Friday, March 14, 2014

Oh, hi!

Dear Zoe,

It really has been a ridiculous amount of time! I loved reading about your life, about Sofia, about your pregnancy. To answer one of your questions, I have also not kept up with writing, to the point that this feels strange to me. It really is something that requires practice. I actually feel like stopping and watching a TV show since I have a rare moment of Eiley napping and my work phone not ringing. I'll resist that urge and update you instead because I've wanted to update you for months now. I'm going with a random list though:

  • My hair is short. I like it when I dry and straighten it, but when I don't have time for that, it's too short to put in a ponytail. I've been sporting pigtails. I probably look ridiculous - a 31 year-old with pigtails - but I secretly love it.
  • Eiley is so fun when I am well-rested! She sings, she laughs easily, she is creative, she's observant. However, I've noticed that if I am tired I get impatient easily and then we just spiral downward into timeouts and general meh-ness. It's easy to tell when it's mostly my own attitude messing with things because Eiley will eventually say "Are you not Grumpy now?" 
  • Margot is significantly more active than Eiley was at this age. This terrifies me. Is Margot going to just constantly flail about? Glad to hear that Gonnit is acting similarly. Maybe it's a second child thing.  
  • I am still working full-time. This is sometimes perfect and other times a huge challenge. Usually depends on whether Eiley is willing to play independently that day or not. I'm grateful for it though.
  • We live in Irvine now, and almost every day I am consciously grateful of that. We have access to dozens of pools and parks, plus a lake, plus a lagoon in the summer. We walk to our Bible study each week because the hosts of it live around the corner. Plus it's just safe here. I love it love it love it. I also swore I'd never live here because it's a little too perfect (I felt it lacked character), but whatever. Got over that.
  • Jeff loves his jobs - he works at one university building online classes (which involves quite a lot of on camera work since his office creates a lot of how-to videos too) and he teaches theater courses at another university. It's completely awesome to see him content in his work. 
  • I happen to like Sofia's name for your baby boy. He certainly wouldn't get mixed up with any other R2-D2 Googol Gonnit Reyeses in his classes growing up. 
  • Eiley and I do like crafting, whenever I can muster the energy and creativity to come up with something. She especially enjoys painting!
Okay, that's all I have. I'm certain there must be more happening in life, but that couch and TV are shouting my name. 


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dear Sofia, very Belated Happy 3rd Birthday

Dear Sofia,

Mommy is a hot mess lately, isn't she? Your birthday was nearly two three months ago (January 4), and I haven't gotten around to my annual letter. But I fear that once your baby brother arrives, keeping up this tradition at all will really be impossible, so I'm aiming to at least get one last letter documented. Maybe after that, you'll be able to understand birthday cards I write you well enough that it won't be so necessary to have letters for future reference.

You've endured so much change in the past year. While you'd already moved from California to Maine, this year, you were aware of a move for the first time. It was hard not to buy this house we're in now, given that after plenty of house tours, as soon as we drove in this driveway you declared, "This is my favorite house!" And while you've always stood by your opinion without fail, you also really loved the house you spent most of your first two and a half years in and are only just now, after being here over six months, starting to really move on. But in this new house, we've been able to start our truly own garden together, play on a play set we inherited from the previous owners, and you've determined two favorite "owl trees" in our woods, which you love to "climb." And by climb, I mean perch in their diverting branches, quite squished up, but happily telling me stories about your life as an owl and all the events that surround your existence. In the summer, we picked wild blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries - which are the tinniest little red and sour things that you still take great delight in - in our own backyard. You have also become fond of our new neighborhood. From our previous house, we could walk to a wooded path, playing fields, a field house, a play ground, the college campus, and you even ran between our house and downtown more than once, insisting you wanted to walk home instead of drive. We're much more removed now, but down the street from us, neighbors have what might have been the base of a flag mast? It is a small rectangular prism a few inches high. An object of such seemingly little consequence. But you have named it "Little Stone" and I think you love that thing with more care and concern than most of the toys you own. When weather used to permit, which included plenty of very rainy days, you would want to walk to visit Little Stone multiple times per day to look after it, feed it, hug it, and I had to pull you away from kissing it constantly. It is hard to keep your child from exuding such genuine affection, no matter how strange the object.

