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!


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.


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.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Remote pride

Day 20 of 31 at TWT!
"MOMMY! My teacher wants me to share something about you in the marching band because we're going to learn about the marching band!" Sweetie's yelling out of the dining room from the middle of remote kindergarten.

Twisting myself around on the couch to hear her better, I pause in the new excavator book Rainbow and I are reading for about the twentieth time in the past two days. "What?"

"Yeah! We're going to watch a halftime show and she asked me to share something about you!"

A little warning would've been nice, but of course! I scoot Rainbow Girl off my lap, whispering "Mommy will be right back," and charge up the stairs two at a time. "Do you want me to get my horn?"

"Yeah! Your horn!" she shouts up to me, and I hear her announce to her class, "Mommy's gonna get her horn!" 

I peek into the extra bedroom for my hat, but it's not where I thought it was, and I think the class is waiting on me, so I grab my horn and rush back downstairs. 

"WOWWWWW! Oh my goodness, boys and girls! So cool!" her teacher exclaims in overly-enthusiastic kindergarten-teacher style as I hold my horn up to Sweetie's Chromebook. "Mrs. M, can you tell us what that is?!"

I recite my well-practiced answer for questioners of all ages, since no one ever knows what my horn is. "It's a mellophone. It's a marching French Horn!" (When people ask what I play and it's not there to show, I always add, "It's like a trumpet with a big bell," but right now, they can see it, so I skip that part of the explanation.) At my side, off screen, Rainbow Girl tugs at my shirt, babbles something I can't quite hear, and gazes up at my horn.

Me (closest) and my row in band, playing our horns at the "Skull Session" show before a home game.

"Can you PLAY something on your mellophone?" the teacher asks. 

"I was just going to ask if you wanted me to play something!" I grin. "How about if I play a little bit of 'Fight the Team'?" 

I'm transported back to one summer evening on the stage at Picnic with the Pops, when the quirky Maestro Albert-Georg Schramm of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra was so intrigued by my mellophone that he excitedly declared in the middle of our joint show that he had learned about a new instrument from us, and proceeded to ask me to demonstrate it to the whole crowd. (As squad leader of E Row, my seat was so close to his podium that his sweat flung on me with every animated conducting gesture!) I was terrified to make a mistake in front of my fellow bandmates and the symphony, but I played a perfect solo chorus of Fight the Team as my parents went crazy in their seats. 

Playing for a class of kindergarteners isn't nearly as intimidating, but I was at my best back then. Now, I take a deep breath and hope the valves don't stick too much. I've barely touched it in years, but my fingers and mouth don't let me down, and luckily, neither does my 16th birthday present. It's banged up and dirty, but only one valve sticks partway for a second, and I make it through one pretty decent chorus, peeking around the huge bell to keep one eye on the little self-view on Sweetie's screen to make sure the class can see the whole horn for the whole song. 

As I play, Sweetie's eyes sparkle as she looks back and forth between me and her class, sitting up tall. Her teacher starts clapping along to the song, and all the little kindergarteners in their muted squares clap too, forming a wiggly collage of silent cheering. 

"Woohoo!" her teacher cheers when I finish, and asks the class to thank me. I grin and answer her questions about halftime shows while Rainbow interrupts, still off-screen but chattering and trying to see if she can make a sound on my horn by putting the mouthpiece all the way in her tiny mouth. As the teacher starts sharing a halftime show on her screen, Rainbow hums into the mouthpiece and decides that she's successfully playing. When she finally loses interest, I run the horn back upstairs before it gets broken and take a better look around for my hat.

Running back downstairs, I sneak into the dining room and plop my hat on Sweetie's head as she watches the halftime video. Her biggest grin stretches across her face. 

proudly wearing my band hat in kindergarten!

Another perk of remote learning: the ability to spontaneously bring a family expert into a lesson! 

(There are better quality videos of Fight the Team, but I wanted to find one I was in! I'm in the middle of the front row of the band, just to the right of the director's podium.)

Friday, March 19, 2021

Corazones abiertos

Every Friday!
Day 19 of 31 at TWT!

(I write in Spanish on Fridays. If you don't read Spanish, feel free to paste this post's url into Google Translate and experience what it's like to read a machine-translated text!)

El viernes pasado, cuando iniciamos el viernes multilingüe para la comunidad Slice of Life, fue una experiencia mágica

Había gente que escribió en su primer idioma, tanto como gente que escribió en un idioma aprendido que ha formado una parte integral de la vida. Eso esperaba, y me alegró mucho. 

