She’s not faking it, she really is that happy.
Well ever since my last post, it’s as though everything that falls out of this girl’s mouth merits quoting. If either Ian or I have been away, soon after our return home, it’s become standard conversation to find out if Simone said or did anything funny, if we missed something awesome. There’s almost always a story. So here’s one for the record.
On Tuesday we made a pumpkin bread for our neighbor Aven’s-Daddy. He has a name but Simone just calls him Aven’s-daddy. Aven is Simone’s friend that lives in the next building. Our car battery died on Sunday and Aven’s-Daddy came to our rescue. As a gesture of thanks, Simone and I baked them some bread. One loaf for Aven and her family, and one loaf for us. Simone was very engaged in the process. Kids need to see that good things like pumpkin bread take work and patience. The bread was cooled and wrapped up and set on the table by the time Simone went to bed. We talked in the dark, she in her crib and I beside her, about our plan to deliver the bread the following day. The next morning, instead of her usual cuddle binge with Ian and me in bed, she headed straight for the table, finding the bread right where she’d left it. We could hear her from our bedroom: “Hey Mommy look! Whassat? Whassat, Mommy?!” As if she had no idea. I hear some aluminum foil start to crinkle, betraying her attempt to sound so innocently curious. I find her ON the dining room table, and at the sight of me she yanks her clasped hands to her chest with the cheekiest of grins, delighted by how close she had come to the forbidden treat. As I pick up the loaves and move them to the kitchen counter I tell her: “How about I remove that temptation”.
About an hour later, Ian’s gone, Evelyn’s down for her morning nap, I’m in the living room starting some work on my computer when I hear that deafening terrifying sound parents dread. The sound… of silence. I notice that Simone’s playful sounds had dissolved into that suspicious silence. “Simone? Simooooone. Where are you and what are you doing?” No response. Not reassuring. If she won’t come clean I guess I’ll have to get off my butt and hunt her and her mischief down. She wasn’t far, just around the corner in the kitchen. I found her in a primal crouch, hovering over a loaf of pumpkin bread on my kitchen floor. Having skinned her prey of it’s metallic skin, her fists were now full of its gooey flesh (think Gollum and some fresh fish). I don’t know what words came out in my very best Mom tone, but to whatever I said, she responded, with no remorse, only great satisfaction with herself, “Mmm. Yummmy. Temptation!” And kept repeating it like a fiend.
To that I said, “It’s no longer temptation, honey, when you’re hands are covered with it and bites are obviously missing.” She shoves one last hurried bite into her mouth as I approach. I pick up the bread. Pick up the child. Wash child’s hands. Try not to laugh at what just happened. Spank child for disobeying. Discuss obedience, pray for power to resist temptation.
So glad I made two loaves.
From her waking moments until about an hour after she goes to bed each night, this girl does not stop talking (or singing). Like most toddlers, I imagine, day to day she’s pretty consistent with her topics of interest, only adding the most interesting of things to her repertoire of conversation pieces, about 1 new discovery every few days. To give you an example, she’s been really into dragons for about 3 months, thanks to a cute book my boss gave her. She pretends to be one, a pink one, she pretends dad is one, she makes sure before she gets too close that he only eats “vejables”, she catches dragons and rides them. Her imagination runs off with them all the time. Another more recent interest is deciphering every single person’s gender and if they’re nice. “Asher’s a boy? Asher’s a nice boy?” “Melynda’s a gill? She’s a nice gill?” (she says girl with a British accent for some reason.) It’s just fascinating to watch her mind absorb, process, solve, imagine, and apply what she’s learning. She is tireless in her curiosity, and I can only hope that appetite for learning and the joy she finds in making sense of the world will continue to blossom in a way that draws her closer to God.
Ian and I are slowly going through a parenting series by Paul Tripp called Parenting from the Heart, gifted to us by my sister. I would definitely recommend it to parents, child care providers, teachers, anyone that has a heart for ministry to young impressionable souls. I won’t go into great detail, just share one point that I’ve been pondering. Tripp begins the seminar by laying the foundation of biblical parenting on one simple charge: pray for and cultivate in your children a wonder for God and his work. No experience should pass without providing credit and glory and wonder where it is due. As I watch Simone marvel at the delicacy and intricacy of a butterfly’s wings, or keep her up past her bedtime to show her the harvest moon, or watch with her as a tranquil creak slowly swells into a raging river during a storm, and as I use my limited knowledge to explain the physical wonders that are occurring before her everyday, I don’t want to neglect to speak of the God that did all of this in such wisdom and masterful beauty. From the very beginning, even before I think she or Evelyn can understand, I want to foster the habit (in them and me) of looking at the physical, then into it / past it to see what God did or what he’s doing in the world. I bring this up because Simone’s curiosity is, like I said, fierce, like most kids her age. And what better to fuel a curious spirit with than knowledge of the infinitely knowable and infinitely wonderful God?! Apart from that relationship, the discoveries she makes everyday could be minimized to trivia, rather than the gifts that they are to her that tell of her awesome and loving Maker. So it is my frequent prayer, for myself and for my daughters, that our awe of God would be renewed through various means of grace – the natural world, people and relationships, his words given to us in the Bible.
