Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kate and Crew 20: At the Alma Mater...Again.

20. At the Alma Mater...Again (May 2014) 

          Everyone kept asking, "Are you here for graduation?" 
          Kate was never sure what to say because the obvious and truthful answer was, "No." But it wasn't so obvious because, after all, what else was going on that second week in May? And if one wasn't in town for graduation, why not come visit some other week? When there was enough time for explanations, Kate gave her well-rehearsed speech: "Mister is done teaching for the semester, so it's a perfect time to leave for our summer trip. And we wanted to visit his siblings--his brother, Jack, lives in town, and Bettina goes to Hillsdale. So this was the time that worked out for all of us...even though we don't know anyone who's graduating." 
          When there wasn't enough time for that explanation, Kate simply said, "We just wanted to visit." Oddly enough, her first response got many more confused responses than her second. 
          Kate was mildly surprised to find that, compared to last year's trip, the campus didn't feel more foreign. But what was different was bringing a baby. It would have been nice to just wander around all the old haunts, retake special walks, and stay up late just for old time's sake. But Kate and Mister were traveling with a baby now. They got up early--which didn't necessarily preclude staying up late, but it certainly meant they got tired earlier! And (also somewhat of a surprise to her) Kate did not resent this shift in priorities. She wouldn't trade the grown-up mommy lifestyle, even with all it's limitations and responsibilities, for the more freewheeling (but less meaningful) college days. 
          The strangeness of being there was summed up in Mister's words as he and Kate strolled through the Arb and up the hill back to campus. "Sure, it's nice being here," he said in response to a query from Kate. "But it doesn't seem important. It's really great to see people, but being on campus..." he shrugged as he looked around, "it's full of good memories, but it's not relevant." 
          Kate nodded. That's exactly what she was feeling. Nice, but not relevant. "So do we have a main purpose in being here?" 
          "Sure. To see the people we care about. And between siblings, church friends, and professors, that's a larger goal than we could reasonably expect to accomplish..."
          "So we just prioritize and see as many people as we can?" Kate felt a little panicky and overwhelmed just at the thought. Would she have enough energy for all this visiting? Would she get any time with Peg--after all, she would be happy spending the whole week visiting just her! 
          Mister nodded. "It makes for a busy rest of the week, and we'll try to fit in whoever we can, and then just be content with what God gives us. We've already seen a lot of people," he reminded her. Mister put his arm around Kate and read her thoughts. "Don't worry dear, it won't be too much, we'll make sure we get plenty of rest and down time." 
          Kate nodded. "I just want to make sure we get some good time with the Evans too...though I suppose it's silly to worry about. I worry about it every time Peg and I get together, and we always end up getting more than I expected."
          Except for that day, Kate and Mister didn't spend much time on campus. Mister met with a couple of his professors, and Kate got to see her music professor briefly. But in the 15 minutes that they got to talk, Kate felt that she and Mister had truly crossed the boundary between students and professors. Mister was teaching classes. He was working on his dissertation. They were thinking about family and jobs and desirable locations. Mister echoed these thoughts after they reunited. "It is strange to be a professor now, and share stories about students, or thoughts about curriculum or grading policies. But also exciting...to feel that I know enough now to contribute something new and different to a conversation with one of my old profs." 
          As they drove on to the next leg of their journey, Kate reflected on their time. 
          "Maybe it's not that Hillsdale is totally irrelevant to us now...maybe we just have to consider that it's relevant in a new and maybe unexpected way. You know. The college matters more now in a different way, because you're going into academia, and want to learn from the faculty you know...but now you want to learn from them as colleagues, not teachers, and see what they have to show you about teaching and researching and family life in academia." Mister nodded in vague assent while she continued, "And the good memories are great and fun to remember, but there are new memories now....or maybe blended memories." 
          "What do you mean....blended memories?" 
          "Well, going to the Udder Side to get ice cream or burgers made a lot of different, fun memories for me...but now we've gone with Bettina. It's new, but old too. Same with Bettina and Jack coming to dinner at the Evans. It's a blend of old and new. And walking up through campus during the graduation and seeing some old classmates and all their children! It was nice to be back and feel the passing of time not just in relating to professors more personally, but also in seeing some of our peers and how they also have moved on into a new stage of life. It's exciting, and fun to think that so many of us are sharing that new stage, even though we're not together on campus anymore." 
Mister and Teddy in the Arb

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Kate and Crew 19: Holland...Michigan!