Lo que no esperaba fue que también habían personas que escribieron en una lengua bastante nueva para elles. Que algunas personas tomarían esta oportunidad para demostrar lo que pueden hacer con un idioma que todavía están aprendiendo. (Pues, es cierto que todes estamos aprendiendo nuestros idiomas todavía, aún los hablantes natives, porque no es posible terminar de aprender un idioma, pero ya sabes...) ¡Qué valentía! Escribir en público en un idioma nuevo es algo bien temible. (Pues, escribir en público es algo bien temible, ¡y punto!) 

Me encanta tener los viernes multilingüe como inspiración para desarrollar mis habilidades de español, porque sé que necesito seguir practicando para mejorar. Pero también porque el español es algo importante de quién soy. Y aún con los años que llevo estudiando y utilizando el español, tengo miedo de equivocarme, de no decir algo en la manera que lo diría un hispanohablante nativo. Y me cuesta mucho más tiempo y esfuerzo escribir una entrada en español que en inglés. 

Por eso, no tuve la menor idea que, viendo la invitación del viernes multilingüe, habría gente con menos experiencia utilizando sus idiomas aprendidos que lo tomaría como una oportunidad de practicar y demostrar su orgullo en el proceso de aprender otro idioma. ¡Qué asombroso! Me disfruté mucho leer sus entradas y dejarles unos comentarios de apoyo. 

Y además, había gente que no se atrevieron a escribir en otro idioma, pero escribieron sobre su proceso de aprender idiomas o unas experiencias interesantes que tuvieron a enfrentarse con otro idioma en alguna manera. Aún para estas personas, los idiomas tuvieron un impacto en sus vidas, y querían tomar esta oportunidad del viernes multilingüe para describirlo, para pensar en el poder de los idiomas. 

¡Qué maravilla!

Yo quería crear un espacio para las personas que viven en más de un idioma, con corazones que latan en varias lenguas. Porque si vivimos en más de un idioma, ¿por qué escribir nuestras historias en sólo uno? No sabía que iba a despertar a muchos corazones más de lo esperado, que aún las personas que apenas empiezan a conocer otro idioma sienten su poder, su llamada. 

Porque conocer otro idioma no sólo significa saber otro grupo de palabras para describir las experiencias de la vida, sino conocer otra manera de vivir. Aprender otro idioma significa abrirse los ojos más, y eso abre el corazón también. 

Pienso en la versión bilingüe de la canción "Wavin' Flag" del Mundial de 2010, que me sorprendí con sus versos en español, porque no son una traducción exacta del inglés. Las letras en español enfocan en el sentido colectivista del equipo, mientras las letras en inglés son más individualistas. Sin conocer el español y ver los partidos de este Mundial en español, yo no hubiera escuchado esta versión de la canción. Y sin entender ambos idiomas, no habría notado esta diferencia, y no hubiera pensado en las diferencias culturales que, a propósito o no, llevaron a estos sentidos distintos en las versiones. ¿Si entiendes español y inglés, notas cómo cambia el sentido, del uso de "me / I" en inglés y "nosotros" en español?

Me gusta la versión en español más, porque para mí, los eventos como el Mundial y los Juegos Olímpicos son una celebración del sentido colectivo de la humanidad, además del patriotismo de las naciones. Somos orgullosos de nuestras naciones, sí, pero podemos estar orgullosos también de ser humanos, todos juntos, y podemos celebrar que a pesar de las diferencias, hay más que nos une que lo que nos divide. 

Y es cierto de los idiomas también. Los idiomas pueden dividirnos, pero también pueden reunirnos, si nos abrimos los corazones. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Flippy, floppy, fun new friends

Day 18 of 31 at TWT!
"Can you get my sea lion?" Rainbow Girl has only been awake for a few minutes. This is the third thing she's said through the monitor. Still in love with the sea lion, ok. 

The new sea lion exhibit was our last stop on Tuesday after she finally decided the zoo was fun. It's right near the exit, so I figured we'd swing by quickly on our way back to the car. Since it was built during COVID, I had no idea how much I'd underestimated it, and I wasn't even sure it would be open. At this point of the year, a lot of animals are still just in their back areas until it gets warmer. 

