for her to manage alone, since there’s a dispenser in the fridge. “Oh, of course!”

She returns with ice water in a flowered coffee mug. “I chose the fanciest mug because it’s your special day.” Moira pauses, and then with wide, unsure eyes, she shatters my heart. “Am I doing this right?”

I set my divine feast aside on my nightstand and pull her into my lap to hold her and her tender, thoughtful heart. She has moved me to tears. “Yes, my darling. Everything is absolutely perfect. I feel like a queen. And I love you.”

It is perfect, and I do feel like a queen. It’s a Mother’s Day I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

She exhales in relief, and we finish our cereal together.

4/4/17

A tale of two parenting moments.

Tale one: Maggie is turning eight on Monday (oh holy God, where does the time go?!) and due to scheduling with friends and activities, today was the best day for the party. Maggie became very upset with me, in ways that manifested as not…quite an attitude befitting the honoree, let’s say.

“Sounding like an ungrateful smartass who was getting a bowling birthday party and was acting pissy that it wasn’t on the exact day she wanted it” would be another way to say it.

I think one of the things I struggle with the most as a parent is remembering to look at causation. Maggie is not an ungrateful or materialistic child, as a general rule, so my first instinct to react to that behavior as a patron would react to a spoiled artist was not correct. We hashed it out and I went down that road for a while, and I realized I needed to circle back around.

This is when I discovered my poor child was literally terrified that she was going to get in trouble–trouble on par with police and handcuffs–for having a birthday party almost a full week before her actual birthday. Cause discovered; cause dealt with. Party thoroughly enjoyed. Mom did not day-drink.

Tale two: I made a rule with the big girls that unless it’s a friend they know well and really trust, their bedrooms can be off-limits for play dates and I would enforce that. They each have special toys and items they don’t want to share in their rooms, and we have had kids over who don’t have good boundaries yet (like going through the girls’ piggy banks to look at the money inside, um, NOPE) that the girls would like to play with and share their playroom with, but not their bedrooms. One neighborhood boy came by to play and he was quite insistent that he wanted to play in Moira’s room. The conversation went like this:

Boy: But I really want to play in your room.

Moira: That’s my private space to be alone with my special things.

Boy: BUT I WANT TO PLAY UP THERE!

Moira: No. [thinks a moment] But you can look at my room from the yard!

That was around 4:30 today and I’m still laughing. The conversation went on, and Moira stood firm. I would have intervened if I thought she needed me, but it was clear that she had it handled. She maintained her position, and I was very pleased to note that she didn’t apologize for it. She never said “Sorry” for setting her boundary. She stated where her line was, and she held it without apologizing for having a reasonable position. May she always walk with such confidence.

I told her as much, and that I had heard how she was firm without being mean, and stood her ground without letting someone make her feel guilty. How proud I was that she stuck to what she wanted and was strong.

“I was sticking to you and what you told me.”

And then my heart exploded and that was the end of me. RIP, me.

As these little people move out of the tiny years and into the people they are becoming, these moments come up and you realize how much they’re listening. How much they’re absorbing. And sure, they’re kids, so that means sometimes they haven’t got the sense God gave a box of hair clippings.

But sometimes…sometimes you get to see that you’re really hearing them, and that they are really hearing you. And it’s enough to turn a rough morning into a fantastic day.

4/2/17

Today is World Autism Day and the kickoff of Autism Awareness Month. Four years later, I don’t have a lot to say on the subject of Maggie being Autistic. I have a LOT to say about the way other people treat autistic folks, the world we live in, the way it’s set up, but I’m fighting down a miserable cold and can’t think clearly about it. In short, autism itself is not a problem and Sartre was correct: hell is other people.

Minna has the worst temper of all three of the girls. She is the first to lie down, shaking, and scream with her fists clenched; the first to demand that you hand her something specifically so she can throw it on the ground while looking you in the eye. She’s also the one who gives the biggest, sloppiest, face-removing-suction kisses and squeals when you walk through the door, so there’s that.

