Happy Birthday Baby

Rosie turns FOUR today.  Impossibly fast, yet it seems she's always been part of my life.  She's the sweetest, cuddliest, most generous contrarian in the world.  Unfailingly polite, she says "thank you, mommy" in her tiny voice whenever I bring her anything, but she's unfailingly and infuriatingly stubborn, too.  Her little body is so tightly wound.  She springs and jumps and dances like a bolt of electricity runs through her body.  She cannot fall asleep at night, and asks me to sit with her 'for five minutes', then grabs my hand and won't let go when her time is up.  She still twirls her hair and sucks her thumb to relax, and she still grabs me around the neck in a forwards full-Nelson and brings my check down to press against her cheek when I tuck her in.

Her memory stuns and confuses me.  If I ask her what she did in school, she'll brush me off with an airy, "I don't remember" but then she'll recite a scene from two years ago, from our old DC life, accurate down to describing the floor boards.  She's resistant to change: her school installed a brand-new playground over the summer, but she still pouts, "I like the old one" that she played on when we picked up Buzzy. 

Animals and babies are her friends.  The cousins closest to her age are all big sisters now, and she asks me why I'm not getting "a 'nudder one baby in my tummy?"  She wants to be big and masterful, often pretending to be the big sister or mommy.  I still get to be the queen, though.  "Thank you, your minus" she says to be silly. 

She's always had a gleam in her eye.  Lately she's been leaning into it with an eagerness to explore that wasn't there even a couple of months ago.  Rosie started school this fall, and is growing more independent every day.  She loves to dress up, put on her 'lipstick' -- Chapstick, sunscreen or marker, whatever she can find.  The more jewelry the better.  She's a bit of a dare devil (so long as slides aren't involved--she isn't a big fan of slides, mostly because of the static electricity shock that accompanied most of her earliest experiences on them).  She defiantly tells me, "I like bad guys, mama."  Oh, dear one.  No, no, no!  Please stay far away from all bad boys, bad guys, bad everything.  She always wants a hit of Motrin, enjoys caviar, loves fizzy water, and generally has me worried about her adolescence already.

Last night, I tucked her in and said, "Good night, baby.  I guess I can't call you that anymore.  You're four!  You're getting so big!"  And she said, "You can still call me baby." 

She has my heart.  Happy Birthday, baby.

Higher Math

On the first day of school, I inquired about volunteering in Buzzy's kindergarten class.  Her teacher informed me that the class parent spots were already filled.  What?  It was the first day of school.  Did the other mothers procure the coveted spots when I was helping Buzzy locate her new cubby, or was it that conversation in the lobby with the principal that doomed my chances?  I grumbled to myself about open and transparent elections and helicopter parents who usurped the Rule of Law in kindergarten parent politics. 

Despite my frustrations at being an unsuccessful helicopter parent myself, I totally understand why the mommies lined up to volunteer.  Daily life at home with small children can be soul sucking.  But, at school, kindergartners are sunshine and rainbows when they see their parents.  Buzzy's guileless little face lights right up if I pop into her classroom to drop something off.  Sometimes, she'll still hold my hand in the parking lot--although, more and more often, I have to make the first move and hold on tightly.  I remember my superstar mommy volunteering at my first grade Halloween party--she and Mrs. P dressed like witches and served us a brew steaming with magic that I only later learned was dry ice.  I also remember my mother volunteering at my sixth grade dance.  I hid behind a post and didn't make eye contact.  The other moms and I--we know where this is headed. Sign us up for cupcake duty and field trips to the cranberry bog now.

The email requesting volunteers at the kindergarten Halloween party sat in my inbox for over an hour before I saw it.  Late to the game again.  My heart dropped when I saw the one spot that was left: Ghost Math.  I find even the non-haunted variety of math pretty frightening.  I'd ordered my academic and professional life around avoiding it at all costs.  But there it was, laid out in some sort of equation.  Access to the Halloween party = overcoming fear of kindergarten math.

Her teacher assured me that I only had to know how to add up to five, so I signed up, with some trepidation.  Buzzy glowed during the Halloween parade.  She took my hand and showed me her classroom: the pencil sharpener, the book nook.  The golden morning got even better when I met the other mother at the Ghost Math station--she was a physician!  Music to this English major's ears.  She did the heavy math lifting, and Buzzy kindly helped me out a bit, too, before scampering off to bedazzle a pumpkin.  Mostly, I focused on reminding the kids to write their names on their worksheets.  I still don't quite understand the point of Ghost Math.  But I know things get trickier above five.

Both Limp and Feral (for Jill)

Six months.  It's been about that long since we moved from just-outside DC to suburban Boston.  The kids transplanted quickly, and Greg's happy to be back in the land of the losing Red Sox--he missed their glory days entirely, so it feels like the Boston of his youth.  The cat, on the other hand, barricaded herself in a closet and required narcotics to move.  With no pharmaceutical intervention, I've handled things slightly less gracefully. 

This past weekend, we ventured back to our old stomping grounds for the first time since moving.  Good-bye, stale snow!  Hello, early daffodils blooming on Rock Creek Parkway. We drove by the old house.  I cried.  (A lot.)  We celebrated many birthdays with our dearest friends (conveniently, many of us were born within a week of each other in February), I savored a girls' lunch with my besties at my beloved Leopold's, we met up with our old playgroup and the mommies who got me through the early years, and the girls enjoyed an 11-hour play date with Buzzy's most-missed pal from preschool while we hung with her wonderful parents.  We squeezed in nearly a half year of our old life into one long weekend, and it was fabulous. 

Greg had to stay in DC for work, so I was thankful that the girls were quiet on the evening flight home.  They were exhausted and as introspective as five- and three-year-olds can be.  I was emotionally and, after schlepping the luggage and children without Greg, physically drained.

We landed at Logan and waited at the world's slowest baggage claim.  When the conveyor belt finally lurched into action, Rosie tried to elbow her way through the business travelers' knees to retrieve our oversized suitcase herself.  I returned her to the stroller and resumed my lookout.  An ear-shattering screech reverberated through the terminal.  It didn't immediately register that it was a sound that might pertain to me--maybe they were transporting a crate of feral cats and something stepped on their collective tails?--but, no.  The sound emanated from a little girl in a ratty Areil costume, flailing on the dirty tiles, screaming "I WANT TO DO IT."  The crate of feral cats was my youngest daughter.  I tried to pick her up, but she went limp while continuing to scream.  The business travelers backed away, giving me free access to the conveyor belt.  I wrestled the suitcase off, somehow pried Rosie off the floor, put her now-writhing body into the stroller and wheeled her, screaming, through the airport as the crowds continued to part.  They parted all the way to the taxi cab stand, and we found ourselves first in line.  Suckers.

Rosie and Buzzy fell asleep before we'd exited the Ted Williams tunnel.  Eventually, I saw the rental house lights glowing.  We'd forgotten to turn them off.  Six months, two blizzards, countless fruitless house searches, one trip back to DC, still no spatulas, and an excruciatingly long cab ride later, I felt like I was finally home.