Tuesday, May 24, 2011

happy birthday, thumb

(Thumb is the only of the Handful whose entire life is documented in photos of which I have digital copies, so we're going back to the beginning for this one.  This was the first time I held him, but I almost didn't include the picture because of that funny thing my hair is doing, but ultimately the Ring and Thumb preciousness helped me get over my hair hang-ups.)

Four years ago today, I was wearing yellow (don't ask me why) with hair that clearly wasn't behaving and hanging out in my favorite Lexington hospital meeting my freshly-hatched second nephew.  He wasn't quite as fresh as his sister (Ring) and brother (Pinkie) were when I met them, but that's because this little guy decided to be born in the wee hours of the morning, while I was staying at home with said sister and brother, who at not-quite-four and two weren't up for an all night hospital vigil.  Anyway later in the day, we were at the hospital, and the Popster told me to ask him how many grandkids he had.  I initially resisted, assuring him that I was well aware of the answer, but he insisted, and eventually I caved and asked with a complete lack of enthusiasm, "How many grandkids do you have?"

Almost before the last word left my mouth, he threw his giant hand up in my face, fingers splayed and proclaimed, "a hand-full."  And the collective nickname for my parents' grandchildren, my nieces and nephews, was born, birthed in that Lexington hospital just as much as Thumb was.

That's just one of the many things Thumb has done for us in his little life so far.  Four years is not very long in the grand scheme of things, but it mostly feels like we've had him for longer, that he's been around for much of our lives.  And that probably speaks to the way that his little personality and great big eyes have completed our family.

Thumb, whose eyes have changed from blue to green somewhere along the line, at his first, second, and third birthday parties.

I won't get to see and celebrate with Thumb until this weekend because he, like his brother, had the good sense to be born  near a three day weekend, so we always have his birthday party Memorial Day weekend, but while I wait, let me share with you, imaginary readers, the best of Thumb.

I present my five favorites of a four-year-old:

5.  The speech impediment.  I know it's not going to last--or at least it's not going to be cute indefinitely if it does last--but right now how Thumb talks and messes up sounds is so deliciously endearing.  I don't have any data to back me up on this, but it seems to me that Thumb might have the record for most/longest streak of mispronunciations of any of the Handful, which is only right I suppose considering that a few months ago he surpassed Pointer as having the longest streak as the "baby" of our family.  And truthfully, he's already grown out of so many of those sound substitutions, so I know this special little trait is one that I'll have to savor for now and remember with fondness for years to come.  Here's a ripped-from-real-life example of how Thumb's precious manner of speaking permeates our lives.  Thursday night I was at the hospital seeing Grams, and when I went to leave I asked if she was going to give me a kiss, and she turned me down.  In fact she told me that wasn't going to give me any "wugar," which is how Thumb says (or maybe used to say, as I think initial s's are finally within his grasp) sugar. When even your eighty-one year old great-grandmother who's been through so much lately she barely knows her name sometimes can remember and quote how adorably you say words, it's kind of a big deal.

4.  Another thing that I'm totally digging about the Thumb is his cuddliness.  Even though in so many ways (just wait, we'll talk about them) he's doing his best to grow up way too fast, Thumb is still the sweetest little, loving boy.  And he's pretty decent at spreading that love around.  I completely melt when he sticks his thumb in his mouth (yes, Thumb sucks his thumb--handy, isn't it?) and lays his sweet head down on my shoulder.  He's the best little snuggler, and I'm really crossing my fingers that he doesn't grown out of that one.

3.  This face.  It's more than the fact that he's possibly the most beautiful boy I've ever seen.  It's more than those ridiculous eyelashes or those giant green eyes or even the dimples.  It's how that little face conveys every single emotion without saying a word.  It's about the nods and blinks and grins, the pouts and the silly faces and the heart-breaking tears.  He's got maybe the most expressive face of anyone I've ever known.  Too bad for his daddy, but with that face, professional poker-playing is not in this boy's future.

