Saturday, August 18, 2012

If she’s determined to have a nervous break down, the least we can do is see that she doesn’t have it in peace.

Things, in order:

We went to Colorado. It was wonderful through and through from having thirty-some-odd people sleeping in one house (now that's not fair — a few were sleeping in tents outside) to the multiples of desserts after every breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

We moved. We had help from our ward of origin, help from our destination ward, and help from one hard-working and patient mother-in-law to keep kids occupied and to stay up until midnight scrubbing walls and retouching paint with me. Our new place, in a nutshell: it's old, but it's clean, and our kind landlady works hard to keep it that way. She puts fly traps by the dumpsters and hoses down the sidewalks. The cabinets and doors have been coated with white paint so many times that they've lost all their sharp edges and they're sticky to open and close. The walls are a light beige, and the carpet is a darker beige, and the kitchen floor is a linoleum-impersonating-hardwood. It's a separate kitchen, large, with one pocket door to connect it to the rest of the apartment and one door to go out the back stairs. It had no fridge and no dishwasher when we signed the papers, but mercifully we got discounted rent for the first two months and bought those items with what we imagine as the profit. It's a portable dishwasher, on casters, and I've never been so grateful to have one. The faucet sticks right out of the wall rather than up from the sink, and the countertops are chipped blue and beige tile. Our kitchen window looks directly into the kitchen window across the way, where a cat likes to sit. Our dining room table has found a home just outside the kitchen door and in the very large shoe-box–proportioned front room, where all of our couches and bookshelves and desks and shoe baskets and DVD towers line every inch of the wall.

We have a balcony. It's supposed to be shared, but really it's ours, and we (with permission) populated it with two comfortable chairs from Target and a little table we found by the dumpster. We have two large bedrooms with large closets and fan/light fixtures that are operated by remote, and if you're not careful you can turn off the light in your own room with the remote while simultaneously turning on the  light in the room where your children are asleep: your downstairs neighbor can do the same. A small, room-like hallway connects all these rooms, but it seals off with another pocket door, and there we keep a tall bookshelf and a towel tower and a surprisingly large closet with built-in shelves. One bathroom with teal-and-dusty pink countertop tiles, a space heater from the fifties mounted into the wall, a tiny toilet, a window that overlooks the plant nursery behind our building, and a shower with tiles that are a patchwork of mismatched colors and patterns. The glass sliding door has a swan frosted on it.

We have, for the first time in our married lives, a garage. It's incredibly spidery and dusty, but it's ours. It has plywood storage lockers for keeping my sewing stuff and my oil painting supplies and old textbooks. We didn't have a garage door remote at first and had to step out to manually punch in the code every time we pulled in or out, but we have one now. I've never seen such an active alley life, back there with all those garages in a row. The garages are workshops, mancaves, personal gyms, restaurant warehouses (literally), and party venues. There's always — always — an assortment of familiar-looking-but-I'm-still-not-sure-their-names neighbors out there, garages open, bench presses in operation. There is often a car parked in front of our garage door, but we just have to ask the closest person whose car it is, and they can invariably fix the situation within minutes.

We went to Disneyland in honor of Andy's having earned his Master's Degree. It was crazy fun, and the kids did far better than I thought they would (Corryn napped in the stroller, and Elliot didn't sleep at all). They lasted until about 9:30 and then slept all the way home.

I got a new illustration gig with the same publisher as last time. It was supposed to only last until mid-August, but it hasn't even really started yet besides discussions and sketches, which is pretty much how it always seems to work.

We went to the zoo. Our Groupon-purchased zoo membership will expire next month, so we're trying to use it up while we can.

We went to North Carolina for a family reunion on Andy's side. Again, it was about thirty people crammed into one house, but this was a gigantic beach mansion and only one couple got squeezed outside onto an air mattress on the deck. I spent a few days before the reunion proper with the kids at Andy's aunt's house (the aunt is only a few years older than us) with her three young children, and my kids had a blast there. As did I, making new friends with Andy's aunt and uncle. Andy spent those three days in Washington DC with his immediate family doing some site-seeing and some research for schooly stuff, but that sounded terribly un-kid-friendly to me, so instead Julie and I went to kids' museums and such. At the beach house on the Outer Banks, we were in easy walking distance of the Wright Brothers Memorial, which we visited. After having my mind properly blown by the insane and almost arrogant persistence of the Wrights, I stepped on a cactus and found twelve dollars on the ground. I also tried boogy boarding and skim boarding for the first time — no good at either. The kids were so scared of the ocean water that they freaked out even if I got near the water, afraid it would sweep me away. They played exclusively in the sand and in the private swimming pool. Andy's parents rented biked and graciously rented a kid trailer as well as letting us borrow the bikes. But the thing is, I don't ride bikes. At least I didn't until Andy dragged me out one sweaty, tear-filled, humiliating, scary, and triumphant afternoon. But I did it. And on our very last night in NC, Julie let me borrow her smooth-riding "granny bike" and walked by my side as I rode down a trail in a lovely forest just by their house, over a wooden bridge and by a river. I finally see the appeal of bike-riding, I really do, but it's still not going to be a big hobby as we have no money, no time, and no space. I also ran on the beach our first morning at the beach house, another first for me. It was sunrise and it was so serene and lovely. But I ran barefoot, and my feet were so torn up by the sand and my calves so dang sore that I couldn't run for the rest of the trip. There were lots of late-night talks on the beach with various members of the family about things big and small. There were lots of games and laughing and staying up too late and eating things that made me feel terrible. It was a true blast.

