Ruthie Turns One

We celebrated Ruthie’s first birthday with hurricane rains and pumpkins.

Life in the storm.

She’s a full toddler now. Running and laughing and hitting.  Her passions are her sisters and the animal crackers that come in the plastic bear- shaped container from Wal-Mart. She’s consumed far more french fries than the average 12 month old and sounds like a guinea pig. She squeaks and grunts even as I insist on teaching her English. Her only word is “Done.” (Meaning “done” with my fruit, give me some fries.)

There’s so much of the past 18 months that is a blur. But I do remember my first visit to the doctor to confirm the pregnancy.  This not being my first rodeo, so to speak, I wrangled my way into an early ultrasound appointment. I didn’t believe the test. I wanted to see the light on the screen. The flash of the heart beat that comes up before the heartbeat can even be heard.

Except after I waited in the first waiting room, then the second waiting room, called to have a second babysitter relieve the first, and waited some more, staring at the heavily wallpapered walls of the Williamsburg OBGYN, decorated to replicate all of our town’s fine Bed and Breakfasts, the ultra sound surprised me.

Instead of the flashing light I’d anticipated, there she was.

“It’s too early to see that much,” I informed the Ultra Sound Tech. Because I’m the expert.

“Sometimes you can see this much,” she said. (Is this a science?)

I drove home. To three little girls, a little house. A tired babysitter.

We were in a storm. It had been a hard two years and there was still a lot of uncertainty. We were also just figuring out how to have three.

Yet, there she was.

But we didn’t know yet that she was a “she.” If she had been a “he,” we would have named him Jonah. It took me four pregnancies to wear Travis down but in the eighth month of this one, he finally conceded. We could name the baby Jonah.

Jonah. Life in the storm.

Well, no.  That’s a metaphor I contrived completely for this post.

I wanted to have a baby boy named Jonah ever since this movie. Obviously.

Remember when Tom Hanks runs across the rooftop of the Empire State Building, screaming “Jonah!! Jonah!!” because his eight year old son has booked himself a flight from Seattle to New York and run away in search of his Dad’s true-love-he’s-never-met Annie? And then they see each other in this scene and Jonah stands there and beams and all they can say his “Hello Sam” and “Hello Annie” and then they walk off hand in hand to the elevator while Jimmy Durante begins singing “You must Remember This?”

You must remember that.

 I decided in 1993 that if I ever had a baby boy, I would name him Jonah.

And in 2014, I decided if it was a girl, our fourth girl, I would name her after my sister.

Then she arrived brown-eyed and dimpled, and it sealed the deal. Ruth Miriam the 3rd. We called her Baby Ruthie from the start, still do much of the time. My sister warned her in an early post-birth blessing that people would continually approach her and say “Ohhh, Ruth! That was my grandmother’s name.” It’s fine, she owns it.

Then, three days into 2015,  my grandmother, a Raquel, not a Ruth, “Baba” died and as I waited to speak at her service I stood with my Aunt Ruthie, not far from my Sister Ruthie, as my daughter Ruthie slept in the church nursery. Life in the storm.

I felt so much that day but the strongest feeling I had I could not name until I was speaking later to a friend. I described the feelings of being with this family that had formed me, as we laughed and cried and carried each other on. There was something so specific I felt.  What was it? What was that feeling?

“It’s belonging,” she said. “That’s how it feels to belong.”

Dear Sweet Ruthie,

Happy Birthday Baby Girl. I’m so glad you love cake this much. It’s an often available dessert option.

With God’s help, may you become yourself, wherever that takes you. The most fun of my life will be watching that enfold. But I pray that every time you hear your name and eventually form the letters, you remember that you belong. In the storms and in the calm. You have from the very very beginning.   Squeak on, Sweet Girl. Squeak on.

Fall is for Bicycles, Birthdays, and Buying into Pumpkin Overkill

I tried some pumpkin tea the other day and it tasted  like I was drinking my pumpkin candle. Actually I think I was drinking my pumpkin candle…they were right next to each other. I initially tried to get into the Pumpkin Madness but had to declare after the tea/candle incident that maybe we are taking it too far. Maybe pumpkin should be left in pies and muffins and mixed in with candy corns in the Brach’s Autumn Blend. Not in tea and definitely not in body lotion. (Bath and Body Works sells a lotion called “Marshmallow Pumpkin Latte.” Is this a real drink? Would I feel like I’m drinking lotion or lathering on a latte?)

But then I tried Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ravioli, and decided to hold out a little longer before making my public pumpkin stance. Oh my. Go buy that now. It’s like $3. 49. Put some parmesan on it and be done. There’s your fall recipe. You’re welcome.

I also hesitate to rush the fall scene because I need all of September to mourn the end of summer. Every time I would pass sunscreen on sale, I had to hold back tears. Remember the last post when I talked about enjoying it to the end? Well our summer sputtered and stalled into 2 weeks of strep throat. Just tonight I was in the garage and happened to see the pool bag, laying where I left it 5 weeks ago, still packed and ready, waiting eagerly, probably filled with old wet, mildewed towels that I can’t face right now, or really ever.

We did make it back to school.

On bikes.

We bike there everyday which is both inspirational and astonishing. I already have more children than anyone at the school and then I make them get on bikes and follow me. Please someone tell Michelle Obama. I think she’d be proud.

Our bike route from home to school only confirms the secret truth that Williamsburg is Stars Hollow. We pedal through the Arts District waving to neighbors and merchants (that’s what I call shop owners for the sake of the vibe) and school buses. It gets better though because on Tuesday and Thursday, we bike through William and Mary’s Old  Campus to Leila’s preschool then cut back through Duke of Gloucester street, past the pastured horses, just before the bell rings for the older girls. Soon I will begin packing their lunches in baskets for the sake of consistency.

By biking I am avoiding two  issues:

1. All of us together in a car

2. Carpool Lines. Which involve all of us together in a car waiting in a line.

When we are together out on the open sidewalks, the major discussion inevitably returns to birthdays. Fall is many things for many scarf loving people but for us it will always be about birthdays. Four girls born over 12 weeks means right now I start mapping out the plan, even the menus.

I believe in birthdays. I find it perfect and utterly necessary that everyone gets a day. In our family, we celebrate on your day. Dreams come true. We get a little crazy. I will personally run myself into the ground whilst holding a bouquet of balloons and a Carvel Ice Cream cake. But just for that one day. Then it’s over and you step back out of the wardrobe for another year until your day comes again.

I had to be reminded of this when I was thinking of glazing over Baby Ruthie’s birthday. It’s her first – let’s just go to Busch Gardens the next day. She’ll never know. We can get away with it. Travis, horrified,  reminded me of my core birthday values and as I began planning some small festivities, I remembered that celebration is a discipline. We gather to remember that we’re not in this alone. We stop to thank God for His goodness. We pause, if even just for the length of an off key song, to take it all in – our sweet baby sister, a family forever changed, an astounding year done.

I’ll write more about Ruthie next week but just know that I’ve been nostalgic as my Finale Baby turns one. In response,  I’m doing what any mother living and biking in Stars Hollow/Colonial Williamsburg  would do for their last baby girl on this important milestone.

I’m giving her a smocked dress and bow that goes with her birthday theme.

The theme? Pumpkins.