Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Eagle wonder

Tuesdays at TWT!
Bright blue smocks hunch over bright clipboards on raised knees, patterned pants perch on seat cushions to stay out of the muddier-than-I'd-hoped grass. Little hands carefully craft numbers, words, and drawings. Big eyes peer out of raised binoculars. 

"When scientists study a special animal, they write down what it's doing at different times. Let's write the time, a few words, and a sketch to show our big idea! A sketch is not a careful art picture with lots of details, it's a quick drawing to help us remember an idea." I take a deep breath through my mask. Writing in D'Neilian letters (which I just learned this year from Sweetie's remote kindergarten classes) while holding a portable whiteboard with one hand is hard, and I try to strike a balance between being neat and not taking excruciatingly long. "It's about 11:25, and I want to remember that we can see one eagle sitting in a nest. We don't know if it's the mommy or daddy because they look the same. You can copy my words or write your own."

A little voice pipes up. "It's the mommy, because mommies take care of the nest!" 

Perfect. Watching eagles, busting stereotypes. I crinkle my eyes. "Actually, the mommy and daddy eagles take turns! One is always near the nest, but it could be either the mommy or the daddy. The other one is probably out looking for food, and then they'll switch! Just like how maybe different people in your family take turns helping you, cooking the food, and taking care of the house!" 

This one eagle has been sitting in the nest for the 20 minutes our troop has been here, and while I'm glad it gave us a chance to start our meeting and get settled, I hope it will do something different soon, or our observation log won't be very interesting! We might have to draw a more detailed picture of what we see, but I'm hoping we'll get some activity, like our family has seen before, so we can make a real log.

our Daisy Girl Scout troop observing the bald eagle nest (up in the center tree),
photo credit: one of the troop moms

My mask clings to my face for a minute as I take another deep breath, trying to project my voice as much as possible without yelling to hold the attention of the 7 wiggly kindergarteners spread in a socially distanced, together-but-too-far-apart circle on the bank of the pond. "Now I'm going to tell you a story about how people helped make the world a better place for bald eagles!" 

"I love stories!" The closest girl on my left crinkles her eyes above her bright magenta mask. 

"When I was your age, bald eagles were endangered. I never dreamed I'd be able to see one in the wild!" I talk about overhunting, DDT, and too-thin eggs. Their eyes are wide. 

Suddenly, a little arm reaches out, pointing at the treeline behind me. "LOOK!" 

I turn around in time to see majestic wings spread out, flap a few times, and glide to the parents' favorite nearby perching tree. A chorus of "WOWWWWWW!"s echoes around me. I pop up my binoculars, and 7 Daisies scramble to do the same. "This is a great time to really see the whole eagle! Isn't it beautiful?" Just as I get my binoculars perfectly in focus, a white stream shoots out from the eagle's bottom. "Did you see that?! It pooped!!!" I giggle, and 7 Daisies do too. They keep giggling. 

"Let's write that in our log!" More giggles. 

At first, I write and sketch about the eagle flying to the tree, then I glance at the giggly girls. "We should probably add that it pooped, right?!"

Once the giggly scientists have mostly settled and recorded our delightful observation, I get out the graph I made to illustrate the story of the eagle population's incredible recovery. I've never taught a lesson that was interrupted in quite this way before! "Ok, so I'm going to tell you the story of how people worked hard to make the world a better place for the eagles when they figured out how much they were in trouble!" I walk around the inside of the circle to show each girl the graph up close, then talk them through the highlights of the amazing success story. Just as I finish, the second eagle comes back, cruising into the nest. Perfect timing! I'm used to adjusting my teaching on the fly, but leading a lesson outside to socially distanced kindergarteners about an active animal doing unexpected things behind my back is a whole new level of multitasking and responsiveness.

"Look! See, the two parents are taking turns!" We all scramble for binoculars again. "This one's probably going to feed the baby now!" Sweetie and I have been able to see the baby pop up to be fed before, but unfortunately, the baby stays buried in the bottom of the nest this time, and whichever parent this is goes far down to meet it. We make another notation in our logs, and I point out that we won't write anything about the baby since we can't actually see it, even though we know it's there. 

eagle observation scientists!
photo credit: the same mom

We've barely finished that entry when the parent that was perched on the tree takes off, circling around us several times, regal black against the bright blue sky. "It's putting on a show for us!" The other moms and I are scampering, pointing, and gasping as much as the girls. We're all mesmerized. 

I could stay here all afternoon, and they seem like they could too, but our time is up, so we scurry to record one last log entry, sing "Make New Friends", and do our imaginary, socially-distanced friendship-squeeze-from-far-apart. I tuck the whiteboard under my arm, pick up my bag of extra materials, and remind them to try to look where they step since the ground is so wet. They follow me through the meadow like a family of little ducklings, mostly missing the biggest puddles and patches of mud. 

"WE SAW THE EAGLES!" Little voices screech with excitement as they run to the parents who came to pick them up. "We saw the mommy and daddy! In the nest! And they flew!"

"Thank you so much! I learned A LOT about eagles!" proclaims one of the moms who'd stayed the whole time to help. 

"Yes! I learned SO MUCH!" another chimes in.

"I'm so glad they put on such a show for us!" I reply, and I feel like I'm soaring right up there with the one that circled over us. God is so good.

I need to work on remembering the tails on my D'Neilian l's, but it's not too bad for a HS teacher, right? And I guess I didn't need to be worried about how active the eagles would be!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Spring song

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!


chirp chirp chirp                                    who's hiding here?

thweeeeet thweeeeeet                           a flash of red & yellow on midnight black:

                    redwing blackbird on a soft cattail!      

                            

chirp chirp chirp                                     a favorite feeder friend,           

chickadee dee dee                                  cute little cap, named for his song,

                    little voices shout: black-capped chickadee!


coo coo                                                    who could it be?

coo ah coo, coo coo                                 mourning dove's sweet song

coo ah coo, coo coo                                 gentle and low


chatter chatter tweet                                not all songs are easy                             

twitter twitter cheep                                but the chorus is so joyful...


buzzzzzzz flutter zip!                            Dragonflies! Bumblebee!              

                            Don't forget the bugs!


It feels like summer today! We enjoyed a bike ride and lots of time in the backyard, surrounded with plenty of sweet songs in both places!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Majestic parenting

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!

a dark blob

stunningly huge against the thin branches

constructed carefully,

even lovingly?


a dark shape on top

perching, nodding, surveying its territory,

leaning towards

a much smaller lump


a great wing flaps

then unfolds, reaches, stretches majestically

hooked beak forward,

sharp talons hanging,


it SOARS!


