Addie is becoming less and less babyish, more and more like a girl. I am catching more and more glimpses of her as a teenager and even adult and it is BREAKING.MY.HEART. Motherhood, terrifying. I am reading Little Town on the Prairie and it is always so helpful to see Ma's lifestyle and parenting skills because they really contrast starkly to current parenting styles. I read a part in which Laura is getting a calf to drink milk, a regular morning chore for her. The description sounded exactly like my life right now: constant messes, little children learning to do things, my clothes and theirs getting dirty. Except Laura is really calm and doesn't get upset, and I see red every time there is a mess or a spill. Especially since Davy was born, I have been uncomfortably more aware of my own shortcomings. It seems to get that way more and more. Yet I am feeling grateful for this awareness too, because that means I have to really take time away from my kids for my spiritual life. And the problem is in me, not in THEM, not in our circumstances, not in not having my dream life conditions right now. There is so much I have to do on my part.
From Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder: "Teaching the calf to drnk was not easy, but always interesting. The wobbly-legged baby calf had been born believing that it must butt hard with its litle red poll, to get milk. So when it smelled milk in the pail, it tried to butt the pail. Laura must keep it from spilling the milk, if she could, and she had to teach it how to drin, becasue it didn't know. She dipped her fingers into the milk and let the calf's rough tongue suck them, and gently she led its nose down to the milk in the pail. The calf suddenly snorted milk into its nose, sneezed it out with a whoosh that splashed milk out of the pail, and then with all its might it butter into the milk. It butted so hard that Laura almost lost hold of the pail. A wave of milk went over the calf's head and a splash wet the front of Laura's dress. So, patiently she began again, dipping her fingers for the calf to suck, trying to keep the milk in the pail and to teach the calf to drink it. In the end, some of the milk was inside the calf." (chapter "Springtime on the claim")
"'This earthly life is a battle,' said Ma. 'If it isn't one thing to contend with, it's another. It has always been so, and it always will be. The sooner youmake up your mind to that, the better off you are, and the more thankful for your pleasures.'" (chapter "Blackbirds")
I listened to this podcast called "Oh, Motherhood" and thought some parts were really funny, especially comparing toddlers to "little drunk people." Tooooootally. I also really liked how they said they are alway "recallibrating" when it comes to their prayer lives. And how hard it is to take small children to mass. I HEAR YA. I am also always recallibrating our daily schedule, my prayer life, my priorities, our family traditions, our priorities, education, our goals, etc. On one hand, that's what makes this phase of young motherhood so beautiful also: you are completely defining your family. Drawing on a blank slate. You can erase and start over, or erase and make adjustments. As kids get older, you get more ingrained in your parenting habits and decisions and it's harder to make big changes. But now everything inspires me.
It's also really, really hard because of this blank slate. I am always discerning, always unsure, always changing things due to their development changes and surprises. I try to set a priority, but then a million things take over. My three-year-old not napping every now and then has been KILLING ME. Her moodiness and uncontrollability has been killing me too. Being pregnant and trying to do things at night, then not sleeping well, then regretting it terribly the next day has also been killing me. But in general I am excited with the planning of this school year and its activities and schedules. Addie is getting older and it's exciting to have more options with what to do. Last year around this time I was so depressed and stressed out about it, but a year later we are in a completely different and better phase.
Auntie Leila linked to an article called "Cure Yourself of Tree Blindness" and it's the most amazing article. An answer to my most recent problems. I just wish I had a tree walk or a course close to me. The article starts out with:
"I start by asking participants who they are and why they want to spend precious hours looking at trees. My students are nearly all highly educated, successful people who work impressive jobs, speak multiple languages and effortlessly command sophisticated computers and phones. Yet most know barely the first thing about the trees around them. They want to change that.
There was a time when knowing your trees was a matter of life and death, because you needed to know which ones were strong enough to support a house and which ones would feed you through the winter. Now most of us walk around, to adapt a term devised by some botanists, tree blind." Here are some of my most recent tree classifications around me: Indian Rubber-Tree (English)/ Borracheira (Português)/ Ficus elastica (Latin)
This tree has wide, smooth leaves with unbroken edges. My book says it is usually grown as a pot plant, but we have two of them in the little park behind our house and they are taaaaaall. Addie calls it her "climbing tree".
Strawberry-tree / Medronheiro / Arbutus unedo
I was expecting bigger berries from the picture in my book, but they're actually pretty small. This is a small tree or shrub with a funny name, because the berries don't look like strawberries at all. Oleander / Loendro / Nerium oleander
So here is a perfect example of why it was important 100 years ago to know about trees and plants for your survival (like the article says, which wood to build your house with, which berries to eat) and even nowadays. This is a highly popular shrub in Portugal, in the park behind our house, in playgrounds, lining highways, and IT IS POISONOUS. Wikipedia says if you put it in your mouth you could get extremely sick or DIE. I just think of my 14-month-old and this knowledge I only have now and think, HOLY SMOKES! My husband used to alwas pick one of these flowers with Addie to give to me when they would come home from some walk. So watch out for this shrub with pointy leaves and flowers.
Olive / Oliveira Brava / Olea europaea
A classic olive tree, also so common in Portugal, that is easy to classify (NOW, that I'm looking for that) because of its olives, of course. It is small, sometimes a shrub and has a gray, twisted trunk. Cottonwood/ Algodão Americano / Populus deltoides
My neighbor helped me out with this tree, because it is everywhere and I couldn't figure out for the life of me what it was. She remembered that they had been "snowing on us" in the Spring at a park we usually go to. Cottonwoods! What an appropriate name for a tree that "snows" cotton-like catkins. These are very tall trees with a fissured, grayish bark and heart-shaped leaves.
We found out the gender of our baby last week and kept it secret from family members for a couple of days. Then we had a mini gender reveal party on Saturday. I say mini, because we almost didn't have it and I am trying to accept the fact that my capacity for doing things and throwing parties is becoming more and more limited. So we just invited parents and siblings, made cupcakes with pink/blue frosting and toasted with champagne. It was simple, but I'm glad we did get to celebrate somehow, because the arrival of a new baby is definitely more than reason to celebrate... and have pictures for his future baby album!
Addie and I painted our nails pink and blue in anticipation. (She only found out during the party, too).
I painted clothespins blue and pink (thanks Pinterest!) and guests wore them according to their guesses. There were six guesses for girl and five guesses for boy, by the way! I made Pioneer Woman's vanilla cupcakes and these hostess cupcakes and stuffed them with a little frosting (scoop out bottom, insert frosting, put back cake). PW's vanilla cupcakes turned out terrible, I think because I didn't have the right kind of shortening, which reminded me why throwing parties is always stressful no matter how simple you think it'll be... things never turn out the way you want! But the chocolate cupcakes were perfect. I made a last-minute pink and blue "tablecloth" with paper and blew up some pink and blue balloons. Instant party. We waited for guests to arrive for almost two hours, but it was surprisingly fun to hang out in our living room with music and balloons, eating candy.
It's a.... BOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And we toasted with champagne and sparkling apple juice (really nice!). I think Addie took it well (she wanted a girl). We are now painting our toenails all blue. And Davy is super lucky to have a brother coming, just 18 months apart. I pray they will all three have a childhood filled with rambunctious play and tree climbing.