Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Soren: 2 years and myriad months

Dear Soren,

Maybe I should begin with the story of how I met your father. It was Spring, 2003. Your dad had just moved into my ward; I recognized him from a Philosophy class we had taken together, noting that he had seemed like an interesting person at the time. He attended the Sunday School class I taught, gleaning, among a flood of spiritual insights, a feeling that went something along the lines of, "Chickachicka-bow-bow!" We went on a ward hike together (your father had brought a date), climbing together in the same clump of people: the medium pacers. I chatted with him and Suzanne, the girl he had brought, and liked them both, though I was a little taken aback by your dad's....how should I put this?... homeschooledness-- and simultaneously charmed by his curiosity and knowledge about little things like snakes and ants. The group ate a picnic at the top of the mountain and then began its descent. At some point Suzanne asked, "Why aren't we running?" And Abraham replied, "Yes, why aren't we?" And before I could say, "Because this hill is twisting and steep and there are roots and rocks jutting out of it, you numskulls," your dad was ripping down the mountainside. Everyone else in the group followed suit. And so I, not wanting to be left behind, also began running down the mountain. This did not go well for me. I tripped several times-- as any reasonable person with legs and normal-sized feet would do--and each time your dad would stop, look back with a detached curiosity, and then continue bounding down the cliff-like mountainside. I was furious that he would be so inconsiderate as to continue leading us towards death at such a foolish pace, and my fury grew with each fall. Finally, watching him again resume running after I had again been tripped by a root, I could contain my rage no longer. I stood up and yelled, in a very classy fashion, "ABRAHAM! I AM GOING TO KICK THE SHIT OUT OF YOU!" and bolted the rest of the way down the hill. That was the moment that your father decided that he wanted to ask me out.

Or maybe I should tell you about The WalMart Incident. My mother loves this story. It was Spring, 2004. We were engaged. We had driven to Wal-Mart. I was circling the parking lot for a good spot when your dad impatiently directed me to "just park somewhere."
"You know what?" I said. "You're right. We do need our exercise." So I drove to the far end of the parking lot and pulled the car through a space.
"What is this?" your dad sputtered. "This is too far away! This is ridiculous! There are several dozen spots closer to the store! What are you doing?"
"I'm parking," I declared, pulling up the parking brake.
"Not here!"
"Yes here."
"No. Absolutely not."
"Um, yes. Absolutely yes." I got out. "Let's go."
"I refuse."
"You're being ridiculous."
"Give me the keys."
"You're being ridiculous."
"Give me the keys."
So I gave him the keys and walked to the store while he pulled the car into a spot that he considered more appropriate and walked from there.

So why am I telling you these stories? I tell you these two stories simply to underscore the point that your father and I shouldn't have been surprised when we bred and....well....you resulted.
I loved this Play Dough creation. I also loved that you were wearing that turtleneck. It always makes you look like a little artiste.

Having fun with bubble wrap. (Thanks, Heidi!)

You were born with your eyes open. As soon as they got you breathing easily, you were alert, looking around, fascinated with the world around you. We brought you home and discovered that our tiny little baby had surprising strength. You couldn't sleep unless you were swaddled, but you couldn't be swaddled like a regular baby-- you would flail your arms around with such furious strength they couldn't be contained. Daddy had to lie you down on one side of a blanket and, firmly holding your arms in, roll you up tight like a burrito. And only Daddy could do it. My burritos were too wimpy. But even Daddy Burritos could only hold for so long. You would wake up and lie in your crib grunting and struggling until first one arm, then the other, would pop out and start waving around like a rodeo cowboy's. We called you Our Little Houdini.

Swaddles were also necessary at meal times. You would cry passionately when hungry, but when I tried to nurse you, you'd push away with your strong little arms, crying even more furiously because you were so hungry but couldn't get to the food. I thought a lot about that, thinking of how it was so very symbolic of my relationship with God: how I cried for His love and nourishment but pushed it away at the same time. I also wondered if this was symbolic of the way you would live your life. Then, once we got you eating, you ate furiously, gulping and making "hooting" sounds the whole while. When we stopped for burp breaks, you would scream.

You started to crawl at six months and I haven't had a moment's peace since.

And now, oh now, you're two.

Playing with the hose and sprinkler in the backyard with Daddy.