"Look, look! It's flying!"


outstretched wings

seem to scrape the cerulean sky, but

the regal silhouette 

leaves no mark


with eyes and mouths open wide

we gaze upwards in awe


watchful mom or dad:

soaring circles never stray too far,

then glide gracefully

to a nearby branch


giving a little space

but staying just close enough:

that's love

I grew up seeing bald eagles at our local zoo and learning how endangered they were. I never dreamed that I'd be able to take my daughters to see real wild bald eagles at their nest at all, let alone that the nest would be right across the street from their school! (The nest is the huge blob in the tree above my older daughter, and one of the parent eagles is the smaller blob in the tree above my younger daughter.)

One eagle has always been sitting in the nest (with at least one baby) whenever we've visited, but yesterday it was a treat when the parent suddenly took off and delighted us by circling right above us for several minutes before landing in a nearby tree! We also got to see both parents as they switched shifts, with one flying away to hunt while the other one stayed near the nest!

Friday, April 16, 2021

para Adam y todos los demás

Fridays!

I blog in Spanish on Fridays. If you don't read Spanish, feel free to copy this post's url into Google Translate and experience the magical imperfection of machine translation!

13 años. 7o grado. 

Aficionado de las películas de Disney / Pixar. 

Manos vacías, escuchando, obedeciendo.

Adam Toledo.

Muerto. Matado. Fusilado. Asesinado. 

13 años. Menor que mis estudiantes.


mis

estudiantes

jóvenes


guatemaltecos

salvadoreños

mexicanos

dominicanos

guineos

congoleses

árabes

y más...


morenos,

negros,

hermosos.


llenos del orgullo, el poder, y la sabiduría

de civilizaciones magníficas:

los maya, náhuatl, taíno,

mandinka, kongo,

asirios, kurdos, beréberes...


mis estudiantes

jóvenes


inteligentes, 

llenos de esperanza y sueños,

tristeza, desafíos, desesperación.


valientes, fuertes,

sensibles.

jactándose, pavoneándose, bromeando,

o encerrándose 

para proteger 

sus corazones,

sus emociones, esperanzas, y sueños. 


mis estudiantes

jóvenes


A veces, arrogantes.

A veces, derrotados. 

A veces, animados, alegres, 

tontos.

A veces, enojados, frustrados, 

desesperados.


A veces, toman decisiones sin pensar.

Se meten en líos. Se equivocan. Se distraen.

No consideran las consecuencias. No prestan atención. 


Pero también tienen ideas que cambiarán el mundo.

Aprenden, crecen, superan obstáculos.


mis estudiantes

jóvenes


¿Y qué van a hacer

si algún día, 

(si ya se fusilaron a un niño escuchando,

si ya se asesinaron a un muchacho obedeciendo,)

qué van a hacer

mis estudiantes multilingües

si un policía que no entienden

les pide hacer algo que no entienden

en un idioma que no entienden, 

o que les es difícil entender 

en un instante de terror?


¿Qué pueden hacer

si el policía sólo ve 

su piel?


¿Qué pueden hacer

si el policía 

no tarda 

apenas un segundo

en disparar?


¿Qué pasarán a sus sueños,

sus esperanzas, sus futuros,

si son asesinados 

en menos tiempo que tardan en traducir 

un pensamiento?

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Too beautiful

Tuesdays at TWT!
What do I write? The sun is pouring across our yard, birds are twittering and chirping their greetings as they flit around our deck, and my heart is full of sweet moments with the girls. It's beautiful here. I could write a hundred beautiful, sweet slices. 

But that's just it. This life is too beautiful to not be bothered that once again, someone who should be in this world is now not. Someone who should've woken up today to hear the birds and see the sunshine (or whatever the weather is doing in Minnesota) did not. Someone whose two-year-old should've covered him in cuddles today, just like my Rainbow did for me. Daunte Wright. How do you tell a two-year-old that their daddy isn't ever coming home again?!

It's too beautiful here to not remember that mere days before that, Lt. Caron Nazario almost wasn't here either. In what kind of country should an active duty Army lieutenant be afraid to get pulled over? (Obviously, in the kind of country where an officer tells him he should be afraid.)

It's too beautiful here to not feel my stomach twisting with the recognition that they, like so many others, were just doing an activity so commonplace that it became one of our favorite, lighthearted ways to get out of the house during the long months of pandemic winter. That we are excited to hop in the car for joyful drives where we take the long way home. We're not scared, even if we happen to see a police car on the way. We just keep singing and driving. 

Which is why the beauty of today just makes my head and heart hurt more. I don't want to live in a world where I can leave my house without fear (I mean, other than the deadly pandemic and the general experience of being female...) while others can't. I don't want to live in a world where when my girls get older, my lists of worries for them will be much smaller than the lists of other mothers whose children simply have more melanin than we do.

Those of us who are privileged enough to not be directly, disproportionately affected by injustice can't just keep living like nothing happened, over and over again. Nor can we pause briefly to read some books and articles, feel better about ourselves because we're "learning", and then keep living, teaching, and parenting the same ways we always have. Learning is good and important, and we should all keep it up. (I'm certainly a different person and teacher than back when I was shocked when one of the first ELs I ever worked closely with told me there are lots of racists in my hometown.) But we can't stop there. 

Because what can I write today that I haven't written before? And then again? And all the times, too many to name, that I didn't write anything? And all the countless times before, for hundreds of years?

It's too beautiful here to ignore another trial, filled with the usual spin, underway about another Black life cut too short, unable to enjoy this beauty. George Floyd. Why is his daughter, just a year older than my Sweetie, spending these beautiful days missing her daddy instead of playing with him?

It's too beautiful here to forget that, for all the attempts at victim blaming, white mass murderers are lead calmly out of their crime scenes and white insurrectionists get to go home after documenting themselves attacking the United States Capitol.

It's too beautiful to also not recognize all the recent brutal attacks and harassment against Asians, who now have to wonder if they'll be assaulted or blamed for the virus if they step outside to enjoy a day like today.

It's much too beautiful here to not recall that these are not isolated incidents, small blemishes that we can just brush past in a return to some idyllic "normal". No, they are merely the latest drips in a long, deep storm of terror and injustice sprung from the very formation of our country.

"America, the beautiful," we sing. And it is. But also, it is not. 

And until we confront the truth that in many ways, America is deeply, menacingly ugly, it cannot be as beautiful as we want it to be. 

NPR, A Decade of Watching Black People Die, May 2020

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

A slice of summer, in early April

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!

Golden rays pour onto sun-starved skin

that soaks them up like flowers opening for the first time.


"Your headie's hot!" shrieks the big sister,

gentle hand patting the shining streaks of brown and almost-gold

of her little one's hair as they catch their breath,

still beside each other for just a moment

before running, flailing, spinning, laughing,

up and down the hill 

again.

Again!!!


