Sunday, July 16, 2017

Joey: 19 Months

He's got a lot to say but still uses just one word at a time. For example, he'll take my hand and say, "Me", which I take to mean "come with me" or "help me", depending on where he's taking me and what he wants me to do. Just the other day he beckoned with "Me", and plopped down on the floor with Little Blue Truck, wanting me to read it to him. If I ask him where something is, he says, "Know" for "I don't know." He also knows now that I'll often happily comply with his requests. While I'm wiping his bum he might say, "Bah!" (Bath. A lot of times I will just let him have a little soak after a #2 if I'm not feeling confident about how well I've cleaned him up, and he's always anticipating it.) Come to think of it, he does say one two-word phrase: "Dandoo" (Thank you). He is very talkative for a boy with few words. On a recent ride in the car he and Tim had a conversation that went like this:
"Da-dee? Da-dee?"
"Yeah, buddy?"
"Yeah, buddy?"
"Da-dee? Da-dee, car." He pronounces the "r" in car too. (What happened to Worcester?)
He wants to figure out how everything works. If it has a plug, he wants to plug it in and turn it on. He put a glove on one hand and took a screwdriver in the other and tried to "fix" an office chair. He's figured out the lock on the trash can lid. *Big frowny face* But he still doesn't know how to open doors. Once he does I know those covers will fool him for awhile too. He also brings me my flipflops and puts them on me, which is adorable. He really likes to be doing things. He needs to be busy with a job of some sort. To that end, he takes things from the place they belong and puts them somewhere else. So, during the last week of getting ready for movers, we had the situation where I was doing a lot of rearranging, he he was rearranging things his way, and it was kind of maddening for me at times. Again I relied on the base daycare to spell me for a few hours here and there. That was a real sanity saver.
I was just reading through Timmy's 19 month update and marveling at the similarities between the two of them. One big difference, though: I was having to wrestle Timmy into his carseat to go places, and he was doing that arched back thing every time! Having multiple errands was hell. Not so with Joey at all. He loves going for rides and never gives me any trouble about being strapped into his carseat. That was one of my saving graces with the rest of the family gone for several l-o-n-g days. How funny, since I remember Timmy being the easier baby. Then again, while he may have been the easier baby, he got to be quite the handful once he progressed through the toddler and preschool stages.
Joe is not much fun as an only child, and I now remember why it was harder to have just one than two or more. With his siblings away he has been very restless, bored, and gets feisty with me a lot. Every time I take a step in any direction he thinks I'm abandoning him, and he follows me, crying. He wants me to hold him all the time, but he doesn't want me to hold him and he squirms to get down. He tries getting into things he knows he shouldn't. He's been inside a lot too, which isn't helping matters. It is SO hot down here, and the mosquitoes are vicious all day long, not just at dusk. The 'black flag' siren goes off each morning as early as 9:30 or 10 (black flag means it's so hot the recruits can't train outside.) The 'no longer black flag' siren doesn't go off until around 7 p.m. usually. It's the dog days of summer, and kind of a challenging time for us.
With the older three kids away, Tim and I are having the novel experience of appearing to be a family of three again when we're out and about. We went to Mass last night and many of us were stuck in the back and it was mostly older people who smiled in our direction, probably thinking, 'They're one of those couples who wait till later in life to have a baby. Bless their hearts.' Joey got very restless and Tim had to take him outside and try to contain him on a bench since he wanted to run off to the parking lot. As people started to trickle out after Communion and saw the two of them there and Joey wailing, they would try to give Tim some encouragement as they passed, like, "Oh don't worry, he'll get it one of these days." Tim just smiled and nodded, but inwardly was like grr..

Coming up next -- one of the most eventful months in his little life.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

On the need to simplify

My sister Anna recently sent us all this letter that I am sharing here with her permission:

Dear Family,

I realize that holidays and birthdays are far away, but since I just finished purging the house I feel passionate about expressing this now. I recently realized that our kids were drowning in toys. To the point that they couldn't even find anything they wanted to play with and just felt overwhelmed by all the choices; flitting from one thing to another and leaving a trail of things behind them every time. Every day we would go through and put back the items as neatly as possible. It would take us as long to put them away as it did for them to play with them. 

I know that everyone wants to express their love and feel like they are making them happy with things, but we really want a simpler life for each of our kiddos. We want it to be filled with more imagination, more experiences, and more memories. I donated about 80% of our toys so far, and already I see their imaginations blooming. The craft box is always out, books are being read, and cards are being played. We got rid of our TV and all video games, and the amount of time they spend talking, playing and arguing (lol) has skyrocketed. They actually have moments to be bored. I love it so much.

For birthdays and holidays and every moment in between, please no more toys. If you still want to give gifts I have put together a list of things I know they can really use and will appreciate. I don't want to waste your hard-earned money that you are all so generous with.

