Friday, November 6, 2015

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: All Hail the Mighty Sycamores!

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: All Hail the Mighty Sycamores!: Hello from Indiana!  It's been roughly forever since I updated the blog and this is a long overdue post.  Life went from really busy, a...

All Hail the Mighty Sycamores!

Hello from Indiana!  It's been roughly forever since I updated the blog so this is a long overdue post, especially with all the changes we've experienced recently.  Life went from really busy, as usual, to insanely busy during the summer months and I think we might just now be catching our breath.  Not many people plan a wedding, beach vacation, relocation halfway across the country, and the start of new jobs all for one summer, but Tom and I are over achievers so rather than giving ourselves a whole summer for all the changes, we went big.  We went extreme.  We went nuts.   We packed a summer's worth of activities into less than a month. On July 11th we headed to the beach with 50 of our closest family and friends, we got married on July 13,* we went back to Durham on July 18th, then on July 20th we moved to Indiana, and within a week or so of that, Tom and I started our new jobs and within 3 weeks, the kids started at their new school.  While I am happy to report we all survived, that stretch from the 11th to the 20th was absolutely chaotic and the weeks following were not much easier.     

(*Arrington/Sirois Law: If you plan a beach wedding as part of a week- long beach vacation, there will be a roughly 40 minute period of incredibly awful weather and that 40 minutes will overlap precisely with the start time of your wedding.  The rest of the week, the weather will be perfect, but not during the time you plan for the beach ceremony.)  

You may be thinking to yourself- why?  Why would these people do this to themselves?  In fall 2014, Tom and I decided it was high time I make an honest man out of him finally and we figured a beach wedding and vacation was a good way to get people to visit us in North Carolina.  Long after we had finalized the date and location and started working on the plans, I was offered a job at Indiana State University, so a mere year after moving to Durham, we found ourselves packing again.  I suppose the good news was we never got around to unpacking a lot of boxes when we were in Durham, so that made some of the repacking easier.  And amidst the packing, we were also planning a wedding and a vacation involving dozens of families. 

Our year in NC was good.  It was bad.  It was beautiful.  It was ugly.  It was a lot of things, and it helped us get here, to Terre Haute, Indiana.  Which brings me back to those Mighty Sycamores.  Indiana State University's mascot is the Sycamore.  I think technically there is an animal-like creature known as Sycamore Sam, but really, all the ISU gear is covered in leaves.  And we find ourselves this week-end celebrating the fact that- for a limited time- all four of us in our family are part of the ISU Sycamore community.  I am teaching at ISU, Charlotte and Cooper are enrolled at the ISU Early Childhood Education Center, and Tom will be starting his job with the Groundskeeping Department of ISU on Monday.  And as hokie as it sounds, we are where we should be.  We are where we are happy.  We are where we can breathe.  We are where the Arrington/Sirois family will set our roots.  There were some hard years leading up to this, which makes it all the more sweeter that we have found our home in the (surprisingly) beautiful Wabash Valley.  Somehow, a man from New Hampshire and a woman from Oklahoma have found a home amongst the sycamore trees and on the Sycamore campus.  Although next year, Charlotte will head off to kindergarten (gasp!), for this year, we are all members of the ISU community and we are happy for it. 

Cooper and Charlotte are wonderful.  Bless Cooper- he was too young to feel the pain of the Arkansas to North Carolina move and once he was set free from the long drive between Durham and Terre Haute, he took off running and settled in right away.  Lucky him, he carried no baggage from the earlier move and he showed no trepidation- as long as his mama, daddy, sister, and dogs were with him, he was fine.  And so the move seemed no big deal to him.  He is a sweet child, sensitive to the moods of people around him, eager to participate in the action, adoring (to a fault) of his sister, snuggly with the dogs, and always ready to share his warm and beautiful smile.  Cooper is obsessed with books right now- we can't read enough to him.  He loves dancing and running and jumping and he wants us to notice whenever he is doing those activities.  It is with amazement that I realize we are just a couple of months away from celebrating the second birthday of our surprise addition.  We see his various specialists in December and early next year to monitor the progress with his lungs, heart, and hypertension and he starts speech therapy soon, but he is generally healthy and strong.  He is happy, he is engaged, and he seems happily adjusted to life in Terre Haute. 