Instinctively, my hand shoots up to my own head,

my own streaks of gold and brown,

and yes, the sun is here, close enough

not just warm but hot!


Neighboring houses are tiny mirrors of themselves

set in matching white and pink sunglasses

above wide smiles, teeth too big for little mouths.


A cheerful bird serenade 

as we eat ice-cream truck treats on the deck:

they can feel it too. 


Swimsuits! Sandals! Back outside!

"WATER TABLE!" the youngest squeals, "with UNICORNS!"

I can't believe she even remembers it.

Splash! Splat! 

Giggles, smiles, giggles.


And I know it's just teasing;

I know it won't last

for now;

I know there's more waiting to come...


But I also know 

summer is coming,

summer will come, 

and it's not as far away 

as it has been.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Torrijas

Celebrating languages on Fridays!
I write in Spanish on Fridays. If you don't read Spanish, feel free to experience the magic (and imperfection) of machine translation by pasting this post's url into Google Translate! And if you can write in a language other than English, join me next Friday!

Hemos cocinado torrijas por la primera vez. 

No me había enterado nunca de las torrijas hasta la Semana Santa que vivía en España, hace dieciséis años ahora. Un día me desperté para descubrir que mi "mamá española", Carmen, había cocinado un desayuno especial. Parecía semejante al French Toast, pero con un sabor distinto. - ¡Son torrijas! - me dijo ella. - Es un desayuno típico de la Semana Santa. ¡Y estarán más ricos mañana! -

Me las encantaban. ¿Cómo podría esta gente comer un desayuno tan delicioso sólo una vez al año?

Resolví intentar cocinarlas cada Semana Santa. Pero la verdad es que no me gusta cocinar, y menos si es algo que no he intentado antes. Y cuando por fin encontré una receta, me intimidaron los muchos pasos. 

Hasta el marzo de 2020, con el mundo en pedazos, cuando no pareció divertido cocinar unas recetas nuevas durante las semanas (¡jajaja!) en casa. Se me ocurrió otra vez el idea de cocinar las torrijas, y casi lo hicimos, pero el tiempo transcurrió en una neblina de trabajo y paternidad, y se me olvidó pedir los ingredientes necesarios antes de la Semana Santa. 

Entonces, cuando las semanas encerradas en casa se convirtieron en meses, y en un año, y nos encontramos otra vez en casa este marzo siguiente, decidí que éste, seguramente, era el año de hacer torrijas. Y este año, logré recordar pedir los ingredientes necesarios, y encontré una receta en inglés para que mi esposo la pudiera leer. Los muchísimos pasos de la receta casi me dieron un ataqué de pánico todavía, pero, por suerte, a mi esposo le encanta cocinar y probar recetas nuevas. Él se encargó de leer la receta temible y seguir sus pasos, y pronto, la cocina se llenó con el olor de aceite. 

mi esposo haciendo las torrijas bajo la mirada vigiladora de Sweetie

-¡Huele a España!- le dije. Carmen cocinaba tantas cosas con aceite que casi todos los días, su olor difundía por todo el piso pequeño. En el almacén, ¡había un pasillo entero de botellas de aceite de oliva! 

Guardamos las torrijas en la nevera por la noche, recordando las palabras de Carmen. Y hoy por la mañana, desayunamos con el sabor de la Semana Santa en España. 

¡éxito!

-¡Es mi desayuno favorito!- declaró Sweetie. 

-¡Estarán más sabrosas mañana!- guiñé, pensando en Carmen. Y casi podía ver la cocinita de su piso, tan pequeñita comparada con la nuestra, el sol madrileño brillando entre las cortinas verdes, la vista desde la ventana donde yo buscaba cada mañana el autobús que llegaba antes del mío, y las sonrisas grandes y orgullosas de Carmen y Gerardo cuando nos enseñaron algo nuevo a mi compañera de cuarto y yo. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

A different 31 days

Whew! 31 days at TWT!
There's something exceptionally strange about the passage of time in a pandemic. Every day feels like a week, every week seems to drag on for a year, and yet, every month, I'm astonished to find that the calendar is changing again. Things that happened last week feel like they were months ago, but when I feel like surely I got that email or last texted that friend last week, it turns out that it's actually been a month or more!

Blogging every day for a month is always challenging (as proven by the fact that I haven't actually done it since 2016!), but just like everything in 2020 (see? how can it even be 2021 when every day since March 17, 2020 has been practically the same?), it felt very different this year.

Usually, the excitement of writing and connecting propels me forward on a wave of enthusiasm until at least mid-month, and I start to get stuck around the late teens or 20th day. This year, I felt exhausted at day 6 and wondered if I could really pull this off, then absolutely hit my stride mid-month and mostly cruised the rest of the way with just a couple of days where I was slightly, but not even really, tempted to not write.

Usually, my slices are a mix of classroom snapshots and family moments, with the occasional nature slice or reflection thrown in. This year, my posts were just like me, adrift in a sea of endless mom moments with no classroom in sight, with a couple of reflective posts thrown in.

Usually, I try to really work on my writing craft, trying new forms or gaining inspiration from others, and tapping into my poet side at least a couple of times. This year, it was all I could do to get a slice written each day, so I stuck to my typical writing style, trying hard to excel at the strategies I'm comfortable with, but not really trying anything new or anything in the least bit difficult (other than the hard work of slicing in Spanish on Fridays). However, I did push myself to include a song in each slice to celebrate my love of music and its power in my life. While some slices were about a song or included a song easily, there were others where it was a challenge to find the right song or artfully tie a song to my story. 

Usually, I have at least one day where I feel like I don't have any writing ideas, but this year (probably because I'd only written 4 posts in the past 2 years), my list of possible slices grew longer all month, and is currently sitting at 36 future slice ideas! (Looks like I have no excuses for slicing Tuesdays & Spanish Fridays!) I wasn't even sure I wanted to try the challenge this year, and now I can't believe I missed so many Tuesdays over the past months. (Truly, there were many days I realized on Wednesday that the previous day had been Tuesday, resolved to try the next week, and promptly proceeded to forget again. There were also plenty of Tuesdays I just decided I was too tired or writing was too much work, of course.)

Usually, I'd look for Linda's posts about nature or her family, Deb's posts about her dog (RIP, Chloe!), elsie's walks, and LeeAnn's amazing teaching ideas. This year, for the first time, most of my original slicing friends are either no longer slicing at all, or not slicing every day. I had fun welcoming new slicers and falling in love with stories and writing styles I'd never "met" before, but it felt very strange to navigate this challenge without the people who lifted me through so many others. (However, the fact that many of them continued to comment on my posts or like them on social media reinforced the special bond we've formed. They're not slicing friends now, they're... friends!)