19. Holland...Michigan (May 2014) 

          Clogs and braids and tulips, oh my! Kate thought to herself as they drove the still farther West and North after the first night and leisurely morning with Peg. Their destination? Holland! (Michigan.) There, they planned to spend the night with some friends and their two kids. The Zinks were some of their dearest, competitive game playing, non-city people that they had made friends with in D.C. Kate both rejoiced and mourned their move to Michigan last November--rejoiced because, like Kate and Mister, Lize and A.Z. longed to escape the hubbub of city life; mourned it because in the short-term, Kate missed their company and in the even shorter term, she missed Lize's maternity clothes, which she had returned a mere month before finding out she was pregnant again!
          Kate always loved sharing new places with friends, and she was especially interested in how Lize and A.Z. were liking their new home, what their town was like, and seeing all their familiar things in a different house. And they did play games--the token favorite being a lesser-known strategic card game called Innovation. After the kids went to bed, the couples broke up into guys and girls teams and snacked on the kids' potty-training candy. They wielded their cards with vigor, the random directives on each card somehow taking on an unwarranted significance, making "I demand you transfer a top card with a picture of a castle to my score pile!" sound something more like, "Give me all your money, your credit cards, and your oldest child!" The girls managed to lose the first game with relative good grace, though they demanded a re-play...which they also lost. But they took comfort that their money, credit cards, and children were all safe, and that the following day would provide ample opportunity for retribution! The following day also brought the annual Tulip Festival Parade. 
         But Kate was particularly curious to see what such a town as Holland would be like, especially during their special town festival. Would she actually get to see her wooden clogs and blonde braids and tulips? Yes, indeed. The families of Holland trotted out their clogs and braids just for the festival. The Miller Crew accompanied Lize and her two kids to the main thoroughfare well before the parade, where they were able to witness charming (but probably not authentically Dutch) dancing in the streets. And yet, however inauthentic or authentic it really was, the simple fact that people dressed up and danced in the streets was fun and special. Kate grinned as she watched. Just add a spontaneous song and you'd have a scene out of a musical! she thought. They stayed for the ritual street sweeping--a slow parade complete with buckets and brushes (many even being used!) and innumerable modern strollers. 
          The real surprise and delight of the Tulip Festival wasn't even special to the festival.  Down by the waterfront, a huge park held thousands and thousands of tulips. There were tulips planted in squares along the main street, but here, row upon row and field upon field of tulip varieties greeted them as they walked across the street. This was the delight: the vibrant colors, the vast variety of kind: short and tall, frilly, fuzzy, and smooth. The surprise was Mister's response to the tulips. Kate had never seen him get positively excited  about flowers before. 
          "Here," he said to Kate, handing her his camera, "Can you take pictures?"
          "Of what?"
          "The tulips! All of them!" 
         He justified his enthusiasm with a story, "Did you know," he asked Kate and Lize, "that the tulip market in Holland made one of the first bubbles in market history?" Kate laughed, relieved to know that her husband hadn't simply and suddenly gone bonkers for tulips. Mister continued, "At one point, there were people that would trade a house for only three tulip bulbs!" 
          "Seriously?" The thought was inconceivable. "What happened?" 
          "One day at an auction, the bubble just popped. No one would pay for the most expensive kind, and everything suddenly fell apart." 
          The time at the Tulip Festival was fun, but exhausting. By the time they got back, the kids were cranky and Kate's back hurt. But Kate and Mister tried to pack up quickly to leave time for one last round of Innovation. (This time, the girls were victorious!) Their visit was short, but full of everything that they were hoping for in their visits across the country: good food, shared life, and valuable conversation considering family, children, and living as a committed Christian in modern America. As they drove away, Kate and Mister agreed. The Zinks were comfortable and heartfelt friends and they wished they could have stayed so much longer. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kate and Crew 18: Summer Plans

