We have fallen into a pretty good weekly rhythm that we can count on, and, though I am totally a free-spirited polychronic (also described here) party girl at heart, I am grateful for the structure that we have in place to build our days around. Since our outside running weather is gone, a few friends and I have been going to the gym together at 6:00 AM. I get home around 7:15 or so and get myself and the kids ready for school. Three mornings (8:30-12:30) a week (Tuesday-Thursday) all three of us go together to school where George is in his own early childhood Montessori class (with a teacher that I adore), and Pearl is with me in a class where I am the special educator. It is a pretty incredible blessing to our family the way this whole me still teaching thing has worked out, and I am so grateful that we get to all be at the same place together. On Mondays just George goes to school for the morning, and Pearl and I get to spend a few hours just the two of us. George loves school and I love that I have some built-in time that is just for my girl. On Fridays we are free to go whichever way the wind blows us. We can often be found at our neighborhood park, Target, my parents' house, a friend's house, the zoo, or the mall. Sometimes we stay home and do projects or play with cars, "guys," baby dolls, or markers (Pearl's current favorite thing). We have a relatively simple life (though it doesn't always feel that way), and I am so grateful to spend my days with the people I love most. One day I'm sure I'll come back here to read this and long for the simplicity and beauty of this time. That's why I wanted to quickly jot it down.
Speaking of school, both children are really thriving and learning so much. I didn't anticipate that with Pearl (as I would have NEVER put her in a preschool at her age under normal circumstances-- it just works out that she gets to be there because I am there), but holy cow, I am constantly amazed at the way those few hours a week manifest themselves throughout the rest of our days. She loves cleaning up, and will often put her toys and things back where they go without being asked (this is because she has learned to clean up and restore the works at school when she is finished with them). She stacks things constantly (thank you, pink tower), and tries to roll up dish towels while doing the "pat pat pat" on both sides to keep it neat (the kids either place their works on tables or little work mats that they roll out and roll back up themselves while singing, "Roll up the mat, tap tap tap." It really is so darling.). She has learned the routine at school so well and is usually the first little student to be in her "ready body on line" when she hears the clean-up chimes. Most of the other children in the class are much older than her, but there is one other little boy that is just two weeks younger (he is the son of one of the other teachers). He is bigger than Pearl, but for some reason (probably because he is just beginning to talk and still throws little tantrums when his mama takes something away :)) Pearl insists on calling him "Baby." She calls the other students by their names, and she knows his name, but she is convinced that he is a baby that needs her mothering. If he cries she'll go pat and hug him and say, "Oh, Baby cry. Baby sad." A few weeks ago, she noticed that he had a runny nose, and without missing a beat, rushed over to the "Care of Self" area in the classroom, grabbed a tissue, wadded it up, and went over and wiped his nose while noncholantly commenting to herself, "Baby. Nose." and then threw it away in the trash. She is a confident, assertive, funny, sometimes demanding, little mother-er, and I super love that about her.
George is also a happy little student. He loves math and numbers and is starting to work on place value and basic addition. He knows almost all his letter names and sounds, though his teachers report that they have to really entice him to work in the language/reading area. He is happier in math or practical life. John and I have talked with him about how good it feels to choose and complete some more challenging works because he seems (like most people, probably) to prefer to work in his comfort zone. He'd also almost ALWAYS prefer to work with a friend. His teachers are constantly commenting about how social he is, which occasionally results in a little visit to the "Watching Chair" until he is ready to sit back on line without talking to his friends, but most often is such a dear quality in our boy. We just had parent/teacher conferences and one of the things that his teacher wrote about him was that he is well-liked by all of his classmates and an honest leader in the class community (the honest part is because if he does something he knows he shouldn't do he will readily admit guilt and tell the teacher the whole story which kind of cracks me up).
On Monday I got to accompany George and his class on a field trip to a local farm. When I walked into the classroom to get the students I'd be chaperoning, one of his teachers ran up to me giggling. She had a funny story to tell me about George, she said (this is a regular occurence). When his teachers told George that morning that he would get to be in the group with me as the leader he proudly and joyfully exclaimed, "Yeah!! 'Cause she's my BFF!!" They cracked up laughing. Oh little boy, we really are BFFs, and I am so glad.
