Monday, April 28, 2008

The House that Cate Built

So Cate has her own place. She's had it for a while now. From her descriptions it sounds like a pretty rockin' pad. She calls it her Pink House, although for a while it was brown, due to a very unfortunate accident with her Pink Car involving a flat tire and many sad kitties. The pink car was replaced by a brown car (You can sit in it mommy, but don't drive. I'm the driver.), and so of course you can see why the house had to be repainted. Matching is important, because without it there would be chaos and, presumably, death.

The Pink House is a wonderful place, filled with many things. Most of the things Cate comes in to contact with in her daily life also exist in the Pink House, with the caveats that 1) there are often more of each thing, and 2) you can not touch any of them. "I have six doggies at my Pink House mama, but you can't touch them. Just look." From what I can tell, the house is jam packed with animals of all shapes and sizes, but heavy on the kitties and doggies. Apparently they live on lollipops, ice-cream and mustard. Maybe an occasional corn dog. This is all supposition, of course, as I am rarely granted access to the Pink House; I imagine that I spend most of my time sitting outside on the pink lawn waiting for Cate to show me one of her many treasures. Now that it is getting warmer, I wonder if I can get an umbrella? I'll have to ask Other Mommy - she sounds like a nice lady - I'll bet she will lend me one.

Cate's Pink House has now given rise to a virtual village, as Jack has a Buzz Lightyear House (blue, of course) and Ava lives close by in her green Tinkerbell House. However, I get the feeling that Jack and Ava are more like week-enders, while Cate is a full-time resident.

If you are in the neighborhood, please stop by for a lollipop. I'll be the one waiting outside.

Have you met TED?

Ok, so YES, I am woefully behind the times, but as I have just discovered this wonderful wonderful site I feel it is my duty to share it with y'all, just in the off chance that there are some people out there like me who think that 4-slot toasters that can toast a bagel are the apex of technology.

This is a website that has hundreds of fairly short (30-60 minute) videos of top thinkers talking about cutting edge findings in their respective fields. They are truly amazing - it's the thinking person's YouTube. You can find a talk on almost any timely topic, given by an expert, and in a way that the average person can actually understand. Brian Greene's talk on string theory is a perfect example; I love the idea of string theory, but confess that most discussions leave me in the dust after the general introduction. This talk was fantastic - lots of great visuals, and I was able to follow it all the way to the end.

If you have some time, check out the site: TED But I warn you, it can get addicting!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Still Life with Ava

This morning the Saddleback Mothers of Multiples club had their semiannual garage sale, an event not to be missed if you 1) have kids and 2) love a good bargain. I had been planning to go with my friend Shannon and leave the kids with Brian for the morning. But then I started thinking (always dangerous) that perhaps this would be a good opportunity to get a little one-on-one time with one of the kids. I usually end up doing this with Cate because for some reason she seems to need it more than either Jack or Ava. But then I feel bad for not spending time with Jack or Ava, because I'm sure they would enjoy it too (??) they simply aren't as vocal/dramatic about it. Of course, few people are as vocal/dramatic as Cate, so perhaps I should stop using her as my behavioral yard stick. Just a thought.

So in the end I decided to take Ava, as I figured she would be more interested in the prospect of shopping than Jack, given that fact that she is seriously morphing in to a pint sized fashionista. I fully expect her to start channeling Stacy London any day now. And boy will I be in trouble. But no matter, for now she still thinks that as long as something is either green or has Tinkerbell on it (double bonus points for both!), it is the epitome of haute couture. So off we went.

We were cruising down the 5, on the way to pick up Shannon, and I was suddenly struck by how quiet the car was. Perhaps she had fallen back asleep? I glanced up in to the rear view mirror, and she was wide awake, gazing out the window, watching the scenery. We finally got off the freeway, and when we came to a stop I turned around to look at her to make sure she was OK. Her eyes met mine and her face broke out into the most radiant smile of pure happiness; if I could capture the essence of that smile and distill it I could live on it for the rest of my life.