We came home. The children did amazingly well on the six-ish hour plane ride with one stop and no meals. Except for the really smelly diaper that made all of our neighboring passengers cover their noses with their shirts.

I read books. In the past three or four weeks, I have read Orson Scott Card's Treason (so fun), Joanna Brooks' The Book of Mormon Girl (so sweet and sympathetic and emotional), and almost the entirety of J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey (which I've read many times before and will read many times again, because it my well be my favorite book of all time and I don't even know what adjectives would describe it).

We have been visited by old college friends. Eliza came to visit the day after we moved, when the house was in chaos, and Chris (now a Los Angeles resident) came for dinner and a night of cinema-and-media-Masters-MST3King-a-terrible-movie, when the house was still in chaos. Those visits, plus the trip to Holly's wedding in May, has pretty much filled my college-friend-reunion Bingo board, though there are still a few big blanks.

Food. I have learned to love hummus. I've been eating salad nearly every day (when I'm on top of things, I like to have a salad spinner full of greens and various tupperwares full of chopped celery, cucumber, tomatoes, grilled chicken, and maybe some other things in the fridge, ready to make a salad instantly. Apples and walnuts thrown in, too. I still eat a lot of carrots and smoothies and apples-with-peanut butter. But I'm a new convert to crunchy peanut butter, which I've never liked before. I often make a Thai coconut-chicken soup that LJ made for me in May, though it's never as good as hers. I now consider myself "low-gluten", or I tell people I just don't eat a lot of wheat, but I'm fine if I have a little here and there, and I don't worry about it in sauces and things. I eat oat granola on vanilla greek yogurt. I tried a peach and actually liked it. I bought popsicles molds because it just gets so dang hot in our apartment that sometimes the only thing that can cool you down is frozen fruit inside your body.

The kids are growing and growing and losing some of the babyishness in their faces and instantly outgrowing their shoes and saying all sorts of surprising things. It's fun to compare them, not in any sort of competitive way, but in a way that highlights the big and little variations that please me so much that sometimes I think God just made so many people just for the fun of it. Take their palates for example. Corryn has always been one for savory things, for meat and cheese and most vegetables, but not really for breads and too many fruits or sweets. Elliot is her exact opposite. One night several weeks ago, we went to a small cafe and got the kids a plate of french toast, bacon, and eggs to share. We split the food evenly and served it to the kids. Corryn ate all of her eggs and bacon; Elliot, his french toast. They refused to eat the remainders on their plates, so we switched their plates and they finished off each other's. Corryn is not nearly the language master that Elliot was (who knew all of his letters by 17 months and Corryn, who will be two next month, still only knows "O" with any consistency), but she seems to have caught on to much more abstract things much faster. I asked her, "Who is in our family?" once without ever discussing it with her directly before, and she answered, "Mommy! Daddy! Ellia! Minnie!" She calls herself Minnie, which is her attempt to say Rinny, which is one of her pet names. I don't think Elliot got that concept for a long time, and couldn't even correctly answer "What's your name?" for a while. She caught onto counting later but faster, and now she counts things that are the same without me realizing what she's doing until she triumphantly says, "Fwee!", which is the sum of all of her calculations. She also has a big imagination, and the complexity of her pretend play rivals that of her brother, though her attention span for it does not. She also is the most naturally thoughtful child I've ever met, and she will share anything with anyone. She will give Daddy her last bites of ice cream happily and then say in her super-sweet, quiet voice, "Fammwy! Fammwy!" as if she already knows what a family is really about.

Thanks to Andy's dedicated tutelage, Elliot is now reading astoundingly well. We use the Bob books that we found at Costco, and I think they're great. Elliot can sound out just about any one-syllable word that you throw at him and several two-syllable words as well. He's not perfect at it, of course, but he's not even three and a half yet. He's also a really, really impressive little artist. Sometimes he'll draw random shapes until they look like something, then get excited that he accidentally drew something cool and draw a dozen more. This includes fingers (single fingers, with fingernails), teeth, and letters. He also draws all sorts of monsters, skeletons, robots, aliens, spiders, astronauts, snowmen, and general people, sometimes mad and sometimes happy and sometimes scary and sometimes with hearing aids. He drew his first portrait of our family recently, and he also just started taking toys, setting them down beside his paper, and drawing pictures of them. Still-life! Reference drawing! With really surprising detail, like numbers of fingers and little surface elements. Drawing can easily occupy him for an hour at a time, and I don't want to throw any of them away.

This morning, we rode the metro down to Long Beach for the free Long Beach Funk Fest. The kids were intrigued but not thrilled with the loud music, but they loved getting to bang on drums and make a funky little necklace and make instant friends with all sorts of fun and friendly people.

Andy is about to start his PhD at USC. We've been in LA for two years, and that feels both long and short, and we'll be here for over twice that again.

And things keep changing, "slowly, then all at once."

1 reason(s) to click here:

Eliza said...

This was lovely. And it was lovely to see you all for those few hours.