Gift ideas:

Movie theater tickets/gift cards. (They love to go but it is not in the budget.)

Art supplies/Play Doh (doh only)

Sneakers/clothing (these kids grow like weeds!)

A trip to see you/you come to see them (family is always welcome in our home).

Aquarium passes

Coney Island passes

Money towards a new computer that we will really need for the kids' school

Gift cards for ice cream outings

Swim lessons

Baseball games

Trips to the park

These are just suggestions. I hope you don't think we are being ungrateful; we are NOT. We so appreciate everything each of you does for us. I know that some of you don't get to see them often, and it can be tempting to want to show love through stuff, but we are really striving for a different lifestyle. We are hoping to raise our kids in an organized, purposeful, minimalist environment. We are striving every day to minimalize materialism for ourselves and our kids.

Love Always,
Anna and Robert

The issue of how to maintain simplicity in our life and to control how much stuff we and the kids have, is something we've been grappling with for awhile. As I sit here awaiting the arrival of a moving truck, I've already combed through every single toy (and not just toys, but everyTHING), and pared it all down dramatically. It feels like a fresh start, as it does every few years when we do this. My intent is that every box we open on the other side of this contains things that are either useful to us or make us smile (or both); and also that once everything has been unpacked in our presumably smaller house in Japan, we have a little bit of space left over: space to move, for the kids have their little dance parties and wrestle with their dad, and for us all to just be. I love the directness of Anna's appeal to all of us, the creative ideas she gives us for gifting occasions, and most of all the love and gratitude she conveys throughout her message. I ditto everything she said (except for getting rid of the TV -- that would be a really big step and we really like our Netflix!).

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Delaney is in double digits!!

Dear Delaney,

Today you turn 10, a whole decade -- a big milestone. I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday. It was a Sunday. I woke your dad up at about 2:30 in the morning to tell him my water had broken. He said, "Should I still go to Quantico?" "No!" Haha. As a matter of fact, he's leaving for Quantico again, tomorrow, on a Sunday. He just can't seem to stay away from that place. I guess that's why Quantico is called the Crossroads of the Marine Corps.

I am starting to see glimpses of the young woman you will one day grow up to be. It's in your eyes, the expressions that you make, and even in the way you walk. It's hard to explain. But everybody kind of has their signature ways about them, and yours have been established. I get the sense that your little kid days are numbered and that these next few years will probably fly, and you will grow and change a lot. But at the same time I see you are in no hurry to do that, and that makes me happy. I like how you still run around the beach trying to catch critters and make little habitats for them. You still run circles around the house when you're excited the way you always have. The way you find joy in the little things -- that never needs to change. 

Remember the card I got you for your birthday last year? With the funny picture of the dog and the words "Dance like nobody's watching;" and inside it said something like, "Nevermind, don't." I don't remember exactly and I'm doing a terrible job explaining, but that card with that silly dog picture and those words.. that's your humor exactly -- the carefree silliness and the deadpanning. It's been fun seeing your sense of humor develop.

You are especially close with your father. I am always happy when he texts to let me know that the two of you stopped at IHOP or something, on the way home from somewhere. Stay close to him. The way he treats me, you, your siblings and his family and friends is the best example of the way a man ought to be. He'd do anything for you. When it seems like he's being hard on you, know that it's because he loves you and he wants to set you up for success in life. But you already knew that, I'm sure.

You are a lover of peace and never an instigator of things with your siblings. It's so nice to be able to count on you for that! You are a much loved big sis, as Joe can attest to. Since you left town he's been known to blurt out "Nay-nee" at random times. When I ask him where you are he points out the window like 'she's out there somewhere..' He attempted to sing 'happy birthday' to you today, and it sounded something like this: "Day, day, day, Nay-nee" and was accompanied by side-to-side swaying. You've got friends for life in your siblings.

I hope you grow in your faith and know that you are always a child of God. Pray to Him when things are going great in your life, and when they're not. Pray when we ("we" can be defined as your parents or the pesky brother in the backseat) drive you nuts. You always make it look easy having to go through so many transitions as a military kid. New schools, new faces, new plans, you've always seemed to take it in stride. If When it gets hard, pray about it. Remember none of us, however old or smart we get, do this alone. Besides, just like your earthly dad sitting across the table from you at IHOP, your Heavenly Father wants to hear from you too.

By now you've had about all the fun you could probably handle for one birthday -- Wonder Woman and lunch with your sister, cousins, aunties and Grandma; and the waterslide park all day today (have to admit, I'm a wee bit jealous;)) The pictures have put a smile on my face. You are very loved.

All this rambling to say, happy birthday! I'll see you in a few weeks.