Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Grannio

I’ve been planning, composing a happy, sentimental piece about my grandaddy and Christmas trees. 

But, instead, tonight I have a heavier weight to write.  My dad’s mom, my Grannio, or “Granny O” for O’Connell, has been in poor health for quite a while.  Today, I heard that she may not be much longer in our world.  Her spirit’s ready for the next.

I’ve found memories of my childhood with her coming back to me throughout the day in flashes, lingering fragrances of laughs, adventures, love.

She is the mother of two boys, a WW II nurse, middle daughter of a staunch Englishman, feisty.  When my brother, sister, and cousins would gather together in her Falls Church home, she was a “let’s explore, be creative, get outside in the backyard” kind of grandmother.  She adored animals - especially dogs - and most of the time, her dogs would end up romping out there with us.

I remember coconuts.  What I don’t remember is how it started, but every time we’d visit her, she’d let us get a coconut from the grocery store and we’d spend hours smashing it up on the driveway with a hammer.  The sweet milk would dribble down our arms, and we’d gobble the insides with our fingers.  She trusted our children’s fingers with a hammer and she left us to use our imaginations.  We felt important, empowered.

I remember climbing a tree in her backyard.  I’d sit up there and daydream, reliving stories of my dad as a boy - Chincoteague Island, Boston, the farm.  She recognized the dreamer in me, the stubborn will, and she let me be exactly who I was.

I remember a swim meet when I was ten years old.  She came to see me swim the freestyle; it was my event and the state championship.  Shivering in my “CY” suit - the black one with white letters that turned a brilliant purple when wet - she presented me with an ivory brooch that my Pop Pop brought home from Italy and the War.  She said it was because I was the apple of his eye.  That gift to me - not only the precious keepsake of it, but the gift of her words has sustained me through doubt. 

She believes in me.

She kept extensive photo albums of all of us growing up - including every letter we ever wrote her, diary entries.  My siblings and I always looked forward to seeing pictures of ourselves when we’d visit her, down in the comforting bedroom downstairs, knowing that love for us is what inspired her to keep those things. 

She’d pack us nourishing picnic lunches - like thick turkey sandwiches - and take us to visit pony farms, petting zoos with spitting llamas, the Washington zoo, Washington monuments, playgrounds.  Visiting her meant special trips - things we’d never see, do, touch, taste, smell at home. 

She loves us through service.  And advice.  And thinking of us before herself.  Always.

When I think of her, too, I think of my cousins and how much fun it was to play all together.  We’re grown up now, some with children of our own. We’ve been dreaming of taking them to see Grannio, talking about how fun it will be to introduce our girls to those same beloved adventures - the pony farm, petting zoo with spitting llamas, the Washington zoo, Washington monuments, playgrounds.  We’ll pack them thick turkey sandwiches and show them photo albums, pointing out what we loved best as children.

Kaitlin and I each had new babies this year.  Both of our precious O’Connell daughters born with caps of red hair - Grannio’s hair.  An ever present reminder of the woman that loved, loves, us well - in her own unique and special ways. We will miss her grandness here, but look at our new ones and remember.

Coconuts.  Climbing trees.  Photo albums.  Turkey Sandwiches.

And, because I know Grannio would love to see pictures of these two gals:

she was blowing me a kiss

the kiss

as usual, watching an airplane

I pulled out a bin of Meggie's old dresses today.  What a joy to see two girls wear them. :)

That's Meggie's old bow, too.
Recently, I went to a baby shower where ladies ACTUALLY talked about how they thought little girls should never wear bows as big as their heads.  Obviously, I highly and emphatically disagree.

My tender love.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Splashes of Sugar, Sprinkles of Spice Otherwise Entitled Potty Training "By Self."

I just couldn't resist starting with this picture of my Alice Virginia sweetness.
Our Meggie is an observer-of-life.

I remember the first time she grabbed hold of a toy.  For days I'd watched her study this particular bumble bee hanging from her play mat.  She'd see me swing it for her and smile.  She'd blink her eyes and blow bubbles.  Calculating.  Kicking her feet, always in constant motion, she never made a move for it with her hands.  Until. One night, Kyle and I both nearby, she swung her arm in one big arc and latched onto that puppy like it was meant to nestle in her palm forever.

Here it was in action.

The next day, she grabbed my hair as it swung above her changing table. 

She's always been like that.  She gets it right in her head and then takes us all by surprise.

Now, we have been leery of potty training.  There was the new baby.  We learned we'd be moving.  Our house is on the market. 