18. Summer Plans (April/May 2014) 

          Kate was never much of a planner. Of course she could plan, and do a good job of it too, but it was stressful for her. To her, it just seemed like asking for trouble, having to make a whole bunch of decisions and then nailing down all these times and places and setting up expectations...all for what? What if they were the wrong decisions, or what if you couldn't be in the right place at the right time? To Kate, planning meant setting up for failure. 
          On the other hand, Kate also knew the deep importance of planning--how it simplified life in many ways (by making decisions ahead of time), how it was often convenient and considerate of others, and more recently as a wife and then a mother, she knew she absolutely needed to plan in order to maintain a standard, sane life for her family. Her recent failure in thinking ahead about their trip to Boston weighed on her mind--not just as an instance where she should have planned ahead more thoroughly. But it was a type, a stamp of disgrace on her character, because the way she had thought about that trip was characteristic of the way she thought about life. And with a new baby coming in the fall, it needed to change...and soon! 
          Because of Kate's deep-down (and mostly buried) ability to organize and plan, her mother had commented several times that she would make a great office manager. Kate always disagreed with this assessment, knowing that a desk job in an office with a daily schedule would drive her so nuts that it would inevitably lead to nervous breakdown, ulcers, and addiction to a medication that would have been unnecessary if she had simply chosen a better career. However, when the need was great, Kate could buckle down, make lists, organize piles, and do the dirty deed efficiently too! 
          This was such a time. Kate and Teddy had only just arrived back from Boston, and in a mere 10 days, the whole Miller Crew would be taking a 7-week-long summer trip. There were many things to think about, and Kate's lists grew in number and were scattered liberally around their house (many of them had overlapping items) so that she, even with her pregnancy-brain, could not forget a thing. Clothes were easy to think about--except for Teddy, who in 7 weeks could easily outgrow everything that fit him now. Kate made lists of places and lists of people to see, lists of dates and times, and lists of food and toys and books and projects to take. But most importantly, she made a cleaning list.
         Leaving a house in the middle of a Virginia summer for 7 weeks sounded like recipe for disaster. Kate had no desire to return to a moldy, spider-infested, cluttered dwelling. So, giving room for a few buffer days, she made plan for 7 days of cleaning before they left. During that week of cleaning, Kate organized and cleaned her pantry, and bagged up any open containers of dry goods. She swept and mopped the kitchen and disinfected the counters. She vacuumed every inch of carpet (almost) in the house, engaging Mister to help her by moving some of the larger pieces of furniture. She swept and mopped the basement (again with Mister's help in moving things.) Upstairs, each bathroom got a thorough cleaning, including an intense shower scrub. She dusted, oiled wood surfaces, wiped down baseboards, and finally on the morning of their departure, she took one last look over her beautiful, tidy, and pristine home. Her plans had been good, they were packed and ready with everything they would need (and hopefully not too much more), and this morning she felt invigorated--so much better than their harried departure to Boston! She sat in the car with Teddy. The very last thing  on her list was Mister's chore alone: he was to spray for bugs in the crawl space, basement, entryway, and back patio door. 
          Fifteen minutes later, Mister jumped in the car, and Kate screwed the lid back on her quart jar of milk and started the car.
on the road, with amazing clouds!
          "It's a good thing we travel so much!" Mister exclaimed.
          "Why's that?"
          "Well, it means that our house gets really clean whenever we go somewhere! It looks amazing...and I'm not sure we'd have done such a thorough spring cleaning if we weren't leaving for so long!" 
          Kate laughed and agreed. And after a prayer for travel mercies, Kate and Crew were on their way to their first destination: Hillsdale, Michigan! 

(To follow: Holland, MI; Ft. Wayne, IN; St. Charles, MO; Colorado Springs, CO; Denver, CO; Glenrock and Casper, WY; return to CO..... and back again!) 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Kate and Crew 17: Boston and Easter