35 minutes after I planned to leave, we were heading in the opposite direction from the car, backtracking to the kids' gift shop to buy a toy sea lion to commemorate our newest love. Yes, all three of us were in absolute love.

Hidden around the corner from a snack shop, the exhibit didn't seem like much at first. We came to one full-length glass window with the waterline halfway up it. I peered through the hazy blue depths but only saw some sort of long, floating string for the seals to play with. They're probably not out yet, I thought, and I was about to turn towards the car when Sweetie screeched, "I see something!!!" 

"You do?" I squinted again. She probably sees that string thingy...

"Yes! Yes!" she squealed, and I caught a flash of dark movement out of the corner of my eye. 

We rounded the corner to find a much bigger window going downhill farther under the water, opening onto a lengthy path that wound still farther down. Oh, this is waaaaaay bigger than I thought!

In the fake-rock stucco beside this larger window, I saw a little sign: "Children's Bubble Window." "Look! You can go in here and it will be like you're in the water with them!" Sweetie scrambled in immediately, and Rainbow Girl started wriggling in her stroller seat, asking if she could go in too.

Almost as soon as their little hands hit the glass (ugh, we'd avoided touching things all afternoon... but we have lots of anti-bacterial wipes), another dark shadow zipped by. Then a dark submarine shape started heading straight towards us, turning gracefully to show off its flippers just before it got to the bubble. 


"THAT?!" Rainbow Girl exclaimed. 

"That's a seal!" (A docent later informed us that these were all sea lions. There are also seals, but they weren't out.)

After a few minutes, another family came up behind us, so we gave them a turn in the bubble and continued down the path... to discover the most enormous, farthest-underwater window yet! Now we could see several seal lions shooting through the water like torpedos, rolling and gliding around the rocks. As we watched, giggling and calling out "Look! There's one! Look at that one!", it became clear that different sea lions each had their own favorite paths through the exhibit. 

Sweetie perched herself up on the curb, pressed against the glass, chattering about every detail to nobody in particular. Rainbow, who I'd put back in the stroller, leaned forward against her straps, craning her neck to try to catch one coming around a corner. "'Nother one?!" she kept clamoring. 


"Can we go back in the Bubble?" Sweetie implored. 

The other family had moved on and no one was in sight, so back up to the bubble we scampered. Then back to the big window. Then, we saw the door at the end of the path. We'd so far avoided any indoor enclosures, but this was obviously special, and when the automatic doors welcomed us in, there was only one small family way farther up the tunnel. Because yes, there was a tunnel, like at some of those giant aquariums Husband and I had been to before we had kids. And it wasn't very long, so we could be outside again in just a few minutes, and we had good masks on. It'll be ok. We'll just walk through quickly.

The sparkly, blue-bubbled-glass-like blend of mottled sunshine and water glittered above our heads as the sea lions gracefully soared around us. "There's even water under us!" Sweetie shrieked.

"You can walk on the water!" Rainbow echoed.

Do you see the glass floor with water under it that Sweetie's about to step onto?

It was beautiful, but also exciting enough to walk in that both girls moved through pretty quickly, to my relief. Back outside, in safer air, we discovered a metal ramp leading to an overhead viewing area, which the sisters scampered up almost faster than I could keep up, pounding their feet against the metal in delight. 

An employee at the top tried to answer my questions about the sea lions while Rainbow Girl twirled around like she was on a giant stage and Sweetie romped from one end of the fence to another. "Look! One came up for air!" I tried to call their attention to the sea lions, but the overlook itself was apparently more exciting than trying to peer down at the mostly-underwater creatures. 

Until, hearing a keeper in their back area, several of them jumped up onto a platform! "They're showing off for us!"

They look so different on land!

Suddenly, we heard a loud bellow. "THAT?!" Rainbow inquired.

"That's the sea lion! He's saying hi to you!" I can't believe we got to hear them make their noise!

"Do you want to go back down to peek in the water again?" 

"Yeah! To the Bubble!" We scurried back down and thankfully, nobody else was there, so the girls pressed themselves in for the third time. Little hands reached out, trying to grab and pat them through the glass.

"Here they come!" The seal whose favorite path shoots him straight at the bubble was already rocketing towards us.

"Look, the water's all around! I wish I was in it! I want to be inside with them! I wish they would flop themselves onto the bubble! They're humongous! Seals, I love you!" Sweetie jabbered happily, with her little sister giggling, echoing and adding on. 

"Can I have them? Hi seals! Seals, I love you!" Flapping hands, wiggly bodies. 

