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...

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 been that long).  There has been so much going on and writing, usually an outlet for me, placed me in too vulnerable a state and I found myself shirking away from the keyboard.  But then it became July 1, and I remembered a year ago today.  

July 1st is and always has been an important day in my life- it's my dad's birthday!  But last year, it became an even more momentous day because it was the day I found out about Cooper.  Sweet, surprising Cooper, unplanned but perfectly created.  When I found out I was pregnant with Charlotte, I wanted to hold in the news to myself just to enjoy the delicious secret that I had a child growing inside me- it was news almost too big to want to share.  When I found out I was pregnant with Cooper, I wanted to hold in the news because I didn't want to speak the pregnancy into reality until I was over the shock and the fear and the guilt and the concerns.  Such different responses to the appearance of a second pink line on a white stick.  

A lot can happen in a year.  A year ago today, I found out about my unexpected bundle of joy.  A year ago today, I was starting to relax more into my parenting, feeling like I was finally only half a step behind Charlotte rather than running to catch up to her from a block away.  A year ago today I was taking a much needed breather from a frantic writing pace- in the spring of 2013 I finished my 292 page manuscript and I finished a shorter, co-authored manuscript.  A year ago today, before I saw a second pink line, I felt pretty secure and like I was getting back into my groove.

And then, in a flash, things changed.  A positive pregnancy test shakes things up, no matter the circumstances.  I was in shock, I was so very scared, and the part of me that likes to plan things to the nth degree was extremely upset.  We had just survived one difficult pregnancy, premature birth, and challenging infancy; the last thing I felt I could face was doing it all over again.  But a year ago today, I started doing it all over again.

In our day to day lives, it is so easy to get into our routines and not see much variation in it.  We get settled, we get comfortable, and in some ways, we get complacent. But the truth is, we don't know what will change in a day, a week, a month, or a year.  Sure, there are things we can predict, but there are always shake ups just around the corner, lurking.  And that can be a good thing, even while being a scary thing.

We got a huge shake up a year ago today.  Cooper became a known entity out of the blue.  That second pink line was only one big change we would experience between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014.  Coop went from being a blob on an ultrasound to a little guy snuggled up in his in-utero profile picture to a surprisingly big baby born 10 weeks before he should have arrived.  His seemingly smooth ride in the NICU turned into a different type of challenging infancy than what we experienced with Charlotte.  His pleasant disposition and quiet presence is in stark contrast to that of his sister when she was an infant, but his health issues outside of the NICU earned him the unenviable description of "medically complex," leaving many specialists scratching their heads and offering varied, and sometimes contradictory, opinions.  He shook things up by reconfiguring our family, not just in number, but in personality and function.  Charlotte adores her baby brother, and gauging by the way he smiles at her, it is clear the feeling is mutual.  We've seen a new side of Charlotte I don't think we knew existed, and that comes from the shake up of adding a sibling to her world.  

A lot can happen in a year, even in a year when things are already in transition by the addition of a baby.  Without knowing it a year ago today, this was my last year at the U of A.  I type this entry amid stacks of boxes and with a to-do list a mile long creeping into my brain, distracting me from my writing.  It was not part of the plan I had laid out a year ago today, but it is in motion now and in about a week, my family will be rolling into Durham, North Carolina where we will start a new chapter in our life.  To say this is bittersweet is an understatement.  I enjoyed and appreciate my time at teh U of A and I am proud of what I accomplished but also disappointed in what I left unfinished.  There's much I wish I could do again and much I wish I could do better.  There are things I will miss about Fayetteville- the stately outline of Old Main in the city skyline, the just-the-right-sized Farmers Market, the school Charlotte landed in, and the comforts afforded by living in a small university town.  We have some wonderful friends here and I know without doubt I will not find a better group of moms and daughters for Charlotte and I to call our friends than what we have found with Cristina and Clara, Bianca and Carys, Hazel and Yen, Heather and Pearle, and Eve and Clara Millie.  These women and their daughters have added such richness to my life and to Charlotte's, and they helped make Fayetteville home for us.  But I am also excited to explore a new city that, from all accounts, is a great place to live.  Durham will have more specialists with fresh eyes to help unlock the mysteries of our medically complex son.  Durham is a place where Tom can get back to his preferred industry and where we will be much closer to his family.  Durham will put us closer to the beaches that I long to include in my children's childhood.  I'm excited about my new job there and hope that it ends up being a good match for me and my interests and skills. 

Without a doubt, the most bitter part of the bittersweet cocktail of this move is leaving the close proximity to my family that I have enjoyed since moving here.  I never dreamed I would be able to find a job within 2 hours of my family in Tulsa, so to leave that behind is devastating.  They are so much a part of our lives, even with the 100 miles between them and us.  My parents are always here when we need or want them, we get to attend family birthday parties and game nights, and I know there will always be family members up for something if I want to make plans.  It has made my life so full, after living so many years away from home, to be able to be close to home again.  I know this will be the hardest part of the transition and it breaks my heart when I think about it.  

A year ago today, I wasn't thinking about all these things.  I don't remember what I was thinking about, but it sure wasn't all this.  But that's the way life goes.  We go through twists and turns that were inconceivable at one point. We face the unknown and we face our fears and we do the best we can and hope that after the bumpy patches in the road, we arrive to the next stop as unscathed as possible and ideally even stronger than what we were.  As I struggle to sort through my sadness and anxiety and hopes and expectations of what is coming up next, I can't help but realize that a year from now, I will likely be able to reflect on what ended up being a lot of unexpected highs and lows.  Moving is never easy for me, but this is my first time to move with a partner and with children and there is something incredibly comforting to know that wherever we land, we will have each other. I will get to continue to love and be loved by Tom, Charlotte, and Cooper.  What a gift.  A year ago today I'm not sure I was as clued in to how amazing it is to have your own little family and the security that comes with that family.  I hope that a year from today, Charlotte, Cooper, Tom, and I are happy, healthy, and making the most of the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly twists and turns that we face.  

Fayetteville, you've been good to me.  You gave me a fulfilling job with many wonderful opportunities, inspiring colleagues, charming surroundings, incredible friends, and you are where my little family was established and where I was able to intertwine my life with my family in Oklahoma again.  Durham, you've got a lot to prove to us.  Let's see where we stand a year from today...

 My babies.  

Toughest kids I know.  Charlotte had her tonsils and adenoids out at a local hospital while Cooper was admitted to Children's Hospital in Little Rock for a virus and dehydration.  Both kids fought through their challenges and are back to health.  

Hopped off her bike for a quick jumping session.

Coop getting some physical therapy. 

If you work and play as hard as our kids, you deserve to rest as hard as they do too.  Not sure why Tom got to sneak in a nap though...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: #tbt

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: #tbt:   I like to think I can hang with the ever-changing social media trends, but I will admit it took me months before I figured out why every...