Usually, slicing in Spanish on Fridays was something I did by myself, for myself. This year, I realized it could be so much more, and I'm so grateful to the TWT team for embracing my #MultiFri idea! It was incredible to read and listen to slices in so many different languages, to stretch my Spanish by engaging with native Spanish-speakers, to see language learners and heritage speakers engaging with their linguistic identities, to read other slices written in English but reflecting on the impact of world languages in their lives, and to just bask in the celebration of multilingualism, while embracing the pride that comes with knowing that my ideas matter. 

Usually, I talk up my blogging journey with my students as I prepare them for the student challenge in April. Now, I miss them. I miss designing mini-lessons to show them the power of their words and the beauty of crafting those words in impactful ways. I miss sharing my writing with them and seeing them change the way they see me, then seeing the spark in their eyes when they realize that they, too, could be writers, storytellers, even poets. I miss the connections we form through reading each other's slices and commenting, the way this challenge strengthens a classroom community, even this late in the year. I miss sharing their blogs with my colleagues and seeing the way my students' eyes light up when they receive a comment from their math teacher or guidance counselor, as well as the way those colleagues are impacted by my students' stories and writing styles. This year, I will carve out more time to support the participating classrooms with comments that note where I'm from, remembering how much my students loved knowing they were getting comments from teachers and students in faraway places.

It's a different year, for sure. But despite all the challenges we're all facing, different isn't always bad. After all, here we are, 31 days after I almost decided not to participate, with new (and still old) friends, a new way to highlight multilingualism, an overabundance of ideas to propel me forward, 31 very unique moments captured (including so many family memories to savor), a lot of reflection about the role of music in my life, and an aliveness in my heart reminding me that yes, I am a writer. 

I did it!!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Mask parade!

Day 30 of 31 at TWT!
"We can get shale rocks! With Meemaw and Grandaddy!! I need my MASK!!!" Rainbow Girl squeals with excitement as soon as I tell her that my parents are going to meet us at our favorite park.

After packing lunches, rain boots for creeking, and extra clothes, and seemingly half the house, we choose our masks on the way out. "Pink unicorn! Pink unicorn!" she shrieks, reaching out her little arm and opening her chubby fingers. 

I think back to how excited she was to finally be big enough to wear a mask. All summer and fall, she'd been watching us put on our masks to see my parents or pick up her sister's school supplies. She was pretty good about wearing the little faceshield sunhat we'd gotten her, but she knew it wasn't the same. After a few times asking if she could have a mask, she learned the answer and started announcing, "Sis is big enough! Mommy's big enough! Daddy's big enough!" whenever we got them out. It was perfect. As her birthday approached, we started hyping, "You'll be big enough soon!" 

We made sure the mask pack was the first present she opened on her birthday, right away in the morning. As soon she pulled the tiny unicorn and rainbow masks out of the pack, she grabbed the pink one and held it up to her face. I cheered, "You're big enough!" and helped her pull the loops over her ears. Clenching her little fists in excitement, she tilted her head up and squinted her eyes in her happiest smile. 

The birthday girl, finally big enough!

"MASK PARADE!" she announced gleefully, flail-dance-running in circles around the family room with Sweetie close behind.

She wore it to my parents' house. She wanted to show it to Sweetie's kindergarten friends during their school meeting. She played in it. She colored in it. She read in it. She played in it some more. Hours later, if she could've eaten her snack in it, she would have!

Now, she usually only wears a mask when needed, although we still have the occasional mask parade. But she always keeps them on so happily that people ask incredulously how old she is when they see her. (It's a fair question since she's still wearing 12-18 month clothes!) 

"I'm two!" she declares proudly, often followed by an excited index finger jabbing at her face. "I have my MASK!" 

creeking today with the same mask (her absolute favorite), since my parents were with us


(When Laurie first started putting on a mask for a few minutes during her Facebook Lives last spring, talking about how we could all be superheroes by wearing a mask and washing our hands, Rainbow Girl burst into tears, but soon, she was much more curious than scared!)

Monday, March 29, 2021

Ride in the car!

Day 29 of 31 at TWT!
Sun streams through the windshield, making Rainbow Girl's hair in the mirror seem lighter than it really is. It's chilly today, but it looks deceivingly beautiful as we zip along the country roads, taking the long way home, as always. For most of last year, she hated the car (probably because the only place we went all spring and summer was to the doctor to get shots!), but in the fall, she suddenly decided riding in the car was so fun that she didn't want to get out, loudly yelling "I don't WANT head home!" when we approached our neighborhood. Suddenly, she would screech "YEAH! RIDE IN THE CAR!" when I said it was time to pick up one of Sweetie's free school lunches for remote learners, and one of our sanity-saving winter activities became driving around for an extra 20-30 minutes on any day the lunch is something Sweetie likes. 

Just a few minutes from our house, we can zoom along safe, fun backroads with rolling hills, gorgeous views, and few other cars. One minute we're gliding past wide-open, placid farm fields, and around the next bend, we're winding through wooded areas where long, gated driveways lead to mansions we can barely catch glimpses of. On one of our favorite routes, we even sail past the historic, well-preserved farm where the namesake of Sweetie's school, a freed slave, became the first Black farm-owner in the county and hid escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad. Just down the road, we peer at the reservoir that now covers the riverbank caves where the escaping slaves would hide until the farm owners rang a bell that signaled safety, and we think about the courage of all involved.

When we're not contemplating history, the girls balance singing loudly along to their playlist, looking at books, and looking out the window. With her musical car mirror, Rainbow Girl can see out the front windshield too, even though she's rear-facing, and I love seeing her little finger in my rearview mirror, pointing into her mirror at something we're approaching. "LOOK!" she'll screech, "DIGGERS!" (Both girls are in love with construction vehicles of all kinds.) Or I'll see her holding up a book, tiny finger on a picture, declaring, "A rabbit! Look, a rabbit!" or "I see Brown Bear, Brown Bear!"

She also loves to introduce each song by shrieking her special nickname for it when she hears the first few notes. For example,"How Far I'll Go" from Moana is "Pig!" because she likes watching for Moana's pig friend to appear in the music video during our YouTube playlist dance parties. "For the First Time in Forever" from Frozen is "Quack Quacks!" or "Duckies!" because she loves the little family of ducks that waddles by Anna at one point in the video.

In the car, it's astonishing to see how much she's memorized each video as she narrates her favorite songs by describing what happens in the video, exactly at the right moment in the song, announcing when Moana "dives in the pool!" in "I am Moana", or when Elsa shoots off ice fireworks in "Some Things Never Change".