We ventured to Ikea, and occasionally I say things like “I wish we had adult furniture. Actual, proper adult furniture.” Then I realize that I actually do love the angles and geometric lines of Ikea furniture, and how easy it is to shift around and adapt it to our needs. Since my design style is “Future Rec Room Pieces,” I think the actual adult furniture will have to wait until our children are actual adults.

4/1/17

– I was SO ready for Congressman Sulu, then realized the date and that George Takei would not be running for office after all. Today’s bright political spot: snuffed out.

– Old friends, and babies everywhere. We tried a brewery with some friends today; old friends we knew from when Tom was in college. I overheard one tell another “I’ve known her for half her life.” And I guess if they met freshman year of college and they’re 36, that’s…completely and truly weird. And true. (Incidentally, I am exactly the target demographic for the thirtysomething angst in “This Is Us” and they know just how to get me.) We were the only ones with more than two kids, which is always a weird feeling. I never thought of three children as being a big family, and I still don’t. However, the closer you get to DC, the more that number tips you toward people looking at you as if they’d like to ask “And to which fundamental organization do you belong?”

It was wonderful to see old friends, especially when everyone seems to be doing so well personally and professionally. It was comforting, especially with a side of cheesy brewery pretzels.

– We are still homeschooling. Maggie is 3/4 of the way through second grade, and doing amazingly well at reading. We really poured it on this week to finish All About Reading Level 3 before Tom goes on a long work trip, and Tom presented Maggie with her completion certificate.

A few days ago, Maggie finished up reading Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, a favorite of mine when I was a kid. I got swept up in this incredible rush when she was telling me about what happened to Jeremy and his dragon on St. John’s Night. She’s doing this, I thought. She’s doing this and we made it happen. It isn’t easy, and I would never pretend to someone considering this life that it is. Some days–at least once a week–I consider what it would be like to put them in public school. But then I get these moments of wonderment and curiosity and I think: I can do this. I can do this. She’s doing this, and so can I.

…Remind me of that when Moira begins kindergarten next year.

Sentences–3/30/17

Inspired by the Soulemama change in the last month of just recording a few sentences for the sake of remembering and habit, I thought I might try the same.
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Today was a co-op day. We joined a homeschool co-op about half an hour away at the beginning of the school year, and it continues to be a wonderful thing in our lives. It’s nice having a few teaching responsibilities lifted off my plate, and even nicer that the girls are making good friends. However, today was also the first day we had to go home due to illness. Minna had been suffering allergies that seem to be sinking in deeper…and then Maggie capsized during first period. It’s never the one you expect. Moira immediately developed a sympathetic stomachache (mmhmm), so we went home.

The really nice thing about seven-year-olds when they feel crappy with a cold? They sneak downstairs like ninjas, fix themselves their own PB&J sandwiches, and head back up to read in their rooms. Minna is a lovable bug, but less so when she’s a sobbing, piteous, hacking snotball.

Moira, for her part, proved just how ready she is to begin kindergarten next year by asking to play math games and to do some art. She did a portrait of me that turned into a triceratops, as one does when one is five.

Three out of three girls approved of the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” in music appreciation class. They also think that early Missy Elliott (“Get Ur Freak On”) is preferable to “Where They From,” although WTF is good.

It’s possible that we will not be winning any parenting awards this year.

Won’t Sit Still

Dear Moira,

Tomorrow is your fifth birthday, and what a year it’s been. We have moved you from the country of your birth, the only one you’ve ever known, to the country of your citizenship. Frankly, you’re probably handling it better than all of us. Open, expressive, and free—those words have always been words that come to mind when I think of your passionate and emotional heart.

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I’m never gonna be that girl
Who’s living in a Barbie world
Could wake up, in make up, and play dumb

This year has been about expectations, both meeting them and seeing them shattered. You have risen so admirably to all the challenges we’ve had to throw at you, challenges that I have seen send adults to their knees. You are our emotional barometer, our guidepost in the blizzard, and through you we can see how well or poorly we rise to our own challenges in this family.