She's been showing signs of readiness for months now, but we haven't pushed it.  In fact, we haven't even talked about it.  I borrowed a training potty from a friend which now sits underneath our sink, out of the way of potential buyers.  With my hands full of baby I did not want to go there. 

She just looks so grown up to me.

Until.  Monday night we heard Meggie cry out from her crib, "Daddy! DAD-DY."  He rushed in - I was busy with a jewelry show - and found her buck nekkid, clinging to the railings. 

"Go Potty?"

He sat her on the big girl potty, not expecting much, and wouldn't you know...she was spot on.  Go potty, indeed.  I heard him yelling congratulations from the other room and ran to join in.

"Meggie! Did you go potty? YOU WENT PEE PEE IN THE POTTY!"

She grinned at me, twiggy legs straddling the grown-up potty, and declared: "Mama, I go potty by self.  Meggie BIG GIRL."  And the pride in her accomplishment bubbled up out of her blue-blue eyes and out of my astonished heart.

The next morning it happened again. 

"Mama! Go potty by self. Diaper off."  And she's dancing out of her zippers and out of her socks - like lightning to the bathroom. "I big girl.  Get cookie? Get treat?"

Oh, that girl. She knows me too well. :)

And it happened after naptime, too.  We're buying big girl underwear today.  I guess we're gonna do this thang. 

Our Meggie's an observer-of-life, getting it right in her mind, trying it all in one go.  Just like waving that toy in her four-month-chubby-fist, she's potty training "by self."

From her blessed moment of conception on, our Meggie's been taking the lead.  I feel like we're always thinking: not yet, not ready, wait, slow down.  She's here to teach us: yes, you are, hold on, I'm here, life's moving on.

We so need that in our lives, Meggie girl.

Kyle and I stand back in awe, watching this oldest one of ours transform into a tiny person, a big girl now.  Thankful that we get to cheer her on, that she's ours to enjoy.  This observer-of-life.

She's such a helper.
Kinda like how yesterday morning I sat Meggie in her high chair while I dragged myself over to the coffee pot.  I poured myself a cup while blindly dumping cheerios in a bowl for her.  I got out the milk and creamer from the refrigerator.

She hangs in there even in the "tough" sister moments.
Poured milk on Meggie's cereal, prayed with her, sat for a few minutes while she gobbled the first bites, and then went back to finish adding the essential sugar and creamer ingredients to my morning life line - thank you five straight months of sleep deprivation.  I poured sugar into my cup of coffee and went back to the refrigerator - totally forgetting that the creamer was already out, sitting on the kitchen counter.  I pawed through the shelves, my anxiety mounting.  Must. Have. Coffee. Now.

From behind me, words garbbled by honey nut-O's, a voice chirps up:

"It's RIGHT THEY-REEER.  Mama. RIGHT there."  I whirled around and encountered a barely two-year-old finger blazing a trail to my coffee creamer.  Meaning two things.

One. Our Meggie is one smart cookie; she's memorized my coffee routine.
Two. I must be drinking way too much coffee. :)

And, Miss Meggie isn't the only one accomplishing things around here. 

Look what Alice Virginia can do now with consistancy.  She's perfected the "head dip" motion.  Remember how I once said my girls were complements of each other?  Well, AV rolled tummy-to-back first and Meggie rolled back-to-tummy. ::draws certain conclusions here about the different design of daughters::

Also, do NOT miss the tell-tale and endearing mischevious giggle at the end of this video.  Or eager legs that narrowly miss sister's head despite multiple warnings against certain behavior.  You can, however, ignore my "mean-mommy" voice.  :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Real Life

They really do pal around with each other like this.  Melt my heart eyes.
Lately, my mother’s brought up consistent feedback about blogs in general - mine included. (Hi, Mom!)

She told me that she’s tired of reading all of these blogs that lack a realistic quality - everything seems too good to be true, too perfect. Mine included.

Oh, boy.

She’s right, you know.  I’ve said many times that I want to portray life how it really is, while still protecting the memories my girls may make or take from my writing.  Sometimes that means shading things a little rosy.  I do that gladly.

But, today, if you’re like my mom feeling like everything is “too perfect,” get ready for some real life.

Life is hectic and harried here.  Navy Life, Two-year-old, Baby, Moving, Business? Sure.

Kyle’s first deployment after Alice Virginia was born and my first deployment with two on my own was so challenging that I flat out refused to stay alone for his next deployment.  And all who know me and my fierce independent streak (I mean, can we just say Meggie comes by it naturally?) know what a humble piece of crow that sentence was just to acknowledge.  Except, we couldn’t financially afford for the girls and me to fly back to the East coast or to Michigan to stay with family (hence, my new business).