And this is why I have to make the time to hang out with each of my children, individually and alone. When they are together the more subtle aspects of each of their personalities get drowned out by the tidal wave of cacophony and chaos that defines our lives. But when you pluck an individual child out of that whirlwind, you can begin to see the fine details that make them who they are. It is like coming in to the house on a bright summer day; at first everything is dark but as you relax into the moment your eyes begin to focus and you can see the features of the room, the multiple shades that intertwine to give depth and substance to the whole.

Ava is not afraid of quiet, of stillness. She drinks everything in, every glorious stimulating drop; it becomes a part of her, animating her from within. She doesn't need constant motion, constant noise to be at ease. I hope she will always have this power; the power to be still and know that you ARE.

My quiet wonderful mysterious girl.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


So last night Brian and I were watching The Office. We are both severely challenged in our ability to remember when various television shows are airing, even our favorite ones, so we have decided that a better strategy for us is to rent/buy the seasons of our favorite shows on DVD. This way we can watch them in order, we can watch them whenever we want, and we can pause them if someone spills their juice (I won't go in to how many times I have told Brian that he can only have juice in the kitchen. Sigh.). We are currently on Season 2 of The Office, and last night we watched the last two episodes. For those of you who have not yet seen Season 2 you might want to stop reading now - SPOILER ALERT! In the last episode (Casino Night) the office turns the warehouse into a casino, and they spend the evening gambling for charity. The Jim/Pam romance has been heating up this season with many baleful, longing looks on both parts. I am completely infatuated with the character of Jim (played by John Krasinski) - he is now my official "freebie". I shared my love of all things Jim with Lauren the other week at dinner, to which she replied "Duh. Hello? You married him!" Whuh? No, I married Brian. The man who gets in the car and says confidently that he knows where he is going, when in fact he does not. The man who has a compulsive need to open a brand new bar of soap before the old bar is done. The man who firmly believes that magical fairies restock the toilet paper in our bathroom. That man.

But back to The Office. Pam is bidding her fiance, Roy, goodbye as he leaves the casino party early. She is a bit tipsy, and feeling good. She and Jim meet up in the parking lot, and Pam begins to flirt a little. Jim however is in a more thoughtful mood, and suddenly he looks at her in this heart breaking way and says "I am in love with you". He knows it is bad timing (she is currently planning her wedding), but he just needs her to know, in the hopes that maybe, maybe she feels the same. I think my heart dropped into my shoes at that moment - so agonizingly romantic, so tender and sweet. Pam, not surprisingly, is flustered, does not know what to say; you can almost feel her slightly drunk brain trying to wrap itself around the enormity of what has just been said. "I can't" she finally stammers out. A single tear slips down Jim's cheek, he nods his head in mute resignation and walks away. (Sob.) Cut to the darkened office, Pam is on the phone with her mother, trying to process what just happened. We only hear her side of the conversation...."I didn't know what to say" "He's my best friend" "I think I do"......and in walks Jim, quietly, purposefully and takes Pam into his arms and kisses her. My goodness. I look at Brian and say "Wow! Can you believe it?" and he says "Yes. That's us".

Rewind to approximately seven years ago. I arrive in Miami Beach for the annual Society for Neuroscience conference having just broken up with my fiance, Marc, hours earlier in California. It was a charming scene, involving me throwing my engagement ring at his head and him threatening to kick me out of his house at 2:00 in the morning. I manage to arrive at the hotel where I and my lab mates are staying; my best friend Brian has been waiting for me all morning. We take my bags up to the room we are all sharing, he asks me how I am; I dissolve into a puddle of tears, hiccoughing and sniffling through my account of recent events. "It sounds like you need a drink." Cut to an empty stretch of Miami Beach, the sun is setting, I am weaving my way through the sand dunes, my Big Gulp-sized cup of gin and tonic clutched in my increasingly drunken hands. I am half-sobbing, half-ranting (probably slurring)....."I just want someone who will love me and be nice to that too much to ask?.......someone who will love me just the way I grandfather worshipped my grandmother.....he planted her a garden and brought her a cocktail every evening at 5:00 and always pulled out her chair....." at which point Brian grabbed me by the shoulders, looked deeply, tenderly, sweetly into my eyes and said: "I am that guy".