Then, another bellow echoed from beside us. 

"THAT?! What's THAT?!" 

"The seal's saying hi again! Let's go see!"

Just around the corner from the bubble, the most gigantic seal was upright in the water with his face poking above the surface, giant mouth open. He spun, flippers sending a hurricane of splashes out in all directions. Flopping back down under the water, he swam up to the corner window, and opened his mouth fiercely at his reflection. Then he shot upright again as a keeper tossed a fish at him. 

"She's feeding him! That's why he's so excited! He wants his food!" 

He let out another thunderous bellow. 

"THAT?! That 'ehhh' sound?!" Rainbow exclaimed as if she didn't just hear it and get an explanation a minute ago. 

"That's the sea lion! He's making his sound! He's saying hi!"

"AUHHHHHH!" Sweetie imitated him as we all watched him splash and frolic, catching thrown fish mid-air in his mouth. 

Mouth open, asking for another fish!

We were supposed to already be home by now, but I couldn't drag myself away, let alone them. Finally, we decided to peek in the Bubble one more time and then head home.

But first, we just had to head to that gift shop to bring home a stuffed sea lion friend! 

I remember learning that manatees are probably what sailors thought were mermaids, but after seeing these beautiful sea lions flip and glide up close, I think they just might be the closest thing. When I ask Sweetie what song she thinks I just pair with this story, she chooses Laurie's "A Mermaid Song" without hesitation.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Another first time

Day 17 of 31 at TWT!
"EHHH! I want THOSE elephants!!!" We're watching one large elephant use her trunk to try to get some grasses from a hanging basket, but Rainbow Girl starts pointing wildly over my shoulder at the five elephants we just left. After protesting her new-first visit to the zoo for most of the morning, then warming up to the general idea of walking around and seeing everything, this is the most enthusiasm she's shown for any particular animal.

"You want to go see that family of elephants again?" I grin, giggling a little. We'd moved on from that particular spot along the fence to give other people a turn (and to avoid people who insist on wearing their masks as mouth-only covers or (worse) chinstraps), but we can definitely take another turn if she's this excited about them. So far, she's mostly just enjoyed taking in all the surroundings, and I'm not sure she's really been able to pick out some of the calmer, smaller animals in their habitat or grasp what we're doing here.

"Yes! Yes! Yes! See THOSE elephants!" She wiggles back and forth against my hip, one little hand clutching my shoulder while the other one continues to point at what is apparently the correct group of elephants for us to watch. 

watching one of THOSE elephants!

"I have elephant diapers!" she declares to no one in particular... or possibly to the elephants. She points at the male elephants' tusks. "That?"

"Those are their tusks! Like big teeth!" I realize that I'm not sure any of the elephants she's seen in books, on her diapers, or in the elephant song have tusks. A friendly docent tells us that only the males have visible tusks, but the females actually have short ones that we can't see, just a couple inches long.

Finally, I ask again her again if we can let some other people have a turn and go see some other animals, and she doesn't protest this time. "Can I run?!" 

There's a wide path and not too many people here, so I put her down and get ready to push the empty stroller. She and Sweetie skip-run-frolic behind and then ahead of me until we get to the red pandas, who are actually exploring their habitat instead of sleeping. 

"That?! What's that?" she flails over to the fence.

"They're so cute!" her big sister exclaims. 

Who's cuter, the red pandas or these sweet sisters?!

By the time we get around to the other side of the zoo, she really seems to be catching the excitement of seeing all these different kinds of real animals. We see several penguins dive into the water just like in the video from their Ranger Rick magazine that she keeps requesting we watch over and over.

She flops her head against mine when we see the baby koala snuggling on its mommy's lap, putting one bent arm in front of her face and wiggling her bottom like she does when she snuggles. "Mmmmmm! They're snuggling!" 

We all giggle at a family of siamangs swinging from their ropes and perches: "They're swinging!" We watch a beautiful leopard stalk around its habitat. "It go away!" she announces when it heads off for the other side of its enclosure. 

It's so much fun to see her (re)discovering how amazing our zoo is. I've missed this so much, and so has Sweetie, who's been alternating between exclaiming "I remember this! I've had a picture in my mind!" and "I don't remember where the things are anymore," throughout the several hours we've now been here. Before Rainbow Girl was born, we came several times a week during summers and school breaks and after school, eating lunch and getting snacks, playing on the playgrounds, enjoying how different the animals behave each time, and singing Raffi's "Going to the Zoo". And just when Rainbow would've really started to understand and enjoy it, it became, instead, another missed experience in a year of too many blank calendar squares.