So. Kyle’s mom and grandma graciously came to stay with us and whip this place into tip-top shape for going on the market.

They mended, tended, cooked, tidied, swept, fed, bathed, burped, changed, and taught a little someone how to take a bottle (Ahem, Miss Priss AV) for over a week.

I took full advantage of them and left this house at every opportunity.  So much so that Grammy had to repeatedly reassure me that going to Sunday School by myself did not mean that I was abandoning them to lead the “high life.”

Meggie has such a sweet smile.
Their outpouring of love was so great and my need was so strong that I had a COMPLETE crying, freak-out meltdown in Grams’ arms as they rearranged my pantry, throwing out all those I-meant-to-discard-you-or-use-you-up-items-from-three-years-ago-but-then-I-had-two-babies bottles and boxes from the deepest, darkest crevices because, oh:

“I’m just so not used to having people do for me, I hate asking for help, I’m not ready for our house to be on the market, I’m NOT ready to move, I don’t want to leave my friends, I feel so incompetent at housework, I feel like a housewife failure, I wanted to start a business because I feel so terribly awful at being a wife and mother, I haven’t even enjoyed Allie’s babyhood because her whole life has been overshadowed by these orders and moving and she’s about to start solid food which means I don’t have a newborn anymore!”

And then I cried some more when I dropped them off at the airport because I knew I’d miss their physical and emotional support like nobody’s business.  And, oh, my worn-out heart I had to listen to Meggie ask for days afterwards: “Where Grammy, Grams go?  See Grammy, Grams?”

Sigh.  See, Mom? :)

All to say: We miss you around these parts, Grammy and Grams.
Right before we took Grammy and Grams back to the airport.  Can you tell poor Megs was sick with all these paci pics?

Alice Virginia is ALWAYS looking at Meggie. Always.
We’ve also had several showings in the last several days.  A good thing, but we’ve been on our toes trying to keep things perfect.  Through it all I’ve come to value my normal state of straightness without being deep takes so much time away from my girls and other things of importance to deep clean like this always.

I mean, who wouldn't want to come buy our house...look at the view off of our deck?!

Just thinking about not being here next year makes me teary.  I never would've guessed Oklahoma would have such treasures.
Ok. Enough real life for now.  I’m exhausted and headed for bed. 

Oh, yeah, and the fact that my precious baby still’s not sleeping through the night or taking a full feeding or sleeping more than 30 minutes in her crib because our life is so topsy-turvy right now is a whole nother topic for a whole nother day - capeesh?

Her first time in the high chair was this week.  My, how she's growing.

And, Daddy's finally. FINALLY. home
Still cannot believe she's only 2.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Roly Poly Ground Shaking

We lived through our first earthquake last night.  I never thought I'd move to Oklahoma and experience an earthquake.  We were all getting ready for bed, Grammy was turning the clocks back, and we felt a rumbling that lasted about 40 seconds.  It took a minute for us to register that we were in the middle of an earthquake - it seemed more like a freight train going by or an airplane landing in our yard.  The ground trembled and furniture was rattling.  We dashed back to check on the girls, but they both slumbered through it.

And, even though the news reported two aftershocks, the only lingering effect we really felt came tonight when Miss Alice Virginia, who must've been inspired, rolled herself right over.

Only, none of us was watching. 

I was on the phone talking with Kyle, doing dishes.  Grammy was playing in the other room with Meggie.  Grams, sitting on the floor next to Allie's blanket, monitoring her doing tummy-time, had just turned her head to throw the ball back to Meg when she felt the plump back of a baby resting against her own.

Wouldn't you know that's classic of our Allie...she catches us completely by surprise with her accomplishments and sweetness.  She came quick as a flash at night, weighed 10 lbs instead of the projected 8, grabbed the froggie toy on her bouncy chair one night during dinner while we weren't looking, and now snuck in her first roll. 

What an adorable rascal. :) Happy rolling, Alice Virginia, it's "batten down the hatches" time.

Alice Virginia and Grammy

I love her big ole' smile and hand placed just so.

She was smiling at Big Sister.

Both girls have been sick this week.  Here, they're cuddled up watching "Barney on Mama's Bed."

Notice Allie's hand reaching for Meggie.  Always having a hand touching you is one of her most endearing qualities.

My girls and their pacis.  Oh, what a love affair.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Look Who's Here

Alice Virginia meeting her great-grandma, Alice Jaquelyn
We're having a grand ole' girls' week here at our house. 
making eye contact.
big-lipped baby.
practiced hands soothe to sleep with a yawn.
Oh my. Doll did I ever get so lucky?
And guess what happens officially tomorrow?