I've had to engage in a couple of conversations over the past two weeks that I wasn't expecting to be having so soon with George. They both happened in the car when we've had quiet time to think and talk. I was just driving along minding my own business when George asked, "Mom, how are the babies in the girls' tummies?" I wasn't sure what his question was exactly so I asked for clarification. He said, "When they are mommies their tummies get big with the babies, but when they are girls, their tummies are still small. How are the babies in there?" I explained that babies are not just chilling in little girls' tummies and that when girls get older and are grown up then the babies can get in the tummies. The lightbulb moment came for him, plus an additional, lovely little question: "OH! So the babies aren't in the tummies when the girls are little! So how do the babies get into the grown-up girls' tummies?" I quickly tried to gather together the bits and pieces of my answer for him so that he was given correct information, but without giving him too much information. This isn't a conversation that I am scared to have candidly with him, but I did feel like Holy cow, he is four. He doesn't need details. Edit, Liz, edit. So I edited and ended up saying that the mommy and the daddy create a new little baby together with Heavenly Father. He was totally satisfied with that answer and didn't ask any further questions about what exactly that creative process entails :). In fact, I even said (mostly for fun so John could be in on this too), "George, why don't you ask Daddy that question when we get home," to which he replied, "No Mom, that's silly, we already know the answer. They get created!" So there was that. And then there was the time last week when he asked me (again in the car), "Mom, when do girls get the breasts?" (pronounced "breast-ez," naturally). So we had a conversation about puberty and how boys get hair on their faces and girls get breasts when they are 12 or 13 or 14. He was like, "Yeah, I'll get hair on my face. Probably when I am five." No sir, not you will not. We will delay those milestones as long as possibly, pretty please.
Somehow (I think from Veggietales, actually) George learned about castor oil and has referred to it a couple of times when describing how something disgusting tasted. It's a little funny to hear your four-year-old be like, "Ewww! That is so yucky! It tastes like castor oil!" And then this past week I got some food poisoning and threw up and when George heard about it he said, "Oh, probably because you ate some castor oil, huh Mom."
(She wouldn't keep her mittens on but then got so sad when her hands got frozen)
George got sick about a month ago and was up all night throwing up. In the morning when he woke up I sat down by him at his make-shift bed on our bedroom floor and asked, "How are you feeling, buddy?" He looked up at me and gave a sweet smile and said, "Like I love you." Not exactly the answer I was expecting, but wow does that little tender boy know how to melt his mama's heart. I love him so much.
(George had just thrown a snowball at Pearl here)
Pearl is seriously a little fireball of joy and delight. Yesterday John and I were talking about how completely adorable she is (something that we discuss pretty much daily) and John asked, "Does she just have an enormous personality?" because there really isn't any other way to describe her. Enormous, happy, loving, spicy, independent. Her personality cannot be contained in adjectives.
One of the most precious things about Pearl to me is how much she still loves to nurse, and I am not so sure she'll be ready to give it up any time soon. My plan right now is to wean right around 2 (which is what George did), but I am wondering if she'll be as ready then as George was. I am giving myself permission to extend that if I feel like it isn't going to be a painless transition for her. I am a big believer in child-led weaning, and while I think I can facilitate that a little bit to meet my needs, I am not going to take something away from her that she isn't ready to be finished with. I adore our nursing time. I feel so blessed that I have been able to spend so many hours giving my children this part of me. I will never regret nursing for longer, but I know I'd regret it if I stopped too soon.
Pearl's favorite things (besides her Mama, Daddy, and Brother (who she still refers to as "Bruh Bruh")) are babies and animals. She is obsessed with babies. Mostly real ones (she cannot keep her hands off of the babies at church and her new baby cousin), but dolls will also do. She is especially in heaven if she can push them around in some kind of stroller or shopping cart. She thinks she's a grown-up. She also loves animals, which is fun because George really doesn't care for them much. He doesn't like the way dogs smell and just isn't really a pet lover (aside from our chickens-- he really loves them). But Pearl is another story. She adores my parents' dog, and cannot get enough of looking at animals in books. She tried to steal a horse calendar from a mall kiosk and cried wildly when I made her put it back, "Fosie! Fosie! Want fosie book!" (Fosie is horsey, in case you don't speak Baby.)
(These two pictures are my favorite ones from the day)
George is so patient with Pearl. She steals his toys and messes up the "guys" that he spends hours arranging, and he will just calmly redirect her in his little sing-songy voice, "No no, Pearlie. These are Bruh Bruh's. You go in your room and play with your toys." He does occasionally get frustrated with her persistence (she really loves taking his toys from him and running away while squealing with delight), but he is almost always just so gentle and patient even then. And even though Pearl does love to torment him with things like that, she also just really adores him and wants to be around him all the time. George is a back-scratch lover and can often be found begging anyone nearby to scratch his back. Pearl will always do it for him and it is so heartwarming to walk into the bedroom where they are playing and see George splayed out on his stomach, his shirt pulled up, Pearl leaning over him tickling his back with her small fingers.
This post has been all over the place and got really long. I wanted to document these stories and feelings though, and mostly just want it recorded that I am in love with my little family. I had to get a prescription filled at the pharmacy the other day and when I was told it would take 30 minutes, I decided to take a walk up the street with my two little tagalongs. We ended up at Smashburger at George's request and as we sat there together eating fries and sipping root beer I marveled at how blessed I felt. Even running errands with those two little people turns into a party. There are big moments of overwhelming joy as a parent, and then there are little ones. Little ones that happen over and over again throughout the hours and days that you spend with them, even when (maybe especially when) you were just supposed to be running a pesky errand to the pharmacy.
It's a happy life, this one.