(Some day we will have family pictures with no one picking their nose, or looking at their feet, or scrunching their face in a awkward smile or glaring and I will miss these days…these days where this is the “keeper” of the bunch.)
More often they look like this:
Each one of my kids has their own signature dance style. Hayleigh will spin slowly around like a fairy with her arms sweeping through the air. Royce will also spin in circles, but without the artistry-and with a few more clumsy, staggered steps and stumbles. Braxton does what we call his “happy feet dance” which is honestly the fastest footwork I have ever seen on a white person. It is like the music overtakes him and he just bursts into motion-from sitting to rapid-fire, blurry movement. It is spontaneous, instantaneous and hard to catch on camera. And it is always the same, always impressive, and always hilarious. Hayleigh calls grilled cheese “girled cheese”. Braxton calls it “gilled tease”. They are all very proficient at coloring. In fact we have more pieces of construction paper lying around with some scribbles or stickers on them, or a single heart scrawled in one corner, than we have just about anything else. I try to sneakily throw them away from time to time. Royce has seen me and now will get paper from the pile of un-used construction paper and take it right to the trash. When we are playing the board game “Operation” everyone has a technique all their own. Hayleigh gets her face right down close to the board, focuses very carefully and usually pulls the piece out and cheers for herself. She is actually better at it than me. Braxton will take the tweezers and go in full boar with no aim. He gets buzzed immediately…every. single. time. But it never bothers him. He always throws his hands up as if shocked and says “awww maaaan!” Royce just tries to eat the pieces and knock the board over. Hayleigh and Braxton take care of Royce so well. They are so afraid she will choke or fall down the stairs and die. Panic ensues when she even climbs the stairs, which is her latest obsession/way to exert her freedom and test the limits. They get so excited about her firsts. When she says a new word, when she says an old one, or even when she says what they are sure is the entire Declaration of Independence even though was just a string of babbles, they cheer as if she just cured cancer. They also excuse some of her behavior, especially Braxton who will say “She doesn’t know better”, even when she does. They will “chub her” which means pinching her cheeks or thighs and saying “chubba, chubba, chubba”. She LOVES it…not.
Movie nights are the most exciting thing ever. You would think they were told they could go to Disney World. And if we let them eat dinner at their table while they watch, especially if dinner is pizza-forget about it. Coronaries all around. Their favorite movies these days are Little Rascals, Jungle Book, Peter Pan, Mulan, Frozen and How to Train your Dragon. When they meet a new person they like they want to invite them for a playdate or to their birthday party. This makes for some awkward goodbyes at the playground. Lately they have been making maps to find treasure. They will tell each other “You don’t always get what you want. Try to count your blessings”. It is not often received well by the other one. Braxton puts his underwear on backwards and Hayleigh puts her shoes on the wrong feet.
For Mother’s Day I was serenaded by a alternate version of “Oh Happy Day”. It went “Oh, happy day. When she wiped our boogers away, but she loved us anyway”. The way all three of their lips pucker and pout when they are sleeping. We give each other kisses you can’t wipe off.
Hayleigh wants an ipad. When she is a grown up and she can do whatever she wants she is going to get a “Frozen” Ipad. She is also going to buy gum every time she goes to the store and have slumber parties every night, you know when she can do whatever she wants. Speaking of Frozen, the obsession is unwavering. She will sing “Do you want to build a snowman?” though closed doors to us. Her favorite leggings are Ikat patterned, or as she calls them, her “frozen leggings”. The other day while watching construction workers dig, she said it was like Frozen, when they did through the ice. I was talking to my mom about frozen veggies the other day and she overheard and just shouted from the other room “Did I hear someone say ‘Frooooozzzeeeennn??” She has memorized all the songs and motions. She tosses her glove at the same time as Elsa, but insists she needs practice on the “fact-alls” (fractals) part. She sings “Let it go” to her siblings when they are crying about something. Sometimes it is a lullaby for Royce as she fights sleep. Pretty much everything in life has an application/connection to Frozen. And she will break into the silence with what I think is a serious question and inevitably it is something about one of the specific moments a specific character said a specific thing or about a specific stitch on a specific outfit in a specific scene in “Frozen”.