I guess I did marry my freebie after all.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Props to the Village People

So as some of you know, Brian was out of town from Wednesday the 9th to Friday the 18th. Ten days. TEN DAYS. TEN. DAYS. This is the longest trip he has been on since the kids were born and I don't mind saying that I was a little more than freaked out at the prospect of having 10 days alone with my darling children. Visions of completely melting down and losing my $hit, scarring my angels for life, answering the door to find CPS waiting with a van to take them away......these were the thoughts running amok in my head, waking me up at 3am in a cold sweat. What the f*&k was I going to do?

I called my girlfriends. I sucked it up, swallowed whatever pride I had remaining (hardly any, so that part wasn't so bad) and sent out an e-mail desperately begging for help while Brian was away. My ladies did not let me down! Two days after the e-mail went out I had a friend lined up for every day B was away, to come over in the evening to help with the dinner/bath/bedtime madness, to be my anchor of sanity in an increasingly insane single-parenting world. My wonderful wonderful WONDERFUL step-mother, Therese, even took said angels for the week-end, picking them up at 10:30am on Saturday, and bringing them back at 11:00am on Sunday. I won't go into how I spent my glorious 24.5 hours of solitude, but let's just say it did not involve leaving the couch.

First off: a *HUGE* thank you with whipped cream, sprinkles and a cherry on top to my girls: Lauren, Kate, Danielle, Nicole, Mimi, Auntie, Shannon, Sarah, Laura - the fact that I am sitting at this computer at my desk in my house and NOT in a mental institution is a direct result of your loving kindness. I really can not thank you enough, and should you ever need your own anchor of sanity you know who to call. That would be me.

Second: (this is my public service announcement) To all those ladies out there (both with and without kids) who are feeling frazzled and frayed to the very ends of their tethers: ASK FOR HELP. Hilary is right; it really does take a village. Most of us don't live in the village to which we were born; we have to create our own villages. Do this. And then allow yourself to rely on them. In some ways I think having triplets has made this easier for us. From the very beginning there was no question that we would need help. (and lots of it.) I never felt like this was something I would be able to do, should be able to do, on my own. Asking for help became almost second nature. Granted, I think we were also blessed with many offers of help that parents of single children probably don't get, which is a real shame, because here's the thing: 1 child or 10 children - they take all the energy, patience, resources you have to give. The difference between having 1 or 10 is not the amount of energy and attention YOU GIVE; the difference is the amount that each child gets. My point? Just because you "only" have one child (or even two) does not mean that you don't need help, that you shouldn't need help. We ALL need help. And we all need to give it to each other when we can. So if you need a break - CALL ME. I truly understand that sometimes a pedicure and 60 minutes to yourself is the difference between life and death. I know I've crossed over into preachiness here, but it really pains me to know that many women, some of them my good friends, carry around this "I should be able to do this all by myself" mantra that can really wear a person down, both mentally and physically. It's not that I don't get it; I lied a little bit back there when I said I never felt like having triplets was something that I should be able to do myself. I did; after all, they are my children and I should be able to take care of them shouldn't I? Nobody forced me to do this. I chose this for myself, and I should be able to handle it, right? Yeah........whatever. Here's the truth: If I had to do this by myself I probably could. I could probably keep my children fed, clean, alive. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that we probably wouldn't be the happiest family on the block. And that is the difference that help makes. It gives me a chance to breathe and find my happy mommy self. It gives the kids a chance to get away from me and learn that they can be loved by someone else. We all win.

There is no shame in needing help. The only shame is in not asking for it when you do.

