(Photos are from dinner the last two nights and are not directly related to this story.)
We have one of those snack-box things. You know, the kind with overlapping fabric on top so the kid can reach her hand in, grab some crackers or raisins or nuts or booty, pull it out, put it in her mouth, then chuck the snack box across the car and not spill anything. You know, everyone has one and they are awesome.
My husband and I tend to be frugal. In terms of pinching pennies, yes, but something could be entirely FREE and we'd still fret over it. We are cautious about the things that enter our homes, our lives, our souls. We are conscientious of the resources and materials it took to make those things. And we are especially skeptical of plastic. Even when found used, and fully off-gassed, and PVC-BPA-phthalate-free, and totally recyclable, we are still convinced that plastic does something horrible to your soul. Anyway.
I fretted back and forth on whether or not to buy a second snack box, you know, for Hazel. I thought (hoped?) they could just share. I didn't want another snack box in our home. I didn't want to buy something that, once my kids learn to keep containers in their upright and locked position, we will no longer need. But. Juniper eats nuts, Hazel doesn't. If the snack box held Pirate's Booty, I would probably have to cut off Juniper's right hand before she passed it to Hazel. So, I bought another snack box. Our first one has a yellow lid, so I bought one with a pink lid because 1) Juniper loves pink, and 2) I was not thinking.
Of course Juniper would want the new snack box, it has a pink lid! I thought, Oh well, sorry, H. Hand-me-down-Hazel. You get the old box. Thing is, if I'd chosen the green or blue lid, I know I could have convinced Juniper the new box was Hazel's and fighting/jealousy would have been minimal. But there was NO WAY Juniper was going to give up a PINK lidded snack box to Hazel. I thought, Okay. Well, good thing Hazel is young and she won't notice. She'll just be happy to have her very own snack box.
So today, I received the new snack box. I set it on the counter next to the sink to be washed-before-use. Meanwhile, Juniper was napping and I gave Hazel some booty in the old box. She had been watching me. She ate just one piece. She waddle-walked from the living-room to the kitchen, stopped at the sink, pointed up to the counter and grunted. I played dumb and in my sweetest sugar voice, "What? You'd like a sippy cup of water?" She scrunched her nose, darting me a disgusted look that said, No, dumbass, that's not what I'm asking for. She pointed and grunted again. I sighed and handed it over. She made a satisfied chuckle, ooohed and aaahed over it and waddle-walked back to the living room, pink-lidded snack box in tow.
In my head there were two voices: 1) My uncle once told me that kids are at least 6 months ahead of where you think they are. 2) A friend who was one of 3 sisters said her parents always had to buy 3 of everything to avoid the fighting. Damn.
She knew. Hazel knew the new snack box was intended for her. She knew Juniper would love it. She knew it would piss Juniper off to take it. $&*^#!! Do I have to buy another pink-lidded snack box so my youngest doesn't think she always comes in second?
:: (On the other hand, who needs a snack box when you really use food to decorate your head?)
Update: today Juniper agreed that she and Hazel could take turns using the pink-lidded snack box. Whew.
Or, What We Do When Daytime "Highs" Reach Negative Two.
Most days, we get outside. Even if that means spending more time putting on the clothes we need to get outside than actually being outside itself. On those days, we talk about the sun and how amazing it is that our noses can be so cold and yet our cedar-sided south-facing garage wall is so warm. We press our cheeks against it, kiss it with our lips. And then, "Aaaah! Mama! My hands are cold!" And we head back inside, unload our frosty layers in the mudroom, and explore the mountains and caves within our home.
Now, especially now, that Juniper has started preschool two mornings a week, I am learning to cherish the empty days. Those perfectly white squares on the calendar. I look forward to them, anticipating drawn-out breakfasts of ebelskivers, pajamas until noon (if not all day), getting down on the floor and just playing--being--with my kids. Don't get me wrong: I adore our friends, our playgroups, playdates and story time. If it weren't for the inked-up days, those white-square days wouldn't feel so special.
The children take lead, and I follow.
:: We find the sun spots.
:: We paint, draw, sew, decorate.
We took our Christmas tree down the other day (actually, we stuck it in the snowbank so we're continuing to enjoy our tree just outside the living-room window), but Juniper continues to rattle on about Santa Claus and she's ALWAYS up for decorating. I think we'll have to decorate for Valentine's, Saint Patrick's, the Spring Equinox, Easter, May Day....
:: Hazel's faves: stairs, balls, cars and trains.
^My man built this play-table as a Christmas gift for the girls--it has made evening toy clean-up a breeze.^
:: Evenings with dad bring dance parties and music-making.