Charlotte struggled a bit more.  She remembered the move from Arkansas to North Carolina.  She felt the displacement Tom and I felt as we struggled to make Durham our home.  She made friends in Durham, as did I, and so the prospect of another big good-bye was daunting to the two of us in particular.  Tom and I knew it was the right decision, but we couldn't transfer that assurance to Charlotte.  But she put on her brave face, as she often has, and embraced the move.  She exclaimed enthusiastically, "Terre Haute!" when asked where we were moving, to a place she had yet to see, and she let herself try to buy into the place long before we arrived.  How I admire that girl of ours- no challenge is too big for her.  The first few weeks, before she started pre-school, Charlotte drifted and faltered.  She wasn't sold on the place yet, even as she put on her brave face.  We rushed to unpack, leaving her bored and longing for friends.  We discovered the wonderful children's museum here, and it offered her a lifeline.  We spent day after day visiting the museum- thank goodness for family memberships!- and Charlotte lost herself in the whimsy and activities offered by the place and I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw flashes of our girl show up in that space.  After three weeks, she started pre-school and quickly settled into a routine, something she needed desperately to find her equilibrium.  Now, almost three months later, the move is a part of the past and she seems to feel safe once more.  Charlotte is, as always, active, outspoken, stubborn, feisty, curious, and funny.  She challenges us daily, which has been her style since the day she was born.   Terre Haute is becoming her home and we see her thriving here, much to our delight and relief.    

As for the adults- things are also good with us.  I am happily figuring out the campus culture and community around me.  My colleagues welcomed me and my whole family warmly and generously.  My students are interesting and diverse and keep me challenged.  I'm finishing revisions on my book that is under contract for publication.  I volunteer in Charlotte's class every week.  I run down beautiful tree-lined streets with Ziva tugging on the leash and I watch NuNu sun herself in our yard, something she missed out on in Durham.  My kids are happy, Tom is happy, my dogs are happy- what more could I ask for?  I am, truly, living my dream.  

When we moved here, Tom took a job with a company in Indianapolis.  He was commuting over an hour a day each way, so it is with great happiness that he accepted the job at ISU. But I think it is so much more than the end of the commute that we are celebrating.  It took some unexpected twists for us to end up here.  Through the rockiest days of our little family's life, Tom has always put the rest of us first.  Without a doubt, he privileged my career over his.  His absolute first concern is the happiness of our children.   For several years, Tom has put his own wants on hold to make sure the rest of us were happy.  And now he gets to do something he wants to do, where he wants to do it.  You would be hard pressed to convince me there is anyone more deserving of such a scenario.  I am grateful that Tom has supported me so completely and I am so happy he now gets to pursue his own job interests and that we will be on the same campus now; I expect him to treat me to lunch often.  

This is our life in Terre Haute.  And this is how we became an ISU family.  All hail the mighty Sycamores!  

I know most of you are here for the pictures, so without further delay...

I present to you, dear reader, the ISU Sycamore.  Or, as my dad and I call it, the Fighting Sycamore. 

Man, I love these babies. 

Charlotte loves bike riding, so we often go for family walks with her riding along or she tags along with Ziva and me on our runs. 

Checking out the sprinkler system while on a bike ride on the ISU campus.  I remember this night because it was soon after our arrival here and she was finally showing signs of her carefree spirit again.  I remember feeling like maybe it would all be alright again for her. 

I'm pleased to report that both kids are kind and loving to animals.  I'm pretty sure I would kick them out of the house if they weren't.  Ziva and NuNu get endless love all day, every day. 

Off to school- both kids are morning people, much to my night-owl dismay. 

Halloween!  Cooper went to exactly one house and then decided trick or treating was for fools.  

Charlotte went as Skye from Paw Patrol.  Much to her delight, Terre Haute has the odd tradition of two nights of trick or treating. 

With a flair for the dramatic, Cooper succumbs to a Saturday mid-morning nap. 

At the kids' fall school picnic and hayride- great fun! 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: Charlotte's Feet

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: Charlotte's Feet: Somehow, Charlotte's feet remind me of where she was and where she is and where she will be.  Her age is reflected in her feet, and it ...

Charlotte's Feet

Somehow, Charlotte's feet remind me of where she was and where she is and where she will be.  Her age is reflected in her feet, and it is her feet that tell me her story.  She has her own feet, but they are also my feet.  Since the beginning, her feet look like mine and so they are hers but they are ours and sometimes it is hard for me to remember the difference between "her" and "us."

In her early NICU days, we marveled at her feet, partially out of adoration and partly out of discomfort.  So thin and insubstantial that the red light from the sensor on the monitor secured around her foot blazed right through the barely-there tissue and muscle and bone so that you could see the veins and hue of the light from one side of the foot to the other.  Her arches, declared my cousin Rachael, were "perfect for a runner."  And in the pessimistic recesses of my brain, I wondered if she would walk, much less run as the fears of her future hung over her isolette.  But I would smile and imagine that she had feet of a runner because already we could see that her feet looked like my feet.  Our feet.