I am happy to report that Brian arrived home (early!) on Friday to find three healthy, happy children and a wife much less stressed out than he had imagined she would be. Ladies of my village, from the bottom of my heart: I love you.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Heaven Help Us

So, my lovely friend Lauren detailed a wonderful Cate moment in her blog Luhrs West (which you all should check out because she is one hell of a writer), but I have a new one that happened this very day:

Scene: Our front entry way. I am trying to get everyone ready to go over to my friend Danielle's house for dinner. Jack has been having a bad afternoon, and is having yet another crying fit because he wants to clean up the blocks. (The blocks that I had asked him to put away 5 minutes ago, which he refused to put away, which Ava and Cate and I finally put away together while he looked on crying. Those blocks.) So he is now crying because he can't put the blocks away because they are already put away, and I am trying to get his tantruming feet into his shoes. Suddenly he begins shrieking:

Jack: "Cate tease me! Cate tease me! Aaaahhhhhhh!"

Cate (very seriously): "I'm not teasing you. I'm watching you cry."

God help me.

Here is my vision: Cate, all grown up, stunningly beautiful, dressed in a black leather cat suit and black Matrix-style overcoat, standing near the road on a deserted stretch of highway, some poor man writhing on the ground before her (let's assume he is a criminal or something, shall we?), smoking .44 hanging loosely from her gloved hand......"I'm not killing you. I'm watching you die."

Friday, April 11, 2008


So. The boy. How to describe a being so foreign to me in all his boy-ness, and yet such a part of me that I could literally wear this child all day and not really notice......I guess to put it simply, I am in love with my son. In a good way.

Jack is our firstborn, emerging a full minute before his sisters. He weighed in at a hefty 4 lbs. 1 oz., taking the title of "biggest baby". I remember him being so bright red in the NICU I thought that certainly something was wrong with him. After a few days he started looking less like a beet, and more like a skeptical old man.....his little wrinkled brow constantly perplexed by what was going on and not at all sure that this was a good idea. Out of the three he was the one that gave us the most scares in the NICU; at one point he started losing weight, and his breathing seemed very intense and labored - I could see his little chest practically convulsing with each breath - and the doctor explained that he had a hole in his aorta, which would hopefully clear up with medicine but if it did not they would have to do surgery. Heart surgery. ON MY SON. There are certain words that should never be spoken together to parents without first giving them a strong drink or at least a little anesthesia. Hole - aorta - heart - surgery. Words like that. I thought I might die. I hoped I WOULD die, if only to be able to give my heart, with its non-holey aorta, to my son. Of course, the good news is that the medicine worked, he was fine within a day (seriously? Seriously. Welcome to the roller coaster ride that is the NICU). We brought him home a few weeks later and never looked back.

Jack was a wonderful baby. He cried, and fiercely at times, but was amazingly easy to soothe. Usually some milk or a cuddle was all he needed to feel better again. I loved to watch him in that moment right after he had stopped nursing, right before he descended into his milk coma - he was so gurgly and content, you could almost hear him say "Ahhhhhhh". And then he was asleep. As he got more mobile we started seeing the engineer in him emerge - he would study things, trying to figure out how they worked. He would become interested in a certain toy and would play with it for literally hours, turning it this way and that, moving this part here and that thing there, until he figured out whatever it was that was puzzling him, and then he would go on to the next challenge. By the time he was 1 he had mastered the controls on the TV, and by 1 1/2 he had the remote down. By 2 he could work the buttons on the DVD player and by 2 1/2 he could put in a movie and start it playing. At first we tried to keep him away from all the "grown up" electronics, but realized we were facing a losing battle. We switched tactics and actively taught him how to use them properly; he was an eager student and now can work pretty much every electronic device we have, generally with more skill than me.
On to the present: He is still an engineer at heart - our friend Shannon bought the kids a giant barrel of tinker toys for Christmas and I thought Jack was going to burst, he was so happy! (An aside: when he is really excited he makes a flapping movement with his hands, sort of like a little bird. My cousin Harrison calls it "Jack's Happy Hands") Between the tinker toys and the blocks he can make just about anything his heart desires (except milk); we are encouraging him in the hopes that when the day finally comes he will be able to put the much-needed addition on to our house. Go Jack!