In addition to a new house, you're also getting a new little brother. You've had to put up with a very tired Mommy. You often get upset with me for being constrained to the couch when you want me to be a more invigorating actor in your play, but your empathy continues to shine, as you care for me with compassion and service. While a year ago, you were just barely starting to be willing to use people's names, now you are quite generous with names for all people and things. You've named your little sibling "R2-D2 Googol Gonnit Reyes." I hope you're not too upset when we change his name. You seem pretty amenable to all the ideas we run by you, so I'm hopeful, but I won't be surprised if we all keep calling him Gonnit for some time. You were hoping for a little sister, without a doubt, but you've kindly jumped right on board with having a baby brother. And I know you two are going to have so much fun together. I can not wait to witness it. You have been demonstrating to me your sweet big sister skills with our friend's baby brothers, especially your buddy Charlie's little brother, Henry. We see him multiple times per week for our homeschool preschool co-op. We're always having to pull you off of him because you have even more kisses for Henry than you did for Little Stone, and Henry's not quite so willing of a recipient, as it often means his space is being invaded and he's often being squished under your love. Last week, you stared into his little eyes and told him, "Henry! You just fill me with so much love!" And I about teared up. I know Gonnit will burden you and demand more sacrifice from you than Henry, but I trust you will also find ways to love him even more deeply. It tends to work that way with difficult things.

This past December, you had to come to grips with death for the first time. After a long drawn out struggle with strokes, pneumonia finally took my Grandpa from us all together. The morning I heard the news, I hid out in the office, crying and writing, trying to process what has been one of the most significant events of my own life. You knew him too. You'd played with him several times, and even though he was far apart, and largely without language by the time you came around, you two shared a sweet connection. But mostly, I think you knew in your heart all he meant to me. When I resurfaced for breakfast that morning, you were very concerned by how sad I looked and the tears that wouldn't stop streaming down my face. Not wanting you to be scared, I did my best to explain to you what had happened. Somehow, despite the fact that you weren't quite three at the time, you seemed to possess a wise and deep understanding of the significance of that morning. With calm, quite, sincere eyes, you looked deep down into me with compassion. You jumped right out of your chair, ran to me, and hugged me and told me how sorry you were that he had died and I was so sad. When I continued to cry later that morning, you jumped into action. You ran over to Daddy, grabbed his hand, and placed it into mine, saying, "Here Mommy, I brought Daddy to comfort you!" You knew just what I needed. I worried so much about bringing you to Texas when I traveled there for the funeral, but you were so flexible and cooperative and did so much good to lift everyone's spirits with your beautiful, hilarious, loving self, that I feel rather confident things would have been much worse off without you.

Following your first encounter with death, a few weeks ago, you made a decision for yourself to choose life. In the middle of an ordinary day, during a very ordinary lunch, while Daddy had already finished and left to start washing dishes, you struck up a conversation with me about whether God dwelled in your heart. And on that day, you chose to run toward Jesus so that He would gracious remove all your sins with His forgiveness and allow you to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. It was simple, quiet, undramatic, and one of the most treasured conversations you and I may ever share. Your decision has come out of many things, including your fascinating curiosity to understand whatever Mommy and Daddy are talking about, and your obsession with the Jonah story. He chose to run from God at first, but unlike him, you are choosing to run to God instead.

Probably of all Bible stories we could read to you, you request to hear that one most often, and are most full of questions about it. As I think of it now, I relate that story to my own decision to come to Jesus too, as it was after a Vacation Bible School week themed on Jonah that I asked my own mother many of the questions you asked me. Funny. But your questions are such good ones. Through your repetition and teasing apart the details and comparisons between Jonah and other stories we read, I've learned so much through you. You've helped me see the link between Jonah on a boat, asleep in the middle of a storm, to Jesus, also asleep on a boat in the middle of a storm. But while Jonah had his companions throw him overboard, Jesus calmed the storm with His authority and power. Your strong will, frequent refusal to sleep, persistent attempts to put foreign objects in your mouth, and general toddler-hood often make our life feel like a storm, but your perceptiveness and light and compassion and joy also help us remember that even in the midst of storms, Jesus is Lord. And I am so grateful that you've made Him the Lord of your life.

We are learning much together through preschool too. We have a homeschool preschool co-op with your buddies Charlie, Lili, and Phoebe. Our three families get together twice each week for crafts and calendars and stories and play and snacks. We are having the time of our lives growing closer to these friends and watching all your many skills blossom. Right now, we are doing a space unit that has you and I making "out space crafts" even in most of our spare time apart from actual preschool sessions. Your favorite thing is talking about the phases of the moon, especially when we go out at night as a family to see what phase it is in that night and what constellations we can see. You are full of stories of the adventures of Orion the Hunter and what he gets up to when he's not up in the sky.