I apologize that this thought is incomplete and poorly articulated, but it’s 30 minutes past my bedtime and there are still dishes, a few emails, and a dream feed standing between me and the sleep I so need. So… to very awkwardly return to the original object of this post… here’s what our wonderful little Simone’s been saying lately. Just a few of mine and Ian’s favorites:
Bred, orange, yellow, green, blue, indo, and biolet! Make a rainbow!
I’m so naked! I’m so naked! (As she escapes from her towel and does a victory lap around the apartment starkies)
Simone’s too sad. My eyes all wet.
Hi Evelyn! Hi swee-gill (sweet girl). You sleep well, yah? (Sounding rather Scandinavian)
Daddy! let’s go a-venture!! (every Tuesday and thursday morning when I tell her I’m going to work and she gets to hang out with Dad)
BODY SLAAAAAAAM! (A bedtime ritual)
Simone get Jebba-leans?! (Reward for bladder control and proper placement of the pee’s and the poo’s)
I want my bread and butter. (Sometimes the first thing out of her mouth in the morning.)
Oh. my. goodness.
Mommy have big toilet? Mommy have big bum? Simone have little bum? (An astute observation resulting from our potty breaks taken together)
Mom: Simone, stop whining and ask nicely
Simone: I want, I want, I want, … I’m happy! (With almost tears in her eyes. Not convinced)
You have ballerina? (to anyone wearing anything that looks remotely like a dress – a tunic, a burka, my bathrobe.)
It’s too shiny outside.
More to come. Guaranteed.
Or at least that’s how I take it.
It’s taken all 8 weeks of this girls life for her to find her true smile. Her Baba (my Mom the baby wisperer and newborn-smile-conjurer) says she smiled within days after she was born. Some people might say that’s impossible, but I believe her. My siblings and I often say, with traces of jealous skepticism, that Baba always gets the first smile. And honestly, that’s fine with me. Those maiden grins are a little gift that many a grandbaby has given her during the brief and special times she gets with them so early in their lives. Having earned that smile with all her love, attention, and preemption of any need a new mom could have, we always end up saying our too-soon tearful goodbyes. Baba then makes departure for the distant East until our next rendezvous, that’s never soon enough. Somehow these little ones know how hard it is, how special she is, how deeply she treasures those early days with them, and they give her that rare treasure, an allegedly impossible gift: a newborn smile that’s not accompanied by gas.
So this is about the power of a smile – one much like the one my mom saw some 7 weeks ago – that Evelyn has finally found and dazzles us with constantly. It’s that unprompted, truly engaged, and absolutely captivating one that makes you drop everything, get in close, and commence a series of sounds and faces and giggles reserved exclusively for babies and puppies. The only thing that comes close to being this cute is Simone’s reaction when Evelyn smiles are her. It’s a pretty awesome moment when two people try tell each other with facial expressions only that they just can’t get enough of one another.
Anyway, after 8 weeks of predominant stoicism, an occasional belabored smile, and wondering if she likes us at all; I’m happy to report that Evelyn is flashing these looks of love all over the place. I don’t know if other moms feel this way, but that first smile makes me irrationally forgetful of all those sleepless nights and napless days and the number of times I’ve had to change our bed sheets to something that doesn’t smell so much like puked or passed breast milk. These are such trivial sacrifices, but in the moment it’s often overwhelming; I sense my human nature acutely. It’s a hard truth. But a good truth that’s hopeless apart from the greatest truth that we have a gracious God who knows our frail state and nurtures us accordingly. He knows that any properly socialized person is more likely to cringe or cock their head in pity at the sight my unkempt self rather than smile. He knows what this postpartum-struck mom needs, right when I need it the most. I need Him, ultimately, and he kindly uses simple gifts to sooth and soften us, and point us to that truth. Sometimes it’s a nap, a timely phone call, a splash of cold water on the face (forget a shower), an open window on a homebound day. But an unwarranted smile always works. There are few experiences like seeing my child find delight in me, her sister, her dad (or those lights on our ceilings that look like a solitary boob, cheeky girl), to bless my soul, melt my hardened heart, compel me to repentance and praise, and get me to the next mile marker.
I know that because Evelyn’s my baby, I’m especially susceptible to this effect that one of her smiles can have. But maybe, even if it’s in just a small way, I hope her face, and the smiles you regular give and receive, will testify to God’s kindness.