Oh I don’t know what you’ve been told
But this gal right here’s gonna rule the world
Yeah that is where I’m gonna be, because I wanna be
No I don’t wanna sit still, look pretty

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I expect from you and from your sisters. I don’t mean in terms of your career or whether you marry and have children. Those decisions are yours alone, and must be made or not made according to the unique demands of your own life. I thought I was the kind of mother who would be able to let those expectations ride with your judgment, and if I was simply steady and true and loving to you, you would rise with the tides.
 
You get off on your 9 to 5
Dream of picket fences and trophy wives
But no I’m never gonna be, cause I don’t wanna be
No I don’t wanna sit still look pretty

There has been a lot of talk, both at home and out in the world in which you are learning to make your way, about what it means to be a woman in our society. What does it take to be an admirable woman? To exist without shame, to claim your space at the table without apology and without hesitation? To stand with head high and shoulders back, and to roll the hurts and insults and slights off your shoulders and stand again. And again. And again. And I see now, in your winsome smile, that you have exactly the ingredients.

Passion. Conviction. Heart. Bravery. Compassion. Generosity. Intellect.

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The only thing that a boy’s gonna give a girl for free’s captivity

And I might love me some vanilla but I’m not that sugar sweet
Call me HBIC

So, accordingly, my expectations for you are adjusting. Your father and I adhere to the adage that to whom much is given, much is required and so you will have responsibilities, to yourself and to your family, that others may not be required to assume. You have been given so much, both by accident of birth and by the unique gifts of your awesome (in the truest sense) personality.

It is not enough for you to simply exist in stillness. I expect you to move.

Oh I don’t know what you’ve been told
But this gal right here’s gonna rule the world
Yeah that is where I’m gonna be, because I wanna be

No I don’t wanna sit still, look pretty

You have true fire in your heart and mind. I expect you to burn brightly for those who need to be given light. You have passion. I expect you to use it to inspire. You have intelligence and persuasion on your side. I expect you to wield them to be a force for good in the world.

Sure I’m a pretty girl up in a pretty world
But they say pretty hurts

And I don’t wanna sit still

You have a voice. I expect you to roar.

But they say pretty hurts
And I don’t wanna sit still

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You are forged from pure strength. You have real bravery, the kind that says “I am afraid” and finds a way to move forward anyway. I expect you to go forward marching in power. For the disabled, for your friends and family of color, for your LGBTQIA friends and family, for your friends who are Muslim and Jewish and atheist and every other faith under the sun, I expect you to stand.

I’m a pretty girl up in a pretty world
But no I won’t sit still, look pretty

You won’t be alone. We will be there with you, and for you. But there will be days, punishing awful days, when you are so broken by the work, the work of speaking for those who cannot and for standing for those who have been denied and marginalized and beaten down, that work that will last long after you and I die, that you want to lie down. You can…and I expect you to dig deep within, to find that passion and that heart, and rise again.

You are the future. You are our future. And I expect you to stand tall and claim your place.

Oh I don’t know what you’ve been told
But this gal right here’s gonna rule the world

Yeah that is where I’m gonna be, because I wanna be
No I don’t wanna sit still, look pretty

This is so much to lay down at the feet of a five-year-old girl, one who still sleeps with a bed full of stuffed animals. But before I go to bed at night, I kiss you and your sisters, and I wrap the blanket you gave me around myself. The blanket was one of yours as a baby, and you brought it to my room one night to make sure that I wouldn’t be cold. I think about your generosity of spirit every night, your compassion for others that comes to you so naturally and easily, and I wake in the morning renewed in purpose to you and your sisters.

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And I don’t wanna sit still

Fear can motivate, but panic will decimate. We all live with a certain amount of fear in our hearts, and it can be crushing. Panic is suffocating darkness. The worst decisions, the ones that can snuff out our basic shared humanity, are made in the dark scummy recesses where light never touches. You are selfless, and in your selflessness and compassion I see your light.

I see that the way forward exists in you. You are my light in the dark.