17. Boston and Easter (April, 2014) 

eggs dyed from foods! (cabbage, coffee, onion, etc)
          Teddy loved being in Boston with his cousins. Of course, with suddenly having three older siblings, he found all the noise and activity a little overwhelming at times. But when he got flustered and fussy, Kate simply took him back to the back room and put him in his pack-n-play with a few toys; and there he would happily play for an hour on his own. 
          Sometimes Kate would take that opportunity to lie down as well, but more often, she enjoyed the ability to better concentrate on conversation with Kelsey or playing with her nieces and nephew. The oldest, Kate, was now 6, Rose was 4, and James Jr. very nearly 2; and all three seemed so much older than last year when they took a group trip to "Pin Severed Island to see Anne" (of Green Gables.) James Jr. had a special fondness for Teddy, and would often hover by the back bedroom door during his naps. If Kate walked by, he would ask her hopefully, "Baby?" (wishing to be let in for a visit.) The two girls loved bringing Teddy toys, crawling with him around the floor, and shoving things in his face in a way that Kate found annoying, but Teddy seemed to love. Goodness! Kate exclaimed to herself, as she watched this process over and over again and found herself growing irked. I'll need to be very careful to not be annoyed on his behalf...just because it's something I wouldn't like doesn't mean that he wouldn't! 
Easter morning before Mister left for the airport
          In general, Teddy quickly learned to maneuver on the wood tile. It was tricky--very slippery, especially in a sleeper--but Teddy showed a good ability to adapt. Even though he only started sitting up reliably about week before, after only a couple innocuous head bumps on the floor, he quickly learned how to catch himself and roll to the side if he lost his balance and fell backward, showing some impressive abs for a 7-month old. Kate watched in envy. I'm not sure I could do that...or at least make it look so easy...if I lost my balance and fell over! (Which she felt, given her shifting center of gravity, could happen at any moment.)
          Being with family for Easter was an especially good time. The days leading up to (and the following ones as well!) were full of festivities: hunting for Resurrection eggs (which tell the story of Jesus rising from the dead on the first Easter morning), making special pies and prepping for the big Easter meal, subsequently eating said pies, hiding (and watching the children find) little chocolate eggs, and a group painting project picturing the empty tomb on Easter morning. So many fun things! Kelsey and the girls had made an extra set of Resurrection eggs for Kate, and she was excited to use them with Teddy and his sister when they got a little older. Even now, when her oldest was barely over 1/2 a year old, she was keeping an eye out for fun, engaging and memorable teaching tools!
Teddy pulling up on his own! 
          Among teaching tools were some clever toys--Kate particularly enjoyed a heavy box-like structure with a windy wire maze on top, flip tiles on one side, wheels and gears on another, letter/picture blocks on another; and on another, doors, cars, and pets on moving tracks. Teddy loved to sit and play with it, moving things around, trying to bite them, and towards the end of their stay, pulling up on the box. (Kate was particularly grateful for its heaviness!) Teddy was thrilled with himself, he was one step closer to the current goal of his life: walking! 
          After the festivities of Easter, Kate and Kelsey easily filled their days with the kids. Often they would just go out for a little walk around the neighborhood or to the favorite meadow not far away, or stay home and play games and do school time with the girls. Kate laughed and laughed when she saw a drawing that young Kate had made for her. It featured three figures, two large elongated people--one clearly in a dress--and the third looked like a little two-circle snowman. Because it wasn't clear, Kate had drawn speech bubbles above each character, and used her own creative spelling. The long figure in a dress said, "I'm pregnate." The (obviously male) figure next to her said, "I'm her huszbande." And what really kept Kate laughing even later in the day as she thought about it, was the little figure with the bubble that read, "Goo."
at the meadow one evening
            One day they took an outing to Harvard Square to go to the famed (and impressive) Curious George Store. It was around lunchtime, but Kate was feeling only slightly hungry. They would walk to a couple different shops to run some of Kelsey's errands and then stop in a coffee shop for a special refreshment. But as Kate buckled Teddy into his stroller and followed Kelsey and the kids out the door, for a second, it was as if she couldn't see a thing. And then all was normal again. She walked to the curb and while she was waiting for the signal, her vision flashed again. What is going ON?! she wondered. Her face felt hot and pinched--the sort of feeling you get when either a very hot or very cold wind is blowing directly toward you. She used the stroller to support herself and focused on the kids' feet to guide her across the street. In the store, she parked Teddy behind some racks and immediately sat down. Kelsey came back to her and worry creased her forehead. 
          "Are you feeling okay?" she asked.
          "Not great," Kate admitted. "My vision keeps going out--like, it just blanks out for a moment and then comes back. I think I might need to eat something."
          Fortunately the car was just across the street and had Kate's sandwich and some granola bars. Even though she hadn't been feeling very hungry, food was exactly what Kate needed. And though nothing actually went wrong, the brief ordeal scared her enough for Kate to start packing snacks for herself wherever she went...no matter how short the trip. 
          Of all the amazing food that Kate ate while staying with the Wills, none surpassed the impressive and amazing Easter pies--two apple pies and two strawberry/balsamic pies. In fact, in following weeks and months, as she had deep cravings for dense and richly sweet desserts, Kate would get lost in a trance, remembering those pies. What she didn't realize was that while her sister-in-law was busy raising three children, moving her household back and forth across the country twice a year, giving and preparing lectures, and working on various household projects, she was also becoming a pie expert, learning about different crusts, the merits of pre-baking, and pie-weights. 
         In watching and helping with the pies, Kate saw a whole new world of delicious baking. While she herself was more adept at the fluid and spontaneous art of cooking (dinners and such), Kate began to appreciate the importance of precision in baking...and the amazing results it could produce! Inspired, she thought I could get into this...learning about pies and pie crusts and finding the ones that are really good. Maybe another project for my list... But then she thought about her growing belly, waste line, and pant sizes and her own immoderate pleasure in desserts. Good pie is terrible for losing weight, she reflected, and I've got double baby-weight now! Perhaps I should put off that project for another year. Maybe next year? she speculated tentatively. ...As long as we don't have another baby!
Teddy and his adoring aunt and cousins