In other areas he is much the same cuddly boy; he loves to sit in my lap and read books, is always up for a kiss or a hug, and generally shows affection much more readily than either of his sisters. There are times when I just want to eat him with a spoon he is so sweet! One of my favorite things these days is the way he notices things I do, like making breakfast or folding the laundry, and says "You fold laundray mama? Oh thank you!" Can you imagine if he continues to do this in to adulthood? His wife is going to be one lucky woman.....

Other times....well.....he is still our fiercest crier, able to go from perfectly content to NOT HAPPY AT ALL in 6.5 seconds. Basically, Jack has 2 speeds: happy and not happy. There is really no in between for him. Fortunately for us, he is happy most of the time, and when he is not the fix is usually pretty simple (milk, blanket, snuggle). Also, there is no slow burn or lingering ill will. Once something is over it is OVER, and he is on to the next thing.

At the moment he is all about Thomas the Train, Lightening McQueen and Buzz Lightyear; he loves to play dress up with his sisters (I don't think Jack will ever have trouble being in touch with his feminine side) and is still totally wedded to his blue blanket. He is a speed demon on his trike and scooter, but be careful not to push him too high on the swings, even if he asks you to: Jack's version of "high" is pretty tame compared to his sisters. He loves to play games, and actually has the attention span for it. In January Brian's parents came for a visit and at one point Jack played two games of CandyLand with grandma. In a row. !!!!!! Cate lasted for about 2 minutes, Ava hung in until about 1/2 through the first game, but Jack sat there for a good 45 minutes, happy as a lark. He is also a big fan of puzzles (I take total credit for that one), and is able to do fairly advanced ones - it is truly amazing to watch him with a new puzzle. The first few times he puts it together he mainly uses color clues, sometimes relying on shape as well. But after a while it seems as if he starts to memorize the physical location of the individual piece within the puzzle itself. He lays down pieces in what seems like a random way, but then the gaps start filling in and before you know it the puzzle is complete. Granted, he isn't working on 1,000 piece puzzles; the most complex one he has is about 40-50 pieces. But still! I doubt if I could do that. If I had to describe Jack in one word I would have go with "lovable", but "focused" would be a close second.

My challenge with Jack is to....ummmm......not love him too much? I'm sure I do have a challenge with Jack, but to be honest I can't think of what it is at the moment. If I wanted to curse myself I would say "he is my easy child", but I don't want to do that so instead I will say that my challenge is to keep him on the track he is already on, getting in as many snuggles as I possibly can on the way.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Damn that broccoli!

Brian and I just spent the last 20 minutes ordering, pushing, begging and cajoling our children in an attempt to make them eat their dinner of Mac-n-Cheese (gourmet style, care of our friend Joe) and spam (don't ask - it's a legacy from growing up in Hawaii). They would not touch it, preferring to gorge themselves on streamed carrots and broccoli. About halfway through dinner Brian said "Jack! Put that broccoli down and eat your spam!" at which point we looked at each other, realizing what complete morons we were. Thank God our children are smarter than we are.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Cathryn the Great

Cathryn Tippett Carlson is the second-born of our trio, which explains her middle name, a special gift passed down the matrilineal line to the first-born daughter. Just one of the many wonderful things she got from me, but more on that later. Cate was also our smallest baby, weighing in at a petite 3 lbs, 10 oz. Her fighting spirit showed itself early on when she started ripping her i.v. tube out in the NICU. I remember coming in one morning to find her with the i.v. implanted in her head; the nurse took one look at my face and rushed over to kindly explain that no, nothing was wrong, it was not as bad as it looked, it was actually one of the most painless locations for an i.v. and that they had to put it there because she kept tearing the ones in her hands and feet out. Okay, breeaaathhheeee. Looking back, that should have been my first clue.