And I don’t wanna sit still

And as for me, I will spend every day of the rest of my life trying to be the woman that I expect you to become.

No I don’t wanna sit still, look pretty

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No more sitting still. Let’s get to work.

Love,
Mom

ABC

Dear Minna,

I’ve had a bit of trouble getting this letter started. It feels like a lifetime ago that you joined our family, even though it was just one short year. Maybe it feels that way because your first year was one of the busiest, most jam-packed of our entire lives. I don’t think we stopped moving at all between March and September of 2016, and before that we were trying to adjust to the new normal: being outnumbered by our children forever. Luckily, you were one of the sweetest, most placid babies I’ve ever met.

ABC / Easy as 1, 2, 3…

It’s hard to pin down why parenting you feels so easy right now. Is it because you’re the third and we know that whatever difficulty you’re going through, it will pass? Certainly we were less hasty to attribute our skills to your achievements and challenges this time around, knowing that as long as we feed you and shower you with affection you’ll clear the bars in your own good time.

Easy, just like counting up to three

That said, I do think you were a special baby. Everywhere we went this past year, people commented on how quiet and even-tempered you were, how content you were to stay in the carrier and observe everyone and everything around you. You literally exuded calm, actually. You would go to anyone, with a giant gummy smile, and cuddle up on anyone’s shoulder. You still had that singular newborn smell well into your sixth month, and a pregnant friend who was overdue swore up and down that a good cuddle with you and the smell of your head helped rush those happy oxytocin chemicals right into high gear (she delivered not long after).

You just have the sweetest little face. It has been magical watching you transform your sisters. They are the best versions of themselves when they are with you, and you adore them right back. It’s hard not to give you anything you want. People don’t always realize your placid exterior covers a stubborn temper. 95% of the time you’re calm and benign…and that other 5% you’re wiling to scream and holler and bite and slap to get where you want to be. One time you actually pushed up on to my shoulder to babble/holler at your aunt, who had the temerity to dress you after your bath and hold you until I was done with the other kids. Everyone stopped to look. “Did…did the baby just cuss you out?” “I think she did!”

Sing a simple melody / That’s how easy love can be

In your first short year, you’ve been to six countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, the US, and the UK–hey, everyone gets one!) and spent countless hours in the car. Sometimes I feel guilty that you see so much of the ceiling of our van as I shuttle your sisters to and fro to their various things, but I know you benefit from being surrounded by so many big kids and grown-ups who love you. The best part is that you are usually so happy and sweet that I really can take you anywhere. I had the three of you by myself for two weeks this summer while we visited friends and family, and it was just a spectacular time. You were so good and sweet, and just a pleasure to be around.

We really didn’t know what having three was going to be like. Someone told us that three was when you “go from man-to-man coverage to zone defense.” I must say that I love having three, and that you’re just the perfect fifth to complete us. You’ve taken a few steps, but prefer crawling. You love to cuddle until you’re all done, and then you love to go and entertain yourself. You hate bananas, but love strawberries. You love broccoli and you think your sisters hung the moon. You’re our BEANS, so named because you were string-bean skinny at first, and then Minna Beans, and then sometime around February your sisters stopped calling you Minna at all, and now you’re just BEANS to everyone.

Simple as do-re-mi / A B C / 1 2 3 You and me…

Minna Beans, you are our delight and our sweetest little baby. I can see flashes of older toddler you in there, and I know the day is coming when you’re more independent, when you won’t always put your head on my shoulder and nuzzle when I ask “Hugs and snugs?” But until then, thank you for staying my sweet little one for just a bit longer.

That’s how easy love can be.

Happy (slightly late) birthday, baby.

Love,

Mama

How Far Love Goes

Dear Maggie,

Time it was I had a dream


And you’re that dream come true


And if I had the world to give
I’d give it all to you

Seven years old. It is a constant source of amazement to me, the passage of your growth. Looking at baby Minna and then to you, I can sometimes try to put a finger on a memory of your babyhood. Something in her look or her babble as she sits next to you will trigger the tiniest glimpse of that baby you used to be, and I think I can touch that moment again.