Even better, she narrates the Spanish ones too, and while I know she just has the songs and their videos memorized like the English ones, she's also connecting the Spanish lyrics she's learning to the pictures in her head from the videos, and starting to learn what some words mean. I'm so proud when she declares, "Nariz means nose!", "I like melon!" or shakes her body at the correct times when "Hormiguita" comes on in the car. (Sweetie loves to help by tickling her in the correct body part as the ant crawls around!) Or when she tells what each letter does in "La Ronda de Vocales": "He bring a present for her mommy! He eats! He rides her bike!" (At just over two, she's still working on English too, and one of her more adorable explorations right now is pronouns that don't always agree with themselves.) 

Sweetie, who loves to be Elsa, mostly asks questions about the sights and helps make sure her little sister has the right book or her water cup... until the Frozen songs come on. Then she's fully focused on singing every word at the top of her lungs, making Elsa-ice-power motions with her hands (sometimes copied by Rainbow). 

I'm glad we'll be able to start enjoying more time outdoors and using the car to really go to parks (and eventually more normal places), but these winter car rides have been a fun way to get out of the house and yard while still being safe at home together!

"Hormiguita (Ant)" is one of our favorite songs, and I'm so grateful that there are amazing YouTube channels like La Gallina Pintadita with high-quality visuals (and sing-along lyrics for my budding reader) so I can give them access to a whole wider range of Spanish input! Before I discovered this and curated a playlist, Rainbow Girl (with her aversion to new things) was not a fan of me trying to use Spanish. Now, not only does she love Spanish songs, she's gleefully starting to use Spanish to communicate, just like her big Sis and Mommy!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Little language learners

Day 28 of 31 at TWT!
"Manos!" Wriggling her hands, Rainbow Girl proudly smiles up from the changing table with her biggest squint-eyed smile. 

"That's right! Manos are hands!" I lean close, touching my nose against hers, and start singing, "La la la, las manos a lavar!" 

She giggles, holds up her hands and wiggles them some more, and joins in. "La la la, las manos a lavar! A lavar!" Then she tilts her head up in that squinty proud smile and half-shyly murmurs, "Muy bien!" 

"¡Muy bien!" I agree, "¡Buen español!"

I think of how she asks for "más leche, por favord" (I can't get her to stop adding that extra d sound, but on the bright side, it's super adorable!) at every meal, sometimes adding, "Más means more!" or "Agua is water!" in a firmly declarative tone. 

Or how when Sweetie asks for leche or jugo at breakfast, then chooses between "de uvas, de manzana, o de frutas," Rainbow often interjects "jugo is juice!" or "manzana is apple!" (or sometimes, not as correctly, "uvas is juice!")

Sometimes I wish I'd spoken to both girls in more Spanish all along, but that would have been so much work that I just really haven't had the mental energy for, especially coupled with how hard it was to find quality Spanish children's books (we have some, but not nearly enough!), and both girls' early arrivals to the world. Moreover, there's truly something special about speaking to them in my first language, using the same silly little English phrases and family colloquialisms that my parents used with me. 

So I'm content that I'm exposing them to Spanish in a way we all enjoy, even though that means they're not bilingual... yet. (After all, with the exception of a little Spanish club I attended in kindergarten, I didn't start learning Spanish until middle school.)

Being home with them this year has given me the opportunity to build more Spanish into our daily routines, and that has certainly paid off, although again, I'm disappointed that I haven't had the capacity (perhaps the most useful phrase I've learned during the pandemic!) to do more. But they are learning to understand and speak more and more, and even more importantly, they're learning that languages are fun. I love hearing Sweetie say, "Mommy, I'm so glad you're teaching us Spanish!" out of the blue just as much as I love hearing them ask for something they need en español or sing a Spanish song.

(As I was drafting this, I heard Rainbow screech "Agua! Agua!" several time to Husband downstairs!)

Best of all, they're learning that we choose our words carefully (even Rainbow now knows which books Daddy can or can't read to her, often announcing "That's in Fpanish" or "That one's in Enguhlish!"), that how we speak is part of who we are, and that there's more than one way to be in the world.


Saturday, March 27, 2021

A taste of summer

Day 27 of 31 at TWT!
"Eat outside! Eat outside!" Rainbow Girl's dainty nose and chubby fingers are pressed against the sliding glass door. At her shoulder, Sweetie fidgets impatiently. Apparently this suggestion was a hit! I giggle as Husband and I take turns shuffling the highchair, plates, cups, and dinner items out to the deck, dodging the increasingly wiggly sisters each time.

"Lunchables! I can eat it outSIDE!" Rainbow Girl bounces wildly against me as I lift her into her highchair, clutching her new favorite dinner.  Sunbeams stream across her hair as the golden low sun wafts through the woods and across the backyards. "Bologna meat! It tastes good!" she declares, opening her mouth as wide as it can reach. "It's my fwavworite!" 

"That's right! You're such a big girl, eating meat like a big girlie! You tried a new food and it tasted good!" Over the past week, she's finally decided (at several months past 2) to eat meat, and I still feel a deep sense of relief whenever she chooses it. "Meat makes you strong!"

The breeze ruffles our hair and tries to swipe our napkins as both girls chatter over the sounds of birds chirping, neighbor kids playing, and a few vehicles driving down the street. Some weight I didn't know I was carrying seems to be lifting from my back as I squint into the setting sun.

"Guess what we have for dessert?" Sweetie leans towards her little sister, jittery with excitement, once Rainbow has polished off all the bologna and most of the crackers. She's had a hard time keeping this secret for the past few hours. "While you were napping, the ice cream truck came! And I picked you out a special treat!"

Our ice cream truck cruises through the neighborhood so fast it's notoriously hard to catch, so Sweetie was ecstatic when we managed to flag it down today, after several failed attempts already this spring!

By the time I come back outside from grabbing our surprise desserts out of the freezer, Rainbow's legs are jutting straight out and her little fists are clenched in delight. "Heppa Kitty! Heppa Kitty!" she squeals as I hand her the bright package. "Can I eat it?!" 

"Of course!" I open the wrapper and hand her the pink Hello Kitty bar, showing her how to hold the stick. She tentatively bends her mouth towards it and takes a small nibble, then keeps going. I realize we should get a bowl, spoon, and bib, but she looks so cute eating it off the stick!

Enjoying the treat her sister picked out for her during our successful conquest of the ice cream truck!

The sun sinks lower as I bite into my Creamsicle and Sweetie gleefully jabbers about her humongous Jolly Rancher Bomb Pop. Our neighbor waves as he grills burgers on his driveway, and the shouts of the neighborhood kids echo around us. I can't believe it's March! Some years we have snow still! It's chilly enough that Sweetie ends up asking for her sequined Elsa jacket before we're done, but it's still an unmistakeable taste of summer. Or at least, the assurance that summer is coming.

As I lift Rainbow out of her highchair, she announces, "I'm happy! ... because..." (long pause) "I like Heppa Kitty! I loooove Heppa Kitty!" In her patented snuggle gesture, she sticks up one elbow and buries her head in it.