But now, we get to enjoy watching her see it all for another first time. And that's beautiful too, just like our time at home together has been.

Unfortunately, we encountered people with enough disregard for the mask policy and social distancing that I'm hesitant to go back anytime soon because it might be even harder to stay away from them if the crowds get any bigger... but if we have to wait a long time again, we can just enjoy another first time. 

(My mom and I always sung this song on the way to our many trips to the zoo together, then I sung it to Husband every time I dragged him there when we were first married, then I sung it to Sweetie, and now I can sing it to two sweet sisters!)

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Pandemic girl

Day 16 of 31 at TWT!
"Ehhhh! I don't want it!" Rainbow Girl shakes her head vigorously, her smooth brown hair swirling around her head like a little hurricane. "I don't wanna go to the zoo!"

"You'll love it, Sweetie Pie!" I know she has no idea what I'm talking about, since she was only 11 months old the last time she was at the zoo for the Christmas lights of 2019, and we'd really only been a couple times before that. I figured we'd start going a lot more often during the spring of 2020... and well, we all know how that turned out. "We're going to see real animals!" I know this also means nothing to her. "Do you want to see a real brown bear, brown bear? Or a real elephant, like in the song?"

"I don't wanna see the animals!" She's in full, pouty refusal mode, and starts swiping her arms back and forth at me, not really hitting but letting me know she's kind of thinking about it. She negates every outfit I suggest. "No! Stay in 'jamas!" 

"You can't wear your pajamas to the zoo! We're going to ride in the stroller, outside! You love riding in the stroller!"

"I! DON'T! WANT! IT!" When you've spent half your life at home except for walks, bike rides, and the occasional hike at a metro park, new experiences are more daunting than fun, I guess.

I give up momentarily and let her run around in my room while I get ready. Luckily, she poops and we need to change her diaper, so I'm able to use that as an opportunity to slip her mostly-distracted self into some of the clothes she rejected earlier. "Look! Kitty cat socks! The kitty cats want to see the animals!" 

"I wanna wear my boot-shoes!" She's starting to warm up to the idea of going somewhere!

We videocall Husband (who's at an in-person work shift) during lunch, and by the end of the call, she's declaring, "I wanna go to the zoo!" It helps that her big sis is practically bouncing off the walls with excitement. 

I'd been avoiding the zoo because they only require masks of people 10 and older, and I've seen way too many pictures on social media of people not wearing masks there. (Not just people taking them off for pictures, but like random people in the background of the picture are also not wearing them.) And before Rainbow Girl turned 2, she couldn't wear a mask, and that really made me overly cautious. But both girls now wearing their masks so well, going to the outdoor exhibits while trying to stay away from people started to seem like more of a possibility. And with many local schools heading back to all-in, 5-days-a-week learning yesterday (don't even GET me started on that!), I figured attendance would be down. Plus, tomorrow's weather is supposed to be gorgeous, so maybe people would also wait to go then, instead of today's not-quite-miserable, barely-passable for spring, damp-chilly-cloudiness. When Sweetie's teacher emailed to say that live Meets were canceled because she's sick and there's only asynchronous work today, it seemed like the perfect chance to give it a try. 

When we walk up to the entrance, Rainbow Girl resumes her protest momentarily. "I don't want it! I don't want the zoo!" But by the time we chat with the ticket-taker (a former Spanish student of mine from ages ago - such a fun surprise!) and start walking up the path to the central lake, her curiosity gets the better of her. 

Legs straight out, arms tensed, little hands balled into fists. Finally, a little finger starts to point at the people and things around us. "What's that? ... That?... That?" Food carts, signs, other families, a bridge, music playing. "What's that? That?!" Across the bridge, the first exhibit: 4 huge Mexican wolves, walking and lounging around their yard. 

"Do you see the wolf-doggies?"

"Ehhhhh! I don't want that!!!" she exclaims one last time, waving her arms. But by the time we round the corner to the farm animals, she wants to get out of the stroller and see them. 

The zoo. What a change from learning about the world beyond our backyard through books, magazines, and videos.

We're going to have so much to (re)discover, little one. The world is so much bigger than you know, and I wish I could make these germs go away so you could see it all.