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I can’t, of course. These days, I more often see the woman within the girl—long, striving legs holding up an ever-taller body, lengthening and slimming into a big girl and then into a young woman. You’ve lost six teeth in the last year and a half, including your two top teeth. Sometimes you hold your book directly up to your nose. These things have me thinking less about the days of baby car seats and strollers and more about glasses and braces, and then buying clothes with a size 7/8 label, and I sigh a bit for the baby you were while glorying in all that you are becoming.

All the things you treasure most


Will be the hardest won


I will watch you struggle long


Before the answers come

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You have worked so hard this year. You’re about to complete first grade. For reasons escaping my memory—my own sleep deprivation has been our highest hurdle this year—we decided to start school the week Minna was due. She was born on our third day of school. Despite that, you’ve completed two levels of our reading curriculum and rocketed ahead right to a second grade-level status. You read beginner chapter books confidently and for pleasure, enjoying how the Magic Tree House transports you to different lands. For the first time, you turn right at the library to walk to the “Big Kid Room” instead of straight on to the picture books.

But I won’t make it harder


I’ll be there to cheer you on


I’ll shine the light that guides you down


The road you’re walking on

I wish I could say that I have been the teacher you deserve; often I wish that helping you over your own hurdles came more naturally to me. I wish I had the answer in hand before the event instead of two or three days later. But we’re getting there as a family, watching you take your gentle, cautious way down the road. You’re a bit risk-averse and nothing will persuade you to deviate from your assessment of your own ability except time and patience.

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Before the mountains call to you


Before you leave this home


Wanna teach your heart to trust


As I will teach my own

This has been the year that we signed up for swimming lessons. You hate them, and often me for making you try it. However, I push on, encouraging you to trust me and to trust the teacher, and usually the lesson ends with you bursting with pride at what you’ve achieved. Getting you to trust yourself, and trusting myself to help you get there, is my greatest hope for you in your life. Learning to let you go and let you fly is my own life’s greatest lesson.

But sometimes I will ask the moon


Where it shined upon you last


And shake my head and laugh and say


“It all went by so fast”

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Time is flying. I see it when I look at Minna, at Moira, and then at you and marvel at the passage of time. The baby issues that so consumed us with you are a mere blip with Minna, faced with the new challenges of an emerging big kid. We’re well out of dealing with baby concerns like gassy tummy or trying new foods, years away from toilet training and zipping your own coat.

Now we have conversations about managing fear and anxiety, and I found myself saying what I know in my heart to be the greatest truth of your specific journey: “Finding a way through the fear, the panic, to get to the goal you’ve set for yourself is one of the hardest things you’ll have to do, and we all have to do it over and over again. But you can. I know you can. I believe in you with my whole heart, and you can do this.” I see the way you are with Minna, and I see everything you could be and will be if you let yourself be guided by love and ease and compassion. I see your heart, and how different your bravery is from Moira’s sheer persistence: I see how your bravery means that you are sometimes terrified, but that you are trying to find a way through. I see you.

You’ll fly away, but take my hand until that day


(Until that day)


So when they ask how far love goes


When my job’s done you’ll be the one who knows

Our jobs aren’t done yet, you and I. We’re still learning and growing together. But watching who you’re becoming is one of the greatest dreams of my life fully realized, and I am so proud of the girl you are becoming. I could not love you more.

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So when they ask how far love goes


When my job’s done you’ll be the one who knows

Happy birthday, sweetheart.

Love,
Mom

(Italicized lyrics are “The One Who Knows” by Dar Williams)

An American Were-Family in (Disneyland) Paris, Part 1

Once upon a time this was a blog about our travels. That…sort of fell by the wayside. I’m trying to get back into the habit of writing, so I thought I’d recap our very last trip while we’re living abroad. The girls have been excellent sports about being dragged all over, up and down mountains and to wineries and other boring places of no interest to small people; thus, we decided our last trip would be all about them: five days in Disneyland Paris.