I hug her a little tighter and whisper into her silky hair with a kiss, remembering all the times I ran out to the ice cream truck with my dad. "I'm happy you're happy, honey bun!"

One of our favorite Laurie songs pops into my head. It doesn't take much to make a party day now: just some beautiful weather and time together (of course, an ice cream truck surprise doesn't hurt!). 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Fé, en un mundo pesado

 

Day 26 of 31 at TWT!

Fridays!

I blog in Spanish on Fridays. If you don't read Spanish, feel free to paste this post's url into Google Translate and experience the wonder (& imperfection) of machine translation!

-El mundo pesa mucho ahorita.- He escrito estas palabras demasiado veces durante la semana pasada. (Y las semanas, meses, y el año entero antes.) Las he escrito en varios comentarios que he dejado en los blogs de otros participantes del desafío de marzo, en respuestas en Twitter, y en mensajes a mis amigos. Y las he pensado, dentro de mi mente, mil veces más. 

La verdad es que siempre ha sido pasado el mundo en que vivimos ¿verdad? Es cierto que han existido siempre las problemas que amenazan a derrotarnos ahora. La violencia, el odio, el racismo, el egoísmo... estos no son novedades. Quizás nos pesan más ahora porque estamos viviendo todo esto Y esta pandemia, como si el virus fue un peso más de lo que podemos cargar?

Desde niña he soñado con crear un mundo mejor. Recuerdo mis intentos en primaria a crear un club sobre el cuidado del medioambiente, los juegos imaginarios de parar la guerra que inventé con mis amigos, la recogida de comida que organicé para el grupo local de gente indígena. Recuerdo que tanto me angustió la historia colonizadora y violente del cristianismo que casi no quería confirmarme cuando acerqué a la edad típica de la confirmación en la iglesia metodista. (Lo hice por la presión social y también porque estaba segura que creía en Dios, aunque de veras, en el momento, no estaba segura si quería ser cristiana, sabiendo todo lo mal que hicieron los supuestos cristianos durante dos mil años... pero por suerte, me encontré con Cristo más tarde y ahora sé que ser cristiana no tiene nada que ver con lo que han hecho otras en el nombre de Jesús, sino lo que hago yo en mi relación con él.)

Por toda la vida, he sido muy empática, muy sensible, con emociones muy fuertes, hasta sentirme fuera de lugar con los otros niños (y aún mucha gente ahora), porque me preocupa tanto este impulso a cambiar el mundo. (Un día de primaria, llegué a casa y le dijo a mi mamá que -Mis intereses son distintos que los de mis compañeros.-) He deseado tanto un mundo con donde la gente se cuidaran, no sólo los familiares y los amigos, aún no sólo los conocidos, sino todo el mundo cuidándose, los unos a los otros. Un mundo donde todos cuidarían de la tierra, del impacto de las acciones ahora y en el futuro. Anhelaba un mundo donde cada persona se sintiera que le importara, de verdad, a alguien más. Un mundo con menos odio, menos descuido, y más amor. 

Por eso, cuando por primera vez escuché la canción Fé por Maná, la llamó mi atención de inmediato. -No puedo entender este mundo como es...- Era como si cada letra de la canción fuera escrita directamente de y para mi corazón: -...El mundo puede cambiar, / sólo hay que intentarlo. / No hay que odiar, / hay que amar...-

(Para Uds. que no entienden esta canción hermosísima, aquí hay una traducción al inglés.)

Mientras crecía, he llegado a entender que tengo muchos privilegios, que el mundo es mucho menos pesado para mí que para muchísimas personas. Y aunque siempre me han molestado mucho las injusticias, y he intentado luchar, hay mucho más que puedo y debo hacer, aunque sea difícil e incluso incómodo. 

Entonces, cuando me siento desanimada o desmayada con el estado del mundo, con lo mucho que hay que hacer, con lo pequeño que parece el papel que hago, ésta es una de las primeras canciones que pongo a escuchar. -¡Fé! ¡Dame fé! / Dame alas. Dame fuerza...-

Y sé que la fé que busco viene en varias partes: fé que Dios está trabajando siempre, sí, pero también fé en mi misma para seguir adelante, fé en las personas que me apoyan, fé que aún si me siento un poco sola a veces, hay mucha gente alrededor del mundo que desean lo mismo que yo. (Y recuerdo que muchos de ellos son Uds. que leen esta entrada ahora, mis -amigos- de blogging y Twitter, y les agradezco mucho.)

-Hay que amarnos como hermanos. / Tenemos el valor para darnos más amor, yo sé... / Hay que intentar, hay que intentar, / no hay que perder la fé- 

Gracias por intentar conmigo. ¡Adelante, con fé!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

There's no better thing to do


Day 25 of 31 at TWT!
"How 'bout 'Woke Up Today'?" Rainbow Girl is snuggled against me on the rocking chair. 

"Oh yay! Mommy loves that one!" I whisper in her ear. And it's also one of the best songs for putting you to sleep, I think. I kiss her silky hair, pat her back, and start to sing. "When I woke up today, / I shouted out 'Hooray!' / 'cause I knew I'd see you, / and we could sing together..."

I think of all the times Laurie started one of her Facebook Live mini-concerts with this song, and what bright spots those daily "visits" were in the foggy distress of last spring.

At first, Rainbow's sweet voice chimes in, "la la la la la, / la la la la la..." 

But when I move into my routine of improvising verses to summarize our day, she grows quiet, and settles more floppily against me. "... 'cause I knew I'd see you, / and we could read some books together..." I smile as I sing. This song, once the beginning of one of our favorite isolation activities, is now a special way to remember our day. Every once in awhile I lose focus and find myself without an idea when I'm supposed to be customizing another verse, but usually I'm pretty good about thinking through the day ahead of time.

"... 'cause I knew I'd see you, / and we could play MagnaTiles together..."

"... we could ride in the car together..."

"... we could color together..."

"... we could play check-up together..."

"... we could do sidewalk chalk together..."

"... we could walk with the stroller together..."

"... we could wear bunny ears together..."

The more awake she seems, the more verses I add. And although I want her to go down for her nap quickly, I also love reliving each day while snuggling with her in this cute way. In fact, some days I keep adding verses even if she's already all "floomfy" (a word we invented that means super floppy and snuggly) on me. But eventually, it's time for the last two customized verses, which are always the same:

"... 'cause I knew I'd see you, / and we could rock together..."

"... we could snuggle together..."

And I always finish with Laurie's real last verse, which is my absolute favorite: 

"'cause I knew I'd see you, 

and there's no better thing to do, 

than sing a song and hear you sing it too, 

la la la la."