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kate and Crew 16: Finding Out

16. Finding Out (April 16, 2014) 

          The week of Kate's 20-week sonogram was busy. It started off, bright and early Sunday morning, with a trip to the airport. Mister went to Las Vegas for a couple days for an annual conference. He would get back late on Tuesday night, then in the morning, they would go to the doctor together. And then both Mister and Kate had classes to teach, and then they would catch a flight to Boston that evening to visit Kate's older brother, James Wills, and his family. 
          Sometimes, it was fun to have the house to herself. Kate particularly enjoyed the freedom of spreading out her projects and working on them without worrying about getting in Mister's way. While Mister was gone, Kate determined to make great strides in their wedding scrapbook, which she insisted on completing before their fifth anniversary! But at the same time, Kate hated it when Mister was gone. She just loved his company and his presence, and being alone with Teddy (who still seemed sick) would be fine, but not easy.
         This time, the distance was especially hard, since it seemed that Mister got sick with food poisoning on his way to Vegas. And Kate had seen the normal toll that conferences took. Invariably, she'd send her husband off, ready to talk and discuss and meet people, and he would come back exhausted and ready to nap for hours. And now he was there, all alone, and sick! Kate knew she couldn't do a thing about it, but she felt terrible anyway. 
          Of course, she had her hands full with Teddy, who was still stuffy and fussy. On Monday, she took him back to the doctor, who declared that he now had not only one, but two ear infections! Poor baby! She prescribed a stronger medication and said it should do the trick. Kate asked about their upcoming flight, and while the doctor was hesitant, she simply recommended trying to get him to eat during the takeoff and landing--to try to keep him swallowing to relieve the pressure. At least, in spite of his illness, Teddy was still developing. He cruised around, crawling everywhere. While Mister was at his conference, Kate noticed all of a sudden that Teddy was able to sit up on his own. It was surprising--only because it seemed so sudden. Kate couldn't remember him trying to sit up. It was as if one day he just decided it was time. Even being gone only three days, it felt like there was so much to catch up on and talk about when Mister arrived late on Tuesday night. 

          Wednesday morning, Kate and Mister hopped in the car, with Teddy in the backseat. Kate grinned at Mister, and he laughed. "You're pretty excited about this, aren't you?" 
          She nodded, "This is the only time I'm ever excited about going to the doctor. Think it's a girl?" she asked, and then said without waiting, "I think it's a girl!" 
          Mister merely nodded and said, "Well, we're about to find out." 
          "I know!!" Kate squealed. 
          At the clinic, Kate felt like she was getting better at seeing the sonogram images. She could easily pick out the face and some features. The little hands and feet were obvious, and the extended legs. It was awe inspiring to see such a tiny little heart beating away pumping blood through this new human being. Jenny was the stenographer again, and remembered Kate from last year. She made some light chat as she checked the baby and took measurements. When she moved to check the gender, Kate didn't know exactly what she was looking at. But it was obviously different than the pictures of her son. And that meant....
         "Looks like you have a little girl!" Jenny said. 
         "I knew it!" Kate grinned in triumph at Mister. "A little girl! Teddy! You're going to have a little sister...are you ready for that? What do you think, dear?" she asked. 
          "Wow," was Mister's response. "A little girl..." Kate could tell that it was weighty news. It would have been good news either way, but for some reason a girl had a more sobering affect on Mister than last year's boy. 
         The rest of the afternoon Kate and Mister whirled around in a frenzy of packing and cleaning before their trip to Boston. Mister was coming back after 5 days, but Kate would be gone for about a week and a half. There were baby things to pack and diapers to fit in and the diaper bag to organize and food to throw out and toys to pick up. It was terrible and hectic. When they were safely in the car and on their way (mostly on schedule), Mister turned to Kate and asked diplomatically, "Did you think about packing or getting ready before today?" 
          Kate cringed. She knew she could have done better. "I thought about it...but I thought there would be more time today. I didn't expect to wait around in the doctor's office for 45 minutes and not even see the doctor! And then lessons went longer than they were supposed to... I'm sorry, I know I should have worked on things more yesterday." 
          Nevertheless, Kate and Mister made it to their gate in plenty of time to catch their breath and relax for the flight. Travel from the security line to James and Kelsey Wills' dinner table was simple and easy compared with the earlier part of their day. Even Teddy's ears cooperated on the flight and seemed to cause him no extra pain due to air pressure. 
          Looking around the table at James and Kelsey and their three kids: Kate, Rose, and James Jr., Kate felt even more excited about their new little one. And this time, she got to share the news in person! 
          "Well! We had a sonogram this morning...." she began. 
          "Yes?" Kelsey prodded. "And?" 
          "Annnnd," Kate drew out, "we have...a girl!" 
          Exclamations of congratulations and pleasure and excitement flew around the table. "So does this little girl have a name?" James asked.
          "Yes, she does." 
          "Do we get to know?" 
          "Nope." Kate grinned. 
          And yet, through the wiles of the Wills and the Miller's new joy at thinking of their daughter as someone in particular, Kate and Mister ended up handing out many more hints and clues as to the name than they intended. But Kate doubted that their curiosity extended so far enough for them to investigate to the point of actually figuring out the mystery. It honestly didn't matter too much either way. She just kept thinking, We have a daughter! A boy and a girl. And they can learn to dance with each other! AH! It's perfect. Kate had a pet dream of having their kids dance together, and was delighted that her scheme was working out...so far. Then she backed up and thought, Let's just get her born first...dancing can (will have to) come later. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Kate and Crew 15: Piano Students

