By the numbers:
- 160 days (5 months, 1 week, or so) since moving to Chicagoland from Saint Louis.
- 102 days, that Nick has been working as a vicar.*
- 3.5 months (105 days) since Nick turned 32 years old, and 18 days since I turned 32 years old.
- 26 days since Easter, which fell on Evan's birthday this year!
- 14 days since Abigail began attending kindergarten in her new elementary school.
- 0 days since Ariel began walking independently. So glad I still have time before she's 100% a toddler.
*Can you define it?? It's basically a future pastor on his internship
The seasonal turn to spring did not come with familiarity this year. Not only are we now living back in Chicagoland, but the weather here is about 10F degrees colder most days of the year than Saint Louis. Add an El Nino year with a very cool March and SNOW in April... well, I'm happy to get outdoors and begin gardening.
After 2.5 years away, it's familiar and different.
Abigail attends elementary school. She's still familiar Abby with many of the same likes and smile, but now at 6 years old, she's confident. Explaining processes for how to make something, or how to plan a trip (her dream this month is to camp out in our backyard), is often what she's telling others. As her mom, I try (and fail) to keep up with her thinking trail as she lays out an idea and we try to help it happen. Abigail likes to DO things, and MAKE things, and patiently watching or coaching from the sidelines is good practice for the next season of parenting. She still has momentary nerves as she encounters new situations, but loves being around people enough that the nerves are temporary. All the same, I'm trying to lengthen the time between new transitions. Her latest transition was to elementary school and riding the bus. Her next transition will be to add in some sort of music group in the fall. It's important to us that she have an on-going sport (swim) with an occasional extra one (like dance, gymnastics, etc), and that she be engaged in music (I'm teaching basic piano and we go to choral and band concerts, musical theater, and ballet throughout the year). Our family choices are centered on her transitioning well to school for April/May.
Evan at 4 years old still loves to cook (aka taste test) with us. He loves being involved in projects. Recently, we installed smoke alarms in the bedrooms. Evan heaven. His mind constantly works on figuring things out, but linear and logical process hasn't firmed up like it has at 6 years of age with his older sister. How electricity travels from power plants, through high voltage wires, to substations, to homes fascinates him. HOW is huge right now. Especially if it involves electricity or motors. He creates massive train sets on his rug and narrates imaginative stories with people, cars, and the train set town. Just don't ask him to pick it up in order to vacuum! He rides a bike with training wheels, scooters on two wheels (getting faster), swims, just began soccer, and likes backyard TBall. He plays his harmonica or the piano with lots of crescendo/diminuendo or fast/slow or rhythm, and often listens for the background instruments in songs ("I hear a triangle!"). His big transition will be in the fall, attending 4 year old preschool 2 days a week. Otherwise, he's game for many activities at home if we get to work together on modeling, coloring, painting, cooking, or playing a game.
Ariel has made the mental switch from baby to toddler. She has strong opinions about what she wants and when she wants it. As any smart third child knows to do, Ariel watches her older siblings for clues as to which tone or volume gets my attention fastest... All her words are highly contextual variations on "Mama" (more, me, 'don't leave me,' 'can I try what Mama has?', moo, etc), "Papa" (sheep that 'baa', ball, bear, Grandpa, man that looks like he could be a 'papa', etc), "book," "duck," "ooo" for things she really loves or wants me to see (like her wearing sunglasses), and a few animal noises and a few baby signs. I didn't stress out about a by-the-clock routine during the move, but once she turned 11 months old, she showed signs that a firmer routine would help her. Now Ariel really likes the predictability. It's a sad sometimes that she's almost beyond falling asleep snuggling together, but I really like that she knows what comes next and can feel confident about figuring out her world. Her transition recently is to get used to the predictable routine of the YMCA childcare room. It's important that she warm up a little to trusting other people to care for her. Twice a week she spends 30-45 minutes in the childcare room while I work out. Learning the routine of goodbye and me coming back will help both of us for new activities in the fall like a small group Bible study, or classes for me.
Nick's transition from grad student to vicar has been on-going for a while. Some of his responsibilities are weekly, others are periodic. He thrives when he can schedule himself, and he's been great at sitting down as a couple for weekly and monthly calendar checks. Nick also works with the kids on times when he'll be away for work (like Wed evenings) and I'll be doing things differently because of solo parenting. It's really neat to see him applying both his background in college ministry and so many years of pastoral grad classes, all while learning new things for this specific context. He's becoming more disciplined about sleep (which was so important while a grad student, too). Nick gets to soon be next for our family focus: he needs a regular, consistent exercise habit. It's been sporadic, and often sacrificed to work or time for me to do something away from the kids or house. He's generally active through biking to work when the weather warms up, with the kids, or through yard work. 32 years is not 25 years, nor 16 years! Staying fit takes more focus.
I'm enjoying the fun of our family being "tourists in our new town." We've made lists of places we want to revisit and things we've never (or rarely) done in Chicagoland. Like, the first and last time I went to the Willis Tower Skydeck was in 1998! I've also never been on a boat tour in Chicago. It's fun because it's all new to the kids and they add in their own ideas about where we should go. At home, my teaching skills have been flexed through coming up with a more formal school focus than just fun enrichment activities. Reading through state standards and matching up activities to make a weekly rhythm and achieve progress in the standards for multi-age kids has been challenging. I hesitate to call it homeschooling because of the baggage that term carries. As a parent with three kids in three different stages of development, I can see now how formal school is a really good support and a challenge for some kids (and how one school might not work well for some kids). The lists of pros and cons of public, private, and homeschool keep getting longer in my mind. I'm at peace sending Abigail to public elementary school for this season. I'm at peace sending Evan to private preschool for half the week. I'm still at peace being a full-time mom, and Ariel's first teacher. With Abigail in elementary school, the future freedom to pursue grad school or get back into the workforce is starting to take shape in my mind. "This is what it might be like to have all three kids be school age." comes up just as much as, "If I need to work or the right job comes along and two kids were in elementary school, this is how Ariel's care could work."
So there you have a snapshot of our family in April 2016! Six months into this adventure in Chicagoland. I'd love to hear updates from you!