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One Little Monkey

One Little Monkey

…holds a lot of memories.

I am doing some cleaning up and cleaning out around the house. Admit it. You’re jealous of my rockin’ start to the unofficial kick off to summer, right? 🙂

With both kids occupied downstairs, I took the opportunity late this afternoon to sneakily clean out the ‘stuffed animal’ farm we have in our toy room. If you have kids and they are anything like mine, you know why I had to be sneaky:

a) if they saw me doing this activity, they would fall in love with every single stuffed animal that was stashed in there. It wouldn’t matter that they may not have played with it for over a year…or more!

b) if they knew I did this, they would want to pillage the giveaway box and save practically every last item. And, naturally, they’d only play with said items for about a day or so, and we’d be right back in the same predicament of being overrun with  stuffed animals come Monday.

When we’re looking to donate toys, I typically let them decide which toys are ready for a new home, and which toys they’d like to keep. When it comes to stuffed animals, they – especially Grace – tend to love them all and, because of that love, we’d never be able to share any with children in need. Every so often, I like to clean house – typically around birthdays and Christmas.

I understand why it’s hard for them to part with their things, even if they’ve long since outgrown them. I can be quite sentimental, and it’s usually strange things that set this off. I find it funny that sometimes their old toys do this. I can usually recall a great memory involving an item or a toy, and then I, too, am hesitant to pass it along to someone in need. Kenny loves this. So much. 😉

Today, this guy made me sentimental.

Monkey My mom and dad sent Gavin this little red monkey for Valentine’s Day right after we moved to Portland. (Grace got a pink one.) For Gavin, though, it came at a perfect time – we moved at the end of October, spent three weeks back in Philadelphia for the holidays that year, and then headed back to Portland in early January. It really wasn’t until January that the move felt real, and for sure, by February, it hit most of us that we actually lived in Portland now. 2,865 miles from everyone we loved in the world (except for each other).

Gavin had a bit of a tricky transition when we left Philadelphia, At four going on five when we moved, he was more aware of things than Grace, and his old soul, at times, seemed to understand how big of a deal it was to move away from our entire family. He’s not a guy for change – he likes routine and likes things how he wants them. Despite starting school (child care at Nike) in October, he was still crying most days when Kenny dropped him off in February. It was really pretty sad. He was definitely less of a disaster than when we first moved, but still had moments where Kenny and I would worry that we made a terribly wrong move and he’d never adjust to the change.

But along came this monkey, with a note from my parents sending hugs and kisses for Valentine’s Day. I can still picture Gavin’s face when he opened it. His grin grew wider when I showed him he could velcro the monkey around his neck like a hug. (Don’t panic, don’t panic – it was loose and the velcro did not securely fasten by any stretch – really just enough for a brief ‘hug’ before it unfastened and monkey hopped back down into Gavin’s arms.) Monkey went to bed with Gavin that night. And to school the next day. And to the dinner table that night. And sat on the side of the tub while he bathed that evening. And, so, an inseparable friendship of sorts budded.

Gavin and Monkey.

Monkey and Gavin.

Everywhere. Together.

For months and months.

And as this friendship budded, Gavin seemed to gain more confidence in his new surroundings. It was like a Philadelphia / familiar things / familiar people security blanket, and Monkey arrived at the very moment he was needed.

Monkey face

You can see how loved Monkey was.

His fur is matted.

His face pilled.

He is missing his nose.

His threaded mouth unfurled, so we drew him a new one.

These days, Monkey hangs out in our stuffed animal farm along with some of his new friends.

Gavin wandered into my office after Monkey’s blog photo shoot. He smirked when he saw him, then picked him up. He stared at him for a few minutes as his fingers traveled over the matted fur of his arms down to his dirty white felt hands. Gavin’s neck was too big for a Monkey hug. Monkey hands

He asked, “Mom, do you remember him?” I told him I did. Secretly hoping the answer would be no, I asked him if he wanted to give him away to another little boy or girl who might need him. Gavin looked at Monkey, then at me. He shook his no and said, “No. I want to keep him.” I asked why. He said, “Because I got him when I was like four and I want to remember that time.” Man, I love that little guy. Pass a tissue.

I am not sure I will ever be able to put Monkey in the giveaway pile. Not any time soon, anyway.

He’s symbolic of our move, and a sweet reminder of the time period during which Gavin finally started to come into his own as a Portlander.

Goodbyes (Still) Stink

One of the post-move things that will always rip my heart out is watching my kids say goodbye to their extended family after spending time with them.

Ugh.

Goodbyes are not fun.

At all.

They weren’t fun when we first left to move here, and they still aren’t fun about two years in.

Grace is a hot mess. She is very, very good about giving everyone hugs and kisses and wishing them well, but she eventually runs over to me and buries her head in my neck. And sobs. And sobs. And sobs. Which then makes me cry (I hate to cry!). I am pretty sure her utter sadness also makes Kenny fill up with tears. She is that heartbroken. Every time.

Gavin keeps his cool when the actual goodbye-ing is happening, but will later do what I can only categorize as “guy feelings things” like ask me for extra long hugs, randomly reach over and grab my hand, or ask me if I miss gram, pop, this uncle, that aunt, and so on. I love that guy. It’s going to be interesting to see how he matures and handles things. Sometimes – like when saying goodbyes – he seems to be able to control his emotions well. And others – like when things go off plan – he goes absolutely off his rocker. Haha.