Rynna drove me crazy while nursing; her favorite trick was to nurse just long enough to get the milk going and then pull away so that it sprayed all over. Then she would give me a big grin. Other things I remember about her early days: she was the first to smile, the first to get a tooth, she was the last to walk (she patiently watched her sister and brother work out all the messy details, studied them for a few days once they were up and toddling around, and then just got up and did it. None of that awkward falling for her!). Mainly though I remember her personality - her essential Rynna-ness that came to the fore early and has been going strong ever since. She loves to be the center of attention and will actively seek out the spotlight. She loves to laugh. She is a master of observation and a born behavioral scientist - "If I do this what will you do?" She loves to push people's buttons just to see what will happen. Maddening, but also somehow endearing.

On to the present: My mother likes to refer to her as my Karma Child. She drives me out of my mind with her dramatics: "Cate, would you please pick up your shoes?" "Arrghhh!" she huffs while simultaneously crossing her arms across her chest and flinging herself backwards on to the couch. One day when she was fake moaning/sobbing in the back seat of the car (because we would not pull over on the freeway to retrieve one of her 10,000 tiny plastic animals that had inadvertently fallen from her seat to the floor) I turned to Brian and said "Please shoot me when she becomes a teenager." To which he replied "And be alone with her? No way." She is the apple in our eye. Other than being a drama queen, she is also a collector, a trait I fear she inherited from me. Even as a very small baby she showed a preferential fondness for things that came in groups. All the red blocks. Or all the square blocks. Or all the rattles. You get the idea. Her current favorite collections: a group of about 12 small plastic baby animals (culled from the larger group of small plastic animals), 2) a group of approximately 8 stuffed dogs, including the twins Mustard and Ketchup, whom she carries around in a yellow plastic basket, 3) a set of 3 yellow rubber ducks (each a gift to the children from my mother, but which Cate has decided all belong to her now), and 4) 4 My Little Pony dolls. When she plays with her collections she must have ALL of the items in the collection or she will lose her mind. For instance, if she is playing with the MLP's and Ava takes the yellow one ("yellowy") which she sometimes wants to do because, after all, it is hers, there is much weeping and sadness. The skies are rent in two with the force of her outrage that someone would dare - WOULD DARE! - to break up the set. What are they thinking? Madness, I tell you! But when she has all of her coveted items securely in her grasp, she can spend literally hours lining them up, turning them around, marching them hither and yon, introducing them to various members of the family and pointing out their distinguishing traits ("This is the PURPLE pony. Her name is Purply. She has a JEWEL.") In fact, we spent much of this morning doing that very thing. I'm still not exactly sure where this slightly OCD tendency will lead her in life, but on the up side buying presents for her should be pretty easy.

Right now Cate seems to be the odd one out in our trio, often playing by herself while Jack and Ava play together. Sometimes I worry about this, envisioning her as a perpetual loner, desperately wanting to be a part of the group but not knowing how to go about it. And then I wake up and remember that this is Cate we are talking about, and that if she wanted to be a part of the group she would march right over and plop herself in the middle of it and start telling everyone else what to do. And strangely, they would do it. She has that weird kind of self confidence that projects outward on to other people, making them feel you do indeed know what you are doing and that they should naturally take direction from you. It is hard to explain. On several occasions I have seen her come in to a room where Jack and Ava are happily playing and interrupt them saying "Now here is the game we are going to play: we are going to get our blankets and betend they are tents and we are camping at the Otter Pond". And Jack and Ava will stop what they are doing and go get their blankets and come back for further instructions. Adryenne says she does the same thing at school, with the same results. I'm not sure what it is about her, but she is certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Reading over all this I feel like I have painted a terrible picture of her. But in a way, that is part of her magic; she is a compulsive, bossy, button-pushing drama queen all wrapped up in something so genuinely open and wonderful that the final result is a little person so amazing she takes my breath away.