15. Piano Students (April, 2014) 

          In high school and college, Kate never thought that she would teach piano lessons, or at least enjoy teaching. But since she and Mister moved to Virginia after their wedding, she found that when you have the right combination of students that want to learn, involved parents, and a solid no-practice-no-lesson policy, teaching was extremely rewarding. She had taught a couple of her students for just over three years, and when she started, they didn't know a single scrap of music or rhythm. Now, they could play all kinds of things, including lead sheets which only had melody and chords. It was satisfying to see progress. 
          Kate taught three brothers: a 9-year-old and 7-year-old twins, and each with a very unique personality. But they were all fun, respectful, and generally enthusiastic about things (even if it wasn't always their piano lesson.) Each week, they scrambled up the stairs with their music and school bags in tow; and they would pile on top of each other in the living room. They playfully wrestled with and shoved each other until somehow, they all formed a line expectantly facing Kate. She knew what they wanted. A while back, Kate started doing flashcards with them, and their collective competitive spirit overflowed with joy when Kate allowed two or three rounds. When she offered a candy reward to the winner, shouts of "A! no, B!!!" or "Geeeeee!!!" echoed through the house and (Kate was sure) next door as well. Sometimes, when they were short on time and there was lots to do, she had to disappoint them and say, "No flashcards today, boys." Their little faces would glance down at the floor, unsure of what to do when there was no competition. 
          But what Kate loved the most was watching the boys play with Teddy. Often he slept during lessons, but when he was awake, the boys gravitated toward him. They offered him toys and watched in open-mouthed wonder as he would choose one or another. Of course, they had even more fun with him when he started rolling over, and then crawling more reliably, as he did shortly after Peg's visit. Watching the boys, Kate loved seeing the sibling interaction, and also how gentle they were with Teddy, while still finding him interesting and fun to play with. She hoped she and Mister could cultivate those qualities in their kids as they grew and (she hoped) interacted with even younger siblings. 
          At the end of the lesson, Kate sat on the stairs with Teddy while the boys put on their shoes. "Hey!" she exclaimed, "Next week I get to find out if I'm having a boy or a girl...do you want to guess what it is? Then next week I'll tell you if you were right!" 
          Johnny, one of the twins answered immediately, "A girl!" and nodded his head as if that settled it. 
          Andrew was the older and more reserved of the three. He thought and thought, perhaps trying to figure it out, but finally he gave up and said with a shrug, "I guess...a boy." 
          When Danny (the more energetic, loquacious twin) came down the stairs from gathering schoolbooks from the kitchen, Kate repeated her question. He looked very confused and muttered, "a boy....I think. Or maybe a girl..." 
          At this, Kate laughed and said, "Danny's got it. It will certainly be a boy or a girl!" 