:: Juniper and Hazel's relationship has entered a new chapter. A chapter with a lot less pushing, scratching and pinching, and a lot more "I love you Hazel" and "I'm so happy to see you Hazey!" And, extending her hand, "Here Haze, let's walk together." Or, at the dinner table, "I'm thankful for Hazel." There is still pushing, of course. And Hazel has turned the tables and taken up scratching and hair-pulling. And Juniper tends to hide the very things Hazel wants (sippy cups, books, favorite ball, etc.). But still. Mostly, we've entered a new, loving, adorable, sisterly chapter.
And all of these things combined make the below-zero, nose-hair-freezing days not only tolerable, but magical.
From one day to the next, little changes. Elk move down the mountain at night, up at daybreak. Only their tracks and scat tell us this story. Magpies pull frozen meat scraps from frozen elk legs.
Tonight, Hazel followed me across the living room tugging at my pant-legs and squawking like a baby bird, "Ma! Ma! Ma!" I nursed her fireside. She was freshly naked from a bath, her smooth, soft belly skin-to-skin with my doughy mama's belly. She nursed with one arm over her head--the way it's just long enough to reach--and played with her own hair. She was tired. I looked at her blue eyes staring up at me, her little pudgy fingers twisting in those blond locks, looked at the way her arms and legs are thinning, becoming the limbs of a toddler. Her bum and thighs are still chunky and cherub-like, but she's lost some dimples. I stroked her soft back, kissed the bottoms of her feet. She giggled and squirmed in my arms, but kept nursing. We could hear Juniper--still in the bath--having a conversation with her dad, probably about poop. And I was thinking how I wish I could freeze this moment, exactly as it is.
All the while knowing that with one warm spell, it will be gone. I was, I suppose, trying to figure out how to save the dripping water and spin it again into crystal spears.
Three days ago, I found my first grey hair. I pulled it out, mostly because I didn't believe it was mine, but then got excited. It was thick and curly.
Two weeks ago, Hazel Iris took her first solo steps when she wasn't paying attention. Three days ago, she started walking, a little, everyday. Today, she began adding consonants to the end of her breathy vowels, "hoT-h" and "haT-h". She did it wide-eyed and with her eyebrows raised like, Check this!
Three days ago, Juniper begged to go skiing. We took her in the back field, I broke trail with Hazel on my back, J bug skied between my man's legs. He held her by the armpits and she kept falling. It was an awkward, clumsy set-up. Juniper said, "Daddy, I just wanna do it all by myself." So he let her go. And she took off, smooth as silk, in my wake.
Before kids, I made new year's resolutions before the stroke of midnight every year, without fail, like Cinderella rushing to her carriage. Some years, I would bow out of the dancing and whiskey sours--excuse myself to the bathroom, or my car, or my room--just in time to write ten things before the fireworks sounded. Often, at midnight, the ink was still wet.
Like ten-day backpacking trips, whiskey sours, and buying new shoes--I stopped the resolutions once I had kids. I settled into a quiet satisfaction with my life. The big things, I figured, will come in their own time. And the trivial things...well, I've already wasted enough years worrying about that crap. In the meantime, the big things are coming slowly, winding down county roads, listening to mixed tapes and sipping at a thermos of tea.
This year, however, I have stated a few things I want to change as a family. Things that I've been wanting, meaning, to change and the turning of the calendar gave me the perfect excuse to make it formal. Three things: 1) No talking on the phone at the dinner table. Actually, no doing anything at the dinner table except eating and talking with the faces in front of you. This isn't easy...we have lots of family in oddball timezones who are easiest to talk with during dinnertime. Plus, my man is almost always on-call for his job. 2) Start saying grace. Actually, this has been one of my goals since 1997--funny how having kids puts you on the fast-track to be the change you want to grow. 3) Have a weekly meal plan. We are an Oh shit, it's five o'clock!? family and we'd like to change that...for everyone's sake. Eating-out is not a viable option in our town and nearly everything we make is from scratch. This requires some forethought. We need to start fore-thinking. C'est tout. If we can change these three things, we'll be doing well. They seem like small things--trivial--yet all of them protect that most sacred of family spaces: the dinner table.
:: New Year's. We travelled south to our old stomping grounds, stayed with old friends, visited with more old friends, played, played cards, went sledding.
Our people. The people who knew us before kids, before potty breaks and regular mealtimes, before responsible drinking and card-games played in hushed voices. These are the people with whom you can fart at the table and not say 'excuse me'. Or rather, if you do say 'excuse me' you'll likely be laughed at. The people who bore witness to such fallacious statements of the young as, "I just wouldn't worry about a kid as much as I worry about my dog." Now look at us.
We talked about those who are missing, all strewn about the west. We speculated on a possible wedding this summer(?). The chosen childless quitting their jobs and fleeing to India searching for a hint to their next life step, wondering where they'll end up, hoping it's closer to us.
I can't wait to see how 2013 unfolds. Here's to another great year, cheers.