You are a "more" boy. You are rarely content with what you've been given. I'll give you a candy and you'll immediately say, "Want more. Want more candy." You'll be playing with a toy and throw a tantrum because you don't have more toys. I'll give you a hug and you'll push away, crying, saying that you want a hug. You never seem to have enough attention, no matter how much we give you, and you'll do anything to provoke even negative attention. In fact, you'll be doing something naughty and we'll ask, "Do you want a spank?" And you will respond, "Yes." And you really mean it. You like the drama of a spanking. You particularly like to pick on Liam, because you know that provokes the most intense sort of attention from your parents. You take away toys he's playing with and throw them across the room. In the car you'll scream a piercing "no!" at him until he starts to cry. At the most random peaceful moments you poke at his eyes, hit him, pinch him, scratch him.

We have tried everything to counteract this. We try giving you plenty of one-on-one time while simultaneously providing you with opportunities to learn that you are capable of playing independently. At first, we thought maybe you just didn't understand soft touch, so we worked on showing you the appropriate away to touch Liam. This just provided you with more opportunities to hurt him. So we switched tracks, deciding you needed some time away from the situation to cool down, so we started putting you in your room. When this didn't work I, who don't believe in spanking, started spanking you. When this too proved ineffective, we reverted back to putting you in your room and keeping you separate from Liam as much as possible. This is what we're doing now, but it doesn't stop you from hurting him; it doesn't stop you from screaming at him; it doesn't stop you from taking his toys. I work very hard at making it clear to you that you are a good boy, that I love you, but that your behavior is inappropriate. My attempts seem futile. It's deeply frustrating and I find myself wondering how it's possible to harbor so much love for someone who is capable of making you so very angry.

But anyway.

You aren't all battles, tantrums, and bloodshed. And when I told those stories at the beginning of this letter, I didn't mean to imply that you are a combination of your father's and my worse traits. On the contrary, those stories provide a great visual of a good part of what I enjoy about my marriage: I love the intensity, the arguments, the sparks. And I love your intensity and spark too. (I just wish I knew how to reign it in to your advantage.)

Here are some of the cute things you've done this month:

In the middle of the night, you woke me with some pretty sad sounding crying. I stumbled into your bedroom and right into a pile of something squishy. Oh geez, I thought. Not this again. "Soren? I asked. Did you poop?" "Yummy poop," came the reply from a shadowy corner of the room. Oh GEEZ, I thought. He's been eating it. I wearily flipped on the light and there you were, sitting big-eyed on your rocking chair, vomit dried to your face. "Oh, poor baby! You threw up!" "Yummy poop," you said. "Oh, that's no fun," I said, looking at the miniature trail of vomit piles curving around your bed. "I 'cared," you responded. "I frow up." "Poor lovey," I replied and gave you a hug. Then I set about getting you cleaned in in fresh jammies, and scrubbing the vomit out of the carpet. "I frow up," you said again. "Poor Soneen." Then you thought about the hundreds of times you'd seen Liam spit up too and made a connection: "Liam throw up. Poor Liam."

(For the record, this was the beginning of a string of days in which I was vomitted upon multiple times. There was also one occasion when, right before the Relief Society presidency showed up for a visit, and right after I had strategically covered up the stains on the carpet with building blocks, you threw up all over me and the kitchen floor. The timing was impeccable: you threw up and they knocked on the front door.)

In Stake Conference you were wiggling around on Grandma's lap when someone mentioned the Biblical Abraham. Grandma, who didn't think you were listening, was delighted to see you look up and exclaim, "Daddy's Abraham!"

Trying to determine whether Wheat Thins are a healthy snack choice.

You love trains. I can not emphasize this enough. You love books about trains, you love toy trains, you love making trains out of blocks. You love it when Liam hoots like a train, you love it when you can hear a train going through town, you love seeing real actual trains, you love riding on train rides. You want to spend all your time at Grandma and Grandpa's house, or the Smith's house, because they both have train sets.

One evening before family prayer, Auntie Hillary and I asked you what song you wanted to sing. "Ruh Ruh Knee Song," you said. "Excuse me?" I asked. "Ruh Ruh Knee," you insisted. "Ruh ruh knee, huh?" I said, totally perplexed. So after some prodding we talked you into singing it: softly, shyly, you softly sang, "Ruh ruh knee, Kye Kye Knee." It was "Reverently, Quietly," a Primary song we often sing with you at bedtime. It was adorable. It was even adorable when you sang it really loudly in the middle of Sacrament Meeting a few weeks ago, though I stifled my giggle and asked you to use your quiet voice. You've really taken to singing in the past month: you sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," which usually gets all jumbled up with "Bah Bah Black Sheep" and the ABC song. You sing "All the Pretty Little Horses." You sing "Reverently, Quietly." You also make up songs about various things. Daddy tells me he heard you singing a song about putting your poops in the potty and getting candy for it.