          Later, at their home, the boys surrounded their mother and asked, "Did you know that Mrs. Miller was having another baby?" 
          "Of course!" she said, "We knew months ago." 
          "How could you not tell us?!" they accused. 
          Their mother was flabbergasted. "How could you not know?!" she returned. She and Kate talked about the pregnancy in front of the boys every week after lessons! Honestly! How could they possibly not know?
          When she told Kate about the conversation, they both hooted with laughter. "I'm always accusing them of eavesdropping..." the mother confessed. "I guess this proves at least one case when they hear much less than I expected!" 
          Kate laughed, "I'm pretty sure I've even mentioned 'the new baby' to them before. I guess this means your boys have officially reached the 'Clueless Guy' stage!" 
          "Definitely! It's amazing...like a special wall blocking certain kinds of information! I can still hardly believe they didn't know...oh well, there's something to look forward to in Teddy's future!" 
          Kate nodded, "I will have to watch out for that." Then she shook her head and looked down at her large round belly, "I can hardly believe they didn't know either...between us talking about it, and well, it being rather obvious... It's pretty amazing." 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Kate and Crew 14: Sharing Life

14. Sharing Life (March, 2014) 

         Kate expected company: Peg was her friend from Hillsdale, who had adopted her and taken her in when she was in her lonely freshman year, and then became one of her dearest friends. She, and her son, and his girlfriend were coming to visit for the next five days. Kate and Crew had only been home from Florida for one week, but that was plenty (actually, almost) enough time to get ready for the visit. Kate went grocery shopping (yes, that monumental task!), and washed the sheets, swept the basement, and laid out towels. And as she did each of these things, she found herself getting more and more excited. She hadn't seen Peg since their visit to Hillsdale the year before (when pollen seemed to get the best of her.) And it had been even longer since Peg had come out to see her in Virginia. 
         Kate reminisced about her times with Peg. Since she had gotten married, Kate had been able to see her more often than she had expected--a couple times in Hillsdale, and Peg had come to Virginia a couple times. The first was for her birthday, and Kate remembered how delightful it was to have her company, show her DC, go for walks, and attend a special Norman Rockwell art exhibit at the museum. Another year, when the whole Evans family came to visit in March, they toured the National Cathedral and ate the huge hubcap burgers at the American Restaurant in Union Station. 
playing with Teddy
         The time was always peaceful relaxing--in fact, those words characterized Kate's memories from college. The Evans' house was a haven away from campus, The wooden beams and floor, window seats and couches all made an atmosphere of cozy contentment. She and Peg would make a pot of tea and cook together and chat, or do a puzzle and chat, or work on projects and chat, or go for walks and...etc. Kate remembered one year, she was was taking a class on Shakespeare's sonnets, and one assignment was to choose and memorize three of them (ready to recite on demand). Even now, as she was preparing for Peg's visit, she could perfectly remember sitting on the kitchen stool with teacup in hand, reciting those sonnets as Peg bustled about making bread. It wasn't memorable for any particular reason--except maybe that Kate had felt shy about reciting, and Peg had made her feel that it was the most normal thing in the world. But that was her way. And that's why their friendship had deepened and matured into a tight and lasting bond. 
          The Evans were supposed to arrive Sunday afternoon, but travel and traffic delayed them considerably. Finally, Mister and Kate decided to go to their church's small group meeting a few minutes away. It had been so many weeks since they had been able to go, they felt that if they got a chance to visit for a little bit, it would be worthwhile. So Kate wrote a note on the door, welcoming the tardy travelers and bidding them make themselves comfortable and to give her a call when they arrived. 
         Kate thought it was fun and delightful to be welcomed home by friends (and sometimes strangers)--it certainly wasn't the first time they had been absent for the arrival of visitors! A couple years ago around Thanksgiving, Kate and Mister hosted a large reunion of college friends on a Sunday afternoon. They had a good laugh when they walked in the door (they had been at church) and were greeted by a little girl who said, "Hi! I'm Bridget! Who are you?!" 
         Of course, the visit was too short, but otherwise it was everything Kate hoped it would be. They drank tea and coffee, played with Teddy, and one afternoon Kate took Peg to Occoquan (a cute little riverside town) to explore. They ate a sumptuous lunch at a charming restaurant called The Secret Garden, and subsequently walked off some of the sumptuousness around the town, looking in shop windows and eventually wandering toward (no surprise) at a "Mom's Pie Shop" sort of place. It was fascinating and everything looked delectable, but it was certainly the right time for Kate to go--being full from the restaurant inoculated her against the tempting wall of sugar that hit them as they opened the door. Nevertheless, Peg bought some treats for the evening that convinced Kate she must return before too long. 
         Unfortunately, Peg's visit also held Teddy's first sick visit to the doctor. He had never gotten better from the stuffiness of their Florida trip, and Kate felt that it was high time they had him checked out. It was a good thing too, because Teddy had an ear infection (even though he wasn't touching his ears, or being overly fussy.) They drove to the nearby Target to pick up his prescription, and Kate gave her friend a rueful smile, "A visit to the doctor definitely wasn't on my list of things I was longing to do while you were here..." 
         But Peg answered in her characteristic way, "Nonsense! I'm glad I could be here. All I wanted to do was enjoy your life with you...and that's exactly what I'm doing!" 
         ...and so was Kate, come to think of it. If there was one thing Peg knew how to do well, it was sharing life. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Kate and Crew 13: Spring Break 2