Her feet got bigger and more dense, but still the arches remained and still they looked like my feet.  As a baby, her toenails were impossibly tiny and I dreaded cutting them.  When she started to wear socks, it was hard to find them small enough and when she started to walk I was happy to read that the experts recommended not putting emerging walkers in shoes because her feet were still so small that it was hard to find suitable ones for that stage.  How I fretted over those feet.  But by the day they became more solid and more capable, still thin but with muscle.  Feet that looked familiar because they were inherited from me.

And so her feet became part of the earth and part of the surface of our home.  Pliable, curious feet exploring the world and eventually becoming steady and confident,  padding around with a real sense of purpose and absent of fear and hesitation.  Her feet would not- will not- be contained by socks and shoes for longer than they must.   Biting my tongue as she steps onto hot pavement after fighting me on putting on shoes, trying to remember once again they are not our feet, they are her feet, and they must learn.   Dirty little feet, wet little feet, sandy little feet, scratched up little feet.  And still her feet looked like mine.

Now her feet are storytellers and invokers of stories.  As I paint her toenails in the latest color-not-of-nature that she selects that I would never choose (once again, reminding me they are her feet not our feet), she tells me stories of jumping in a muddy puddle and what color she wants me to use next time on her toes and how the color of her toes match her favorite My Little Pony.  She tells me stories that start from her toes and travel up to her mouth to be shared between mother and daughter.  And her feet remind me of my own stories and I tell her about how her daddy and I used to go get pedicures together, which makes her giggle because she imagines him with purple and pink toenails, and about how when I go for a run, the toe next to my big toe feels like it is bruised, and about how at my grandparents' house my Nannie would let me and my siblings and cousins put several pairs of socks on our feet to go ice "skating" on the frozen creek behind their house.  And now her feet become my feet and we tell our stories that start with our feet, her feet, my feet.

Her feet are always moving; she loves to jump and especially likes the thumping sound when her feet land and I suspect she gets a sensory high out of the feeling her feet get when she lands soundly on them.  She plays soccer on those incredible feet, running so fast it seems impossible, and the other parents ooh and aah over her speed and tell me she will be a track star.  She is a flash of orange because she wanted to wear her ruffly shirt instead of her green jersey.  From the pool she uses her wet feet to make footprints on the pool deck and she screeches in delight and tells me to admire her footprints then she remembers she wants to be back in the pool, so she jumps in and tells me to watch the splash she can make with her feet.  Those are her invincible feet.  Those are the feet that she uses when she challenges me- every morning- to race from Miss Julie's porch after we drop off Cooper back to the van and every time she wins, even when I try and then I must remember that her feet are not our feet because she is now faster than me, despite the miles my feet log on the treadmill every day.

These are the feet that walk begrudgingly to me when she knows she has done something wrong.  These are the feet that carry her to where her brother sits so she can plop down beside him.  These are the feet that help her climb up on the back of the chair after Tom has told her one hundred and twelve times not to climb on the chair.  These are the feet that she trips over when she sees me show up at her school to pick her up and she can't get to me fast enough, smile beaming ear to ear.  These are the feet that need lots of band-aids for imaginary wounds when she needs a little extra love.  These are her feet.

She kicks as she slowly falls to sleep, between me and Tom because right now she needs us at night, and so we endure her feet kicking into kneecaps and dodging into pajama bottoms and twitching into our backs.  Even now, as I write this, her feet twitch against me, seeking me out.  These are her vulnerable feet that remind me that as big as she is now, she is still little and still needs us in the quiet space of night.  Her feet finally come to a rest, just above my own feet as she slides down below the pillow line, maybe to line her feet with my feet to become our feet once more.

The other day Tom asked me where the time goes, how we can remember so clearly her baby hood but how we see it becoming more distant.  I think we can measure that time in feet.  Her feet.  Our feet.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: ...sheepishly dusts off the keyboard...

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: ...sheepishly dusts off the keyboard...: There are lots of gentle jokes about how the second child invariably gets short-changed on photographs and baby books and new clothes and t...

...sheepishly dusts off the keyboard...