In addition to preschool, for the sake of all our sanity, we've instituted a daily morning routine. 1: Wake up 2: Breakfast 3: Family Time for God 4: Numbers with Daddy 5: Letters with Mommy. Whittling away in all these things, we've seen you grow by leaps and bounds in your capacities. You are dressing yourself, helping set and clear the breakfast table, growing in knowledge of scripture and Bible stories and ability to listen and hear from God. You can reliably count to 29 on your own, by 5's or 10's to 100. Your favorite number is googol. You're learning to write your letters and are getting better every day. You've already started to spell words [must be your daddy's genes], and are reading beginner books when you feel properly motivated. It seems like the greatest lesson we're working on in letters is more about perseverance than anything else. But even if you face challenges, you manage to blow people away with your vocabulary, depth of understanding, and hilarious wit. You wow us, Sofia.

Despite the business of life and my own overwhelm with pregnancy, our days are filled with awe over how wonderful and delightful you are, what a blessing you are in our lives. I could never comprehensively recount all the truth and weight of this in detail. Thank you for being in our lives, for being our precious daughter.

I love you, Baby Girl!
~Your Mommy

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hello, long lost lobster!

Dear Emily,

wow. It has been just ages. Ages upon ages since we've caught up. And not just you and I. It's nothing personal, because I feel out of touch with EVERYONE these days. And the strange thing is, we're going through so much in common right now, you can probably commiserate and celebrate with me in ways no one else can so precisely, and yet, it's been impossible to go through all that together - given 3000 miles of distance, and the overwhelm that hangs over at least my existence these days in being pregnant.

So, we're both preggers! AND our due dates are just one day apart. What are the chances that college roommates would find themselves so in sync?!?! You're having a little girl, whom you've already named. I'm having a little boy, and we are still brainstorming name possibilities. :/

Baby Boy "Gonnit" at 20 weeks
Last pregnancy, I was so faithful to journal every detail every week. I've barely noted a thing this time around other than that a) I am pregnant and b) it's a boy. So - I'll use catching up with you [and others] here as a way to note a thing or two. This pregnancy has felt entirely different from the very start. I was way more dizzy and achey with Sofia. I was once so dizzy that Manny had to come rescue me - even though I had our one car, and was an hour's drive away. He had to take a bus to a Bart train to another bus to reach me. Good husband! This time, I'm mostly tired. so. very. tired. Both first trimesters brought persistent 24/7 nausea, both wore me out. But this one has really had me down for the count. I wasn't twiddling my thumbs last time - I was finishing my masters thesis and degree, working at a hospital, moving across state. But this time, chasing a toddler proves to be much more exhausting than ALL of that other stuff combined. Thank the Lord God above that just as I got pregnant, Sofia finally started discovering imaginary play in a whole new INDEPENDENT way! But still, the poor girl was often shaking me and shouting at me to wake up from falling asleep on the couch while she played down below. I promise I was always listening, even with eyes closed. One unfortunate similarity to my last pregnancy was that this first trimester bleh lasted a good 4-5 months. But it did eventually clear. I'm not exactly overflowing with energy now, but I am now more than just a blob on a couch. I'm a giant blob waddling all over the place, occasionally on the couch, occasionally managing to cook dinner, do a load of laundry, get Sofia out and about. With Sofia, I had placentia previa which moved out of the way and in the process caused placentia abruptia, nearly killing her during delivery and potentially harming me in the process. This time, all things are growing in their proper places, free and clear! Last time, after feeling overburdened by all the eating restrictions, I then wound up having a "slight glucose intolerance." Having it in San Diego, where I've found they are WAY more strict about what you consume than out here in Maine, meant that previous doctor cut out anything that hinted at carbohydrate or sugar and I about lost it. This time, somehow, my glucose tolerance is just fine, and even though I'm gaining WAY more, my doctor is simply enthusiastic about my "healthy growth." he he. I like Maine! This baby boy, who Sofia has affectionately named, "Gonnit," or for long, "R2-D2 Googol Gonnit Reyes," is a serious squirmer. I remember Sofia also being pretty active, so perhaps that's not too different, but this lil boy is bigger, and perhaps a bit stronger. His kicking reminds me he's coming. It seems harder to remember this time, with everything going on in life besides pregnancy. I'm working for my dad, working for my church [group ministries leader], doing a homeschool preschool co-op for Sofia with two other families. Most of the time I feel overwhelmed and unprepared for this transition. I wonder why on earth we're starting over again at ground zero, with tummy time and diapers and teething and sleeplessness. Other times, I am so glad that we will have a little baby to snuggle again, to discover again, to watch grow up. I think some of my happiest moments are when I see how excited Sofia gets for his arrival, though out of stubbornness, she often looks up slyly into my eyes and says, "I'm kissing HER." She is full of plans for how they'll play together, all she'll teach him, how she'll keep him from running out into the street without holding a grown-up's hand. And most of all, she's so full of kisses for him. She's in for many rude awakening, I fear, and I also think that after overcoming some reality bites, she's going to be a great big sister.