2.  Despite the way we baby Thumb and the sweet way that he indulges us in that, he has always been an independent little soul.  He will fearlessly try to do anything that the big kids are doing, and "me too" has been an oft-repeated refrain around his house since he was able to talk.  If Ring and Pinkie can do it, then Thumb is convinced that he should be able to as well, no matter what.  Whether it's playing ball or doing homeschool work, Thumb is determined to run with the big boys, and I love the confidence and determination and single-mindedness that drive all those me-toos.  And of course, a big chunk of his desire to to be big is the fact that he adores his big brother and sister and cousins.

1.  When Thumb was a little baby, the grown-ups in our family were having a discussion about being funny.  Yes, we talk about being funny in our family quite a lot.  In this particular discussion we had two opposing theories.  Shane thought that based on the anecdotal evidence of the sibling groups we knew that second-born children are the funniest in their families.  I put forth the notion that it was actually youngest children, regardless of number.  I was using as my examples most of the same sibling groups as it seems most of the siblings groups we know are two-kid families.  The major point of disagreement was that Shane, as a second-born, considered himself the funniest of our siblings, and I, as the youngest, insisted that it was me.  I did have to agree that my moma, who is technically the second-born of three, is definitely the funniest of her siblings, but since she's a twin, she's only minutes away from being the youngest.  Shane then tried to use Pinkie, who was a hilarious two-year-old (and is still a very funny six-year-old), as the example to prove his point, but I maintained that we couldn't make that call until Thumb was older.  So I've been watching Thumb's comedic development with avid interest  And I'm proud to say (because it proves my theory) that I think he's the funniest of the three of them.  He teases and jokes and tricks and has been doing so since he could talk (though he couldn't manage it without that expressive face).  One of his specialties is keeping a funny thing going, like the time a very solemn and demure "me not know" was the only answer he would give to his Aunt Michelle, just for the sake of hilarious torture.  And I'd like to offer a friendly kick in the pants to the first person to laugh at "in myyyyy notebook," thus making it Thumb's longest-running and most adorable joke.  As we all should know by now, humor is my real love language, so this kiddo has me in the palm of his hand.

And as a bonus treat, I've got a video of Thumb doing what he does best:  being adorable.  Here for your pleasure, you get the voice (though he doesn't mispronounce anything too badly), the expressions, and a peek of that teasing humor.  Please pardon how loud I am and the ridiculous amount of background noise. Enjoy:
Happy birthday to my little Thumb.  Aunt Ellen is going to love all over you this weekend!

*****A late-breaking update:  Once again a Peep has just managed to ensure that I don't get to attend her child's birthday party.  Today is already Peep Amy's birthday (Happy Birthday!) and tomorrow is the 4th birthday of her Carter, so I already consistently miss their birthdays.  Earlier this afternoon, Peep Monica brought our newest little Weep into the world.  I'm not going to give you any more details because I don't know if they've fully announced it to everyone they want to know yet.  I'll come back and update it with pertinent info once I've got the all-clear.*****

Friday, May 13, 2011

harry potter haiku #6

Blogger has not been a friend to me lately, but enough of the excuses.

On Halloween night
a troll brings them together
with Hermione.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

harry potter haiku #5

Malfoy's bigotry
uncovers Harry's talent
Gryffindor seeker

"i am her child and that is better than being the child of anyone else in the world” maya angelou

Seriously, I'm writing about her again.  Are you tired of hearing about my sainted moma, imaginary readers?  I'm afraid I can't stop, and in any case, it's at least seasonally appropriate that I write about her today.  Indulge me?

I realized long ago that the unintended lesson I was learning in being my moma's child was about the kind of mother I wanted to be.  This is probably true of most everyone.  Even if the lesson is learned negatively ("I'll never say/do that to my children"), we learn about the ways we do and don't want to parent from our parents.  I know you'll be surprised to hear that I think my moma is the last word in good examples of mothering.  You know, because I never talk about her amazingness or how crazy I am about her.  I'm not a mother, and maybe I never will be, but if I ever am, and if as a mother I ever get anything right, we'll all know it's because of her.

The thing I'm learning lately, the idea that sprang into my head and said "write me" this week, is that besides that showing-me-how-to-be-a-moma example that I've noticed and cherished and taken for granted for the past thirty years, my moma's been teaching me by example all along how to be a daughter.  And since there's no someday or maybe attached to that one, it's what I should have been noticing and cultivating and praying would take root in my grown-up daughter self.