My challenge with Cate is to adore her without her knowing it, to nurture that self-confidence without feeding her inner tyrant, to realize that although I see much of myself in her she is not me and never will be. She is herself. And that is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ava Baby

So, given that my purpose in starting this blog was to use it as a virtual scrapbook/journal/log to record the many wonderful and priceless moments that happen with the kids I thought it might be a good idea to write one inaugural post for each child - a prose snapshot, if you will. I will begin with Ava, because doesn't everything, really?

Ava was the last to be born, but that was pretty much the last time she was last. A strapping 4.0 lbs at birth, she sailed her way through the NICU and came home after 4 weeks. I remember giving her her first bath in the NICU, in one of those little pink plastic tubs.....we brought a bunch home, and while they are very useful for many things, I don't think any of the kids could even sit in them now. But back then, as we lowered her tiny little body into the tub it felt like we were dropping her into a vast ocean of water. I remember being so surprised at how slippery she was, and trying desperately to grab her hard enough so as not to let her slip from my grasp, but not so hard that I would break her. She just seemed so little and fragile, all arms and legs. Not surprisingly, she did not like the whole bath-moment and let us know in a loud and clear voice.

We brought her home and had that "now what?" moment that I think all new parents experience. We joked that she was the 'test baby' and that if we could keep her alive they might release the rest to us in time. Our first night home was pretty standard; we put Ava in a pack-n-play right next to my side of the bed and I spent most of the night making sure she was breathing, convincing myself she was NOT breathing, poking her until she woke up screaming, and then soothing her back to sleep while cursing myself. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Baby/early toddler hood is such a blur to me now (thank God for digital recorders!) but a few things stand out: her inexplicable fondness for the green ring from the Fisher-Price stacking ring toy; mending Lion's paws for the umpteenth time because she chewed through them AGAIN; constantly being startled by the brightness of her eyes; her gleeful little laugh; her chubby little legs; her bald, bald head; all the spit-up and screaming before we realized she was lactose intolerant (I still feel like the worst mother in the world over that one); finger-walking with her for hours when she was determined to learn how to walk (she was the first one, of course); pushing her on the "big kid" swings and learning that beneath that shy exterior beat the heart of a daredevil.

Fast forward 3 years and 5 months. Some things are still the same: she continues to be lactose-intolerant, her favorite color is still green, and she still has that wonderful smile. Others are different: She now has hair (but don't try to put anything in it - the average life span of a clip is about 10 seconds), her legs are long and lean (as is the rest of her), and although she is still fairly shy and reserved we are seeing the inner daredevil more and more these days. Our darling girl is a budding artist, and can happily draw and paint for hours on end. She knows all her letters and is starting to spell and read simple words. She can write her name (legibly!!) and can spell her brother's and sister's names. She loves Tinkerbell and Dora, but her best friend is still Lion (who is looking very shabby now, but no matter). She amazes me constantly with what she can do - she has incredible, gymnastic agility. Although she is lithe and lean she is powerfully strong - her body is basically muscle covered with skin. Her verbal fluency is impressive, at least to me. She seems to have the ability to infer the meaning of unfamiliar words from the context in which they are used, and then can use them again correctly, even in a different context. Not bad for a three year old, huh?

But what I mostly love about Ava is her gentleness, her tenderness. She actually cares about other people, and cares what they think about her. When her brother cries she rushes to get his blanket because she knows that is what he needs. If Cate is playing with a group of toys, even if some of the toys are Ava's she won't take them away because she knows that Cate needs ALL of them to be happy (more on this in the post about Cate). She is kind and loving with the animals, patting them gently and whispering "hi sweetie - how are you today?". She is love with a capital L.

My challenge with Ava is not to overlook her. How is this possible, you ask? Ava is quiet. Ava is well behaved (mostly). Ava will not run up to me and grab my hand and pull on me and yell "Mommy! Come play with me!". But she wants so badly to be noticed, and scooped up, and asked "Ava, will you play with mommy?" Have you hugged your Ava today?