Our adventure began several months ago when we realized that for but a fraction of the cost of taking our brood to Orlando (and at a fraction of the temperature), we could go to a smaller park and see if the Disney experience was really right for us. We had some concerns about how Maggie would handle the Florida parks, Disney not known for being gentle to those who experience sensory sensitivity, and we’d have a small baby and no grandparents in tow.

By the way, I saw numerous groups at Disney where there were two or three adult relatives to every child in the party, and those people are living right. Two adults to three children is a constant game of zone defense, and never more so than when you’re all traveling and out of your element. But I digress. Disneyland Paris is far more compact–two parks, not six, plus a tiny Disney Village strip and all three share an entrance plaza–and traveling out of term-time meant low people volume. We could handle ourselves. We were in.

After booking and then actually taking the trip, we figured we got about 80% of the Disney Experience for about 50% of the price. No Epcot or water parks, to be sure, and no pool at our on-site hotel (which I could charitably describe as “ramshackle” but that would be an insult to ramshackle buildings; it was clean and breakfast was free, I’ll leave it at that). Smoking is also allowed in Disneyland Paris, which I never quite got over.

But the shuttle rides were never more than 5 minutes to our budget hotel, as opposed to the long rides in Orlando, and we could cover a lot more ground in less time. The package we bought was a reasonable price, and included extended park hours, an unlimited Photo Pass for all those goofy mid-ride shots, a meal plan for one meal a day and a tea-time treat (a “pause gourmande”) prepaid, a character breakfast, a Wild West dinner, and a Princess Pavilion Meet-and-Greet lunch. It only left 2-3 meals for us to pay out of pocket (plus souvenirs and other treats, of course). I don’t know if, monetarily, we maximized the value of everything we prepaid, but it was REALLY nice knowing that nearly every time we sat down to a meal, it had been paid for months ago. Since we just put a down payment on a thirty-year albatross house, we could just relax and not wonder if getting an appetizer with dinner meant that we would have to pay for a snow shovel for our house in weekly installments later. Unfortunately, we had to fly at 6am. Getting three children out the door to be at the airport by 4am is exactly as easy as you’d think, although the promise of Disney put the big girls in exceptional moods.

And was that 6am flight and Mouse House package worth it?

Well…

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…I do believe so!

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The weather was temperamental, often misty and sometimes veering into outright rain. The nice part was that the mercury stayed in the mid-low 60s, and with a refreshing mist it was so much easier to enjoy the physical exertion of actually being in the park. The other nice part of that was that outside of term-time and with threatening-looking weather overhead, rides that would normally require Fast Passes to go on once were so empty that we could exit and re-enter on a continuous loop. My Buzz Lightyear space blaster skills were REFINED, y’all. Sadly, that also meant going on the girls’ favorite, “It’s A Small World,” somewhere around one dozen times.

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The things we do for our babies.

One of the things we booked in advance was a princess lunch, figuring we could bypass all the wait times at the Princess Pavilion. Little girls wanting a glimpse of their favorite princess are apparently undaunted by such trivialities as weather or school term schedules. It was lovely. Minna was utterly astonished by Cinderella’s mice.

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Because we stayed at a Disney hotel, we got extended park hours. I was waiting at the exit to Small World, which was alongside the Princess Pavilion, for Tom and the big girls to exit while I tried to get Minna to take a brief nap (we were trying to power through for the 10:30pm final show). The Pavilion was closed for the evening, but guarded by a cast member who periodically turned away inquisitive guests. During a quiet moment, Tom and the girls exited the ride and the five of us began our shuffling transfer of people, snacks, bags, and assorted stuff. We then heard a “Psst.”

“Psst.”

It was coming from the Pavilion cast member.

She was holding the door open and beckoning us in.

Now, I have no idea what her criteria was. I don’t know why she chose us, or just how drunk with power she was. I only know that she chose to bestow Father Disney’s most richest abundant blessings upon us and we walked directly to the front of the line, no waiting whatsoever (average wait times during the day hovered around 90 minutes). The cast member at the top asked who our favorite Princess was. Moira had gotten to meet Ariel, Snow White, Cinderella, and Tiana earlier so she was pretty satisfied. Maggie had not gotten to meet Merida, the only one she really cared about. There were two princesses in the Pavilion at the time, and you got surprised by whoever the cast member chose for you.