13: Spring Break Part 2 (March, 2014)

         Growing up, Kate's family vacationed in Florida most years, usually in late November. It was an ideal time since it was an off-season in Florida and there were fewer people. Moreover, even though it was "cold" by Florida standards, it was always as warm as an Alaskan summer, and (for the Wills) perfect for lots of time at pools, beaches, or the water park. However, the side effect of these numerous vacations was that Kate had grown to be wary of Florida weather anytime past the end of January. Of course, two years ago in March, Kate and Mister had visited his grandparents in Venice, and the weather was perfect. (Though Mister assured Kate that it was unseasonably cool that year.) And yet, here she was again, against her better judgement, going to Florida in March of all months--two months too late and with Spring Break traffic! 
         But of course, that's also why they were going to Florida. Because it was Spring Break, and one of the best times for all the Millers to get together at the house in Venice. This time, however, the house was full up with the entire Miller clan, plus Cousin Emily. The number of people simply did not match the number of bedrooms or accommodations, and Kate was grateful for many reasons that the three of them could stay in a hotel.  
         Late Sunday night (still the same day that Mister's conference ended in Charleston...), Kate and Mister pulled into the hotel parking lot and met Mom and Dad Miller, who instantly took charge of Teddy while Kate and Mister unloaded. Kate was still feeling under the weather, and she was having her suspicions about Teddy, who was stuffy and sneezing often. What a relief it was to get out of the car and stretch, visit a little bit, set up their own space, and get to bed as soon as they could! Throughout the week, the hotel turned out to be such a boon--especially since Teddy was waking up often in the night--which, on the whole, made their vacation less restful, but it would have been much worse if they had to worry about waking up the rest of the family every time they needed to suction their baby's nose! 
         And in spite of having colds, Kate and Mister and Teddy all managed to enjoy themselves thoroughly: tons of delicious food, fun games to play, a little bit of very useful maternity shopping, and of course...the beach. 
         Yes, the day of Teddy's first trip to the beach had finally arrived. They were well equipped with a hat, high SPF sunscreen, and (thanks to the Kype's) a Little Mermaid swim diaper. Kate and Mister checked through their tactical gear: wipes? check. diapers? check. formula? check. extra bottles? check. toys! check. stroller? uhmmm...check. There must have been a dozen things on the list. They were prepared for every contingency. Finally, the crew loaded up and took off for the beach. Parking was a nightmare, and as they circled and subsequently walked and waited, Teddy gradually dozed off in his stroller. Completely asleep. Conked. Out. 
         So there they were at the beach. The momentous occasion when this little boy can experience for the first time the vast expanse of ocean. And he slept under an umbrella, with a little baby fishing hat over his face, sporting the Little Mermaid diaper for all to see. A disappointment? Hardly! After and hour or so, Teddy woke up in time to shiver as his feet touched the water, sit inside a sand castle, and eat plenty of sand (and of course, milk afterwards, to wash it down) all before they had to pack up again.
          Did he appreciate the vast expanse of ocean? Definitely not. But he was fascinated with seaweed...and umbrellas...and sand...and birds. All in all, Kate figured that there was lots of appreciation (or at least interest) going on in his young mind, and if that didn't extend to the vastness of the ocean, it was okay with her. In fact, she thought as they packed up, if I were interested in everything that Teddy is, I think I might be completely overwhelmed with curiosity and a desire for more knowledge everywhere I turn! Though, I guess that wouldn't be so bad... she admitted. And Kate stole a glance around the white roads and palm trees and cars and people with a renewed, disinterested kind of curiosity. What makes the roads so white? Why are palm branches so big? Are they sharp at the very tips? How many different kinds of cars there are! And even more different kinds of people! I wonder what their stories are... and so began what Kate hoped would be a series of numerous moments when she would learn from, or be inspired by, her children.