Monday, September 14, 2015

Determination, of various sorts

We went to Silver Lake on Friday. It was warm enough to swim, so the girls went in their bathing suits and life vests, and they had their first real experience of a western Washington lake. This particular one is really a glorified pond, but there was a beach with sand and a roped-off kids' area, and the girls loved wading and splashing around. They went waist-deep, which was as far as the rope went, but decided not to go further, even though I said they could. (I didn't say I would go with them. I had not worn a bathing suit. I was prepared to get wet going after one of them, but I was not excited about it, and maybe they noticed that.)

I noticed the distinctive smell of Washington woodland, a sweet woodsy smell, which now that I think of it probably  comes partly from overripe blackberries. They noticed the sand and how the underwater plants started growing a few yards out, and the freshwater clamshells, and how in this beach there were no waves and no tide. But mostly, Chloë noticed...wait for it...the ducks. There were a dozen or so mallards and wood ducks floating near shore, and she was absolutely charmed by them, especially when they swam right near her. "I've never seen a duck so close before! Look at its webbed feet!" This flock was very tame; they had obviously decided being chased by small children was worth it for the free food. "That boy is feeding the ducks!" she said, pointing to a boy around eight or so who was tossing chips to the waiting birds nearby. "I wish we had brought food."

"We brought animal crackers," I said, and then as her face opened with hope, "but it's not good for the ducks to feed them." She asked why, and I told her (there was also a helpful sign not far from where the boy stood). I could see and hear her reluctance, but she said decidedly, "Then we shouldn't." I was proud.

* * *

We went to the Lynnwood Skate-and-Bowl on Saturday, for the Norwescon kickoff. Chloë has skated three or four times before, but Maia never has. When they got into her skates she had some trouble standing, but she worked at it, and shuffled gamely across the carpet. After some practice she fell down a slight incline--not her first fall, but her first one that hurt. She cried, naturally, and said she didn't want to go on the rink, so Eric took Chloë out, as she was ready to move on. But they hadn't gotten more than a quarter of the way around the rink when Maia said, "I wish we were with Chloë and Daddy," and I said, "We could go out and try to catch them, " and she said, "Okay."

We stepped into the rink. She was mostly shuffling her feet back and forth, and steadfastly ignoring all my attempts to teach her otherwise, but she clung to my hand and managed some forward movement. She fell a couple of times, but she kept getting back up and shuffling some more, and every once in a while she would exclaim, "I'm doing it!"

Meanwhile ahead of us, Eric reported later, Chloë was struggling to get better, and crying, as she too often does, "I can't do it." We've noticed that Maia tends to be better at things that require physical agility--I blame jaundice--but I don't know how much of that is her much more positive attitude. Chloë has shown determination to do a few things--such as guitar; she got one for her birthday and has been surprisingly diligent about asking for "guitar lessons" from me and about working on her fingering, even though she finds it difficult. (We're looking for a place for lessons around here with an actual teacher.) But most of the time if she has any sort of difficulty, she dissolves into tears and won't keep working on the problem without a lot of prompting. Maia has that reaction sometimes, but more often she just goes ahead and tries things. We never quite caught up with Chloë on that trip around the rink (though Eric spotted us and visited), but at our closest point I commented to Maia, "We're halfway across the rink," and she looked back and said, "No, Mama. Not halfway. Look!" I looked back and realized that while I'd meant halfway around the rink, we were all the way across, and she was awed at the distance she'd skated. She wanted to stop after we completed our circuit, and not long after that we traded our skates for bowling shoes, but she was so excited and proud of herself, and so was I.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Other friends

I came home from my root canal part 2 (did you know that in endodontics, Asian roots are a thing? Apparently they are. Should I have another root canal, it will be done by an endodontist only. Hopefully the girls inherited Eric's teeth) this afternoon to find Maia quiet and sad. She and Eric had been playing a game when I left, and Eric said he had tried to get her to eat, to snuggle, to talk, but she wouldn't.

I sat with her and tickled her back, which is the thing she loves best, and after a while I asked what was wrong. She whispered, "I miss our other friends," and started to cry.

I felt terrible for her. I held her and told her the things I ought to tell her--that she was starting school next week, and gymnastics class too, that she would find friends there, that we would see our other friends again. I didn't talk right away about the real thing I think was wrong: that Chloë wasn't there. She and Chloë are so close, and they've spent the entire summer playing and fighting and scheming and talking, always together, and today Chloë went away.

She stopped crying after a little while, partly due to a promise from Eric of another game ("The only good things are watching shows, reading books, and playing games," she said not long ago), and I went off to take ibuprofen and get back to work. "I want to go out there right now!" she declared as soon as we mentioned we'd be meeting Chloë's bus soon, and was playful and happy again as soon as Chloë herself arrived.

Chloë had a great time at school, and told us all about it: how the desks had been switched from yesterday's orientation, how they went over the calendar, and how the sight words were all ones she already knew from last year, and they had two recesses but they were only five minutes each, and they went to music where they got to play an instrument.

"Did you miss me?" she asked Maia when one of us mentioned she'd been a little sad during the day.

"No," Maia said. "I missed our other friends. Addie and Raegan and friends like that. Back in Toledo."

Neither of them have ever said, "I wish we hadn't moved." They've said, "I wish we still had a house so we had a yard," and "I wish we could see Addie and Raegan/Malcolm/Hannah and Noah." But they seem to have accepted the move. And maybe it's because of the same thing I've noticed: that our home is defined by our stuff more than our location or living structure, and more than that by being together. I missed Chloë today, too--though of course having needles and bleach in and out of my mouth distracted me from that. But Maia had no such distractions, and her big sister and best friend was gone all day.

They've taken to sleeping together in the full-size bed (nominally Maia's) lately, even though Maia has also taken to whimpering about bedtime being too scary when we leave them and Chloë's complained that it keeps her awake. They slept together tonight, snuggling under separate blankets so they wouldn't fight, and there was no protest from Maia. They lay together and quietly drifted off to sleep.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Dancing into the new year

And today is the first day of first grade! "My stomach is still hurting," Chloe reported this morning. She's been anxious. Excited, but anxious. We went to orientation yesterday, since it was a new school--yeah, so we moved across the country, from our house into an apartment without sufficient parking but with a pool--and she was excited by the nice playground and the fact that the cafeteria is a separate building from the gym, and confused by the fact that gym is called PE here, and excited and anxious by turns about the fact that she's riding the bus this year. She likes the idea, but she wants us to come along. On the positive side, as we told her, all the kids from the apartment building who go to this school will be at the stop, so she'll be able to meet lots of kids at once this way.

"I wish I went to the same school as Chloe," Maia says. She's in preschool, but it doesn't start until next week. Gymnastics (for her) and jazz (for Chloe) also start next week. I've always loved September because it felt like the start of the year, and it's certainly starting a lot of things for us.

Eric's found a, rather than group, and I've at least identified a knitting group to try. We're not settling into our new lives as well as we could since we don't like the place. We want to move, but we can't afford a house until approximately February and it doesn't make sense to move to another rental. I'm battling discontent. Also a tendency to not get started on things I want, like getting the house in order and getting to a good schedule for some goals I want to pursue, because I don't feel truly settled. But I'm trying to reconcile myself to what we have for now, and act as if we're settled and happy. The girls don't seem to be acting; other than occasionally wishing for a yard, they've seemed happy with our new arrangements, and I'm sure that getting them into school and classes will make that even better. Maybe I should go take a dance class.