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How lucky are we? PRETTY DAMN LUCKY. (Please enjoy our Parent Dork couture and Minna’s “HEY I’M NOT NAPPING. NO NAP HERE, GUYS!” expression.)

I have more thoughts for later, but this post is long enough already. Next: the dragon, the Crush Coaster, rats of a most excellent nature, and the 3D ride I missed entirely.

Moving Fragments

Sort the things, rip tape off the strip. Packers come tomorrow. We will have temporary furniture loaned from base for a month, then into a hotel for a week, then camping gear on the floor of our new home. Must leave out the sleeping bags and our second-best sheets.

I don’t want to move. I love it here. Our lives are here.

What do we need for three months without the bulk of our household? School is going to be fully unschooling for the next while; art supplies, surely. But not in the organized caddies they’re currently housed in. All the markers, crayons, pencils go in gallon baggies labeled “Do Not Pack.”

I miss my family. I miss America…I think. Do I know America anymore? Hawaii is America, legally…culturally, not really. Eight years away from mainland America is a long time in the field. I miss my nephews. I miss my nieces. I don’t really know them well. It’s been three years since I’ve seen Owen, Avery, Lillian. A year since I’ve seen Philip. I’m ready to see them more often. 

“Mom, I’m scared of the moving truck. It’s too big.”

“Mom, when are our friends here going to visit us in Maryland?”

Why are we doing this to them? Wait, doing what? Providing them with a lifetime’s worth of travel and cultural richness in just five short years? Giving them the bedrock of financial stability gleaned from getting overseas housing allowances and banking our savings?

Uprooting their lives, that’s what. Uprooting all our lives.

We’ve done this before. It’s ok. You KNOW it’s ok. Think of all the beautiful, well-adjusted, happy field and military kids you know. They are amazing. Your kids will be, too. They already are. It will be hard. Hard things happen. They can be dealt with.

I don’t want to go home. I am home. I want to go home. I don’t know what home is.

I’m going to be really tired of these few outfits I’ve left out for myself by July. It will be fun to shop at my favorite stores in person again. It will be fun to get Starbucks drive-through. It will be fun to buy a new car. Okay, maybe not fun, but it will be nice to drive on wide roads and smooth, beautifully laid out highways again.

I wonder what our house looks like when you really walk through it. I wonder what kind of a person buys their first home sight unseen with only her husband’s word and a few photographs to say it’s good. I trust him. I still wonder.

“Mom, will my Legos go to America?”

“Mom, can I take my costumes to America?”

“Mom, will we get to visit Florida when we go to America? Will we get to go to Assateague to see the wild ponies? Mom, will I get to have a pet fish in America?”

So many promises, bartering away anxiety with assurances and gleeful descriptions of time with cousins and future trips and betta fish tanks. Bright, chipper smiles layered over tight throats and watering eyes. We all have pinkeye from the dust.

“Mom, are we going to see our old friends who moved already?”

Yes. We’ll all see old friends, and we’ll need to talk to the ones who have been home. The ones who understand you’re not trying to be pretentious when you talk about what you’ve seen and done while you were abroad. The ones who understand how hard it is to go home. The ones who understand how much the country, and you, have changed. The ones who don’t say and think “But you’re home now!” I was home. I will be home again. But there is a time in between, and in that time, we won’t be anywhere until we get our feet under us. 

“It’s okay to be sad. Mom and Dad are happy, but we’re also sad too. You can talk to us and cuddle with us any time. It’s hard. We know it’s hard.”

Understatement. “A vague disclaimer is nobody’s friend.” – Willow, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

It’s hard. It’s sad. We’re going home. We are home. I’m sorry. I’m excited. I’m scared. We’re fragmented.

I rip off some more tape, and I move on.