She picks flowers on walks, during outside playtime, on the way out the door to school, out of the landscaping at Wegmans. Every flower is glorious and breath-taking. It is how she does life.
She is the slowest bike rider since Rylie Day (my sister). She is much more concerned with seeing all the flowers and ringing her bike bell. She also has a knack for running into people on her bike. She can avoid every spot where no one is and find the one spot where my feet are, or where her brother is on his bike or where Royce is running. Although in Hayleigh’s defense, Royce likes to run at the bike tires a little too much for her own good. The other night though Hayleigh rode around the driveway in circles for an hour straight, singing a narrative to herself the entire time…and she only took Royce out once. Sometimes she says to Braxton “Are you thinkin’ what I am thinkin’?” to which he always replies “Yeeeaaahhh.” She is the bossiest pretend waitress ever. She tells us what to order or will change our orders for us. The kitchen is often out of what we want as well. She likes to dance with her shadow. Nana taught her that. I love to watch her dance and sway freely watching her shadow.
She is clueless about sports. She will cheer for homeruns in football and baskets in baseball. She calls courts fields and fields-goals. Poor girl is just so, so lost in the world of sports. She is a natural cheerleader. When Braxton and Peter are playing catch or basketball she will stand on the sidelines and cheer (LOUD), yell and wave pom-poms. She is definitely a “words of encouragement” girl, when it comes to love languages. Not a day goes by where she is not planning her next birthday party….or her next three actually. She is the quintessential mama-child.
She has started saying “Are you serious?” regularly. “You cleaned up all that pee that quickly?! Are you serious?!” Other new hit phrases that make her sound 16 are “sooo awesome”, “are you kidding me"?” and “totally”. She gets excited and yells “yeeah baby!”She likes to advise people by saying “If I was you…”. She has started to grasp and use sarcasm…awesome…wonder where she got that? ;) She still can’t master how to use the past tense correctly but it upset her when I corrected her so now I just let it go….let it go… She likes to try to have peer conversations with me and I try so hard not to laugh at her mannerisms (hand motions like she is an Italian teenager and fake “can you even believe it!?” laugh) and embarrass her. The other day she was telling me the story from her class at church and she said “ugh! I can’t believe I forgot that part! They must have said it like 100 times. (insert scoff and Italian hand). Wow! I shouldn’t have forgotten that! They literally said it 3 times!”
She will always ask deep questions like “Why does God let people go to Hell if he loves everyone?” “Why do people need to get hurt and die?” “How can God do everything but He can’t do bad things?” “Is Satan more powerful than me if God is in my heart?” Everyday she has a new best friend. She gets upset when people don’t take as much of an interest in her as she does them. She is so sensitive. If someone at school doesn’t play with her one day, she thinks they don’t want to be her friend anymore. She laughs with her whole body. At home and at school she gets so excited she can’t contain herself. She is literally bursting forth with ideas, thoughts and shrill cheers.
(I didn’t pose her for this, by the way. She was watching her brother and sister play.)
She loves to watch the videos of the kids from Maramara, Chad (the village our church has partnered with). She will look up at me with glee and say “They laugh in the same language as us, Mommy!” She will tell me almost every day how beautiful I am, how much she loves me, how I am the best Mommy in the whole world. She hugs with more gusto than anyone I have ever known. Her hug subjects have been know to fall over or turn blue and beg for air. She likes to read to Braxton or cuddle with him when he is sleepy or tickle him when he is grumpy. She puts her arm around him to protect him. The other day she let him join in on her field trip. Afterwards she asked him if he wanted to be part of her class for the last 4 days of school. They don’t like to play in their own room separately anymore. They want to be together all the time and ask for sleepovers almost every night. The way he looks up to her and at her makes my heart smile. The bond they share despite being 2 years apart (a big difference when you are 5 and 3) and different genders is one of my favorite things in the entire world. I love the way they love each other.
On walks or when we are playing outside Braxton gathers sticks as if it is his job. He puts them in the ground as stick families. The other day he introduced me to his stick family. There was the mom, dad, Michael-the only one with a name and another sick with a bad attitude. He gathers sticks for fire wood for Pop. He breaks them on his leg if they are too long to fit in the fireplace. Very serious business. Very manly.