And that's pretty much all I can think of to say about this entire pregnancy [last time I had a whole blog full of posts! The second-child syndrome already begins . . . ]. Tell me all about yours! How have you been feeling? How is Eiley feeling about being a big sister? etc. etc.

It was hard not to think about our time in Berkeley this January, while we were buried under snow, instead of taking leisurely walks in 70 degree weather with t-shirts on. Remember Sofia and Eiley holding hands while we ambled down the block? Since we last saw each other, when we got to spend a week being "room" mates again for a week in Berkeley with our girls, we've both moved. How is your new place? I fear our move has made the most difference to Manny, who used to be able to walk to work and didn't used to have to mow a lawn or snow-shovel a driveway. I also miss our proximity to more walkable destinations we used to have, and the free heat, but otherwise, I love our house and yard.

Our first house
Obviously, we've not really been keeping up the blog. Have you been finding other creative outlets? My writing dried up pretty thoroughly there for awhile, until I wrote my grandfather a eulogy when he passed away this last December. I'm only just barely getting back to even journaling, but it feels good to get words down again. I was focussing more on my photography there for awhile, until pregnancy exhaustion made the thought of even just lifting the camera too overwhelming. That's coming back slowly lately. I may be having the most consistent fun just crafting with Sofia. She is full of such delightful creativity, it's impossible not to have a blast making things with her. Lately, she's taking her own initiative. She was giving me crafting instructions yesterday and I asked if she was being my art teacher, she said "No, I'm the project teacher!" She found the materials, laid out the instructions, and executed the whole project herself. It was, shall we say, an interesting outcome, but an adorable process to witness. It looks, from facebook, like you and Eiley have fun crafting together too. Wish we could team up - head to a quilt store [in better shoes this time ;) ] and plop down for a full week with out girls like we did the first week we spent together, making our pillows.

Well that's more than enough about me. Your turn. Fill me in, Lobster!


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pay Back

Some of you may remember that Zoë is not actually my real name. I decided my given name just didn't fit me, so I tried on a few options and after some months of what my surrounding authorities and guardians must have feared was a blossoming personality disorder, I landed on Zoë and have remained so ever since. "When did you change your name?" people always ask. "Third grade," I reply, and then they choke on what they're eating a tiny bit, or make that kind of laugh that sounds like they're gulping at the same time. 

From that point on for a few years, I went through a frustrating phase where I was always fighting the system and reminding my parents, "NO! It's ZOË!" I just couldn't understand what was so difficult about it. But eventually, in sixth grade, three years later, the name took, and even distant relatives got the hang of it with only occasional slip ups. "FINALLY!" I thought to myself. 

Well . . . pay back is coming my way. I worried and stressed and agonized over my baby's name choice because of all I'd gone through around my own name. I figured, "No matter how well I choose her name, she's going to want to change it, she'll be my daughter after all!"And I figured, when that day came, I'd smile, nod, and chuckle to myself knowingly, quickly going with the flow and using her name of choice. That day has come sooner than I'd expected. My dear sweet little Sofia Arabella has decided that she is now, "Mario." Yes, that is Mario, as in Nintendo's Mario and Luigi. 

And now, all I hear, a hundred times a day is, "NO! It's Mario!" Because as much as I am smiling and nodding and chuckling to myself, I just can't get with the program and remember to use her name of choice. Let's hope that within three years, she's grown out of it. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I am about to crush your childhood. Sorry about that.

Jeff and I introduced Eiley to Beauty and the Beast on Sunday evening, and we noticed a few major issues that we'd apparently repressed in the past. Won't you join our disbelief and wide-eyed confusion? We have five main complaints here:

1. The narrative at the beginning tells us that the Beast has until his 21st birthday to love and be loved in return. On his 21st birthday the final petal will fall. In Be Our Guest, Lumiere says "ten years [they've] been rusting, needing so much more than dusting." Therefore, using the analytic powers of math, we can deduce that the Beast was 11 years old when he answered the door and turned away the ugly old woman. ELEVEN. The boy should have been rewarded for not letting a stranger into the castle, not cursed. Good grief.