I've always known that my moma loved and was close to her parents.  Gramps and Grams were a part of our daily lives.  We saw them all the time, and it wasn't just because we were adorable and charming grandchildren (though we were) or because my moma sometimes needed free baby-sitting (though she did).  We went to their house every Sunday and Wednesday night after church of my life and most of the Sunday afternoons too.  We went with them--or at least met up with them there--to visit my great-grandmother every week when I was little (wonder where my moma learned about being a good child?).  When my moma started working at Garan, she went to their house every day for lunch and every day after work, to drink coffee and visit.  She spent time with them because it was what she wanted and needed and what they wanted and needed too, because family is her happy place.  Is it any wonder I adore her and the Popster the way that I do having watched her adore her own olds all my life?

My moma remembers and tells stories about Gramps and Grams all the time.  She knows stuff about them as children and recounts details of their lives from before she was born in addition to all the memories from her own life that are wrapped up in G & G.  She knows these stories because she's listened and asked and committed to her heart details, the snippets and vignettes that add up to who her parents are.  Without ever realizing who I was imitating, I can do the same.  When the Handful ask for stories from when I was a little girl, I quickly run out of entertaining or memorable (non-frightening) stories, so I tell stories about Nana (that's what the Handful call my moma).  Her stories are my best ones.  And in the same way we pass along stories about our beloved Gramps, whom the Handful never knew, I want to believe that someday Pointer, Bird, Ring, Pinkie, and Thumb will be telling their own kiddos (or grandkiddos) about Nana and the escaped panther or all the dog stories or how she and the Popster first met as little neighbor children (to be honest, I make this one more romantic than it actually is, but it makes up in charm and good storytelling what it lacks in truth).

But being a daughter isn't all sweetness and perfection and heart-warming anecdotes, and my moma (and her sisters to share the love and appropriate credit where it's due) shows me that too, the bravery and heartache and sacrifice of being a daughter.  Right now we're living through a time of concern and uncertainty and prayerful worry for Grams, my moma's moma.  It's not been easy on any of us, but the truth is that she's been slowing and weakening at varying rates of speed for a long time now.  Nothing about that changes the love and devotion and joy that my moma has in Grams, but it does, I think, complicate it.

It's that role reversal common to most families, where the person who has always taken care of you starts requiring care.  I've watched my moma do this for years, even before Gramps died.  She sorted out their medicines and drove them to the doctor and came and drank coffee with them every day so they wouldn't be bored or lonely, and it's only gotten bigger since Gramps died and Grams aged.  It was such a natural progression in our lives that I didn't always realize how it might sometimes be inconvenient or how it must hurt her to have to become the strong one, the caregiver.  I didn't know it was brave or difficult or a sacrifice because it just looked like love.  It didn't look like a choice because to a daughter who has always cherished her moma and daddy it was the only choice.

That's the lesson she's teaching me these days:  an example that's declaring war on my selfish nature and a love that is patient and kind, that always protects and always perseveres, that never fails.

Happy Mother's Day to my moma and her moma.  May I someday be a daughter worthy of them.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

harry potter haiku #4

I had a a few written ahead of starting this project, but after this one, I'm caught up.  Now's your chance to pray that my writer's block kicks in and ends this series.

Sorting is stressful
if you don't want Slytherin
but the hat listens.

Friday, May 6, 2011

harry potter haiku #3

The saga continues in poetry.  I'm pretty sure this is the least noticed/responded to thing I've ever written, but I'm not going to let your indifference stop me.  Sorry, friends.

On Hogwart's Express
Harry and Ron are besties.
Ron's nose is dirty.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

harry potter haiku #2

Yesterday, I shared with you the inspiration behind the new series.  Hope you don't hate it already because it's completing my life.

Hagrid breaks the news
but not 'til he's eleven,
he's the boy who lived.

And another--because I can't wait to share this one--that's my favorite so far:

In Ollivander's
Phoenix feather chooses him
a curious choice.