The other day at the Lilac Festival he saw people doing a traditional dance with sticks…forget about it. He found sticks and acted it out from the sidelines, very seriously mimicking every motion.
Construction is called “trucktion”.He makes pictures out of his boy-ish stickers and uses them to tell a story. The stories involve knights, construction workers, athletes, bugs, aliens, pirates and whatever else is in the Melissa and Doug sticker book. Somehow he weaves them all together into a story. He has a deep voice that he talks in when he wants to seem tough or brave or when he is talking to a bigger boy. When we laugh too hard he will say “we need to stop laughing because SOMEONE is going to puke!”His favorite movie is “How to Train your Dragon”. A lot of days he will tell me “I am not Braxton. I am Hiccup!” (from the movie). Other days he is “Hans” or “Christof” or “Mike the Knight” or “Peter Pan” or “Prince Charming”. He has faces for every character he plays. A super hero face, a knight face and a prince face.
The way his cheek feels pressed against mine. The way he fits perfectly in my lap or curled up in the crease of my neck. The sound of him breathing as he sleeps. He is quite impressive at “Where’s Waldo?” books. He always says in the most adorable and inquisitive voice “Where IS Waldo?”. Braxton: “Don’t touch my pivates ya’ll!” (privates…as in private parts…yeah.) He asked me the other day “ How do we know God is real if we can’t see him?”. Hayleigh piped up from the backseat before I could answer “We see what He has made, bud. And we see how takes care of us and gives us everything we need, bud, like food and clothes and a warm house…and Daddy gathering money at work. And we know He is in our hearts and in heaven when we pray, bud. That is how we know He is real. You can’t see air all the time, but you know air is real. Because you breath it right?” I sat in the front seat and cried. The other day on a walk Braxton saw a “parrow” (sparrow) and told me “Mommy, look! God takes care of the parrows! He takes care of us too!”
(building a bird nest)
He wears his fireman hat backwards so the giant brim is in the front. If you turn it around for him, he just switches it and seems confused. Real quick=“weel kick”. He is excited to go to preschool now, since we went to the Carnival. Hayleigh told him “ooooh buudd. Not every day is a Carnival.” He loves any movie with swords or “killing things:, so he often will ask to watch Brave or Mulan. He has dubbed his run “my famous run”. “Remember when we were taking family pictures and I did my famous run and fell down and got a boo-boo? Everyone loves my famous run.”
The other night during one of our cuddle dates he started crying thinking about having to grow up and move out of our house…or as he calls it “graduating”. He thinks Nana Betty (my grandma) and Pop (my dad) are graduating from work. It is apparently a perpetual state. I love the way he puffs out his bottom lip and fights back the tears as he tries to be brave. I love that he wants to be my boy forever. I kinda love that he hates change. Although that is not the good mother in me speaking. I don’t like to see him cry, mostly because his laugh is probably the most contagious I have ever caught.
He wants to take some of our fireman from Rochester over to Maramara, Chad to help put out the fire. He doesn’t understand how they have no firemen. It bothers him deeply that the kids don’t have warm beds, and snack drawers, and toys and TVs. Braxton talks to his shadow. My favorite thing he has said to it before is “ooooh hi! I missed you!” Wax is plural. A wack is singular. He will ask if he has an ear wack in his ear. He also refers to his moldable toy wax stings this way. I find those stupid things everywhere, especially as wall art, sometimes with crayons stuck to them. .“I py wid my nittul eye!” Throwing a grumpy fish back into the river always perks him up when he is a bad mood. When the sound puzzles will randomly (and creepily) talk from the office I say to the puzzles “hey! Don’t talk to me!” He doubles over laughing to the point of tears and almost pukes, every single time. When Royce is crying he will turn to me and say “dats dwama”. Yet, he is the ultimate protector of his sisters.
He loves to pretend to do yoga. He will get in crazy positions (or sometimes just sit with his legs crossed or something like that) and ask “is dis yoga?!” He insists he will learn to so a “pwit” (split) without getting hurt. He teases Hayleigh about her friends at school who are boys. Or he will walk by and whisper “no one is getting a snack” or he will tell her he is bigger than her or he going to marry her. He knows just how to push her buttons and make her scream. He is working using that “power” to make her “pile” (smile). He is scared of “biniger” (vinegar) (from punishments for using bitter words) and will tell me is trying to use honey words even when it is hard. He tells me he wants me to be his mommy forever. He wants to live here even after Daddy graduates from work. He wants to be my boy even when he is taller than Daddy. He will hug me, look up at me with those perfectly blue eyes and say “you are dah best mommy in dah whole wowuld. I will love you fowuh-evuh.”