Pastries and coffee on the Potomac. Early enough that it was pretty much just us and the people that were pulled out of bed by a powerful drive to exercise their already very fit bods, or by their pets needing a pee. The pastries were too good to share with all the begging ducks, mangy and fat; clearly acquainted with too many human munchies. Evelyn wasn’t too impressed, she seemed a little bored. I think she may have opened her eyes once or twice.
Once we’d licked our sticky fingers clean, pet a few obliging dogs and tormented a cat in a stroller (whattheheck!), We journeyed North West to the zoo. It was a perfect day to be outdoors, and of course we weren’t the only ones with the zoo in mind on such a fine Saturday morning. By a miraculous act of God, we found a parking spot on the same block as the entrance to the zoo. It was one of those spots that was so good that we had to stop, thoroughly read all three parking signs above it, review the restricted times and days, read them again out loud, then look at each other in utter disbelief and delight that we’d gotten so lucky. High fives all around.
I just blogged about finding an awesome parking spot. I must live in the D.C. metro area.
In other almost as exciting news, Mei Xiang, our local giant panda, gave birth to a healthy baby cub the day before our visit. Our main objective for the day was to see a panda, and thankfully, there was one that wasn’t busy in the “reproductive activities”. Simone LOVED the panda! I do get what all the fuss is about. They really are darling creatures. Though I prefer otters.
Probably the cutest lil critters in the park…
We finished the day with a twilight splash party. For the first half hour, Simone had the whole splash park to herself. She’s a very focused player, with abrupt outbursts of gleeful laughter. She’s pretty verbal, but there are somethings that are just so wonderful to her, wide eyed squeals and tiptoes pounding and prancing express her sentiments far better than words.
She often has a plan for how she plays, and executes with such care and purpose. I’ll try to engage her, ask her questions, play with her, but sometimes she acts like she simply can’t be disturbed. Is this a first child thing? Am I just not fun enough? I don’t know what to make of it, but I do so love the opportunity to sit back and watch her deliberate movements, imagine what she’s planning to do next and how she’s processing all of it.
5 weeks ago today, Evelyn’s first cry flew out of her strong little body like a pent up song. The sweetest thing I’ve heard since Simone was born. A day hasn’t gone by that I haven’t had the most vivid recollections of those earliest moments of her life. I gladly rehearse them again and again. Every glance, every gesture, every breath from that day is a treasure and I don’t want to forget a single beautiful detail and the lessons hidden within each one.
I simply cannot stop marveling at God’s design, wondering what a great and good and redemptive God it is that, after and in the midst of our rebellion, He so graciously continues to breath new life into a world that can’t help but die.
As is our humanly custom, I’m taking fewer of these moments captive as I resume my home and work responsibilities, and that darn task oriented beast within me creeps out of confinement. Evelyn’s cry is now less of a song and more of a siren, warning me that if I don’t come quick and decipher her complaint that she’ll just keep raising her volume until we’re both red in the face and completely inconsolable.
This week marks the sunset of my maternity leave and Ian’s 9-5 summer job. My boss is being gracious enough to let me use this week to ease back into my old responsibilities as Ian and I continue to finesse our home into working order. In my comparison of my closing maternity leave to a sunset, I don’t mean to paint my job as a looming and dreaded darkness, but to emphasize, rather, that this week I’m quietly enjoying that same attentive savoring that we all do in those final seconds of a day that slowly crescendo with brilliant colors and strokes, never to be seen the same again. It’s entirely possible that it’s simply my hormones that are trying to restabilize themselves, but everything has a heightened sentimental weight right now. I don’t mind, I kind of like it. What’s the harm in feeling the sudden urge to cry whenever I hold my girls in my arms without a thought for mess surrounding us , or when I crawl into bed at night and, despite my exhaustion, stare into the darkness, baffled that I get to call Ian my husband and the day behind me my life.
It’s been an amazing break, with no disappointment other than to see it coming to an end. But the sun keeps rising with hope and promise. Our heavenly Father keeps on renewing until the eternity that will need no renewal; and our cries really will turn to songs.
That’s right, I can simultaneously wear a belt and cradle my baby. My hands and heart are full these days, and for the last month I’ve been happily limiting my time on the computer; there are a few other things at which I’d much prefer to gaze. Like this sweet face, once hidden in my big belly of skin, muscle, and life giving water and blood. What a miraculous way it is that God brings people into the world.
What I thought was going to be a really stressful month has proven to be one of my fondest seasons in this family’s life thus far. I will elaborate in future posts with word about how our Evelyn came into the world and how she’s handled it so far, about the people that have cared so well for our family, and how a day hasn’t gone by in which I don’t feel a renewed sense of love and respect and gratitude and wonder at Ian as a husband and father. God is so very good to not only sustain us but lavishly care for our body and souls, far beyond what we expected, in so many special ways. More to come. Just had to give you a tiny glimpse of this amazing creature God’s given us.