There are lots of gentle jokes about how the second child invariably gets short-changed on photographs and baby books and new clothes and toys because it just isn't as exciting as the first time around and the newness is not new enough with the second born.  Here's a little secret I'd like to share with parents of one child who are considering a second- this is crap.  It is not because it isn't exciting and beautiful and amazing and delightful the second time around.  It's because there is not enough time and there is not enough energy to record and mark and publicize all the wonderful firsts with the second.  With two, you will count down the seconds until bedtime, and that countdown will start approximately 7 minutes after your early rising baby gives his wake up call at 5:28 a.m.  It is hard enough to keep up with the laundry for two children, much less attempt to put together a photo montage or work on a newborn memento shadow box.  The firsts with your second will be magical, but the sleep deprivation and time constraints will be extreme.

Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it anyway.  That's why I haven't blogged in roughly half a year.  That's why poor Cooper got pushed to last page news instead of first page headlines.  For all you naysayers who still want to blame me for not keeping up with the blog, I remind you, as I often must remind myself, that 2014 was a pretty tumultuous year for the Arrington-Sirois clan.  Cooper's early arrival and subsequent hospitalizations coincided with a new job and move halfway across the country.  The last half of 2014 was spent adjusting, adapting, modifying, transitioning, and then adjusting some more.  Durham has been good to us- we've met lots of good people and have a great city to explore and Tom and I are both enjoying our jobs.  The kids are happy- Charlotte loves 'kool, as she calls pre-school and Cooper is thriving in in-home care with the incomparable Ms. Julie and her little guy who is now Coop's best friend.    But it also comes at the cost of being far from family and from loved ones back in Arkansas and that has been a really tough part of the year. We've been lucky to have visitors though, and we are so grateful that Pepere, Grammy, Uncle Isaiah, Papa Rick,  Grandma Donna, Memere, Grandpa Gus, Alicia, and Julia graced us with visits.

Cooper turned one on January 2.  It was a long year, a fast year, a great year, a difficult year, a year certainly marked with exciting highs and disappointing lows.  His birthday gave me impetus to reflect on his life, my life, and our family's life and helped spur some New Year's resolutions to try to make his second year of life happier and healthier for us all.  I hope when we celebrate his second birthday, I can look back on 2015 with joy and a sense of accomplishment and with the satisfaction of knowing that his second year was even better than his first.  Tom describes him as a happy, content boy.  I don't know how I describe him.  He is not overly fiery like his big sister, but don't doubt his spirit for a second and don't underestimate his tenacity and resolve.  I hope in 2015 to better get a sense of what his personality is- he is playing coy with me, making me guess at my assessment of his personality.  I suspect that is part of his approach to life- a quieter presence with a lot of depth under the surface.  He's a mystery man, and he is delicious in that regard.

Charlotte's fourth birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks.  Holy crap, four years with our Hurricane Charlotte.  How does it feel like she is still so brand new to us, even as memories of life B.C. (Before Charlotte) become hazier than ever before?  Can I ever calculate what four years with her really means?  How many smiles and giggles and tears (from her and me) and quiet moments and shared belly laughs and hugs and kisses and tantrums (from her and me) and snuggles and teasing and surprises happen over four years?  I couldn't even tally those in a day, much less a year.  She is an amazing big sister who has never- not even once- shown jealousy or hostility to her baby brother.  She is all love and excitement when it comes to him.  In fact Cooper seems to be the only person on the earth who does not spark her fast temper.  This from the girl I was sure was meant to be an only child.  How wrong I was.

And so life goes on, with a new rhythm and new challenges and new victories and always with a sense of how far our kids have come since their beginnings and how far we have to go in our parenting and how extraordinarily beautiful our family is, with all its imperfections.  I've missed the blog because it is my way of remembering and reflecting and appreciating, and of course, my way of showing off these amazing kids of ours.  I hope to return to my blogging and I hope there are some of you out there that are still interested in the progress of our two beautiful, tough, spirited children.

Charlotte was delighted when Cooper started being able to sit with her in shopping carts.  Tom was delighted when our kids showed an affinity for home improvement stores.

We achieved Christmas perfection- an amazing picture with Santa.  We probably shouldn't bother trying next year.  No way we will get two smiling kids with Santa ever again.  Way to set impossible standards, 2014.

Bath time is everyone's favorite time of day because for them, it means playing together in bubbles.  For Tom and I, it means we are *this* close to making it to bedtime.

Nothing has changed about this girl.  She is still sassy and animated and adventurous and bold.  She is unstoppable.  Trust us, we've tried.

And what to say about this guy?  This sweet guy who will push when he needs to, in a steadfast and strong way.  He might seem understated and quiet, but watch out- this kid is strong and will work for what he wants.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: A Year Ago Today

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: A Year Ago Today: The title of this entry is not, in fact, reference to how long it has been since I last wrote on the blog (though it seems like it has bee...