I brush my fingers through her hair, kiss her head again, and slow the rocking chair to a stop, remember her sweet voice singing along at the beginning of the song, her smiles throughout the day, the way she sometimes dances and sometimes snuggles with me when we watch Laurie sing, the way she holds up one little fist for "I shouted out 'Hooray!'" when we listen to Laurie sing it. 

There truly is no better thing to do. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Wee a bike

Day 24 of 31 at TWT!
"Can we go wee-a-bike?" Rainbow Girl is big enough to say "ride bikes" now, and sometimes she does, but I love when she decides to use the cute term she created last summer instead. I love remembering how when she first started riding in the bike seat behind me, she crooned "weeeeee!" all along the path. 

It's pretty windy, but the sun is shining, and Sweetie's fancy new big-girl bike has gears. "Sweetie, your sister wants to go for a bike ride. It's pretty windy, but you could use your gears to help you."

"I can do it without my gears! I'm strong!"

I giggle. "Ok, but if you need them, they can make it easier for you!"

"It's a pretty day!" Rainbow Girl chimes back in, just in case we haven't made up our minds yet. 

In just a few minutes, we're pedaling up the big hill, buffeted by periodic gusts of wind that give way to brief periods of calm when the sunshine almost feels hot on our arms.

"I'm in gear 4!" Sweetie reports as we head into the meadow, probably to assure me that she doesn't need her gears for the wind. So am I, I think as I push against the wind, even though I'm usually in 6 or 7. She's so stubborn!

"There's spring peeper frogs! I drew them!" Rainbow Girl calls out as soon as we hear them chirping from the first patch of water near the path. "I can color them again!" 

"Yes, you drew such a nice picture of the peeper frogs the other day! I love your coloring!" She is such a nature girl! What other two year old knows spring peepers?! 

Sweetie riding by where the spring peepers have been chirping!

Sure enough, around the next bend she declares, "Turkey Vulture!" and when I look up, there one is, circling gracefully above us. A few minutes later, I see her grab her ear in the rearview mirror as she announces, "I hear a mourning dove!" Any other two year old would just say "bird"!

We approach the fountain pond, and Rainbow Girl shrieks, "We can look for the snake! I wish I can see the snake!"

"He's probably hiding!" There's no way that poor snake is going to come sun himself out here again for quite awhile. 

"I'm going to look in his habitat!" Sweetie yells, jumping off her bike and running over the the pile of reeds she chased him into.

Looking for the snake / finding the best reeds to throw in the pond!

They scamper back and forth across the grass for a few minutes, and then it's time to ride home, Sweetie chattering happily in front of me and Rainbow Girl prattling at my back. The wind whips roughly at us, but it's so warm even its strength is more pleasant than irritating. If I look out into where the tree branches crisscross the blue sky, it's almost like we're flying, and John Denver pops into my head. This isn't West Virginia, but it's close, and more importantly, it's beautiful. And it's where I belong.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Never had it before!

Day 23 of 31 at TWT!
"Sea lion! Sea lion! Can I have my sea lion? Puh-leeeease?" It's been a week since our big trip to the zoo, when we fell in love with the sea lions despite Rainbow Girl's aversion to new experiences, and she's still asking for him when she wakes up (and sometimes after we put her to bed). 

She was so funny in the gift shop. It was already more than a half hour after I'd planned to leave the zoo and we're trying not to go into buildings, so I'd figured we'd zip quickly into the kids' gift shop, grab one sea lion the girls could share, and get going to the car. 

Once we found the sea lion corner (since it's a new exhibit, there was truly a whole wall of sea lion items), it didn't take Sweetie long to pick one out: a smooth, silky brown sea lion that looked just like the ones we'd seen. I was pointing out a few other choices, just to make sure she saw the different styles and had the one she really wanted, when Rainbow Girl pointed towards a bin on the floor I hadn't even seen, filled with fluffy gray sea lion pups. 

"Can I have THAT one?" she declared, both arms reaching out.

"You want one of these?!" I picked one up, checking the tag to see if it was even supposed to be a sea lion since it didn't look anything like the ones we'd seen. I wondered if it was some kind of seal, but sure enough, the tag said "sea lion". "We were going to get this one!" I held out her sister's brown, realistic one.

"I want THOSE!" she strained against her stroller straps, still pointing at the fluffy gray ones. 

My heart melted. It was her first time ever picking anything out, not having been in any kind of store since she was a tiny baby. I glanced at the price tag (not too bad) and decided we could probably swing two stuffed animals to commemorate our new best animal friends, first trip to the zoo (& first real "activity") in over a year.

I started doing what my mom always does, picking up a few animals to inspect, making sure we get one that's not smushed or coming unthreaded. 

"NO, Mommy! I WANT it!!!" Now she was waving her arms wildly and shaking her head vigorously, desperate for a fluffy gray sea lion. I hurriedly handed her one and she immediately wrapped it in her arms, dipping her head into its fur in her deepest snuggle-pose. "Mmmmm!"

"But I want THIS one, Mommy!" Sweetie waved the brown one in my face, worried that I was going to tell her to put it back.

"It's ok, we can get both!" I winked. "She's never gotten to pick out anything from a store before!" We scurried to the checkout counter, where Rainbow Girl refused to let go of her new friend for even a second, starting to get distressed as soon as she saw her sister hand the brown sea lion up to be scanned. Luckily, the very smart employee offered to let me cut the tag off while she still held it, and then scanned the discarded tag so the snuggles could continue uninterrupted. 

After being completely baffled that I had to insert my card into the chip reader, demonstrating that I'd apparently forgotten how to pay for things in person while being at home all this time, we finally headed towards the car, long after they should have both been down for their naps. 

On the way home, glancing in the rear view mirror, I smiled at the sight of both of them snuggling their sea lions. Rainbow Girl was absolutely enthralled with hers, gazing at it, little fingers petting its fluffy fur and tapping its shiny eyes. "It have blue eyes!" she declared at one point. "It's new! Never had it before!"

It ate some crackers with her at home, then had to come upstairs as I unsuccessfully tried to get her late-for-nap self to put it down for a nap somewhere. In her room, I was also unsuccessful at getting her to put it to sleep on a shelf. It stayed tucked under her arm while I got her pajamas on, then clutched tight in one hand in the rocking chair with Nutbrown Hare in the other hand. 

I'll definitely be able to swipe it when she goes to sleep, I thought, but there was no such luck. Even when her breathing slowed on my chest and I laid her in her crib, I couldn't tug it loose. I'll just wait a minute until she's deeper asleep. I watched her peaceful breathing and tugged again. Still tightly snuggled. 

"TWO ANIMALS!!!" she screeched in wonder when she woke up, holding them both in outstretched arms. "SEA LION AND NUTBROWN HARE! I LOVE HIM!" 