This could take a while to work out of my system.  Patience, please.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

harry potter haiku #1

A few weeks ago at work someone sent me the following in an email:

Fighting Voldemort
from the comfort of this chair
in my library

It changed my world.  How could I never have considered devoting my favorite form of poetry to what is arguably my favorite series of books?  No longer, imaginary readers, no longer will the world have to muddle through a sham of an existence without my contribution to bad Harry Potter poetry.  Today I present the beginning of a new series.  Sometimes I think my long streams of haikus sort of ruin each other.  They're meant to be short, after all.  So for this project, I'll be presenting the haiku one at a time in roughly chronological order.  Today I present a haiku inspired by Sorcerer's Stone.

 On Four Privet Drive
the cupboard under the stairs,
lives Harry Potter.

You feel your life changing already, don't ya?  Stay tuned for more.  I've got a few in the hopper of which I am excessively proud.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

be impressed by this

I know no one wants to hear any more about my dumb phone and how I ruined it (and cost myself a bunch of money in the process) anymore, so instead I'm going to blog about a recent success that should impress the pants off you, imaginary readers.  For the sake of others, please don't read this in public.  I don't want to be responsible for your pants flying off and freaking anyone out.

I had to put my plarn mat project on hold recently to take care of a more time-sensitive crafty project.  My friend Mo is having a baby sometime soon and the Peeps threw her a baby shower last weekend.  Here's how cute it was:

There were some good eats too, and pregnant Mo is fairly precious (but her baby bump and the cheesy bacon bites are not the impressive thing).  Peep Amy made the perfect, perfect cake.

Peep Amy has a cake-decorating blog that she updates very sporadically.  Apparently working full-time and raising two of the sweetest boys in the world and creating the most amazing cakes doesn't leave her much time to write about them.  I'll forgive her if she'll continue to make me cakes occasionally.  The cake, while magnificent, is not the titular impressive thing.
 Here are the peep girls at the shower with Luke hiding his face but no Calla because she was having kind of a hard life right then.  This cute but poorly lit picture doesn't really have anything to do with the thing that's going to impress you, but I like us and we're cute, so I wanted to include it.

Technically these next few photos aren't the thing that's going to impress you either, but I do think these two delights are impressively cute.  I love them.

 I know it looks like she's just about to stand up and take off, but this is actually her method of not crawling.  She gets up like this and plants her bottom in whatever new direction she's trying to move.  It's awkward but effective.
I took roughly four thousand pictures of the tweeps on this afternoon, but in a surprising number of them, the more mobile Calla is blocking Luke. 

This face is hilarious.  She has a very skeptical brow sometimes.  And has been previously discussed on the blog, the Clintster would make a pretty, pretty girl.

So we're getting to the impressive thing just any second now:  My brilliant bit of creativity factors into the shower in the gift-opening.  Back in the fall, I made the tweeps wee striped hats since they were going to be cold-weather babies.  This baby is due in late-May and won't be requiring much in the way of warm head coverings, so I had sort of written off the idea of a knitted gift, until this book came into my life:
Itty-Bitty Toys: How to Knit Animals, Dolls, and Other Playthings for Kids

I was charmed by all the cuteness but intimidated by the intricacies of the patterns.  But since there were several animal projects that fit right into Mo's decorative scheme, and because I occasionally get confident (over-confident?) in my own ability to accomplish things, I ultimately decided to tackle a project for a lion that reverses to an elephant.  (Spoiler alert:  I don't think this is the last we'll see of projects from this adorable book.)

Like the irresponsible blogger/crafter I am, I didn't take pictures documenting the project, but here's what the finished project looks like:
 the lion side
 the elephant side

 the back views
 I know it's not polite, but if you look up the elephant's skirt, here's what you see:  a wadded-up lion.
 And if you look up the lion's skirt, the scrunched elephant.
 The bottoms of the heads are stitched together for some stability, so it can't be a two-headed beast, so this is the only way you can see both animals at once.

So that's how my most recent knitting turned out.  I'm just the tiniest bit proud of it, but since I learned this week not to have so much pride in my own accomplishments, I'm not going to make any promises that the little liophant won't fall apart tomorrow, but I do hope that it'll last for the next four weeks or so until the Raspberry is born.