2. Mrs. Potts is - what - 60 at youngest? And Chip is her kid? What kind of uterus is she packing?! MIRACLE.

3. Chip is probably 5 or 6 years old, yet the curse is almost ten years old. Did Mrs. Potts have him while she was a teapot? If so, with whom? What is the biology on that business? You know, maybe don't think about that one too hard. Things could get weird.

4. Wasn't the Beast a prince? Didn't anyone care that the Prince kind of disappeared for ten years? Also, the village mob found the castle pretty easily, but it's clear that they hadn't been there before. Oh, hey. Never noticed this giant, creepy castle here a mile away from our tiny village. Huh. Imagine that. Let's murder its inhabitant!

Photo borrowed from here.
5. Pretty sure that Belle had Stockholm Syndrome. 

We brought this up at a party last night, and the best argument we heard was regarding complaint one, and that Lumiere was exaggerating the ten years, getting over-dramatic because "you know...he's French." Another thought was that he was nearly 21 to begin with, and the old lady froze their ages in time. I thought those were fairly solid theories, but I'd love to know your theory too. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Conversations with my two-year-old: Snack requests

Have you seen the convos with my two-year-old videos on youtube? I love them so much. Probably because I can relate:

9:30 am in our apartment.
"Mama? I hungry. I anna burger." - Eiley
"You want to eat a burger?" - me
"(Smiling) Nooooo. I an rice!" - Eiley
"You want to eat some rice?" - me
"YES!" - Eiley
"Seriously? You want some rice right now?" - me
"Yes Pease! Rice!" - Eiley
I walk over to the fridge, pull out rice and show it to her. 
"This? You seriously want this?" - me
"(Smiling, like she knows she's messing with me) Nooooo. Crackers! Crackers! Crackers!" - Eiley
"You want to eat some crackers?" - me
"No, Mama." - Eiley, who then opens a book, clearly done with this discussion.

End scene.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Stina "Minty Poo" Ahmann Nevill

Christina "Stina" "Minty Poo" Ahmann Nevill went to be with the Lord two days ago after a long and gracefully-fought battle with cancer. Stina was my Resident Assistant my sophomore year of college, and we were RAs together my junior year of college and I adored her. Some memories:

When we were RAs together, she somehow got the nickname Minty Poo. I honestly am having trouble remembering how that happened. I think she told a story about minty poo, or she really liked someone's story about minty poo...can anyone help me out with this one? Wow, this is a terrible memory about Stina - it involves me not actually remembering. Fail. Oh, except I remember that Stina had such a great sense of humor that she thought it was hilarious to be called minty poo for an entire year.

She once made turkeys out of Nutter Butters and candy corn and then made a video of the turkeys falling in love.

Stina had a contagious smile and a contagious joy.

Her smile almost supersedes the fact that this might be the worst picture ever taken of me.
In my sophomore year of college, I heard some bad news one night and I could not stop crying. I did not want to talk about it. I could not talk about it. Stina happened to be stopping by our room and instead of plying me with questions or trying to fix things, she simply stood by my loft bed and laid her hand on my ankle until I cried myself to sleep. I'm certain she was praying. I will never forget that.

Stina was silly and totally inappropriate. She liked to play a game called BVB. I hated that game. She also liked to play "take video of residents while they're showering without showing any nudity, of course." I lived in fear of that. She never got me, but the girls who did get videoed got her back with a bucket of ice water dumped into her hot shower one morning. She took it in stride (by running out of the shower and tackling them).

Just some normal college kids...and Karl.
She played the violin beautifully, but I don't think I knew that until she was playing at a recital. It was like - surprise! She was humble about her skills.

Stina was fun. I only got to see her once after she graduated, at our RD's wedding in Oregon. She was my date - picked me up from my hotel and everything - and even though we hadn't seen each other in almost two years, it was like no time had passed. She was that kind of friend. You could just pick up where you left off and feel instantly comfortable.

At the end of my sophomore year, Stina held our last section meeting and told us that if we felt led, we could wash the feet of anyone who we wanted to serve in that way and pray for them. Two hours later, I think we had all washed each other's feet and we had just as much water as when we started because everyone was crying. (WOMEN. AmIright?!) Stina could facilitate community and worship. She could facilitate it something fierce.

Standing in a pond, like you do.
You know how when people pass away, we only remember how wonderful they were and we sweep the rest of their memory under the rug? Well, I know Stina wasn't perfect because she was human and all, but I cannot come up with one bad thought about her. She sought to glorify God in everything she did, she had a great sense of humor, she was loving and generous and kind and talented and beautiful. I hope to be more like her when I grow up.

I miss you, Stina.