Snuggling both in her highchair!

Since the thought of her sleeping with something that large and fluffy still makes me a little nervous, we've managed to get her into bed without him since that first nap (despite a bit of campaigning for "Sea lion! TWO animals!"), but she still wants him right away whenever she wakes up, and Sweetie is so excited to bring him to her. As soon as she hugs him, I think of how she chose him for herself. She knows just what she wants. Such a big little girl, growing up every day!

Monday, March 22, 2021

Nature Girls

Day 22 of 31 at TWT!
As both girls scamper through the field, I breathe deeply to savor the fresh spring air, relishing the warmth of the sun on my face and the gentle breeze that brushes my skin on its way to rustle the long grass. 

"What's THAT?!" Rainbow Girl's little finger points at something behind me. I turn away from the pond, expecting to tell her something mundane like a bird or a plant blowing in the wind. Something long, skinny, and light brown, sideways against the grass, catches my eye. One of those reeds they've been throwing in must've blown over here, I think, and start to say, "a stick"... when the "stick" starts wiggling furiously.

"A SNAKE! YOU FOUND A SNAKE!" I shriek as my eyes take in the details of its striped, scaly body slithering through the grass. "SWEETIE, LOOK! YOUR SISTER FOUND A SNAKE!!! LOOK, RIGHT BY THE SHADOW OF MY HELMET!"

See him?

Sweetie sprints over from the edge of the pond. "OH! WHERE?! I SEE IT! Can we catch it? Can I touch it?"

"We're not catching it, no," I giggle, "and I don't think he wants you to touch him..."

It doesn't matter; she's already leaping forward, squatting down, her hand almost coming down right on top of the poor snake who had frozen for a second, hoping he was camouflaged. A frantic, wriggly race ensues as the swift, skinny creature twists and glides through the grass, trying to evade the outstretched hands of the panting, pouncing 5-year-old monster chasing it, blonde hair flying in all directions. "Ooh, I almost got him! He's so fast!" He darts and squirms, she dashes and swoops.

No fear!

At one point, it really looks like her fingers brush his tail, but she says she didn't feel anything. Finally, he dives into the pile of reeds they'd been picking up to toss in the pond, and I have to tell her to stop when she starts digging into them. "Let him rest! He's scared! Besides, we have to head home for your second meeting!" 

"Snake! Snake! It was wiggling!" Rainbow Girl shouts as we scurry back to the bikes. 

"Yes! Thank you for showing us the snake, Rainbow!" I can't believe she really spotted a snake. We wouldn't have seen it if she hadn't said something. "Thank you for telling Mommy about it! I didn't see it until you said, 'What's that?'!" I give her an extra kiss as I lift her into the bike seat.

Grinning proudly in my rear-view mirror, she tells the story to nobody in particular the whole way home. "I said, 'What's that!" I saw a snake! It was wiggling!" 

"Do we have a book about snakes?" Sweetie calls back over her shoulder as she pedals furiously. "I want to know what kind it is!"

"Oh, it's a garter snake!" I chuckle. There's no way I would've let you chase it and try to pet it if I didn't know what kind it was! "But sure, we can try to read about them later today!" 

"Read a snake book!" Rainbow chimes happily.

I always feel like I'm flying on the bike, but even more so right now. I love that both girls are nature girls, just like me. And I love that they're both so curious, and that they're excited to find out more by reading books!

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Even when we can't see it

Day 21 of 31 at TWT!
Maybe it's because the sun is shining so brightly this Sunday that it casts floating sunbeams around the girls as they dance to the worship songs coming from our TV.

Maybe it's the sight of the girls frolicking around under that sunshine, cheerfully sporting their favorite unicorn masks at the church's socially distanced Easter egg hunt, waving at church friends in person (from afar) for the first time in months.

Meeting the Easter Bunny!

Mostly, I think it's the way, as I tell Rainbow to hold my hand in the parking lot as she toddles beside me, I realize that's the first time I've ever done that. We've hardly been anywhere since she could walk, and I've mostly carried her through the parking lots of the few places we've been to, partly out of habit and partly because she's usually glued to me. As her tiny hand grips mine and she scampers beside me, I think of how big she must seem to the church staff who greet us. She was still such a baby the last time we went to church, and most of these people haven't seen her since then.

Now, she proudly declares, "I'm not a baby anymore! I'm a big girl!" whenever we mention a memory from when she was a baby, or whenever we talk about how big she's getting.

Yesterday, she ate bologna for the first time!

She's learning to wash her hands by herself (even though we have to splash water from the faucet onto her because her little arms don't even come close).

She talks constantly, in huge, multi-part sentences, navigating a variety of grammatical structures. (I know, I'm a language nerd.)

She decides she loves the Easter Bunny as soon as she sees him, proudly showing him her basket and asking to go say hi to him again every few minutes. "I like the Easter Bunny!" she announces, flashing her signature crinkly-eyed "happy smile".

After just a few times of us pointing out the eggs to her, she quickly learns to squat down, grab an egg, and put it in her fluffy white bunny basket.

Instead of burrowing into my shoulder and shaking her head dramatically, she actually says hi to the children's church staff that she usually sees on Zoom, excited to see them in person.

Yes, she's a big girl now. And anyone outside of our immediate family has missed this gradual-but-sudden transition from baby to small person. They didn't see it, but she has been growing and changing so much, right before our eyes.

<3

The song "Waymaker" starts flowing through my head:

"Even when I don't see it, You're working, 

Even when I can't feel it, You're working,

You never stop, You never stop working,

You never stop, You never stop working..."

Because God is here on this beautiful day, but He has also been here all this time. 

He has been here through the challenges of 2020 and He will be here into whatever comes next. He has been here through the frigid winter and into this bright spring. He was with us when we thought we might not be able to give Sweetie a sibling, He was with Rainbow Girl in the NICU, He was with us as she grew stronger, He was with us as we figured out how to be a family of four, and He has been here with us as she becomes a little person.

Even when we couldn't see it, He was working. He never. stops. working. 

Just when light came back into our lives from the darkness we'd been living, the world turned dark. And it has been so, so dark, in so many ways. But He is more than just a light in that darkness, He is actively working to bring us out of it. He did it for our family and He is doing it for the world.

Even when we don't see it. Even when we don't feel it. 

COVID. Racism. Hatred. Xenophobia. Isolation. Loss. Burnout. Discouragement. On top of all the "usual" struggles that come with being human, the personal tragedies and struggles we all face. It's hard, sometimes, to see the light. It's hard to see Him working for good. But he is.

Just as there is sunshine and warmth after the winter, just as friendship and love outlast distance, just as tiny preemie NICU babies on breathing machines grow into little-big girls who scamper through fields... beauty will come of this broken world.

Even when we can't see it yet.