Royce will always un-buckle/un-velco her shoes in the car. Usually by the time I have the other two kids buckled in she has her shoes undone. She doesn’t take them off. She just undoes them. If they are slip ons, she will just take the heal off her foot. She is an enigma. She can be so feisty and independent and yet want us to spoon feed her at times. She will be incredibly vocal and babbling all the time and at other times she is mute and expressionless, taking it all in. She has a pretty chronic pretend cough. She waddle walks with the best of them. She wipes her boo-boos with tissues and washes the walls with wipes. She like to sword fight…and regular fight. Braxton taught her how to say “butt”. She doesn’t say many words, maybe 20 or so regularly, but butt is one of them! She is very cuddly these days. The other day I was sleeping in and was awoken by her whining at the side of our bed. She had moved the barrier/gate, snuck upstairs and was trying to climb into our bed. When I got her up with me she jumped, laughed with joy and lay her head on my right shoulder and lay there for 15 minutes. She always wants to lay her head on my right shoulder facing out. She gets such a satisfied and proud look on her face. Sometimes I can be holding her and she is not happy until she is slumped across my body with her head on my right shoulder.
She is constant motion. She barely EVER sits still to play. She shouts as part of conversations. If you talk over her she only gets louder. She has to be a part of everything.
She will color me a picture and bring it to me beaming with pride. Or she will just get a magnet and hang it on the fridge herself. If I am sitting on the floor or the couch she HAS to be on my lap, and she will sit like that for as long as I will let her, or until she sees an opportunity to antagonize a sibling. It is the only time she sits.
She picks dandelions by the tops and holds them crumpled in her fists. She will not leave a clip in her hair. Her hair gets in her face and she blows it out of the way with her bottom lip over her top one. She calls her belly button “bee-bo”. I will look over at her sometimes and she will be lifting her shirt, and silently watching me from across the room waiting for me to notice. She likes to show people her “bee-bo” pretty regularly now, but never demand of course.
We taught her the “hi sign” from the Little Rascals movie (a wave underneath your chin). She will do her own version by doing a kind of deformed/crinkled wave across her nose. Adorable. She had her first ice-cream cone the other day. It was serious business. She sat in her own seat, wouldn’t hold her own cone except for a second and ate the stray sprinkles off her pants one by one. She was the only one of the kids who didn’t cry the time their first ice-cream cone was gone (taken away for fear of juvenile diabetes). She likes to show off. She will do this weird roll, crawl, dance thing in circles to make people laugh. Her run always looks like she is out of control and is about to fall flat on her face, but she usually doesn’t. Her cheeks are seriously 3D and growing by the day…as are her leg rolls. Her cheeks bounce when she runs.
She will sometimes pat her belly or her chest in a self-satisfied way. She gets that from Peter. She will finally say “more” when she wants something. She uses it in the place of “please'” but for now I will take it. She gets so proud of herself as she is saying it. She makes her lips in a little circle, smiles a “Mona Lisa smile” with her eyes and says “moowuh” in a low, quiet voice. The way she runs to me with her hands up in the air melts me. On Mother’s Day she told me “I love you” in Royce talk.
These days are long, but the months flash by. I know these moments are fleeting. I want to remember more than that is was hard but sweet. I want to remember how it felt, the good parts. I want to hear their voices echo in my mind long after the lisps and mispronunciations are gone. I want to feel the tenderness of their soft pudgy skin when they won’t lay cuddled up to me at night. I want to let the memory of their laughter lighten my days when they have moved to their own houses and laugh with their own people. I want to remember the pieces of them that change and the pieces of them they carry in their hearts, so I can remind myself of these times and remind their later selves who they really are. I want to treasure them up in my heart as Mary did when Jesus was born. I want to carry them with me for when it is hard and sweet in different ways, because it won’t always be sweet like this. But for now, it is oh so sweet.