In Soren's world, things are not "small": they are "tiny." You'll describe something as being "BIG," using a big husky voice, and then contrast it with something "tiny," using a little squeaky voice. Again, adorable.

Some nice interactions with your little brother. I hope so much that you'll be each other's best friends some day soon.

You still love Mommy's hair. Whenever I take it out of my ponytail you'll exclaim, "Mommy's a girl! Mommy's a girl!" Sometimes at bedtime if I can get you to calm down enough to lie on your mattress by the door, I'll lie down with you and you'll stroke it and we'll talk about whatever comes to your mind. I love those times with you.

You are a beautiful, sweet, ridiculously handsome little boy.

I love you more than you'll ever know.



More Life Upheavals

I feel like I'm always ten posts behind on this blog. I would love to post every day, but that is a luxury for another year, I suppose.

So I had been working at A-Z Family Services, helping part-time with the administration part of a new case management program they're offering for teens on Drug Court, when Harbor House shut down. I asked my boss, Tom, if I could expand to full time hours and he said I could-- but not until business picked up in case management sufficiently for him to be able to afford to pay me.

It was looking like that might not happen for a while and we were starting to REALLY tighten our belts when a miracle happened.

One random I got a call from Tom, who said, "The main office receptionist just quit. Do you want to replace him? Tomorrow?"

Did I ever. I just about fell to my knees in gratitude at that very moment.

And thus began my venture into the wide world of being a full-time working mom. Which is shockingly different from being a part-time working mom, in case you were wondering. I work every day from 10 - 6, which means that I wake up, eat breakfast, get ready, play with the boys for a little while, drop Soren off at my mom's so that Abe can actually get some schoolwork done (except on Tuesday, when Collette watches him), and drive to work. And then I'm gone all day. This makes me a little bit sad, because it disconnects me a little from home life. I don't get to see the little things that happen during the day. I don't hear the funny songs that Soren makes up, I don't hear Liam's creaky squealing, I don't play blocks and play dough for hours, I don't hold a squishy fat baby in my lap, I don't serve up graham crackers and milk for an afternoon snack. (Abe is good to text me when something cute happens, though, which helps a little.) And there is a plus side: I also don't have to deal with one million tantrums, watch the clock until Abe gets home, feel lonely and isolated, try to scrub poop out of the carpet with a toddler climbing on my back and a baby clutched in my arms, or drag a screaming two-year-old to his room with one arm while holding a twenty-five pound nursing baby in the other. In the evenings, I come home, we eat dinner (which Hillary has frequently prepared, may God bless and keep her forever and ever), I play with the boys for a little while, we go through our bedtime routine, the boys go to sleep, I attempt to pick up a little clutter, and then I crash into bed as well.

One thing that has helped immensely is that Soren goes to my parents' house nearly every day. My mom was really worried about Soren when I started working full-time: he's such a mama's boy, and she noticed that during that first week he had begun acting up more and lashing out more at Liam. So she called me and said, "I think that Soren needs one-on-one attention and a predictable routine. Can I watch him for a few hours every morning and bring him home after his nap?" Could she??? Could she ever. That has been such a blessing, providing my "spirited child" with a consistent place to go and receive the one-on-one attention that he so desperately needs, while simultaneously increasing Liam's safety and providing a quiet atmosphere in which Abraham is able to do his homework.

Also, we now have Briar living with us, in addition to Hillary.

And we blessed Liam on Sunday. These are both things that I hope to post about soon.

But for now, I need sleepy.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Race Pictures

At the beginning of the race. I'm the girl in the brown ponytail on the far left. Seth is the person directly to the front and left of me. Karen is in the hot pink jogging shorts. Her sister Annie is in the navy blue shirt next to her. Marty is the tiny sliver of bald head over the girl in the white hat.

Here we are at the end, triumphant and sweaty.
(Left to Right: Annie, Karen, Seth, Me, Marty)


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