A few things I have realized:

1) I feel terribly guilty that my kids don’t get to spend nearly enough time with their grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. They really do love spending time with everyone. They really miss their family. It makes me happy and sad at the same time – haha. Before moving, I was worried they were too young to remember or care, so the fact that they DO care and miss their family kinda makes me happy. (Maybe not happy – maybe relieved?) It makes me sad because it’s hard to live so far away from your family – and it’s sad that their little hearts have to know what that feels like.

2) I am beginning to think that absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Lately, I’ve been  wondering if the distance between my kids and their family makes time spent together that much more precious. Like do my kids make the most of it? Do they understand it’s special and, therefore, don’t take family time for granted? They are probably too young to really tell just yet, but I kinda got the sense that they do realize it’s special after Kenny’s parents’ visit in May and then again over this past week with my family.

3) My kids “count down” to family visits. I decided to take advantage of this when Grace was melting down after this recent round of goodbyes: I ran through the list of things we have to look forward to in the coming months to help her get a sense of how “soon” she’d get to see her family again. (“Soon” as in a few months – ha!) That only sorta calmed her down. So I took it one step further and said, “Hey, I have an idea. When we get home, let’s make a calendar where you can write in all the important things you have coming up, and have count downs to everything you are looking forward to – like your next visit with your family.” She slowly lifted her head out of my shoulder nook and nodded. She asked if she could draw pictures on it. Yes. She asked if she could glue pictures of her family on it. Yes. She asked if she could use any colors she wanted to. Yes. She calmed down after that. And has asked no less than 10 times when she can start her calendar – hahaha. (We’ve been home less than 48 hours and had a ton of laundry and food shopping to do! :))

I did find a cute printable calendar that I will work on with her tonight. Gavin even wants in on the action. Maybe this will bridge the void (in some small way!) between visits with family. I know a paper calendar can’t compare to real hugs from Gram and Pop, etc., but knowing just how soon that next hug is coming will (hopefully) alleviate some of the burden on their little hearts.

 

I Cannot Take the Heat

We’re fresh off our first meet the family somewhere in the country so no one has to continually burn all their vacation days and dollars on a trip to Oregon, Pennsylvania or New Jersey. Nothing wrong with any of those spots, naturally, but isn’t it more fun to meet somewhere different so everyone gets to travel? 🙂

We met my parents and my brother and his family in Florida for a week-long sweat fest. I don’t know who keeps deciding that Florida in August is a smart idea.

Ok, it’s me. I take the blame. But this was the last time. I promise. Especially because it seems I have acclimated to the glorious, mostly moderate temps of the Pacific Northwest. About two days in, Kenny declared that his family had officially gone soft and couldn’t hack the heat. Hahaha. Another un-thought-of side effect of the cross-country move – lol!

Honestly, I will take the gray drizzly winter days of Portland any day over the oppressive humidity of summertime in Florida. I cannot deal with that heat any more. It doesn’t even cool off after the afternoon rain showers. It just makes it muggier. Oh my goodness, I might cry just thinking about it now.

I texted my best friend while I was there to tell her that there was no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks I was moving home because I was pretty sure I was going to evaporate into the East Coast humidity and I didn’t miss that feeling one bit. She kindly reminded me that I was in Florida, not Philadelphia. She also kindly told me to suck it up because I was in Florida. She didn’t tell me I was being overly dramatic, but she probably should have. I deserved it — haha.

She’s right, though. Florida and Philadelphia are definitely different climates. But being so hot in Florida transported me back to sizzlin’ summers in Philadelphia. I recall sitting in my home office with the central air set to 65 or something ridiculous like that and still having to have a fan blowing directly at me all day long. Anyway, that’s a long way of saying: I am really looking forward to taking a shower in Oregon and feeling refreshed for a few hours vs. a few minutes. Hahaha. I took so many (seemingly pointless) showers in Florida, it’s a wonder I have any skin left.

Vacation was still a blast and it was (as usual) awesome to spend time with loved ones. More on that soon.

A New Time Zone

So…

I can’t sleep past 5:30 a.m. yet. I hope that changes reallllllllly soon.

It’s ok though, because Gavin is up to keep me company. He trots into our room anywhere between 4:30 and 5:00. On the other end, he falls asleep between 7:15 and 7:45. He actually laid himself down on the couch and fell asleep last night. First time ever.

Kenny and Grace are fine. They adjusted quite well. Kenny hops out of bed around 6:30 – 7. Same with Grace. I really love this big girl bed thing – she just sleeps and then gets herself up and out of bed. She doesn’t wake us with her calls in her best soft whine – “Moooooommmmy – get me out of my trrrriiiiib’. (Such a pleasant greeting, no?) Not that it matters anyway, because I’ve been up for at least an hour before her since we moved. But I anticipate this will be a bonus once (if) Gavin and me ever adjust to Pacific Time.

Gavin’s also disturbed by the long darkness in the mornings. It’s only about 15 minutes behind when the sun came up in Philadelphia; but for some reason it feels much, much darker for a longer period of time in the mornings. (There may be sound reasons for this, but science was never my thing. It could also be that we awaken just past the middle of the night.)  Nonetheless, he’s exasperated by it and asked yesterday – “Mom, is the sun EVER going to come up here?” It did … first light around 7:35 a.m. – woo hoo for crisp, sunny fall days in Portland!